Frankenstein Family Episodes 11 + 12

There are very few words for how disappointing these final two episodes are. Mostly because this demonstrates an incredible lack of either planning to end the story at a reasonable rest point OR lack of care for an audience that will be left without anything resembling closure and no announcement of follow up. While not every story will resolve everything perfectly, ending a final season episode with a cliff-hanger and literally just dropping the story there is kind of the laziest path imaginable. The only time it is excusable is when the resolution is already planned and a release date for a follow up has already been announced and even then it is still a poor way to end a season.

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Even if I ignore the lack of anything resembling a resolution here just the sheer leaps some of these characters went through in terms of their personalities in the space of the last three episodes were a little ridiculous. While I get all of the characters were in fact keeping some of their inner nature in check out of consideration and abandoning that position was going to result in some changes, that doesn’t account for some of the decisions and statements these characters suddenly came out with for the sake of a dramatic climax. It all just kind of made me wonder what I’d been watching the nine or ten episodes leading up to this.

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I will do a full season review of this at some point, but honestly, I don’t think any pleasant enjoyment from the earlier episodes can offset this ending so it probably isn’t going to be a favourable review. That said, I will give myself some time to reflect and think about the series as a whole and to distance myself from the current feeling of disappointment before I write it.

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Steins;Gate 0 Series Review: Here We Go Again, Again

Right from episode one of Steins;Gate 0 I kind of sat on the fence about whether or not I was on board with this most recent addition to the Steins;Gate anime world. Overall it was an up and down experience but now we come to the final review and I have to figure out exactly how I feel about this show.

Review:

Steins;Gate 0 takes on the task of exploring an alternative time-line, one in which Mayuri lets Okabe stop trying to save Kurisu and as such we see an Okabe Rintaro we have never seen before. This is an Okabe who has given up his delusions, his manic laughter, and even the white lab coat because he’s just a student suffering from some severe depression with a huge fear that something will happen to destroy the peace he sacrificed so much to achieve. But things are never that easy (that was easy) and soon Okabe is going to be plunged back into conspiracies and time travel intrigues whether he wants to be or not.

We also have the involvement of America and Russia, the need to stop World War 3, and an AI based on Kurisu who may or may not be a real character but ultimately is fairy unexplored compared with what they could have done.

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I will admit, the idea of seeing Okabe as a more ‘normal’ person and seeing him dealing with the fallout of failure is an interesting concept. The problem is how this impacts on the overall tone of the show. It isn’t just Okabe who lacks energy and charisma. The entire cast takes a hit and the beloved chemistry and rapid fire dialogue that permeated the original Steins;Gate anime is gone for the vast majority of 0’s run-time. This could have worked if they’d spurred Okabe into action earlier after giving us a taste of this alternative version of him but it went on for so long and even after he’d been given every reason to get back to time travel he continued to dig in his heels and refuse. While this is believable as a human to not want to change a hard made decision, it doesn’t make for overly compelling viewing.

That said, it isn’t as though this season is devoid of good moments. We get some fantastic moments between Mayuri and Okabe. Mayuri was a fairly underused character in the original as she ended up more of a plot device than anything else and in Steins;Gate 0 she becomes the driving force for a lot of the action. She fully understands that it is her fault Okabe has essentially lost sight of who he was and while she isn’t planning on abandoning him anytime soon, she very much wants to bring Hououin Kyouma back to life and she’s happy to break time and space to do it.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 17 - Mayuri

We also get a great episode where Okabe for whatever reason ends up in an alternative time line where Kurisu is still alive and essentially she gives him a pep talk before sending him back. This was one of the few moments in the first half of the show where we see the rapid fire dialogue and chemistry that is sorely missing from so much of this anime. Not to mention it is Kurisu and Okabe together again in a way that just makes you realise how lacking Amadeus, the AI based on Kurisu, is as a substitute.

I’ll also say that from episode 20 to 23 we get a fairly solid run to a conclusion and these episodes are actually very entertaining. Part of me almost wishes they’d done this series in 12 episodes and condensed everything before episode 20 into 8 episodes and then maybe it wouldn’t have felt so bloated and it could have been a tight series keeping us on our toes. It is very rare for me to wish less episodes on an anime but I really feel content-wise this anime just didn’t have enough for its run time.

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And that brings us to some of the real issues I was having, other than just not enjoying the characters very much this time around. The question of should we or shouldn’t we mess with time lacks weight here because we’ve already had it explored. We get that Okabe is scarred but his arguments for not building and using the machine are weak and ultimately we know he’s going to have to. With this central premise more or less dead in the water, there are other avenues the anime could explore but ultimately not a lot came of them.

For instance, episode 12 spends a great deal of time constructing a bootstrap paradox. One of the characters from the future (travelled with Suzuha) is singing a song that she heard from someone and they try to track down the song’s origins. We go around in circles before realising that Okabe taught it to the others but he heard it from the girl when she’d travelled back in time and so the question remained where did the song come from. It was an entire episode to set up a paradox that ultimately served zero purpose. And while it still could have been fun given time travel shows inherently do have paradoxes in them and this one seemed to plunge us into it just for the fun of it, ultimately it just felt like more clutter and distraction from where we knew the story would have to go.

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The AI is perhaps the part that suffers the worst from this. There are so many ideas and questions that could have been explored with Amadeus. And while the anime certainly walks around the edges of whether or not the AI is a person given it has the same thoughts and memories as a person, very little is done with this. Nor do they open up obvious questions such as how this will change people if we could in fact copy our thoughts and memories into a program. Or what it could be used for. Or even the ethics of erasing it. While we get an emotional sequence where all the characters kind of say goodbye, the anime isn’t really interested in asking whether or not this could be considered murder if we could consider the AI a character. I’d have loved for them to do more with this.

There are also a whole bunch of characters who ultimately just don’t serve much purpose here and lots of red-herrings just because.

Steins;Gate Episode 22 - Daru and Miho

Steins;Gate 0 did introduce us to Maho though and while at first I wasn’t really sold on her character she actually did a good job integrating with the core cast by the end. At the very least she served a fairly valuable plot point and her interactions with Daru and Okabe were pretty good by the end.

And while we’re on that point, Daru certainly came out of Steins;Gate 0 leaving a better impression than the original. So in terms of fleshing out Daru and Mayuri, this spin off really succeeded.

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Ultimately that is what will determine your overall enjoyment of this show. If just seeing more of these characters is enough and those few glimpses of development are sufficient to make you happy, here are 23 episodes for you to sink your teeth into. However, in terms of giving a great story, Steins;Gate 0 relies to much on nostalgia for these characters and it stretches things out and has too much that feels like filler to really be something amazing. I’m not unhappy that I watched this but it isn’t exactly blowing me away.

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Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 12: And Now We Wait Until Next Year

Attack on Titan Season Three Episode 12 - Erwin and Levi

Well, once I found out this season was going to be split in two, any hope for an actual resolution of any sort this time around when out the window so I guess I’m not actually disappointed. And despite last week being a bit of a snooze fest and this week just plunging us into a cliff-hanger with a during end-credits tease, season three has still become my favourite Attack on Titan season yet, though I’ll get more into that when I do a whole season (half-season?) review.

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 12 - Hange

This week we get the higher ups talking some more and recapping things for us so that we know where we’re going next and why. Other than the over use of brown in this scene it works well enough and at least we’re clearly set on a course of action for now. That’s probably the best thing they did. Even with the gap between now and April next year when part 2 is supposed to come out, this episode gives us a clear direction which is something the end of season one and two lacked.

Attack on Titan Season Three Episode 12 - Eerwin

We get an interesting scene between Erwin and Levi that might have more significance and people who have read the manga probably know what that is but for me I’ll just file that under interesting and wait until the show chooses to maybe get back to it.

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 12 - Sasha

However, it was the second part of the episode that really got things going as we saw Sasha at her food craziest yet before Jean and Eren get into a ridiculous fight. It was kind of nice to see a little life in Eren even if he very nearly reverted into shouting idiot Eren. I think they played this nicely with him trying to have a bit of energy but inside he’s still kind of broken. Plus, we then got a Mikasa, Armin and Eren moment that was kind of adorable and brought us back to where these three started (as the OP has been all season) and it was just kind of nice to see this again even if it felt like tragic death flags were being raised all around (or maybe that’s just me because I’m used to this show doing that to us).

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 12 - Jean and Eren

So yes, this episode works and as a mid-season point it is pretty solid. As the last episode we’re going to see this year I just have to shake my head and remind myself it is Attack on Titan. This isn’t the worst thing they’ve ever done to viewers.

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ATTACK ON TITAN ANTHOLOGY (ENGLISH) HARDCOVER

Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Series Review: The Ugly Side of War

To be honest, I’m not super into realistic historical settings or period drama style anime so when I first started Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion, I wasn’t really expecting much. Still there’s definitely something about those first episodes that grab your attention and even though the show has its flaws, I’m still pretty happy with the watch through.

Review:

For people who watch a lot of seasonal anime there’s definitely a small problem of becoming a little fatigued with seeing similar set ups and plots play out over and over again. Particularly when you follow some genres more than others you definitely start to notice a saminess to your viewing so it isn’t surprising that when something comes along that gets your attention that isn’t something from your normal genre, there’s a novelty factor that comes from watching it that makes it pretty pleasant.

Angolmois Episode 10

And for me, that’s kind of how it was with Angolmois. Definitely not my usual kind of thing because I’m not a huge fan of period pieces, I don’t really like Samurai stories, and based on real events in history does little to really engage me. However, this anime was different enough and my watch list small enough this Summer that I decided to strap in and go for it. I don’t regret that choice but I’m kind of left on the fence about whether I really enjoyed it or whether it really was just the novelty of it that made it stand out (and for people who watch a lot of historical/samurai stories it is probably missing the novelty factor).

Ultimately, I think Angolmois is fine. There are some great moments along the way and some not so food moments. There’s some interesting characters that we learn little to nothing about. The plot is kept pretty straight forward with the Mongols invading the island and the local Japanese people trying to survive while not wanting to leave their land and the exiles who end up tasked with helping them (not that the exiles have all that much choice given leaving the island isn’t exactly an option for most of the anime).

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However, fine isn’t exactly a huge recommendation and to be honest, in a busier season I probably wouldn’t bother with this one. There are just too many strikes against it so that even those moments that were really fun and engaging end up mostly forgotten by the end.

Of course, the biggest hurdle with this one is the filter over every single scene. I’m thinking they are trying to make it look historical or something, but mostly it just serves as a distraction in the early episodes and more than that, it is hideous. Character faces end up blotchy, and when we get a panning shot and the filter doesn’t move it actually made me feel a little queasy during early episodes. Admittedly, by the time you get to the second half of the season, your eyes have finally just accepted it and mostly filter out the filter but occasionally a scene will bring it back into jarring focus reminding you just how ugly this anime really is.

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It doesn’t help that the majority of the characters are pretty ugly to look at as well even without the filter. Now I’m not saying that every anime character needs to be a pretty boy or whatever, but this cast is a motley collection of generally unattractive character designs and while it is likely a deliberate choice given the tone of the show, that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to look at.

Okay, I’m going to move away from the cosmetics and actually look at the characters now. Despite actually kind of enjoying the early episodes, other that Teruhi and Jinzaburou, and later Kano, none of the character names stuck. It took forever just to distinguish the different exiles as individual people and not just the ‘exiles’ and then we have the Japanese from the island and multiple Mongol armies all with characters that are thrown at us. It is overcrowded and impossible to learn anything of real note about anyone which is probably where the show stumbles hardest. It is really difficult to care about their amazing climactic battle where they linger on a death and you have to do a double take just to remind yourself whether you knew who that character was, and then you certainly don’t care.

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So realistically this show either needed more episodes so we could spend actual time with these characters and get to know them, or it just needed to narrow its focus right down onto the characters who mattered. Not choosing either option means we get a very superficial look at way too many characters, most of whom will die before the final credits roll.

Like most historical anime, the characters all have their honour and rules that they live by. They regularly spout platitudes about their honour or life or whatever before doing something either stupid or brave or whatever. But again, knowing so little about the character makes these moments feel very tagged on and given we know so little about them we can’t figure out how this particular choice feeds into a greater character because it just isn’t there.

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The Magistrate suffered horribly because he clearly had a code and clearly made some choices because of it, but we never had the time to learn enough about him to really understand what was driving him. By the time he died he just seemed like a silly man holding onto a handful of a sand as the wind tried to blow it away. The traitor from the exiles as well never had enough time for us to really understand why he made the choices he made and his character ended up feeling fairly shallow and inconsistent because of it and made his betrayal have very little impact emotionally even if it did drive the plot to its inevitable conclusion.

I really did look forward to this show most weeks and it isn’t as though it is a train wreck. It just comes up short in too many ways for me to really recommend it. Still, if you want a break from isekai, harem, high school, or the other standard anime types, this one might be a breath of fresh air… assuming of course slaughter and war work for you.

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Phantom in the Twilight Series Review: This Series Could Be Renamed Saving Shinyao

While this anime isn’t exactly going to change the world it was perhaps one of the more fun titles from the Summer Season. If you like a bit of fun and action with vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night and you’ll probably find something to enjoy in Phantom in the Twilight.

Review:

I’ll admit straight out I didn’t think a huge amount of episode 1. It was another girl runs into supernatural hot guys and I kind of predicted that this show could become quite good or just be a mess. I also made a lot of disparaging remarks about the protagonist Ton and it took more than a few episodes before I finally got off her case because I finally started warming up to her. How is that relevant to the review? Well, it is my round about way of saying that this anime takes a little time to grow on you, but fortunately once it gets going the action is pretty solid and the characters are a lot more interesting than they might initially appear.

That said, it isn’t as though this show becomes some kind of sleeper masterpiece. It really is just silly supernatural fun and the final episodes don’t quite nail the landing leaving me at least feeling a tiny bit let down given the mid-season was pretty solid.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

So what is this show about? Well, for the most part it is about Ton, our main character, attempting to rescue her friend Shinyao who gets kidnapped at the end of episode 1. And that’s more or less it for plot. Sure there’s a lot of supernatural business with Ton’s grandmother and learning to use powers and recruiting the members of Cafe Forbidden to help out, but the overall objective remains save Shinyao. This is a plot line that becomes almost a joke at points given how many times they get close to rescuing Shinyao before for whatever reason they don’t succeed and end up back at the cafe lamenting that they still haven’t saved Shinyao.

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What saves this anime from becoming pretty bad is that it isn’t asking you to do anything other than have fun with the characters and to go along with whatever supernatural silliness they just threw at you. There isn’t really any deeper message or idea going on as Ton storms her way through each situation gaining more and more power. There’s enough chemistry between the cast members that they end up being really enjoyable by the mid-season, and they have enough of a backstory that they are fun to learn more about.

Speaking of fun learning, one of my favourite parts of the show each week was the after credits sequence called Twilight Plus where the characters in Chibi form would discuss one of the characters or what was happening in the story. It was always amusing and was well worth hanging around for each week. My personal favourite was where they introduced Toryu and asked him how he managed to carry his weapons around. It was just such a great way to finish each episode.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

Still, there are definitely some down sides to this story. Probably the most legitimate gripe, other than the overall simple nature of the plot, would be the absence of a decent villain or obstacle for the characters to overcome. They kind of try to set up a few of these but mostly they end up being pretty lame and realistically this would have actually helped the climax of the series along enormously. Earlier episodes where they managed to introduce a real sense of danger certainly were highly entertaining so it would have been nice to still believe any of the villains posed an actual threat in the final two episodes.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 Ton

There’s not a lot more to say about this. Either you like supernatural anime with powers and fight sequences and you are happy just to go along for the ride, or you aren’t. For those who like that sort of thing, there’s a nice rich world of lore to explore here and while this particular season is mostly just scratching the surface, it really does feel like the supernatural elements have been nicely incorporated into the real world. It’s great fun and I’m glad I picked this one up during the summer season.

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Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 11: Aw, He’s Special

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 11

Well, we knew we were moving on from the previous arc but this episode felt like yet more transition and catching people up on how things fit together rather than actually moving onto anything. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the three seasons have been spread over a large period of time and we’ve recently been hit with a whole stack of revelations so the characters taking time to process and giving the audience time to process is kind of nice, even if it doesn’t make for exactly compelling viewing.

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 11

I am actually starting to like this new and subdued Eren. Honestly, I’m kind of hoping he doesn’t ‘snap out of it’ anytime soon because a thinking Eren who contemplates and actually tries for others rather than going off idiotically and brashly while shouting his ideas is a lot more bearable as a character (again, not quite as interesting given he doesn’t tend to do much, but there are other characters who can fill that void).

This episode gives us a brief look at Historia as a Queen who seems to be taking a very hands on approach to working with the masses which is fine and all but it does leave you wondering who is making the actual big administrative decisions while she’s doing manual labour. It does however at least give us some sort of hope that things might improve inside the walls (which is probably just so they can later dash that hope into small pieces).

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 11

We then transition to a scene with Eren and his crew eating soup very slowly and the other recruits making a bit deal of how much they’ve changed in the months since they became scouts. It took me by surprise to given for me its been years and the change seemed really slow, but I guess in the in story time it isn’t that long. This also leads Eren to figuring out that the training commander guy knew his dad so Levi, Hange, and most everyone who has remained relevant ride out to the training grounds for story time.

If I seem a little flippant about this it is because while it eats a large chunk of the episode time, we essentially don’t get much from this guy. I really quite like Hange’s reaction to his story. While I’m kind of certain that maybe something he said will later become relevant (now there’s a clear sentence), it all just felt like a very drawn out red-herring.

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 11

So yeah, I’m not overly sold on this episode even though there are some nice ideas and touches in it. Really it will depend where this goes as to whether this works or not (another case where maybe binging would improve the story – or maybe it wouldn’t, hard to know until later).

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The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Series Review: Inept Isekai Harem Story

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 10

I wasn’t planning on watching this show this season but with an incredibly small watch list and some small number of factors introduced early on in the show that might have developed into something interesting, I ended up sticking with The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar. I probably regret that decision now but let’s get into the review.

Review:

There has been a very low bar set for isekai stories, particularly isekai harem stories. And that bar for the most part works in the genres favour because people expecting some deep and intellectual story don’t bother at all and those who are just wanting something to casually watch and maybe be entertaining are happy enough to jump on board and hand wave the occasional clunky bit of exposition, slight character breaking moments and definitely dismiss plot armour as just a staple of the genre. That isn’t to say there aren’t some great isekai stories out there and that harem stories can’t be well told, but the majority of the genre should definitely be taken into account.

Yet, even by those dangerously low standards, I would find it incredibly hard to recommend The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser or Einherjar. The sheer number of things this anime does to shoot itself in the foot along the way is nearly mind-boggling and that is before you get to a final episode that just left me shaking my head and wondering why on earth I’d just given the show three months of my life in episodic reviews. This story of boy from the modern world travelling with smartphone to the past and somehow becoming the biggest thing ever is hardly original but that wouldn’t be a problem if it managed to be competent.

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That isn’t to say there is nothing good about the show. I did in fact watch it every week for three months so there was clearly something about the anime that caught my eye and kept my attention even as  I dropped the likes of Holmes of Kyoto. So we’ll start with some positives before I tear this less-than-middling story apart.

One thing  I did enjoy initially about this anime is that it didn’t start the story with Yuuto arriving in the past/other world (it is very unclear if he is on Earth even though he thinks he is – the people with seemingly magic powers kind of makes it hard to swallow). The story begins after he’s already been in the past for a number of years and has already risen to the head of the Wolf Clan. This by itself made the story stand out from so many others in this genre because we didn’t get the standard five to ten minutes of his everyday life before the confusion of landing in another world and befriending the cute girl. Nope, he was already there and established with the many cute girls by his side. The novelty of that, and the fact that it allowed this story to get straight into the fights between clans, gave it a little bit of a lift.

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I also liked that despite Yuuto being a complete push over to pretty much every female character, he did insist on the no marriage thing because he had someone he loved waiting for him in the present. He stood by this right until the end and I kind of respected that because at least we didn’t have another harem protagonist who couldn’t make a choice. He’d made his choice but just couldn’t really act on it because she wasn’t in the same time/world as him and all he could do was talk to her on the phone.

Finally, I actually liked that Yuuto did draw on real tactics (researched on his smartphone of course) and used these in the various battles he fought. I also liked that he seemed to be making a genuine effort to lead his clan into a more economically stable position. These ideas if properly fleshed out could have more than carried the show as maybe something of a mix between the likes of Lord Marksman and Vanadis and Maoyu. Tragically these were decidedly tagged on ideas that kind of got thrown at the audience one minute and promptly forgotten the next.  On that note, go watch either Lord Marksman or Maoyu instead, either one is far superior to anything you’ll find here and you’ll even get a decent amount of good looking anime girls wearing skimpy outfits in Lord Marksman if that is what floats your boat.

Master of Ragnarok Episode 5

However, these positives are not enough to offset a lot of the issues this anime has. The first I’ve already touched on and that is that the anime introduces ideas but does nothing with them or at least doesn’t give them enough time to develop. We don’t know why Yuuto went to the past (other than magic mirror and summoning) and we don’t know how his smartphone manages to work (I can’t even get internet access in my backyard so I’d love to know how his phone actually works across time and space). They introduce economic reforms, agriculture reforms, new technologies and none of these are given any real weight other than isn’t Yuuto awesome. We have an episode that for some reason focuses on school bullying but is resolved with shockingly little care for the lingering impacts of bullying. And finally we have an ongoing war with some conspiracies by the church and ultimately this goes absolutely nowhere. You won’t ever see the guy who originally gets the Lightning Clan to attack the Wolf Clan ever again. No one will mention it and nothing will be resolved.

So if they aren’t developing any of this what are they doing in this anime? Poorly animated fight sequences would be one answer. While I won’t say they are dreadful, they aren’t exactly impressive. Then on the other side of that we spend a lot of time with the girls in bathtubs, hot springs, and generally just trying to get as close to Yuuto as possible. Keep in mind the girls are quite aggressive in their affections and it is set up on a number of occasions where it seems clear that Yuuto has been assaulted off-screen by his harem on mass despite his protests. It isn’t exactly comfortable viewing if you try and insert any kind of moral reality into the viewing experience (then again that probably isn’t the best mindset to watch any harem with, but I can’t help but think how unforgivable such a scene would be if a male harem pounced on a protesting female – and what makes it unpalatable for me at least was somehow this was supposed to be amusing).

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 6

Also, the sheer lack of explanations about the runes and powers some of the characters have is frustrating. It is like the world we’re in is never fleshed out and we still don’t understand it even as the season ends. There are more questions then answers but the desire to ever see more of this is pretty minimal (so if they were aiming for a sequel please just say no).

However, the worst is the final episode where mid-episode they seem to legitimately just toss their own plot to the side and meander on with some rubbish before throwing a parade celebrating Yuuto. There is legitimately no explanation for what happened to the armies and the whole conflict that was going on. Just throw a parade, have a kind of wedding and hope no one notices that all the conflict that had been set up just kind of vanished for no good reason. This was a truly frustrating way for the show to end.

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I very rarely insist that my opinion is correct about a show and normally I believe that there is an audience somewhere who will appreciate what an anime has to offer, but in this case I’m simply going to tell you that this one is not worth your time even if you are mad keen on harem stories in isekai settings. There are simply so many anime that do similar things but so much better that there is no reason to watch this one.

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Attack on Titan Eren