Land of the Lustrous Episode 1: A Visual Feast

Overview:

In the distant future, a new immortal and genderless life form called Gems populate the Earth. The 28 Gems must fight against the Moon Dwellers, who attack them regularly to abduct them and to turn them into decorations. Each Gem is assigned a role, such as a fighter or a medic.

Being only 300 years old, Phosphophyllite is the youngest of the Gems and has no assignment yet. He wants to help to fight the Moon Dwellers, but is too weak and brittle for battle. One day the master of Gems, Kongou (Adamantine), assigns him the task of creating a natural history encyclopedia.

– from MAL

Review:

From the very beginning this episode is both beautiful and interesting. The premise is odd enough that it draws you in and as the episode progresses small details about the world and the characters are introduced. Never too many that you feel you are being subjected to an information dump, but a steady trickle of ideas that mean that by the end of this first episode it feels like enough has been stated to get the story started.

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While not much is known about any particular character at this point, the few we have met have been given definite personality traits that will hopefully flesh out with time. The shared desire to have a purpose in life kind of permeates all the interactions but never feels particularly heavy handed at this stage.

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However, where the show shines is in its visuals. While the CG may not work for everyone and the characters move oddly at times, given they are anthropomorphized gems it actually really works and the world we’ve been introduced to is beautiful. Fight sequences are stunning and the entire thing just feels well thought out from a visual point of view.

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Really glad I got to check out this episode and looking forward to the next one.


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200 Word Anime: Black Clover Episode 1

Welcome to the first 200 Word Anime post where Weekend Otaku and I will be sharing our thoughts on the episode. Be sure to check out Weekend’s blog as we’ll be reviewing The Ancient Magus’ Bride over there (hopefully – assuming we both get access and have time).

Overview:

In a world where magic is everything, Asta and Yuno are both found abandoned at a church on the same day. While Yuno is gifted with exceptional magical powers, Asta is the only one in this world without any. At the age of fifteen, both receive grimoires, magic books that amplify their holder’s magic. Asta’s is a rare Grimoire of Anti-Magic that negates and repels his opponent’s spells. Being opposite but good rivals, Yuno and Asta are ready for the hardest of challenges to achieve their common dream: to be the Wizard King. Giving up is never an option!

– from Crunchyroll

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Karandi’s Review:

I knew before I started this (from the thousand promotions around the internet) that I was about to watch a standard shounen which meant I was expecting characters who shouted a lot and the whole never giving up thing because being gritty and determined apparently makes you stronger. What I wasn’t expecting was that to be all this first episode delivered. I’m pretty sure Asta doesn’t actually speak until the 18th minute in this episode because nearly every line of dialogue prior to that (and there’s a lot) is shouted. Kind of made me want the chain guy just to pull the chain around his middle a little bit tighter and call it a day (okay, I shouldn’t wish death on the protagonist in episode 1, and he isn’t actually that bad).

However, if I ignore Asta for a moment and focus on the other characters and the story set up, while it still isn’t exactly winning points for originality, by the end of the episode it has actually set up what should be a pretty interesting if obvious fantasy story. More importantly, it made me really want to learn more about Yuno, his relationship with Asta and the world as a whole. It kind of reminded me of Attack on Titan where Eren drove me absolutely crazy for a lot of the first season because I cannot stand him as a character but I really liked the concept, the world, and some of the support cast so I stuck with it and now I really like Attack on Titan even though I still can’t stand the main character.

So I am on the fence with this one. This episode improved as it went and the episode climax was pretty on point and I’m kind of hoping now that we’ve gotten over the super generic introduction it can show us something interesting next episode.

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Weekend Otaku’s Review:

As Karandi mentioned, this show doesn’t deviate much from other shounen fantasy stories. The characters are actually quite reminiscent of Naruto, leading to an introductory act that plays out in much the same way: the spirited underdog (Asta) feels overshadowed by the gifted savant (Yuno), with Asta’s ambition checked by his severe lack of talent while his rival effortlessly outshines him. It sounds formulaic, but the setting of Black Clover gives it some potential.

While there has been sparse world building thus far, what little we learn about the clovers hints that Asta may be privy to a power that is unique even in a world rife with magic. Though it’s a given that his dogged attitude will see him through his initial setbacks, the nature of the grimoires offers some possibilities. To become a more compelling series that distinguishes itself from other shounen stories, I would like to see how the “black” clover influences Asta’s journey apart from his goal of becoming the Wizard King and some more depth to the characters through their shared backstory.

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Thanks Weekend and be sure to check out Weekend’s blog as they have some fantastic posts. I’ll let you know when our next post is out.


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The Grim Reaper and an Argent Cavalier Manga First Impressions

Impressions:

Okay, we’re between anime seasons and instead of actually working thorugh my to be watched list I decided to try a couple of manga. This one I came across on Crunchyroll and was kind of interested so decided to give it a go. I then read the first three volumes in a single sitting so I guess I kind of liked it.

The story follows Cyan who originally doesn’t want to become a cavalier because he saw his mother die protecting him and it kind of freaked him out. Then his dad dies the same way but somehow this actually inspires him to want to protect people and he ends up joining the cavaliers. Yeah, the set up is kind of rubbish and this character’s motives take awhile to settle, however once the story actually gets going (there’s a lot of prologue) it gets kind of good.

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The supposedly protected city is attacked and during that attck Cyan is killed. He makes a deal with someone he thinks is Lemuria (pretty much the one they all worship because she protects them from the Grim Reaper and Larvae) and he is brought back to life. After awhile though he realises something isn’t right and it turns out he actually made a deal with the Grim Reaper and he is now a Larvae craving human souls. Fortunately, or not, he runs into Jade who is also a Larvae but one who has managed to not lose his humanity and ends up being convinced to teach Cyan the secret of how he did that. Cyan joins Jade and a small group of others who are trying to track down the Grim Reaper.

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So zombies, magic, and swords… I guess I was kind of sold on this before starting. More importantly though, the characters actually become quite interesting. I very much want to see what happens to them as they continue on this journey to track down the Grim Reaper.

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A few minor issues though, other than the hopelessly generic my parents died protecting me character motive and the Princess like girl trying to get out and fight. My biggest one would be that their eyes are meant ot change colour when they are giving in to the whole larvae instinct to eat a human soul but you know, it is black and white, and the distinction is sometimes totally lost until another character actually points out that there was something going on with their eyes. Also, at times it is difficult to follow what is going on in a sequence because we change perspectives during a fight or whatever and I lose track of who is doing what. Part of this is my own lack of experience with manga, and part of it is that sometimes it is just messy to follow. Some of the colour images are really pretty though.

Still, I am pretty hooked and will hopefully finish reading this soon.


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18if Episode 13: We Came, We Saw, We Drank Tea and Ate Cake

Review – With Spoilers:

While I’ve enjoyed 18if all the way along, what this show really needed to lift it to something I would actually enjoy rewatching was a strong conclusion that really brought all those weird elements together. While they certainly brought back all the characters this episode, what we didn’t get was anything particularly satisfying about this conclusion.

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The revelation that Lily is Eve even though Lily wants Haruto to kill Eve (kill turning out later in the episode to mean sully her purity, as in kiss her, which doesn’t happen either mind you so seems like an incredibly pointless part of the narrative) was pretty obvious when you sat and thought about it and again, does it matter? They don’t do anything with this idea of Lily representing Eve before and Eve being who she was after so is it necessary at all?

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On the other hand, Eve has the incredibly clichéd motivation of being annoyed at god and clearly that means you should hate men and destroy the world. I really find this kind of motive for a bad guy dull. And even the writers must have realised how petty Eve was being given they appeased her by throwing a tea party. Not even joking. The witches all come back and eat cake and drink tea and that more or less stops Eve from destroying the world.

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And then we finally get to Haruto, the one character the audience have had a chance to actually connect with. We know he’s in hospital in a coma and then… Then he decides to go with Eve through some door to someplace humans can’t go but says he’ll come back. Cut to scene in hospital where essentially he flat lines. No more from Haruto.  I’m not entirely convinced that this is in anyway a satisfying way to wrap up this show. Basically, I’m still glad I watched it because it has been visually interesting each week and some of the dreams have been quite fun, but the overall narrative has falled pretty flat in the end.

I’ll do a full review soon.


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In Another World With My Smartphone Episode 12: They Actually Did It

Review:

Wow. I did not see that ending coming even when last week seemed like this show was actually going to address the harem issue (where so few shows ever just admit that there is a harem even when it is obvious). Taking it straight and just having the girls outright ask Touya to make them all his wife is a refreshing change from the usual outcome where the protagonist remains oblivious or really only has one girl they are interested in leaving the others hanging without resolution.

Touya though is still a slow protagonist cliché and of course asks the girls for time to think about it and ends up consulting the god who sent him into this world in the first place. I hadn’t really realised that the Gate power technically made that possible, but that of course raises the question of whether Touya can gate back to the real world or not… But even if he did would he then be stuck because magic doesn’t work in our world? That’s a whole other line of thinking so moving on.

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That god passes Touya on to the god of love who points out she’s responsible for setting up clichés (so there’s our lame excuse for the show having Touya walking in on the girls in the bath earlier in the season). It is kind of amusing because as always the show delivers this absurdity as if it is the most natural thing in the world and then moves on. I like the way this show just sets up its jokes, delivers them with conviction and then continues on playing it straight. It’s a refreshing change from self-aware shows that feel the need to celebrate their own cleverness.

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At the end of this episode Touya makes his decision (though still asks the girls to wait until they are all older which to be honest is also kind of nice). I do like that the group outside who discuss Touya and point out that it has been predicted he’s going to end up with 9 wives. Poor Touya, he can barely handle the four girls he is now engaged to.

They then give us so post credit sequel bait so it would be nice to know if this will ever continue on. As much as this show is a stupid comedy full of clichés and tropes that we’ve seen a million times before, it just clicked for me so I’d kind of like some more of it even if I’m not exactly going to highly recommend it. I will get around to a full series review of this at some point.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 13: Some People Are Just Sore Losers

Review:

Well, this ended pretty much the way everyone predicted and managed to be pretty pointless right to the end. Ernesti fights the drake and shows off a few new tricks (though I’m not certain splattering it with oil and setting it on fire counts as a new trick).

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We then get the engineer from the otherside (name has totally escaped me at this point) and Ernesti having an argument which may have only been occurring in their heads or may have been broadcast, I don’t know as it was unclear, about the aesthetics of robot design. Because that’s super important in a life or death battle.

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All of this is interspersed with the side characters storming the fortress below and one final fight with the sword mecha which ends as expected before the captain of the drake decides to ram the Princess. This is where my mild irritation with the generally stupid writing decisions in this show blew up into full of rage as the Princess stubbornly insisted she wouldn’t move because she believed that she would be protected. Lady, there’s a giant robot dragon falling out of the sky about to land on you. Would it kill you to take three steps to the right? No, instead Kid has to have a moment to jump from one airship to the drake to fight the captain and then jump out of his mecha and into Ernesti’s hand because I guess Kid hadn’t done anything useful in a few episodes because wasn’t his mecha powering the airship? Oh yeah, his mecha was powering the airship. His and Ady. So why is it still flying given he’s just abandoned ship? So frustrating.

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Anyway the war wraps up, we get some more Kid and Princess stuff before they all head home. But this is my favourite part of the episode. The Smiths that actually build the machines that have made everything possible finally get official recognition for their effort. Then Ernesti begins plotting his next steps and we end the show. Of course nothing is resolved because opposing designer guy survived and is looking for a new hire, the King or whatever of the country that started the war hasn’t been defeated, the sword guy is still alive and heading home, and there’s new tech coming out everywhere changing political and economic landscapes, but sure, let’s just end the story here. Why not at this point?

I’m kind of looking forward to a full series review of this show. I think it is going to be fun to write.


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18if Episode 12: I’m Feeling This Was A Little Anti-Climatic

Review:

This kind of seems like 18if has finally pulled everything together and is moving toward the final showdown between Haruto and Eve in the dream world, which means it really should be feeling exciting. We learn this episode where Haruto is in the real world (though no actual hints about how or why) and we also finally find and save the professor’s sister. That’s two big mysteries from the series solved and yet it all just felt kind of ho-hum.

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What made it worse was the show seemed to be trying to set up various characters in a sinister light in the real world but that has no weight given everything of interest that’s happened in this story has happened inside the dreams. More importantly, even the witch that died came back this episode which means even death lost its weight and importance in this particular story.

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While it is coming together, it is more working on paper than in reality. The feeling that you should have when watching this episode just isn’t there and the confrontation with Eve that will occur next week probably won’t fix the problem.


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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level. 1 Novel Review: Kind of Like Reading a Cappuccino Really.

Overview:

Haruhiro wakes up with amnesia surrounded by others who also have amnesia and they discover they are in a world called Grimgar and in order to earn money to live they are about to become volunteer soldiers. Too bad Haruhiro and the others left over don’t really have any skills to speak of.

Review (with some spoilers):

Before I get into this I should probably explain the cappuccino reference. This book is pretty light and frothy, more froth than substance to be honest, but there’s some real bitterness once you get into it. Only, the good kind of bitterness that makes you want to go back for more. Okay, I don’t actually drink coffee but that seemed like the best analogy I could come up with for my experience reading this book. And given it was my first experience with a translated light novel, I’m honestly a little stuck as to how to fairly review this given no matter how I look at it the writing is pretty dreadful. Not even just dreadful by translated story standard (and I’ve read a lot of translated books over the years so that isn’t the issue).  Yet, the story is oddly compelling. So rather than belabor this already tiresome intro, I’ll just get into reviewing and let things just kind of happen.

(By the way, though I am going to use images from the anime in this review, I am not going to compare the novel to the anime. There are definitely differences and you could do a comparison if you’d like, but I’m just going to review the book here. If you want the anime review, click here.)

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I’m going to start with the negatives of having read this to get them out of the way. There are positives coming but the negatives are definitely an issue.

Firstly, while anime is littered with bathroom sequences, girls comparing breast sizes, and guys who seem to think that insulting a girl involves commenting on the size of her breasts, and while I’m most okay with it in anime (or at least used to ignoring it), reading such sequences is a different story. If I wasn’t adamantly against defacing books I’d probably have torn a page out of this one because it literally consisted of nothing but dialogue that made me wonder if the author had ever had a conversation with a girl ever. I’ve never actually had the experience of reading such a sequence before and to be honest, I’ll pass on going through that experience again. It adds nothing to the story or the characters. It is inane filler dialogue and it went for nearly all of two sides of one page. Which admittedly meant I read it in about half a minute and could have just moved on except that for some reason my brain committed the phrase “Boing, boing, look at them bounce’ to memory – probably because it knew that the review needed an example of this appalling exchange in order to really get the point across that this was painful.

Following on from that, at least 60% of the dialogue in the story could be considered filler. Characters have more or less the same squabbly arguments over and over again. Which would be fine if any of these exchanges were progressing anything, but literally the plot gets put on hold while the characters rehash whether or not Yume has tiny tits or Haruhiro is actually looking like a sleepy cat, etc, etc.

From what I knew of light novels before reading this, I kind of expected some of the above, but the level to which it intruded on my reading was pretty intense. Once I finally sat down and read the book, I finished it over two days in four sessions. I should have finished it in a single sitting, but every now and then I’d come to one of these exchanges and suddenly have a burning desire to be doing anything else other than reading any more of the story. Clearly though, it wasn’t much of a deterrent, because it wasn’t as though I put the book on a shelf and let it sit there for a month before trying again, but still, it definitely broke my reading flow.

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The other major negative I would have for this book is just how much happens in it. I said I wouldn’t compare this to the anime, but this first book takes us nearly to the end of the anime and adds additional subplot and events. That’s a lot of content even if the final arc of the anime isn’t in this one. Ultimately it means events don’t get enough time to really be dealt with appropriately. The death of Manato works and is an excellent dramatic turning point for the group and yet is done within the space of a few pages and then we’ve moved on. Yes, we refer back to that death time and again, but the sequence itself was almost instantaneous. There are other events as well where it just feels like we are told what happens and then we’re pushed onward.

All of that would be fine, except that we spend nearly the first fifty or sixty pages of the book on world building. It is great that we’re getting a fleshed out view of the world and I’m sure a lot of those details will be important later, but an info dump  while the characters get their bearings at the start of the story shouldn’t feel like it got more time and attention than a pivotal death scene or climactic fight sequence. And yet it does.

So if I were to just compare this to other novels I’m pretty sure this one would be in the nice try department and I’d be moving on. However, this is where things get tricky. I really, really loved the story and the world. I love the set up, I love all the things the book hints at coming later, I love the many characters that appear and interact with the main group even if I find most of the main group pretty painful. I also love that the story, while seemingly full of these meaningless and light frothy moments, they contrast beautifully with some of the darker and quite depressing events that occur.

While I don’t like how the world building was handled, the world of Grimgar is really quite fascinating as even by the end of the book you aren’t certain if they are in another world or in a game or simulation. There are possibilities both ways and the final pages of this book certainly push you into mulling these possibilities over without yet tipping its hand. Okay, it is sequel baiting and it is doing it well because I really want to know the secrets of the this world.

There are also some great character moments. When the group manage to work together or even when they are falling apart, some of the exchanges between the characters feel very real and revealing about their forgotten selves (though admittedly these moments are most definitely diluted through the more meaningless exchanges). Every now and then you’ll just get a line that will make you laugh out loud or nod in agreement.

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Mostly what this book does well is while reading it I genuinely wanted Haruhiro to survive. I didn’t really care about the party or whatever goal they were working toward, but I wanted Haruhiro to survive because he has so much potential as a character and I would love to see him grow (and hopefully he does). This story made me fear for his safety, worry when he got hurt, feel bad when he was emotionally down, and want to cheer when he got things right. Basically I got swept up in his story and that is always a good thing.

Okay, this has gone on for a fair while so I’m going to wrap this up. As a book, this has issues. Big and glaring, cannot be overlooked issues. As a story and an introduction to a larger world, it works very effectively. Basically if you are a stickler for wanting good writing, give this one a miss, but if you just want to be transported to another world for an afternoon, this one is probably something you should check out.

If you’ve read the book I’d love to know your thoughts (please don’t spoil the next ones because I am planning to read on in this series).


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In Another World With My Smartphone Episode 11: Will This Show Actually Acknowledge the Harem?

Review:

It is pretty standard in isekai stories for their to be a harem that forms around the protagonist. However, usually these remain unrequited and unspoken (or every girl is just aggressive beyond reason). Episode 11 of In Another World with my Smartphone kind of defies this trend with the girls clearly discussing the future amongst themselves and then Linze openly declaring her love for Touya at the end after being spurred on by jealousy when the android caretaker of the garden essentially kissed Touya in order to collect a DNA sample (have they never heard of hair).

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While that was kind of novel and interesting way for the episode to end, the path there was full of the usual kind of silliness including the girls on the beach discussing the various things that get stuck in their chest while swimming. Where do these scenes come from? Really?

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Then Touya transports all the girls to the garden and we get various misunderstandings and innuendos until we finally get to that ending. There’s a lot of eye rolling to get to the end of the episode, but kind of interested to see what happens next with the harem now that they’ve broken the usual rules about them.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 12: Are We Sure Ernesti Isn’t a Villain?

Review:

I had a lot of time for thinking while watching this episode, mostly because other than super dramatic music and various bits of magic zipping across the screen not a lot was going on in the first half. The fights may look visually impressive for the first two or so passes, but as Ernesti circles the ‘Drake’ and we get the same animation of its lightning defense etc, it all just starts looking a bit samey and I kind of tuned out what was going on until Ernesti hit the ground. Points for the ‘villains’ for finally knocking him out of the sky.

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What I started thinking about was Ernesti’s character and how he pretty much exhibits every characteristic you would expect of a B Grade villain. He chuckles gleefully when he destroys his enemy or creates a new machine designed to kill. He has no qualms about stealing his comrades machines if it is convenient to him. He has no loyalty to the actual rulers of his country and really would sell his loyalty to whoever would give him the access he wants to innovate with his robots, and don’t threaten the future of that robot design or he’ll take it very personally.

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That made it much harder for me to actually care about the villains and their actions given I don’t know enough about them to care personally, and their actual fighting style has been practical and not as underhanded as Ernesti’s.

Anyway, there’s one more episode of this and it is another show I’ll be glad to see off my watch list. The narrator of this show is getting my vote for most annoying character of the season.


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