Hunter x Hunter Episodes 34 + 35

Review Episode 34:

Why is it when Killua says not to worry, I start to worry? Still, the events this episode were not unexpected and I kind of wondered why coercion to fight hadn’t come up earlier. Essentially, Gon’s 2 months of non-training have come to an end and now he and Killua are apparently determined to set speed records for learning everything because amazingly enough being the protagonist means you just can. While I appreciate we aren’t stuck here for months in training it’s a little ridiculous. Though, Killua’s solution in the end was somewhat more peaceful than I expected.

Review Episode 35:

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Okay, peaceful may not have been the best way to describe Killua’s solution. It was, however, effective. From that little game Gon and Killua now each have three wins and Hisoka has finally told Gon that he can pick the time for their fight. I’m not sure if that’s actually an achievement or not.

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And given some of the things happening in this arena in all the fights why on earth is the commentator bothering to say something is unbelievable at this point?

The only real negative here is the fights are getting a little samey and I’m kind of hoping we move away from the arena soon because as cute as Gon and Killua are I’m not a big fan of arena matches in any anime.


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Blue Exorcist Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

A continuation of Blue Exorcist (reviewed here), the story picks up with pretty much everyone being scared of Rin and Yukio still stressing about everything. Someone stole the eye of the Impure King so now we’re all going to Kyoto because clearly a world threat should be handled by students and a small branch group. I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my episodic thoughts click here.

Review:

It’s shows like this that make me hesitate when someone asks me if I’m excited about an upcoming sequel. Sure, the original may have been fun (in the case of Blue Exorcist I liked the first season well enough though I wasn’t a die-hard fan), but do we really need that continuation? And more importantly, is the continuation doing anything other than giving us more of the same?

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In the case of Blue Exorcist a continuation was actually kind of needed. Rin’s grand goal of defeating Satan was nowhere near being in sight at the end of season 1. However, season 2 barely even acknowledges that such a goal ever existed. If season 2 had progressed towards this and Rin had substantially grown and we could see some sort of end point that maybe eventually he’d have a chance at succeeding at his lofty and impossible goal, then maybe this could have worked.

Instead we get a side story about the Impure King which essentially means after a brief and pathetic struggle our cast shift locations to Kyoto where we meet Suguro’s family and a whole bunch of new characters, sit around and talk for most the season, and finally get an overly extended fight sequence against a villain who has literally no agency in the story other than to be the villain. It’s an entirely filler filled story that could have been told in about an hour for all the content it actually delivers.

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And still they could have pulled this off. The strength of Blue Exorcist wasn’t in its amazing plot (it had a great premise but didn’t do a lot with that anyway) or even the amazing characters (given they are all pretty much one or two note sound bits). The strength of season 1 was its crazy energy and the simple fact that it would embrace the absurd. It was fun. Logic could fail within the story but it was just fun to watch.

Season 2 failed to understand the concept of fun and absurd. And while a more serious tone for a show that probably needed it given the subject matter also could have worked, you need to give us something to replace the fun times of season 1. Characters sitting around talking and having group meetings, or watching a character repeatedly train and fail, or watching a character mope and wallow in self doubt, or hearing yet another speech about friendship… none of these things replace fun.

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It isn’t even that season 2 is not as good as season 1. As a story it has so many issues.

Firstly, Todo, who was kind of the catalyst for the story starting with his theft remains a complete enigma at the end. He didn’t die in that fight, we know that, and yet where is he at the end? Why did he stir things into motion? What’s his fascination with Yukio? Is he coming back? We don’t know anything, and while loose ends are fine in their own way, not knowing his motivation for stealing the eye and any of the events that follow make most of what happens pretty pointless to watch.

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Secondly, while we’re on the subject of villains, the Impure King himself is basically a giant mushroom growing out of control. There’s no personality, no presence, and given how late in the game he actually shows up, he really is just a plot device. The grand fear that he might be unleashed hovering over the series and then the final boss that no one cares about. Yes, he needs to be defeated, but there’s no satisfaction in seeing him defeated because I didn’t actually care about him as a villain.

Thirdly, the minor inconsistencies in the story itself. You know the coats the kids wore to rescue Rin that made them invisible, that they wear for the rest of the battle and yet people interact with them just fine. So they only make you invisible when you want to be? Really? This whole thing really annoyed me during those final episodes. They are having a conversation but isn’t that person invisible? It just kept distracting me from the incredibly repetitive dialogue. This wasn’t the only inconsistency the story served up but it was the most distracting.

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Fourthly, Rin. Arguably the only point to this whole arc is watching him finally gain control of his flames so that maybe people will trust him (and you know he won’t get executed). However he just doesn’t care. He’s so happy-go-lucky that the threat of execution is kind of just dropped into the story by Yukio as a major downer every now and then and then we just kind of push that aside and get back to Rin being Rin. Even his final drawing of the sword and defeating the Impure King (flames finally controlled because of friendship) is kind of half-hearted. So yes, Rin grew over these 12 episodes, but not significantly enough to justify the rest of the viewing time.

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Finally, Yukio. Yukio, please go get some professional help for your issues and stop taking them out on your brother. preferably before you end up turning into a demon. Yukio is quite possibly my least favourite character in this show and this season just kind of emphasised why. Its odd, because normally I like the character who thinks about things as opposed to the characters who rush in, but Yukio is so boring and so contradictory that I just want to slap him most episodes. In his defense, he did get a few good moments in the fight against Todo but that hardly makes up for everything else.

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People who really enjoyed season 1 of this and really like the characters, may find enough here to enjoy. For everyone else, I just don’t see it as being worth the time it takes to watch. It is watchable, but there’s just not much point in it. So while I did have some fun with this, mostly I just kind of watched it. And as the season progressed and it became increasingly clear they were stretching out a very small amount of material, I became increasingly more critical of this. There are some good moments but overall I’m probably never watching this again.


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Sword Oratoria Episode 2

Review:

While I had my reservations during episode 1, episode 2 of Sword Oratoria confirmed 3 things:

  1. Ais is an incredibly boring protagonist and even with every other character falling over themselves to talk about her or to her, it doesn’t make her any more interesting.
  2. While DanMachi was a fun adventure story with its occasionally over the top fan service/comedy moments interrupting the flow, Sword Oratoria seems to be a fan service driven comedy with occasional moments of adventure.
  3. Bell’s cameos are still the most interesting thing about this spin off.
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Pure genius.

All and all, that’s kind of depressing because I was kind of excited to see this show come out on AnimeLab even though it wasn’t the sequel I wanted but a spin-off I didn’t ask for. I still wanted to give it a go and enjoy it. But between breast groping, bathroom scenes, and a shopping trip that includes all the usual fetish outfits this episode gives us nothing to hold onto in terms of hope that this show might manage to be a fun adventure.

Sword Oratoria is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 2

Review:

Grimoire of Zero on paper probably looks like a really great anime. All of the ingredients are there. You’ve got witches, humans and beastfallen all with their own agendas, prejudices, and ignorances in various states of conflict, you have a paired up witch and beastfallen on what amounts to a magical fetch quest, and you have sufficient obstacles to create some interesting action sequences on their travels. So why and I finding it so dull to watch?

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Part of the issue comes from not particularly caring about any of the characters yet and episode 2 did little to make me care any more about them. Other than the mercenary stating he hates witches, repeatedly, and then at the end apologising half-heartedly for it, we learn nothing about him in this episode. Zero can’t decide if she wants to be mysterious, wise, passive or smug and just kind of pulls on whichever personality suits the moment. New witch boy, who I cannot remember the name (sorry, alias) of is an angry ignorant witch but deep down he’s a good person.

Other than not caring about this group, last week they set up a quest to find the grimoire and this week yellow haired boy tells them, oh yeah, that’s in our hideout. Okay, that was easy. I assume getting it back won’t be easy but really, way to shortcut a quest.

And did we seriously need an arrow to the knee joke here?

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Hunter X Hunter Episodes 20 + 21

Review Episode 20:

Okay, when they set up these matches I was not expecting Killua to be the one who lost. Nor was I expecting a “I’m your brother” reveal so there we go. Two surprises in one episode. Still, the moment below broke my heart just a little bit.

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He’s so cute. You know, for a trained killer. He just wants to be friends.

Anyway, Gon’s reaction at the end of the episode was perfect and I loved that the narrator felt the need to tell us twice that Gon was angry. Just in case we missed that from the way he marched down the hallway and kicked in the door. Of course, Gon being angry is a new state of affairs so maybe they just wanted to make sure we got it.

Review Episode 21:

They weren’t kidding when they said Gon was angry. And now we have all kinds of modern conveniences including ninja who use email. But anyway… I’ve given up trying to figure out if this is based on any particular time period because it just seems so incredibly mixed. Anyway, these two are really creepy still.

So that’s the exam done, except the final line of the episode makes it clear it isn’t. You know, for all the supposed perks of being a hunter, there are way too many hoops to jump through in this application process. But hey, we’re off to rescue Killua, maybe, so that should be fun.

Hunter X Hunter is available on Crunchyroll.


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Hunter X Hunter Episodes 18 + 19

Review Episode 18:

The fourth phase is finally ends though the snakes give them a little bit of trouble. Not as much as they should because apparently Gon is super-human. Evidenced by being able to hold his breath an impossibly long time and carrying three people simultaneously.

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I do get that this is an anime but I genuinely have to question how we are supposed to ever worry about these characters when they seem pretty indestructible. Unless they are an exam extra in which case you can get dropped to the bottom of the gorge without a word being said. Anyway, I’m not sure I like where those interview questions are leading but I guess we’ll find out in the next episode what the final phase is all about.

Review Episode 19:

Okay that was unnecessarily heavy. I watch a lot of fairly dark shows but when watching a show like this the last thing you expect is pretty much something that amounts to torture of an eleven year old, and levity at the end of the episode or not doesn’t make that sit any better. It’s kind of all about expectations. Watching something you know is going to be dark means you are pretty immune to the affect of it whereas in this case it kind of hit me off guard.

That aside, Gon is an idiot but apparently that’s enough for him to get by this time. Though part of me kind of wisher Leorio and Kurapika had run into the fray. So, broken arm, severe bruising (though realistically should be internal bleeding given the beating he took), and a head wound aside, Gon technically won his round and so should technically have passed the exam. Wonder how that will play out next episode.

Hunter X Hunter is available on Crunchyroll.


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Tomb Raider 2013 Game Review

Overview:

A reboot of the original series looking at the origins of Lara Croft. You will start the game struggling with basic skills but by the end you will be an arrow shooting mass-murderer (who of course is on the side of justice).

Review:

As a massive fan of the original Tomb Raider games I was kind of excited about the thought of a new one with more modern graphics and game play. The fact that it was an origin story was kind of ho-hum because it meant a lot of grinding to gain skills that you were just used to having when playing as Lara, but still the thought of this game filled me with excitement. That said, with the price of it and the various reviews, I didn’t end up buying or playing this game until 2015.

Here’s the thing about playing games on Steam (or most modern systems) compared to the old days of CD’s and the like. Steam tells you how long you’ve played a game. Even with my 100% completionist mentality and refusal to leave the forest until I’d found that one last charm, I have clocked exactly 16 hours in this game. Story finished. Most areas cleared of most collectables (one or two exceptions that I just gave up on because they really weren’t making collecting things worth the effort). I will admit I only unlocked half the achievements, again because they just don’t seem worth the effort it would take to do it.

16 hours. I put 49 into Plants vs Zombies before I gave it up as entirely repetitive.

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This isn’t really saying there is anything wrong with the story, or the game play, or the visuals, or anything else, but when I purchase a game, particularly an adventure game, I kind of expect to be adventuring for a bit longer than 16 hours. So that’s my major issue with this experience on the table.

However, this issue stems from a slightly deeper issue. The game is too easy. I openly admit to not being good at computer games. I enjoy them, but I die, a lot, even in games that aren’t Dark Souls. I died once while playing Tomb Raider. Once. And that was because of outside interference (cat jumped on keyboard). Okay, there may have been a second death when I missed a quick time event. If I’m smashing through this game with almost no challenge, there’s a real issue with the difficulty of the game. The original Tomb Raider games were brutal (or at least for my skill level). Death could occur at any time and it could come from the most pathetic sources imaginable (though mostly lack of depth perception and timing).

Nonetheless, this game isn’t bad. It looks great, the controls are responsive enough, there’s a variety of settings even though you are essentially stuck on an island, and you upgrade weapons and equipment at a steady enough pace so you don’t feel like things are being withheld for the sake of it. At the same time, upgrades might be too easily accessible and I never really seemed to run out of items or have to look hard for them.

Lara is a little bit of a hard character to like. She isn’t the confident and overly cocky character we knew from the old games but is finding her way there. At various points she seems to take charge and tell the other survivors what they are going to do or volunteers to be the one to do something when you have to wonder if there is any reason it has to be Lara other than she’s the protagonist. Still, it is kind of awesome watching her find her feet in the situation she finds herself in.

As to the actual story itself, it works. It does. I just can’t recall what the overall point of it was because it was also fairly forgettable. Mostly you are on an island and stranded but the other inhabitants of the island keep kidnapping and trying to kill you or your friends. There’s a greater mystery that Lara is trying to unravel but that is really all there is to the story.

I think fans of the original games will get a good nostalgia trip with just enough novelty to make this worth while, but you need to go in knowing this is not a challenging game nor is it going to be one you can settle in to play for months because the story is going to come to an end and replay value is minimal.

What are your thoughts on this game?


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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Movie Review

Overview:

Based on the games, Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft as she raids tombs? Not really. She finds a device hidden inside a clock that apparently is some big deal and some ancient cult have been trying to track down forever. What follows are a bunch of action set pieces before she kind of joins forces with them to find out what will happen when they get the fancy triangle all assembled and then some more action set pieces.

Review:

I love action films and I particularly love action films that don’t have the only female character being a damsel in distress. I also was a massive fan of the Tomb Raider games growing up (though I was not great at playing them because half the time I couldn’t figure out the difference between walls I could climb, rocks I could pull, or holes in the ground that I was about to fall down – the graphics, while awesome for the time, left much to be desired). So when this film came out in 2001 I really wanted it to be amazing.

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What I got was a reasonably decent if generic action movie, a product of its time, and while there were enough stylistic nods to the character designs of the game, the actual plot left a little bit to be desired. I did enjoy watching Tomb Raider but part of me always laments the ‘what could have been’ part of this film.

The list of concerns starts with Angelina Jolie as the titular Lara Croft. I was so excited when I saw she was going to take on this role. After seeing her performance in Girl Interrupted I was sold on the idea that Angelina could breathe life into a video game character who might be memorable but not so much for her personality (though she does deliver some good one-liners). Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened. Instead we see Angelina working very hard at looking tough or pouty and that is more or less the extent of Lara’s emotional range in this film. I get she’s meant to be a strong female character who is capable of taking on the guys but some more nuanced expressions might be nice. The closest we got was Lara laughing during a fight sequence in a way that I guess was supposed to show us just how tough she was because she could laugh while bullets flew everywhere.

Even if we accept that Angelina actually played Lara pretty much the way Lara is presented in most of the games we have the script itself. While some lines hit their mark such as Lara’s, “I’ve always found your ignorance quite amusing” others just land flat on the floor and then sit there while the characters kind of wait for the next thing to happen. “It’s a clock. It ticks. It’s wrong.” Thanks for pointing that out.

Then we have the action itself. Sometime in the late 1990’s, somehow people got it into their head that an action movie is made by coming up with a number of action scenarios with major set pieces and cool choreography, throw in some quick cuts and quirky camera angles, and then you can just kind of run them all together with some generic dialogue and call it a plot.

I’d point back to Terminator and Die Hard. These films got action right. They had an excellent core to their stories that was simple and yet drove every event that followed. Terminator, was simply “kill Sara Connor”. Right from the start, that’s what we were aiming for. Every action sequence had something to do with either achieving that goal or preventing it. Die Hard had terrorists in a building. “Stop the terrorists from killing the hostages.” It’s simple and yet gives meaning to every action scene in the film.

Tomb Raider starts with a massively over the top action sequence against a robotic adversary that is revealed at the end of the sequence to be just part of Lara’s training regime. It is a cool sequence, don’t get me wrong. But what do we learn? Do we know what the story is? Is Lara’s ability to hang upside down going to be useful later? Hey, I would even accept that somehow this film is going to be about the robot running amok. But, no. That isn’t the case.

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Instead, we go from this action sequence to some exposition about a planetary alignment (ooh) and then Lara has weird dreams which somehow lead her to find the ticking clock in her mansion (through some property destruction that seems to only exist to show how little regard Lara has for her own wealth). Follow this with a motorbike sequence (she’s awesome, she motorbikes) and so on. Admittedly, she does ride the motorbike in her mansion later for some reason. Blast out a massively overblown soundtrack and presto action movie of the early 2000’s here we are.

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Again, this doesn’t take away from any one of the action set pieces. There are some incredibly interesting enemies (if slightly unbelievable) and the setting changes so regularly you can’t possibly complain about the variety. It just makes it difficult to care about the outcome of any particular sequence when as an audience we’ve really been given no reason to care.

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Before I wrap up, I do want to touch on the ‘villain’ of the piece. While he has the right amount of slime going on with his dialogue delivery and his lines are about as good as you could expect given the rest of the dialogue, I just don’t think he ever presents enough of a threat to actually make this seem like anything more than Lara goes on a fetch quest while things get shot.

That said, I did enjoy this film. It is great like so many generic action movies for sitting back with some snacks and switching off. You’ll get a few laughs and the fight sequences are worth watching. Will you get anything more than that? Probably not.

If you watched Tomb Raider what did you think?


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Hunter x Hunter First Impressions

Okay, calling this a first impression is probably misleading given I did watch some of the original anime series (though where and when I do not remember). However, I’m picking up the 2011 version for the first time and at this point I intend to finish it.

First Impressions

I think I’m going to spend a lot of the first few episodes confused because it is similar to what I remember of the original but not the same so my brain keeps trying to reconcile the two memories and is failing to do so. However, given I didn’t watch much of the other series I’m pretty sure I’ll get over this eventually.

So far while I enjoyed the set up in this episode that was essentially all we got was set up and introductions. I didn’t really get a sense of danger or particularly care about anyone on the boat so the storm had very little impact. The other issue I found was that Gon is really way too up-beat (sorry, I shouldn’t dislike characters for being happy but honestly I just wanted someone to puncture some of his enthusiasm).

All and all though, this seems like it will be a nice action/adventure story and so many people have told me to watch it and it will be nice to clear it from my watch list so I’m going to keep going for now and see how far I get.

 

DanMachi Series Review

Overview:

In a fantasy world, Bell Cranel wants to be an adventurer and wants to meet the love of his life in a dungeon. With the divine blessing of his Goddess, Hestia, Bell is going to work hard to become strong.

Review:

Alright, I avoided this anime when it first came out. The name “Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?” was kind of an instant turn-off and I just had this image of the most generic harem comedy in existence and wasn’t going to go near it. No idea why I ended up watching the first episode of it, but I do know that I then watched the entire show in the space of an afternoon.

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Is it generic fantasy? Definitely. You have dungeons and elves and minotaurs and you’ve got a whole pile of RPG elements thrown in with levelling up and stat scores and the like. It isn’t trying to break new ground in its world building but neither is it playing these things as a joke. While the feel of the show is light-hearted they’ve taken world-building seriously and the world you are presented with is a very functional setting for a story.

Do we have a harem? Not quite but pretty close. Bell does have a lot of admirers by the end but to actually describe this as a harem comedy would not do justice to either this or to harems because while there are certainly elements of harem here, that isn’t the main focus despite the title. There is one girl that Bell likes and he uses that like as a motivation to drive himself to get stronger. While other characters flock around him and the usual comedy elements get thrown in, the story focusses very much on Bell developing as a character.

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So what works about this show? The comedy is a little bit childish and over the top at times, but it generally works and is amusing. Hestia in particular can usually make me smile. But then again, the idea of a Goddess taking on part time jobs to buy her hero equipment (or even dinner in the early stages) is pretty amusing in and of itself. Pretty much if you don’t crack a smile during the first episode then this show isn’t going to work for you because from a tone point of view it isn’t really going anywhere and they are only going to get more excessive in their efforts to make you laugh.

Bell Cranel works as a character. Okay, he’s a bit bland as a character (generic self-insert clich√©) but the story allows for him to grow and actually begin to make decisions and choices and to start to find out who he is. And unlike so many other characters he doesn’t discover he is actually an ego-maniac. He discovers that he genuinely wants to have an adventure and to protect his friends and he derives great joy from his small (and not so small) successes.

The interactions between the gods and the gods and their families work really well. I feel a little hypocritical on this point because they do a great job of massacring mythology in this and I’ve certainly criticised other shows for this previously, however I didn’t feel annoyed by the way they presented the gods in this show. They also didn’t try to shove their version of mythology down your throat. It was more they had god like characters who happen to have the names of gods you may or may not be familiar with and as a result you may or may not like the way they are represented. That said, the interactions are great.

Bell’s party that slowly forms is fantastic. Originally hiring a supporter (who comes with a lot of baggage) before recruiting a smith (who also comes with a lot of baggage), these additional characters really help to off-set Bell’s general blandness and inject new energy into the second half of the series. Welf Crozzo (the smith) is one of my favourite characters and my only complaint would be his limited screen time given how late in the series he is introduced.

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Then we have the dungeon exploration itself which is just pure fun. Whether the characters are picking off small fry or facing up against a floor boss, the combat is visually entertaining and hits just the right balance between being dramatic and being over the top. Bell’s battle against the minotaur is one I will continue to love forever. It perfectly brought together the previous plot points (Bell being embarrassed when he was cornered by a minotaur and being unable to fight against it as well as his desire to protect), it allowed for some critical character development and a bit of a power-up in the process before we moved into the final arc, and it was an awesome fight to watch. I loved every minute of that fight.

So, we now get to my major criticism and that is the final arc of the series. It doesn’t feel complete and the final boss fight is probably the most boring battle of the entire series. Bigger enemy doesn’t necessarily make for a better fight and it actually felt like all the clever moves and strategies that we’d see previous got tossed out the window as the characters en masse threw themselves at the giant blob of a villain (little bit sarcastic but you get the idea).¬† Admittedly, it ends the way it needs to for Bell as a character, but as a viewer you gain little satisfaction. And really, it all just feels like a resting point for a continuation that has yet to come, though I guess we’ll see if it ever does (rumours say yes, but they’ve been wrong before).

Okay, I have to mention my other criticism which is the basic dress of every female character (even the armoured ones). Starting from Hestia on, they are not dressed for any practical purpose and while some of the male costumes aren’t any better there is at least a wider variety of clothes for males.

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Is this show going to blow your mind and change the way you think? Probably not. What it should do is provide you with a few smiles, some exhilarating fight sequences, and a whole cast of cute and zany characters to chill out with for an afternoon. If that sounds appealing, pull up a chair and give it a watch.