The Royal Tutor Episode 12

Review:

I’m pretty happy with how this has resolved and feel a nice sense of completion here. Certainly there’s more story to be told but I’m really pretty happy here and now and don’t have much desire to watch on should there ever be a sequel. That’s mostly because the issue of the Royal Tutor is finalised and the other issues were never of all that much importance but rather served as the backdrop to what turned out to be a pretty reasonable series (though more on that when I get around to a whole series review of this show).

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This final episode shows us the culmination of the Prince’s growth and how when they combine their powers they can save the world… oh wait, that wasn’t right. By combining their individual strengths and working cooperatively they can convince a bunch of Lords to choose their candidate to be the royal tutor?

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As much as I enjoyed this, I wasn’t overly impressed with their impassioned speeches this episode. I kind of felt that after two days preparation they’d have had something a bit more polished prepared rather than just storm the council and spout platitudes, but its a minor nitpick in what has been a pretty enjoyable ride.

Full series review coming soonish.

The Royal Tutor is available on Crunchyroll.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 11

Review:

It is all happening this episode with all of the many little plots coming together fantastically for what looks like a great ending next week (or whenever I get to see it). Despite talking trains, evil imposters, caged tanuki, dreams where sons converse with their dead father, transforming giant tigers, and exploding factories, the strangest point this episode still goes to seeing Benten crying.

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Her relationship with Yasaburo has always been ambiguous and this point doesn’t do much to clarify given she clearly isn’t trying to save him but she will mourn the possibility of him being eaten in a very strange mirror of the nightmare he had in the last episode. Though, it isn’t as though Benten did anything to stop the inevitable rescue effort either.

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With everything starting to come out into the opening and the family ties being stronger than ever, I am really looking forward to how this resolves. This show understood what made season 1 special to those who watched it and has managed to really capture those parts in this sequel without feeling too much like a duplication (though there have definitely been some moments where it feels a bit like an echo).

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Now if I could get a Nidaime/Benten showdown I’d be over the moon but given how the story has unfolded it doesn’t seem like that is on the cards.

The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 11

Review:

I was 99.9% sure that at the end of this episode I was going to drop the show. Dead girl is no longer dead, I have no further investment in the characters or mystery, and now we’re kind of getting a filler episode following the apparently human character who is making most toasters look like they have a personality. Actually, I’m sure my toaster has more personality. Although worst of all is probably the absence of Asai Kei. While he isn’t the most dynamic character ever, his presence in this show keeps things kind of clicking over and without him we really are just stuck looking at sleeping cats and buying ice-cream.

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So why am I not declaring this show dead boring and being done with it? Because I stupidly watched the preview and once again it looks like things might become interesting. Why I would believe that when this show has squandered almost every chance it has had at being interesting is an interesting question and one that I’m sure I’ll come back to in a few week’s time. For now though, despite going on a break very soon, I’ll probably continue with this show into the next season which means I’ll catch up on episode reviews after my break. Either that or announce that I’ve officially dropped it.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 10

Review:

This show continues to charm with its pleasant character interactions and exchanges even while it drops some pretty big bomb shells in this episode. Things have been heating up for a while and a lot of the plot threads have started to come together but now we get the big revelation for this season and it is definitely matching up with the expectations season 1 gave us.

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Not the revelation but a line that was too cute to ignore.

This episode is dealing with the fall out of Yasaburo’s choices in convincing the Nidaime to be the tanuki representative when the Trick Master is chosen rather than Benten. Admittedly, the logic behind that makes sense because even though Yasaburo kind of likes Benten, she does eat Tanuki so it would be kind of hard for them to have her around. Not to mention they all turn into furballs at the sight of her. Still she isn’t exactly someone you want looking for you.

Still, the real revelation comes through the second eldest brother visiting some branch family on his journey. I wasn’t paying enough attention to that particular plot point thinking it was only a minor concern but they just revealed something that is literally going to change everything about how this season wraps up and needless to say it has to do with the whole election of the Trick Master and the feud between the families that they so neatly tucked away a few episodes ago.

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But before the full weight of that reveal sinks in, Kaisei reappears in front of Yasaburo. While part of her presence there just reinforces what we had just learned, the next moments, while not unexpected, certainly escalate the tension of this series. They are clearly going for a very dramatic finish and we’ve not got all the key players in place.

I’m just hoping they don’t actually eat a tanuki.

The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 9

Review:

This show continues to demonstrate it really understands the bonds between its characters and it is that spiderweb of relationships and the stain that gets put on certain strands that makes this episode great. Admittedly, by itself it isn’t particularly impressive, but having seen all the pieces getting put into place leading up to this episode and then the episode terminating with one of the more dramatic entrances of the series and setting up a face off between Benten and Nidaime which we’ve essentially wanted since meeting Nidaime this season, plus placing the Tanuki right in the middle of it all just kind of makes everything work.

As usual Yasaburo is getting in way over his head and being cautioned by his brother, however he plows on with his plan though I don’t think even he realised just how big a storm he was in the process of stirring up.

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As viewers we’ve known that the Nidaime and Benten had to have had some backstory even though up until now they haven’t admitted to knowing each other previously. We’ve also known that a show down between the two was more or less inevitable and that when it finally happened it would be explosive. This episode leaves us poised for that show down but I can’t help but think they may delay a little longer, possibly fill in the back story or choose to go a different path. This show has never been about direct confrontations and has had a fairly interesting tendency to have situations resolve in unusual ways so I’m actually looking forward to the next choice. Whether I get a fight between these characters or not, I’m sure to be entertained.

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The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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KADO Episode 8

Review:

I’m sure I’ve already said this, but if you haven’t given KADO a try this season, you really do need to. While the slow pace and dialogue heavy delivery won’t sit well with everyone, the ideas this show develops as the narrative unfolds are well worth it, plus it actually has a fairly excellent if simple storyline. It isn’t getting so caught up in being clever that it forgets its own narrative.

There’s too much going on at this point for me to really know what my thoughts on this episode alone are. I will admit, the low point of this episode was the ‘date’ Shindo went on.

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Mostly my issue with this was the cheap comedy moment where the family assume the two are together but I also had an issue with Tsukai herself. She’s making a lot of assumptions about life and evolution and while her anti-change, protect what already exists, stance is recognisable as many people oppose change even if it is for the better, it just seems at odds with the life she’s just shown us. While she loves what her father does, her father describes her as someone who never listened and flitted off overseas and did what she wanted. It doesn’t seem like the mindset of someone who would actively fight against progress for the sake of preserving culture. That said, it isn’t as though she is wrong either. zaShunina’s changes are rapid and will result in violent destruction of the world that was if carried out in their entirety. That may ultimately be a good thing but I think most people would prefer to be eased in to such drastic changes.

However, one of the things I have loved about this show is the different responses we’ve seen to the arrival of zaShunina so this was just a deeper look at someone who wasn’t necessarily saying he was an evil alien out to the destroy the world, but still pointed out that his changes were going to lead to the destruction of the world as we currently know it.

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The more interesting part of this episode came from the decision to broadcast Sansa. I wondered if, given they only needed to see the device, if the effect could be transmitted via video and this episode clearly tells us, yes it can. This leads to an interesting but very short discussion about whether sharing information is in itself wrong.

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The language is quite emotive even though all up this exchange lasts less than five minutes of the episode it is once again  very interesting thought and one that can easily be applied to the real world. This is where Kado has continued to shine. Each dilemma faced by the characters has a real world equivalent and the range of viewpoints put forward are never that far fetched as we’ve seen their parallels over and over in reality.

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Clearly though, they go forward. They have to at this point for the narrative to continue. Still, we’re left wondering as for the first time the show itself draws zaShunina in a potentially threatening manner at the end of the episode. Prior to this, viewers have been suspicious of him mostly because we’re humans and someone strange appearing and offering free stuff is naturally viewed as suspicious. But none of his actions or even the way he has been portrayed in previous episodes have actually given us any concrete reason to believe he was up to no good. It may be deliberately misleading, but the final scene this week really brings those suspicions to the foreground and once more I’m left desperate for the next episode because I want to know.

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Once again, if you haven’t started this show, go watch it.

Kado is available on Crunchyroll.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 8

Review:

I find it interesting that my first thought after watching this episode was how much better this show was at telegraphing the end of the episode than Granblue Fantasy. I really shouldn’t compare the two shows given they are entirely different but my biggest criticism of Granblue this week was how heavy handed and repetitive their set up was whereas I’m now going to praise The Eccentric Family for how well it delivered us to the episode ending.

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Yasaburo was definitely asking for it this week after delivering the declaration that he doesn’t have a single weakness. The audience automatically knows that somewhere down the line we’re going to find something that undoes his transformation and this show doesn’t make us wait too long as the reveal comes at the end of the episode. Admittedly, if you read the episode title you’ll pretty much trigger right at that point what is going to happen, but that’s another story.

We then get some flirting/threatening between Nidaime and Benten (seriously love these two together on screen as they have great chemistry and you never know if they are going to try to kill each other or if they are actually attracted to one another).  In case the theme of love and relationships isn’t being hammered home enough by this one we then get Yaichirou having dinner with Yasaburo and telling him that he should reinstate his engagement with Kaisei that was called off by his uncle. Yasaburo being Yasaburo declines and shoves his foot firmly down his throat and after a further confrontation with Yajirou (who essentially tells him to grow up), Yasaburo heads off to the mountains.

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Where we get the much anticipated confrontation with Kaisei. It’s wonderfully done and brings a lot of points together and also explains Kaisei’s fairly peculiar behaviour in the series to date.

Honestly, I just really enjoy the way this story unfolds and weaves back on itself and continues to reveal more about the characters even while the plot just kind of exists. Normally that lack of forward progress would bother me but it kind of feels like the point of this given Yasaburo is pretty determined not to have a plan and just react to things as they occur.

The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 8

Review – Spoilers:

Is it wrong that I felt an immense satisfaction at the end of this episode as one of my suspicions about the girl who died off camera not being dead was kind of confirmed. We don’t know why or how yet because why explain anything quickly but at least that’s one piece of the puzzle slotted into place now.

However, this episode. This was a bit of a fizzle after the build up for this confrontation with Eri Oka. Pretty much, she lost before she started and her plan was pretty flawed. The more significant part came from my deep concerns about Misora (which I already had but this episode made them a little worse).

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Did I miss something where there was ever an established reason why Misora essentially believes everything Kei says without a single thought process of her own? I know she set the rule for resets around Kei’s say so but that was only because she couldn’t trust herself and she couldn’t remember the reset anyway. But trusting Kei on everything else regardless of even her own memories seems a little insane.

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I did enjoy this three part story in amongst this odd little narrative given we got some actual reveals even if we’re still kind of in the dark, we met some fairly interesting characters even if they didn’t end up doing much, and Kei actually seems a bit more proactive as a character so maybe that’s progress.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Friday’s Feature: Why is Natsume Yuujinchou Still Endearing After Five and a Half Seasons?

There’s no mistaking that I truly love Natsume Yuujinchou. You just need to look at the sheer number of posts I’ve tagged with Natsume to know that I not only like watching it, I like to talk about Natsume, a lot. I don’t remember who recommended it to me or why I tried it initially, but I know that once I started this adorable show I never could stop. Even when I ran out of episodes I would happily go back and just watch them all again. Had a bad day at work, or a bad week? Take a double episode of Natsume and go to bed smiling. As I watch season six of this show week to week, I began to wonder how this show has retained its magic formula and even managed to become more entertaining with time given so many shows, particularly ones where new seasons just keep getting added on, become progressively less than what they were.

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I started making a list of all the great things about Natsume. The list got extremely long by the end so I ended up condensing them into a few main points:

  • The characters particularly the central characters of Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei.
  • The episodic format of the show with themes and character growth that run through the series.
  • The feelings this show inspires in its audience.
  • The art and animation while not the most brilliant ever perfectly fit the show you are watching.
  • Every opening theme that has ever been attached to this show.

There were quite a few other points on the initial list but that isn’t surprising given I love the show. However, making this list actually helped me figure out exactly why this show succeeds season after season.

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Reason 1: The way the characters are presented to the audience.

In so many long running shows the main protagonists (and a lot of the support cast) either have a single defining personality trait or goal. Or, worse, the characters actually lose any defining trait over time slowly becoming generic and featureless in amongst a sea of other characters.

Natsume defies this trend in storytelling. He starts out fairly generic, as do most of the characters in the show, and the show has gradually fleshed them out over nearly six seasons. The affect of this on the audience is essentially feeling like we’ve naturally gotten to know someone. First introductions are fairly superficial and then we’ve slowly been allowed to see who they are underneath those initial impressions.

And this doesn’t seem accidental. Within episodes we regularly meet the yokai of the week and are given one impression before Natsume looks deeper and we realise the other side of the character. This pattern repeating over longer periods of time with the human characters and recurring yokai seems like a deliberate thematic choice of the show as it examines who Natsume is and who he is becoming.

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Which, is the second part of this story. The characters are changing. Even as we get to know who they are or who they were (through flash backs), events in the seasons we’ve seen have changed them. There’s no magic reset at the end of the episode so next episode everyone is back to the cookie cutter model we start with each week in a true sit-com style. This is an ongoing story and these characters are dynamic even if the slow pace of the show sometimes makes it seem like little progress is occurring.

Clearly Natsume, as the title character, has experienced the largest growth and development as he has slowly opened up to both human and yokai characters. However, he isn’t along in this constant change and you can see Nyanko-Sensei has softened significantly toward Natsume since season 1. His threats to eat his human companion have diminished and even when they are inserted they now seem half-hearted. He offers advice more freely and is more willing to warn Natsume of danger. He’s gone from being curious and self-interested to being genuinely fond of Natsume and this relationship is really interesting to watch.

Even Reiko, Natsume’s deceased grandmother has been given character growth as Natsume has slowly learned more about her. The end result is a world that feels incredbily rich and populated with real characters that over six seasons you’ve become friends with yourself and you genuinely care for.

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Reason 2: The overall themes of the show strike directly at the heart.

Okay, that was cheesy, but it is Natsume so it kind of had to be.

But really, the experience of watching Natsume, is one of trying to understand what it means to be human and the choices people make and why. For all the fantastical creatures and goings on, it is a story about the choices you make in life and the consequences that come from them as well as one that focusses very much on the connections that result from encounters with others.

In this the episodic nature of the show really helps it to succeed. Characters can enter the show for an episode or two and drift off only to return a season of so later but the connection they forged still exists. What this allows is for the show to never overly clutter itself with too many characters at once and we’re never wondering why such-and-such a character is even in a scene because other than Natsume, none of the characters are guaranteed an appearance if they are not necessary to the story. Even Natsume occasionally gets written out of his own narrative in order for the focus to be where it needs to be.

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For a show that is regularly as sickeningly sweet as Natsume, it knows when not to pull a happy ending out of nothing and it isn’t against leaving the characters wondering if their choice was wrong. It also doesn’t shy away from the darker side of human nature when you think about how most of Natsume’s relatives have treated him and still speak to him and about him. What makes this show a bit different is that it doesn’t wallow in its own darkness or exploit it for sensationalistic purposes. The darkness is there, but like everything else, Natsume chooses how and when to confront it and when to leave things be. It is a very real part of the narrative and while sometimes you may actively dislike a character, generally speaking you are supposed to if that is the feeling you are getting.

After five and a half seasons, my current thoughts about Natsume are that this is actually getting better as it goes. The show continues to weave backstory and lore into a world that already feels rich and real and continues to have Natsume face situations where we confront the human and inhuman equally. Hopefully season 6 can continue to shine.

There were a whole bunch of characters and ideas that I love about this show that I restrained myself from rambling about, but seriously, I’d love to know your thoughts on Natsume. Do you think Natsume has gotten better or is the charm wearing off after so many seasons?


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ACCA Series Review

Overview:

ACCA tells the story of Jean Otus, an inspector who travels the 13 districts of the Kingdom of Dowa, who is about to get drawn into a whole lot of political intrigue. With rumours of a coup gathering momentum, what will Jean do? Probably smoke a cigarette.

I reviewed ACCA week to week so if you are interested in my episodic thoughts click here.

Review:

Those of you who followed my week to week reviews, or if you’ve read my overviews on Saturday, you already know, I loved this anime. It was a must watch every week and I couldn’t get enough of it. Watching it, talking to others about it, speculating about where it was all going. So, now that it is finished, what are my thoughts.

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Unsurprisingly, I still think ACCA is truly an incredible story. I’ll go into detail later but, after getting to the end and thinking about it, I realise that the audience for ACCA is actually kind of small. The opening act moves almost terminally slow, the information is revealed as necessary during the second act but requires a lot of work on the part of the audience to put together, and by the third act the cards are on the table but for the final twist, which I found immensely satisfying but I can understand that many people out there my wonder what on earth the point of watching the show was.

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So, I’m going to explain why I loved ACCA and why it is amazing. But I’ll also not be surprised if you tell me in the comments you dropped this early on, or it didn’t do much for you. This one is definitely a matter of whether you get into it or not, or whether you enjoy stories that slowly give out the details and allow you to fit them together numerous ways before it shows its hand.

First and foremost, the opening theme is perfect. While it isn’t the most striking anime theme music in history and nor does it pack much punch outside of the context of the show it perfectly sets the tone for the anime you are about to watch. Heavily influenced by jazz and yet not particularly fast paced the opening hints at a show that is laid back, just a little bit off-beat, but full of hidden intrigue, and that’s more or less exactly what it delivers. I must admit the opening theme was part of what made me so excited to start each episode.

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Secondly, the characters really grabbed me. I know some people will disagree, but I found Jean Otus fascinating from start to finish. He is different from your usual anime protagonist being older, non-violent, no shouting of any sort, not a super genius or particularly amazing at anything, not incompetent, not the focus of a harem, etc, etc. While some may dismiss him as bland, I found him to be a highly nuanced character and a lot of my enjoyment in the earlier episodes came from trying to figure out what was going on inside his head. Later in the series we get more of a look at him and there are moments where full and genuine expressions cross his face, and it all just works perfectly at fleshing out a character who feels very real.

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However every character in this series, regardless of screen time (and some of them barely appear in two episodes) manage to feel like an individual. A character crafted with care and attention to detail. They fill the role they are given in the narrative but also add some truth to the world being constructed.

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And that brings me to the third reason I loved this series. The small details. Everything in this story has purpose. Whether it is creating a distinction between one district and another, foreshadowing a later plot point, giving a character back story, every single detail is there for a reason. Some obviously carry more weight than others, but nothing is wasted. Even the excessive focus on food (do not watch this show hungry) serves the valuable purpose of clearly identifying districts and later creates links between characters who share a love of a particular type of food.

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But my number one reason for loving my watch of ACCA is that at no point did I feel I was being talked down to by the narrative. They allow the audience time to process information and to put it together. Even when information is revealed they don’t feel the need to excessively explain how the new information fits in with the old. They just reveal it and move on expecting that the audience can and will make the connection themself. It’s been a long time since I’ve really found something that didn’t make me feel like they expected my memory was jettisoned every twenty seconds.

All that said, I do have to address a few minor criticisms because no matter how much I loved it there are definitely some criticisms that are needed. Spoilers coming.

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The big one that actually really rocked me was after they formally acknowledge (by having a character say it) that Jean was royalty, suddenly every character was just talking about his bloodline like it had been common knowledge from the start. While it did help steer the narrative along it felt like a very sharp turn in the narrative that didn’t get quite enough time to develop.

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The other criticism I have is Lotta, Jean’s sister. While she is certainly cute and loves her bread, and she does at times progress plot points, I kind of felt like her removal from the story wouldn’t have harmed it in the least at most points. Okay, they would have needed a different portrait to draw the link between the Otus’ and the royals, and the whole attempted assassination plot probably would have needed to be scrapped but it didn’t serve all that much purpose anyway. The Rail being infatuated by her storyline also could have easily been swept away. That said, if they did that, then a lot of the air time of the series vanishes, so I guess they just needed to do more with her character to make her feel a little bit more needed. At the moment she just kind of feels there.

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As I said at the start, I fully understand why this anime won’t appeal to everyone so I won’t tell you that you have to watch it or that I don’t understand why you didn’t like it. However, if you haven’t given it a go and you wouldn’t mind an anime that has a fairly clever story and some great writing, then its worth checking out. I had a blast with this during the 2017 Winter season and I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more shows like it.


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