Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 12

Review – Yes Spoilers:

Okay, I’m still kind of annoyed that we don’t know what’s up with the Beast Titan (but hey, there’s a nice tease at the end of the episode in case we forgot he was supposed to be significant), we don’t know what’s in Eren’s basement, we don’t know why some Titans can shift and some can’t and why eating someone transferred that power to Ymir, but credit where it is due, they did answer something in this final episode of season 2.

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Levi, I totally agree with this point given the speed of reveals compared to the speed of the deaths in this show.

The episode began with the smiling titan advancing on Eren and Mikasa. Hannes swoops in to save them and after putting up quite a good show manages to die heroically and bloodily right in front of Mikasa and Eren (because those two need more trauma in their lives). This actually led to a fairly nice moment of near silence. For a show that normally pelts us with sound from everything (horses, wind, capes, weapons, screams) the sudden silence was jarring and probably one of the most affective things it has done in terms of creating a moment. Still, hard to take Hannes’ death too seriously after watching some of the other deaths from other scouts. Why does this one smiling titan insist on splattering the surrounds with blood and gore while others manage to eat in a way that looks like they belong in a Saturday morning cartoon?

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This is the cartoon version – I will never stop laughing at this image.

But, I will say this for Eren. He is the type to never give up. He’ll just keep doing the same stupid thing over and over even when it doesn’t work. But he will get really angry with himself and need a pep-talk from Mikasa. And points to her, she actually seemed to be a real person for about two minutes in this episode with a real and genuine personality.

I’m totally overlooking the Ymir and Historia bit but to be honest they didn’t do anything with Christa/Historia. Ymir ultimately went with Reiner after a touching farewell, but weren’t the scouts looking for Christa as well because she knew something about the walls? Why didn’t they even hint at that later in the episode? We got confirmation about Connie’s village and Levi and Ervin now know what the audience has known for a few episodes that the titans inside the walls were the people from the village (did someone poison a well, or how does that happen?) but Christa’s story never gets mentioned.

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So last point I’ll touch on is the actual answer we got. A while back Reiner mentioned that Eren was a coordinate (or might be) and we had no context for what that might have meant. This episode, we get to see just what that means even if Eren is too dumb to figure out what just happened. And I guess Reiner’s point of view about Eren having the coordinate is pretty understandable given Eren is not the person I’d want to entrust with that sort of power either.

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Anyway, I now have to think back over the whole of this season and figure out where I stand on it. There have been some good moments but my overall impression is really mixed. I’ll write a full season review soon.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 11

Review:

There were so many moments in this episode where I just had to stop the episode and ask what on earth they were doing. Admittedly, the first half of this second season seemed like it had finally taken the hint and was working to develop the world and characters as well as lead us toward some answers. It was really, really enjoyable and nicely done. This second half however has devolved into more or less the mess that the second half of season one fell into. Events occurring and then more events (with some shouting in between).

There’s only one episode left of this second season. At this point there is zero chance of anything happening to allow this to end well (or logically, sensibly, or satisfyingly) and that is a real shame. Unfortunately, they will always choose cool over substance in this plot and as a direct result we have a mess.

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When did Attack on Titan start doing panels? I’m thinking back through all the previous episodes and when this style might have been used and I’m drawing an absolute blank. Why in the second last episode of the second season would you suddenly decide to do this? A more appropriate time to try this would have been back when Reiner pulled Eren aside to reveal he was a titan. A reveal of that magnitude would have deserved an artistically different choice and wouldn’t have felt as out of place as this moment did.

Then we have Mikasa revealing what we already knew. Her sole reason for existing in this anime and in this world is to save Eren. While I wouldn’t mind her wanting to save Eren while accomplishing other goals, her absolute single minded focus makes her an incredibly dull character. She doesn’t talk much, but she wastes what few words she has this episode on threats and lines you would expect a b grade villain to utter. Her absolute dismissal of the situation for the other characters also pretty much shuts down any possibility that we might find out their actual motives because you know, we still don’t know where they are going or why they are wanting Eren or Christa other than vaguely knowing they are going ‘home’ and that Christa knows something about the walls (not sure what), and Eren might be something but that point hasn’t been explained and yet:

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Where did that come from? And why does everyone just buy that? Since when was Eren being held up as humanities only hope? So frustrated right now.

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But hey, looks cool. Okay, some people will really enjoy this because we’re back to fast paced action for most of the second half of the episode and it is a cool fight (even if a lot of what is going on makes very little sense and once again a lot of the ‘extras’ get mowed down without drawing a weapon – aren’t these guys trained).  The titan throwing at the end was particularly cool to look at. But cool does not make for a good storyline and to be honest, the parts of the story I’m wanting to see kind of get buried here.

One more to go. I’d cross my fingers and hope for a worthwhile conclusion but I’d really hate to end up disappointed so at this stage I’ll just kind of hope for a really cool fight and maybe I’ll get that.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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My Hero Academia Episode 24

Review:

This episode is a bit blur like given we get 5 separate match ups and we get a lot of time out of the stadium dealing with the fallout of Midoriya and Todoroki’s fight from last week. I’m not upset about this as everything that is covered is kind of needed to get us to the end of the tournament and I’m glad they didn’t overly dwell on anything in this episode in particular, but it means that this episode works as a transition and not a lot else.

That said, there’s still a few major points that come up.

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Firstly, Todoroki is confronted by his father and it seems that My Hero Academia isn’t going for the instant healing of childhood trauma. Certainly Todoroki has a bit of a break-through in his fight with Midoriya but he isn’t about to let go of all of that baggage just because of one fight. My respect for the writers of this show shot up enormously after that revelation.

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Secondly, one of the teachers at the school finally acted like an adult and pretty much told Midoriya to stop breaking himself at the drop of the hat. The permanent disfigurement suffered already should have been incentive enough for him to tone it down but this is Midoriya we’re talking about so hopefully he pays attention.

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Also, we get a new villain in the mix who I’m guessing will become a bit more relevant after the tournament wraps up (unless the villains actually are psycho enough to attack a stadium full of pro-heroes – that could be amusing but deeply stupid). Okay, he does take out Iida’s brother here and that is probably going to lead to some other character trauma but that point, while made, wasn’t exactly prominent.

Lastly, Todoroki and Bakugo both made it through to the final round (like we were expecting anything else after Midoriya was taken out of the running).

As I said, this episode isn’t particularly good as a stand alone episode (unlike the previous two stories that have been phenomenal to watch just because of what they delivered in the episode), but it works well enough at getting us from point A to point B and has more than enough relevant plot points to ensure it isn’t an entirely skippable bit of filler. Looking forward to the next episode.

My Hero Academia is available on Crunchyroll.


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Attack On Titan Season 2 Episode 10

Review:

I’m pretty sure I said this previously, but they are really stretching content now. Last episode they just hung around in the trees chatting without revealing a thing and this week they snatch Christa and run which essentially means other than Christa having been taken, nothing was accomplished because the scouts are still chasing the titans down trying to recover Eren.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t get a little bit more this week.

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This is probably the first time they’ve actually addressed the issue of why they even want Eren in the first place and you know they aren’t even certain he’s the one they want. That would actually turn out to be pretty funny given they blew their cover and went to a lot of trouble to kidnap him and then it turns out, nope, just another person who can turn into a titan. And is the number of them starting to seem insane to anyone else? I mean, the implication this episode is that all of the titans are essentially people who’ve transformed and just lost sight of themselves (if you’ve read the manga and know the answer please don’t share, I’m just speculating based on the anime).

Eren continues to be my biggest problem with this series, though I did get a good laugh out of this sequence.

And then Reiner using unconscious Eren as a backpack was also pretty funny. Eren’s best look ever.

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Though did anyone else find it weird how little attention Reiner was actually paying the trees as he was flying through them. Given the speed he was moving if he actually wasn’t looking forward my assumption would be he should have collided more than once during that sequence.

Anyway, I moved Attack on Titan back out of the ‘must watch’. It’s amazing how much fun I was having earlier in this series when it seemed like we were focussing on the background characters and the mysteries but since we’ve gone to fight, run, fight, run and having to put up with Eren front and centre again, my overall enjoyment of this show has dropped back to finding it fun enough but I could really take it or leave it. I actually read several reviews of this episode prior to viewing and previously I’d made sure to watch the episode before reading anything about it. This week, I didn’t really mind because I wasn’t really expecting much.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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My Hero Academia Episode 23

Review (again, spoilers this week if you didn’t watch yet):

I’m not certain which battle was more impressive during this episode. The physical battle between Midoriya and Todoroki was visually amazing and absolutely intense. We had ice being blasted into a million pieces and strong gusts of wind and that was even before Todoroki caved on his not using his left side in combat stance.

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But as impressive as that was, it couldn’t have one-upped Uraraka and Bakuro’s efforts just for lasting longer and taking a more physical toll on both contestants. Certainly the audience was feeling the effect of some of those attacks. And it was the first time the teachers nearly intervened before the fight was over so they clearly felt both students were pushing themselves just a little too far for a tournament fight.

Yet, the fight that was more impressive was the one Midoriya declared when he decided to shatter Todoroki’s view of himself and his power. Having clearly told Endeavor last week that Todoroki wasn’t Endeavor, this week Midoriya makes a very similar declaration to Todoroki pointing out that his power is his own and not using it when everyone else is giving their all is not the kind of action a hero would take.

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With Todoroki declaring clearly he wanted to be a hero and reconnecting with the child who had genuinely wanted to be a hero, he wins the fight (or at least the match) but I can’t help feeling that this is also Midoriya’s victory.

Besides, even if Midoriya had made it to the next round, his body was kind of done after this match. So, no Midoriya/Bakugo fight for a final which leaves me wondering how this whole tournament arc will come to a close and I must admit at this point I’m really kind of excited to see what is next.

Truly amazing episode following on from a very strong episode. I’m going to be honest, the preview tried really hard but I just don’t know how the next episode is going to stand up after these last two.

My Hero Academia is available on Crunchyroll.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Girls in a Shonen Anime

I was inspired to write this list after watching My Hero Academia episode 22 on the weekend and then seeing this tweet:

Tweet - Shonen.JPG

It got me thinking about all the female characters in shonen anime and how usually they get sidelined or end up in support roles (healer, archer, etc). So I started thinking about my favourite female characters in these shows who defy the odds and actual get to be a front line fighter (even if only in the lead ups to final battles where the male protagonist of course steals back the show – it is shonen afterall). My other criteria for a spot on the list was I actually had to like them as a character. Just being a crazy fighter didn’t quite cut it if I couldn’t stand them whenever they were on screen.

Anyway, this is my list and I’d love for you to tell me who you would have included on yours.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Mikasa from Attack on Titan and Morgiana from Magi.

Number 5: Lenalee from D Gray Man

I really wondered about Lenalee and whether to include her or not. Mikasa was looking fairly tempting given she’s undeniably a better fighter, but Lenalee wins in terms of mostly having an actual personality other than save Eren. So what makes Lenalee awesome? During the early half of D Gray Man, she’s a very active fighter. She shows Allan the ropes of being part of the order and she holds her own in some pretty horrific fights. The first battle Lenalee and Allan have against Road Camelot takes a massive toll on both Lenalee and Allan but Lenalee is in that fight all the way. The second half of the original 103 episodes Lenalee gets a couple of exceedingly cool moments with a fight that literally destroys her innocence and ends up encasing her in crystal. She’s pretty much out of active combat at that point until we get to the final battle of that particular run of episodes where Lenalee’s innocence evolves and she gets a brand new power up just in time to help Allan win the fight. Admittedly though, you are just as often going to see Lenalee serving various characters cups of tea.

Number 4: Rukia from Bleach

Rukia is another strong female character that suffers from having her power broken/stolen/whatever in order to allow the male character a chance to actual grow and catch up. It would be lovely if we could just a female character strong and not need to be crippled for a good chunk of the plot for narrative convenience but apparently that is asking for a little too much (back to Mikasa, she hasn’t been crippled physically but emotionally she’s pretty stunted). Anyway, Rukia doesn’t get to show us how amazing she is for pretty much the entire first three seasons given Ichigo takes her power at the end of episode 1. Still, if you make it past that point, when Rukia comes back into the show you see the very capable shinigami that she is and her sword definitely does have one of the prettiest attacks in the show, if freezing your enemies solid can be considered pretty. What I really like about Rukia is her versatility. She uses her sword but she also uses a range of other attacks and thinks through her fights.

Number 3: Uraraka from My Hero Academia

Okay, one tournament fight does not make her an awesome fighter but seriously, Uraraka has been hanging in there right from the beginning. Despite a pretty timid personality she has stepped up to every challenge so far. She’s also a nice person. We’ve recently learned how fierce her desire to be a hero is and yet she still tried to give away her spot to Midoriya after the entrance exam. That’s a pretty impressive move for someone who is desperate to succeed. However, nice or not, hanging in there through every challenge including villains attacking the school, none of that is the reason for her place on the list. That one tournament fight is enough to show us that this girl is deadly serious about becoming a hero one day. She may not be there yet but her tenacity, skill, and focus were amazing and this girl really needs more attention on her.

Number 2: Akari from Hitsugi no Chaika

This one might be a weird choice and I will admit her weird brother focus does kind of make her a weird character at times, but Akari is fantastic. As a saboteur she’s got a fair range of skills at her disposal. I know most of the focus is on Toru, but Akari is in pretty much every fight and the majority of them wouldn’t have succeeded without her presence given the two siblings plan and one acts as bait or a distraction while the other usually either sets up the trap or pulls off whatever goal they are currently working towards. Also, there are two occasions where Akari turns on Toru (once for fun and once after brain washing). Both times, Akari pushes Toru hard. If you think Akari is just there for comic relief or rival love interest, think again. She’s a cold fighter and you better not be her opponent.

Number 1: Maka from Soul Eater

Okay, this was a given from the get go. Maka is not only an awesome fighter, hard worker, and academic, she’s also one of the few girls on the list who doesn’t lose her powers midway through a series and gets to be the main character and doesn’t lose out to the main guy in the show. Admittedly, she does go a little mad during one of the story arcs, but crazy Maka is kind of fun too (and a significantly stronger fighter due to a lack of care for personal safety). Actually, Soul Eater gets a double hit here because I’d love to also add Tsuabaki (Black Star’s weapon) to the list. She doesn’t get the spot light much but when she does, she really shines (plus she deserves a medal for putting up with Black Star).

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So that’s my list this week with my top 5 girls in shonen anime (okay, technically 6). I’d love to know who would have been on your list and which girls stand out to you.


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Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 9

Review:

I really enjoyed this episode and then I got to the end and realised that these four characters literally sat in the trees and shouted at each other for pretty much the entire run time and in the process, other than realising that Reiner really had lost his grip on reality, almost nothing was learned about what was going on or why. Then I realised pretty much all my enjoyment this episode came from either characters telling Eren what I’ve really wanted to tell Eren for some time:

Or from Ymir and Eren’s reactions to figuring that Reiner really was just a little bit off:

By the end of the episode the scouts are riding toward the forest and Ymir has decided to throw in with Reiner rather than Eren (though I’m guessing that’s only while it’s in her best interest) and we are done. I did still enjoy this episode but really pretty much nothing happens.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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Rokka- Braves of the Six Flowers Series Review

Overview:

Legend says, when the Evil God awakens from the deepest of darkness, the god of fate will summon Six Braves and grant them with the power to save the world. Adlet, who claims to be the strongest on the face of this earth, is chosen as one of the “Brave Six Flowers,” and sets out on a battle to prevent the resurrection of the Evil God. However, it turns out that there are Seven Braves who gathered at the promised land.

From Crunchyroll

Review:

I copied and pasted the overview this time because essentially this is supposed to be a mystery and given the series ends at an episode titled “The Time To Reveal The Answer” kind of means that if you have already been tipped off as to who the seventh is there isn’t a lot of point in watching. Mostly because even though the established premise of this series is that the braves have to go and fight the demon god, the series ends with them going to fight the demon god. Way to shoot your storyline in the foot.

So we end up with something that kind of feels like a prequel series to the story of how the braves defeat the demon god, and admittedly, it is interesting enough. As the characters point out about episode 4 or 5, it is a locked room mystery that needs to be solved. We’ve got a limited cast in a confined area and while there is no murder yet, all of them believe it is only a matter of time before the seventh tries to kill them so why not kill the seventh first.

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This is pretty much my biggest issue with this series. It ignores the grander plot of the world to focus on one step of a journey these characters are on (which would be fine if this were the first installment in an ongoing saga but as far as I am aware there’s been no announcement of a continuation of the anime) and the characters fall back on the silliest of all assumptions. They assume suspecting each other and trying to find the culprit is actually the best option when all it does is nearly lead to them taking each other out (which is more likely the plan in the first place). If they’d actually just looked for a way to deactivate the seal from the start and decided to not worry about whether someone was a fake or not, the fake would have had to act (giving themselves away) or would have simply failed.

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Having got that gripe out of the way, I really enjoyed watching this. Adlet is a really fun protagonist. Yeah, he boasts a bit and at times plays the fool, but he’s a lot of fun to watch in combat, to travel with, to see the other characters from his perspective, and he doesn’t have amazing plot armour saving him from harm though he does rely heavily on luck, a fact even he acknowledges toward the end. There are a few inconsistencies in how injured he is at times where it looks like one minute he can’t move, then he’s standing, and then he’s collapsed again, but this is a minor nit-pick.

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Actually, the four of the seven braves we meet are really fun characters (even if they aren’t entirely likeable). Unfortunately that leave three that mostly just fill a particular plot point or role and don’t really endear themselves as actual characters. This is kind of a problem for the simple reason that it really limits the number of suspects the audience actually has when putting the mystery together. There’s really only two probabilities from a fairly early point in the series and by episode 8 it should become reasonably obvious which on is the culprit and which one is the red-herring. They did try a small twist at the end by making you believe the red-herring was the culprit but that didn’t last particularly long before attention turned to the one who was the obvious suspect. I’m going to leave that line of speculation there because anything further just spoils viewing for others.

I wasn’t a fan of the theme song for this series. It isn’t bad by any means but it is just kind of there and the visuals are kind of ordinary. Considering the tone of the show and the over-the-top nature of some of the characters it would have been great for the opening to really get you ready for the show but mostly it was just kind of there and then we began.

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Visually this show is interesting. The fight sequences were fun to watch. Right from episode one where Adlet interrupts a sacred tournament, I enjoyed watching the combat in this show. Each character has a truly unique style and weapons and they tend to use tactics more than brute strength (though there is definitely an aspect of brute strength in a few of the fights). I liked the designs of the temples and cities with its very central/south american feel even as none of the character designs or weapons matched that particular setting. What it ends up feeling like is something wholly unique and it works even if it isn’t particularly logical at times.

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Really, this was fun to watch. I started it because I had a long weekend and wanted just to declutter my mind and ended up not really being able to stop watching. I did stop at episode 8 the first day and finished the remaining four episodes the next morning, but otherwise did this almost without pauses. I knew going in that the overall plot line wasn’t going to finish so that was less annoying than it might have been and the mystery was wrapped up neatly even though they then threw some sequel bait at us. Basically, if you haven’t given this one ago and you’ve got some free time, it will probably be an enjoyable few hours of viewing.

What are your thoughts on Rokka?


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Sword Art Online Abridged Series Review

Overview:

Sword Art Online Abridged is a parody series of Sword Art Online from Something Witty Entertainment over on YouTube. The story is essentially the same but the show has been recut with scenes removed, and it has an entirely new dub.

Review:

It is odd that I’m reviewing the abridged version of SAO before actually reviewing SAO however I’d like to write this while the show is still fresh in mind. As much as I enjoyed watching this abridged version on YouTube I’m pretty sure once was enough because while some of the jokes made me laugh out loud I somehow don’t think they’d have the same impact a second time through. That said, this is going to be a fairly short review.

Generally speaking I don’t much like comedy and modern parody is probably one of the things I hate most about comedy. Mostly because it seems a large majority of people think that you can just take a basic idea, lower the intelligence of all the characters, have some obvious physical humour, sex jokes, and inappropriate comments, and serve with substandard presentation, and voila people will enjoy. Tragically they are right in that a lot of people do enjoy that but I find it kind of tedious and dull and generally it misses the point of being a parody in that it is supposed to be an imitation of the original style but with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect. Admittedly, parody expands beyond simple imitation and is full of intertextual references and social commentary, but good parody understands the original subject matter, style and intent and plays off of it rather than simply boiling things down to the most obvious joke.

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This is where I fell in love with SAO Abridged. Yep, it has got swearing and obvious sex jokes (Yes, Klein does ask Kirito is he is going to show Asuna his sword skills which is one of the least subtle euphemisms you could come up with given the context). Honestly, if foul language or smut aren’t your thing, while this isn’t extreme by any means, it is fairly frequent so you are probably going to pass on the series at this point.

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However, what SAO Abridged does is demonstrate an actual understanding of the underlying characters they are making fun of. None of them are given entirely new personalities. Basic traits they already exhibited, through one interpretation of the characters at least, are merely exaggerated. So Kirito, the socially awkward poor communicator essentially becomes a bit of a sociopath at the beginning and all the way through his incredibly twisted personality is pointed out by other characters. The thing is, it isn’t as though these traits couldn’t be seen in the original series. He does prioritize his own life early in the series and he does avoid building meaningful relationships with other characters for an incredibly long time after his first attempt to join a guild ended in disaster. That understanding of Kirito’s original character, heavily reinterpreted and extremely exaggerated, is what makes it so funny (at least to me).

There is one recurring joke with Asuna that I really disliked and it has to do with how she deals with race and to be honest I found those scenes cringeworthy, however for 11 episodes of comedy, for there to only be one recurring joke that really missed its mark with me is something of a surprise even to me. Asuna, otherwise, is pretty funny in this parody. While episode 2 had me worried when they were clearly playing on female gamer stereotypes with Asuna not being able to open her menu, and that is a recurring joke, they fairly quickly expanded Asuna beyond the trope of new female gamer.

Additionally, I loved the way the show played on stereotypes of gamers and the current generation. It didn’t feel like it was just lazily taking on the usual stereotypes and saying, ‘hey we’re being self-aware, laugh’. I certainly loved some of the glitches that they introduced to the playing experience as it actually made the whole online gaming experience more real. Plus, as a parody it did call SAO on some of the more obvious issues particularly the motivation of the ‘villain’. It actually felt like some love and thought had gone into how to portray different ideas.

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And that’s where I have to highly recommend SAO Abridged. The quality of the show put together here and the thought put into the writing really stand out compared to so many other parody videos. Certainly there are some moments where added art work is not quite as polished as the scenes taken from the show and at times the voices don’t quite match up with the character movement, but for the most part the presentation is pretty polished for what it is. Plus, the sound track is awesome. Part of me wants to know why that isn’t the actual theme song for Sword Art Online now and that final fight sequence took on a whole new level of cool with that sound track.

Okay, I’m done. If you’ve watched it, what did you think?


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Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 8

Review:

This episode spent a bit of time trying to remind us that there are other characters in this story that have relevance (you know, like people who are actually in charge of things and aren’t just new recruits), but mostly they were just relaying information about stuff we’d already viewed, planning, or, in Levi’s case, delivering thinly veiled threats.

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Then we spend some time flashing back to the ‘good old days’ where Mikasa was always rescuing Eren after he threw himself into a situation he clearly couldn’t deal with. I love the nostalgia lens they put on those days like starvation, bullying, and public brawls are something we should look back on fondly. And this is a very optimistic assessment of Eren’s character. I forget sometimes that he is supposed to be the protagonist so other characters in the show view him through that lens.

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Anyway, the upshot of all of this is the Scouts are heading out to get Eren back or take out the other titans, or who actually knows what they really want. Mikasa and Armin will work to get Eren back. Christa is only tagging along for Ymir. Their motives are clear if a little stuck in tunnel vision mode and missing the slightly bigger picture.

I didn’t dislike this episode, but it really did feel like we were just waiting. Waiting for the horses, for the scouts to recover, for reinforcements and then for the pursuit to begin.

Attack on Titan is avialable on AnimeLab.


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