Run With The Wind Series Review

They’ll take your emotions for a run.

For those who followed my episodic reviews you will already know it took me awhile to get into this series. The opening episodes, while there were some really pretty animations, didn’t really grab me as we set up a fairly standard team sport anime. We had Haiji, the pushy driver of the group getting the team together with his vision of them running some marathon, and then we had the assortment of motley characters who would ultimately come together as a team. It was all very ordinary and I didn’t really like Haiji as a character, but something kept me watching.

Run With The Wind Episode 1

I’m really glad for whatever that something was. Run With The Wind ended up being an extraordinary emotional experience and by the end I was smiling and crying and just wanting to cheer with these boys. It isn’t that this anime broke any new ground or did anything a whole pile of sports anime haven’t done before, it was more the execution of its elements. Giving this anime its two cours to develop these characters and the team and leading us to the race that they had been training for and giving that race the episodes it needed to play out so that we could see how each character had really grown throughout the series really paid off and while it might be just another sports anime, this one really hit me where it needed to.

It is unusual for me but I want to start reviewing this anime by discussing the sound design. I specifically discussed this in my episode 11 review, but really Run With the Wind was a standout anime for how it used sound. Whether it was music or ambient sound the choices were always extremely fitting for the scene and highly effective at conveying the tone or emotion of the moment. It is very rare for me to pay that much attention to the sound but Run With The Wind is one anime where it pays off and while it might be a little heavy handed it is a major contributing factor in explaining why I was so swept away by events in each episode.

Run With The Wind Episode 11 Rain

Equally, Run With The Wind new when to put its effort into the visuals. While it wasn’t used in every single race, there were several moments throughout the series, particularly when Kakeru was running, that the anime went all out to visually represent the beauty of his running or his connection with the wind. They are scenes that just draw you in and leave you breathless but they aren’t overused or intrusive. It would have been tempting to put such visual effects over each runner or to use it every time Kakeru ran but the restraint shown meant that each instance really stood out and had impact.

For the rest of the visuals, these are adequate with each of the ten boys having an interesting enough character design and the animation being on point. I was impressed by the races where most of the characters still seemed suitably animated even if a little too regular in their movement but there weren’t a huge number of still shots and panning which a lot of anime would have done rather than animating the crowd of runners.

Run With The Wind Episode 16

All and all, the production is pretty solid for Run With The Wind and that complements a narrative that is basic but well paced and delivered and characters who each have an arc that works and ties in nicely with the story.

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I’m not going to argue that this story or the characters are revolutionary or something we haven’t seen before. If you watch a lot of sport or club anime you’ve seen everything here before. However it is delivered competently and ultimately the experience is fairly rewarding.

Run With The Wind Episode 4

Haiji was perhaps my greatest surprise. Starting as a character archetype I find quite grating, by the end of the series, while I’m still not thrilled at how he enlisted the others, I found him a fairly charming character. His leg of the race was one that really made me smile and I celebrated with him, which is something I wouldn’t have believed early on in the story. It wasn’t that Haiji changed all that much throughout. It was more that the anime took the time to flesh him out and make him feel like a real person. Sure he was pushy at the beginning and they never try to pretend that didn’t happen, but they give him a motive that makes sense and allow even him to second guess his own actions and to consider where he’s really going. It helps to really begin to appreciate what he was trying to do and why by the end.

Run With The Wind Episode 18 Haiji

Equally, Kakeru begins as your fairly standard character archetype. The highly talented runner who has quit due to some trauma from his previous club. He initially clashes with everyone. Haiji because he doesn’t really want to run with the club and with everyone else because of their inexperience with running and their attitude toward it. His character journey is also pretty standard and honestly drawn out too long. While I like where he ended up, I feel they could have resolved some of his arc a bit sooner than they did and that’s probably my main complaint from this series.

Run With The Wind Episode 13 Kakeru being pulled up by his team.

However, each character needs to be looked at individually. Where they all start as just background noise and additional numbers for the club, by the end they have each become a character in their own right and one that for whatever reason the audience has become attached to. It is an extraordinary effort that Run With The Wind has taken to give each character sufficient moments that there is a connection formed before the final race and then each character concludes their character arc as they run their leg.

Run With The Wind Episode 23 - Prince

Honestly, if you didn’t give Run With The Wind a go when it was airing, this is an anime that is well worth the time. While it is slow to really get going it is a journey that is rewarding and with great sound and visual design it is an anime that is truly worth watching.

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Karandi James
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Sword Art Online Alicization Series Review

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 7 Kirito

Proving that more is not always better.

There be spoilers below.

I remember back when Sword Art Online had just begun. I remember the first episode of the Aincrad arc and just how quickly it seemed to pass by and how heavily the bombshell at the end of that episode fell. I remember rapidly skipping to the next episode (it came out before I could stream things as they aired but that meant I could binge) and I remember just how absorbed I became with the characters and the story and just how much fun the whole viewing experience was.

Sword Art Online - Aincrad
Nostalgia, sigh.

Admittedly, the entertainment of the very first series from 2012 shouldn’t really have all that much to do with whether or not this story arc from 2018-2019 is actually any good, nor should I compare them and expect that to be the same. Kirito has grown as a character since then, the technology has moved on, and almost all the other characters we spend any length of time with in Alicization are completely new. It is its own experience but not stand-alone. The events in the real world do require pre-existing knowledge of the franchise to make sense so even if I wanted to give Alicization a clean break from the seasons of SAO past, it wouldn’t really be doable.

Could someone totally new to the franchise start with Alicization?

Sure. They’d miss some context for things but mostly I doubt that would change the overall viewing experience. Except perhaps that a new viewer would go in without any expectations of Sword Art Online and so some of the disappointment I faced while watching Aliciation wouldn’t have played a factor. Maybe a new audience member could just enjoy a romp in the new world with the new cast and not wonder what happened to the cool and reckless Kirito before he ‘grew up’ and became the boring, moralising and largely passive protagonist we encounter here.

I know. I just called Kirito boring. I didn’t think I’d ever do that. Lots of other people did even back in Aincrad but I always really liked Kirito as a character. Alicization was the killing blow though.

Part of this is because Kirito spends a large part of Alicization seemingly mentoring Eugeo. Being pushed into a mentor or teacher role means that he does need to explain and sermonise and take the high ground in order to lead by example. It also means standing back at times and taking the background role to let the student grow. And honestly, given the context of Alicization, which I’ll get to in a bit, Kirito moving into that role makes perfect sense, but it isn’t interesting.

The sacrifice of Kirito’s spirit and character, though a significant blow to my enjoyment of the franchise, possibly could have been rationalised as Eugeo is actually an interesting character to watch grow. While never as interesting or dynamic as Aincrad’s Kirito, he wasn’t a bad substitute. However, Eugeo’s character arc comes to an abrupt and fairly pointless and ridiculous end by the end of this half of Alicization. So ultimately I watched Kirito help another character grow at the expense of being entertaining in his own right and then that character isn’t going to do anything because they are already finished. Or at least, finished enough as I don’t doubt SAO’s ability to come up with rubbish reasons for this not to be the end.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito
Or Kirito, you could maybe do something. That would be nice.

This isn’t the first time Kirito has had someone he’s mentored and helped has died. The Moonlit Black Cats, particularly Sachi, were a large part of his character growth in Aincrad and Sachi’s death left emotional scars that Kirito had to work really hard to overcome.

The problem is that Eugeo’s character had pretty much 20 something episodes of mentoring and then before he surpassed his master he died and his death hasn’t seemed to amount to anything, though perhaps they’ll capitalise on it in the next half. All I know is that it left an incredible taste of dissatisfaction in my mouth.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23
Well, it was nice getting to know you Eugeo, even if it turns out to be pointless.

For all that I’ve just attacked the characters, I’m now going to back up a bit and actually look at the fundamental problems in Alicization as a series. Keep in mind, there are some really great moments throughout the 24 episodes. Sequences where one character or another really rises up and does something cool and dramatic and for a moment you can just get swept away. So I am not saying there’s nothing good about Alicization.

However, what really hurts Alicization, other than the time difference between events in the real world and the events in underworld which results in Asuna and the others getting bare minimum screen time and an absolute lack of audience buy in to the event in the real world…

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 6
Wouldn’t we love for this to have actually been explored. Sure maybe they’ll get to it in the second half but how long does it take to actually get to a point?

Okay, the time thing probably needs its own section because it was a really unnecessary contrivance that really hurt the pacing of the real world events. With the large gaps of time between when we even saw characters in the real world and how little progress that plot made over the course of a whole season, because events in Underworld move fast, it just isn’t a very effective way to tell a story, particularly in a season spread over more than six months. Perhaps binge watching would alleviate some of this issue but honestly, at times I all but forgot what Asuna and the others were even doing so the dramatic final for them really had next to no impact.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 6 Asuna

Right, so what really hurts Alicization, other than all that stuff, is the way they execute the story. The idea behind Alicization is actually really interesting with souls being digitalised and raised within a virtual world. The pseudo-science techno-babble explanations of the how and the why don’t really help here but the concept is cool. The problems within that world where those in control of the command codes are corrupt and others are forced through the Taboo Index to essentially obey those of higher standing within the world.

I mean, it isn’t terrible original if we put it in the context of a dystopian kind of story, but it works and there’s a lot of potential ideas for exploration and so many potential paths for the story to take.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 10 Eugeo
And yes, I’m deliberately not going to discuss the use of sexual assault here. It actually fits what the narrative was trying to do and people have already discussed the execution of the scene to death. With so many other issues in the anime to address, the lack of nuance around this particular development is hardly the gravest sin.

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And while Alicization does take some interesting paths and does explore some of the concepts, it does it in an incredibly poorly conceived manner. Where large chunks of information are given to us through forced exposition in the form of incredibly long and artificial sounding dialogue exchanges between characters, and a lot of that information is either repetitive of previous bits of information, or just so abstract that it will make no difference whether the audience has it explained or not, it just doesn’t make for interesting viewing.

Imagine you were watching some kind of fast paced sporting tournament and every now and then the competitors stopped, poured out some cups of teas, and sat around discussing their motives, training methods, and the history of their coach. Then they just get up and start competing again.

Sword Art Online Episode 13 Kirito the collaborator
Buckle up, this conversation is taking a whole episode. You’ll get flash backs, but they are just going to keep on talking.

Alright, Alicization wasn’t that bad, but the analogy is kind of apt in terms of the enjoyment in viewing.

When you throw in the fact that Kirito and Eugeo set out from Eugeo’s home town to find Alice and end up enrolling in a school and just happily training for a few years (happily may be an exaggeration) and it doesn’t seem like they are in any kind of hurry to achieve their goal, the pace of this story seems all over the shop and goals that drive characters seem to do so selectively. Even once they get to the tower and begin facing off against Integrity Knights, it is very hard to care about these characters as antagonists and their motives for fighting, or not fighting, are really hard to swallow sometimes. As is Alice’s rapid decision to work with Kirito when they were hanging outside of the tower.

Sword Art Online Alicization Eugeo
Yep, priorities.

What it comes down to is you’d get a moment of excitement or interesting interaction and then Alicization would hit the breaks to explain something to you and just when things got going again it would do the same. With the narrative pacing off the characters really needed to step up to sell some of these exchanges only they didn’t. Outside of Kirito and Eugeo, barely anyone got any screen time and the few who did didn’t really draw me into the story so much as just existed within it.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 4

The music is workable but doesn’t give anywhere near the sense of excitement that I found in the score in the original series. Visuals work fine and the various attacks are pretty cool to watch. Eugeo really wins out here with his sword being exceptionally beautiful and its attack leads to some really interesting effects. Kirito is less lucky and because he gets limited time to go crazy with his sword there are far less moments where he just looks super cool on screen in Alicization. However, overall, Alicization is kind of average to look at. Character designs work as do settings but very little of it is stand out or amazing.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Eugeo Ice

I really did want to like this latest Sword Art Online. I was excited about the return of the franchise and to be honest, my love of the original has meant that subsequent iterations get a lot of leeway. However, Sword Art Online Alicization is not just not good, it is openly obnoxious at times as it drags the audience along and through unnecessarily long sequences and seems to care little about making any character actually more than just another plot point to be resolved. The end results is I didn’t have much fun watching it and realistically, if it hadn’t had the SAO connection, I’d have dropped it after the first cour rather than persevering through all 24 episodes. What’s worse than holding on 24 episodes? Watching 24 episodes for the thing to end on a cliff-hanger.

I feel like I’m writing a break up text to SAO with this review.

Honestly, I can’t recommend this. For those newer anime fans, I still think trying the original SAO is worth it despite the online hate factory for it, but Alicization is a lesser show in almost every way imaginable and while there were many readers of the light novels proclaiming that Alicization would fix the narrative issues with SAO, I think Alicization the anime just found new and improved ways to annoy an audience.

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Karandi James
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The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Series Review

The boys, and Fuzzy, are back for a more dramatic season of supernatural events.

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to review The Morose Mononkean Season Two with the lovely Irina and I will admit, I went in with fairly low expectations. Season one of the Morose Mononkean was okay but that was all. I love yokai stories and so I’d enjoyed it but that was no real drama, no real forward driving story, and the characters all seemed to lack development. They just kind of drifted about happy to deal with the immediate issue but not to address any of the larger world questions that seemed to keep coming up.

Fortunately, season two of The Morose Mononokean is one of those exceptions to my usual rule that sequels offer diminishing returns. Season two of The Morose Mononokean took everything that was nice and lovely from season one (the colour scheme, the relationship established between Abeno and Hanae, the yokai designs) and then added in everything I felt was missing. The end result was a season that was superior in every way and getting to discuss it each week with Irina just added to the fun as we speculated about characters and plot developments.

For those who are unfamiliar with the premise, Hanae can see yokai and in the beginning of the first season is actually possessed by one (the one that comes to be the cute mascot character of the show, Fuzzy). Hanae is saved by Abeno who while being human, and Hanae’s classmate, is also the master of the Mononokean, which means he can open the door between the human realm and the underworld and he exorcises yokai (essentially sends them home).

In season two we see a Hanae that initially starts off more comfortably in his role as Abeno’s assistance but a trip to the underworld and an encounter with one of the three powers there, the Executive tries to kill him because he is human.

This is by far the most danger he’d faced since realising yokai were real and beginning his work and for The Morose Mononokean as a narrative it really upped the stakes and tension in general. It also opened the way for more exploration of the political situation within the underworld which helped to really flesh out the world that had felt kind of shallow in season one.

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By itself, this would have been enough to make me enjoy season two far more than season one, but they also began to fill in Hanae’s backstory including his family situation. While there are still a lot of questions hanging over this at the end of season two, it really helped push character development for both Abeno and Hanae. It also helped their relationship, which had always been interesting, progress further as we got to see Abeno really take on a caring role as he tried to protect and help Hanae.

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 10

Hanae’s development of powers he could use against yokai was also a really interesting progression because it opens up all kinds of possibilities, some of which unpleasant, for where the story might go. Plus, if you ever wanted to see Abeno and Hanae go head to head, you won’t be disappointed here.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 6 Ashiya and Yahiko

But it isn’t just the central duo getting a lot more development. The Legislator, Abeno’s boss essentially, was an enigmatic but interesting character in season one. While there is still a lot about him that we don’t know, he was given substantially more screen time and his meddling was far more overt in season two. The Executive and The Justice, the other two parts of the triad of power, were new additions to the cast but provided some really great moments even if they were very limited in their screen time.

There are also a host of yokai characters who come and go from the story as normal and these were all interesting and worked in their own way. Some of these have ties to the past or two the various political factions and others are just yokai of the week characters, but all leave a lasting impression on the main characters and the audience.

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 4 Kinako

In addition to the improvements in the narrative and the character development, it seems like season two of The Morose Mononkean had a real lift in its visuals. While the rich colour palette used in season one for the underworld remained, all of the visuals just seemed crisper and characters less prone to going off model in this second season.

The Morose Mononokean - Beast in human form

If you decided to pass on this second season but didn’t mind the first, I’d strongly suggest giving it a go. If you’ve never tried the anime but you like yokai stories, definitely give the first season a go and while I know this is said all the time it really is true here, this story gets better as it goes. The only thing missing now is the knowledge that we’ll eventually get a third season to get some more closure on some of the loose ends.

Now to finish off with a gallery of Fuzzy.

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Kaguya-Sama Love is War Series Review

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

Great production but this one just wasn’t for me.

It has been fairly well established at this point that I’m not a big fan of comedy. Largely this is because a lot of what people tell me is supposed to be funny I just find either gross or mean-spirited and don’t find much amusing about it. Then again, what I find to be funny a lot of people also find gross or just disturbing so to each their own.

What that does mean though is that while I recommended this series, the conditional part of the recommendation is that I really didn’t like it. I can see exactly why lots of people do like it, and I do think it is worth trying if you are looking for a well produced anime, particularly if you like comedy, but for me this one was one big swing and a miss.

A lot of the problem is with the central premise which I’m told is supposed to be ironic or amusing but I find just sad. The idea that confessing puts you under the power of the other person in a relationship, or that relationships inherently have one person being more powerful than the other, really rubs me the wrong way and feels like something from several decades ago that we really should have just left there. That the main characters are both portrayed as being quite intelligent and yet at no point draw the conclusion that perhaps they could be equal partners really just makes the premise of this one hurt to even think about.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

I am told that I should just take this as a joke and not think about it so seriously, however that’s kind of the problem with comedy for me. Just because they are joking doesn’t mean I find reinforcing notions that someone should be in control of a relationship and someone should be submissive particularly amusing. Nor do I find Shinomiya’s general lack of sex education particularly funny. It is kind of a social tragedy that she is so ill-informed.

Actually, the fact that they keep telling me time and again how smart these characters are and yet very little of what they do seems even vaguely smart kind of reminded me of my problem watching Devil and Realist where William was supposed to be super intelligent but just struck me as being kind of an idiot. Shinomiya learning to use Twitter in one episode kind of highlights the overall problem with the set up where they insist this girl is some kind of super-genius manipulator and yet instead of looking up instructions, reading the information, trying things out and noting what happens, she runs into her maid’s bath multiple times and drags her out to explain fairly simple concepts. I get the trope of the genius who lacks common-sense but in this case a lot of what Shinomiya does just makes me want to face-palm so badly.

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However, before you think I’m just out to bash this story for all its worth, there are some great moments for Shinomiya (and indeed most of the cast). The problem is, these moments come seemingly when the premise of the story gets set aside. When we remove Shinomiya from the endless battles against Shirogane and the contrived competitions they establish, and just let her be Shinomiya, a sheltered girl finding small ways to explore the world (such as the episode where she walks to school), we actually have quite a charming character and one worth spending time with. Unfortunately, the anime isn’t really interested in letting the characters just be themselves and continues to force artificial conflict upon them and us over and over again in a tiresome manner.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Shinomiya

Fujiwara, the secretary of the student council, is a shining light in this series. Her character is excellent regardless of context and she literally brightens scenes just by being in them. She’s also the one character who is consistently entertaining and amusing partially because she isn’t working to show off how smart she is and partially because she’s just a well constructed character who manages to consistently hit the right notes. If you won’t watch for any other reason, Fujiwara is probably a fairly solid reason to try Kaguya-Sama: Love is War.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 5 Fujiwara Best Girl

But we should discuss the actual contests the characters get into. Each episode (or most of them) are split into three sections with each being a simple vignette where a topic or theme is introduced, we mentally see how Shinomiya and Shirogane have interpreted the situation to determine how to ‘win’ and then the contest plays out before a winner is decided, or until Fujiwara unintentionally removes any ability for either character to win. A narrator sets up each section and at times may seem intrusive and the narrator also finishes each section by summarising who won or lost and why.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 3 Fujiwara

Some of these contests are really straight forward such as when Shinomiya challenges Shirogane to twenty questions. The problem being that for someone really smart the answer seems pretty obvious given an exchange in the set-up to the competition and so the punch line falls a little flat. Other contests are more abstract such as when they are trying to decide where to go for Summer vacation.

The end result though is fairly formulaic and while some of the later episodes move away from this format, over the course of the season, the majority of episodes will offer more or less the same scenario over and over again with slightly different dressing on top and perhaps a slightly different outcome. It is noteworthy that even supporting characters point out to Shinomiya that her schemes do not work. If the goal is to get Shirogane to confess, not once has she been successful and yet instead of taking a more direct approach she persists again and again in her schemes. The same could be said for Shirogane but far less time is spent with him outside of the student council so he isn’t quite as filled in as Shinomiya as a character.

Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 8 Shirogane

If you happen to like this formula or find the skits amusing, then this one will be golden from start to finish. For those who find a lack of forward progress in a plot a bit of a sticking point (that would be me), what it will end up being is fairly frustrating as a series even as some of these skits will amuse.

What really does elevate Kaguya-Sama: Love is War from just being another sketch comedy that I didn’t really enjoy, is the production. Visually this one has a distinct look and is actually fairly impressive with the creative way it depicts the battles and character emotions. While there isn’t a lot of movement and certainly no hand to hand combat or anything of the like, the animation is pretty spot on and far and away of higher quality than you would usually expect for the subject matter.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 12 - Fireworks

The music is also spot on with an opening and ending that both support the story and are highly entertaining (worth watching the ending each time as well), and background music and sounds that really help to spice up what might otherwise become fairly flat content.

A lot of love has gone in to the production of Kaguya-Sama and realistically as an anime there’s little to complain about. While it personally doesn’t do a lot for me, there are plenty of people who will adore this story and these characters and the presentation makes it all very palatable. The characters themselves will be a bit hit and miss as will the premise but by and large this is an anime that will work for the majority so if you are curious and haven’t tried it be sure to give it a go.

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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Series Review

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 9 Rimuru in the cave

Ready for the slime of your life?

Here we are with another isekai anime. Another normal, ordinary, totally average guy who is killed by a totally normal knife wielding running man before being reincarnated as an over-powered blue slime in a world resembling a standard generic fantasy setting where he will begin building an empire and have plenty of adoring subjects because he is awesome.

So, if you don’t like isekai or over-powered protagonists it is probably time to duck out of this one. Because, this anime is utterly unashamed of what it is and while we have the gimmick of the protagonist being a slime, there isn’t a lot that really distinguishes it in terms of plot or setting.

Where That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime does manage to distinguish itself from similar isekai adventures is that the protagonist seems utterly without a goal for the majority of the story. Sorry, I’ll correct that. He has goals but mostly they revolve around making his life easier, and usually making life easier for those who follow him. There’s no grand plan of fighting some powerful evil, trying to return home, or really anything else. Just short term goals that get accomplished in bite sized arcs as this essentially slice of life, empire building story kind of rolls itself out.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 11 Rimuru

As such there is never any real sense of urgency or that there are any real stakes in anything that happens. I kind of found this very off putting and frequently found it hard to invest a great deal emotionally in this show. While I never overly disliked it, I think if Slime had suddenly had production issues and been delayed a month, I may not have even noticed. It just kind of existed and while I was watching it I usually had a casual good time with an occasional smile, the occasional enjoyment of a particularly good dialogue exchange, and very rarely an interesting fight, but mostly it just kind of passed by.

For people who prefer their stories low-key and don’t mind watching characters just kind of drift and do what they do (so people who don’t really mind slice of life in general), Slime probably offers a rare fantasy opportunity that isn’t all about slaying a demon lord or achieving some grand goal. In a sense it reminds me, vaguely, of something like Restaurant to Another Universe in that you have what appears to be a standard fantasy setting without any of the epic plot trappings that usually accompany it.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 16

In a sense, if Slime had chosen to simply occupy the space of a slice of life in a fantasy setting, I probably wouldn’t have watched it at all because I already know such a premise doesn’t really interest me. However, Slime does at times have hints of a larger narrative and certain arcs seemed to push that forward. In those moments I found a genuine enjoyment rather than a casual like of the show. Shizue’s arc in the first cour was the true highlight, hitting some fairly decent emotional notes, filling in our knowledge of the world, and progressing the idea of a villain Rimuru may have to face at some point. All and all, it was pretty solid. There are other arcs, or bits of information within some of the other arcs that also build on an overall narrative idea, but they are scattered and hardly a focal point.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 6

With that it entirely comes down to your viewing preferences and whether you need a driving narrative as to whether this anime will grab your interest.

However, if the basic premise and set up is what you are looking for, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime offers a fairly beautifully presented quality viewing experience. In almost all episodes the visual and animation quality is maintained with none of the mid-season or late season mistakes, glitches, and just rushed efforts that other anime sometimes face. Rimuru is as charmingly depicted in episode 23 as episode 1 (though early in the series there’s a weird CG visual used occasionally for Rimuru that just seems out of place with the rest of the visuals of the series – quite possibly deliberate but I felt it was weird).

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 1

One thing I did find bizarre was that the anime would introduce monster characters who would have quite strikingly non-human appearances and then after Rimuru gave them a name they would ‘evolve’ and have a more human appearance. I mentioned this in one of my episode reviews, but it felt like an utter waste to take such distinct looking characters and morph them into generic fantasy boy/girl with vague monster appendages. It felt like a loss for what could have made this anime visually far more memorable than it ends up being, even if it is a pretty anime that is easy on the eyes.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 16

From a sound point of view everything works. Character voices serve their purpose and Rimuru’s voice acting is perhaps the character’s most charming point. He’s easy to listen to, fairly emotive, and the contrast between his inner and outer tone at times is spot on and nails the humour of a situation. Other characters are either good enough or quite interesting, and the background music and sounds do their job but don’t stand out as overly memorable.

Overall though it is the characters that I find to be the weakest element of this anime. Not because they are not good characters. Individually, each character is perfectly fine and they even play well off one another. The problem is that other than Rimuru, no character really sticks around long enough to have much impact. Even characters who stay in the story, after their introduction and brief moment in the spot-light, get shunted to the background where they occasionally fill screen space or make a comment, but kind of cease to develop as actual characters.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 10 Lizardmen

For me, in the absence of a driving plot, I really needed more from the characters and their personal journeys. I needed something to make me want to invest emotionally in this anime, and tragically the characters just couldn’t fill the void.

Admittedly, the characters are largely quirky and cute but when the vast majority of names are forgotten before the series has even been a week completed, and you genuinely don’t know what even half of them are trying to do or accomplish and you generally have no sense that any of the characters are motivated to do anything beyond serve Rimuru, it really makes it hard to care about what happens to any of them and Rimuru is so over-powered (and if he wasn’t, Milim sure is), that it is hard to visualise harm coming to any of them.

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Again, it comes down to whether or not you care about any kind of tension or emotional stakes in your story or whether you just want to chill. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime would be a very good anime to just chill to.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 19 Gobta

Before I wrap up, I do want to discuss the episode count. At 25 episodes, this anime took six months to air. That’s a long time investment for episodic watching and I will admit, I was weary of it by the end. It didn’t help that the final arc, despite tying in fairly beautifully with Shizue’s arc from the first half of the season, was undeniably one of the weaker stories delivered. However, what makes it worse is the anime actually finishes at episode 23 and then we have two extra episodes. Episode 24 actually is better than anything the second half of Slime gave us and just made me wonder why we hadn’t seen more like that. That probably isn’t what you want your bonus material to do. 24.5 is just padding. Poorly executed recap. A poor excuse of filler to pad out a 25 episode count that was unneeded.

Getting onto recommendations, it isn’t as though this was a bad anime. There are huge numbers of fans, massive amounts of merchandise available, and realistically there’s nothing inherently broken about the story. While it doesn’t suit my viewing preferences, it functionally works and at times even I found it very entertaining and at its worst I just found it kind of empty but watchable. So for some this will be highly entertaining.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 18 fanservice

My honest opinion with this one is that there are better isekai anime out there with better journeys and characters. Then again, I prefer something that has clear direction and characters that grow and learn so perhaps Slime and I were never meant to be. Still, I wouldn’t actually tell you to avoid this one. It can be good fun and is nicely made. Give it a try, by the end of episode 3 you should have a rough idea of whether this works for you, and maybe you’ll find a show to fall in love with.

However, I’d love to know your thoughts on That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (the anime) so please share in the comments below.

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Karandi James
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The Price of Smiles Series Review

The Price of Smiles Episode 1

Smile and the world smiles with you… Unless you are in the middle of a war.

There is something about average anime that make them very hard to review. They aren’t necessarily bad, but the potential they had to be better actually makes them taste a bit more sour particularly after they’ve just ended. The Price of Smiles is an average anime, even for a mecha anime. Almost painfully average in every respect. Yet at times there were glimpses of a far more epic and amazing story simmering just beneath the mediocre execution and some of what was delivered managed to shine just bright enough to keep up hope of improvement.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8 Yuki

However, if you aren’t drawn in within the first few episodes, you will probably be better off thanking The Price of Smiles for its time and moving on. Without trying to be too facetious, the pay-off at the end of the Price of Smiles is not really worth the price of time commitment to get there.

Which is a real shame because there was a lot of potential in the ideas here.

For those unfamiliar with The Price of Smiles it covers two different girls, Yuki and Stella. Some episodes exclusively focus on Yuki and her Kingdom, yes she is a Princess, and other episodes focus on Stella, who is just an expendable soldier on the other side of the war. It isn’t until the second last episode that we see both perspectives in the same episode and it is an interesting way of delivering what might be a fairly predictable narrative.

The Price of Smile's Episode 5

While the war itself, two sides fighting over resources, is pretty standard, through Yuki’s position we see those at the decision making level of the war on both sides as well as Yuki’s childish and naive perspective. It gives one view of the story and realistically, that could have been the only view and we still would have ended up with an okay anime.

But, by cutting Yuki’s story by introducing episodes from Stella’s perspective, on the front lines of fighting and on the side of the invading forces, it kind of gives the story more depth and keeps it feeling fresh.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Neither story is particularly amazing, though Stella’s story and the cast surrounding her are perhaps the more interesting, but together they manage to create a wide view of the world and the different responses to the war. If there had been a few more episodes and a bit longer to really flesh out a few world building points, this choice in splitting the narrative between two characters would have worked really well.

That said, it isn’t exactly an original idea with plenty of other mecha anime that split their narrative between representatives of different factions to give that particular insight into what each side is doing and how it is affecting different groups of people. But original or not, it is a fairly solid choice particularly with the anti-conflict message that is heavily stamped on almost every episode.

The Price of Smiles Episode 5

Again, this isn’t exactly new for the genre, but here the lack of subtlety is probably one of the things that hurts this anime the most. Yuki, the white and pink clad Princess wringing her hands and hoping for peace and wanting to bring smiles to everyone is just too much. And while the excuse that her advisers kept her in the dark about the true state of things, or even that they were at war, can explain some of her reluctance to face the reality they are dealing with when it is force upon her, honestly some of her decisions are a little hard to swallow.

Though while we are on messages, this anime also managed to bring in a heavy handed environmental allegory about humans over using resources and destroying eco-systems and while this seems to be at the centre of the conflict and is tied heavily in the final solution of the series, it is almost as though The Price of Smiles knew it didn’t have time for everything and so while it wanted to wear an environmental slogan it ultimately discarded it in favour of the anti-conflict stance.

The Price of Smiles Episode 9

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Which is why I said the anime needed more episodes to really develop its world. The setting here is fantastic (or at least could have been). They are on a colonised world that was terraformed using technology no one on the world still really understands but the Kingdom has developed the chrars, a fairly substantial power source and one which allows their technological superiority (not that it really helps them all that much in the war).

As the story progresses we learn a bit more about this seemingly amazing power source and how its use is tied in to the failing crops and eco-systems that are at the core of the conflict between the two groups as resources are becoming scarce. If this idea had been put front and centre and given time to be really discussed and dealt with, it could have really given this anime a bit more of an edge. However, while the idea is there, and is interesting, ultimately Yuki’s decision comes down to her immediate need to not see any more death in the war. The long term implications, despite the ground work already being laid, are more or less glossed over leaving this all feeling a little bit less than satisfying.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Visually, The Price of Smiles also suffers as its run continues. While action sequences always look relatively polished and are great fun to watch, and the character designs are quite lovely even if the majority of their clothing looks insanely impractical, the animation falters in later episodes in non-action scenes and characters appear off-model more often or with barely sketched in faces when seen from a distance. It isn’t enough to really mar the viewing but it is definitely noticeable in the later episodes.

The other major complaint I will level at this series is its inability to create drama through any means other than killing off its cast. While the first important death comes early and is something of a shock, in the second half they essentially kill one major character per episode with increasingly diminished emotional returns to the point that the final death in the last episode can barely even register because you were expecting it long before it happened.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

Despite its faults, I don’t really mind that I watched The Price of Smiles this season. There was always plenty to talk about and while I wanted more from it, I actually relatively enjoyed what I watched. The characters weren’t amazing but were interesting enough and the fights were spaced out nicely to keep the talking moments and the fighting moments relatively balanced.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

This isn’t an anime to avoid, nor is it one to rush out and watch. Still, if you are in the mood for a mecha anime, and you have a bit of spare time, you could certainly do worse than The Price of Smiles.

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Karandi James
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Sirius The Jaeger Series Review

Sirius The Jaeger

Things that go bump in the night should watch out.

It isn’t all that often that I watch a Netflix anime (or I should more accurately say it isn’t often that I finish one) and there’s a lot of reasons for that, however having read some mixed reviews about Serius but seeing it was a bit of an action story featuring vampires, I decided to take the plunge. I watched a handful of episodes one afternoon and was hooked. Clearing my schedule the following afternoon, I binged the rest of the series.

And it turns out, Sirius the Jaeger is actually great fun. We have a group called the Jaegers hunting down vampires and trying to exterminate them, meanwhile the vampires are conspiring with political activists and the like to get some shady and nebulous plot off the ground. It is a great set up and the pre-World War 2 setting really helps to allow some credibility for some of the goings on here.

That said, it isn’t as though Sirius the Jaeger is a perfect anime series. We’ve got a lot of cliché characters, some plot points that don’t really seem to make a great deal of sense, a villain who seems kind of together but ultimately makes stupid choices just to make things more interesting and as a direct result gets seriously burned, and just some general moments where if you applied any kind of real world physics to a situation you could write most of the characters off. Yet, none of that really gets in the way of the story because the story doesn’t really let it. It isn’t taking itself all that seriously as it powers through introducing ancient tribes, vampires, vampire hunters and building in a subplot about nations arming for war. It just wants us to enjoy the ride as we see Yuliy first work to kill all the vampires and then to try to find out about his tribe and the Ark of Serius.

Sirius The Jaeger - Yuliy

Where some anime might get very exposition heavy while trying to balance all of that, Sirius the Jaeger limits talk time between characters and information about all of these different aspects comes to us over time and fairly naturally. It’s built into exchanges between characters in small bite size chunks with only a few longer more focused conversations to flesh out key points. There’s only one point where the Professor stands with Yuliy and essentially information dumps and it’s about three quarters of the way through and is a fairly significant reveal that directs the final turn of the series. Given it comes on the tail of a fairly impressive battle between the Japanese military and the vampires, the down time isn’t too much of a problem.

However, what really drives this story is the action. We will be taken from one action set piece to another and be prepared for lots of jumping over roof tops, a car chase sequence, a battle on a train, fighting in the woods, and finally fighting on an airship because why not. Each fight is fairly distinct and while Yuliy is at the centre of most of them, the conditions are vastly different as are the other participants and potential collateral damage and so it continues to feel fresh.

Sirius The Jaeger fight

There’s also a sense of urgency around a lot of the fight sequences. While it never gets to a point where you actually fear too much for a main character, it always feels like losing a fight will cost the characters something and even if they win the fight there is always damage. The near destruction of the house they were staying in while in Japan and the company having to pay compensation to the owner is one example but in every fight it felt like there was a lot potentially riding on their decisions.

I really enjoyed how the series dealt with Yuliy. Even though we ultimately get a standard chosen one fantasy plot where he’s lost his family, last survivor, needs to take control of the shiny powerful thing, his character manages to feel reasonably fresh as it treads this fairly standard path. While his surly revenge driven opening isn’t exactly a breath of fresh air (think Eren from Attack on Titan only competent and less shouty), Yuliy actually manages to have quite a well developed personality and his interactions with the other characters are usually entertaining.

Sirius The Jaeger

Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same about Ryouko, the daughter of the family who host the vampire hunters (Jaegers) in Japan. Her character is kind of a love interest for Yuliy only she’s utterly unnecessary. Though at times she delivered crucial items or got herself into trouble at particular points, realistically her character brought nothing to the table and honestly her following Yuliy around into increasingly dangerous situations just struck me as slightly stupid so I couldn’t really get behind her character.

They did far better with Mikhail (Yuliy’s brother) who we encounter throughout the story, despite Yuliy thinking he died when the vampires attacked his village. The interactions between Yuliy and Mikhail, while at times pushing at the boundaries of logical, always have a good chemistry about them.

Sirius The Jaeger Yuliy and Mikhail

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However, this is a vampire story so how are the vampires?

A bit hit and miss. The royals are very entertaining and classic kind of vampires (other than the whole able to deal with daylight thing). The control older vampires have over those they’ve turned is a feature that I really like in vampire stories as is the fact that turned vampires retain their memories of being human but at the same time aren’t any longer. The slave vampires and their monstrous form was a bit less likeable because it essentially turned a lot of the fights into waves of red bat things that had very little to distinguish them and none of them were really strong enough to be of note anyway.

One interesting bit they threw in was that the vampire race was dying because of a sickness that had no cure. That was an interesting addition to the story and actually worked as a good catalyst for moving the immortal vampires with a sense of urgency.

The Jaegers

So overall, a pretty fun action story. Definitely not a horror despite the presence of vampires. It move along at a nice pace, has some good fight sequences and largely decently realised characters. While it isn’t going to be anime of the year or anything like that, this one was certainly an entertaining romp.

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Karandi James
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