The Devil is a Part-Timer Series Review: Conquering The World Through Climbing The Corporate Structure

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in May 2016 and can be found here.

Devil

The comedy in this show is fantastic as it balances absurd humour and satire fairly well throughout most of the series while still managing the odd moment of touching friendship and drama. While the occasional boob joke may intrude, for the most part the show relies on situational comedy and it plays the fish out of water card with precision and for merciless laughs.

Highlights include Satan’s dilemma over whether to use his power to cook chips when the fryer breaks. This is a moment stretched out for dramatic tension. He stands poised but frozen in indecision. He doesn’t have much power. But they won’t be first in sales if they can’t sell the chips. What should he do? And then the moment is broken and we see him hanging his head in utter defeat.

Maou

Also, Emilia’s dissatisfaction with her own mundane life and her inability to accept her changing relationship with Satan is regularly played for laughs even while it addresses real issues about not judging books by their covers and learning to move on. That and to stop projecting onto other people.

Lucifer’s portrayal as an introvert and lay about also brings on some good laughs later in the series. As does his plaintive complaints about his treatment (given he did try to kill most of the other cast members).


The Devil is a Part Time Complete Series
The Devil is a Part Timer Complete Series


In addition to comedy the show offers some good satirical commentary about the nature of the modern world and whether or not our current work/corporate culture is evil. This point is further emphasised in the final episode that moves entirely away from the clash between angels and demons and focuses entirely on sales scams.

While some of the characters remain one dimensional and the basic premise never really evolves beyond Lord Satan is working part time and somehow believes he will one day rule the world, this series is more than entertaining enough. The few complaints about the odd missed joke and the sleazy portrayal of Sariel seem petty when looking at the overall.

The music is neither good nor bad (it fulfils its purpose but is readily forgotten after the fact) and the animation is neither particularly good or bad.

Ashiya.jpg

That said, I have to nominate Ashiya/Alciel for being the single most useless minion of all time.


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Karandi James

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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Series Review: This Franchise Demonstrates How Not To Adapt Something

Given I stopped doing episode reviews after episode 4, it should be fairly clear that this anime didn’t really do much for me. And normally I would just drop it and call it a day, but I decided to finish watching it. Mostly because the madness of creating an anime season that follows on from the manga but not the previous anime season just struck me as being a particularly harsh slap in the face for anime fans.

Review:

Let’s get the biggest point out of the way and then I can get on with reviewing this somewhat troubled narrative on its own merit, or lack of it, rather than the perceived slight of being literally dropped into the middle of a mess without any attempt to bridge where anime viewers were left after the previous season and where this began. I actually do get that a lot of anime exists just to sell manga or for fans of the source material. That’s all fine. But I have to wonder if even fans of the manga are happy by how this played out. It isn’t as though they can watch the anime from start to finish and get a coherent story. Instead they’ll get an introduction, a trainwreck of original material and then a jarring leap back to the source. Without heavy reliance on the source there is genuinely no way to follow this leap because characters aren’t where they were and half of them are either unknown or poorly introduced. As someone who never read the manga, I can assure you it is incomprehensible without at least some reading on various wikis and fan sites.

And that is not okay.

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Who is entertained by this? Anime viewers can’t possibly be because this franchise has no rewatch on its own without using the manga as a bridge. Manga fans may as well just read the manga because at least the story might be cohesive rather than what this presented. This is possibly the worst decision they could have made. A full reboot would have been better. A filler original series to somehow skew events back in line with the manga might have satisfied. Honestly, a ten minute character narration explaining events from point A to B would have been something.

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But no. That kind of courtesy is apparently not given when there is a clear expectation by producers that people will watch this franchise regardless of what dribble they drop on them. And given I watched it all the way through, I can’t say they were wrong. And yet, I know on hearing the announcement that Re was getting a second season, my only thought was that I was done. I have no desire to revisit this franchise. Not even the first season which I actually quite liked. And that lack of desire for more comes from the issues in this story on its own rather than from the annoyance that they did nothing to soften the jarring change in narrative for anime fans.

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Standing on its own, Tokyo Ghoul Re is riddled with issues. The central conceit that Haise has no memories of who he is and somehow this is a journey to find himself is poorly executed at best. With a visible transference of hair colour to indicate his current mental state (something that doesn’t play well given Kaneki’s hair went white due to trauma and that is a believable phenomenon whereas hair changing back from white sure isn’t) essentially everything about this struggle is blunt forced into the story bringing the current action sequence to a screeching halt while Haise/Kaneki play around in mental la-la land.

While it might be argued this mirrors Kaneki’s original transformation with Rize acting as a guide, this lacks any of the finesse or poignancy of that encounter. Superficially it is much the same and yet it is inelegant and, to be perfectly honest, quite dull to watch play out.

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Equally, the new characters introduced under Haise’s care are incredibly flat and one dimensional. They barely get screen time and when they do it is to the detriment of the story. And while some new bit players isn’t the worst thing Tokyo Ghoul drops on its audience, it seems it doesn’t realise that nobody cares about these characters building to what is set up as a tragic moment during its final episode that falls flat because to be perfectly frank I was more than happy to see that particular character bite the dust. I only wondered why more hadn’t joined him.

They are clutter and distractions from the older cast members who really just make cameo appearances. Arima gets talked about a lot but barely appears on screen. Touka shows up briefly and Haise gets all teary, but nothing ever comes out of this sequence. He then just moves on. Tsukiyama spends the majority of his time being crazy for reasons unclear to anime only viewers, and then his fate makes up the majority of the final battle sequence and I’m still not sure why anything about that plot line mattered.

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Basically, this entry into the franchise lacks any kind of central theme or driving force. Done better, Haise’s identity might have carried the episodes, but it really didn’t have anywhere near enough power to do that in its current state. And there’s literally nothing else. They go out. They investigate ghouls. They fight. Occasionally a ghoul investigator gets killed (or lots do) and everyone acts all outraged. There are some large scale fights with even more ridiculous antics going on than earlier seasons and none of them look very good.

I guess if you are a really big fan of this franchise there might be something here to cling to, but I didn’t find it. I watched the final scenes play out and breathed a sigh of relief that I was done. So clearly I’m not recommending it.


Product Links:

Tokyo Ghoul:re Mug Cup
Tokyo Ghoul: Re Mug Cup

Super Figure Tokyo Ghoul: Kaneki Ken Awakening Ver. (Re-run)
Kaneki Ken Tokyo Ghoul


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Ouran Highschool Host Club Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at a school for the super elite and while looking for a quiet place to study stumbles upon the host club. Anxious to leave, she accidentally knocks over a vase of considerable worth and after a series of events where the vast majority of the members of the host club mistake her for a boy, she becomes a host. While the club members figure out that she isn’t a boy in order to pay off her debt, Haruhi continues to masquerade as a male for the remainder of the series.

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Review:

This anime was heavily recommended to me quite a while ago and the first time I tried to watch it I just did not get it. The boys seemed vapid and pointless, as well as stereotypical archetypes rather than characters, the jokes seemed pretty obvious and flat and the plot felt absent other than a set up for the scenario that the animators had in mind. Sure it was pretty and had some bouncy music and lots of close ups of handsome anime guys but that didn’t seem like enough to make it watchable.

I didn’t finish it the first time through. I got, maybe 10 episodes in and just couldn’t take any more vapidness so walked away.

So why did I go back and watch it and how did that then lead to it becoming one of my favourite binge worthy animes of all time? (Note, that is different from becoming my favourite anime or even a good anime.)

I’ll have to repeat my initial thoughts to explain.

The boys seemed vapid and pointless. Yes, they are. It’s a harem comedy so of course they start that way. How on earth are you going to introduce a harem comedy and address all six of the guy’s back stories in the first episode? This is a case where the characters aren’t so much developing as they are slowly being fleshed out. Toward the second half of the series, most of the characters get an episode or two specifically aimed at rounding them out and at least explaining some of their more interesting character quirks. They aren’t wrapped up in a neat little package but by the end of the series they are least feel like vaguely plausible human beings.

More importantly, on a second watch I started quite liking Kyoya as a character. He’s in the background a lot but his words and actions carry weight and it is interesting seeing how he interacts with the others. From starting to like one character, I began to see a bit more of the other characters. While Tamaki and ‘Honey’ are never going to be my pick for characters given their overly needy natures, I found the twins (by the third watch through) fascinating. Re-watching for the umpteemth time, any episode that focusses on the twins has become one of my favourites.

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Will I argue that these characters have depth and complexity and are outstanding at demonstrating the nuances of the human condition? Not a chance. They are still archetypes but for the context of the show they work and when given a chance they have enough variation to to be more than just cardboard cutouts.

As to the comedy and jokes being obvious and flat, well there isn’t really a counter argument. It really just depends if you are in the mood for yet another he slipped on a banana peel, he just massively misunderstood that, or general mistaken identity humour. Most of the humour relies on overexaggeration which if you are in the wrong frame of mind will definitely come off as more annoying than humorous but when you are in the mood to just relax and not think about much, it can work. More importantly, the humour is consistent. It isn’t that some jokes hit and others miss the mark; it is simply that this is the type of humour they are delivering, take it or leave it.

In terms of plot, it is highly episodic with the overall story of Haruhi paying off a debt. But this is character driven. It is how the characters respond to the challenge of the week and what we learn about them. The events are more of less irrelevant at times and it seems the writers knew that too as many of the transitions and motives for things occurring were dismissed as simply being a particular character’s whim and off they went to the next set or costume change.

What I ultimately like about this show is it isn’t trying too hard to claim any legitimacy. The fact that the boys are using a music room as a host club in a school is never explained other than Tamaki decided he wanted to start one. There is no teacher presence anywhere and only once or twice does studying come up (which given it was apparently part of Haruhi’s motivation for going to the music room in the first place seems a bit odd that they didn’t use that as a source of tension later in the story). The characters are all (except Haruhi) super rich and have connections and any plot point that can’t be explained sensibly gets dismissed as a perk of being rich and having connections. This allows for some fairly extravagant set-ups for otherwise fairly ordinary rom-com events.

Possibly what seals the deal with this anime for me is Haruhi herself. At first she comes off as an emotionally cut-off tomboyish girl with very few defining traits other than intimidated by rich people and smart. That quickly fades and we see how Haruhi deals with each of the events in the Host Club. Again, not a huge amount of development, but she certainly comes out of her shell as the series progresses and learning who Haruhi is can be quite a fun adventure.

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The theme song is definitely infectious though so if you aren’t in the mood for a pop song to go bopping around your head for the next week you may want to hit skip on that. However, even the end credits have pretty great music.

My favourite moments include the commoner coffee scene, the ‘date’ with Hikaru, and watching the twins play the which one is Hikaru game.

My recommendation: watch this when you are wanting to seriously relax and just shut off from the world. It’s light and sweet and when you don’t think about it, pretty funny. Don’t watch it if you are in the mood to deconstruct something, because it won’t ever stand up to close scrutiny.


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Karandi James

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My Hero Academia Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

In a world where almost everyone has a quirk (superpower), Midoriya finds he is the exception. That doesn’t stop him from dreaming big and working toward his goal of being a hero. Along the way, he meets his idol (All Might) and through demonstrating heroic spirit convinces All Might to assist him in achieving his goal and is ‘given’ a quirk. From there we transfer to a school for heroes and meet a cast of interesting characters with interesting quirks and begin the journey forward.


Product Link:

My Hero Academia 2019 Schedule Note
My Hero Academia 2019 Schedule Note


Review:

My Hero Academia is as cliché as they come and yet proves, once again, you don’t need to be original to be interesting. Rather than worrying about amazing plot twists or unconventional story-telling, My Hero Academia works to its strengths. The first few episodes deal with Midoriya working toward his goals and how he gains a quirk (as well as his relationship with Bakugou which is clearly going to be an ongoing thing) and then we shift to the school.

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The thing about moving into a high school setting is that the story for a while feels even more contained than it was. We meet the strict teacher and get the threat of expulsion if you don’t score well, and the usual rivalries between students, and it all seems pretty safe because as if the teachers are going to let it go too far. The third act however, brings in an outside threat and really ramps up the action for the series end.


Product Link:
UT Jump 50th Anniversary – My Hero Academia Men’s T-shirt Gray (L Size)
My Hero Academia T-Shirt


All and all, this show kind of understands pacing and realises that most of us don’t have all that much of an attention span so points are introduced, developed over an episode or two, and then we move to the next set piece. It isn’t deep story telling by any means but it keeps it fun. And the movement forward is always logical. We don’t have a whip-lash effect as we jump all over the place but rather we progress to what might logically happen next to a wannabe hero.

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I’m not going into an in-depth analysis of this. I started it late because I’m not that in to superhero stories and thought I’d hate this. Instead, I’ve smiled and pleasantly enjoyed episode after episode, but I haven’t really thought about it or tried to analyse it. I’ve just watched (something that future seasons of the show would address as I started to get more and more drawn into this world and realised how carefully crafted the setting really has been).

So the strengths and weaknesses are the same. It is an old story but it’s told well. We have an interesting cast, but few of them get enough time to really develop in any meaningful capacity. We have some great action, with more or less predictable results. There are some super cool powers in this show, but again with such a large cast very few of these ever get a chance to really be explored (with the exception of All Might and Midoriya).

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It’s bright and colourful and the music works.  If you are generally into super-heroes or kids with powers or just like action sequences, you will probably enjoy this. If you are in the mood for something fun and pleasant that you don’t have to think too hard about, you will probably enjoy it. If you’re over the good guys are good for the sake of it or are wanting a bit more of a commentary on the hero genre, this one is probably not for you.


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Karandi James

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Shiki Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

Shiki is a horror (?) anime that came out in 2010. It is set in a small isolated village called Sotoba where life goes on the same way everyday despite the number of characters that seem dissatisfied with their everyday life. The story begins with the disappearance of Megumi, a girl who is desperate to leave the village and to shine in a big city one day. We soon learn of the events leading up to her disappearance and follow the villagers as they slowly become aware of the danger surrounding them.


Product Link:

Shiki: Part 1
Shiki Part One

Shiki: Part 2
Shiki Part Two


Review:

There seem to be three views on Shiki that I have commonly encountered:

  • It’s boring and nothing happens.
  • It reignites classic horror.
  • It’s a great character piece that then throws itself under a bus for a gore filled ending.

The problem is you can’t actually disagree with any of these positions as you can see the reasoning for each. I loved Shiki. I fell in love with the characters and the community and the way the individual struggles play out even while the horror slowly consumes the village. I feel there’s a lot we can take from this in terms of the way we all get too involved in our own individual problems and lose sight of the bigger picture, much to our detriment and the detriment of the world at large.

So here is my attempt at reviewing Shiki; examining the good and the bad and ultimately my reason why I would strongly recommend this as at least a once watch.

Characters:

Shiki has a really large cast. You have the elderly villagers who either sit gossiping at the bus stop or go about their jobs. You have the children and teens trudging to school or pursuing their individual dreams. You have the police, the council, the doctors, the tradesmen, the priests and on and on it goes. What I love is that despite the small amount of time devoted to these characters, they seem genuine. You feel like you could go to this village and meet these people.

Natsuno shines as the teen dragged from the city by his parents. His only desire is to finish school and get into college so he can leave the village. His cold views and analysis of other characters regularly puts him on the wrong side of an argument but he is a fascinating character to watch, particularly in the latter half of the series.

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Muroi and Ozaki as the priest and the doctor to a wonderful job of creating opposing moral views on how to deal with the invasion of the village. Both ideals are flawed and neither side is really willing to compromise leading to the very tragic events at the end of the series. It’s interesting that Ozaki seems like the voice of reason for so much of the series but by the end becomes completely consumed by violence and Muroi who tries to sit on the fence is pushed into actions against other humans even as he realises he is in the wrong.

There are also some fantastic performances by the vampires (sorry, shiki) but it’s hard to really get into those characters without giving the plot away too much and in a horror/mystery you really don’t want to know too much about where it is going.

But if the characters are the strength of the series, they are also what ultimately bring it down. The journey you go with these characters is long and you feel you know them, so as reason is tossed aside and they become involved in increasingly violent acts it can make you uncomfortable. Characters who are set up as good or nice meet tragic ends for no other reason than to play on the audience’s emotions and barbaric characters are seemingly glorified at times. As for the main cast members, none of them could actually be described  as the hero of the piece. They are all just deeply flawed humans acting in their own self interest. While there is a great message in that, it does leave the audience with no one to really support during the final stages of the anime.

Plot:

I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers. A family of vampires have moved into the village and are using its isolated nature to their advantage as they believe no one would notice if the entire village became a vampire village. One by one the humans are dying and while at first they believe it is the work of an unusally hot season and then an epidemic, some members of the village begin to suspect more is going on.

This is a slow burning story that spends a lot of time building atmosphere and doesn’t try to do jump scares or excessive violence (though the final few episodes do become extremely gory). Creepy music, long pauses, and dialogue full of double meanings abound while actual evidence is slow coming during the first half of the series.

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Once it is finally established that vampires are in fact present in the town, there is a dramatic shift in both tone and pacing. Time is divided between the various human characters and the vampires and their actions. The similarities between the two sides are continually emphasised. Humans are faced with the prospect of killing their former loved ones (re-killing?) and the vampires are faced with the thought that they will need to kill to live. It is here we find the horror of Shiki. The questioning of the audience about what is right in such a situation. This is far more effective than any slaughter filled horror where vampires appear and devour their pray before being taken out in a shower of blood.

That said, early on you wonder why the characters are so slow to realise what is happening. You wonder what the end game could be. You also begin to wonder why the occasional absurdity is thrown in (such as the vampire run funeral which leaves the family of the deceased speechless). These moments that break the mood and disrupt the flow are frustrating. As is the ending itself. And while I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t already read about it or watched it, it just feels like they couldn’t think of any way to satisfactorily resolve the conflict.

Other:

I’ve already kind of discussed the village and its setting. The visuals are fantastic but the whole show leans towards a dark colour palette, so with the exception of Megumi  and Chizuru’s outfits, don’t expect much in the way of colour. The opening song is suitably creepy and the time skips forward and back are quite effective for showing multiple perspectives on events, and shining new light on events that you had already seen.

Verdict:

I loved Shiki. I get why other people may find it boring and may dislike the ending. But for me, it was a great journey and gave me plenty to think about, and really, I can’t think of an ending that would have been satisfying because it wasn’t that kind of anime. There wasn’t ever going to be a hero to swoop in and save the day.

What are your thoughts on Shiki? Or, what are some horror anime that have really worked for you?


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Karandi James

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Snow White with the Red Hair Season 1 Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

Shirayuki lives in the kingdom of Tanbarun as a herbalist until one day the Prince (having heard of her unusual hair colour) orders her to become his concubine. Rather than accepting that fate, she cuts off her hair (in a somehow perfectly straight line) and crosses the border into the Kingdom of Clarines. There her story really begins.


Product Link:

 Snow White With The Red Hair: Season One [Blu-ray+DVD]
Snow White With The Red Hair Season One


Review:

Alright, I’m going to admit there will be some gushing in this review. And no, I won’t argue that this is a ‘perfect’ anime or story but I am going to argue fairly passionately that this is storytelling done well.

Snow White with the Red Hair starts out very Disney. You’ve got your Princess character (though she is of low birth) and the Prince who wants her (although as a concubine so icky). She runs away and through the forest and comes across an empty house, though because she respects break and entry laws she sits outside and waits for the owner to return. We never do find out who actually owns the house, but a boy named Zen and his two attendants come by because they use the house and this is where the story really takes off. Zen is actually the Prince of Clarines but it isn’t his princliness that get’s Shirayuki’s attention. It is hs general advice about finding her own fate and the two embark on one of the most interesting relationships I’ve probably encountered in romance focussed anime.

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Ultimately, this is a love story between Shirayuki and Zen (two of the sweetest and yet well rounded romance anime couples I’ve ever encountered). Both of them have issues, particularly their tendencies to take on everything rather than ask for help, but they are both genuinely striving to improve themselves and to help others. That said, they aren’t sickly sweet to the point of having no other personality. At times Zen is quite stubborn and childish, even having a temper tantrum after losing both a sparring match and a verbal argument with the first prince of Clarines, Izana. He’s also impulsive but has enough sense to heed the words of his attendants (most of the time). Shirayuki is the strong female character done right. She doesn’t need to be a violent psychopath, she uses her words and steely determination to get through things and when all else fails she can accept the occasional rescue. Not that I have anything against female characters who fight, but I found it refreshing to have a female lead who could clearly be labelled strong entirely because of her personality. Anyway, I featured Shirayuki way back when I did my top 5 list of female red heads because she is an amazing character.

Even if the rest of the anime stank, the relationship between Zen and Shirayuki would be enough to sell this story. Fortunately, the rest of the anime is pretty good.

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Visually it does look Disney like. From the sweeping shots of the castle in Clarines, the forest sequences, to even the character designs to a point. It is a beautiful anime and has some quite bold colour choices for romance. I normally find romance anime to be a little washed out and faded looking (not all, but a lot), however Snow White goes for some fairly striking colours. The red hair for Shirayuki is obvious, and the various flowers and herbs being used are quite distinct, but even Zen’s standard blue for clothing and eyes, the forest greens, Obi’s darker brown and greens all draw your attention to whatever the current focus of the scene is. The colours work well and distinguishing mood and characters and are just visually appealing.

The music will sweep you away. While it is all pretty standard fairy-tail fare, it is so perfectly chosen to the story that you can’t help but be moved by it. Even the ending carries such a feeling of hope and a sense of moving forward that you kind of just get drawn on to the next episode before you really think about it.

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The supporting cast are standout. Kiki and Mitsuhide as Zen’s attendants aren’t just there to be there or fill the background of scenes. They are rich and interesting characters in their own right (though you’ll have to watch season 2 for some more specific details about their relationship). Kiki is a physically strong female, but she is also gentle, caring, occasionally sarcastic (particularly toward Mitsuhide), and proud. Her interactions with Zen, Izana, Mitsuhide, Obi and Shirayuki are always interesting and informative. She’s fairly laconic but her choice of words is quite deliberate  and the voice actress, Kaori Nazuka does an excellent job of conveying more meaning to the audience than just the words themselves. I haven’t watched the English dub but I really hope they managed to preserve Kiki’s character.

Mitsuhide at times comes off as a sound board for the other characters, but his is probably the most interesting relationship with Zen (other than Shirayuki) due to their history. This is hinted at several times early on and directly shown when it is revealed that Mitsuhide is the only one Zen really listens to once he’s made his mind up. Later in the series we get a flashback to Zen’s younger days which not only helps explain some of Zen’s emotional baggage but further elaborates on the relationship between Zen and Mitsuhide.

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Of course, my favourite character is Obi. He’s so funny and he’s a little bit darker than the other characters so regularly makes fun at their expense. He is also the outside of the group, having first tried to scare off Shirayuki before becoming one of Zen’s attendants. This gives him an outsiders perspective on the group and his insights are usually amusing. His fighting style is also pretty impressive, as is his general agility. Possibly my favourite moment from the series (outside of a Zen and Shirayuki scene) came from the scene where Obi was looking after the drunk Shirayuki.

I’d love to write more about the cast (the other herbalists, the first prince, the prince of Tanbarun, the various villains who show up throughout the series, the couple of nobles we meet) but in honesty it would take too long. Basically, the cast works brilliantly and while no one detracts from the central characters, they all have their moment to shine.

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Beyond that, the story itself is always interesting. Yes, this is a romance, but at the same time Shirayuki and Zen are both pursuing their own goals and the romance fits around that. There are episodes focussing on illness and Shirayuki working as a herbalist, episodes that deal with Zen’s childhood, episodes looking at the social status of the Prince and how he is seen by others, and all of this works really well to create a sense of moving forward and makes the moments where Zen and Shirayuki can have a quiet moment together and we see the progress of their relationship even sweeter.

I will say that I’m really glad there was a second season (season 3 where are you) and I will review that separately at some point.


Product Link:

Snow White With The Red Hair Original Soundtrack (Michiru Oshima)
Snow White With The Red Hair Original Soundtrack


Also, before I wrap this up I do need to add some criticisms.

  1. Why does Shirayuki’s hair not grow at all during the months after she moves to Clarines? Are they trying to suggest she’s cutting it off like that regularly because otherwise there’s no reason for it to still be that short.
  2. How did Shirayuki support herself after moving to Clarines before she passed the test to become a herbalist? She mentions once that she’s going to look for a job but when she finds out about the test she then studies for what seems like it must be weeks but doesn’t work. She has to be paying her rent somehow.

Yeah, they were petty criticisms but they bother me every time I watch this series through.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend  this anime to people who only like action or darker anime, but for everyone else, this is a must watch.


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Karandi James

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Darker Than Black Season 1 Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

Approximately 10 years ago a mysterious gate appeared in South America (Heaven’s Gate) and then another appeared in Tokyo (Hell’s Gate). At the same time the real stars disappeared from view and fake stars started appearing, as did people with special abilities known as contractors. After a war for control of Heaven’s Gate ended disastrously, the agency’s of the world now manoeuvre around each other for control of Hell’s Gate (so of course we are set in Tokyo).

Review:

If I was forced to ever write a list of my favourite anime of all time, Darker Than Black would be right up there. It wouldn’t be number 1, and probably would get bumped out of the top 5 all together because it is a flawed series (and that’s just season 1, eventually I will review season 2 and it will go about as well as my review for season 2 of Black Butler did). That said, this is an anime that I have watched at least once every year since I bought the DVD’s and if I’m honest it’s usually more than once in a given year that I pull it out to watch through again.

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So what is the appeal of this series and what are some of the flaws? Let’s tackle them one at a time and then I’d love to turn it over to you guys for your thoughts.

Darker Than Black is episodic in nature with each mini-story being mostly stand-alone within a greater narrative. Each of the stories lasts for two episodes and follows much the same pattern (at least for the majority of the season – toward the end we get a more continuous run of events). During these stories we see the various representatives of the various organisations interacting and maneuvering within Tokyo and we slowly get to know them as individuals. But each of these stories also contain clues about the overall narrative and a lot of these will be missed first time round so mostly just seem like random bits of information being thrown around. Second time through it all kind of clicks together but that makes it difficult to embrace the first time.

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Our first group of characters, and the one those of us who love Darker Than Black come to love, include Hei (a contractor who seems to control electricity and has way too many names), Mao (a contractor trapped in the body of a talking cat), Yin (a doll who can send her spectre through water to spy on others, and Huang (the human and supposed leader of this group). They work for a group known only as the Syndicate and they are clearly up to no good. While Huang passes along the orders and Yin and Mao act mostly as support, Hei tackles a range of missions including infiltration, recovery, assassination, and so on. The only problem is that Hei isn’t exactly a standard contractor.

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This is where Darker Than Black loses a lot of its audience. It clearly establishes that contractors are completely emotionless and rational. They will always make the logical decision. Then we have multiple contractors who don’t do that (or at least not consistently). While the ending explains this, and these inconsistencies are actually a major part of the plot and are intentional, early on it just feels like sloppy world building as a fairly concrete rule is ignored time and again. With Hei being the main contractor that we get to know early on it makes it hard for the rules to really ground themselves. That said, if you watch it through, it actually does make perfect sense and I’m going to leave that discussion there because it is impossible to say why Hei is the way he is without throwing in a major plot spoiler for the end of the series. While I’m not normally all that concerned, in this case, it is kind of the big reveal that you are waiting for so just watch it and find out.

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Another group we see a lot of are the police. Mostly this is through the eyes of Misaki Kirihara who also narrates the first and last episodes. She’s the audience’s way into this world (not high enough up to have all the government secrets, not a contractor, just a human doing her job) which allows her to give us the explanations we need and ask the questions we need asked in order to begin making sense of any of what is going on. Even then, she doesn’t get her answers until very near the end (and a lot of what she is told early on is misleading) and she doesn’t get everything wrapped up in a neat little package so don’t expect all the answers or you might just end up disappointed. That said, Kirihara is more than just a framing device. She’s a savvy and intelligent career driven woman who cares very much about the quality of her work. The loose ends bother her so even when advised to let things go she continues to dig. She also helps to humanize Hei who doesn’t have many real interactions with people (he usually has a mask on – sometimes literally but usually metaphorically). All and all, this group help push the plot along.

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Mid-way through the season we are introduced to Evening Primrose, a terrorist group that is claiming they want human rights for Contractors. It’s clear from the beginning that this group are up to something else but again, we won’t know what that is until right at the end. That said, the fact that Hei has personal history with the group’s leader makes for some interesting encounters as Evening Primrose and the Syndicate face off numerous times over intelligence and various pieces of technology.

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We also have the British Secret Service snooping around, usually with November 11 at the lead though after he encounters Amber and Evening Primrose he decides his best interests lie elsewhere (with fairly predictable results). November 11 is hilarious. He is so dry and laid back and often comes out with the most unexpected insights (usually following it up by telling the listener that he was joking). His memorised litany of facts about the dangers of second hand smoke is also kind of amusing considering his contract price (this show is big on irony) and you can’t help but wonder if the writers were paid by an anti-smoking campaign given the number of negative statements about cigarettes that come up during the run time.

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There are also the Americans running around, though other than getting in the way a few times they aren’t overly significant. There’s other teams representing the same groups, there’s scientists, other dolls, gangsters for some reason in one of the stories, and all sorts of independent contractors all with their own set of values and agendas. There’s a lot going on in this world and you only ever feel like you are seeing the surface and that there is a greater story going on but because the characters we spend the most time with are in the dark so are we.

And that’s probably the greatest strength and flaw of the series. The story itself isn’t that deep. It’s a little weird and the gate phenomena is explained simply as being inexplicable, but Kirihara’s quest for answers around what the government are doing about the gate and with contractors and Hei’s quest for answers about what happened in South America and to his sister, both come to a reasonable and pretty obvious conclusion if you remove all the odd visual metaphors. And this could have been a really solid story by itself but there are a lot of other characters and plot threads that are just kind of hanging around and aren’t resolved and while at times those side stories support the main narrative, a lot of the time they are simply filling in time while we wait for the next bit of crucial information.

That said, I couldn’t really imagine this story any other way. It really wouldn’t be Darker Than Black anymore and while it suffers from trying to appear more clever than it is, that doesn’t actually stop it being enjoyable.

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Before I begin wrapping up though, I watched this anime the first time with a friend of mine who was a massive Evangelion fan. His conclusion about the end was that it was a failed attempt at ripping off the confused mess that was the end of Evangelion (I actually like the end of Evangelion so confused mess isn’t actually all that negative). In honesty, visually, Darker Than Black becomes quite similar for a part of the final episode and does focus on an individual character’s choice about their future, and thinking on it from that point of view you would have to wonder what they were actually trying to accomplish. But it is distinct enough that it doesn’t feel like a rip-off (at least I didn’t think so).

Okay, last point to address before we get to the end. The Contractors themselves. These are some of the coolest powers and the fact that they come with such heavy price tags (so definitely a think before you use scenario) just makes them more interesting. The interesting match between the price and some fundamental characteristic of the contractor is intriguing and it just makes you wonder about those characters where their price isn’t given an explanation. I also love the link to the stars and that the death of a contractor means ‘their’ star will fall. It’s all really well thought out and well presented (and as I said at the start, the inconsistencies in the system are there for a reason).

 I love this anime. I get that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it has some great music, great action, interesting characters, and it develops a reasonable story that is resolved, even as the surrounding questions about the nature of the world are left mostly unresolved. It’s also got a lot of rewatch potential as those individual stories early on all hold clues and hints about where the overall story is going and most of these aren’t obvious the first time through. The more I rewatch this series, the more I love the characters and the details in this world.  Yeah, it’s definitely violent at times (there’s plenty worse) and there are some themes dealt with that might not be to everyone’s taste (the episode that dealt with a ‘doll’ being sold was definitely touching on a few sensitive issues), but overall it is a reasonably solid piece of entertainment.

If you haven’t given Darker Than Black a go, you really should try it. If you have given it a go, what were your thoughts?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Yuri On Ice Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

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Overview:

Yuri Katsuki is a Japanese figure skater who kind of feels his not-so-glorious career is over when Victor (his idol from Russia) shows up to become his coach.


Product Link:

Yuri!!! On Ice Complete Works Book
Yuri!!! On Ice Complete Works Book


Review:

Let’s be honest, this is not going to be an overly objective view. I’m going to try, but I’m going to fail, because just saying the name Yuri on Ice still makes me smile like a bit of an idiot. I’m actually going to take this as a plus/minus review because that is going to help maintain some objectivity and it will also mean I’m not just reiterating stuff I’ve already said in my over posts on this series (or at least there will be less reiteration – I’ve written a lot about Yuri on Ice already).

Plus +

The characters in this story feel real. That was kind of the main point of the feature I wrote back while this was airing. Are they the most well rounded characters in all history? Not really. Do they contain infinite levels of depth? Definitely not. But they feel real. In real life people aren’t always well rounded and depth is something that even if someone has it they don’t always show and these characters have enough depth to keep from being boring. Even the minor characters who get very little screen time feel like real people. One of the criticisms I’ve read of the show is that the support cast exist only to lose and from a narrative point of view that is kind of true. However, someone has to lose the competition (or at least not win) and given our main characters (Yuri, Victor, and Yurio) kind of only interact with their family sparingly and then other ice-skaters and their coaches, it kind of makes sense that most of the support cast are competition and that at some point they are going to lose events. I don’t actually see that as an issue with the characters and more an inevitability of watching a sports anime. I love the cast of Yuri on Ice (even JJ who is really an obnoxious braggart but is never actually cruel to the other skaters which is an important point for when they switch things around in the final competition and make you see him through a different lens). They just feel like this could be a real group of people for at least 80% of the run-time of the show.

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Minus –

While it is fantastic that we got to see a romance between two male characters that didn’t involve either one declaring they weren’t gay, acts of violence, or acts that are borderline if not totally predatory, Yuri on Ice didn’t really delve into this. Rather, it feels like they wanted to just ignore the fact that this was a male on male relationship and just tell a story of a relationship which is fine and it would be lovely to see more shows just tell the story they want to tell (so not really a minus). But while it was lovely to see the main characters just accept their attraction and relationship the fact that every other character in the story just accepts it as well and not one person ever raises the issue that they are gay or both guys or anything else, really shatters the realism that is built up almost everywhere else in this story. It is great that this relationship is accepted in the world of Yuri on Ice. It is great that they didn’t need to spend half the run-time justifying themselves. But when you have a Thai character announce to an international group of competitors and a restaurant full of customers from Barcelona that his two male friends just got married and no-one says anything except congratulations (admittedly, he did make the announcement in Japanese) you just have to wonder about the reality being presented. Certainly it would be great if this is how such announcements were greeted but for the most part I think most of us know that this isn’t how such an announcement would be taken. So, no, I’m not criticising Yuri on Ice for not being a political piece on gay rights but I am criticising it for this one critical break from constructing a believable reality in terms of the main relationship.

Plus +

This is so pretty. Okay, people who know a lot about animation and people who are more critical in general of animation than me, will point out the terrible facial expressions some of the characters have if you pause at points during their routines. They will also point to reused sequences of animation for the routines. There’s a few other parts they’ll hold up to show you that this anime doesn’t have amazing animation. Sorry, but I disagree with them whole-heartedly. This is beautiful to watch. The colours, the movement, most of the expressions, everything is just gorgeous and if a certain action sequence gets reused multiple times I’m fine with that. Outside of the skating I loved how each of the venues was shown and I love the small details are included throughout. Yuri on Ice is beautiful and for something that seems pretty simple on the surface there is an incredible amount of detail that you can find when you start looking (and my rewatch of this series only convinced me that I’ll have to rewatch it again, soon, to pull out yet more details).

Minus –

I kind of touched on this when I talked about the characters but the story is really simple. While this isn’t really a problem in a character driven show there really isn’t much going on from a story point of view. Even the other competitors aren’t really constructed as antagonists because they aren’t. Yuri is facing himself and his own self-doubts. Yurio is trying to transition into the senior competition and prove he is better than what he has shown the world so far. JJ is trying to fan his own ego. The characters are all facing some inner-demon rather than an actual antagonist or conflict. The competition is more or less just a way to show us who is winning their psychological battle at any given moment. Yurio winning overall was predictable early on and Yuri not winning gold was also nearly a foregone conclusion after Victor said they’d get married if he did. In light of wanting another season this ending was definitely needed. However, Yuri did need to show how much he’d improved and overcome through Victor’s presence so a silver medal and a world record will just have to do. Still, a lack of antagonist or real conflict won’t detract from the overall viewing experience so while from a narrative point of view this might be a minus, from an enjoyment point of view it probably won’t interere with the fun of watching.

Plus +

Can we talk about the music for a moment? Because after you get past one of the most memorable opening themes of the year what you have is a show that just throws amazing music at you. Admittedly, given each skater has two separate songs and we’re introduced to a lot of different skaters over the course of the show, it was kind of easy for this anime to hit us hard with brilliant music. However, what really sold the music was the solid link to characterisation. These skaters are revealing who they are through their music (part of that ongoing inner battle) and each piece has been perfectly mapped to the character. Some of these links are obvious with Yuri naming his original piece ‘Yuri on Ice’ and JJ naming his ‘Theme of King JJ’ but others are far more subtle and yet equally powerful. I am going to have to get the soundtrack to this anime at some point because the music is exceptionally well done.


Product Link:

 Yuri!!! On Ice (Yutora!!!) Original Soundtrack
Yuri!!! on Ice Original Soundtrack


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Minus –

This is a criticism I raised early on in the series when reviewing week to week and it is of some of the dialogue. Between being cheesy, obvious, or incredibly lame there are some terrible lines of dialogue early on (though admittedly some of this may be because things got lost in translation). The instances of lame dialogue thinned out as the series progressed but there were definitely a few face palm worthy moments early in the show. Actually, some of the interactions between Victor and Yuri later in the series border on brilliant, not because there is a stand out line that makes you go ‘yes’ but because they really develop a natural pattern of conversation (or arguments) as they spend more time together.

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Plus +

This is a truly emotional experience. Okay, that is beyond subjective but if the characters have drawn you in to their romance and their desire to win then you will find yourself incredibly caught up in the final episodes. I know I was. There were tears. Both first and second time through. They were mostly happy tears.

Plus +

Yeah, that’s two in a row, I’m cheating. While the story is pretty basic I loved how early events impact upon later ones and flash backs are used with real purpose and make you reconsider both the story and the characters. I’m not going too much into this because it is something that is better to experience but information you gain as you go will continue to change how you view the early events and this definitely helps give the basic storyline a little bit more of a wow factor.

I’m going to leave this on the positive because even though I thought I’d said everything I wanted to about Yuri on Ice before this review still just spiralled a little out of control even after multiple rewrites and edits.


Product Link:

Nendoroid No. 865 Yuri!!! on Ice: Victor Nikiforov Coach Ver.

Victor Nikiforov Coach Ver


Final thought, if you are one of the very few people who haven’t already watched Yuri on Ice (or haven’t already totally written it off because of all the crazy fans) then you should definitely give it a go. Maybe it won’t rock your world but its definitely got a solid (if simple) story with characters that moved me (and clearly thousands of other crazy fans).

Please tell me why you loved Yuri on Ice below… or tell me why it wasn’t your thing.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Sailor Moon S Series Review

She’s defended the world, saved the future, and is ready to just get on with her life, but there are certainly new dangers afoot that will ensure things are not peaceful for long.

  • Season 1 review: here.
  • Season 2 review: here.

Review (Spoiler Warning):

Things are going to get tricky here because seasons 1 and 2 were the only ones playing on TV with their fun English dub when I was growing up. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to watch S, Super S and finally Stars and then I had to switch to subs so all the character names changed. One of those fun parts of my early anime journey in the 90’s really. That isn’t to say there wasn’t some benefit to this given a few of the characters weren’t quite as squeaky in Japanese, but some characters actually sounded even more over the top. And I’m not sure how, but Usagi/Serena crying certainly seems even more ear-splitting in the original soundtrack. For the sake of review consistency, I’m going to try to stick to the English names for characters.

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Sailor Moon S is kind of where Sailor Moon peaked for me. Outside of the first season, it was always my favourite and the reason for that lies squarely at the feet of the newly introduced Sailor Scouts and Rini’s new friend, Hotaru.

We’d previously met Pluto, but not like this, and Uranus and Neptune are a fantastic pair for so many reasons. Okay, we’ll overlook the fact that the pronunciation of some of the attacks is so poor that my friend and I had to look up what Uranus’ attack actually was because the version we managed to find didn’t put subs in for when they said English words and no matter how many times we listened to it we were convinced the word ‘chicken’ featured somewhere in there and that didn’t make a lot of sense. Turns out it is ‘world shaking’ and not ‘chicken’ and really that sounds like a much better attack, but all of that just added to our ongoing obsession with this show.

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It is odd that Uranus and Neptune work so well, given they are essentially taking on much the same role Tuxedo Mask had in season 1. They aren’t necessarily the scout’s allies, tell them that they are not and that they have their own agenda, and yet the almost never allow real harm to befall the scouts. Their actions are motivated by a goal they have to achieve but they don’t actually just tell the other scouts what it is. The parallel between their role and Tuxedo Mask in season 1 is further emphasises by Uranus’ not so subtle advances on Serena. Now, we kind of know she’s just teasing given Haruka (Uranus) is totally devoted to Michiru (Neptune). Which is where the English dub becomes a little dubious (I saw it much later when it was finally available on DVD), and realised that they changed these two into cousins. It seems kind of ludicrous given how close these two are and how important their relationship is to the entire narrative being constructed here, but I guess they really wanted to keep pretending that only kids were watching and that somehow seeing two female character in love would somehow be harmful. Because, watching them have their hearts ripped out apparently wasn’t.

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I will never understand censorship.

What I think makes Uranus and Neptune work so well in the role, as compared with Tuxedo Mask who became more of a running joke, is that you could actually believe that these two would burn Sailor Moon if they had to. They were cold enough and desperate enough that they might just have let her die. Whereas, there was never any doubt that Tuxedo Mask was a goody-two-shoes. Even when brainwashed he couldn’t bring himself to actually hurt Serena.

This kind of character, still technically a good guy, and yet ruthless in their devotion to their cause, was thrilling and added an edge to a show that might otherwise have just given us yet another iteration of the same old story.

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When we throw Hotaru’s character and plight in as well, we see that Sailor Moon S really was trying to step things up. This isn’t just monsters or fights or magical powers. This was a real human drama and an ongoing one. Previously characters with issues had been introduced, some magical menace would pray on them and Serena would zap it with her wand and all would be well. Hotaru’s loneliness and isolation was an ongoing theme and there was no magical and quick fix. Without spoiling the season finale, while there is an ultimately magical fix, it doesn’t exactly just make everything all better. There’s a lot of pain here and it is real human emotion that is being explored.

Which of course brings the conversation around to the villains of the piece, the Death Busters. And yes, they look every bit as ridiculous as Beryl and her minions and Prince Diamond and his. Actually, the fashion probably got worse. However, the viciousness of the monster of the week was certainly stepped up in this season. While the same sorts of patterns were followed, the stakes always felt higher and only one or two of the passing villains were so absurd that they drew out laughter rather than a desire to see them vanquished (the car one is memorably terrible).

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However, the Death Busters have a plan that seems a lot more together than either Beryl or Diamond and even though ultimately it amounts to once again destroying the world, these characters seem like they have so much more chance at success. Maybe it is because instead of living in some cave under the ice, or being a thousand years in the future, these characters are working in a laboratory and seem to be taking the whole evil plot thing far more seriously. Doesn’t assist their general poor sense of fashion or the fact that the professor’s glasses do that weird thing evil anime character glasses do where they glint in total darkness.

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If I was to throw any complaint at this season, it would be directed at Sailor Moon herself. Early on she fails against the villains and then for reasons she just gets a new compact and rod. Previously it made sense that Serenity had sent weapons back in time, but if there was a more powerful version of the basic tools, I have to wonder why she didn’t get them initially or why they weren’t ever mentioned. It is very much plot convenience, or a desire to sell new accessories. Plus, the heart rod always drove me crazy because if we thought Serena’s attacks took a long time to power up before, be prepared for the new dancing and spinning Sailor Moon. Also, Serena is such a klutz, I always wondered how she didn’t trip over her own pig-tails while powering it up.

But, I’m not just mocking the convenient power jump. The biggest issue is that Serena lost a lot of her bite in this season, and that is a trend that would continue to plague the next two seasons as well. She’s growing up, but that means she’s becoming less interesting. Less wailing and whining and ditching and more responsibility and wise, kind words of calm. It might make her a better person but it doesn’t make her as fun to watch in action. The other scouts also get seriously side lined and while they each get a story line devoted to them, ultimately they could have been ditched from this altogether and we could have just had Serena, Rini, and the new Sailor Scouts without much adjustment of the narrative.

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Still, this is definitely a solid season of Sailor Moon and for those working their way through the 90’s version of the series for the first time, this season is one to look forward to.

If you are still with me in reliving the classic Sailor Moon seasons, I’d love to know what you thought of this one so leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Series Review: Characters We Love, Magic That Thrills, And A Plot Totally Unfinished

As a child and teen of the 90’s I grew up with Cardcaptor in my life, and even with the terrible English dub and the butchered theme song this anime was close to my heart. How does the reboot/sequel of 2018 match up to nostalgia’s fierce hold?

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Review:

Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing sometimes. As much as I believe Cardcaptor Sakura is a must watch magical girl series, even I have to admit that when I look at it episode by episode, the original is no longer really to my taste as an anime watcher these days. For every truly brilliant moment in the series, it offers a lot of banal day to day activities of cute girls and their friends just going about their lives. And how many times did we watch Sakura prepare her roller blades for school?

What that means is, a lot of the criticisms I have of the new Clear Card series, aren’t really all that valid. Because Clear Card is a genuine successor to the original. The technology is updated with the kids now having smart phones and the equivalent of a go-pro, but this really is a direct follow up of that original series. And in that sense, it could be counted as a success, though I have to wonder if a few opportunities weren’t missed here.

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In 22 episodes, we see Sakura capture a fair number of cards. However, most of these captures take less than a quarter of the episode they appear in. Some of them lasting mere moments before we’re back to cooking, or eating lunch, or flower viewing, or talking, or brushing hair, or any of the hundreds of ‘filler’ activities Cardcaptor finds for the heroine to do. And I get that for those who love the slice of life feel of Sakura living her daily life that there is a real appeal here because the group of friends are always charming and at least it is clear what Sakura is seeking to protect. And yet, for me, these are the moments that are tolerated as a setting, a background and a motive, while waiting for the actual ‘meat’ of the series. And the meat here is very lean.

Part of the problem comes from an as yet unresolved story. We still have so many questions about what is going on and what significance certain things have (such as a gift Sakura receives in the second last episode), and that means that what little there is of the story about magic is completely unfinished. It makes it hard to evaluate the story on its merits when it is served out in tiny increments inbetween activities that don’t really appeal and then the final act is completely absent. The only thing I can really say is that the plot was probably the most disappointing aspect of this anime.

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Even if it had finished, essentially this feels like a third iteration of a story we’ve seen and enjoyed more when those of us who are fans of the original were actually the target audience and when anime options were a little harder to come by. Oh no, the cards have all turned clear and now Sakura has to capture weird powers again to make Clear Cards. How odd. How bizarre. How identical to the capturing of the Clow Cards and then the transition into Sakura Cards.

Speaking of, doesn’t it feel like a step back for her to not have Sakura Cards now?

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However, with so much down time in the plot, it did give the audience ample opportunity to appreciate how much prettier the visuals were this time around. So much attention given to falling flower petals, gusts of wind, and girls’ hair. Don’t get me wrong, it is gorgeous, particularly the magical aspects of the show, but really some of the attention to the aesthetics could have been given to the pacing and story-line and I’d have been doubly impressed.

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The other part of the anime that does shine quite brightly are the characters. Admittedly, they work better when you have nostalgia working in their favour. During Clear Card they do not develop or have any kind of noticeable growth. But if you enjoyed where they ended up at the end of previous seasons, spending some time with Sakura, Syaoran, Tomoyo, Toya, and the short cameo by anime original Meilin is actually pretty fun. And probably the stand out moments of Clear Card are getting to see Sakura and Syaoran in a relationship. Not learning who they are or finding out about the other, but just in an actual relationship. Now if they could just learn to communicate and not keep secrets from one another we’d make anime history.

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New comers to the cast are adequate though their roles become obvious fairly quickly and like the plot in general, not quite enough time is given to developing these. The end result is that you feel like these are great characters who’ve been more or less abandoned by the script and left to their own devices and you feel just a little bit sorry for them. They had so much potential to be memorable and interesting characters but never quite get beyond their introductions. At least Kaito looks fantastic.

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But what it comes down to is that Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card tries to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to appeal to the nostalgia factor and the fans of old. The call backs to the original series and the parallels in many of the stories certainly scream that they want us to recapture the magic of our youth. Whether it is the upside down penguin or the date at the aquarium, the memories are there but the problem is it just makes me want to go and watch the original rather than continue along with this.

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At the same time, the anime seems to have wanted to reach out to new viewers but it doesn’t offer them anything really to go on. Sakura is who she is because of everything we’ve seen her go through. And as mentioned before, none of the characters really learn anything or grow during this season. So for new viewers you are seeing an already fully developed character go through the motions of her daily life and for the most part it isn’t very compelling. If there was a decent enough threat or villain, you can get away with it. Not ever story needs to be an origin or coming into power story. But if you have an already developed hero you have to give the audience something to anticipate and in this case the only thing that could be is Sakura learning something as she would strive to overcome this latest challenge, and yet there’s nothing. She simply goes about her business and collects the cards when she needs to.

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It makes it difficult to recommend this series. While I didn’t dislike it, looking back I wonder if my time would have been better spent on a retro viewing of the original series as I still haven’t actually reviewed it and I’d probably have enjoyed that more. As cool as Syaoran is in his handful of scenes that he gets, I don’t know that it provides enough mileage to make up for everything else this series seems to lack.

But I’ll turn it over to the readers and ask you how you felt about Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card.

Linked Reviews:


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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