Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episodes 1 + 2: Okay, You Got My Attention

Full disclosure, I’m not big on real historical settings or situations. Fantasy ones with historical trapping are fine but mostly the warring states era, samurai and the like don’t make for overly compelling viewing (with some exceptions). So while I originally avoided this one, some heavy praise from fellow reviewers and a feeling of minor desperation for something actually good this season rather than just tolerable, had me trying the first episode of Angolmois. So what did I think?

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While this one isn’t to my usual tastes, and the weird visual filter over everything (particularly noticeable over moving images of the landscape) makes it look kind of ugly and murky (I’d also suggest leads to feeling slightly queasy when the background but not the foreground moves) there was something quite compelling about the first two episodes here. Possibly not being filled with characters trapped in another world, happy go lucky teenagers, characters whose entire lives seem to be defined by weather they can hit something over a net or sing really good, and an absence of gratuitous fan-service made this one stand out regardless of some of its lesser qualities. But that probably isn’t giving it credit for what it did well.

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However, before I get onto those positives, I’d also like to throw in that this one did start as in what looks like the end of a conflict before going back to show us how the protagonist got there and while the technique is a little more affective here than in something like Lord of Vermilion, it still isn’t the best way to get me interested in a story, particularly when the sequence on the boat would have been a perfectly fine introduction and a much better hook.

I don’t have enough familiarity with this particular historical era or conflict to comment on the accuracy or lack of it of anything going on here. My Mongolian history is limited strictly to their invasion of China and even then it lacks anything resembling depth. That said, while there might be something for history buffs, it isn’t a prerequisite as they aren’t expecting you to know what is going on and in just two episodes, without a massive exposition dump, this show has managed to establish where the island is, why the Mongols are invading it and what their overall objective would be, and why the character who seems to be the protagonist is there and is clearly going to end up fighting. That’s more or less enough to get into this story even without a larger context. Though I’m betting the protagonist wishes he hadn’t been asked to hold out for a set number of days.

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And while the characters are so far fairly standard characters for this kind of historical drama they aren’t too boring and there’s potential for them to become interesting as we learn more about the exiles and the inhabitants of the island (assuming they don’t all get killed).

I’m enjoying the pacing of this so far as it isn’t moving at breakneck speed but I don’t feel like it is lingering too long on any one moment. And so far the fights have been interesting enough to watch though I worry they might become a bit too similar as the story continues.

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Still, given I originally passed on this one from the premise, I ended up enjoying it a great deal more than I expected. I’ll see how this one goes.


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Karandi James

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 2: Old School Vampire Alert

I was pleasantly surprised that episode two of this was reasonably decent given the first episode’s shortcomings. The focus is very much on Vlad but the other characters definitely get a little bit of a look in as this supernatural story continues.

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It has been awhile since vampires actually had issues with garlic, crosses, running water and were held to the belief that they couldn’t enter a building without being invited and while Buffy made good use of the mythology around vampires, most stories take great liberties with discarding the old legends or openly scoffing at them. While that doesn’t make this show any better, it does make me more interested in it if the characters are going to have a more traditional portrayal (despite all appearing to be generically good looking, young guys). If that was the only thing episode two offered, I’d probably still be more inclined to watch this show than I was last week, but overall I was generally left with the impression that this episode was better.

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Ton was still not what I’d consider a great protagonist, but on one or two occasions she actually called Vlad on keeping information from her even if she didn’t press the point. The introduction of Wayne was kind of entertaining and I can see him being immensely useful as a plot device but he was just kind of fun as a character. Even Luke and the other guy (I keep missing his name) got a bit more detail about who they were and there was groundwork laid for an ongoing story with Luke that looks like it will get fleshed out next week.

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Of course, the attention was on Vlad a lot and his vampire powers are pretty cool. He’s fairly stereotypical as a character and yet not annoyingly so, but he may not be all that interesting to some viewers. Plus he has absolutely zero chemistry with Ton so the scenes with the two of them that could have been charming or fun mostly end up being just a back and forth of flat dialogue that does progress the plot but isn’t overly interesting.

I think i’m in with this anime though. The heavy supernatural focus in this second episode really sold it to me and even though I’d like a bit more from the cast, there were improvements from episode 1 to episode 2 and hopefully they will continue.

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Goblin Slayer Volume 3 Light Novel Review: It’s A Date, And Goblins

The Harvest Festival is on its way and all the female adventurers and friends suddenly have one thing on their mind. Too bad Goblin Slayer only ever has one thing on his mind – killing goblins.

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Review:

Of the three volumes I’ve read so far, this one is probably the weakest. And that’s because instead of feeling like we were on some epic adventure (albeit to fight goblins), this one genuinely felt like we were reading a harem based light novel with a wishy-washy protagonist, girls who have no purpose outside of their pursuit of him, and ultimately a conflict that felt like it was thrown in at the end for the sake of having a final fight. And while none of that makes this a terrible read, it certainly wasn’t as compelling as previous entries.

However, the positive would be that Goblin Slayer is given more time to become a bit more humanised in this volume. He’s still the enigma and still has complete tunnel vision for goblin killing, but his interactions with the rest of the cast help to paint a broader picture of his overall personality when removed from blowing up goblin nests. Priestess also comes out of this volume looking reasonably good with her being able to showcase how far she’s grown since the opening of volume 1 where she was the scared little girl in need of rescue.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the cast, whether it is Guild Girl, Female Knight, Cow Girl, High Elf Archer or Witch, they all just come off looking pretty vapid and silly as they scurry about trying to attract this or that guy’s interest at the festival. Then again, it isn’t as though Dwarf Shaman or Lizard Priest come off any better. While they aren’t trying to attract a partner they seem to spend almost two thirds of the book doing nothing but taking part in various eating and drinking activities.

And that’s more or less the whole problem. Even though Goblin Slayer is preparing for something from the beginning, it is easily dismissed as his usual eccentric paranoia and doesn’t really count as foreshadowing. The disgruntled adventurer is an obvious flag early on, but it doesn’t amount to very much. So by the time things start happening and the much needed goblins arrive (needed because how can he be Goblin Slayer if there are no goblins), the reader is more or less suffering from festival fatigue and it is almost a relief to see the town plunged into danger.

The danger itself though never feels all that real. Unlike in the previous volumes where the Goblins attacked either a farm that was pretty remote or were underground, here they attack a town. There’s very little reason why our plucky adventurers seem to be fighting without back-up given how many adventurers are in the town (and I don’t care how drunk they claim they might be after the festival), and yet the book insists on having the core group take on much larger numbers by themselves. While it is an excellent showcase of their abilities, it kind of pushes plausibility and after a fairly dull set-up it isn’t really much of a payoff.

So I left this volume with mixed feelings because there are some great character moments here for Goblin Slayer and Priestess and the final fight is actually kind of exciting even if it makes little sense in context, but there’s just too much down time here and too many female characters being too cliche female character from a light novel. I’m hoping the next volume picks back up because if this is an ongoing trend with this series I may very well let this one go and that would be a shame. It has been a lot of fun up until this point.


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Karandi James

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Visualist x 100!! – My Hero Academia Season Three: Episode 14

Season 3 may not have started with a bang but it took us where we needed to go and All Might is now officially retired. So as we move into the second cour with a new opening and a new direction, what does My Hero Academia have to offer us in episode 14? Kapodaco and I share our thoughts on this latest instalment.

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Karandi:

This is an episode that starts out feeling like a lot of exposition and talking heads, but by the end brings itself together in a meaningful enough way that it works. Once again though, this is an episode that will work much better in a marathon viewing session rather than as an individual episode as there’s a lot of standing around and talking and the kids once again working on their powers.

What does sell the episode, is Midoriya. All Might calls him out on the blatant imitation we’ve seen from him so far and gets him thinking about alternatives. Admittedly, for someone who has seemed to be as observant and cluey as Midoriya it takes him a long time to actually get the hint and it actually comes from an outside source before he finally figures it out, but it is an important character moment for him (much like when he did his internship and finally learnt ‘full cowling’.

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It is also good to see Iida, Midoriya, and Uraraka back together as it has been awhile since the three friends have actually just been able to be in the same sequence together without the rest of the group. It hadn’t actually really sunk in until this episode, but despite how close these three became in season one and some of the moments shared in season two, this season has had little of this grouping at all as the focus of the show has been elsewhere.

We do also get to see All Might moving firmly into the role of mentor and teacher now that his hero days are done. The transition is a little awkward for him, as you would expect, but small details like the book in his pocket, make it all kind of endearing.

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I definitely liked this episode more than the last one, I think it was an important transition point for the series and the characters and where they are going (I didn’t even mention that Bakugou is now more effective at blowing things up), but at the same time I still feel this anime is better when the stakes are real and it deals with real world consequences and this episode was kind of devoid of both so while there was fun to be had I still kind of feel like this is an intermission while I wait for things to get going again.

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Kapodaco:

I feel like I’m back in 2017, ‘cause this episode gave me serious season one vibes. Kids training on ultimate moves (something I feel should’ve been done earlier), kooky antics with Iida, Ochaco, and Midoriya, and Bakugo blowing stuff up! Again! Even the tone of the episode felt that way; not too serious, but enough to feel as though hero progress is being made from a number of students.

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But am I the only one who literally thought, first thing after Midoriya said “My arms are kind of ticking time-bombs right now,” “Why not just use your legs?” They try and make it into some big reveal at the end that Midoriya had never considered that alters his fighting style towards a different direction—which I get for the sake of distinguishing himself from All Might—but it’s so stupid. Why would you not immediately think “Can’t use my arms much. Let’s use my legs!” Midoriya saying “It was so simple I never considered it” is not an excuse. It’s really dumb.

That is, however, my biggest complaint of the episode, which seems pretty trivial to other criticisms I’ve had of this season’s run. I enjoyed the focus back to genuine development of powers, and there were certain things that were shown that would be interesting to see in future combat. Such as Tokoyami’s new ability to surround himself with his shadow for close-range combat. That’s pretty neat! Wonder if he could use that at night considering what occurred to him in the first six episodes. And of course, Bakugo’s already thought up seven-hundred ways to blow things up.

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For me, the highlight of this episode was Hatsume, despite the fact that the jokes attributed to her appearance (ahhhh, boobs and fondling) weren’t funny at all. I was actually kind of fascinated with her in the second season when she was “fighting” with Iida, so it’s exciting to know that we may see more of just what the hell is wrong with her. People don’t just get that self-absorbed and oblivious by nature (Right?). I wanna see some chance of development for her. That, and it’d be really cool to see if she could adequately improve the efficiency and sleekness of the heroes’ quirks/uniforms.

A solid episode, though not riveting. It was more a blast from the past, as it felt like these kids hadn’t been involved in a training session in forever. While still technically a downtime episode, it did introduce a number of things to look forward to for me. We’ll see how it goes going forward.

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Goblin Slayer Volume 2 Light Novel Review: It’s Always Goblins

Goblin Slayer has quite the reputation now and in this volume he’s answering a quest request from the Sword Maiden herself, a Gold-ranked adventurer who apparently fought a Demon Lord.

My review of Volume 1 can be found here.

Review:

While this second volume doesn’t quite have the drawing power of the first, it is a very decent follow up. There is an understanding that while the protagonist is cool and all, he can’t carry the story alone, and so a lot of energy has been put into the support cast. And even while many of these characters do come off a little too one-note at times, they are all quite interesting notes and the interactions between them are always kind of fun.

The reason this novel works so well is that the readers have a soft spot for this cast. We’ve watched them come together and fight off a horde of goblins with a lot of risk and very little reward. We like these characters already and we don’t want them to die. So when the story plunges them headlong into danger there’s an instant hook to make us keep reading. Because even though I know there are plenty of novels to come and therefore it is very unlikely that the main cast are going to die here, abandoning the story when they were still stranded in a sewer never really crossed my mind as a viable option.

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If I had to complain about any character in this particular volume, it would be the Sword Maiden. I’m not really sure what they were going for. At times she seems super seductive, at others she’s the fragile and damaged adventurer, and others still she just does not seem like she’s a real character. And given she’s the catalyst for the adventure in this volume that’s probably the book’s weakest link.

However, once the quest is accepted and the characters are on their way through the tunnels and facing some fairly hairy situations, using arrows, swords, slings, magic, and whatever else is handy to survive the next encounter, the story moves along beautifully. There’s some fairly tense moments in the darkness and as the characters do come under heavy fire and several of them do sustain some fairly heavy injuries considering they are the main party – a feat the book only gets away with because there’s magic around so ultimately they manage to get the cast back on their feet before the final act.

Basically, if you enjoyed the first story, and you are up for another adventure fighting off a horde of goblins who may have learned a couple of new tricks, then this story will work for you. The writing style remains much the same and is quite enjoyable, the characters are still pretty fun, and the fight sequences manage to be exciting without getting too hectic. I had a lot of fun with this second volume and I’ll be reviewing volume 3 very soon.


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Karandi James

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 1: This Season’s Hot Guy Cafe Brought To You By Vampires and Werewolves

This is one of those stories where potentially it could end up quite good or it could end up being a mess, or it might just become formulaic and dull, and there’s really no way to tell from the early episodes. Welcome to Cafe Forbidden where the staff aren’t exactly as welcoming as you would think.

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Ton is our walking cliche of a protagonist who travels to London to go to school and immediately gets robbed. Only she gets robbed by an invisible assailant and end up running into a strange cafe that turns out was started by her great-grandmother. Ton really doesn’t have much going for her in this episode other than some over exuberant reactions to being in London and then getting to run around a lot.

I mean, the guys at the cafe aren’t exactly subtle when one of them clearly says he knew her great-grandmother who has been dead for 100 years and even though he gets cut off, Ton doesn’t question that for a single instant. She’s one of those protagonists who could quickly become quite annoying given she seems fairly happy to just let the plot push her wherever it needs to. About the only positive is that at least it is her friend who gets kidnapped at the end of the episode and not her.

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The one thing this episode did have going for it was that it didn’t draw out the supernatural reveals. Right from the theft it is pretty clear that magic is afoot and by the time we have a werewolf (or guy with wolf ears) fighting a pack of goblins it’s all pretty much a given and this is the aspect of the show I’m most interested in at the moment. Hopefully the second episode consolidates some of the better points of the show and maybe gives Ton some actual purpose other than to be the designated clueless person in the series.

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What did you think of Phantom in the Twilight?


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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Series Review: This Franchise Demonstrates How Not To Adapt Something

Given I stopped doing episode reviews after episode 4, it should be fairly clear that this anime didn’t really do much for me. And normally I would just drop it and call it a day, but I decided to finish watching it. Mostly because the madness of creating an anime season that follows on from the manga but not the previous anime season just struck me as being a particularly harsh slap in the face for anime fans.

Review:

Let’s get the biggest point out of the way and then I can get on with reviewing this somewhat troubled narrative on its own merit, or lack of it, rather than the perceived slight of being literally dropped into the middle of a mess without any attempt to bridge where anime viewers were left after the previous season and where this began. I actually do get that a lot of anime exists just to sell manga or for fans of the source material. That’s all fine. But I have to wonder if even fans of the manga are happy by how this played out. It isn’t as though they can watch the anime from start to finish and get a coherent story. Instead they’ll get an introduction, a trainwreck of original material and then a jarring leap back to the source. Without heavy reliance on the source there is genuinely no way to follow this leap because characters aren’t where they were and half of them are either unknown or poorly introduced. As someone who never read the manga, I can assure you it is incomprehensible without at least some reading on various wikis and fan sites.

And that is not okay.

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Who is entertained by this? Anime viewers can’t possibly be because this franchise has no rewatch on its own without using the manga as a bridge. Manga fans may as well just read the manga because at least the story might be cohesive rather than what this presented. This is possibly the worst decision they could have made. A full reboot would have been better. A filler original series to somehow skew events back in line with the manga might have satisfied. Honestly, a ten minute character narration explaining events from point A to B would have been something.

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But no. That kind of courtesy is apparently not given when there is a clear expectation by producers that people will watch this franchise regardless of what dribble they drop on them. And given I watched it all the way through, I can’t say they were wrong. And yet, I know on hearing the announcement that Re was getting a second season, my only thought was that I was done. I have no desire to revisit this franchise. Not even the first season which I actually quite liked. And that lack of desire for more comes from the issues in this story on its own rather than from the annoyance that they did nothing to soften the jarring change in narrative for anime fans.

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Standing on its own, Tokyo Ghoul Re is riddled with issues. The central conceit that Haise has no memories of who he is and somehow this is a journey to find himself is poorly executed at best. With a visible transference of hair colour to indicate his current mental state (something that doesn’t play well given Kaneki’s hair went white due to trauma and that is a believable phenomenon whereas hair changing back from white sure isn’t) essentially everything about this struggle is blunt forced into the story bringing the current action sequence to a screeching halt while Haise/Kaneki play around in mental la-la land.

While it might be argued this mirrors Kaneki’s original transformation with Rize acting as a guide, this lacks any of the finesse or poignancy of that encounter. Superficially it is much the same and yet it is inelegant and, to be perfectly honest, quite dull to watch play out.

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Equally, the new characters introduced under Haise’s care are incredibly flat and one dimensional. They barely get screen time and when they do it is to the detriment of the story. And while some new bit players isn’t the worst thing Tokyo Ghoul drops on its audience, it seems it doesn’t realise that nobody cares about these characters building to what is set up as a tragic moment during its final episode that falls flat because to be perfectly frank I was more than happy to see that particular character bite the dust. I only wondered why more hadn’t joined him.

They are clutter and distractions from the older cast members who really just make cameo appearances. Arima gets talked about a lot but barely appears on screen. Touka shows up briefly and Haise gets all teary, but nothing ever comes out of this sequence. He then just moves on. Tsukiyama spends the majority of his time being crazy for reasons unclear to anime only viewers, and then his fate makes up the majority of the final battle sequence and I’m still not sure why anything about that plot line mattered.

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Basically, this entry into the franchise lacks any kind of central theme or driving force. Done better, Haise’s identity might have carried the episodes, but it really didn’t have anywhere near enough power to do that in its current state. And there’s literally nothing else. They go out. They investigate ghouls. They fight. Occasionally a ghoul investigator gets killed (or lots do) and everyone acts all outraged. There are some large scale fights with even more ridiculous antics going on than earlier seasons and none of them look very good.

I guess if you are a really big fan of this franchise there might be something here to cling to, but I didn’t find it. I watched the final scenes play out and breathed a sigh of relief that I was done. So clearly I’m not recommending it.


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Caligula Episode 12: We’re Done!

Turns out not a single character or their story is significant in any way other than ‘Ritsu’ so all of those backstories and things we’ve sat through, just purge them from your mind and watch the world fall apart.

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For all that this show did a last ditch attempt to help the audience identify with any of its cast by expositioning us to death with backstory, it ultimately turns out not one of these support characters has any purpose other than to show us that everyone looks for happiness in their own way. Realistically, they are interchangeable and pointless to the overall narrative. And what is that narrative? Not much. Creator made or met AI (that part is unclear), didn’t answer her when she asked him about happiness, and then after being trapped in the AI’s world shot her in the head because somehow that ended the situation. Okay a bit more happened than that, but really that is what it boils down to.

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Caligula episode 12, is just unsatisfying. There’s no buy in with the cast so their fate doesn’t matter and ultimately isn’t important, even though we do get a nice montage of them all picking themselves up in the real world and facing their demons. The villains are ultimately pointless and their actions amount to as little as the main cast. And Ritsu essentially deus ex machina’s the situation out of existence just because he’s decided its time to do so.

I’ll get to a series review soon, but what did you think of Caligula?

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Visualist x 100!! – My Hero Academia Season Three: Episode 12

Seems episode 12 has divided us on our opinion. After the emotional punch that was episode 11, episode 12 was always going to be a bit of a lull as My Hero Academia began transitioning into the next phase of the story. Below, Kapodaco and I share our thoughts on episode 12.

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Kapodaco:

It seems My Hero Academia will continue with its streak of “Laying down prospects to look forward to in the future” with this latest episode. The students of U.A. living together in a dorm? Sounds perfect for further development of relationships and personalities.

Other than that, I felt this was a fairly weak episode. Not as weak as the first six episodes of this season, but the first episode since the season started to skyrocket in quality where I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue present. Intriguing as it was to see a few parents of the student heroes and assume the make-up of their personalities by their behavior, much of the time was spent with Midoriya’s mother and how shaken she was with all that her son has faced. That’s fine and all, but it was clear as fucking day she would accept it eventually for the sake of moving the plot along, so the whole process of her being against the dorm idea at first just to proceed with super-emotional and moving dialogue that eventually changes her mind feels really stiff. There was one moment where she was going “I… I… I…” and all I could think was “JUST SAY IT AND MOVE ON!”

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I feel this episode could’ve been shortened to just half an episode’s length, with the other half dedicated to showcasing more from the villain’s perspective. We’re only teased with All For One’s ominous reasoning for intentionally(?) allowing himself to be detained. I’m more interested to see the fallout of this from the villains’ perspective, to see if Shigaraki has gone insane from his latest setback. All that had been shown here could’ve been wrapped up quicker than it was, feeling more like filler than anything else. And in the bigger picture, not much really happens in this episode. The last episode had an excuse for the foundation of All Might’s ending reign as the Symbol of Peace, but the biggest issue faced here was one parent being opposed to a dorm project, and everyone knew she’d come around. That’s all.

So about that dorm prospect…

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Karandi:

Well, I kind of find myself disagreeing with Kapodaco. Actually, I’ll amend that, half disagreeing. The first eight minutes of this episode were exactly what I wanted. The real weight of building up a single symbol of peace who has finally fallen being discussed and felt. The ripples of last week’s fight spreading through the community, who on reflection, realise the folly of the entire system where one man stands as a pillar holding it all up. While the scenes themselves were all pretty ordinary with meetings between the police, meetings between the teachers and All Might and Midoriya meeting on the beach once again, it did what it needed to do and because thematically this is what I love about this anime, I was really invested in this section of the episode.

I also found the very short segment where Todoroki looked in on Endeavor, who has now become the number one hero in a way he never wanted, to be quite well done.

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The second half with the dorm project and the parent visits, well that part I could probably see being cut down significantly as it really didn’t add much. About the only thing we really learned was that Midoriya’s mother is sensibly concerned about her child. So this part probably could have been cut down significantly and then we would have had more time to spend with the villains and that probably would have elevated this episode from a reasonable transitional episode to something pretty special in its own right.

Still, overall I liked this episode. I’m not so sure I care for the idea of the kids all living together and I just started thinking about the concept of putting all your eggs in one basket and if I was a villain I’d probably crush the basket, but I guess we’ll find out what happens next. I can almost guarantee though that we’re going to get a Mineta moment that everyone is just going to hate.

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Caligula Episode 11: I Did It

Great, we finally figured it all out. Only thing is, there’s nothing really to figure out. Any mumbo jumbo along the way existed only to make pretty basic story seem more than it was.

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Crazy girl from last week continues to crazy while other characters continue to lack consequence, but we’re getting a big fight sequence and something weird is happening in Mobius. None of this matters at all though, because it is inside a computer program, as we knew, and now we know that Ritsu kind of did it in the first place and he’s now outside the program trying to fix it. Though I’m not sure if his definition of fixing things is the same as everyone else’s given he doesn’t seem to want to shut the program down and free everyone so much as make the program actually work to make people happy.

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That said, this continues to be a pretty flat viewing experience with zero stakes and no real need to care about any of the random developments. And while I get everything does not need to be high stakes, I kind of need to care about something and here neither the characters nor plot have done enough to make me think they are worth worrying about.

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