Gamers Episode 5: This Makes Me Wonder If Being Socially Inept is Contagious?

Review:

I’m kind of in a bind with this show. I really like watching the episodes… but, looking at this episode objectively I really shouldn’t be enjoying this. The characters are all acting too stupid for words, too stupid even for cliché gamer characters with limited social skills, and they seem to be acting stupider by the minute. I should be annoyed, exasperated, or eye-rolling and bored, and yet I’m laughing.

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At this point each character thinks every other character has a thing for every other character and none of them have a clue who actually likes them and it is all just kind of depressing when you think about it. It would be slightly better if even one character knew who had a crush on them and just didn’t like them back, but no, instead every character is living is blissful ignorance of reality and imposing their own misinterpreted view on events.

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The game club is almost a non-entity in this show now as these characters who rejected it are now having ‘meet-ups’ apparently to discuss gaming but more to manipulate the relationships just a little bit more. All and all it is messy and the narrative is really going nowhere because we’re just watching these characters go through the train-wreck that is their attempt at a social life.

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Still, between the upbeat, game themed music in the background, and the absolutely serious way our main character delivers lines that are completely going to be misconstrued, I’m having a really good time watching this show. This was not a good episode from a character or story point of view, but it was fun and maybe for this season that is enough.


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Summer 2017 Week 6

Technically this would be halfway through the season and I really feel like I’m scrambling to keep up. There’s a number of shows that I was watching to not review but I’m so far behind at this point there’s almost no chance I’ll finish them with the end of the season. Anyway, while there’s not a lot making me dance with joy this season, there’s some fairly reasonable shows just to relax and watch without a lot of stress. I may end up with quite a few titles on my buy list at the end of the season for when they get a DVD release because there’s a lot of the kinds of shows that I just kind of enjoy binge watching on the weekend.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the shows of the season so please leave me a comment below.

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Must Watch

My Hero Academia (Episode 30)

Loving this. No other way to put it. This show continues to demonstrate control over pacing and characters and knows when to kick the action into high gear. It just works. While it may not be the most inventive story ever, I’m really caught up with Midoriya and his classmates as they work toward becoming heroes.

Princess Principal (Episode 4)

I’m not sure if Princess Principal is going to stay a must watch, but the first four episodes have impressed. Sure, there’s a bit playing on the cute girls as spies, but there’s also some really interesting writing and some unexpected character depth. Plus the whole steampunk, alternative history thing is actually working quite well for it. All and all, I’m just really enjoying the story so far.

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Usually Entertaining

Gamers (Episode 4)

I can’t help it, this show is just a bundle of fun to watch. It plays on clichés and stereotypes but so far hasn’t managed to just be insulting and lazy in its delivery. The music has remained top-notch and the characters are definitely pulling their weight. While not a must watch show (at least not yet) there’s a great deal to like about this show so far.

In Another World With My Smartphone (Episode 4)

This is actually becoming genuine fun to watch. I’m not watching it and tolerating the comedy, I’m actually enjoying the jokes even if they are a little tired and overused in places. The characters are strictly filling their assigned tropes, the story has almost zero depth, and while it looks good enough there’s nothing exceptional about the visuals here. Yet, this show is good fun. It isn’t asking you to take it seriously and it knows very well that it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

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Okay, I Guess

18if (Episode 5)

I was a little optimistic on this one. It isn’t bad but it is becoming repetitive and without further revelations, the story is pretty pointless as Haruto saves the witch of the week. There’s certainly potential for this show to pick up toward the end, but at the moment, okay is the best descriptor for it and what it is delivering. It is interesting in its own way but without any kind of clear direction or any kind of answer, there isn’t much more to say about it. Visually it remains one of the more interesting anime of the season.

Knight’s & Magic (Episode 5)

This show continues to remain entertaining in places, fairly relaxing to watch, but it isn’t really asking me to care too much about what is going on or really seeming to build on its foundations. It’s still fun enough and I’m interested enough, but it isn’t particularly amazing.

Fastest Finger First (Episode 5)

This seems to finally be trying to push the characters rather than the quizzes, and it worked fairly well. Admittedly, the characters still aren’t the most interesting thing in the show, but at least they seem to have something resembling a personality. Hopefully this show can maintain some consistency over the season. The quizzes however remain the highlight for me.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu (Episode 5)

Right, so the story and characters are going nowhere, but the fight sequences remain impressive. Watch for cool sword play and some awesome music, ignore everything else and this is pretty tolerable so far. It is attempting to elicit some kind of emotional response from its audience, but so far it is missing the mark.

Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight (Episode 4)

And this continues its episodic trudge along so if you’ve watched so far, there’s nothing either particularly good or bad about this week (unless watching old people be mistreated upsets you in which case, pass).

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life (Episode 5)

This show would be better if you kept the set up the same but changed the protagonist out for someone with a personality and then switched the writers out for ones that had some sense of how to build drama or any kind of emotion. It remains a very pretty show and one full of characters I want to like, but is pretty bland all around.

Clean Freak Aoyama Kun (Episode 5)

I’m still sticking with this one, which for me and a comedy show is pretty unusual. I must admit, I’m still actually having some fun with it. Though, at 5 episodes in its beginning to tire me as jokes that were kind of tolerable are being reused just that little bit too often and I still don’t really have any concern for any of the characters.

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They Made This

Sagrada Reset (Episode 18)

Sagrada Reset is definitely attempting a late in the season come back. Nothing is going to make this an anime I would recommend to someone given it is incredibly awkward to watch at times with some very stilted characters, and yet, it would be fantastic if those of us who did watch it got to feel some sense of satisfaction as we close in on the end.

Vatican Miracle Examiner (Episode 5)

I wonder if the whole mystery was written out before they started making this. I guess it would have to be. So that means, someone read that script and that resolution and thought it seemed like a good idea and still decided to make this into an anime. It isn’t a total train wreck, but neither is it particularly good or worth watching. Episode 5 fills in some details about Lauren and is a little bit better to watch, but that’s probably because they aren’t on a case.

Chronos Ruler (Episode 5)

Looks like I was right in moving this one down into this category. The writing of this show is appalling as is the characterisation and pacing. Basically it has a kind of decent concept underneath all that and it might get to a point but I’m pretty much expecting this to just meander about and squander any potential it has before sputtering to a fairly flat conclusion.

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Tried and Dropped

Restaurant to Another World (Episode 1)

Centaur’s Life (Episode 1)

Convenience Store Boyfriends (Episode 1)

Saiyuki Reload Blast (Episode 1)

Battle Girl High School (Episode 1)

Hina Logic (Episode 1)

Tsuredure Children (Episode 1)

Fox Spirit Matchmaker (Episode 1)

Aho Girl (Episode 1)

The Irresponsible Galaxy Tylor (Episode 1)

Halfway point of the season: which shows do you think are going to be the stand out of the season?


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Friday’s Feature: Characters Seeking Who They Are

While I have said that I’m not loving the Summer 2017 line up all that much, I’ve been surprised by a number of shows that at first seemed like they wouldn’t really appeal but have then managed to bring me around. One of the common features of these shows is their focus on the theme of identity and characters who seem to either be in search of who they are supposed to be or trying to reconnect with something. On its own, characters doing some soul searching won’t sell a show, but when done in a way that resonates with its audience or in a way that feels real, can make even a reasonably average story suddenly come to life.

With so many anime featuring young and adolescent characters, it is not really all that surprising that many characters are seeking out who they are or who are trying to be something they aren’t. It’s a fairly standard theme of adolescent literature. However, regardless of the age of the characters, or the age of the audience, this idea of figuring out who and what you are is something that people connect with because everyone has at some point wondered if they are who they are actually supposed to be or even if there is someone that they should be.

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Knight’s & Magic takes a very wish fulfillment view of this topic and it isn’t one that is particularly new or surprising. Take an otaku (who actually was doing okay in his normal life) and drop him into a fantasy world where his fascination with robots and skills as a programmer are pretty much allowing him to rise quickly to a position of renown. The key to this kind of story working is that many people have gone through this experience of feeling like they were born in the wrong time or place, that if given a different setting their skills would be valued so much more and they would be appreciated better. It might seem self-indulgent but Knight’s & Magic does have a few things going for it that sets it a little apart from other similar titles.

Firstly, Ernesti’s skills are limited to programming and while he can apply that to the system of magic in the world (making him pretty powerful), he isn’t a super genius at everything and he is highly reliant on the skills of the team of mechanics and the like he is working with to get his ideas of the ground. Regardless of his genius, without these guys, none of Ernesti’s visions would ever have seen the light of day.

Secondly, it isn’t entirely clear whether Ernesti has full memories of his former life or not. Certainly he’s carried quite a bit of knowledge over and some terminology, but otherwise he seems very much a young boy in the fantasy world rather than the adult he was in the real world (which almost makes you wonder why bother saying he was reincarnated in the first place when he could just be a plucky genius). Of course, there’s always room for the story to go back and address this point later so maybe there’s more to this reincarnation thing than initially meets the eye.

Thirdly, while Ernesti is fascinated with creating a robot, his vision doesn’t really extend beyond that. He doesn’t actually seem to have any ambition or drive or understanding or care for the politics and the like of the world he is in. Normally in this kind of story there would already be some great injustice that the plucky hero would be able to judge evil and start raising forces against, but in this story it really just seems like Ernesti is happily oblivious to anything outside of his immediate goals. Maybe this will change as he is forced into increasingly complex situations and Ernesti will be forced to deal with the fall out of his choices, but for the early part of this series it seems Ernesti has zero interest in politics, rules, norms, or anything else that does not lead to him building a giant robot he can pilot.

Still, the entire thing begs the question of what would happen if you were really transported to a fantasy world and would your skills actually amount to anything of value.

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Outside of the fantasy realm, we actually have a darker story set in an alternate history with Princess Principal. Given the duplicitous nature of all of the characters, they are spies afterall, it is no wonder that the theme of identity comes up time and time again. However, it is Ange’s character that has particularly caught my attention, and clearly I’m not alone on that one.

The very first episode “Wired Liar” makes it clear that Ange is not the kind of person that can be trusted. She appears extremely stoic on the outside, hardened as a spy and the life she’s lived, but we later learn of her deep friendship for the Princess. Outside of this, she keeps others at arm’s length by giving them ridiculous answers to simple questions or avoiding their questions altogether. And then in episode 4, as the group struggled with the question of what to name themselves, Ange outright told the Princess she hated who she used to be. So what does that mean for her friendship with the Princess that is rooted very firmly in that past that Ange apparently hates?

Unlike Knight’s & Magic, this isn’t a story about wish fulfillment. It so far has been a story very much walking inside the grey zones we all see where we can’t really define right or wrong. The characters are also grey. Not in the way the Princess is described as grey because her loyalty can’t be trusted, but grey because the true history of all of these characters is obscured. I don’t think Ange’s motive of saving the Princess is a lie (although that would be quite the twist), but nor do I believe that Ange truly believes she can save the Princess. There’s something very sad about Ange and how she has so far been portrayed and I find it fascinating and desperately want to know more about her, but much like her comrades she keeps the audience at arm’s length.

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The last anime I want to look at from the Summer 2017 line up is Gamers. This show has been surprisingly entertaining, and surprisingly good. For a silly comedy that is rapidly becoming a high school rom-com there’s still enough going on in the story that I can’t help but enjoy it. Mostly this is because all of the five main characters who feature in the opening have so far been struggling with finding who they are (and searching for that answer in relation to why they game).

Admittedly, the girls’ stories and actions have all been so far driven by their relationship (or desired relationship) with the males of the story and it would be nice to see them have motivation beyond romantic, yet the stories have been pretty interesting. Aguri and Uehara’s story is particularly interesting. Uehara having transformed himself from perceived geek in middle school to someone who would be socially accepted, even picking up Aguri as a girlfriend even if he wasn’t that in to her. Aguri had also undergone a transformation as she wanted to be someone Uehara liked. However, she knew him back before his own transformation and liked him regardless. All of that might seem pretty shallow until the characters themselves are forced to face the consequences of creating and living a lie or trying to creat an ‘ideal’ high school life.

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But it was episode four with Tendou, the catalyst for the whole story, narrating her daily life that really tipped this one. Tendou’s narration paints a vivid picture but what the audience is seeing is a girl who is obsessed with creating a particular image of who she thinks she is. Then we see her life and her narration after she’s been turned down by the protagonist (not for dating, just for joining the game club) and we realise that Tendou is really unaware that she has created an artificial view of herself. Tendou’s world begins to crumble as she can’t make sense of Amano’s views within the confines of her artificial reality. Whether she comes out the other side of this a better person, or at least a more real person, is another story and one that we don’t yet have an answer to, but the fact that this show is willing to ask the hard questions about who these characters actually are and why they became that way is kind of refreshing.

And while a single character, or even a pair of characters, may get this treatment, to see the entire cast thrust under the microscope as they start out as archetypes, are then fleshed out archetypes, and then have their own perception of who they are challenged, is an interesting and so far entertaining experience. The narrative itself isn’t amazing, but there’s certainly enough in the characterisation to make it interesting.

As none of these shows are finished, it is impossible to know where these characters will end up. That said, there are a lot of interesting characters with interesting possibilities facing them this season. While the shows so far have been a bit hit and miss for me, I know that I’ll remember many of these characters well after this season ends regardless of how their character arcs end.


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Gamers Episode 4: Do You Need a Reason?

Review Episode 4:

This episode focuses on Tendou as we see her perception of her daily life before and after meeting Amano. It’s interesting in that while she was playing at being the perfect everything before, afterward she is a more real person and yet she sees this as her not being herself. Admittedly, all of this is embedded in the usual high school unrequited love trope and to be honest I’m not that interested in the subject matter, however as we’ve had three episodes to kind of get used to these characters I’m a little more invested than I might otherwise be.

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It boils down to Tendou needing to figure out what she actually wants and why. She seriously thought she knew why she enjoyed gaming but Amano’s views shake her up and challenge her position. At first she sees his views as opposed to hers but she starts to realise the issue isn’t black and white, though that just adds to her confusion, shakes her focus, and ultimately she just isn’t playing like she used to.

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Despite the weak high school girl has crush on oblivious boy storyline running through this episode, it touches on quite a few interesting points and Tendou as a character is more than just a catalyst now. All and all, this show remains surprisingly decent and entertaining to watch.


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Gamers Episodes 2 + 3: Not Game Over For Amano

Review Episode 2:

This story might be a little heavy handed in delivering its message and asserting the independence of its characters but it is really great to watch unfold. In between the nostalgic blips and bloops of classic gaming music and characters genuinely enjoying their hobby, we see the fall out of Amano’s rejection for joining the gaming club. His classmates (in fact the whole school) are gossiping and he’s more or less oblivious. Enter Uehara (guy with the pink haired girlfriend) to give us the grass is not greener on the other side story.

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Basically, Uehara was a gamer but decided he wanted to not be that person in high school and so transformed himself. But which is the better option? Amano is essentially ostracised in the classroom (originally by his own shy personality and now by gossip and rumours) and Uehara is forcing himself to act in a way that doesn’t suit in order to ensure acceptance. The fact that events this episode seem to lead to a friendship forming between the pair just makes it more interesting to see where they are all going.

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What really surprised was that Amano has yet to actually join the game club. I kind of thought after rejecting it last episode, he’d reflect and after a few minor mishaps this episode he’d cave and rock up to the club room. I’m impressed the series didn’t go there in episode 2. By the way, the theme song (actually all the music) for this show, rocks.

Review Episode 3:

It’s just like watching a train wreck as Amano is forced into and attempts to interact with others. The love triangle (square/pentagon/whatever) quickly forms even though basically everyone is just making assumptions about everyone else. Given they still aren’t in the game club, I wonder if ultimately they are going to make their own group, or just keep gaming alone-together but it hardly even matters at this point because this story really did take on a life of its own separate from the usual girl tries to get guy into club.

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There were a few moments this episode where felt the obvious comedy elements were intruding on what is otherwise a really fun and enjoyable story, but mostly the jokes are hitting the mark for me and that’s probably to do with the subject matter and the fact that I appreciate these characters even as they simply take on assigned roles.

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I’m really loving watching this and while I’m not declaring it a must watch, I think for people who grew up as gamers, this is going to be a fun ride.


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Gamers Episode 1: Loners Going to Lone

Overview:

“Would you like to be with me… in the Gamers Club?” Amano Keita is a perfectly mediocre loner with no particular distinguishing features other than his love for games. One day, his school’s prettiest girl and Gamer Club President Tendo Karen suddenly calls out to him.

– From Crunchyroll.

Review:

There’s this thing I really hate about stories where they make out that being alone is the single worst thing that can happen to a person and the loner is almost always ‘cured’ when someone or something reaches out to them and helps them see themselves in a new light and gives them some confidence. While some people are alone and desperately want someone to reach out to them, there are genuinely people who are happy with their life being pretty spartan in terms of interactions with other people. So where does Gamers come into this? As a first episode it was going directly down the path of so many other stories, and then Amano turned the pretty blonde down.

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Admittedly, I don’t think his rejection is actually going to stick given its kind of clear he is going to join the club, but it was so nice for him to assert that he was happy playing games on his terms. It means, when he inevitably does join the club, this show doesn’t have to be about transforming him as some sort of charity case. More importantly, it gives his character time to figure out whether he really wants to join and why rather than being dragged into it by the pushy blonde which is the set up of so many other stories.

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I’m really sitting on the fence with this story. I’m not really into high school anime about clubs but I do love the sound track so far (gaming sound effects are releasing strong nostalgia vibes) and there have been enough moments of genuine amusement to make this seem like a promising pick up for the season. Still, this one is a wait and see.


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