Sengoku Night Blood Episode 3: Sake, Herbs, Bees and an Attack

Review:

If the goal here is to walk through a loosely based on actual history historical setting where the cast have been replaced by pretty boy vampires and werewolves than this episode accomplishes its goal wonderfully. If there was an intention of actually helping us learn anything about these characters (other than the name of the person they are supposed to be) or to progress some sort of plot than this episode comes up short.

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That isn’t to say this isn’t still kind of fun. The vampire group meet with the werewolf group and drink sake before a contrived fetch quest sends the girl into the woods to look for herbs where she conveniently and for no apparent purpose steps on a bee hive. Seriously, they do nothing with that other than scene transition. Why even include it?

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We do however see that every single guy is going to fall for the girl regardless of her seeming lack of personality. So yes, plenty to criticise, but this still works from a switch your brain off and enjoy the pretty visuals kind of  perspective and there is still the possibility of the plot going somewhere as they do have a few scenes that indicate more is going on than drinking and flirting.


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Sengoku Night Blood Episode 2: My Teenage Self Would Have Loved This

Review:

I really think that if this had come out (and I’d had the means to watch it) when I was fourteen or fifteen, I’d have been in love with it. However, as I am not a teenager (and haven’t been for well over a decade) and I’ve watched a lot of anime at this point, I know that this is not particularly good. They still haven’t bothered to explain anything about the characters to the audience so either you just accept that it doesn’t matter who they are and just define them by whatever bizarre outfit they are wearing, or you dredge up every memory of these names from every other anime and try to piece it together and even then, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

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The female heroine is starting to get a tiny bit of personality rather than blank slate, but mostly it is just the usual ‘I’d like to be helpful’ personality that so many harem leads fall into and of course her acts of kindness charm every single guy she talks to. Be prepared for blushing warriors left and right as she ‘helps’ them out (and that sounded more suggestive than intended given nothing is actually happening).

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Despite the obvious and fairly relevant criticisms of this show’s set up, characters and plot, I’m still having fun watching it. Okay, it is definitely appealing to that inner teenager inside rather than the adult I supposedly am, and I definitely will not argue that this is actually quality viewing (the series so far has a two star rating on Crunchyroll and I’ve never seen a functional show score so low on there given most things are at least three stars even if they are hopelessly broken), but I’m kind of happy to just switch my brain off and admire the pretty shiny spectacle playing out.

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Yeah, the dialogue is also an issue but I’m going to ignore that for a bit.


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Sengoku Night Blood Episode 1: Diabolik Lovers Meets the Warring States?

Overview:

One day, Yuzuki is enveloped by a mysterious light suddenly emanating from her cell phone and finds herself in an unfamiliar place. The scenery spread out before her almost resembles Sengoku period Japan– But this is another world known as “Shinga” where non-human creatures such as vampires and werewolves reside. Long ago, the various tribes of Shinga lived together peacefully under the protection of the Himemiko who possessed special blood. However, one day the Himemiko suddenly vanished. With the protection of the Himemiko gone, the world has fallen into a period of strife.

– from Crunchyroll

Review:

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Okay, objectively I know that other than the appearance of this, which is very, very pretty, the story itself hasn’t done much yet and they’ve introduced way too many characters in a first episode for any of them to have more than a one defining trait personality at this point. If you ever wondered if the warring states era would be made better by subbing in pretty boy vampires and werewolves than this might be the answer for that curiosity but otherwise this first episode doesn’t give us much else.

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Except perhaps an uncomfortable moment where the heroine of the story (and so far only female character in existence) has a cut on her neck that the main vampire guy forcibly licks despite her protests. Hey, at least he didn’t actually bite her and the animated saliva was only a little bit icky. Honestly, why do that?  Though, we don’t really know anything about her yet given she’s just kind of staring blankly at stuff after being teleported to a different world and dumped on the edge of a battle (she really needs a refund on her phone plan after that effort).

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But despite my nit-picking, I’m going to admit I was pretty hooked during the run time. Admittedly, if you don’t know much about the conflict (as in you haven’t watched 6000 other anime set in the same time period) you may get totally lost as they just kind of throw a whole bunch of names at you, but this episode moved along fairly briskly and I’m not entirely opposed to watching pretty-boy samurai vampires for a season. As long as they lay-off the non-consensual neck licking.


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Drifters Series Review: Was This Worth The Wait?

Overview:

Toyohisa is injured in a battle and as he starts to die finds himself in a mysterious corridor facing a man in a suit reading a newspaper. A door opens and Toyohisa finds himself in a new world where he is called a Drifter. Uniting with other Drifters, they begin to fight, well, everyone.

This obviously came out last year but due to lack of access, it was only very recently I was finally able to watch it (thanks AnimeLab for brining it to Australia). So after reading all the reviews as it aired and series reviews of people who finished it after that, I had a fair idea of what I was getting into. So the questions is, was it worth waiting for?

Review:

Drifters is one of those stories where it could be really cool, but at the moment we’re very much feeling like we’ve read the prologue to a much grander story and we still don’t really know what is going on. The obvious is the confrontation between Drifters and Ends except that the Ends don’t seem to be exactly what we’ve been told and the Drifters aren’t overly concerned with fighting them unless they happen to directly be in the path of what the Drifters are currently trying to do.

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Also, the Drifters aren’t all exactly united. It is clear some have been in the world for a long time and have their own plans and ideas and the three Japanese Drifters that are freeing elves and dwarves and generally going on a mission of conquest are really just out for their own ideals and don’t really seem to care much for the grander scheme (or anyone else’s plans). This makes it really hard to know what the actual end game for this whole story would be particularly as we don’t know the deal with the guy and the girl in the tunnel (other than a clear binary opposition though why we don’t know).

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Despite a lack of answers or real sense of urgency in any of the actions, Drifters manages to be pretty entertaining as we lurch from conflict to conflict. The time periods the various characters come from shape their fighting styles and philosophies and this allows for the action sequences to not get dull. The humour is at times crude but it actually works quite well and adds to the overall entertainment of the show.

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Visually Drifters is interesting. I’m not going to say I particularly like the character designs but it is striking and the characters are distinct and memorable. The art style very much suits the story being told and contributes to the overall tone so it is successful in that respect. Okay, I found it ugly, but that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of this series and it definitely stood out from a lot of other shows.

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The opening song is also quite distinct and again the visuals work. They aren’t what I would call pretty, but the opening very much gets you ready for the feel of the show and that is what it is supposed to be doing.

All and all, unless you don’t like the subject matter, which is pretty much various characters thinking of ways to more effectively kill and conquer other characters, with quite a bit of crude humour thrown in, Drifters is quite a nice action anime. I wouldn’t outright recommend it due to the narrative feeling like it barely got started but there is certainly some fun to be had in watching it. Basically, don’t think too hard, enjoy the gore, don’t even begin to try to figure out whether a character is actually supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy because that’s a lost cause.


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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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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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In Another World With My Smartphone Episode 10: Beach Episode

Review:

You probably don’t need any further information about this given the story so far. Imagine Touya and the whole female dominated cast of this show go to the beach. Done. Go for beach volleyball, swim suit mishaps, and leading questions to ensure appropriate awkward responses and blushing.

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There is the slightly more interesting side story of Touya summoning the Black Emperor to assist with the whole investigating the underwater ruins and this was probably the only moment this episode that actually made me laugh give Touya’s combination of programming and slip. That’s a way to win a fight even if it is a little underhanded.

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Otherwise though, very little to see here unless you actually like beach episodes.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 11: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, No… It’s a Giant Mechanical Dragon?

Review:

This show was definitely written by a bunch of people sitting around saying “You know what would be cool…”

“Yeah, giant robots that fight with magic.”

“Totally.”

“Wait, what if they had like four magic wands?”

“Too cool!”

“And then what if some of them looked like horses?”

“That’s fantastic!”

“And we’ll paint some red. Everyone loves red!”

“Awesome!”

And then the conversation starts to devolve and eventually we get to…

“And then the enemy just builds a freakin’ dragon and it burns the whole city down!”

Stunned silence for a moment.

“Woah! That is amazing! Write it! Write it!”

So yeah, that’s how I imagine the planning meeting for this story going and to be honest watching this show is rather like being a fly on the wall for one of those conversations. The participants look like they are having fun, but it isn’t fun.

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We had one antagonist in the prince who was dispatched almost without a second thought but that kind of left room for the designer guy from the supposed bad guys to become an antagonist. Only we know absolutely nothing about him other than he is on a serious ego trip, which more or less puts him on par with our apparent hero, Ernesti, that we know nothing about other than he is good at everything because he was a programmer in a previous life.

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And all this leaves me asking what the point of all of this is for the audience? Maybe the writers are having fun. Maybe Ernesti is having fun somewhere. But for the audience we are continuing to watch a series of events strung together only through narration about characters we know literally nothing about and have little reason to care.

Maybe I could just shrug and agree that a flying mechanical dragon is cool. Okay, it is cool. I love dragons. This one burnt a whole city in one breath and looks pretty awesome. Only, I know how this will go already. Even if I choose to buy into the cool factor this week, next week or the week after, Ernesti will tilt his head, come up with some weird idea and laugh as he rushed into battle and that dragon is going to end up either a flaming mess of scrap parts or Ernesti is going to take control of it. Either way, I’m pretty sure I am not going to be satisfied with how it goes.


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