200 Word Anime: Black Clover Episode 3

The third week of the Autumn anime season and  Weekend Otaku and I are sharing our thoughts on the third episode of Black Clover. If you missed it last week, here is our post on episode 2.

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Karandi’s Review:

I really don’t want to harp on about Asta’s voice and yet as I reflect on this episode the one thing that stands out to me is just how annoying it is. Over and over again he shrieks out repetitive dialogue for no apparent purpose and the inflection he puts on so many words is at best described as ear grating. This wouldn’t be a problem in a minor character, but Asta’s continuous screen presence with barely a minute between lines means that the audience suffers an ongoing assault by that voice.

Otherwise this is pretty standard train and prepare for the upcoming exam. Meanwhile everyone is still pretty much tearing Asta’s chances down (logical maybe, except this is shounen so there is really no way that he won’t eventually succeed even if he did fail the exam there would be some weird event after and he’ll get to move forward). This show has now had three episodes and while it is passable, it is really not going out of its way to impress.

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Weekend Otaku’s Review:

When I saw the intro to this episode I thought the show was getting into something epic until I realized it was a sort-of flashback. If that’s what Asta imagined the Wizard King to be like, I can’t blame him for being enthusiastic. In any case, that sort of sequence might have served better for the series intro rather than the protracted start of a journey that this episode offered. While not a whole lot is actually happening, that’s not necessarily making the series bad. It’s kind of similar to how Hunter X Hunter started, but where that series had some charming characters to start off with (and some actual motivation for Gon), this one has a protagonist that really challenges viewer enjoyment.
I don’t know if Gakuto Kajiwara is to blame for the assault we’re getting on our ears each week or the directors for having him deliver that same annoying scream over and over, but just like Karandi (and I’m sure all of you as well) I’m having a really hard time putting Asta’s yelling aside and trying to focus on the rest of the episode. As for his character, I can see what they’re trying to do through his conversations about how someone’s station in life shouldn’t limit them. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s been a bit on the nose so far and there’s little else to garner any investment in him.
Thanks Weekend and just a reminder, if you missed our review of The Ancient Magus’ Bride episode 2 you should hop on over to WeekendOtaku’s site and check it out.

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Sengoku Night Blood Episode 3: Sake, Herbs, Bees and an Attack

Review:

If the goal here is to walk through a loosely based on actual history historical setting where the cast have been replaced by pretty boy vampires and werewolves than this episode accomplishes its goal wonderfully. If there was an intention of actually helping us learn anything about these characters (other than the name of the person they are supposed to be) or to progress some sort of plot than this episode comes up short.

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That isn’t to say this isn’t still kind of fun. The vampire group meet with the werewolf group and drink sake before a contrived fetch quest sends the girl into the woods to look for herbs where she conveniently and for no apparent purpose steps on a bee hive. Seriously, they do nothing with that other than scene transition. Why even include it?

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We do however see that every single guy is going to fall for the girl regardless of her seeming lack of personality. So yes, plenty to criticise, but this still works from a switch your brain off and enjoy the pretty visuals kind of  perspective and there is still the possibility of the plot going somewhere as they do have a few scenes that indicate more is going on than drinking and flirting.


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Karandi James.

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Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Overview:

The follow up to the cult classic sensation that was the original Blade Runner. Time has passed and a new generation of replicants that are programmed to obey are now being used. Some of these hunt down and retire the older generation models.

Review:

I’m actually going to preface this by pointing out I actually thought this was a pretty good  movie (far better than I expected when a Blade Runner sequel was announced – and far better than many other science fiction films). The reason this preface is necessary is I’m going to pretty much tear it apart for a bit and it might seem like I’m completely against this film.

Unless you have been living completely offline it is more or less impossible to have missed the hype around the return of Blade Runner to the big screen. It has been a long, long time, as evidence by Harrison Ford’s revival of Deckard, but time has passed even in the movie universe so the real question becomes, whether lightning can strike twice for the franchise?

It seems really unfair but this movie is going to be judged against its predecessor. To put it in context, the SAO movie was not a good movie by any objective standard but for fans of SAO it hit the spot nicely and got them excited for the upcoming new series. If I were to compare Blade Runner 2049 to SAO Ordinal Scale there wouldn’t be any contest. Blade Runner is the far superior movie. And yet, I left the cinema with a wrinkle in my brow and counting off points and counterpoints on my fingers and really wondered if I had enjoyed what I had just watched. I said on Twitter my feelings were mixed and even after thinking and rethinking I’m still feeling that I genuinely don’t know about this movie.

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What it comes down to is that Blade Runner 2049 has all the aesthetic sense of Blade Runner but for me failed to raise any issue or idea of note. I don’t finish the movie questioning the nature of my existence or of anything. I finish the movie wondering if Jared Leto’s character actually served any purpose and just how many wall references (both verbal and visual) I’d just been hit with. Because everything in this movie is a blunt weapon with no subtlety in either delivery or meaning and that makes this movie an entirely different beast to the original where any line of dialogue could be taken several ways and the final speech by the antagonist to Deckard could have you lost in thought for hours.

To give a concrete example there’s a holographic girl who plays the lead replicant’s girlfriend and at one point in the movie they decide they have to erase her from the home system and she’s going to be fully portable. However, as K/Joe points out, doing so means if the portable stick gets broken she’ll be gone for good. To which she responds “Just like a real girl.” This is only one of many Pinocchio references mind you and basically less than two scenes later the stick gets shattered (for no narrative purpose other than to prove that bat-shit crazy replicant is in fact crazy and evil) and then hologram girl is never mentioned again or given another instant of thought. Now, possibly her ‘death’ could have been a character catalyst for the protagonist of the story. It could have been a touching moment to have the audience reflect on the ephemeral nature of life or whether hologram girl counts as being alive. Instead, she’s a computer who blips and is gone and forgotten leaving us to wonder if maybe in a director’s cut somewhere she actually served a purpose other than screen time and a sex scene that was vaguely disturbing given it involved two replicants and a hologram.

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The music is also incredibly dense and continuous. Points for the soundtrack reflecting the original film and managing to be oppressive and create a fairly continuous feeling of dread, but essentially your ears will be assailed with atonal drones and whines meanwhile every mechanical object will clunk, groan and bang and the end result is your teeth will clench and you will wonder if you remember what silence sounds like. And then you will get silence. One single scene comes along where all the music stops and we hear almost nothing and the absence is incredibly powerful because of the assault you’ve previously experienced. Once that scene is done, you’ll return to the continuous music and sound and you will miss the silence all the more. It is actually hard to say whether this is a positive point for the movie or not. It is incredibly affective. The immersion this soundtrack creates in the experience of the film is nothing short of brilliant. However, it is also an incredibly uncomfortable experience and afterwards it takes a fair while for your ears to recover from the experience.

From a visual point of view they got what made Blade Runner what it was. Things have changed but time has passed and the changes are really logical (reinforced by the short films released to show the progression of events between the films). It looks every bit as gorgeous and as immersive as the first film (okay, more so because special effects have come a long way) and it also captured the visual feel of the first film which was kind of necessary for this sequel to have any kind of success.

But…

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Like a fan fiction work, this film peppers itself with scenes and moments that add nothing to this narrative and exist either as links to the work it is emulating or to show an understanding of the world which is great but not an understanding of pacing or story telling. The opening shot of the eye is a clear throw back to the first film (as is the water element in the final fight) and yet neither really serve a place in this film. The eye is particularly problematic given it was such an iconic and necessary symbol and idea in the first film and the opening sequence grew out from this shot whereas in this film we see the eye then some power stations and we just kind of move on and never again care about close ups of pupils given in this film they don’t use the same test or technology so the eye and all that it represented (windows to the soul and all) serves no purpose. Likewise the scene of the machines dumping rubbish in the wasteland. Great, the world is filled in and there’s a lot of details, but this adds unnecessary time to an already overly long film and contributes nothing to the movie. It is like the additional scenes in the original Star Wars movies. More there because they can rather than there for any purpose.

I haven’t really gotten into the characters and the story and that is because they work. They fit the world, the story is a fair enough continuation of the world and its events (even if Deckard’s inclusion was more one of pandering to fans than actually necessary for the narrative). What it isn’t, is something exceptional with characters who you will remember well after the film. Sure Deckard comes back but this isn’t the Deckard of the first film who left such a strong impression. And no-one comes close to Rutger Hauer’s impressive and awe-inspiring performance from the first film.

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However, we have ended up with a second Blade Runner movie. It is a pretty good movie and makes some great choices in sound and visuals with a functional story and characters. Could it thematically have been more powerful? Definitely. Could the characters have been more memorable and had more impressive dialogue? Absolutely. Am I nit-picking just because I can? Yes, yes I am.

But here’s the thing. If I go to a Sword Art Online movie I go in expecting it to kind of be rubbish and I get something that is kind of rubbish but fun and I walk out happy. Blade Runner is a title in the science fiction world where love it or hate it, there’s certain expectations built around it. Any sequel was going to be measured against those expectations. For me it fell short, but wasn’t a crushing disappointment. It did well enough but if only it had been better.

Alright, over to you. If you’ve seen the film what are your thoughts?


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Just Because Episode 1: Just Life

Overview:

At the end of the second semester of third year of high school, four students are prepared for graduation and feel the ending to their high school life. But that changes a little with the arrival of a transfer student.

– From MAL

Review:

Normally this is the kind of show I kind of hesitate to start because no matter how good it is I just know I’m going to end up wondering what the point of it is. Fortunately for me, it seems like most of the characters in this show are in search of a point or have accepted that mostly there isn’t one as they go about their frantic activities as their school lives wrap up.

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So instant relatability. We also don’t just follow one person through an entire day at school but rather move fairly fluidly from group to group with multiple individual problems, dilemas and ideas being introduced. While that makes it more or less impossible to remember all the character names after one episode, it gave a sense of forward motion that I usually don’t get from these kinds of stories and I greatly appreciated it.

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All and all, these characters have the potential to be charming enough, and there’s certainly enough possibilities for future events that could come up from the set up. While there isn’t anything new from a narrative point of view, I really did like the execution and pacing of this episode and am kind of keen to see more at the moment.


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Girls’ Last Tour Episode 1: Deceptively Charming

Okay, I kind of decided to give HiDive a go given it has a couple of series from last season I want to watch and this season it picked up a few titles I wanted to try. Not sure if I’m keeping the subscription long term but we’ll see how it goes.

Overview:

Civilization is dead, but Chito and Yuuri are still alive. So they hop aboard their beloved Kettenkrad motorbike and aimlessly wander the ruins of the world they once knew. Day after hopeless day, they look for their next meal and fuel for their ride. But as long as the two are together, even an existence as bleak as theirs has a ray or two of sunshine in it, whether they’re sucking down their fill of soup or hunting for machine parts to tinker with. For two girls in a world full of nothing, the experiences, and feelings the two share give them something to live for.

– From MAL

Review:

I’m not big on slice of life, but slice of life post apocolyptic style had a certain appeal and so I’m kind of glad I got to check this out. The first episode, while bringing you face to face with the horror of civilisation being dead, is utterly and completely charming.

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This is kind of helped along by the two leads who are adorable and their interactions, while fairly sparse considering they are the only two characters we see, are fairly grounded and yet both sweet and revealing. At times the themes seem to hijack the dialogue with some heavy handed anti-war statements but all and all, this is a pretty solid first episode.

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I’m looking forward to watching a bit more with these characters.


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Karandi James.

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Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Series Review: Why Details Are Important

Overview:

Some group want to change history and the characters we follow want to stop them. And the characters we follow happen to be the spirit of swords brought to life by a sage from the future who can sense time distortions.

Review:

I kind of covered a lot of my issues with this show in my feature a few weeks ago where I asked what went wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?

I stand by that question now that the series has ended. Because, it seems like this show has what it needs to be truly great and yet what we have instead is a shallow dive into a story the audience never actually gets to experience and characters who really don’t progress beyond a name, a fighting style, and a single note personality. It is telling that after 13 episodes of this I’m still not actually sure of all the character names and had to resort to looking them up and even then when looking at a character list it took me a moment to remember what some of the characters had even done in the show.

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Part of this is definitely because this is a game adaptation and there is certainly some expectation from the anime that viewers are at least passingly familiar with these characters already. But I haven’t played the game and even if I had, source material does not excuse sloppy characterisation (or none as the case may be) in the anime. The same might be true for the lack of plot development but again, even if the answers can be found elsewhere, that doesn’t make watching the anime any better.

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Basically what is lacking from this anime are the details. We don’t know anything about any of the characters other than these two (Horikawa and Kanesada) used to work together serving the same master who died. That’s the one character plot that is developed and kind of resolved by the last episode. Still, given neither one of those characters has any personality beyond loyal to their master and mopey as they question their purpose, it isn’t exactly a draw to the show nor when we finally get the end of this sub-plot does it provide satisfaction. The heroes of this story are trying to stop events from changing so it is more or less obvious what the end of this story will be.

The other characters we get the names of and occasional references to their former lives and masters, but none of this information goes anywhere or leads to anything. It barely connects to the overall plot with the exception Mutsunokami when we meet his former master. And what is the overall plot?

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Well, just in case we forget the swords mention it every other breath. They are going to protect history. They’ll stop history from changing. Why history is being targeted and by whom is something apparently the audience doesn’t need to know. I mean, yes, we are told the Time Retrograde Army are responsible, but who are they? No names, no discernible characters, no motive other than change history. No idea how many there are so basically they just spawn as many as they want in each occasion going so ridiculous as to have 1000 of them show up in the final episode only to do nothing but charge blindly forward and be mowed down by a significantly smaller force that previously struggled with groups of 10 or 20. Minor plot issue but whatever.

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It seems like this anime wanted to focus on Horikawa but didn’t want to leave out the other characters. So instead of getting a focused story revolving around Horikawa growing into his role in the second unit we kind of flit all over the place as we introduce a late addition to the second unit, then the entire first unit, and the we’ll finally get back to Horikawa but by that stage we haven’t really grown attached to him because he practically disappeared mid-season.

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However, this anime looks amazing and the sound is pretty impressive. Even when there is no tension to be found in a battle, if you close your eyes and just listen, it sounds super dramatic. But even mundane sounds like the leaves, the characters walking, gusts of wind, it all just very impressively done. If only even some of that attention to detail had gone into characters or plot (and I don’t mean the overdone character designs, I mean their personalities).

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While this show isn’t by any means unwatchable, there’s just not a lot of point. You won’t learn anything about the overall conflict or what the end game for either side might be. You won’t learn all that much about the characters and what you do learn could have been covered in about two episodes. Visually impressive fight sequences aside, there’s just not enough reason to bother with this show.

If you watched Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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200 Word Anime: Ancient Magus Bride Episode 2

Weekend Otaku and I review the Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 2. Be sure to check it out.

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Ancient Magus Bride looks like it’s become an early favorite this season as Karandi and I review episode 2. If you haven’t seen our post on episode 1, you can find that here. Don’t forget to check out our Black Clover reviews over at her blog as well.

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UQ Holder Episode 3: Immortal Girls and Monsters

Review:

I have to wonder what this show actually thinks is its selling point. The action, while fun and all, isn’t particularly well animated and since pretty much every character of note is an immortal there is pretty much zero tension or reason to actually be concerned about the outcome. They try to alleviate the lack of tension by adding an artificial time limit for a test, but really given the basic narrative structure there was no other way for the test to end, so again, zero tension.

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If we looked at it from a comedy point of view, to be honest it is somewhat lacking. Not dreadful mind you, but there’s definitely better action/comedy shows out there if that’s what you are after. And the fan-service this week kind of vanished, so if that was your draw you are going to be out of luck.

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Mind you, none of this stops the episode being watchable enough. It just isn’t anything special and the show as a whole isn’t anything special. As I’m deciding my final watch list over the weekend, I seriously question whether this one will stay on it.


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Anime-Gataris Episode 2: The References Just Keep Coming

Review:

I really had a lot of fun with this episode. From a story point of view it is pointless. Girls recruit new club members and start a club which is then immediately challenged by I’m guessing the student council because what else do you do when you are a self-aware high school comedy focussed around a new club? Still, from start to finish they are packing in the anime references. My two favourites go to the shout out to Haruhi Suzumiya and Sword Art Online.

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Questioning her use of the word ‘standard’ here.
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This particular title will never get old.

However, for all that this is silly and fun, as well as slightly ominous with the talking cat and mysterious room mystery being totally ignored even though that is clearly the only chance of an actual plot appearing, this episode made an excellent point about how closed off the anime community sometimes is. Minoa is struggling hard to follow conversations and the logic of hard-core fans with well established arguments and at times you kind of realise why new fans might get turned away.

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It isn’t particularly deep and meaningful, but I think most people who are anime fans will recognise the scenarios presented. This one is definitely a surprise for me this season and I am so far really having fun with it.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Yokai

Continuing on from last week where I looked at my top 5 favourite female yokai, this week we have my top 5 male yokai. I must admit, my first draft had a lot fox yokai on the list and even the revised version hasn’t really fixed that issue. Apparently I like foxes. Anyway, as always, I’d love to know who you would include on your list so please leave a comment below.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Kappa from Nurarihyon.

Number 5: Yahiko from The Morose Mononokean

Okay, I nearly chose Fuzzy from this list but ultimately had to go with Yahiko. Seriously, this fox is so cute and his desire to play hide and seek is adorable (okay, potentially deadly but still pretty cute). Admittedly, the fact that Yahiko was introduced as a potential big bad and then quickly degenerated into the little brother type character that just wants all the attention is probably the reason Yahiko isn’t further up the list.

Number 4: Kuro from Blue Exorcist

Yeah, I know technically they want to say Kuro is a demon but I’m still including him as a yokai. There really isn’t much to explain with this choice. Kuro is my favourite character from Blue Exorcist. Fiercely loyal and yet definitely a cat, Kuro manages to steal pretty much every scene he is in.

Number 3: Yasaburo from The Eccentric Family

Our fast talking, trouble seeking tanuki, Yasaburo had to be on the list. He’s just such a great character even before you consider the fact that he is a shape changing tanuki. As the third of four brothers he is pretty content to drift through life looking for things to make his days ‘interesting’. Despite that, he’s pretty loyal to his family when it matters and most of the time he cleans up the mess he makes (mostly). I absolutely adore spending time with Yasaburo.

Number 2: Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss

Now, how could I overlook Tomoe, the fox who serves as a land god’s familiar. He is rude, occasionally foul mouthed, and extremely short tempered, but also incredibly loyal and ultimately a fairly lonely character seeking acceptance. Not to mention incredibly powerful and needs to be given how often his human-turned-god master Nanami gets herself into trouble.

Number 1: Miketsukami from Inu x Boku

So what beats a fox familiar, well a 9 Tailed Fox secret service member who uses a sword apparently. Told you there were a lot of foxes on this list. Seriously, the guy is adorable both in his normal suit and when he transforms into a yokai. If it wasn’t for his creepy stalkerish tendencies (I guess he calls that loyalty) he’s be nearly perfect. About the only thing he lacks is the ability to actually have a normal human interaction and eventually he might learn to get around that.

There is my list of my favourite male yokai characters. I’d love to know who you would have included.


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