Summer 2017 Week 7

Most shows have kind of settled in now and while some are better than expected (Gamers and In Another World With My Smartphone) others are not going so great (Chronos Ruler and Vatican Miracle Examiner). Though even the ones going better than expected aren’t exactly blowing me away. Overall though, I’m not watching anything truly dreadful this season and there’s been some interesting characters and scenes so far. As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the shows of the season so please leave me a comment below.

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Must Watch

My Hero Academia (Episode 32)

Alright, episode 32 was a bit of filler and fluff to be honest, but at this point the show has been going so strongly and even though episode 32 didn’t really progress the main narrative it was still a pretty good episode, I’m going to forgive a little bit of filler. Hopefully though the show doesn’t lose its momentum at this point because it has really been driving forward this whole second season.

Princess Principal (Episode 6)

Finally we’ve finished the introductions and these episodes have been great. Now to stay a must watch, they now need to do something with these characters and the set up. Hopefully they succeed at kicking the story into gear next episode.

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Usually Entertaining

Gamers (Episode 5)

I’m still entertained by this, but I will point out that if we get another episode like this I’m going to have to move it back down into the just okay pile because there’s really no way to say that this show is actually better than okay. The fact that I’m personally amused by it doesn’t actually make it any better. I’m still hopeful that this show will do something with its premise but it seems it is pretty happy to move into cliché teen-romantic-drama territory and while that might make for amusement it doesn’t make for a show that I’d easily recommend.

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Okay, I Guess

In Another World With My Smartphone (Episode 5)

Okay, when you have a whole episode mostly dedicated to slimes dissolving girls clothes in an openly stolen trope like scene and otherwise there is almost nothing of note in the episode, I kind of can’t justify leaving this in the usually entertaining category. I’m hoping the story picks up again next episode but episode five was strictly fan servicey filler.

18if (Episode 6)

This was my favourite episode so far. Still absolutely not answers or any idea what the overall narrative might be, assuming there is one and this isn’t going to remain strictly episodic (though the presence of Lily kind of indicates there is supposed to be a bigger story going on). But this episode really nailed feeling like a dream sequence and was a lot of fun in the process. More like this would be appreciated in this series.

Knight’s & Magic (Episode 6)

And the okay but not amazing continues with this show. It is definitely watchable and also kind of fun, but realistically the story, characters and setting are all just kind of average. There’s a few minor points of interest where it is trying something new, but it isn’t really distinguishing itself from the many other similar stories we’ve seen before.

Fastest Finger First (Episode 6)

With a bit of a break from anything resembling serious quizzes or quiz practice, the show took a little bit of a dive this week. It wasn’t enough to really move it on the list, but I definitely enjoyed this episode less. I’m kind of hoping its a mid-season slump and next week I’m back to having fun with it.

Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight (Episode 5)

Episode 5 packs a bit of an emotional punch so if you’ve dropped off watching this it may be an episode to pick up. Of course it really is working the tragedy angle but it is doing it well. Nothing particularly mind blowing here but a strong episode in the series.

Clean Freak Aoyama Kun (Episode 6)

This continues to be watchable, mildly amusing, and occasionally slightly clever (also occasionally too stupid for words but that was to be expected from the premise). Anyway, it seems I’ll be sticking out the season of this show which I didn’t think would be the case when I started it.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life (Episode 7)

I feel bad that Clean Freak Aoyama-Kun is now above this on the list because just reading what these shows are about, that should not happen. Yet Elegant Yokai Apartment Life spent most of episode 6 making me sleepy before giving me maybe five minutes of entertainment. Then episode 7 delayed actually dealing with that situation and ended on another cliff hanger to find out what happens next. I really wish this was better, but it isn’t.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu (Episode 6)

Take the fight sequences out of this and what you have are semi-attractive male anime characters walking around talking a lot about things they’ve given you no reason to care about. Admittedly, some of the dialogue in episode 6 kind of makes it seem like we are heading towards an actual point but it is all a matter of wait and see.

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They Made This

Sagrada Reset (Episode 19)

Sagrada really does need its own category. It isn’t good, and the first half was barely even okay when viewed as a half season, but the story remained full of possibilities. This second half is drawing on all those possibilities and weaving something that is actually a really fascinating narrative and yet the question of whether that offsets the robotic characters and pacing issues remains to be seen.

Vatican Miracle Examiner (Episode 6)

Okay, we are starting a new mystery so here is Vatican Miracle Examiner’s chance to not be crazy and actually bring together a nice story. It has everything it needs, now it just needs to deliver.

Chronos Ruler (Episode 6)

This show is owning this category this season. The writing remains dreadful and the characters remain completely erratic and nonsensical. While the premise is really interesting, everything about the execution is kind of failing hard, except its appearance which is actually kind of nice.

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Tried and Dropped

Restaurant to Another World (Episode 1)

Centaur’s Life (Episode 1)

Convenience Store Boyfriends (Episode 1)

Saiyuki Reload Blast (Episode 1)

Battle Girl High School (Episode 1)

Hina Logic (Episode 1)

Tsuredure Children (Episode 1)

Fox Spirit Matchmaker (Episode 1)

Aho Girl (Episode 1)

The Irresponsible Galaxy Tylor (Episode 1)

I’m struggling this week with deciding who the best villain is. I’m thinking it is going to go to Hero Killer Stain but what are your thoughts?


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Hell Girl Episode 5: All About Perspective

Review:

This episode contains content that is definitely designed to be confrontational to the viewer. While it starts with the funeral of the three boys they aren’t going to leave it there and you the viewer will sit through the flash back as you see precisely how they came to their end. While you won’t feel particularly sorry for them, their young age and the fact that they don’t shy away from showing you the bodies will probably leave you feeling just a little queasy. So here’s a light hearted moment amongst the support cast.

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Yeah, even I’ll draw a line on screen caps including dead children. However, the more interesting story is happening behind the scenes as we are finally going to see a little bit more about the spirit in the green dress who has been hanging around (and while it is more interesting it is no less tragic than anything else this show offers up).

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So, a confronting but fairly riveting episode and looking forward to the next one.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 19 + 20: An Interesting Development

Review Episode 19:

Thinking about it, I would have to say that this was the best episode this show has so far delivered. What is kind of strange about that statement is that nothing that happens in this episode makes sense of is interesting if you haven’t sat through at least 17 of the previous episodes (the glass marble one is still making me scratch my head about why it existed). Still, this episode delivered and while I expected Misora to be targeted I probably should have paid more attention to the time frame for the show; both the time Kei and Misora have spent together and the time that Urachi can actually effect. I may have seen that development coming if I’d put the two together after the last episode. But I kind of like that sort of development that catches me by surprise but makes perfect sense.

This week we get a back story for Urachi and I like that they don’t spend too much time trying to make him a sympathetic character but do establish his goals and motives and it all kind of makes sense even if you do not want him to actually succeed.

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However outside of this, we finally get closure on why Soma Sumire died. No more speculation or half answers but actual truth and understanding. Also, the whole swamp man story from way back when returns which is a nice bit of cohesion for the series.

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The scenes between Soma and Kei this week are some of the best with Kei actually emoting in a genuine fashion for once and Soma finally not being the ‘witch’ but just a girl (or a copy of a girl) who isn’t going to end up with the guy she likes because she prioritized his happiness (maybe). It was kind of adorable.

Anyway, glad this show made a last minute attempt to pull itself out of a downward spiral and this second half has been really quite interesting, though probably not enough to offset how slow that first half was.

Review Episode 20:

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And we have entered what appears to be the final story with part one of five and abilities have been wiped from Sakurada with people forgetting them. However, Kei can’t forget and after one day of exploration he decides that abilities need to come back so he’s going to get Misora to reset.

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Of course, she’s been reverted to before she met Kei and has no reason to do what he says and more importantly has no memory of his power. Enter the photo that they were given which creates a replica of the place when abilities existed and then give a nod back to the fact that before Misora met Kei she just reset whenever she saw someone cry. Yes, the guy who has been pretty robotic all the way through has finally cried though to be honest I’m not sure if it was because of the situation or just because trying to reconcile all those different memories, both real and fake, just finally got to him.

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So, they now have two days to find a way to stop history repeating and abilities being wiped from Sakurada. On the bright side, even Kei acknowledges there isn’t really a reason abilities are needed and that he just likes it. I’d be kind of disappointed if they tried to pull some kind of theme of justice out of this at this point given all the way along we’ve been subject to the whims of the characters.

Looking forward to these final episodes.


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Castlevania Series Review: Nice Introduction

Overview:

Based on the games, this is a four episode anime available on Netflix. After Dracula’s human wife is burned as a witch he curses the country. Trevor Belmont, a hunter from an out of favour family is just trying to get by but finds himself dragged in to the fight.

Review:

I’m going to be honest and point out I’ve never played the Castlevania games. I’ve seen them, watched reviews about them, I know the gist of what the games are about, but I’ve never actually played one. Despite that, I was kind of excited when I heard Castlevania was getting an anime adaptation mostly because the basic story and style seemed like it would work well in an adaptation. And for what it is worth, that is true. These four episodes show case how epically a vampire/demon hunter story that includes decent fight sequences, chase scenes, and obvious adapted platforming sequences can translate into an anime.

What these four episodes don’t do is actually give us a series to review. I mean, they can call it a series if they like, but what that doesn’t change that all this really just wants to test the waters and to see whether or not there’s a market for it. Basically, I asked you into my restaurant, asked you to try out our new sandwich and then gave you the crust and said the rest might come later depending on your reaction.

Let’s be honest: no matter how good that crust was you are still going to be disappointed.

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The story here ends just as the team for future story is finally assembled and all are actually on board for hunting down a vengeful Dracula. This was a cool introduction into a story that while there are rumours it will come out and possibly next year, it doesn’t yet exist. That makes reviewing this kind of difficult because if nothing more ever comes out, then this is entirely skippable. There’s nothing revolutionary here and it isn’t amazing enough that you should watch an unfinished story. However, if the promised continuation occurs, and you happen to like horror, gore and action with a bit of off-colour and slightly earthy humour thrown in from time to time, this is actually a pretty good watch.

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The first episode gives us a pretty decent set up and motivation for the villain of the piece. Though calling Dracula the villain seems kind of wrong given he was minding his own business when the church set his wife on fire. However, I somehow doubt that justifies the mass slaughter of the population of an entire kingdom so maybe Dracula needs to get some anger management lessons and learn how to appropriately direct his anger at the individuals who actually deserve it.

After that, we switch pretty much entirely to following Trevor, our plucky hero who is selflessly dashing into the fray… okay, not quite. He’s a sour drunk who is over the slurs the church and the peasants hurl at his family for doing their job of demon hunting and basically he’s pretty happy is Dracula wants to burn the whole kingdom down as long as he can get a drink. Through various circumstances he ends up getting dragged into the conflict but while he’s fine with stopping Dracula he isn’t making friends with the church any time soon. There’s nothing particularly amazing about this kind of slovenly protagonist who is actually an amazing fighter if given the right trigger but his presentation works and some of his lines are actually pretty hilarious.

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However, that’s the end of positives for characterisation. The church and peasants suffer from incredible stereotyping and are mostly just around to be hated. Yes, we hate the priests and most of the peasants more than the genocidal vampire we’re supposed to see as the eventual villain (wait, remind me why we want Dracula stopped). Eventually we do meet a priest and some peasants that aren’t entirely unlikable and they even assist in the final fight in the city before a falling sequence that really should have left both the main characters dead, but it really isn’t enough to excuse the vilification of all the extras for the entire three episodes prior.

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Visually, this works as a horror. It has an older style look, which helps it fit in a bit more with the games, and the colour scheme works perfectly well for gothic horror. The music is also suitable for what it is trying to do though hardly noteworthy.

Basically, this could be great, if they get around to finishing the story. As it is, unless you are a die hard Castlevania fan or you are just curious, there’s not a lot of reason to jump into it.


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In Another World With My Smartphone Episode 5: Slimes… Sigh.

Review Episode 5:

Well, we knew from earlier episode comments that green slimes existed in this world and that they dissolved clothing so I guess we all knew this episode was coming. Given the premise they were actually fairly tame in how far they went with this one though it is the usual kind of anime stupidity that makes non-anime fans roll their eyes at the entire industry.

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And in case the slimes weren’t enough for the episode we then have Touya starting to combine his magic spells with his smartphone functionality and one of the results is seeing through the wall to one of his female companions as she changes. Maybe they have some fan service quota they have to hit for a show like this and due to the tame nature so far they decided to get a lot of points this episode.

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Though, if you can get past all that silliness, and it really is silly and not overly disturbing or offensive, then we actually get a reasonably sweet story about Touya helping out a couple of his companions and continuing to learn how he can use his smart phone in this new world. Even the slime section had some good moments for the group so all and all the episode is kind of fun.

I just want to know why only the girls ended up with dissolved clothes when we could have easily dumped our protagonist into the mix for an equally unnecessary but at least slightly novel outcome to the scenario.


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Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea

This post discusses My Hero Academia up to episode 31 focussing only on events in the anime. There are some minor spoilers if you have not watched that far.

Since the beginning of season 1, My Hero Academia has been obsessed with the idea of symbols. All Might is a symbol of justice. He is what other heroes aspire to be and villains fear him. Who All Might actually is has ceased to be important as it is the persona All Might carries when he is All Might that matters to the world he lives in.

Midoriya confronts the separation between the idea of who All Might is and the reality head on when he encounters his childhood hero in the real world. However, with Midoriya being Midoriya, he doesn’t become disillusioned but rather manages to reconcile his preconceived view of the hero with his new understanding of the man.

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But the world they live in (and the real world) does not work that way. Outside of a few of the teachers at UA, most people do not know about All Might’s current condition. He works hard to keep it a secret as he knows that if the symbol of justice ceases to be a shining and perfect symbol of justice, then the world and its balance will be irrevocably changed as villains will no longer have a reason to fear (despite all the other heroes who might do them in), and the younger generation of heroes won’t have that symbol to aspire to.

In a way, All Might’s current condition is actually more damaging than if he had died in the line of duty. If he had died in the line of duty than there could be an outpouring of grief for a hero who had done so much but he would have retained that perfect image he’d constructed until the end. Instead, if his condition as it stands becomes public knowledge, it is likely to tarnish the ideal he’s worked so hard to create (even though his current condition doesn’t change anything about what he had previously done).

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It is amazing in a way that the idea might be bullet proof and All Might’s death wouldn’t change it, but his living on and not representing the ideal people associate with him could deal significant damage. In a way, V from V for Vendetta got it right in that the only way to ensure his ideas carried forward without getting cluttered was to remove the man from the equation. With nothing ever known about the true identity of the terrorist V (at least not by the general public) he transcended the man he was and became a symbol of freedom and a voice for the people. What makes his death even more powerful was that Evey then pointed out that everyone in the crowd could project their own view upon V. He could be their brother who died, their father, their friend, coworker, lover, anyone. He could represent everything they wanted him to represent and he could never do anything to undermine their belief that how they saw him was what they intended.Which is scary because the idea is bullet proof and it is taking on a life of its own and the intended message may get overwritten and eroded in time or misappropriated for a cause it was never intended for and there is nothing anyone can do about that once the idea is out there.

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Which of course brings me to Hero Killer Stain. He has a clear ideal of what a hero should be and he was punishing those who failed to meet his expectations. We already knew that but then episode 31 gave us a bit more insight into how he became disillusioned when he dropped out of hero school and then tried to use words to convince the public that the way they saw heroes was problematic and ensured a system full of contradictions. ‘Hero’ had become a job. Having heroic qualities and a heroic mindset was not as important as results and showmanship. As the Hero Killer his acts caught the attention of many and his arrest got even more eyes locked onto him and his ‘ideas’.

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What becomes worrisome about this, or awesome depending on how the plot is handled, is that in the eyes of the public there is a link between the Hero Killer and the League of Villains. For the audience, we know that Stain outright refused to join the League of Villains as they did not live up to his standards of what a true villain should be any more than the heroes he had killed lived up to the standard of true hero. But the public do not know that. They only know that there is a connection. More importantly, how Stain was making his judgement of which heroes were true heroes and which were fake was through a deeply personal set of criteria. Any attempt to mimic of copy his ideology would result in a character coming to a very different set of judgements.

But Hero Killer Stain has been arrested. He has become the symbol of a movement and has lit a fire motivating people to action and then he has been removed from the scene. He is unable to correct perceptions (even if he was so inclined) and more importantly, unlike All Might, he’s already fallen so he can’t mar his own reputation that has taken on a life separate from himself. Admittedly, he could escape and get out and change the legend unfolding around him, but that would almost be counter productive to the movement left in his wake.

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For the League of Villains, if they are in any way able to understand how the world works, they won’t ever point out they were at odds with the Hero Killer. They’ll allow his symbol and image to draw people to them and then they will twist that message to their own ends.

However, what I find particularly interesting about this is that All Might was a constructed brand. He went out of his way to become the symbol of an idea. Whereas, Hero Killer Stain simply lived true to his own ideals. He didn’t make speeches or pompous appearances (he’d already given up on using words to change people’s minds). He acted and his actions spoke for him, though whether the true message came across is anyone’s guess and it will be interesting to see how the next generation of villains take his message and use it. But that’s why Hero Killer’s mark is going to be harder to erase than All Might’s would. Hero Killer was appealing to base impulses that people had hidden away and were just waiting for an excuse to let out and his message spread organically without anyone in particular constructing the narrative behind it and yet its momentum was undeniable.

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Of course, there’s a lot of real world parallels about how messages and branding as well as people standing in for ideals that we could get into but I’m certain that most of us have already thought about just how this works in reality and some recent examples. Even if the show doesn’t go any further into this issue, it has been an intriguing build up (please don’t spoil in the comments if you have read the manga).


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Gamers Episode 5: This Makes Me Wonder If Being Socially Inept is Contagious?

Review:

I’m kind of in a bind with this show. I really like watching the episodes… but, looking at this episode objectively I really shouldn’t be enjoying this. The characters are all acting too stupid for words, too stupid even for cliché gamer characters with limited social skills, and they seem to be acting stupider by the minute. I should be annoyed, exasperated, or eye-rolling and bored, and yet I’m laughing.

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At this point each character thinks every other character has a thing for every other character and none of them have a clue who actually likes them and it is all just kind of depressing when you think about it. It would be slightly better if even one character knew who had a crush on them and just didn’t like them back, but no, instead every character is living is blissful ignorance of reality and imposing their own misinterpreted view on events.

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The game club is almost a non-entity in this show now as these characters who rejected it are now having ‘meet-ups’ apparently to discuss gaming but more to manipulate the relationships just a little bit more. All and all it is messy and the narrative is really going nowhere because we’re just watching these characters go through the train-wreck that is their attempt at a social life.

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Still, between the upbeat, game themed music in the background, and the absolutely serious way our main character delivers lines that are completely going to be misconstrued, I’m having a really good time watching this show. This was not a good episode from a character or story point of view, but it was fun and maybe for this season that is enough.


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Princess Principal Episodes 5 + 6: Always A Train Story

Review Episode 5:

I get that trains were really important as a mode of transport way back when, but I find train episodes relatively boring for the simple reason that there are only so many things you can do in a train episode. Basically you have linear paths because the carriages are strung out behind one another, and you can go above or below the carriage, and you always have to worry about derailment and carriage separation, but the stories always end up playing out much the same way. Okay, Baccano managed something a little different on a train, but Princess Principal adds only anti-gravity catch up from the separated carriages to the ones ahead and a merging track that may cause two trains to collide.

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However, while the plot of Princess Principal becomes quite predictable this week due to his chosen setting, the focus on character, particularly Chise, is quite interesting. We’ve now seen how each of the girls has come to this group and each story has given us a bit more insight into the group itself. Hopefully now the overall narrative can kick into gear because we’ve now gotten through these introductions.

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This remains quite a strong anime this season even if I was making fun of the train setting earlier. The episode works, the characters are fantastic, and some of the fight sequences on the train were pretty cool.

Review Episode 6:

Nope, instead we’re going to get some back story on Dorothy and a fairly tragic tale that is pretty predictable but great to watch nonetheless. It was also great to see the dynamic between Dorothy and Beatrice as this episode unfolded given while they were in the last episode they were more in the background to Ange and Chise (who this time are the ones sent to the sidelines).

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This is an episode of real highs and lows for Dorothy with Beatrice acting as the observer and the one who asks the questions the audience want an answer to and it works really well. The drunken father may have been a fairly generic plot device, but it is delivered well and overall the story, while not complicated, is largely entertaining.

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None of this however changes the fact that at episode 6, other than Ange wanting to help the Princess and the Princess wanting to maybe be the Queen, we really don’t have a central plot here. The individual cases are pretty entertaining and the girls are a real joy to watch, but what is holding this back from being truly fantastic is a sense that we are heading toward something.


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Fastest Finger First Episode 6: Have Phone = Have Social Life, Maybe

Review:

Koshiyama is on an outing with a friend, or at least a classmate in the same club as him so that kind of counts. And he is armed with a smartphone gifted to him by his parents so now he’s out to collect your contact info. Unfortunately, making friends isn’t exactly covered within the phone manual.

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I found this sequence kind of adorable given I always used to love reading the manuals that came with new devices. Saddest thing ever was when they stopped including anything more than basic specs and part guides and made you go online to actually find out how to use the device. Even the Kindle guide only tells you how to open the user manual on the Kindle – tragic but not relevant to the show.

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This episode sees our budding quiz bowl players in an arcade playing a quiz game and of course rival boy is there as well. There’s some back and fourth, some new quiz formats and discussion of how to get faster or better, and some general quizzing before your cliché bullies show up and then get taken out by another character that looks too distinct to be a random one episode character so my bet is they are showing up at a quiz meet later.

Outside of this we get the brief side story of technology girl and the club leader shopping for parts to make the buzzers, and the quiz obsessed girl helping her friend at a maid cafe for reasons that only the word ‘anime’ can explain.

I’ll be honest, this is not such a great episode. Barely anything happens and while there are some laughs to be had with less quizzes and very little narrative going on the characters were left to carry the bulk of the episode and they just aren’t up to the task, despite my finding the main character adorable in an incredibly geeky way.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episodes 6 + 7: Well, guess that secret is out.

Review Episode 6:

Another resident returns to the apartment (seriously, how many residents are there not living in the complex) and he happens to collect and sell books. Of course one of the books is a bit odd and Inaba and then exorcist girl (who doesn’t ever seem to actually do any exorcisms) noticed.

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Despite her taking the book to be checked out it then shows up in Inaba’s bedroom and hey, turns out it is full of spirits and Inaba is now their master. Only most the spirits in the book seem pretty useless.

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It is a pretty dull episode really, just going through the motions of introduce new character and weird object and then have the cheap comedy of the spirits in the book. However, Hase shows up at the end to save the episode. It seems like Inaba wants to tell him about the apartment but he’s struggling and then after Hase picks a fight with some thugs (as you do) they get chased and the book shows up again kind of outing Inaba’s secret whether he wanted to tell Hase then or not.

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This of course leaves the whole episode on a cliff-hanger but I’m not that annoyed by it. If the last five minutes hadn’t happened this would have been a pretty pointless and dull episode so I was just kind of happy something happened in the end.

Review Episode 7:

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Plunging boldly forward (I’m joking), the show chooses to put the Inaba and Hase conversation about the random spirit on hold while they deal with the thugs, which would make sense except they wrap that up pretty quick and then Hase still kind of leaves without an actual explanation. Nor does he offer any explanation as to his own apparent knowledge, though Inaba is a particular kind of dense given he’s impressed with a fairly rudimentary magic fact.

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Which leads us on to the cutest of the spirits summoned so far. At the behest of the apartment’s occupants, and because cheap jokes are so much better than progressing a plot according to the writers of this increasingly hard to defend show, Inaba summons Death, Thanatos and get’s this cute little guy.

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Seriously, I want one.

Outside of that, the show then goes through a spiritual training sequence that is pretty stock standard before they decide to leave us on another cliff-hanger with Hase dramatically announcing on the phone that he is visiting the apartment. Or at least, that would be dramatic if they hadn’t really shown the outcome of that visit in their preview. This show  makes some truly baffling choices.


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