Hell Girl Fourth Twilight Episode 4: To Curse or Not To Curse

Review Episode 4:

This week the story took place in a retirement home and I’m just going to point out that watching carers be cruel to the elderly is not exactly comfortable viewing. While I don’t worry too much in horror stories about the targets of the misery, there’s just that fraction too much truth in this story for it to sit well, and that probably adds to Hell Girl’s overall ambience with really is one that just likes to make the viewer feel that little bit uncomfortable.

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As she’s nearing the end of her life, Sakura decides to curse the director who runs the facility in order to protect her friends there, but then she hesitates because she is told she’ll go to hell after she dies. Apparently she hadn’t considered the part that came after life prior to being told that.

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However, when things come to a head, she pulls the string.

This episode works just for that story but there’s a lot going on in the background as well which makes it kind of interesting to watch unfold. Overall, another standard entry into the series so if you’ve liked it so far, there’s nothing disappointing here.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 17 + 18: Too Late To Save It But Things Are Finally Moving

Review Episode 17:

It is a shame it has taken 17 episodes to get to this point where finally the audience is given some insight into how such a town came to be and what its purpose might have been. Though, outside of that, the story continues as Kei tries to correct everything he sees as wrong even though no one else seems to even care what is going on the Bureau continues to either be a faceless entity or represented by the sub-group who are clearly pushing a personal agenda that may or may not be problematic (I can’t see the future so what would I know).

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Overall, Soma seems to still have things going her way but we’re still in the dark as to what it is she’s trying to ultimately accomplish. It would be nice if there was some clarity around that soon. As always, I find the idea of this show more interesting than its reality.

Review Episode 18:

That was actually a really good episode. Not just good compared to everything that had come before it, but just great to watch. You finally feel like there’s some pay off from watching through all the very stilted conversations this show has thrown at you.

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The character motives still remain a little murky and at times you just have to wonder how they think things will be better if they succeed, but at least all the little incidents are starting to make sense as to why we sat through them (except the girl in the glass marble – that one is still a mystery).

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There’s one more part in this particular arc and I’m really looking forward to it now. I still don’t actually think I should recommend this for people to watch. As a viewing experience it is still kind of lacking, but at least I’m starting to feel like it has been worth sticking it out.


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Princess Principal Episode 4: Lost and Found Identity

Review Episode 4:

This episode gave us another case with the girls (although Chise has been added into the mix) and they are once again infiltrating and finding their target with a few hijinks along the way. Still, a large part of the dialogue this episode was given to the characters trying to find a name for the team, which is interesting given that at this point the team is clearly lacking cohesion with Chise being left out at key moments, Ange trying to protect the Princess and keep her out of anything, Ange and the Princess trying to keep their former friendship a secret, and Dorothy having been tasked with keeping an eye on the Princess in case she turns out to be a double agent.

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However, the Princess is clearly unwilling to take on the passive role Ange has in mind for her and takes matters into her own hands. Despite their former friendship and genuine affection for one another, the Princess isn’t willing to wait in the tower for Ange to rescue her.

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As for Ange, she clearly states she hates her past self, which is odd given how hard she is working to save a friend from her former life. She continues to be a character full of contradictions and it is kind of interesting to try to figure out who she is beneath the many layers of lies she’s piled on top of herself. Depending on how she goes for the rest of the season I may need to write an article on her at some point.

I’ll admit that I’m kind of loving this show at this point. I’m not sure exactly where I think it is going in terms of the whole narrative arc but I don’t think that matters at this point given how much fun and how interesting the journey so far has been.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episodes 4 + 5: Not One Original Thought

Review Episode 4:

Right, so this show just kept piling mystery upon mystery in the first three episodes, hitting almost every clichĂ© about Catholicism that it could in the process and then we get to episode 4 which technically resolves this arc. Yep, virgin birth is actually artificial insemination using Hitler’s sperm because… well, my theory is that this story was written by a teenager who is overly impressed at their own cleverness and of course Hitler was evil so why wouldn’t he be at the centre of all of this mess.

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So yeah, not impressed with how this wrapped up, but not surprised either given the past three episodes. I’m guessing they’ll start a new case in episode 5 and I’m still kind of tossing up whether I’ll bother. I don’t really care about either of the examiners and they’ve given me no reason to. The writing in this mystery was pretty ordinary and the resolution was pretty immature.

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About the only thing this show has going for it is it doesn’t look or feel like anything else I’m watching this season. And that isn’t saying a lot.

Review Episode 5:

This episode takes us back to how Hiragi met Lauren and how they built up their relationship (also, how that weird game mentioned briefly in the first arc factors in).

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During their game they discuss an unsolved case of a man who was given 1000 wishes and I kind of enjoyed the story as it unfolded. It wasn’t as cluttered or as desperate to show off as the previous mystery. The fact that it remains unsolved is neither here nor there as it really is just aiming to make you think and that it does quite well.

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Still, the very nature of this episode plays into my initial though of why does he even have a partner for his examinations. Other than a gush at the end of the episode about how good Roberto is at ironing there is no mention of him in the story and he doesn’t appear at all.

While this was a better episode, this series is really not doing so great so far. It remains watchable, it has some ideas that might be interesting, but hasn’t really done anything I could recommend at this point.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 15 + 16: Why is there no restore power?

Review Episode 15:

I’m going to get this out of my system first: Why didn’t Misora tell Kei what she learned in the dream world? He reset it out of existence and because he didn’t know about it, it’s gone except for Soma’s malicious comment at the end. She may not have trying for malice, but telling someone they erased a crucial character development point from the girl they just admitted to liking is malicious no matter how you want to spin it.

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Okay, this episode ends the whole dream world story though to be honest the resolution was pretty much believe in yourself and reach out to friends or whatever and even the show itself didn’t really seem to care in the end about what happened to Michiru so I doubt we’re supposed to either. It really feels like this whole arc was just an excuse to get all the other players into place.

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This show is still incredibly slow even when it packs that much information into an episode the pace of events feel like they are crawling, but I kind of need to know what Soma is up to, so next episode here we go.

Review Episode 16:

This episode starts a new story arc and I must say this one has started in a pretty interesting manner. Then again, this show has never had a problem with intriguing ideas, it is more delivery and characterisation that it falls flat in.

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Soma is playing a fairly dangerous game by the looks of it and she’s most definitely dragging Kei (and by default, Misora) into the mess. From a relationship side, Kei finally actually spoke to Misora and made sure she saved after that point so for once he won’t reset their relationship progress out of existence. That’s a step forward. Too bad it took 16 episodes to get there.

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Okay, I am going to finish this show. I was thinking of dropping it now the new season had started but I can’t help it. I’m curious and want to know how this ends.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Series Review: How Much Trouble Can One Tanuki Get Into?

Overview:

As I went to write this, it occurred to me that I have yet to actually review season 1 of this show so I really must bump that up my priority list given reviewing season 2 without season 1 just seems odd. That said, season 2 picks up the story in the year following the events of season 1 and the tanuki are still trying to elect a trick magister and Yasaburo’s way too serious brother Yaichiro is still trying to follow in his father’s footsteps and assume the role. However, Yasaburo is not content to just have one thing going so once again he is interfering in tengu and human affairs as things get more and more out of control. I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.

Review:

The Eccentric Family is one of those very odd anime where there is a story and you could boil it down fairly simply in terms of the main plot, and yet that is almost incidental to what you are actually going to be watching. Season 2 follows the same format as season 1, in that we’ll mostly be following Yasaburo on his rambles around as he stirs up trouble and mischief, offers ‘advice’, and generally seeks out trouble for the sake of having a bit of fun. That said, season 2 seems to have decided it was time for a number of the cast members to grow up and so we have far more focus on romance and relationships outside of the family than in the previous season. There’s also a few quite dark moments (though season 1 did deal with the fall out of their father getting eaten so even though it is a comedy it isn’t as though it wasn’t always dealing with tragedy in one form or another).

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Because of the large cast and the rambling nature of the plot, it is more or less impossible to summarise the story given any summary is going to leave out massive amounts of subplot, all of which come back into the main storyline eventually. Basically season 2 follows yet another attempt at tanuki society electing a new trick magister only this time things seem to be going relatively smoothly for Yaichiro with almost no-one in tanuki society standing against him. The issue comes that Akadama-sensei has refused to be the tengu representative and has instead appointed Benten (who eats tanuki) and so the tanuki ask the recently returned not-tengu (his own insistence), Nidaime, to oversee the election instead, which really upsets Benten. Clearly that’s not all that is going on given we have a trip to hell, the return of the banished uncle, not one but two budding romances, the Friday Fellows seeking out yet another tanuki to eat, and multiple other storylines just bubbling along. Despite the sheer amount of content this show packs in it never feels overly rushed and even when things initially feel random, you know they will make sense eventually so you kind of just wait for them to twist back into the main narrative and then it all just kind of clicks.

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Basically, if you liked season 1 and enjoyed this eccentric cast walking around and having off beat conversations while stuff happens and they react, then season 2 gives you more of the same with a slightly more mature tone at times and with Yasaburo having a few more moments of reflection given even he realises that eventually his actions are going to get him killed.

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My favourite part of season 2, other than the music and the character designs which I loved in season 1 as well, was the inclusion of Nidaime. Any scene where he and Benten appeared together was fantastic. The tension between those characters and the occasional explosive encounters were well worth waiting for though I regret that they didn’t get a chance to meet in the aftermath as it would be interesting to see where they’ve ended up after that final encounter.

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Benten is still a fantastic support character in her own right, stealing literally every scene she is in, but this season she isn’t alone amongst a seemingly male dominated cast as Kaisei and Gyokuran (the two tanuki love interests) definitely step into the spot light at times (and isn’t it nice that these fool brothers are finding some fairly sensible matches to help keep them from going too far).

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The one complaint I would raise is that the ‘magic’ seems to have gone missing from a lot of this season. Yes, the tanuki still do transform but this is for the most part no big deal. There are a few encounters between Nidaime and Benten, however the last of them ends in hair pulling and barely anything of note (other than a storm being summoned and how jaded am I that this barely registered as magical). Basically, season 1 had a sense of wonder about the supernatural even as it worked to integrate the magical world into the city of Kyoto. Season 2 makes everything fairly common place and a lot of the wonder has just kind of fizzled. Admittedly, it was replaced by higher emotional stakes but I missed that feeling as I watched this season.

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If you’ve never given The Eccentric Family a go, don’t start with season 2. It assumes an understanding of the events of season 1 and the relationships between most of the characters are already pre-established and assumed knowledge. That said, this is one anime worth trying because it is kind of zany fun with a lot of drama thrown in and certainly feels a bit different.


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Fastest Finger First Episodes 2 + 3: An Academic’s Version of an Adrenaline Rush

Review Episode 2:

I mentioned this in my last post on this anime, but I really do love trivia and quizzes. So, no surprise my favourite part of watching this came from learning something new. Even if it was just that someone actually came up with a term to describe the space between the hem of a miniskirt and overknee socks. I cannot for the life of me think where that would be a useful bit of knowledge but I loved filing it away inside my head with all the other useless facts I’ve accumulated over the years.

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Oh yeah, I should probably review the episode. Basically, classmate girl tricks wimpy protagonist into ‘watching’ a quiz on the weekend but it turns out they are entered into the competition. We get through round one with wimpy guy seriously riding high on stress and tension to the point of near collapse. If you like quizzes and watching quizzes, it’s a lot of fun. Otherwise, there’s not a lot else going on and no, I haven’t yet remembered either of the main characters’ names and yet I’m not seeing that as a deterrent from watching the rest of this.

Review Episode 3:

I think this show is going to be pretty good for me. It kind of perfectly captures the feelings of playing a game with others. The final monologue by the main character about the fun and frustration perfectly sums up  the turbulent feelings you can get from playing and just how much of a rush it can be. While from a strictly narrative point of view this isn’t doing all that much, the subject matter and the emotional resonance I’m getting from it, is kind of enough to keep me glued to the screen.

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Still, I’m not sure how we’re going to go moving forward as we seem to be working hard to set up some sort of rivalry and we’ve also got childhood friends, as well as just plain social awkwardness all kind of cluttering up the quiz floor. Maybe these things will actually make it a better show in the long run or maybe they’ll just serve as a distraction. Also, I wonder if I’d have a better chance of picking up emphasis on words if I was watching this in English dub because I have enough issue just picking out even known Japanese words when they talk that fast that I certainly couldn’t have told you there was any emphasis given in the questions. Still, it was fun reading the subs and seeing if I could figure out where the questions were going and usually the answer was not with where the characters buzzed in.

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This one is a keeper for the season. I’m not arguing it is brilliant but I’m having a lot of fun.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episodes 2 + 3: This Anime is in Need of a Better Protagonist

Review Episode 2:

Inaba is getting used to the apartment and meeting more of the residents but there are two things that stop me from really getting into this episode early on. Despite all the different kinds of yokai literally floating around the apartment complex the only characters we’re really engaging with are either human or are ghosts with pretty much human appearance. It’s an incredibly wasted opportunity and while Inaba might later on interact more with the other residents, at this point it is more like he’s just kind of hovering on the edge of the complex rather than living in it. The second reason I’m not loving it is Inaba himself.

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We get a brief glimpse of his background but he is kind of dull as a protagonist and even as a character he is more random classmate number 7 rather than someone you would pay attention to. The end of this episode kind of tried to bring in some needed drama and tension but mostly this episode was a bit of a snore.

Review Episode 3:

The third episode was far more enjoyable but I’m still not really enjoying the protagonist here. And I’m not really sure what random classmate guy is up to but I’m guessing something because otherwise he is just a really annoying character.

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This episode definitely hit a more emotional tone but they were working overtime to hit you with that. Cute kid ghost, tragic childhood and early death, pursued even after death by a mother who no longer remembers even being human… They were seriously driving home the ‘feels’ part of the story.

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All and all, this show has so far been watchable but hasn’t really managed to be anything particularly special. It would be fine if it stayed this way as I’d watch through the season, but I’d really like to see it improve and make use of the introduced characters and a setting that should be inherently interesting but is so far kind of just okay.


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The Royal Tutor Series Review: I’m Certain This Was Listed as a Comedy

Overview:

Heine Wittgenstein has been called to tutor four of the royal princes with the task of training them to be future kings (the implications of potentially five candidates clamouring for the throne are hinted at but never dealt with). On arrival, Heine has his hands full winning over the four princes who aren’t exactly welcoming a new tutor with open arms.

I reviewed this show week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.

Review:

Going in to this review, I should probably admit I only even tried the first episode of this show because it seemed like the kind of thing I could quickly learn to dislike, drop and move on from. Then the first episode, while it didn’t totally defy my expectations, certainly made me rethink my position. While most of my joy from the early episodes comes from watching the stoic Heine interact with the fairly over the top Princes, I soon became quite attached to most of the cast and as the show continued I really found myself looking forward to each new episode. As a result, this anime became one of the most pleasantly surprising views I’ve had in awhile.

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However, just because it wasn’t a stupid comedy filled with empty headed pretty boys swanning about a palace doesn’t mean it was actually going to be good. I know that other reviewers actually ended up not liking the direction this anime took because while the comedy is clearly apparent in early episodes, this anime transitions from a comedy with some more dramatic moments to a drama that occasionally remembers to throw some comedy in. Given my preferences in viewing, this fit me perfectly and I found myself enjoying the show more and more as the season went on, except for the final episode but I’ll get back to that later.

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What I think worked with the transitioning tone is that it seemed to match where the Prince’s were in their character journeys. At the start the Princes were quite immature in their views and actions and the comedy was pretty fast and frequent. Then there was some growth and the comedy started tapering off a little to be replaced with more serious conversations about the future and what the Princes actually wanted from their future. Finally, the story looks at the Princes taking independent action and at that point the comedy pretty much gets tossed out the window (though there are still some moments that will make you smile as the Princes ‘investigate’). Because the tone always seemed to match the events in the story, I didn’t feel that this was a jarring change but rather a more organic one and it meant that the series didn’t feel like it lacked cohesion or like it was suddenly taking an unexpected turn.

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Of the cast, Heine is definitely the stand out. As the characters around him change in response to his presence, he is the absolute rock. His personality is set from the get go and he faces each situation in an expected and determined manner. This works because Heine is rarely at the forefront of the action or the solution to the issues. He offers a word of advice or encouragement, teaches a lesson when needed, and generally watches over his charges so that they don’t go too far out on a limb. One of my favourite moments was the flashback to childhood Heine as his personality was still pretty much identical. However, after a certain incident, we see younger Heine in one moment of actual vulnerability and it really makes you wonder how much he is hiding beneath that deadpan face of his.

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The four princes, Licht and Leo initially irritated me, Bruno started out arrogant, went through a weird overly servile phase before finally finding himself (and if one of these four ever becomes King and not the elder brother, please let it be Bruno). Kai remained fairly enigmatic for a large part of the opening due to his laconic nature so I couldn’t really make a judgement on him until well into the season, but like all the others, Kai goes through some excellent growth and by the end the four of them work together fairly effectively and all demonstrate some great characteristics.

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As this is a story about Kings and succession, there is of course a darker side to the story and in this case it is essentially the efforts of someone to remove Heine from the role of royal tutor (apparently he’s a bit too good at training future kings). There’s also the eldest Prince who we don’t see at all until the end of the show who one would suspect is actually the one who is going to be King one day. The conspiracy is basic enough given it really only gets a handful of episodes focussed on it, but it does keep things moving after we’ve gone through the initial teaching the Princes phase.

So, onto the final episode so spoilers below though I’ve tried to keep it fairly generic.

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The final episode is just cheesy. I didn’t much like it on first watch. It wraps up the story well enough and the Princes supposedly get to show off their new and improved ability to deal with things in a Kingly manner, but basically the writing fails them. If you are going to have four Princes deliver and impassioned speech then it really needed to have a bit more affect as what it ended up sounding like were four spoilt children whining because someone took their toy away and making grandiose statements and half-hearted arguments in a desperate plea to get it back. If the show was trying for a dramatic final moment and wanted to hit us with the emotions, it kind of missed its mark for me.

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Despite that, I really did enjoy watching The Royal Tutor during the Spring season. It isn’t the most memorable show and I doubt I’ll revisit it, but it was most definitely pleasant viewing for the season and you could certainly do worse.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episodes 2 + 3: Rush, Rush, Rush.

Review Episode 2:

There’s a few key elements in making a good mystery but one of the most important is pacing. This is where Vatican Miracle Examiner is getting it very wrong. In a show dripping with atmosphere and disturbing imagery all set within the confines of the Catholic Church, you would think they’d be able to build some decent tension and draw you into the mystery at hand.

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However, like with episode 1, this show is determined to pack everything it possibly can into its story and you have plot elements piling up on top of others to the point where you’ve barely reacted to one gruesome death or revelation when another is thrust into centre stage. The end result is a somewhat underwhelming viewing experience as it seems to be going through the motions of mystery and investigation without actually asking the audience to invest in any of the events.

Review Episode 3:

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In case we didn’t have enough going on in this mystery we now have nazis, drug trafficking and sexual assault. There comes a point where you aren’t making things more mysterious but simply cluttering things up. It was quite hard to even remember that they were initially sent to investigate an apparent immaculate conception though they do at least remind us of that mid-episode before we launch into yet more potential supernatural hijinks that will probably be explained away.

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Actually, the thing that bothered me more this episode was Robert’s existence. Hiraga is pretty much doing all the actual mystery solving, and what he doesn’t know his internet contact fills him in on, so Robert’s skills seem pretty superfluous to the story at this point. Essentially just allowing someone to be on screen when Hiraga makes his next leap in logic so that he can explain it to the audience.

In case it wasn’t fairly clear, I’m not overly impressed with this as a mystery or just a story. That said, I’m also not hating it and still think the setting has potential so I’m sticking with it and hoping for something interesting.


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