The Fine Art Of Not Explaining Things

Grimms Notes Post Title Image

Grimms Notes Episode 2 Review

Another episode where we go to a story world, meet some characters and then some how tune everything back to the way it is supposed to be so these characters can go about following some predestined plan without the interruption of chaos. I’m not entirely sure if that is actually a good thing still and given the motives of the main characters are not explained, nor have I been convinced these endlessly repeating story zones are actually a good thing, I can’t say I’m really invested in their success.

We do feature Don Quixote this week. Kind of. Maybe. There’s windmills and enough generic references that if you learned about his story by reading the cliff notes version it more or less works.

Grimms Notes Episode 2 Don Quixote
Seems legit.

However, they started this episode with our group of four wandering through some fog with the blonde girl claiming she could sense an agent of chaos in a story zone ahead. The way it was kind of explained is this fog just kind of goes on and on and in it there are story zones where characters play out their stories.

So, why?

Then we’re told that only people with blank books of fate can move between story zones.

Again, why?

I mostly just wondered at that point if they were born in a story zone and how did the people around them react to their lack of book of fate. More importantly, how did their very unscripted existence not disrupt the story zone to the point it collapsed. How are they any different from agents of chaos.

Grimms Notes Episode 2 Ex

Basically two episodes in and I don’t really know who the main characters are and they’ve exhibited almost zero personality between the entire group. I don’t really get what they want or why though I get what they are doing. I don’t really understand the villains or what their goal is. So this is just kind of happening and I guess I can keep going along with it but it isn’t very good.

More importantly, why did Ex turn into Red Riding Hood after turning into Alice. Can they just become anyone? Do they have to have met the character? What determines their power? Or are these all questions I am meant to not be asking as I just kind of go along with it all?

Honestly, if the episode was actually exciting I might let a lot of these questions go and hope for future explanations but it really does feel like we’re just getting walked from place to place and stuff happens and then we go to the next place. I can’t say this is something I recommend at this point.

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Karandi James
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GRIMMS NOTES VISUAL BOOK
GRIMMS NOTES VISUAL BOOK

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Not Brushing Aside Trauma Makes For A Better Narrative

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 2 Review

I loved Sailor Moon growing up. It was really the first anime I watched that I came to realise was anime. As such, magical girl stories have been something of a staple for me since entering the world of anime and while I will admit I’m a little over this dark take or parody twist all of them seem to take these days, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is so far managing to offer a nice balance of elements that is drawing me right into the story. In Sailor Moon when the bad guy’s insidious plans went public, the normal response the following day from characters, particularly Molly, was to assume they’d had some crazy dream or similar. Very rarely did any impact from the event linger and it was almost as if it hadn’t happened. While that works well enough in Sailor Moon, it was refreshing to that this wasn’t the approach taken here.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 2 - Asuka

The events from episode 1 were not brushed aside and the world did not reset with everyone just moving on. The trauma of nearly being killed weighs heavily on Asuka’s classmate as does the feeling of helplessness. This story is taking it’s themes seriously even as it builds something fairly entertaining.

And it is entertaining. It isn’t wallowing in the misery of its characters and traumatising them just to see them break (not yet at least – it might still go there). Instead it seems to want to look at the situation it put its characters in and consider the way it would impact on the different characters. We see this in the classmates’ different responses to the violence in the city with the girl who was in the midst of it exhausted and suffering, going into shock after a police car with its siren passes her by. We also see those less close to the scene and their more subdued tone compared to the previous episode.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka - Episode 2 - disas

Then we get another contrast. We have seen Asuka is still dealing with the trauma from the war and trying to get on with her life, but what about the other magical girls? This episode brings in Kurumi who is more of a support fighter but because Asuka is refusing to join the unit, Kurumi is all they’ve got when a left-over Disas is set loose in the city. Not only do we get a bit of back story between the two but we see that Kurumi, despite admitting she isn’t very strong, is still fighting the fight and has taken a very different approach to life after the war than Asuka. What I found particularly applause worthy, was that the scene didn’t condemn Asuka’s choice even though Kurumi accused her of being unfair and awful. The story leaves the audience to decide as it presents these two characters.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 2 - Villains

While the villains of the piece may yet be the weak link, they’ve still got time to develop beyond crazy for the sake of it and there’s plenty of interesting ideas afoot here. If you’ve been avoiding the dark magical girl genre, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka may just be the one that works for you (then again, early days).

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Karandi James
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MAGICAL GIRL LYRICAL NANOHA THE MOVIE 1ST 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED PVC FIGURE: NANOHA TAKAMACHI CASUAL WEAR VER
MAGICAL GIRL LYRICAL NANOHA THE MOVIE 1ST 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED PVC FIGURE: NANOHA TAKAMACHI CASUAL WEAR VER

Harsh Comparison Of Experience and Naive Ignorance in Battle

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 15 Review

Episode 15 continues directly where the last episode of Alicization left us with Eugeo and Kirito encountering two girls in the tower. Now there girls, like so many people we’ve met in recent episodes, are a little bit messed up in the head due to a tragic and very short back story (yay for not another multi-episode exposition dump). Still, when they drop on the audience that 28 kids were slaughtered in the attempt to perfect resurrection and these two nut-jobs are the only survivors you kind of think that maybe this is an issue the story should actually expand upon.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 15
Wait did you just casually mention kids exploding and this is all the time you are giving this idea?

But no, in the same episode with multiple other issues including a really weird and pointed comment about gender and feelings of inferiority that Sword Art Online does not have the narrative strength to carry off and feel like anything other than a patronising nod at gender politics. Seriously, if they want me to take SAO’s commentary on gender even vaguely seriously they should give Asuna a sword again and let her fight side by side with Kirito. Then I’ll start taking some of this messaging a little more seriously (a little bit, it’s SAO so I’m not exactly looking to it for gender politics).

However, neither of those points, both fairly big points, were what I walked away from the episode wanting to discuss. Instead, my focus is very much on the Eugeo and Kirito dynamic. It was something very early in the episode that shifted my attention to this and despite all these other distractions I never really got off of thinking about it.

Sword Art online Alicization Episode 15 Eugeo, Zel and Nel

At the beginning of the episode, when the two sweet girls on the stairs are introducing themselves, Kirito taps Eugeo on the shoulder, tells him he’s not good with kids and that he should handle it, and then places himself behind Eugeo. This seems like such a weird move for Kirito. You know, Kirito, the guy who picks up every cute girl and gets involved in their business until they are smiling and happy even though he acts like he doesn’t want to get involved. Not to mention, he adopted a program as his and Asuna’s kid. So not being good with kids is a major flag going up that something was going on. I actually replayed the scene to see if I could figure it out and I was really pleased later in the episode when I realised I had pin-pointed what had made Kirito act weirdly. There’s a line that girls say that warns Kirito not all is as it seems and he appropriately takes action (admittedly, he does seem to figure out not just that something is up but just what nature of attack he’s about to face which seems a bit far-fetched, but hey, Kirito).

And that really highlighted something for me between Eugeo and Kirito. During the last episode, Eugeo was the one who ended the fight after Kirito acted as the diversion. Kirito’s role was the more risky one because he had to be able to defend against a full attack while Eugeo prepared, but Kirito managed. However, in all of this, Eugeo has been seen as a fairly solid swordsman in his own right.

Sword Art online Alicization Episode 15 Kirito Fighting

This episode splits the two characters very solidly not on their talent with the sword but on their experience in actual battle. We’ve seen more than once a situation where Eugeo has become emotional in the midst of conflict and we see it again in this fight. We also see that Eugeo isn’t on guard against the two girls even though they are in enemy territory and they are fighting their way to the top. It is here that Kirito’s past, his knowledge and experience, allow him to shine. Even though once the fight begins in earnest, Eugeo plays a critical role, again it is Kirito leading the pace and direction of the battle.

Sword Art Online Episode 15 Alicization Kirito
I wonder if we’ll actually see this attack or if they are just faking us out?

The dynamic between the two characters and Eugeo’s changeable nature as he is new to this environment make for some of the more interesting moments that Alicization has brought to the franchise. Must admit, I really ended up enjoying this episode even with the sheer amount they tried to cram into it and as a result ended up doing a pretty ordinary job of.

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Karandi James
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SWORD ART ONLINE: LOST SONG
SWORD ART ONLINE: LOST SONG

This Fairy Tale Oozes A Lack of Imagination

Grimms Notes Post Title Image

Grimms Notes Episode 1 Review

Fractured fairy tales are hardly a new thing and retellings of these old tales have occurred forever as they first got passed down orally before being committed to paper and spreading even further. We’ve seen modern franchises use an array of fairy tale characters in new and interesting ways to produce shows and movies that are fun and kind of inspired. And we’ve also seen the hack jobs where people think just throwing a standard character at us with a minor twist counts as a stroke of genius.

Grimms Notes Episode 1

Unfortunately, Grimms Notes in episode 1 seems like it is going to fall into the latter category as we have a Cinderella who apparently casts magic spells by some poor jiggling on glass slippers, an Alice that is a front line sword fighter, a Robin Hood who so far has only exhibited one definable personality trait and that is an obsessions with guns, and lastly a Goliath for whatever reason. They aren’t all Grimms characters and even if they were they are more or less re-imagined by someone who only had the vaguest of notions of what the character was like in the first place so outside of the name you may as well just chuck the rest of the reference off a cliff.

Grimms Notes Episode 1

However, a lack of authenticity, creativity, or decent innovation (as opposed to just changing the heck out of something) on an old property probably wouldn’t be enough for me to have walked away from this episode with such a sour taste in my mouth. No, that taste was reserved strictly for the banal dialogue and illogical plot. When about two thirds of the way through the episode you realise who the villain is, all I could think was, I hope she wins. Honestly, her motivation makes perfect sense and the idea that somehow all these characters should adhere to their books of fate strictly and without variation is just kind of problematic as a theme. While the reason for it has yet to be explained, it just makes the team we’re supposed to think are the heroes seem like a bunch of pedantic jerks.

Grimms Notes Episode 1
And I’ll do it even if she didn’t need to get eaten in the first place.

On top of all of that, it is just dull. As I said, we’ve seen fractured fairy tales many a time so without bringing anything particularly new or interesting to the table, this one needed some really solid execution and while it is ‘fine’, it isn’t exactly noteworthy. While I will watch another episode and hope that perhaps the actual main characters find a way to make me believe that they are actually doing something worth doing, this one isn’t getting off to a great start.

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Karandi James
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GRIMMSNOTES ORIGINAL GAME SOUNDTRACK
GRIMMSNOTES ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Fire Meets Ice Before The Tower Climb

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Review

A new opening, new outfits, same old story. Kirito and Eugeo recover their swords ridiculously easily but immediately find themselves locked in combat. It’s an improvement from the exposition dumps but still not sure this hit the mark.

The ease with which Kirito and Eugeo get to the armoury and recover their unguarded swords is absurd particularly when they are confronted by a solitary knight immediately on trying to leave the armoury. Seriously, he couldn’t have attacked them before they were armed? And why send just one knight? We learn later there’s a whole bunch of knights waiting on the 50th floor so why not send a couple of them down to take care of the problem before it becomes a problem? And just because Kirito and Eugeo are told there are knights waiting on the 50th floor, why aren’t they at least looking at the other floors to see if there’s anything useful. If we’re not going to even pause on these floors why do they exist?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14
Two things: One, if you are right outside the door why didn’t you stop them getting their swords in the first place? Two, have you never heard of overkill? What is with all those arrows?

This whole set up is so frustrating!

And taking a breath.

Outside of incredibly brainless plot developments resulting in characters acting in idiotic ways, this episode was actually better than the last two (not hard mind you). Still, the fight between Kirito, Eugeo and the Knight was actually pretty well handled and injected some much needed excitement back into the show, and the following conversation didn’t feel too much like yet another exposition dump.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Kirito and Eugeo
I’m glad you two are impressed, now do you plan to actually fight that thing?

We also had a fairly solid character moment from Eugeo. Since he’s been freed from the Taboo Index he hasn’t really been faced with too many moral choices and now he’s confronted by the knight who took Alice away all those years before. While it wasn’t the most nuanced scene ever, seeing Eugeo weighing up his options and make a decision was a fairly interesting moment (though probably would have been more interesting if Eugeo hadn’t chosen the goody-goody route that Kirito follows). So much potential exploration if Eugeo unleashed decided to take the knights out.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Eugeo strikes
I think literally everyone will have this screen cap, but so what. It was a great Eugeo moment.

One final nit-pick though before I let this episode rest; how is it that every time Eugeo and Kirito change outfits they managed to find a pair of perfectly colour coordinated outfits? Here they just raided the armoury and changed clothes and yet Eugeo still has his bright blue and Kirito his standard charcoal. It would be nice, just once, if they through Kirito into red and Eugeo into green or something just to shake things up.

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Karandi James
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ACCEL WORLD VS. SWORD ART ONLINE
ACCEL WORLD VS. SWORD ART ONLINE

The Fitting End To The Orc Lord Courtesy of The Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode Review Title Image

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 14 Review

The battle rages on, or more to the point Gelmud makes an appearance and berates the Orc Lord for taking too long to evolve into a demon lord. He then makes the mistake of attacking Gabiru and his comrades at which point Rimuru steps into the battle for the first time. Completely outclassed, Gelmud orders the Orc Lord to kills them with more or less predictable results when the loud yappy man tries to shout at monsters.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 14 Gelmud

A fairly amusing end to Gelmud, a character who has been much spoken of but only appeared in few scenes, and one that does in fact achieve his wish of turning the Orc Lord into a Demon Lord (also clues Rimuru in that there is someone above Gelmud so plot direction for future given).

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 14

Now I wondered during the last episode whether Rimuru would handle the final battle or let the ogres get their revenge. Turns out they went with both, only despite the ogres (kijin) being super-powered, their attacks don’t have all that much of an impact on a ridiculously overpowered Orc Disaster (who names these things). So Rimuru does have to take up the fight.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 14
Believe it or not, this doesn’t kill him.

To give credit where it is due, despite the two beings fighting being supremely overpowered, this fight didn’t devolve into bright lights smashing into each other as so many other stories might have taken it. Instead, we get a fairly entertaining battle where Rimuru lets the Great Sage take the reigns for awhile to inflict damage on the Orc Lord before it comes down to a contest of Starving vs Predator. I actually have to say I was pretty impressed with how this battle played out in the end.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as A Slime Episode 14 Rimuru

That’s really all there was to this episode as it seems to tie up the arc nicely. The Ogres decide they are sticking by Rimuru and I’m not entirely sure what the orc army are doing now that they are no longer mindlessly following the Orc Lord but maybe we’ll get some loose ends tied up in the next episode. So while this was pretty predictable and we still don’t really have any reason to be concerned about anyone in this show, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime remains relatively entertaining and managed to make the battle feel reasonable fresh.

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Karandi James
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THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME B2 WALL SCROLL: RIMURU & SHIZU
THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME B2 WALL SCROLL: RIMURU & SHIZU

Sugar and Spyce and All Things Nice

Release the Spyce Episode Review Title

Release the Spyce Episode 12 Review

And so no-one is actually a traitor and no-one is actually dead, and no-one is actually surprised. This toothless ending fits the tone of the show and allows everyone to be all sweet and nice and become friends and trust in others and it is an utterly flat narrative. Given the characters never really went anywhere, I was hoping the plot would eventually pick this one back up but tragically that hope went unfulfilled as this final episode wraps everything into a neat little package.

Release the Spyce Episode 12

What that means is Release the Spyce has managed to be competent. Nothing more or less. The ending defeats the bad guys, sees the heroes wrap things up, and if the story was primarily Momo’s journey (or at least that is how the series has been book-ended), then that narrative at least is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Release the Spyce Episode 12 Momo

Still, there was a lot more potential in this series and these characters. So while what is here wasn’t particularly bad it was a little disappointing that the show could never rise to be more than what it became.

Release the Spyce Episode 12 - Villain

However, brainwashing machine go boom, the city gets a new pretty flower, and the girls all get on with their lives or with spying. Can’t really argue with it even if I wanted more.

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Karandi James
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NENDOROID NO. 1041 RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON
NENDOROID NO. 1041 RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON