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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WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? Series Review: Someone Save Us From These Titles

Overview:

This is a story that takes place after the world has ended, humanity has been destroyed, and the species that survive now live on floating islands. However, the beasts still attack and so fairy weapons are kept to use magic swords to fight them. Willem, the only surviving human, is recruited to take care of the fairy weapons only he learns they are young girls who are basically being sent to their deaths.

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

Review:

I was not planning on watching this show this season. The excessively long title, the cute characters, everything about it just screamed that this was a light novel train wreck waiting to happen. But I did watch the first episode because I like to give things a go, and amazingly enough the first episode of this show is actually really, really good. There are issues even in that first episode with how the characters are set up and the story being a little bit nebulous, but the delivery is great, the music goes perfectly, and it is just kind of a joy to watch.

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Then what happens is we have a whole series of ups and downs. There are some truly spectacular and emotional moments in this series. There are some great character moments. There’s some funny moments. Then there’s a lot of cute girls being cute, long drawn out side stories, too many characters being given focus when they aren’t really needed, an absence of the overall plot feeling like it is progressing, and the main characters just never quite clicking into their assigned roles. The show is working hard, I’ll give it credit for that, but there’s a lot of moments during the series where dropping seems like a perfectly fine option because while this never gets to terrible, there’s a lot of episodes that aren’t good.

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Then we get to the final episode and it is like that first episode all over again. You could walk away and feel great that you made it through, stuck it out, and that it was all worth it. And really, it is. Not watching week to week, this show would be signficantly better because a lot of that fluffing about in the middle wouldn’t feel so drawn out and the bits of narrative would feel closer together. Not to mention, you would get that excellent ending so much earlier and you probably wouldn’t be trying to pick it to pieces.

So I’m left wondering if I enjoyed this series overall or not.

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I’m going with yes. For all that there are definitely lows in this series and they probably could have halved the character count and actually ended up with a more focussed story, I really did enjoy spending time with Willem and Chtholly. Okay, part of my enjoyment comes from just how broken both of these characters are inside even while they smile and joke and try to carry everyone else (I really do have a thing for characters like this and I’ve never understood why but if I lined up my favourite characters they would all be very broken people). But part of my enjoyment comes from the fact that they are characters that you want to know more about and you want to see them somehow get through what they are facing even when you know they aren’t going to. While the romance aspect didn’t work so well for me with these two, I definitely feel the two connected and needed one another and that worked really well and made the final all the more satisfying.

Oh and did I mention the music. The music is a real selling point for this one.

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However, I’m certain I said this somewhere in my write ups while watching this, I feel that now that the show is done, I’d like a different team to take it apart, cut out all the excess and unnecessary bits, and put together that much better story that runs through the whole thing. It would end up half the length but I think it could be spectacular. Those moments are there already, but they are getting buried beneath average sequences and scenes and scenes that are good but have no purpose here (and while they might be setting up later events for the story, they don’t do anything for the narrative in this series).

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Overall, I’d definitely recommend trying this but just know going in that this show is very uneven in its tone and delivery. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, smiling, crying, nodding along in one sequence and in another you’ll just be sitting back wondering when they are going to get back to something that matters (and please can something squish the green fairy girl now, I don’t want to go shopping with her again).


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 6: Can’t Make an Omelette Without Breaking an Egg

Review Episode 6:

Is it wrong that I got just a little bit of satisfaction from watching one of Ernesti’s experimental machines self-destruct? Though the reaction of the others was a little over the top. Ernesti is pushing technology in the world further than it has gone before and he’s doing it very quickly. Of course there are going to be a few mishaps along the way. Admittedly, he probably shouldn’t be the test pilot given everything will just stop if he actually manages to blow himself up.

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The set up this week is basically he’s now been given ten months and the resources needed to design a new machine to take on the lab that is meant to be in charge of machine design in a match (though given how slow their progress is in technological growth one has to wonder what they do most of the time). That means we have a fair amount of time montaging over the steps in design with occasional dialogue and jokes to break it up and string the scenes together. As as stand alone, it isn’t great, but it takes us where we need to be at the end which is the confrontation.

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You have to admit, Ernesti is really pushing his friends to think outside the box. While I don’t always approve of his attitude and I’m finding the ease with which he succeeds at most things a little obnoxious, I’m kind of curious as to just how far he’ll take innovation in this world and what we’ll end up with at the end.


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Bastion Game Review: Short and Sweet

About two weeks ago I put up my first impressions of this game. Now I’ve completed the story mode, what are my final thoughts on the game?

Review:

Because I’ve already done my basic impressions of the game, I’m going to put this in a straight plus/minus format. I will admit that even though I finished the story, that opened up other play modes and things that I have yet to try.

Plus +

The artwork and music are adorable in this game. They both work really well. It is visually interesting and while the music may get a little repetitive toward the end of the story campaign, it really suits the game itself and adds to a very immersive experience.

Minus –

All up, I completed the story campaign in just under 10 hours. That’s with my save disappearing midway along and having to restart as well as some random deaths due to being overly curious about what might happen if. Basically, I probably could have finished this several hours before I did if I’d actually just focussed on finishing the story. That’s kind of a problem given I’m not that good at games and I really should take awhile to finish them. While I feel I got my money’s worth out of this game, I bought it on sale and I don’t know that I’d feel as happy about the value for money if I’d paid full price.

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Plus +

While the story is relatively linear, the end does give you a two choices which I assume changes the ending in some meaningful way (or at least gives you a different closing monologue). That’s kind of made me curious enough that I want to play through again just to make different choices and see what happens. It is a very minor thing and it would have been nice if earlier on you’d been given some choices. Still, it was kind of nice at the end to feel like you controlled how it played out.

Minus –

The final level firstly adds a hop mechanic making a whole section of the level a platformer. Yet the visuals and the controls don’t really allow for the kind of precision that would make platforming fun and given you hadn’t had to do this the entire rest of the game just felt like a way to stretch out the final level and add a level of irritation to the process. The second thing is that it then swaps out all of your weapon choices for the battering ram. While that is a very cool weapon, I’m left wondering why I spent all that time training and levelling up the rest of my equipment if they were just going to leave me with a new and random weapon right at the end.

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Plus +

I’ll just say it, this is a fun game. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Other than a few random gimmicks in the last level, it doesn’t overly clutter itself with unnecessary mechanics. The story works and the narration, while not as great as I might have been lead to believe was certainly enjoyable to listen to. Basically, I play games for fun and this one managed to give me hours of fun (though also not as many hours as I would have liked).

Minus –

While at first it seems like the range of enemies is pretty good, they all have more or less the same attack patterns. This game ups difficulty by adding more enemies onto the screen but once you get the canon that just makes it amusing to see how many enemies you can simultaneously wipe out. Basically, the difficulty in this game isn’t very high and it doesn’t really do anything to make it more difficulty. Plus, the attack patterns are very repetitive so once you’ve chosen your favourite combination of gear you will slip in a fairly straight pattern of attack yourself.

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Overall, this was a fun game experience and as I said, on finishing and watching the credits through, I have unlocked some other stuff which I’ll have to get in and try, but I’m pretty happy with this steam sale purchase.


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Chronos Ruler Episode 6: I Hate You / I Love You

Review:

This show continues to have an intriguing premise and some interesting developments but is so busy burying it all under poor execution, terrible characterisation and dialogue, as well as some really cheap jokes to actually deliver on what might otherwise be a fairly promising show. You walk away from each episode wanting to have enjoyed it and wanting to know more about the story but having face palmed so many times you have to wonder why you still are watching it.

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Having kind of resolved the whole joining Chronos thing and now being given random titles that I do not see any reason or need for at this point in the series, Victo has managed to read some of his old notes and they are going to the place where he had his last mission before losing his time. I’m all kinds of confused because Kiri is clearly older than 12, so why doesn’t he know whether Mina is his mother or not? Or why didn’t he know about Victo working for Chronos? And yes, given he isn’t yet 18 it makes sense that he was really young when whatever happened to Victo happened, but he has to know something.

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Meanwhile the is she or isn’t she question of Mina remains. To be honest, I really hope she isn’t because Victo is annoying enough, a Victo and Mina combo for the remainder of the series would just be annoyance overload.


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18if Episode 6: Recapturing the Dream

Review:

For all that this show has been set mainly in the dream world, other than zany colour schemes and character designs, little has given the impression that this is a dream and not just some off-beat fantasy. Episode 6 corrects that with an ending sequence that throws you straight into a dream like feeling and recaptures that sense of infinite possibilities that exist when you are on the edge of waking up from a dream.

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The story this week follows a girl who is bullied and so attempts suicide. We assume she then falls unconscious with Sleeping Beauty Syndrome but as we never see her real world body again she could have actually died and we wouldn’t know. Anyway, she is determined to curse those who allowed her to be bullied and much like the witch from episode 2, her curses are starting to have a real world influence.

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Initially Haruto is disinclined to involve himself assuming that the bullies are more or less getting what they deserve but for reasons never explained he goes along with cat guy to convince the girl. All of this is much the same as every other episode and then they convince her and the world gets all shiny and happy save for the attack from space.

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Yep. We go there. The aliens are attacking. Then we get a dialogue straight out of a dream as Haruto tells her it is fine because they’ll just fend it off in their giant robot. The matter of fact way he says it, the acceptance of the statement, the sudden transition into a cheesy mecha anime, it all just screams dream sequence and it is a lot of fun.

While this episode gets us no closer to any answers about anything, it showcases just what they can do with these episodes to make them enjoyable and interesting on their own. Episode 6 is definitely my favourite so far in this series.


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Grimoire of Zero Series Review: Witches, Mercenaries & War, What More Could You Want?

Overview:

Zero is a witch who wrote a grimoire (magic book) only it has been stolen and now she’s travelling to get it back. She runs into a Beast Mercenary (no name given) and recruits him to guard her until she retrieves the book. As payment, she offers to turn the Mercenary back into a human which would allow him to finally live his dream of living a quiet life and so after some bickering he agrees to the deal, but things aren’t as simple as they seem.

I reviewed Grimoire of Zero week to week so if you are interested in my episode reviews, click here.

Review:

I’ve always kind of felt that the worst thing a series can do is be boring and Grimoire of Zero walks perilously close to boring for a lot of its run time. Even when watching something terrible like Hand Shakers, at least I can sit and make fun of it. With Grimoire of Zero, there really isn’t anything wrong. All the key elements of a good show are sitting right there on the screen. Yet at no point did this show actually ask me to get invested or to care in the slightest about the fate of any of the characters or the events in the story. Admittedly, this was a problem I had with a few shows this spring (Granblue Fantasy being another), where it seems like the story should be really interesting and right in line with my usual preferences, and yet I’ve been unable to actually care about what is going on.

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Despite my general lack of engagement, there are some good points to Grimoire of Zero that deserve to be mentioned. Other than a few scenes in the second half, it is a really pretty anime. The characters, the world, the magic are all just well done and great to look at. Admittedly, there are a few moments in the second half where group shots of the cast have a few of them looking a little rough around the edges and a few moments where you have to wonder which direction they were actually looking or who they were talking to. It isn’t a deal breaker by any means but there’s definitely a downward turn in the overall appearance as the show goes on so it is probably good that it started out so strongly in that department.

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Zero as a character is quite okay. A lot of people really like her, the young confident witch stepping out into the world for the first time with a little bit of sass. I found her more than a little cliché at times and at other times just found her lack of communication skills with regards to Mercenary far too convenient for the plot given just speaking could have solved a lot of issues, but mostly she’s an enjoyable character.

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Mercenary too is quite okay. He has some genuinely good moments, he looks pretty cool in a fight, he’s a little thick but not painfully stupid, and his personality plays well against Zero as the two of them have a competition to see who can be the most ridiculously stubborn while genuinely forming an attachment for one another.

While neither of these characters are sweeping me off my feet, they both serve their purposes well enough and given a stronger storyline probably could have been quite fascinating.

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And that’s where we hit the real snag of the show. It has a cool concept with the missing grimoire and the new system of magic that Zero had created, and even the world itself with the Beastfallen and the witch burnings was inherently interesting, but the story itself just kind of meanders around from one thing to another. There’s no intensity or drive, and while all the issues are more or less connected, it seems more that one plot idea gets thrown under the bus for another one to take the focus for a bit, and you aren’t really given any reason to invest in any particular issue.

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If we add to the unfocused and undriven nature of the narrative the absence of any antagonist to care about it really starts to hurt the enjoyment of the show. For awhile it seemed like they were actually trying to build Thirteen up to take the role of that antagonist. The show really needed something for the group to overcome and he seemed like a great stumbling block. He was powerful, seemed to have a plan that was contrary to what the others wanted, he could direct others so could match numbers with our protagonists, and it all could have worked really well. Then in the second last episode he just decides that if Zero doesn’t actually want the mass disaster he’s been planning he’s done with it.

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Now at that point there is another group rising up, but it is a group that we as the audience don’t much care about. They’ve been mentioned a few times and we’ve even met a few of them, but their motives are incredibly weak and their plan is rubbish. You don’t think for a minute they might succeed so you don’t actually care. Yet the main characters go through the motions of countering them like they are an actual threat. You can see they’d like you to care about what is going on in this sequence but it is all just kind of there. And then they solve that problem, make a few announcements and somehow everything worked out. Hooray.

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Even the fantasy fan in me couldn’t get into this one. While there are some elements to the magic I would have liked to learn more about, the show really isn’t interested in getting too explanatory about that, so while there are some parts of the world that aren’t generic, the overall feel of the world is pretty ordinary. The fight sequences are done well enough, although as another blogger pointed out possibly a magic battle between two high level magic users should involve more than just coloured lights and intense glares. There are some good character moments and scenes and just enough points of interest to keep this rolling a long but ultimately the entire show is pretty forgettable unless you really like those two main characters.

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Before I end this review there is one more point I have to make and I know it isn’t really pertinent to the review but I have to say it. ‘Arrow to the Knee’ jokes should not be appearing in anime in 2017. I’m a big Skyrim fan and I loved these jokes and memes when Skyrim first came out, but that time passed and the joke is not that great that it needs to be revisited. What makes this worse is that the Arrow to the Knee joke is probably the most memorable thing Grimoire of Zero offered me.

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As for a recommendation, basically if you like fantasy you won’t dislike this. You may not get super into it either, but there’s nothing overly broken about it and it does look very good, particularly early in the series. It’s worth checking out and if you connect with those two main characters you may even have a lot of fun with it. Otherwise, it is a show that happened and now I’m moving on.


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Pan’s Labyrinth Movie Review: Blurring the Lines Between Fantasy and Reality

Overview:

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark story set in Spain during 1944. After her mother marries a savage army officer, a young girl begins to escape into a fantasy world to try to find a way to save herself and her younger sibling.

Review:

Pan’s Labyrinth is one of those dark stories the sits in the weird genre of magic realism. It isn’t a fantasy and it isn’t a real world drama, though you could interpret the movie to simply be a drama about a troubled young girl who uses delusions to escape from the nightmare of her own reality. That interpretation works well enough for the most part but would certainly kind of kill the magic at the core of this movie.

Ofelia is the young girl at the heart of the story, and she really is the beating heart of this film. Her world is a dark and scary place so when confronted by a fantasy world filled with horrific figures, her determination to face at least one monster even if she can’t face the monster in her normal life is easily understood. However, the story does not forget that Ofelia is also a child. She makes mistakes, doesn’t follow through sometimes, and at others she willfully ignores cautions leading to somewhat tragic results (both in the fantasy world she is experiencing and in her real world). These results scar Ofelia but also allow her to grow and by the end of the film, Ofelia is a transformed character. By that I don’t mean she suddenly smites the evil step-father and saves the day, but rather she has made her choices and she has resolve. She isn’t simply waiting in fear and allowing her life to be directed by those around her (even if that leads to also fairly tragic results).

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This isn’t a happy story. It isn’t about finding a happily ever after in reality. Ofelia’s reality is what it is and regardless of her resolve, there are some things she cannot control and cannot change, even if she also cannot accept them. I’d suggest not watching this movie if you are already feeling a little disheartened by your own reality because this movie really drives home how helpless we are at times.

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The fantasy world on the other hand has fairly set rules and achievable goals. Ofelia is regularly given very clear instructions to overcome a hurdle or an obstacle while at others she is left to figure out the steps but still has a clear goal in sight. This clearly contrasts with the hopeless sense of loss and lack of direction found in her reality as well as contrasting with the chaotic whims of her step-father whose expectations are never fully understood until he declares that they have not been met.

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It’s also a truly beautiful movie. Dark to be sure, but the imagery is striking and each scene serves the purpose of the narrative and strikes just the right emotional tone to compliment the overall themes. With a soundtrack that also drives home the overwhelming emotions the main character is going through, tonal cohesion is not a problem that this film faces.

Where the criticism begins though is with the promotional materials for the film. Much like Bridge to Terabithia, the promotional materials chose to focus on the fantasy sequences of the film and this is actually detrimental to the viewing experience. Firstly, the fantasy sections don’t make sense without the context of Ofelia’s real world experiences and the connections the viewers can make between her encounters there and the obstacles she’s seeking to overcome in reality. However the greater issue is that these sequences have amazing dramatic impact when viewed for the first time given their striking imagery but that impact is lessened when the audience is already waiting for the weird creature with the eyes in its hands or other imagery to appear. Lastly, it just misrepresents what the focus of the film is. Certainly there is fantasy in this film but it is a story firmly grounded in a very gritty reality. People looking for a fantasy movie (even a dark fantasy), will be sorely disappointed if they went to this movie expecting a fantastical adventure akin to Alice in Wonderland with a darker tone and some trailers made this movie look like it would be just that.

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Outside of the expectations this film may have built up in an audience before delivering a different experience, the other criticism of the film would be the pacing. Some scenes linger just that little too long; revelations sometimes tumble on top of one another while others seemingly take forever to appear. It’s jarring at times and feels like it dragging at others. While this kind of serves to put you in Ofelia’s fairly overwhelmed shoes, it makes for a viewing experience that is not exactly entertaining. Watching this film, at moments, feels like a chore. For all the wonderful narrative, characterisation, imagery, and beauty, it isn’t fun to watch. While for some people that isn’t going to be an issue, I kind of feel movies should be entertainment, and movies like this, while I appreciate them and fully understand why some people would love this sort of film, I also know that for me while I have watched this film more than once, I won’t put this film of when I just want to watch a movie. I’ll put this film on when I’m wanting something to puzzle over and to search for an answer. It’s the kind of film that leaves me thinking afterwards about all the what ifs and generally leaves me a little wrecked. So, not exactly entertaining but still not a bad experience.

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I would recommend this as a watch but I would also recommend knowing what you are in for. There’s a lot of darkness in this film and it is the kind of darkness most of us can relate to which makes it hit very close to home sometimes. For all the magic and fantasy, this movie is grounded firmly in reality and that makes for a disturbing viewing experience.


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Knight’s & Magic Episodes 4 + 5: Just Follow Your Passion

Review Episode 4:

Apparently overwhelming enthusiasm and passion are all you need to get through life. Forget protocol or any political maneuvering. Just earnestly stare at people with glowing bug eyes while gushing over your dreams and everything works out.

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That isn’t to say that this is necessarily a problem for the show given its more or less done this since episode 1. It just kind of makes me wish Ernesti would face a challenge that his enthusiasm couldn’t handle or at least something to shake him up for a few moments if for no other reason than I’d like to see some genuine concern on his face.

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The one criticism I will bring to the party was the fight this week against the worms. It was very bright but it was kind of ugly to look at on the screen and hard at times to even see what was going on (and not in the good things are moving fast and furious kind of way). It was just a mess really.

All and all, this show continues in the tone it started so I’m guessing those who have made it past episode three are going to continue with it, and for those who dropped it, there’s nothing here that would make you change your mind.

Review Episode 5:

Oh look, they kind of lost a fight (though I guess technically Ernesti was never in the fight and he still managed to get a promotion out of it). I wonder what she’s going to do now that she’s stolen a machine that isn’t yet practical for combat given its high mana needs and I somehow doubt anyone in her kingdom is able to fix that issue give they were stealing technology in the first place, so are they just going to come back and kidnap Erensti to get him to fix it? Though seeing him get kidnapped could be kind of fun.

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Meanwhile, the narrator has gone from being kind of amusing to just eye-roll worthy. Stating the obvious can occasionally be entertaining but when it seems to be the narrator’s sole purpose it starts to wear thin. I haven’t yet seen anything that the narrator has actually needed to say that we wouldn’t have just worked out without them, and seriously a lot of their statements just make me wonder if the writers are worried their audience went to sleep and missed something.

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My vote for most sensible character in this show however goes to the mechanic.

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If this guy got more scenes, I’d probably appreciate this more. I’m not dropping this show but if you asked me for a recommendation this season, I’d probably tell you this one is easily missable.


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Chronos Ruler Episodes 4 + 5: My Time is Faster Than Your Time

Review Episode 4:

I’m going to comment on the opening of this anime, because I haven’t in the reviews of episodes 1 – 3. What is that supposed to be? In addition to sounding horrible (which I guess is technically subjective), visually it is an eyesore.

Moving away from that, this episode was a direct continuation from last week which means Victo is fighting someone who claimed to be a god but from the sounds of it is technically more a descendent of someone who might have been a god. And of course she initially comes across as wanting to kill him but then gives him a chance to defeat her by not using her powers directly on him. Basically, she’s just going to let him win because why would any hot maybe-god like woman want to actually kill Victo? Other than he’s completely annoying and hasn’t done one thing in four episodes to make me think all these people should actually be hung up on saving his life or memories.

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Though this episode did clarify Mina’s position and basically while she’s a little bit of a pathetic character, at least she’s not a pathetic traitor. Her loyalty to Victo is pretty straight forward at the end of the day.

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Is this getting any better? Not really.

Review Episode 5:

All this episode does is draw the two fights to a close. Kiri vs fire guy who turns out to be a complete idiot with a ‘tragic’ backstory (I really think writers are running out of ideas for tragic backstory), and Victo vs self-declared-time-goddess.

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Neither fight is particularly interesting. Both Victo and Kiri pull out something random as a twist that is, I guess, supposed to be clever but basically it is the we’re the protagonists and we’re not going to lose move. In Kiri’s case it kind of works simply because we know he wasn’t trusting Mina before they entered the place so some basic preparations make sense, in Victo’s it makes very little. But still, watching Kiri beat a guy that is completely useless isn’t exactly satisfying.

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Watching Victo get beaten up before his final move on the other hand was a bit more satisfying, though he ended up technically winning the fight and to be honest, I’d have happily watched him get pounded into the ground.

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The writing is still pretty dreadful and while they are doing some fun things with speed up and slow down the plot of this hasn’t progressed in nearly three episodes because they’ve been so busy showing us these ‘cool’ fight sequences. Pretty forgettable stuff, really.


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