Kenka Banchou Otome Series Review: Just Your Typical Girl Meets Boy, Trades Places With Him, and Aims to Rule the School Kind of Story

Overview:

Apparently based on a game, this story has a heroine who is either unnamed or who has a name I can’t remember run into her twin brother who pretty much coerces her to take on his identity and attend an all boy’s school. There she’s forced to fight to prove she can be the top of the school. And other than some stuff about the power of friendship that’s about it.

Review:

There’s nothing overly wrong with Kenka Banchou Otome given the short anime format being used and the premise. Plus, the whole based on a game thing is painfully obvious. That said, there’s not a lot overly praiseworthy about the show either.

The heroine, who I am going to refer to as Hikaru because that’s the name she uses most of this series, has the same problem a lot of male harem protagonists have. Other than being good at pretty much everything she has practically zero personality. Maybe mopey. She does mope well. For a show where episodes barely crack the one minute mark with their closing credits, I get we aren’t going to develop an entire cast of well rounded individuals, and to be honest they do a decent enough job of most characters given the time they have. The characters all run pretty cliché but they feel distinct enough in the moment so they work.

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The fight sequences are necessarily short given again the episode lengths. A few punches, a kick or two, some still images of other dramatic poses and facial expressions, and then we’re pretty much down to the huffing and puffing aftermath and someone conceding defeat. To be honest, for a show about fight your way to the top of a school, there are surprisingly few fights. They manage to make this make sense given the reputations of most of the characters that few people want to pick a fight and just accept that they would lose, but it still seems like there’s be at least one random attack of opportunity around the school at some point.

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One thing I didn’t like was the diary style entries that cut into the episodes. We’d be watching a sequence and then one of the characters would be narrating their thoughts and we’d see them in some other random setting apparently thinking back on that time. Its the kind of conceit that works in a story when the characters have some actual depth and there might actually be something to reveal from their inner thoughts and reflections but to be honest it is just a distraction and it eats up episode time this show didn’t have to spare. It adds nothing to the characters or the narrative at all.

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Otherwise the music is relatively good and the story makes enough sense. And that’s literally all I have to say about this because there really isn’t a lot happening here. Basically this one is a watch if you’ve got a spare hour or so because that’s all it is going to take to watch and it isn’t bad. Again, it isn’t particularly good, but it is hard to imagine what else they could have managed with those episode lengths.

I’d love to know what you thought of the show if you’ve watched it.


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In Another World With My Smartphone Episode 4: Touya Might Redefine Overpowered At This Rate

Review Episode 4:

In Another World With My Smartphone is very good at making me smile. The show is stupid, and it is playing on every cliché and trope you would expect from an isekai anime, now including the random Princess character who has decided she absolutely must marry the protagonist even if that means waiting two years, yet despite that I cannot help but smile and sometimes even laugh at this show.

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The start of this episode kind of looked like we were going for a more serious, political tone with the King being poisoned an ambassador being accused but then, just when it looked like things might become tense, Touya uses his ‘slip’ spell on an annoying count and sends him tumbling down the stairs. I’m going to be honest, that whole ‘slip’ thing may become the most overused gag in this show, but I don’t really think I want them to stop doing it. There’s just something inherently funny and immensely satisfying about watching either an obnoxious person or a monster just suddenly fall over at Touya’s say so.

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My one genuine criticism was the tiger’s voice after it decided to take on a chibi form. That might get annoying in an episode or two. Otherwise, the harem continues to expand, Touya continues to be oblivious and absolutely brilliant at everything, and all and all, this continues to be a lot of fun to watch even while it isn’t doing anything we haven’t seen a million times before.


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In Another World With My Smartphone Episodes 2 + 3: Touya to the Rescue

Review Episode 2:

I think the best way to describe this show is lighthearted. It isn’t taking itself seriously, nor is it trying to be a serious comedy. It’s walking very obviously through seen tropes but it isn’t trying to apologise for that or subvert them. It’s just telling the story it wants to tell whether we’ve seen something similar before or not.

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Basically, it is a very relaxing viewing experience if you are used to in another world type stories with an all-powerful protagonist who can do literally anything surrounded by a bunch of cute girls who for whatever reason admire him. None of the characters are too obnoxious but they aren’t so bland they disappear either. Just don’t pay too much attention to gender roles or equality because the show isn’t going to come out of that kind of scrutiny well. I’m on board with this. It isn’t a show I’m going to recommend overly but I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes.

Review Episode 3:

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The first part of this episode seems decidedly fillery but does make it clear that Touya’s connection to the Duke wasn’t a one-off thing as they now regularly visit and give updates. Despite having a lack of any real conflict, it was nice seeing the characters go about their day-to-day before we moved to part two and another adventure.

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I liked that they managed to finish their mission pretty easily and then openly looked for more trouble (well, they were looking for treasure but the two kind of go hand in hand in this kind of story). I also like that Touya isn’t just learning a spell and using it once before we never see it again. He’s combining the spells we’ve seen him use previously as well as adding new spells to his repertoire.

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This continues to just be lighthearted fun (even with the King being poisoned, it is impossible to take any of the dangers faced here seriously) and hopefully it can continue to be entertaining.


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Knight’s & Magic Episodes 2 + 3: Well, He’s Remarkably Self-Assured

Review Episode 2:

I’ll start out by saying I enjoyed episode 2 but that title with the unnecessary apostrophe is really starting to bug. Much like the excessive number of exclamation marks in some titles.

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So, let’s actually review the episode and to be honest this was pretty fun. Okay, it is an extended fighting sequence but it is kind of fun to watch. There’s a sense of actual danger with knights being crushed left and right or just plain immolated, and even the student knights are not safe from sudden and inglorious death. Plus, its visually quite striking given the mix of mecha and fantasy going on here.

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Still, Ernesti as a character is not doing much for me. I get he’s been reincarnated in another world but his basic sense of self-preservation seems broken and he is way too cocky that he can just do whatever even though he clearly hasn’t tried it before. But other than that I really enjoyed this second episode and I’m curious as to what will happen next.

Review Episode 3:

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So Ernesti’s victory gets him an audience with the king and being Ernesti he asks for knowledge. Which the king agrees to give him if Ernesti can impress him by building a frame he approves of and then we begin an episode of discussions about design improvements and test piloting. It’s all kind of got a fun and relaxed kind of feel to it but I’m wondering how long the other characters are going to react with awe to everything Ernesti says.

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Anyway, new design and test successful though still a bit of work to do. I’m kind of hoping that isn’t an indication that the next episode is more of the same for while this was fun I kind of want to see the story progress beyond work-shopping robots.


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The Silver Guardian Episode 11

Review:

I love that this show has absolutely zero sense of urgency or desire to actually deal with its main plot. Otherwise, I might actually start to feel concerned for some of the characters. Instead, our kidnap victim is now doing a Princess Leia impersonation and for some reason joining weird cult guys though we have no explanation as to why they want her to join or why she’s going along with it. But that’s such a minor point in this episode why dwell on it at all.

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Instead, let’s meet random new character with a sister complex who doesn’t seem to understand that the game money isn’t money in the real world, and is for some reason willing to sacrifice all his memories to win one fight, and didn’t actually properly research all the rules of the fight before literally dropping into it. Yep, I’m feeling a real desire to get behind this character.

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And that’s the episode. There’s also the confusion of the Crunchyroll episode title saying Final but a bit of searching on Google suggests there are two more episodes and given the title within the episode wasn’t Final and even the side story this episode didn’t end, I’m guessing there are more episodes to go. Either way, this one is more on count down at this point and I’m only watching it through because I made it this far.

The Silver Guardian is available on Crunchyroll.


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Hand Shakers Episodes 1 + 2

Overview:

Tazuna is a high school student who likes to fix machines and has a really annoying habit of saying things are meshing (or not meshing) like this is the best catchphrase ever. He meets a girl in a hospital bed and after they hold hands he goes somewhere else where he’s attacked by another boy and girl team. The write up on Crunchyroll says the point of this is to gain an audience with God but to be honest this first episode doesn’t really tell you anything.

Review Episode 1:

You know that scene everyone complains about in the Fairy Dance Arc of SAO where Asuna is held upside down and groped by tentacles? People really need to stop complaining about that scene. Instead, let’s focus on the girl getting bound/groped in chains, gasping like she’s in some kind of esctacy while her partner essentially stands on her crotch. And then let’s also just look at the only other student we met who’s chest exceeds any kind of size logic given the rest of her physique and moves in a way that defies the laws of physics. While neither of these points are enough in and of themselves to absolutely warrant dropping a show (for me at least, for the most part I attempt to ignore these scenes), when we couple this with really off-putting animation, a bland main character, and a premise that kind of looks like it was cooked up by a bunch of twelve years olds and there’s probably a really sound argument in favour of dropping this at episode 1.

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For me, I’m kind of hoping they settle the whatever it is they’d like to call that chain girl and explain their plot and then maybe grow because this could be kind of interesting it just isn’t at the moment. I did nearly call it when the protagonist suddenly pulled out a sword because of course the guy he’s fighting uses chains but he uses a sword. What is it with anime protagonists having the least innovative weaponse in a series? Not that I’m against swords if everyone is using them but when there is a rich variety of potential weapons and the MC is flailing around with a sword you just have to wonder why.

Review Episode 2:

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Looks like I’ll get my wish about chain girl, turns out losing a fight means losing the ability to go to Ziggurat so I’m guessing she’s done in this story. Unless she intends a real world revenge scenario but it doesn’t seem likely given other than a hospital sequence that pair were more or less swept under the rug.

Finishing the fight in quick order and then going through a really unnecessarily long explanation scene that essentially amounted to a ‘further research is needed and I’m a crazy scientist, watch me crazy’ we then get the obvious now we have to live together (you know, because if he let’s go of her hand she’ll die, only not instantly so it turns out they can have a few moments apart at the moment. She’s also pretty much a blank slate needing help to eat and bathe (so yeah, bathroom sequence complete with bloody nose).

Probably my biggest amusement in this episode was putting these two quotes from the show in the wrong order because it would effectively end the story.

Not the order they were played in and there is kind of a reason given why Tazuna shouldn’t just lose but given how little the science guy seems to actually know I somehow doubt I’d trust his explanation for very much credibility and it will not surprise me when some things we are told in these first episodes turn out to be false.

Hand Shakers is available on Crunchyroll.


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Soul Eater Series Review

Welcome to my 50th anime series review! And it’s a special one: Soul Eater.

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Yes, I know this image is not from Soul Eater.

Overview:

The DWMA (Death Weapon Meister Academy) operates in Death city and works to train Weapons (people who can transform into weapons) and Meisters (those who can wield weapons) in order to fight against evil souls, witches and whatever else get’s thrown at them. Maka is a hardworking Meister who is trying to succeed at turning Soul (her Weapon partner) into a Death Scythe by defeating and eating 99 evil souls and the soul of a witch. Joining them as they face the various villains of the piece are Black Star and his partner Tsubaki and Death the Kid with his partners Liz and Patty Thompson. There’s a whole bunch of other things that happen but you’ll probably enjoy it more if you just watch.

Review:

Since I chose it for my 50th post, it’s kind of obvious I am a fan of Soul Eater. I’ve been wanting to review it for ages but kept putting it off (as I have a few other series that I want to use to mark other milestones). That said, I am not so attached to this series that I won’t identify some of its flaws. By the way, there are spoilers a plenty below if you haven’t watched the series so be warned.

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The first three episodes of Soul Eater are each kind of stand alone stories. They do connect and lead into the main plot, but essentially their job is to introduce us to the three main pairs that we’ll be traipsing around after for the next 51 episodes. Maka and Soul are definitely my favourite pair and the opening fight sequence with Maka is truly amazing. I actually saw this fight on someone’s YouTube channel as one of the best anime fights ever and that’s what lead me to track Soul Eater down (and yes, this was quite awhile ago). Less thrilling is the episode focussing on Black Star but I’ll admit that is my own personal dislike for Black Star coming through. Seriously, the thought of a ninja who can’t stop himself shouting yahoo and landing in the middle of a table to make an entrance doesn’t do much for me. It’s just good that Tsubaki is such an amazing partner. Lastly we meet Death the Kid, who isn’t yet a student at the academy because he’s apparently Lord Death’s son. He is hilarious and while his obsession with symmetry might seem a little too much to take at times it is definitely a well used repetitive joke within the series.

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Once we’ve met our characters the story get’s moving and this is where I am going to be a little bit critical. These guys are in school and in training and yet world ruining danger crops up time and again and they said students to deal with it. Occasionally accompanied by a teacher. Where are the rest of the graduates of this academy and what are they doing? Seriously? Also, we lunge from the peril of Medusa, to the Kishin, and then to Arachne before back to the Kishin throughout the story. While it makes sense that during the long run time we would defeat some of the bad guys, it really feels like it lacks cohesion. More importantly, it doesn’t really feel like Arachne was needed at all in the story even though she probably succeeded in inflicting more damage than either of the other two villains.

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Also, we are going to have training episodes, side character focussed episodes, and just plain filler episodes. While none of this is actually bad it continues to dilute what is actually a fairly thin ‘get stronger and defeat the bad guy’ plot line. Don’t get me wrong, I love the story and find it highly entertaining, but casting a critical eye over it there is certainly room for trimming it some. More to the point, I just keep thinking Maka and co deserve better. They are such dynamic and interesting characters and being flung around the world to fight bad guys before returning to train before fighting some more just feels like the show was hoping the humour, art style and characters would stop us from asking what are these characters doing.

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Maka wants to be as good as her mother, who was also a Meister. She studies and trains all the time and strives to be the top of her class. despite this, she never falls into the trap of being the stereotypical geek character. It isn’t just that she’s a cool fighter, it is that she does know how to laugh and her interactions with Soul as he tries to derail her focus is at times hilarious. But what do all of these fights she gets sent to deal with have to do with her goal? Some of them are clearly linked to the idea of helping Soul become a Death Scythe. But the others? She has no personal stake in it so she’s really fighting because she wants to be the best? She wants to live up to her mother? She’s worried about her friends? All of the above? It is never made particularly clear and the momentum and tone of the series suffers because of it.

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I’d also repeat the above argument for Black Star and Death the Kid. While both have personal goals, they regularly get sidelined and the characters get caught up in larger events that they have no personal stake in. What is worse, is that their own goals don’t even get addressed for large blocks of episodes at a time.

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Last criticism before I get onto why this show is super amazing and you should absolutely watch it: what on Earth were they thinking with that ending? This anime needs a reboot and a new final episode because while the Maka focus in the final battle was great (given she’s my favourite character), this was one of the lamest ways to end a battle ever seen and coming from an anime that delivered epic fights on a regular basis that was not cool.

So, why watch Soul Eater?

The characters do sell the show. Not just the core group but Stein, Lord Death, Spirit (Maka’s father), the other students, Crona, the witches, the returning Death Scythes, they are all just interesting and dynamic characters. Okay, a few of them are the carriers of one joke but given the range of characters not all of them can be given a full back story.

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Crona and Maka’s conflict and then friendship is one of my favourite to watch in anime. Seeing how Crona develops after being offered that friendship is really delightful.  It’s also a pleasant insertion of a very human and real drama into what is sometimes a very over the top and fantastical series.

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Also, Spirit is getting my vote for best anime father. Not because he is a good father in any actual sense of the word, but because he is totally devoted to Maka even if he is useless at showing it. Plus his flip from comedic relief as an over protective but estranged father to serious weapon at the side of Lord Death is very well handled.

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I have to mention Stein. Stein is amazing as the crazy professor and his relationship with Medusa is intriguing. The two characters both deal in the grey areas between sanity and madness as well as the moral right and wrong and it’s fun watching them both stand as close to the edge as they can go on opposite sides of the line. Also, the fights between these two are pretty amazing.

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And of course on the subject of madness we have Maka and Soul. Early in the series, Soul gets cut and infected with black blood while trying to defend Maka after Maka actually stuffs up a fight (something that weighs heavily on her for way too long but is realistic for an overachiever). As the two resonate (connect their souls) that blood starts to infect Maka. The two of them play a dangerous game of Russian Roulette trying to gain more power from the black blood  while at the same time holding onto their sanity and a number of times one or both of them are nearly consumed. A lot of this plays out as a visual metaphor inside Soul in a room with a piano where there is an imp of sorts and some jazz that keeps skipping a beat. If I am honest, this particular plot line was my favourite out of all the storylines that ran throughout Soul Eater. And Maka when under the influence of the black blood is amazing to watch given her usual controlled nature.

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Visually Soul Eater is either a love or hate affair but for me I found it beautiful. The characters are stylised but each one looks exactly the way they need to in order to convey who they are and to distinguish them from the very large cast, the design of the academy and Death City is striking and my favourite part is the anthropomorphized versions of the sun and moon. I get that some people aren’t fans of the look of Soul Eater but to me it does exactly what it needs to and fits the tone of the show perfectly. And the opening themes are absolutely amazing to listen to.

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For a fantasy with a lot of action this story delivers. We have witches, zombies, mummies, gangsters, ninjas, a samurai, demons, and on the list goes. Maka fights with a scythe, Death the Kid duel wields guns, and Black Star uses an array of ninja styled gear and each fighting style feels really unique to the character. The same goes for the other students in the class who could have just become background but in their few fight sequences get to show off who they are.

This show is fun, energetic, not afraid to deal with the darkness facing each character, or the darkness they harbour inside, and it delivers consistently entertaining storylines for our characters to move through as they try to figure out who they are as individuals and as Meisters and Weapons. This is very solidly one of my favourite anime of all time (even while I’ll acknowledge it isn’t perfect).

Oh, and I’m not even going to touch on Excaliber.

So what did you love or hate about Soul Eater? Feel free to comment below.

Taboo Tattoo Episode 6

Review:

This episode was not a train wreck. That isn’t to say it was good, but as an episode it was actually pretty functional. Yes, there is a totally unnecessary Princess-groping-lacking sequence but ignoring that we actually got a reasonable story with Seigi and some guy name either BB or Blood infiltrating a facility, BB teaching Seigi some actually useful skills about fighting with his tattoo, and then we went into various set ups for future events. The fight sequences weren’t as interesting as those in episode 1, but they worked well enough.  I do have to wonder if we needed another illogical character dropped into the mix but it kind of looks like Mr Genius isn’t hanging around, hopefully. As I said, not good, but significantly more functional than some episodes have been.

Taboo Tattoo is available on Crunchyroll.

Taboo Tattoo Episode 1 + 2

Overview:

Justice Akatsuka helps a guy out and get’s given a weird tattoo. Turns out the tattoo is a secret weapon and now there are all sorts of interesting people turning up.

Review Episode 1:

This is as by the numbers as they come.

  • Kid with strong sense of justice and some combat ability (but clearly some issues in his past) – check.
  • Childhood friend (girl) who is concerned about him – check.
  • Another seemingly young girl who is either trying to kill him or recruit him but either way is clearly going to become some sort of rival with childhood friend girl – check.
  • Mysterious super powers that manifest and the one our kid with strong sense of justice got is even more mysterious than some of the others – check.

By the numbers isn’t necessarily a bad thing but overall the first episode was kind of forgettable. The character designs aren’t particularly memorable, the storyline is pretty standard, and while the combat was at times interesting it isn’t on the scale of some anime out there. I’m going to keep watching for a bit as this hasn’t done anything wrong but it also isn’t really impressive.

Review Episode 2:

Taboo Tattoo continues to pull out the clichés even while it kills its own momentum during the first half of this episode. Between explanations, bad jokes, and characters externally narrating their thoughts (either to themselves or to another character) this was really screeching to a halt. The second half picks up as have a villain introduced and then a fight sequence is initiated.

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Again, it isn’t great or particularly memorable but it was certainly watchable. I’m sticking with this one for awhile because while it hasn’t done anything amazing yet it hasn’t really done anything wrong (other than be a little too generic) and I’m still kind of hoping that once they get over the introductions and explanations that maybe they can pull something half decent out of this. And while there might be better anime that have been released this season, I actually am enjoying this to an extent at the moment.

Taboo Tattoo is available on Crunchyroll.