Visualist x 100!! – My Hero Academia Season Three Episode 24

Right so with one more episode to go My Hero Academia sets up… some sort of fight between first years and third years? I’m not entirely certain that this is really something I’m all that hyped for, but I guess we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, this is how Kapodaco and I felt about the penultimate episode of the season.

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Karandi:

Well, I’m pretty much convinced at this point that season three is going to end on a reasonably unspectacular note despite the promise of a fight against one of UA’s top students. This season has just been all over the place and there’s no time left to build up to anything that would feel kind of actually climatic. I’m definitely feeling that from a seasonal point of view, it would have made more sense to have given us a single cour season ending with All Might’s retirement as that would have been a spectacular season end. Then this could be the mid-point of a new season rather than the ending.

Okay, now that I’m done rewriting the show, what was this episode like other than making me realise that there’s little next week will do to really reconsider my thoughts on this season?

Adequate. That’s really the best way to describe the episode.

Hero62a

We get a half episode or so following around a monologuing villain and in the process get a feel for the genuine changes to society following All Might’s retirement. I genuinely enjoyed this section, though again, it isn’t going to build to something amazing in an episode (or at least it really shouldn’t). So if this had come earlier in the season I’d have been thrilled by this sequence but as a second last episode starting point I was kind of wondering where they think they are going with it.

The second half has the students attending their opening ceremony and we get some clear envy from Midoriya who feels like he’s being left out (due to the whole house arrest thing). And again, this section works well enough but isn’t exactly thrilling. I do wonder why at the end of the third season we’re still getting character names and quirks floating over the screen though. If you don’t know who Uraraka is at this point, you aren’t going to just because they put her name on the screen.

Honestly though, the introduction of the Big Three felt kind of lazy. Like they were just kind of dropped into the plot for the sake of convenience. Maybe they do something great with these characters but their introduction was a little bit underwhelming and again, we’ve only got one episode left so I’m not really expecting much to come from this at this point.

So, the episode works well enough. If this had been a mid-season episode it would have been fine. As a penultimate episode of a third season, I’m a little less than impressed though.

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Kapodaco:

There is absolutely nothing I could possibly add that would make my general thoughts on the episode any different from Karandi’s She is absolutely spot-on on just about everything.

I will add a few more thoughts on various moments, however. Notably with the beginning sequence.

I thought it was super cool to know more about… Two? Is that his name? The villain who reminds me a bit of anime Deadpool. His backstory is almost hilarious with how bizarre it is, and the fact that he seems like a reasonable dude despite his alignment is super fascinating. I was a little disappointed the whole episode wasn’t just about him. The state of the world after All Might’s “retirement” felt a little forced to me, though I suppose there’s little other way to make it known than to have things pan out in a point-blank fashion. Writing in this episode was also in danger of encroaching on Saturday-morning-cartoon levels of dumb (“If you’re trash, make like it and burn for me”) (paraphrasing).

Hero62d

The moment I saw one of the “Big Three,” whose appearance is strikingly similar to that of All Might, I thought to myself, “Oh, God. Are we going to have one of those ‘I’M the proper replacement to All Might! Look how much he inspires me in my appearance and demeanor!’ type situations where Midoriya begins to question his worth as ‘the Chosen One’?” With one episode left, he’ll likely be prominent for any potential (or, frankly, inevitable) future seasons as the “new” rival or whatever. If correct, ugggggggggggggggh. This is such a lazy trope that I sincerely, sincerely hope the mangaka has some witty plans for, because doing it like any other of the thousands of series I’ve seen do it before would be very tiring.

Does anyone else notice that, aside from Todoroki, no other character than Midoriya and Bakugo seems to be getting any meaningful screentime? This episode has various characters make comments—Tsui says a thing, Tokoyami says a thing, Iida makes a few jokes—but they’re essentially background characters right now. I really miss the events when it displayed the input and potential for other characters, both in their powers and personality. It’s inevitable with about 365234625 characters that occasionally they’ll have to take a backseat, but with how well the series has been on showcasing them in the past, it feels like the mangaka is starting to bite off more than he can chew.

Meh. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the last episode turns out to be so unbelievably spectacular that it completely destroys Karandi and I’s expectations and makes us diehard fans for life? That’d be cool.

Hero62e

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Thanks for reading and be sure to check out Kapodaco’s blog next week when we review episode 25 and the season final.

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Friday’s Feature: 3 Lessons To Be Learned From Bleach Movie Adaptation

Netflix Live Action Bleach

While it was less than a week ago that I watched this movie for the first time, despite having an incredibly hectic work week I forced a second watching. For a movie I wasn’t dreading the release of, but was fairly nervous about how it would end up looking, the Bleach live action movie that landed on Netflix certainly managed to get my attention. My review a few days ago was fairly glowing and I’m standing by that review even after a second watch through.

While I will admit the movie is hardly a modern masterpiece and a lot of the enjoyment came from being a fan of the franchise, what has been delivered by Bleach is perhaps the surest sign that writers and directors are starting to learn from the many failed adaptations of the past (or maybe they just lucked out this time). However, while there are certainly negative reviews to be found if you look for them, the majority of posts I’ve read covering this movie have been surprised in tone and largely positive of the choices made in adapting it.

I’m normally not one for scoring shows or movies, but I was curious how this was playing out on popular sites like IMBD and Rotten Tomatoes so decided to take a quick peek at the scores Bleach had compared to other recent adaptations.

The break-down looked more or less like this:

Bleach: IMBD = 6.8 Rotten Tomatoes = 84% liked it

Full Metal Alchemist: IMBD = 5.9  Rotten Tomatoes = 75% liked it

Death Note: IMBD = 4.6  Rotten Tomatoes = 24%

Death Note Live Action Movie

Now it may not be fair to compare them given audience expectations, fans of the franchise, and all the other factors that are going to play into the end result that really have nothing to do with the quality of the movie at all, but it seems like at least most people agree that the Bleach movie is all right and likewise most people seem to agree the Death Note movie missed its mark as an adaptation (I still think it is perfectly fine as a movie in its own right – not great but fine – however it isn’t Death Note as anyone knows it or wanted it).

So I started wondering what Bleach did that seemed to work in its favour as a live action adaptation compared to some other adaptations that have fared less well and I came up with a few points that worked in Bleach’s favour.

01: The amount of content chosen wasn’t too ambitious.

We get that when adapting an anime or manga into a movie the time is getting cut down. A lot of things have to go. And it is tempting to try to adapt a lot of content. It makes perfect sense. Fans want to see such and such a scene and will be disappointed if X gets cut out. Cram it in and just keep cramming. You have to appeal to everyone.

Well, no, you don’t. You have to make a decent movie. One with pacing and a clear narrative in its own right. You don’t have time to shove every single plot point that might ever exist into your story and you certainly don’t have time to give the vast cast that probably exists all their shining moment.

Where Bleach worked beautifully was it chose one arc to tell in its movie. A simple story with a beginning and an ending. Then it cut almost every superfluous point from the source material that didn’t help that arc progress out.

Bleach live action movie - Orihime
I’m fairly certain that people who have never read the source or watched the anime probably have no idea that Orihime is actually supposed to be important.

I say almost every point because there are certainly characters and ideas that exist only for the sake of allowing a sequel to be made and to make sense. But these are minimised and given the barest of attentions. Fans of Orihime or Chad will probably be appalled at the way the characters were side-lined and there are certainly entire swathes of characters who were just completely ditched from the story altogether. And Kon? Gone entirely and who can tell if that is ultimately a good choice or not because the idea of a live action plush lion wandering around with a perverted attitude kind of amuses me but somehow I’m just not sure it would have added anything of value to the movie here.

02: They weren’t slaves to the source material.

I actually argued in a feature I wrote after the Death Note movie that the biggest issue with it wasn’t that it changed the source material. No, the bigger issue was they didn’t commit to changing the source material and made changes but wouldn’t cut out particular points making a movie that ended up as an unsatisfying compromise between a new vision for Death Note and a slave to fan expectations.

In my Full Metal Alchemist review I pointed out that while the costume design was gloriously similar to the anime (and I assume the manga) the end result was a not-so-real feeling like the world was inhabited by very sophisticated cosplayers.

Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action - Edward

In both of these cases the movies were bogged down by trying to reproduce source material in a different medium and they didn’t pull it off. Ghost in the Shell also suffered from the need to recreate sequences that didn’t fit into the new context and while fans of the original may have squealed with delight at these overall they don’t make for a better movie unless they are well integrated.

Bleach didn’t suffer from this. As with the content selection where ruthless and sensible cuts and changes were made, with character designs and the world they undeniably created Bleach in a way that fans could recognise it but at the same time they weren’t laboriously simply trying to bring drawings to life. They seemed to really think about how to make the characters come to life without losing the sense of who they were. For the most part they largely succeeded with both character and world design.

03: They understood what makes Bleach popular.

I think this is where Death Note really lost its viewers. The anime is a slow build with some interesting mind games between two intelligent human beings who both like to keep their hands hidden until the last moment. The movie abandoned this atmosphere making Light far less intelligent and more brazen in his need to gather attention and L far less patient and contemplative. The end result was that a lot of fans felt like the core of what made Death Note had been ripped out and trampled on.

Bleach is a long running series (not the longest but certainly one where the episode count becomes daunting to newcomers) and it blends some fairly stupid slap-stick humour with some intense drama and action. The first season introduced Ichigo to a world of Hollows and Soul Reapers and a lot of it is spent balancing Ichigo’s everyday high school life with the new responsibilities thrust on him. That balance of normal and supernatural, some moments of light hearted humour, and some moments of life threatening danger is what draws a lot of fans into the world that is Bleach (okay, the soundtrack as well but the movie can’t have everything) and as much as later seasons of the show become increasingly bloated and filled with overly long fight sequences, season one is where the show’s heart is and where the core of the story is crafted.

Bleach Movie Training.jpg

The movie did an excellent job of replicating the supernatural side and that turmoil in Ichigo’s life as he’s forced from high schooler who can see ghosts into the role of a shinigami and there was enough humour and light hearted moments between Ichigo and Rukia during training montages for it not to become too much of a drama. The fight sequences were intense and there was definitely a sense of danger in them and while we missed out on Ichigo’s normally copious buckets of blood pouring from wounds, the movie once again favoured some sort of realism over staying slavishly true to the source.

Wrapping It Up

So, great choices in content, in how to adapt characters and settings, as well as capturing the spirit of the story even while making necessary changes seem to be helping Bleach stay a little ahead of the pack of recent anime movie adaptations. Does that mean Bleach made no mistakes? Of course not. There’s plenty that could still be improved upon. Still, I kind of feel like Bleach is my light at the end of the tunnel and the possibility that I won’t be defending anime movies with the ‘it could be worse’ statement into the future.

That said, my inquiring minds question that I’m answering tomorrow also focuses on Live Action adaptations so I’d love to know your thoughts on them and if you’ve seen the Bleach movie, what did you think?


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Karandi James

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 11: Brainwashed Shinyao Is No Fun

As much as Shinyao is incredibly powerful in this episode of Phantom in the Twilight, she’s become more or less a blank slate controlled externally for the purpose of creating a big bad to face in a final episode. It isn’t exactly the most compelling way this show could have ended (though I guess there’s still an episode to go).

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I think the most surprising part of this episode was the reappearance of Van Helsing. I mean, we did see him escape hospital earlier but his literally dropping into the fight seemed really random. Outside of that, things progressed more or less as you would expect. The Twilights accompanied Ton to the Tower of London where they were separated from her one by one leaving just her and Wayne to confront Shinyao. And, because it isn’t the final, they don’t yet save her. So all according to plan really.

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The issues crop up with the half-hearted nature of the threats blocking their path, the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any malice from the ‘villains’ as they just seem to be playing around, and then the reunion with Shinyao being pretty flat due to Shinyao being entirely brainwashed and completely boring.

Even the promise of evil Wayne didn’t really elevate the occasion nor did a duplicate version of Rijan facing off with Vlad. Basically this episode was perfectly serviceable and progressed us nicely to a point where we can see things wrapping up next week but lacked any real excitement or point of interest.

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I am however left wondering how they can be in the Tower of London and yet the most exciting enemy they are facing off against is the same suit of armour that seems ridiculously weak duplicated over and over. Seriously missed opportunity here.

I’m still enjoying the show mind you, but I kind of wanted a little bit more from this episode.

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Karandi James

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Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon? Light Novel Volume 6 Review

Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon Volume 6

If I thought volume 5 was fun as it fleshed out characters and gave us a wonderful fight in the dungeon for Bell and his novice party, Volume 6 seems determined to really show us something special with a lot of plot points coming to a head.

Review:

It turns out that Bell isn’t just popular with the girls around him as this volume sees our young adventurer grab the unwanted attention of Apollo. However, unlike so many other characters, Apollo doesn’t seem happy just to look on and wait and he plays dirty to get what he wants. After a series of fairly interesting events a war game is declared between Hestia and Apollo and their families, only Hestia’s family still only consists of Bell so they are going to need to call in a lot of favours.

I really loved this book. Partly that was because this is the first book in the series where I hadn’t watched an anime adaptation of the events already so it was all pretty novel and interesting. But the other part of it is that this book just consolidates so much about the world. We don’t go dungeon crawling so much in this one as the focus is entirely on the politics of Orario and the way familias and gods interact.

It’s a fairly explosive confrontation with open battle in the streets at one point and various families moving together and gods and humans scheming for their own advantage. In the midst of this chaos we finally get a conclusion to Lilly’s time in the Soma family and we see very much how strongly Hestia feels about keeping her familia, such as it is, together.

Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon volume 6 chapter 5

There were some very nice touches along the way including the fact that Hestia and Loki do not get along. While your first thought when Bell was in trouble might have been that Aiz would come to his rescue, that is complete impossible given the situation. So while she gives him a fair spartan training session leading into the war game, Aiz is limited to spectator once the fight begins.

Instead Bell ends up with aid from a number of characters we’ve met along the way but in this they are really stepping up because the only way to help is to leave their own families and join with Hestia familia. It’s a big ask but we can see how much of an impact the Little Rookie has had on others as they come together.

By the time the war game rolls around you kind of suspect the outcome though there’s still a lot of wondering how Bell is going to pull it off. The results are fantastic to read to say the least.

Volume 6 was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed spending some time with Bell outside of the dungeon. Looking forward to the next stage of the journey for Hestia and her suddenly larger familia.


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Karandi James

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 11: If Warriors Die To Learn Who They Are, These Guys Are Getting A Great Education This Week

I’m reminded once again how much my mood affects how I take in what I watch. I’ve had one of those weeks. You know the kind where you wonder why you continue to get out of bed and I’ve had to come up with a reason each and every day to get me moving out the door to work. So when I finished this episode and had a very ‘meh’ impression I had to think long and hard about whether the episode really failed to deliver or whether I’d just become a little bit numb after everything else. The answer I came to was probably a bit of both.

Angolmois Episode 11 Teruhi
You and me both.

The inevitable fall of the castle came during episode 11. The castle we knew was too large with too few defenders. The castle that last episode was surrounded by an overly large Mongol army. The only real question was how many would die when the castle would fall and somehow they managed to make the answer much bigger than anticipated because despite each exile saying they were just going to kill a few Mongols and then leave, the majority of them hung around long enough to face their death, as did the vast majority of the islanders.

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I mentioned this on Twitter but I definitely feel this episode would have had far more impact if any of these characters had really been properly developed. I struggled even as I watched them die to remember their names or to summon up even a shred of care about their demise. And that kind of is a problem with this series. The events have been interesting and the conflict reasonably compelling but the cast never have been and now with the dramatic final moments playing out I’m failing to really get the emotional impact that these scenes deserve.

Mongol11c

There’s also a little bit of eye-roll worthiness as characters stay overly long to make a hopeless last stand and then just as they decide its time to go they get cut down. There’s only so many times you can repeat this sequence of people lingering just that fraction too long before you realise everyone on the mountain is pretty much stuffed.

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Still, with an episode to go, I guess we’re at a good point to finish the series. Most of the cast are already dead, the Mongols are swarming, and they just blew a main character off a cliff (though I assume since he landed in the ocean, and because we haven’t seen the scene from episode one, that he’ll survive that), so I guess this is climactic. I’m curious as to what the end will be and whether anyone will live, but at the same time I feel I’m just not very emotionally invested either way. Whether they live or die, I’m curious but not caught up in it.

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Karandi James

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Black Cat Series Review: This is A Hot Mess of A Show

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

Review:

It’s hard to know whether Black Cat is truly amazing or truly dreadful or somewhere between the two. It’s a lot of fun but there are an abundant number of flaws with this show that only become more pronounced during a rewatch (and on rewatching again before the repost I’m more convinced than ever that it is hard to tell where this show actually lies). I’m going to start with the characters and then get on to the plot.

Train and Saya on the roof

Let’s start by looking at Train and Saya. Saya’s a sweeper and carries a gun and gives Train the very profound advice that if she doesn’t want to shoot someone she won’t. Somehow this is a revelation for Train, who other than being incredibly good at killing people and a friend to stray cats seems to have very little personality in the first few episodes. That doesn’t mean he isn’t cool. Train is very cool. The anime bends over backwards to make you feel that Train is cool. He’s an assassin. He’s the cool silent type and he has cat like characteristics. Not the nice house-cat kind. The aloof-stray-cat kind.

The relationship between Train and Saya develops super fast and ends tragically, which is essentially the catalyst for Train’s actual transformation and almost every event that occurs after this in the series (apparently Train is someone people become obsessed with on first meeting). A lot of my issues with the anime stem from the fact that I really feel Saya (given the number of flash backs she gets and given how profound her impact is supposed to be) needed to be a lot more fleshed out.

That said, Train and Saya’s relationship and the tragedy of her death is one of the better handled ideas in the show and to be honest if the anime had stuck with this initial plot line, and then had Train simply get his revenge, ultimately I’d probably have loved this show from start to finish. Instead it really feels like this sequence, while it is brought up endlessly as a motivator for Train, is merely a side-story to the overall plot. And the overall plot is messy.

Train finds Saya dying

Train as a whole isn’t such a great character. After being Mr Super Cool and aloof he goes through a moody hating the world stage before bouncing back as an absolute and complete slacker who occasionally snaps and goes homicidal. He’s all over the place and while a tragic childhood and really warped start to adulthood may account for some of his inability to cope with the world in any kind of coherent fashion it doesn’t make for fantastic viewing. It’s impossible to know whether he’s going to spring into action or simply yawn and go look for more food at any turn in the story. He regularly ditches his friends to pursue his own vendettas and he even places others at risk.

That said, I like Train as a character. He is hilarious and when in assassin mode he is ice cold. Plus, he has the characteristics of a cat which would make him kind of amazing regardless. Is Train a good or a balanced character? Absolutely not. Does he develop in a sensible manner? Not really. Is he at times completely boring due to a lack of actual personality traits? Yep.

And I haven’t changed my opinion. I still like Train but I still see him as a dreadfully unbalanced and poorly written character who is getting slung around by whatever the plot needs from him at that point in time. There’s also a lot of angst going on at times and when it puts his friends in danger it makes it really hard to see Train’s point of view.

Black Cat - Train Heartnet

So with Saya being dead for a great deal of the story, and Train having almost zero to add to characterisation within this show, who are we left with? For better or worse we are left with an entire cohort of characters (some of whom you will have forgotten even if you’ve watched the show). We have the other numbers and various other agents for Chronos. Then we have the Apostles of the Stars which is a group made by Train’s other fanboy and which ostensibly exists to wipe out Chronos but mostly just seems like a place for various crazy characters to assemble and have their hearts broken. Then we have the Sweeper alliance and all of the members therein. Plus the people they regularly fight in their work as sweepers. And those that hire them. And a waitress who seems to follow them from town to town.

However, the three other characters that really get any development are Sven, Eve and Rinslet. Rinslet is a walking cliché so we aren’t going to go any further into the professional thief who tries to charm her way through any situation. Eve is a developed weapon so has the blank and robotic personality of one to start with and takes almost everything literally. While her growth as a human is impressive throughout the series and her combative/protective relationship with Train is one of the more interesting relationships formed, Eve herself is pretty dull.

And can we mention that every female character in this show is either dull or a trope of some sort. Okay, I’ll be fair, the male characters aren’t fairing much better but seriously, just one decent female character could have really added something.

Black Cat - Train, Sven and Eve

That leaves Sven. He’s actually good at his job (though his lack of finances would not have you believe that). He’s also forced into a father role with Eve and Train both having the world knowledge and coping skills of three year olds. Of all the characters in Black Cat, Sven is probably the least dynamic as his character regularly has to portray the voice of reason, support, complaint, and deal with the every day. It also makes Sven the most interesting in terms of his characterisation. His personality isn’t a one line wrap up about being a cute girl with powers or a flamboyant guy with a sword, gun or other weapon. Sven is very human (even with the power in his eye) and during this story he faces a lot of challenges well above and beyond his abilities and while calm isn’t the best word to describe him, he is quite sensible in most of his approaches.

It’s understandable that Sven and Train regularly clash. Train is like the rebellious and lazy teenage son who doesn’t really want to listen and doesn’t think Sven knows anything. Sven on the other hand takes his responsibilities very seriously and while he didn’t actively go out of his way to pick up a stray, Eve’s attachment to Train left Sven little choice.

Now onto plot.

Black Cat - Creed

My problem with the plot is that it essentially has two separate storylines (either one of which would have been fine) crammed together and as a result it gets messy. Not complex. Both storylines are pretty simple, but the telling and delivery becomes overly complicated leaving both storylines feeling confusing and lacking (I had a very similar issue more recently with B the Beginning for much the same reason).

The main plot seems to focus on Creed and Train. I’m going to call that the main plot because it is the one introduced in the very first episode with a fight sequence followed by a flash back to how we got to the fight and it is the one that seems the primary motivator for most of the series.

Essentially, Creed is in love with Train. Don’t really know why. Apparently it is something to do with Train’s eyes, which are adorable to be sure but somehow I’m not feeling homicidal because of it. Creed becomes convinced that Saya is corrupting and ruining his Train and kills her. Which seems pretty straight forward and a nice set-up for a revenge plot except that it also turns out that Creed has a power hidden from Chronos and an entire group (The Apostles of the Stars) and after totally destroying Train emotionally, Creed somehow thinks Train is just going to come join his group.

black-cat-2400x300

Crazy, delusional and deadly. Great combination in a villain without any real purpose other than to occasionally stir Train into actual action. Yeah, I am certain there were various motives and plot points explained but you leave the anime without remembering them. And this is really kind of a problem because as I mentioned with Train’s character, if this had been the focus we could have developed Train more, Creed more, and Saya’s death would have felt more purposeful. Everything would have clicked nicely together. Alas, the story wants to do more.

We still have Eve, the developed weapon and the people that want to use her and the research to… do something bad? Again, not well explained and while there are references strewn throughout the episodes to this plot, you can more or forget it while getting caught up in other events and then somehow it comes back again.

18-05

As I said before, the plot would have been better either just telling a revenge story or telling a story about helping a bio-weapon escape. The two together just kind of end up mangled and neither is as satisfying as it might have been. I’m not actually opposed to multiple storylines mind you, just poorly delivered ones.

train.jpg

So after saying all that, the question is, do I recommend watching Black Cat?

If you like anime that involve crazy weapons and powers and you don’t really care about the villains motives and you can tolerate pacing that is all over the shop and characters that sling shot through the emotional spectrum a mile-a-minute, then you will probably have a lot of fun with this anime. I really had a lot of fun with this anime. It’s definitely a case where the whole is better than any of its parts. Certainly it is flawed and it feels like it is about three different shows mooshed together at times, but there’s just a fun kind of energy running through it and there are some great moments and scenes (even if the road to them is sometimes littered with the debris of the parts that missed the mark).

And despite all my complaints about it, I own this one on DVD and I’ve rewatched it quite a lot. It is good popcorn viewing even if it doesn’t really hold up to any kind of scrutiny.

Have you seen Black Cat? If so, what did you think?


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Karandi James

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Bleach Live Action Movie Review: I Loved The Anime But What About This?

Bleach Live Action

There’s always some trepidation when hearing about a live action adaptation of a beloved anime. It’s a feeling that I might try to push to the side because I want to give something a go on its own merit rather than lumping it in with predecessors that may have failed to leave much of a positive impression. But just like with video game adaptations, while there are certainly a fair share of truly dreadful ones to be found there are also adaptations that have worked and given a fairly satisfying watch. So the question becomes whether or not Bleach survived this adaptation? There’s no way I’m not comparing as I go given how much I love Bleach but hopefully you’ll join me as I look at this movie.

Review:

I’ll get to the point fairly quickly and then explain my reasoning, but I found myself incredibly engrossed in this movie while watching it. I pressed play with that same sinking feeling of trepidation, wondering if I should put it off and wait until more reviews were out and wondering if I should possibly just forget it was even available rather than risk the feeling of disappointment that would come from a poor movie. I didn’t want much from this film, but what I absolutely needed it to do was to be fun to watch.

Netflix Live Action Bleach

Bleach was my ultimate pop-corn viewing anime that swept me up in its grandiose (albeit overly stretched out and bloated) story and cast and just its sheer brazen silliness at times. In short, it seemed the kind of thing that absolutely would not translate very well to real actors because anime fans have kind of learned to cope with the hero losing more litres of blood than that human body holds and still managing to stand up whereas when it happens on screen it kind of makes you wonder what is wrong with the writer.

However, Bleach actually managed to defy my expectations in a lot of ways as I watched this live action unfold on Netflix. The characters were not attempting to copy exactly the look of the anime (or if they did they clearly gave up for practicality’s sake). As a result Ichigo and Rukia look pretty awesome in their roles (and thank-you for someone having enough sense not to put that stupid fringe down the middle of Rukia’s face). Orihime and Chad are likewise altered so that while they retain some of what makes them distinct in the anime they come across looking fairly much like the belong in the setting rather then looking like they escaped a cosplay convention. My only real disappointment with Orihime was the look of her hair-clip which seems like it is missing a few petals which kind of means they are going to have to do some modification later on with how her power works, assuming of course they go there at all (which they definitely should).

Actually, the only character who really came across poorly in appearance was Urahara. Possibly I’m just being overly critical because I really like Urahara’s look in the anime, but to be honest I found his human counterpart here to be the only character who just looked out of place and garishly cosplay like rather than a real character. Even Renji’s hair came out fairly believably (at least within the context of the movie) so I was a little disappointed with Urahara.

Netflix Bleach Live Action

Outside of their appearances, I really liked the way these characters interacted. Again, they weren’t identical to how they behaved in the anime. None of Orihime’s silliness is on display nor does she get countless scenes eating bizarre foods. Karen, Ichigo’s sister, is certainly toned down and while I appreciate the need for that from a time point of view I kind of missed the spunky anime Karen. But these changes all make sense and with the plot having a much tighter focus on Ichigo and Rukia the changes are necessary.

And that was probably my favourite part of this adaptation. Scenes from the anime were merged and pushed together or deleted entirely for the sake of having a coherent story that felt like it was well paced in the time given. We meet Ichigo and very rapidly move to his meeting with Rukia and the transfer of her power to him. However, we then rapidly move on to Ishida confronting Ichigo at school (so no Chad and bird story, no Orihime and her dead brother, and no random encountering Hollows) and we see the Hollow bait getting used. This doesn’t spark a full on fight in its own right though as they combine this conflict with a later one and we see Ichigo and Rukia being confronted by Renji.

The upshot of this is we are dealing pretty much entirely with Rukia’s transgression and need to get her power back with other events that are crucial for introducing characters for later occurring but in a way that feeds into this main plot. Anyone who has watched the anime of Bleach will know how regularly the main plot gets kind of put on hold while the characters run around and do other things or get diverted by other issues, or just how long some of those fight sequences last as you deal with each and every person involved. This movie is well aware of its time limitations and maximises what it can show us through some fairly deliberate modification of the narrative.

However, if you think I’m just going to sing the praises of this movie I’m about to turn this around. There are two points that really stop this from being the truly excellent experience it was pretty close to becoming.

The first is the ending. We get to essentially the end of the first season where Rukia returns to Soul Society and that is a great place for the movie to end. But the fight sequence against the Grand Fisher is… well I hesitate to call it bloated given compared to most of the fight scenes in the Bleach anime it is pretty succinct. Yet, we have Ichigo running from the Hollow through crowded streets (wasn’t he just in a graveyard) and fighting the Grand Fisher in a fairly public space.

Bleach Netflix Live Action

I get that partly this is because they combining events from the fight in the park in the anime where Ishida and Ichigo team up, with the Grand Fisher fight, and then they are transitioning to the fight against Renji, so there were going to need to be some fairly major adjustments to this sequence to make it work. However, it doesn’t fit with Ichigo’s character to lead a Hollow into a public space where others might be put at risk. It also shows off the CG Hollow for far too long. Its first appearance in the graveyard is pretty amazing and in short bursts it could have looked exceptional and had real impact. But, because of the length of the screen time, it ends up looking pretty cheap by the end.

I’ll also point out through the whole chase sequence I was just reminded of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the totally unnecessary dragon chase across the rooftops that ate screen time, wasn’t in the book, and totally wasn’t needed. Yes, we get your wind effects look cool and you are damaging a lot of buildings. We’re at the climax so big boom. And yet, this scene could have been so much tighter and had so much more impact.

The second complaint I’ll raise is the music. Bleach has one of the best soundtracks ever – I’m totally not biased. Every single OP is amazing – again, not biased. The fight music that accompanies Ichigo as he gets geared up to take down anything is unforgettably cool – alright, fine, I’m totally and completely biased when it comes to Bleach music. I’m not going to say the soundtrack to this movie is actually bad… it’s just kind of forgettable. There isn’t one track which just made me sit up and take notice or drew me into a scene. And that was probably my biggest disappointment about this entire movie. The music.

Right, objectively the acting isn’t amazing though it certainly isn’t dreadful. The script is fairly average with dialogue serving its purpose but not doing a lot more. I’m not entirely sure how caught up in events non-Bleach fans will be because I can only watch this film from the perspective of a major fan of the series.

But, this movie was fun to watch. At no point did I feel bored or like I was wasting my time. I didn’t have a single moment where I considered stopping it (Full Metal Alchemist on the other hand I had several moments where I wondered if I should cut my losses and move on).

Do I recommend this movie? Certainly. If you are a Bleach fan but open to necessary changes to accompany the changed format, you’ll have a great time. If you’ve never watched Bleach, this movie will give you a good taste of the plot of season 1 though I’d still recommend watching the anime. That said, if you already jumped in and watched the movie, I’d love to know what you thought of it so leave me a comment.


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Karandi James

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Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 9: To Kill A Titan

Attack on TItan Episode 9

Credit where it is due to this episode. Firstly, it reminded me that Attack on Titan is very good at making me really dislike humans. One of the things that really bugged me in season one was the absence of characters I could care about because everyone just seemed to be a truly horrible human being, and that included the huddled masses.

Attack on Titan episode 9

Well, season three gives us this episode where the military are lying to the people about running a training drill and the people get all huffy not because they are being lied to but because the people who are fighting to save their lives are inconveniencing them. Seriously, are the military sure anyone in this world is worth saving? Still, the generally despicable nature of people in this anime is part of what makes it interesting to watch when contrasted with all of those anime of fluffy and happy people who just try to make everyone smile so I’m actually pretty happy that we get this solid reminder that this anime is not about sweetness and light but about a very gritty and sour reality.

Attack on Ttian Episode 9

Secondly, thanks for the reminder that Titans are horrific. I mean, Rod Reiss’ Titan form looming at the wall is one truly disgusting image and one that isn’t going to leave me anytime soon. It has been awhile since there’s been any real repulsion or emotion at all felt toward a titan (curiosity about the still missing in action beast titan isn’t quite the same thing), so the genuinely moment of recoil when we got a look at this thing was fairly welcome.

Attack on Titan Episode 9

Thirdly, Eren. I know I’m normally all for beating up Eren and I really don’t like him as a character but it is like he’s finally turned a corner and grown up just a little bit. Whether he ruins it all by doing something utterly stupid in a couple of episodes remains to be seen but it is almost as if he’s come through the ordeal of the past 7 episodes finally seeing the world just a little bit clearer. It if sticks I might even have to look back at Eren and how that growth happened over the course of all three seasons, though I’ll wait and see if it sticks before I revise my opinion of him as a character.

Attack on Titan Episode 9

And finally, Historia. For a character that had never left much impact on me, even when they spent a lot of the second season trying to find Christa, she’s really stepped up as well this season and with both her and Eren having fairly solid character growth this is pretty much the best I’ve seen from Attack on Titan since its beginning.

Titan9f

So, yeah, credit to a fairly solid episode of great moments. Still want to know why they even bother having the other soldiers standing around firing canons. It never works and the other soldiers seem woefully under-trained which makes sense but is still pretty pathetic. This episode certainly gave us enough spectacle and with the set up at the end for next week things seem to be rolling along nicely for the season so far.

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Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest Light Novel Review – I Dare You To Call the Protagonist Overpowered

Arifureta Volume 1 Cover

This one a novel I picked up off a recommendation from the Book Depository when there happened to be a sale and I had 10% off. I hadn’t heard of the title or read anything about it. As a result, it ended up fairly low in my read pile and I passed over it a number of times before I finally decided one day to start it over a long weekend. Well, a day and some eye strain later I’d devoured it, but was it actually any good?

Review:

Look, if you have an issue with isekai stories, stories where the weak guy suddenly becomes an unstoppable killing machine, or stories that insist on making the vampire girl look like a pre-teen and finding any excuse for her not to be wearing clothes, right now you already know that this book isn’t going to work for you. This book definitely ticks off pretty much any trope you want to throw at the isekai genre and it does it with a smug sense of ‘look what I did’. Yet that is what probably works in the book’s best interest. It doesn’t try to hide its genre or shy away from it. It isn’t ashamed to be exactly what it was trying to be and as a result this is a story full of excitement, danger, slightly uncomfortable moments when turning a page and finding a fairly unclothed vampire girl staring at me, and generally a lot of fun.

So what is Arifureta about?

Essentially Hajime is your standard protagonist for these kinds of stories. He’s an otaku who likes to sleep during class and doesn’t have many friends. Then his entire class get summoned into a fantasy world where they are tasked with saving it. And they all have powers, only Hajime’s is considered pretty lame and useless and he ends up being beaten up by some of his own classmates.

So far, so standard, and only some fairly decent writing managed to get me into this story. It isn’t exceptional, but considering some of quality of writing in some of the light novels I’ve read in the last year, it is perfectly readable and occasionally there’s some very nice description thrown in amongst what seems to be a fairly hefty exposition dump setting up the scenario.

Despite that, the story manages to draw you in as the students deal with some fairly real challenges with suddenly gaining power but having no training or actual skills and dealing with a world most of them thought only existed in stories or games. There’s a lot going on with the political situation of the world and plenty of what is happening in these pages is set up that could potentially be very interesting further down the line though remains fairly underused in this volume.

Page 106 is where it all just decides its had enough of the play nice with the class where the biggest issues involve avoiding being bullied. Hajime is literally tossed under a bus by one of his own classmates in a misguided fit of jealousy while the teens are training in a dungeon and the next thing he knows he’s sent plummeting to the very bottom level far below where anyone even realised the dungeon reached. It’s a pretty tragic event and one that isn’t over.

See the next 250 or so pages deal very much with Hajime climbing his way back out of the dungeon. There are impossibly tough monsters around every corner and our protagonist is not getting off unscathed. I may have warned you earlier about the nudity, but here’s a warning about the violence. In a very early monster encounter Hajime has his arm torn off and eaten. No joke and no get out of jail free card for the kiddo. He’s just traumatised and it takes him a fair while to do anything after that event. However, it is a magic based world so at least he doesn’t die and he does find the mean to begin rebuilding himself into the nastiest thing to ever crawl out of a dungeon.

Arifureta Volume 1b

And that’s where this book does distinguish itself quite well. Other than the occasional flashes to what the rest of the class are up to, we spend the rest of this adventure watching Hajime fight for his life and develop the tools he’s going to need to become a seriously overpowered hero. In the process he’s going to lose most of what made him human. Some things are ripped from him (like his arm) but others are things he willingly discards in a quest to become something that can survive in this world.

In that, his meeting with Yue becomes pivotal because it was possible Hajime would become something totally unrecognisable and relatable but the vampire girl manages to reawaken some of the humanity inside of him. The dynamic between the pair might be awkward at times but it was most definitely an essential development in this journey.

Overall, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this adventure and it clearly isn’t done with volume 1. There’s ridiculous amounts of world and lore still to explore and the characters have clear goals to continue to work towards. While this is hardly the best thing ever written it was incredibly bingeable and I most definitely added the next book to my wish list as soon as I finished this one.


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Karandi James

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 10: Things Are Going About As Well As You Would Expect

Angolmois Episode 10

Jinzaburo wastes no time in dealing with the betrayal from last week, we get a weird kind of romantic maybe sequence from the Princess, and then we have yet more Mongols moving in. Angolmois isn’t slowing down and it was great that they reminded us that everything that has happened has taken place over 5 days so far.

Angolmois Episode 10 Teruhi

On the surface this episode felt very piecemeal and yet because of the short time frame and the fact that each event that happens is clearly linked to what has happened before, it never felt overly disjointed. The problem is mostly that this show remains an interesting walk through the events on the island (and I have no idea about the accuracy or credibility of this story nor do I have much desire to look it up) but it isn’t making me really care all that much about the characters themselves. The characters remain just a vehicle for moving events along and each one is pretty forgettable in their own way.

Angolmois Episode 10 - Jinzaburo

That doesn’t stop there being some very cool moments in this story. The fight between Shiraishi  and Jinzaburo is so short and yet there’s a fair brutal efficiency. I like that they don’t feel the need to drag out the duel just for the sake of spectacle. This fight is impressive not because of the ongoing trading of blows or any particularly flashy move. It’s impressive because both characters are experts at what they do and they put their best into it from the first blow (no pulling out a super secret move ten hours into the fight). And that kind of plays into what works about this show. For the most part is is relatively believable even if potentially some of the individual feats are a little exaggerated for entertainment’s sake (and I’m not huge on stories needing to be grounded in reality, but with the way this one has been set up as more of a historical kind of thing, it actually works in the show’s best interest not to get too crazy).

However, I do need to look at the omens in this episode as we realise that the Magistrate is perfectly happy to lie to his own people if need be. He was also perfectly happy to stay with no plan and die so I’m not sure if he’s really such a great leader after all unless his people are equally fatalistic and don’t much care about maximising survival. What makes this slightly more tragic is that this is perhaps the best display of characterisation we’ve had since Teruhi got really angry at the Mongols for killing her whole family.

Angolmois Episode 10 - The Exiles

Finally, the episode comes to a close with the Mongols approaching the castle from land and sea and the Japanese are surrounded. Just to be sure we realise that the situation is now officially hopeless we flash to the guy who promised reinforcements essentially being told by his father that, nope, we aren’t sending any. This is responded to by the guy with one of the worse voice performances this show has so far delivered and the animation didn’t do a much better job of making me feel his pain.

So episode 10 is a mixed bag of fairly interesting and competent moments and some moments that remind me why this show keeps just straddling the line between the anime I’m really interested in this season and the anime I’m just kind of watching.

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Karandi James

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