Land of the Lustrous Episode 10: Bort, Phos & Dia

Review:

I was really happy to see some of the old Phos back this week. They certainly are still not the Phos we met at the start of the season, but they have definitely not lost all of their spunk which was kind of a welcome sight. I certainly had a good laugh when she asked the jelly fish about whether she should team up with Bort.

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Outside of those lighter moments however, this episode is probably the most tension we’ve seen from this show. Phos is still suffering from losing Antarcticite and a new lunarian has appeared that is more than just a bit of a handful.

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However, Phos teaming up with Bort isn’t just about Phos and Bort. Bort’s partner, Dia, comes back into the story this week and the complex relationship Dia and Bort share gets put in the spotlight. I really loved it when Dia admitted she’d encouraged Phos to change so really couldn’t say anything about the two teaming up. My heart nearly broke when Dia claimed that Bort was never wrong as a rationalisation for why she was fine with losing her partner. And then we see Dia in this situation:

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Of course nothing is resolved in this episode and now I’m waiting impatiently for next week to roll around so I can see what the outcome of this fight will be, though part of me wonders if I should be prepping for heartbreak.


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UQ Holder Episode 10: Tota is a…

Review:

I really love how shows go from telling us nothing, to revealing something and then every single character in the show just openly talks about that thing as if it was always obvious (by the way that was sarcasm). ACCA did the same thing when Jean’s past was identified and suddenly everyone just kind of openly discussed it with each other and with him even though prior to the reveal to the audience everyone had been so closed mouthed about it. Where ACCA would get a pass though i that the reveal was kind of clever in the first place whereas UQ Holder just seems to continue its trend of stuff happens because it does narrative path.

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After the reveal last week that Tota is actually a two year old clone (that explains his behaviour) he’s trying to come to terms with that and everyone is now wanting to discuss his grandfather with him. of course they all have incredibly fond memories of him and it is so unfortunate that he has now been taken over by an evil entity (though the audience has not yet been told what said entity is after or why it is evil so we really don’t have any reason to care other than a few of the older characters seem to think it might be a problem).

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We have a contrived fight sequence with Tota getting beaten down, before his friends call out to him rallying his strength so that he can finally hit his opponent, which leads to the ‘it’s a girl’ reveal, before she chuckles and the real big bad appears and it looks like it is all over, but then Evangeline swoops in to save the day, and then both the bad guys and good guys side-kicks rush in and… how many clichés were they planning on shoving into one sequence?

Whichever way, this episode was decent. No original thought whatsoever and only passable delivery, but it was passable and all of those clichés exist for a reason and they are kind of exciting to watch unfold even if the overall narrative is eye-roll worthy.


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Chronos Ruler Series Review: Cool Concept Does Not Equal Good Story

Overview:

Time eating demons have stolen Victor’s time leaving him looking younger and without memories of the past 12 years. Together with his son they are hunting the demon that ate his time in order to get it back.

Review:

This actually should have been kind of fun. Two guys with weapons that can slow down and speed up the time of particular objects (Kiri uses water and Victor uses a deck of cards) to fight horologues (time eating demons) that target people with regrets who want to turn back time. It all sounds like it should be kind of fun to watch.

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Then we get the reality where Victor is the particular kind of annoying protagonist that is ridiculously cocky in his own abilities so acts like a complete fool almost 100% of the time. Never taking anything seriously, drinking, hanging out with girls, teasing his son, he’s basically incredibly annoying in every single scene. That I could probably overlook given a lot of the early focus in on Kiri who plays the straight man of the duo. The son forced to deal with the fact that his father barely remembers anything about him and to also deal with the fact that his father acts like a three year old fairly continuously. Except that the series then wants us to take Victor’s plight seriously and the entire final arc asks us to start seeing Victor as a good guy. Sorry. Too late. I have no empathy for the character and I want him to get eaten.

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This is kind of the problem with the whole show. It wants to have those serious emotional moments but the characters have not been presented to the audience in a way that makes them plausible. It wants the villains to have weight and feel threatening but has spent too long with the characters playing the fool for us to actually believe the villains they fight are any kind of real threat. There’s no balance between the comedic moments and the more serious moments and the writing doesn’t lend itself to having the audience really looking for much from this series given the plot just kind of drifts along with no sense of urgency at all and villains appear for no reason other than to inject a fight sequence and then disappear with no consequence.

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Basically this show is built around an idea that is very cool and could be really fun to watch. The group of Chronos Rulers could have been really awesome and we could have had a nice and simple linear narrative fighting some opposing force. Instead we follow Victor and Kiri, and later Mina and Blaze, as they wander about looking for a character’s memories when they’ve given us no reason to be invested in that quest. We learn nothing about the greater war that is going on or any of the other characters, though their brief appearances suggest that knowing less in this case is probably a good thing.

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For most of the season this show dropped into the They Made This category and I stand by that placement. Though this show could have built something quite interesting it was held back by poor characters and writing and ultimately wasn’t all that enjoyable to watch. Even the time manipulation element which at first was kind of interesting, never went anywhere as characters just used the same basic attacks over and over again.

I’d love to know your thoughts if you watched this show last season.


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Knight’s & Magic Series Review: It Is Going To Take More Than Duct Tape To Fix This Mess

Overview:

A guy who is apparently a genius programmer (the synopsis told me so) is killed but then is reborn in a fantasy world where he can use his somehow remembered understanding of programming to use magic and build robots. Now he wants to build his dream robot.

Review – Some spoilers:

I was watching a video review of this anime the other day (sorry, cannot remember which blog I was on or I would link) and they said (heavily paraphrased) that they didn’t know why this was even an isekai story as the fact that the guy was originally a programmer in our world literally added nothing to the story. This was something that kind of bothered me while watching the show as well. Other than eating up precious minutes in the first episode where we meet our robot obsessed programmer and then watch him die, there is zero mention of him coming from another world ever again in the anime. He does weird things occasionally and certainly a lot of his ideas are derivative of things he could have seen in his former life but he could just as easily have been a genius ahead of his time. There was no reason to add the extra complication of reincarnation. It added nothing to the story and it wasted set up time on a set up that wasn’t needed.

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And basically that explains a lot about what is wrong with Knight’s & Magic. It has a lot of things in it that aren’t necessary and what it doesn’t have is any clear or focused narrative. The premise is super cool. I love that they decided to mix mecha and fantasy. The mix of robots and magic is perfect because for once I’m not rolling my eyes at giant robots being able to move and jump or do anything that they are doing because they are powered and moved by magic so they can do whatever they like. The initial setting in the fantasy world where people are attacked by beasts and the robots are needed to fight them gives a fairly wide range of possible story lines and works well enough even if it is pretty standard, and the weird main character who doesn’t understand the concept of impossible could have been really fun.

This show should have been amazing.

The final battle takes place between a flying robot and a mechanical dragon. How do you manage to make that lame? Well, let Knight’s & Magic teach you.

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I guess we all should have been tipped off by the unnecessary apostrophe in the title. That bugged me all season but now that I reflect on the show it kind of matches it perfectly. It has an idea but wants to make it look even cooler than it is so it goes just that one step too far. Genius kid develops robots for his kingdom? We can do better than that. That kid is a reborn programmer from Earth who loved model robots. It adds nothing but it sounds cool.

While I’m being petty I’ll also take aim at the opening song. There’s actually nothing wrong with the opening as it visually works and the song, while fairly generic, is entertaining enough, but for some reason each week (and I’m not sure if they did this from the start or it if came along later on) they felt the need to break the song up with dialogue from the upcoming episode. Kind of jarring and a little spoilery. Right up there with those previews they used to give us for Sailor Moon back in the 90’s and then Serena would tell us to stay right there because they’d show us what happened. Only, we just kind of saw it in the preview so doesn’t that take a lot of the fun out of it?

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If I look at this more objectively, my biggest issue with Knight’s & Magic is the story. Or maybe it is the lack of story. A story implies that things are building toward a climax where as this is a series where stuff happens, the characters react, they overcome the challenge (which mostly doesn’t end up even seeming like a challenge) and then in the aftermath of the previous event, something else happens. So there’s a few issues.

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The first is the reactionary nature of the characters. Ernesti wants to build his own mecha. Great. That’s a character goal and something to work towards. And he does work toward that goal but he does a lot of stuff that seems superfluous to that goal along the way and seems to take great delight in the destruction of enemies even if they never stood a chance. The other characters however, don’t seem to have any goal. Kid and Ady are hanging with Ernesti. Because they made friends with him when he was young? Because they have zero ambitions or goals of their own? What do these two want? It is never made clear, they just kind of hang around as Ernesti’s entourage for the entire series. Other characters also seem to just get dragged along in Ernesti’s wake and even the villains for the most part have very little in the way of actual motive or vested interest in anything that is actually going on. So no one is driving this plot. Except maybe the narrator who is literally dragging the audience through months and years of development in a matter of a few minutes of perfunctory narration.

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The second is the lack of a clear antagonist. Ultimately the series chooses the war with some country whose name I don’t remember (it started with a Z as mandated by all derivative fantasy writers – close second if it started with an X) and we get a bit of a face off between Ernesti and another designer who is also a genius. This had me wondering whether other genius was also reborn in this world and that’s the only way someone shows any signs of intelligent thought (because the side characters sure didn’t) or whether he was this world’s version of a real genius and Ernesti just stomped out the evolution of an entirely different kind of technology for his own amusement. Yet other than one early encounter where technology is stolen from Ernesti by a character who returns later only to be cut down in seconds, there’s no sign of this Kingdom or any kind of political tension until very late in the series. Instead we see Ernesti handle the beasts (which are what we are introduced to in the first episode as the problem), then they disappear as we see Ernesti challenge another development lab, and then we see new robots fighting beasts, then Ernesti meets some not-elves and learns all the secrets of how to build a robot. All that happens before we get any hint of a war looming ahead. I know we need some background but could the show try foreshadowing.

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The third issue is how anti-climactic the climax is. Ernesti never loses. In the penultimate battle he is fought to a draw but even then it isn’t like his robot blows up or anything. There isn’t a single moment of actual tension in this series because you know Ernesti will win. Usually very easily. So even though the final battle works hard to make you think there might be some tension, by this point the audience knows how the story goes and you can almost narrate the story for them. It is an aerial battle with a mechanical dragon and I was bored. There’s something very wrong when a show can’t manage to make you worried that maybe the mechanical dragon might actually be an effective weapon against the protagonist.

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I’m not actually opposed to happy endings and the main characters having a triumphant return. But I’d like to feel they worked for it and earned it and to be honest this didn’t do it. Likely this is because not one of the main characters is even crippled let alone killed. Only one of them is even in any kind of danger during the entire final battle and other than some strategic blood on his face from unseen wounds, there’s no actual sign of injury. And after the battle, he’s fine. No recovery period. Okay, the robot broke, as did a few others, but not one main character left with any kind of lasting scar from a full on war that they fought on the front lines of? This feeds well into the idea that this is self-insert wish-fulfillment but it does not make for an interesting story.

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Basically, I really wanted to like this show. I kept hoping that the next week would do something with the really interesting premise that caught me in episode 1. Unfortunately this show had no interest in developing characters or plot and ultimately was nothing but a disappointment. A good-looking disappointment with some cool mecha designs, but still a disappointment.

I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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UQ Holder Episode 5: More Secrets

Review:

The fight from last week continues and naturally they both get in over their heads until the orphan boy comes back to defend them. I don’t know why so many writers think this is a good idea for a scenario. The two super powered immortals just got totally wiped out (one sealed and one literally cut in two and pinned to the ground) and yet the totally powerless boy will somehow think it is smart to run into the middle of that fight. More importantly, immediately after, both the previously incapacitated heroes will suddenly be able to move/fight again. Really?

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I guess it is one of those things where we’re supposed to just accept that their determination and will power allowed them to overcome reality but to be honest it always seems like a bit of a cheat.

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That said, the fight between Tota and the werewolf is pretty cool and for once Tota actually came off as kind of cool. He did demolish an entire building in an arm wrestle though but that was quite a bit of growth for his character in a short space of time. However, just in case we were thinking he’d grown up the final sequence has him saying something stupid and being bashed into the ground for it because that is apparently hilarious no matter how many times it happens.

This show remains okay. Not good or bad. It just kind of is. I would suggest a younger audience would probably have a great deal of fun with it, but the sheer amount of fanservice would make it hard to recommend to that audience so it ends up being a bit of an odd show as I’m not entirely convinced who would enjoy all parts of it.


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Juni Taisen Episode 4: Nobody Died, Though My Interest Took A Hit

Review:

From the first episode with the Boar, this show has been a little bit peculiar. For all the good qualities it has, the one thing it has failed to do is grab my attention. The third episode with the Chicken came the closest because her character had a little bit of humour about her, and then we are hit with this episode.

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Rat talks to Monkey in the sewers. He challenges her about her pacifist stance (not aggressively mind you, because that would require being fully awake which is something he is steadfastly refusing to do).

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Monkey talks to Rat. She defends her position and we see many flash backs of her life up to this point.

The whole thing could work if I actually found either of these characters even vaguely interesting. And yet… Rat is an incredibly boring character. He is literally sleeping through this series. Monkey’s pacifist stance means she is pretty straight forward and predictable and just a little cringey to watch.

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The last five minutes saw us reintroduced to Rabbit and while a flock of zombie birds is pretty cool I’m just not thinking the brief chase sequence and minor skirmish we got between Rat, Monkey, Rabbit and zombie twin boy was sufficient action to make up for the nothing that had happened for the entire rest of the episode.

However, one positive I took away from this is that I really enjoy the opening theme. It didn’t do much for me the first time but it is definitely growing on me and was my favourite part of this episode.


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Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Series Review: Why Details Are Important

Overview:

Some group want to change history and the characters we follow want to stop them. And the characters we follow happen to be the spirit of swords brought to life by a sage from the future who can sense time distortions.

Review:

I kind of covered a lot of my issues with this show in my feature a few weeks ago where I asked what went wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?

I stand by that question now that the series has ended. Because, it seems like this show has what it needs to be truly great and yet what we have instead is a shallow dive into a story the audience never actually gets to experience and characters who really don’t progress beyond a name, a fighting style, and a single note personality. It is telling that after 13 episodes of this I’m still not actually sure of all the character names and had to resort to looking them up and even then when looking at a character list it took me a moment to remember what some of the characters had even done in the show.

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Part of this is definitely because this is a game adaptation and there is certainly some expectation from the anime that viewers are at least passingly familiar with these characters already. But I haven’t played the game and even if I had, source material does not excuse sloppy characterisation (or none as the case may be) in the anime. The same might be true for the lack of plot development but again, even if the answers can be found elsewhere, that doesn’t make watching the anime any better.

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Basically what is lacking from this anime are the details. We don’t know anything about any of the characters other than these two (Horikawa and Kanesada) used to work together serving the same master who died. That’s the one character plot that is developed and kind of resolved by the last episode. Still, given neither one of those characters has any personality beyond loyal to their master and mopey as they question their purpose, it isn’t exactly a draw to the show nor when we finally get the end of this sub-plot does it provide satisfaction. The heroes of this story are trying to stop events from changing so it is more or less obvious what the end of this story will be.

The other characters we get the names of and occasional references to their former lives and masters, but none of this information goes anywhere or leads to anything. It barely connects to the overall plot with the exception Mutsunokami when we meet his former master. And what is the overall plot?

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Well, just in case we forget the swords mention it every other breath. They are going to protect history. They’ll stop history from changing. Why history is being targeted and by whom is something apparently the audience doesn’t need to know. I mean, yes, we are told the Time Retrograde Army are responsible, but who are they? No names, no discernible characters, no motive other than change history. No idea how many there are so basically they just spawn as many as they want in each occasion going so ridiculous as to have 1000 of them show up in the final episode only to do nothing but charge blindly forward and be mowed down by a significantly smaller force that previously struggled with groups of 10 or 20. Minor plot issue but whatever.

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It seems like this anime wanted to focus on Horikawa but didn’t want to leave out the other characters. So instead of getting a focused story revolving around Horikawa growing into his role in the second unit we kind of flit all over the place as we introduce a late addition to the second unit, then the entire first unit, and the we’ll finally get back to Horikawa but by that stage we haven’t really grown attached to him because he practically disappeared mid-season.

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However, this anime looks amazing and the sound is pretty impressive. Even when there is no tension to be found in a battle, if you close your eyes and just listen, it sounds super dramatic. But even mundane sounds like the leaves, the characters walking, gusts of wind, it all just very impressively done. If only even some of that attention to detail had gone into characters or plot (and I don’t mean the overdone character designs, I mean their personalities).

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While this show isn’t by any means unwatchable, there’s just not a lot of point. You won’t learn anything about the overall conflict or what the end game for either side might be. You won’t learn all that much about the characters and what you do learn could have been covered in about two episodes. Visually impressive fight sequences aside, there’s just not enough reason to bother with this show.

If you watched Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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