Anime Characters Should Not Review Their Own Episode

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Review

While I’ll get to reviewing the episode in a moment, I just want to look at the opening act of this episode which addresses the fight between the Senator (only barely introduced a few episodes ago) and Eugoe (no longer brainwashed), Kirito and Alice. Mostly because there was a lot of build-up around a character only just introduced, a cliff-hanger as the fight got started, and then we spend the opening scene rewatching his power up. Only to essentially one shot kill him. Alice distracts his flame creation with little difficulty, Eugeo diverts attention from Kirito by half-heartedly attacking the administrator causing the senator to look away, and then Kirito light beams him to death. The end.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Kirito

In the words of the Administrator herself, that was boring.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Administrator

All that build up and a week’s wait and nothing. Barely even a whimper.

Then without any further discussion, the Senator’s body is flipped against a wall and promptly forgotten. Discarded as the bit character he was but he essentially served no purpose. None at all. Not even a cool fight sequence and diversion. Literally he just put the breaks on the story for a build up that never delivered.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 dead Senator

Following this the episode gets back into exposition and sermonising mode. They did at least draw parallels between whether the game world and reality are similar in asking whether humans live their lives in fear of being reset by some unknown creator, so points for thematic linking back to the original SAO. However, again, this is a lot of back and forth covering content we already knew. The only real take from this is that Eugeo now knows Kirito isn’t just someone from his world (which I’m left wondering why Kirito hadn’t told Eugeo this by this point, but whatever).

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22

However, the Administrator then decides to reveal her ultimate weapon that will replace the incredibly flawed system with the integrity knights. It is shiny and golden and really large. So cool. In a matter of seconds it impaled both Alice and Kirito and left them bleeding on the ground and Eugeo shaking in his boots.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Alice is stabbed

Of course, after a spider vs sword golem moment that makes about as much sense as it sounds like it should, Eugeo stabs the special dagger into the floating platform and somehow that lets the Cardinal appear. In an instant Kirito and Alice are healed, we get some more exposition while the Administrator just kind of floats and gloats, and then the episode ends.

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This show makes me want to face palm so badly almost every week at this point.

Nothing is having any consequence at the moment. Eugeo brainwashed – fixed next episode. Senator guy is really powerful – killed in one shot within minutes. Kirito and Alice stabbed and bleeding – instantly healed including their clothes and bloodstains.

Meanwhile, the Administrator seems to just have whatever power they decide to give her which makes you wonder why she doesn’t just rewrite the world’s code to disappear the floor and send Eugeo, Kirito and Alice back to the bottom and ignore them. Why bother fighting at all? As to the Cardinal, who knows what she’s up to?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Cardinal

I’m almost all for letting the humans outside of Underworld hit the reset button at this point. It couldn’t make it any sillier.

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Karandi James
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Sirius The Jaeger Series Review

Sirius The Jaeger

Things that go bump in the night should watch out.

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

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

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

Sirius The Jaeger - Yuliy

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

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

Sirius The Jaeger fight

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

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

Sirius The Jaeger

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

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

Sirius The Jaeger Yuliy and Mikhail

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

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

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

The Jaegers

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

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Karandi James
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FINAL FANTASY BRING ARTS: CLOUD STRIFE ANOTHER FORM VER.
FINAL FANTASY BRING ARTS: CLOUD STRIFE ANOTHER FORM VER.

The Dark Side of the Magical Girl Myth

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 8 Review

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka continues to hover on that narrow line between dark and violent with narrative purpose and gratuitous with a scene this week of Kurumi torturing the captured magical girl stepping over the line and firmly into gratuitous territory. While the themes and ideas in Spec-Ops continue to be interesting and characterisation at least for Asuka fairly solidly handled, it is scenes like this one, that could easily have been cut down and still maintained their effectiveness, that will make this series fairly hard to recommend without some strong caveats attached.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8 Kurumi

Kurumi’s character is also becoming something of a problem. While her obsession with Asuka was already known and understood, this week we see that Kurumi has really got some issues and needs a lengthy amount of mental health care at this point. What she doesn’t need to be is put in charge of extracting information from prisoners and while I get the need for the military to use magical girls, I’m not entirely convinced that relying on someone that unbalanced is exactly a great plan A.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8

However, equal opportunity for crazy this episode as we see another girl with some mental health issues (grounded firmly in trauma caused by drunken humans killing her mother and crippling her followed by abuse by her father) being given the opportunity to become a magical girl for the villains. Her transformed costume is perhaps the least subtle so far and isn’t exactly magical girl so much as BDSM and really makes you wonder how far they will push it. Not to mention, her initiation being to kill the four teens who kills her mother while in her human and un-transformed state really does make you wonder just how far she is willing to go.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8 Asuka

Still, for all that this episode was definitely getting close to the line I’ll draw for myself, it continues to pose excellent questions for the characters to deal with and while the villain’s grand plan is still no where near clear at least these villains aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. If you can handle the violence, blood and torture, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka remains an intriguing viewing experience even if at times it isn’t as nuanced as it needs to be to really land the point it seems to be trying to make.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 9 Review

Episode 9 of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka gives us almost an all out war as the military base hosting talks with the spirit world comes under attack by the Disas. It’s a tense situation and we have magical girls all ready to fight but civilian casualties are definitely going to happen.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 9

For all that the episode ends up building to one of the biggest conflicts yet, we still have quite a bit of downtime early in the episode as they set up the scene and move all the characters into position. Kurumi and Asuka are reunited with Mia and Tamara as well as a general from the spirit world who apparently is the target of the most recent attack. Meanwhile their classmates are in the city currently being attacked.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 9

But they still manage to waste time on a stupid fan-service joke which just kind of broke the tension of the episode entirely.

There’s a lot going on and a lot at stake and I’m really kind of looking forward to seeing where they go next episode. It would be great to see all the magical girls fighting and really great to see how the military handle this current threat.

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MAGICAL GIRL SPEC-OPS ASUKA LARGE TOTE BAG BLACK
MAGICAL GIRL SPEC-OPS ASUKA LARGE TOTE BAG BLACK

The Power of Friendship Strikes Back

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 21 Review

I’m in two minds about this fight between Kirito and Eugeo. On the one hand, I’ve been wanting to see these two go head to head for a fair while in Sword Art Online Alicization. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like either one ultimately took the fight all that seriously. More importantly, that was some fast acting brain washing and just as quickly removed with a few words about friendship.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo and Kirito

I actually kind of get that the original brainwashing job wasn’t exactly first class, which explains why she was trying to redo the whole process now that she had more time, but still… it all seems like an unnecessary step. Plenty of characters get brainwashed and go to the darkside (look at Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon), but having it last not even a whole episode kind of makes it seem like a relatively shallow point. Like they thought it would be cool to see Kirito and Eugeo fight but had no ongoing narrative purpose for putting the two against each other and so rapidly backtracked.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo

Even then, it could have worked out except that Kirito didn’t overwhelm Eugeo with some amazing swordplay or even pull out any crazy or cool moves. Alice didn’t even fight. She was just bystanding. Nope, Kirito just spouted a whole bunch of names of people who haven’t been in the show for ages as if they are somewhat relevant or important and Eugeo turned Kirito and Alice into ice before going off to face the administrator alone.

It wasn’t exactly a satisfying outcome.

Alicization Episode 21 Eugeo, Alice and Kirito

Now of course we’ve got the three of them together facing off against the senate guy in the jester costume. Can I hope that giant flame monster thing he summoned means we’re going to maybe get a cool fight next week or is that asking a little too much at this point?

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Karandi James
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SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION [DELUXE EDITION]
SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION [DELUXE EDITION]

It’s Raining Magical Girls and Deals With Other Worlds

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 7 Review

Despite Asuka’s commitment to join the team again, it isn’t all smooth sailing this week in Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. While there aren’t any serious consequences, at least not for the team we’re following, Asuka freezing mid-battle at the thought of one of the team members being hurt could have had dire consequences and it was only thanks to Kurumi that she snapped back out of her frozen state. Honestly, how they are treating Asuka’s character remains the best thing about this anime.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7 Asuka
Another flash back from the war – Asuka really needs some help dealing with her emotions after everything she’s been through.

However, we then have to look at the rest of what is happening. And this episode I even found myself looking at the overall episode count and wondering just where this story intends to leave us at the end of episode 12 because unless we are in for a really rushed conclusion, they still seem to be introducing world building elements at this point so it doesn’t seem likely we’re heading for a round resolution.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7

So with a plot likely to remain unfinished what else have we got. The tone remains pretty interesting. I like this version of a dark magical girl story where the girls are dealing with the reality of facing war at a young age, using magical powers isn’t about pretty sparkles, and consequences are very real (with the exception of Nozomi because they totally undid any consequence around that). I also like the weird mix of military and magic they have going on. It all kind of works.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7
I don’t know what her name was, nor do I suppose it matters, but here’s another ‘bad’ magical girl. You can tell because of the smile.

What works less is that every villainous character feels the need to pull this ‘hey, look at me I’m crazy’ face just to show off that they are in fact a a villain. As well done as Asuka and even Kurumi’s characterisation has been the villains are really the weak link here (and I seem to be saying that a lot this season as I look at Krone in The Promised Neverland).

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 7

Still, this was a fun episode, we met a new magical girl from the magical five, had a cool fight sequence, some more interesting character work with Asuka, and generally the episode just kind of flew by. The only real drama with it was the welcoming party they threw Asuka. It seemed like they were going for some levity or whatever but the whole thing just sat really weirdly at the start of this episode. Fortunately, the rest of the episode more than made up for it.

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GUNDAM 40TH ANNIVERSARY BEST ANIME MIX – BEYOND
GUNDAM 40TH ANNIVERSARY BEST ANIME MIX - BEYOND

Release the Spyce Series Review

Spies Eat Spices And Look Cute Doing It!

Release the Spyce was an anime that from its first episode grabbed my attention with its cute girls doing spy antics but even then there were a few warning flags that made me wonder where this would go. What followed was a series that awkwardly attempted to balance high stakes spy scenarios with a story about cute girls doing cute things at school kind of story and the mix just didn’t work. It isn’t that it couldn’t have worked, however Release the Spyce didn’t have the strength of writing or characterisation to pull it off.

Release the Spyce Episode 5 Mei and Hanzo

Not to mention the logic in the story just never worked no matter how you looked at it. While I get anime, and fiction in general, doesn’t need to be totally true to life (in fact as a fantasy/horror fan I prefer it when it isn’t), I do need to be able to suspend disbelief. Between a training sequence that utterly turned the main character into a nearly unstoppable powerhouse in a matter of weeks, the ‘spyce’ only working on teenage girls for reasons that will never be adequately explained, the villains targeting the one city where they know the opposition are hiding despite being able to carry out their plan more or less anywhere, and the really terrible explanation that the words spy and spice are somehow related (solid no on that one), this anime really worked hard to push me out of the narrative at pretty much every opportunity.

Release the Spyce Episode 3

Persevering in the hopes that we’d get to some decent spy and espionage kind of moments, the results are kind of mixed. On the one hand, the visuals are pretty good. Bold and bright colours dominate and it is all a bit sharper than a lot of the pastel colour palettes that seem to be dominating a lot of the anime I’ve been watching. Every screen cap really stands out in the folder and it isn’t garish (outside of the OP).

Release the Spyce Episode 12 Momo

The action also works reasonably well with fight sequences being pretty tightly controlled in time and scope. There’s a few too many girls fighting hordes of mindless robot fights, but for the most part the actual action sequences deliver decently. Now, I’d like to know why our spies spend so much time in direct combat rather than sneaking about, but that’s probably another one of those questions I just shouldn’t ask.

Release the Spyce Episode 4 Mei and Fu

Interactions between each of the apprentices and their mentor are fairly solidly constructed. Now, this is a blessing and a curse. It means in the episode focusing on that pair, the two get great moments to shine and there’s some solid character work. On the other hand, that pair may not necessarily interact well with the others (or in interesting ways) and in episodes where they aren’t the focus sometimes it is difficult to remember if they actually have a personality. This anime didn’t balance things very well and couldn’t move the spot light from one pair to the next without totally sidelining the rest of the cast. Then it had to awkwardly transition back to the whole group facing a threat and it just didn’t do a very good job of it.

Release the Spyce Episode 10 Momo

Finally, the season ending. It ends. It hits all the usual notes for spy stories. It just isn’t compelling enough. I have nothing against generic stories that follow their genre beats. But you have to give me something and here we had average characters going about an average final mission with no surprises because all the twists were exactly what you were expecting and delivered with very little fan-fare or anything else.

Release the Spyce Episode 1

As I said, not bad, just not really worth the time or effort. Still, you could certainly do worse than this piece and provided the opening song doesn’t give you a headache (it really is flashy for those with light sensitivity), there’s not a lot that this anime does that is actually worth criticising. It just doesn’t manage to do anything particularly well either and given it potentially could have been so much better there was definitely a sense of disappointment as week after week this one seemed determined to be at best average.

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Karandi James
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RELEASE The SPYCE T-shirt
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A Frosty Reception After A Clash of Ideologies

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Review

The focus this week is tightly on Eugeo facing the leader of the integrity knights (and former village legend) alone. This is the first time we’ve seen Eugeo on his own without Kirito’s guidance, and he’s up against a tough opponent. it’s a fairly great character moment for the Eugeo as we see his choices this far up the tower.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Eugeo

Let’s get it out of the way, the fight is not as dynamic as some of the fights we’ve seen in Sword Art Online. As much as Kirito is the one who originally trained Eugeo in swordplay, Eugeo isn’t Kirito and for that I am glad. It means his style isn’t identical even though there are clear parallels. So where Kirito would go faster, harder, and straight into the fray, Eugeo is happier to leave some distance and take advantage of his sword’s abilities.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Describing Kirito's Sword Style

Which is where I will sing the praises of this fight sequence. Eugeo unleashing the sword and not just doing that and being done but then taking full advantage of sword, the environment he was in, and lastly, his own age to ensure his victory in the fight. It is pretty, it is well thought out, and with the exception of an interruption when we get a flash back to the cardinal to hit us with some exposition that was actually kind of unneeded at that point, the pace of this fight is very well done. It is an enjoyable visual spectacle in its own right and hearing Eugeo explain just why he dislikes the integrity knights clearly, in his own words, without interference from Kirito, is a great moment.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 18 Eugeo Ice

That actually leaves the interruption at the end of the fight leaving a slight sour taste because not only is the character who literally bounced into the room clearly not a character we can take in any way seriously, it seemed kind of cheap to take the decision of how this fight would end away from Eugeo. Not to mention this bouncing ball of annoyance seemed more like a character who would drop into a Hunter x Hunter fight rather than Sword Art Online.

In case we thought they’d forgotten Alice and Kirito though, the final moments of the episode have them chilling and sharing steamed buns on the ledge outside the tower. It is pretty reminiscent of Kirito and Asuna sharing bread with cream in Aincrad but otherwise doesn’t have much going on. I mean, Kirito reminds Alice about her sister but given they then end the scene before that goes anywhere I guess we’ll deal with that next week.

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Karandi James
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DESKTOP ARMY SWORD ART ONLINE (SET OF 3 PIECES)
DESKTOP ARMY SWORD ART ONLINE (SET OF 3 PIECES)