Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 6: Bad Plays and Flying Ants?

Review:

We continue on our journey of finding accommodation and good things to eat while Zena continues to try to get Satou’s attention and the rest of the girls jump eagerly to please at every turn. After unsuccessfully (and in an uninteresting manner) going house shopping, Satou and Zena go to a play with the others and then critique it based on its anti-feminist messages.

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While that might be slightly sarcastic, that is more or less the crux of that segment of the story. About the only real benefit the conversation brings is that Arisa confronts Zena about her reason for being a soldier. And considering how timid she is and how accident prone, Arisa’s reasoning that Zena is avoiding a potential arranged marriage holds quite a bit of weight, even if the way Arisa says it is kind of blunt.

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Anyway, we then have flying ants attack and while the soldiers are doing their soldier thing, Satou and slaves seems to save the day for multiple civilians earning them thanks and another meal. The very end of the episode introduced a new character and hopefully the anime will continue to follow the books because the new character did lead to an interesting segment in the novels. Fingers crossed that something eventually happens in this show that is actually interesting.

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Karandi James

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 4 Light Novel Review: Thematic Consistency Makes For A Compelling Read

I’ve reviewed the first three books in this series but if you missed those posts you can read them here. The review below will contain spoilers for the previous books.

Review:

I said in my review of the third book that each story here takes us further into the rich world of Grimgar and book 4 is no exception. However, stronger than the extraordinary setting is the ongoing development of the characters and the themes of loss and the will to survive.

After the death of Manato in book 1, Grimgar set its tone clearly and also demonstrated a fairly strong ability to write real human emotions into a story. Coping with loss and death is done fairly poorly in so many stories with characters completely breaking down or just forgetting about the death as soon as they step away from the grave. Grimgar managed to show the mourning process in a compelling manner as well as portray the long journey back to some kind of emotional normalcy even while the characters were forced to continue to act because to wait would have been to die.

The death at the end of book 3 (which might have been a tease) was confirmed very swiftly in book 4 and even though I had quite a few weeks waiting for the next book to be released and to arrive, I hadn’t quite come to terms with what that death would mean for the party. Once again, Grimgar has managed to impress me with its handling of the grief process each character goes through and their recovery as a party. It isn’t a repeat of what we saw in book 1. These characters have gone through so much since then and this is the second time, but that actually makes it more intriguing.

Merry wasn’t with the party when they lost Manato but she has lost her own comrades and this death hits her hard and reinforces her fear that she is a failure as a priest. For Ranta, he has lost the one person in the party who kind of tolerated him and someone he’d actually started forming a connection with. But outside of the loss of a comrade and making so many of them feel guilty, is the feeling that without Moguzo they will die. That their party can’t survive without him.

There’s also the added emotional confusion when several members of the party are offered places in more established and potentially safer groups with more experience.

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But this book isn’t just dwelling on the past. Once again, the story manages to balance dealing with the characters’ emotions with moving the plot forward. More importantly, the characters still aren’t at the stage where they can rest as each day uses money and if they don’t fight they don’t earn. Another replacement party member is found and the group begin to explore new territory taking some risks in the hopes of getting stronger and finding a way for long term survival.

While Ranta remains a fairly insufferable character, his presence is kind of needed in this group and the story balances him well as he never crosses the line of making me hate him as a character. He is annoying and he stirs the other characters and at times he is a complete idiot, yet in every fight I find myself hoping he survives if only so he can stir Haruhiro up the next day.

Actually, I like all the characters as characters. They are all flawed people and struggle at times and I doubt I’d like many of them in real life, but I’ve grown very attached while reading this series and knowing that the writer can and will kill characters leaves me feeling quite stressed during fight sequences.

On that note, the final battle delivered in this book tops anything read so far and once again I’m wondering why the anime didn’t make it this far because books 3 and 4 would be incredibly impressive in anime form.

However, I can’t just be all lovey-dovey about this book so my small criticism would be Haruhiro’s character. After the progress he had been making before this book, now he seems to stagnate as a character and given he’s the narrator that might become a problem. Still, it seems as though the final fight may have broken through some wall so maybe book 5 will deliver some growth. Unfortunately it isn’t available on the Book Depository just yet. Still, I am very keen to read on.


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Karandi James

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Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 5: And Here is Arisa

Review:

The arrival of my least favourite character in the light novels was not an asset to this episode. Then again, it is hard to think of what might have improved this given essentially twenty minutes of screen time is taken up with a walk to the hotel, a conversation in bed, and then a really annoying girl-walks-in-on-guy-sleeping-next-to-other-girl-and-jumps-to-conclusions trope. At least she didn’t slap him.

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In fairness, they also ate a meal. Wow, this show is hard to find a positive in this week.

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Anyway, Arisa is one of two new slaves that Satou has purchased and essentially added to his ‘not’ harem because he still insists he isn’t into young girls. She’s a Japanese girl reincarnated in this world and actually does bring some useful contextual knowledge to the story given it turns out there are reincarnations from Japan and summoned humans, but neither situation seems to fit Satou’s current predicament given he wasn’t born into the world and his appearance changed when he arrived (plus the absence of a summoning circle kind of hits that one on the head). We also learn that Arisa has a range of magical abilities that could make her quite scary if used the wrong way. Seriously though, Arisa’s entire personality annoys me. It annoyed me while reading it and it is worse watching it.

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In case you are wondering about the other slave, I wouldn’t as other than a few scared looks, a stomach growl, and an entirely way too convenient moment of sleep talk, her presence was more or less zero in this episode. Really though, this show needs to think about what they are trying to do. While they are doing a great job of pretty much walking us through the books, what they aren’t doing is being entertaining viewing so far.

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Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Volume 3 Light Novel Review: And My Journey May End Here

Review:

It seems a shame given this series has now been adapted into an anime (though so far not well) and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, but the second book kind of felt plotless to an extent and now this third book has jettisoned the idea of a plot altogether.

Individual moments in the book are still interesting. Learning how to make vials for potions, the witches and the whole subplot about Satou helping them fulfill their contract (which was used as the climax of the book but isn’t exactly a main storyline), and even just the different villages and cities they visit are nice and all. However there’s no central drive. There is still the whole suspicious infusion of Japanese culture and the possibility of other people trapped in this parallel world from our world, but to be honest Satou as the protagonist isn’t doing much about that and it doesn’t really seem like the reader should care either.

So what we get instead are endless descriptions of food preparation and random magical experiments, snippets of conversation and lots and lots of Satou comforting his various slaves and travel companions as they all vie for his attention (nothing lewd mind you given Satou continuously reminds us of the age of most of them and he genuinely does seem to be looking out for them).

Part of me is still curious as to where this story might go given there are literally endless possibilities, and the other part of me realises that this volume took me the better part of a week to actually finish reading because I would get to the end of a chapter, realise nothing had happened and would put the book down. That’s really not exactly what I look for in a book.

I’m not ruling out trying the next book in the series but for now at least it’s on hold while I check out some other books that have been in my reading list.


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Karandi James

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Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 4: Becoming a Hero

Review:

Well that was a nice twenty minutes of watching someone else playing a dungeon crawler and defeating the boss first go without any real effort once he equipped the right weapon. It’s amazing how reading this sequence was kind of interesting but watching it isn’t, even though the episode plays out almost identically to the read minus some dialogue while Satou eats with the slave girls.

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I do wonder about the end because they seem to have left a few points out after leaving the dungeon but maybe they’ll come into play next episode. And either way, it wouldn’t have made watching this any more enjoyable. It is more like a casual stroll through an unscary haunted house because you kind of know nothing is going to hurt you or the characters and the monsters are kind of lame.

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The highlight of the episode were definitely the magic effects as they looked kind of pretty and visually were the most interesting thing we’ve come across in this series. But when a visual effect is my episode highlight I must admit I’m pretty bored.

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Worst disguise ever – outside of glasses.

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Karandi James

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Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 3: Entering A Dungeon

Review:

This one continues to be less than exciting and somewhat less than visually impressive as we follow Satou and Zena on their date around the city before they rescue some slaves from being stoned and finally get dropped into a dungeon by a demon. Pretty typical date really, or at least you would think it is for all that the main character actually reacts to the situation.

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While this plays out more or less exactly the way it did in the book, there was even less hesitation and uncertainty from Satou (and there wasn’t that much in the book). Here he hesitates but a moment and then goes and pulls a rambo on a bug. While a sense of danger isn’t really what this is going for, feeling that events like being dropped in a dungeon are as boring as changing the sheets is probably a small problem in terms of this anime really sticking for people.

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I did however like the demon. He’s incredibly annoying and his voice is horrible and it just perfectly suits a low level and annoying demon. Pochi and Tama are similarly sufficiently cute without being obnoxious. All and all, this episode really didn’t give anyone a reason to jump into this if they weren’t watching but pretty much did the same as the last two for those who are already watching it.


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Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 2: They Are Cutting A Lot Of Corners Here

Review:

Well, the experiment of watching a show I’ve read the source material for continues and it is kind of to the show’s detriment that it seems to be faithfully following the lines of the light novel. However, while the endless descriptions and the like kind of work while reading given you can visualise the various sights, sounds and smells for yourself, in anime form this is just kind of dull.

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Added to the very little happening other than Satou getting a lift with the knights into town, gaining entry and then doing some shopping before eating a meal, the animation in this is really terrible. Transitions between scenes are best described as clunky and the number of still images or repeated animations for characters are stacking up quick. The excuse that it is mirroring the behaviour of NPC’s and settings in game worlds is not going to cut it when the end result is something pretty ugly to look at.

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From a story point of view, this is functional. It isn’t overly exciting, but it is functional. But the number of issues it seems to have and the sheer lack of any real appeal is kind of going to see this one dead in the water. Though if I had to pick a key complaint this week it would be that Satou’s status bar when viewing the world from his perspective overlaps perfectly with the subtitles making them very challenging to read. I’m continuing with this one more out of curiosity about whether it will veer from the source material rather than any actual enjoyment from this episode.


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Death March To The Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 1: This Is My Experiment

Overview:

With that title you would have to know there’s a light novel of this one, and apparently a manga, and what do you know, it’s another isekai story about an over-powered protagonist trapped in a game. And if you’ve watched any of the promotional material you probably already know a harem is incoming. That said, this is more of a fantasy travel guide than your standard protagonist beats up the bad guys kind of story though whether that makes it any more appealing is anyone’s guess.

Review:

So this is an experiment. I have never watched an anime before where I have previously read the source material. The few manga I had read were always read after I watched an anime and was left unsatisfied by the conclusion and until a few months ago I’d never read any light novels. Still, since I started reading light novels I’ve kind of been devouring them and Death March was one I picked up and I’ve now read to the third book (though my review of that when I get around to it probably won’t be great because I decided to put the series on hold after that one). That makes this the very first time I started an episode of an anime with a fairly solid understanding of the story and an expectation for how it will play out.

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And I have to admit, that did change how I viewed this episode. If I remove any knowledge of where this goes or what I expect to happen, this is an incredibly mediocre opening episode for an anime series. It isn’t broken by any means, but it isn’t exciting or intriguing and it does nothing to make you care about the main character, and essentially it is just going through the motions of setting up how Suzuki (in game name Satou) is actually in the game he was previously developing. But as the why of this isn’t answered, even that isn’t really much use in terms of a set up.

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I will admit now that while I’d probably keep watching this just because I don’t mind isekai, trapped in a game stories, anyway, this one set itself up to be a pretty bland entry into a fairly over-saturated market. However, I have the added intrigue of wanting to see how this plays out. One thing I did like was the contrast in the visuals from the real world to the game world. However, knowing we are now staying in the game world, I kind of hope that they ease of with the menus and icons flashing over the screen as well as the weird filters. While it did contrast nicely with his working environment, it wasn’t exactly what I want to look at while watching an anime. Mostly because it felt like I’d been launched back into an RPG from the 90’s.

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I’m curious enough to keep watching but objectively I can see why this one would be a quick drop for most people. This first episode is best described as bland and even a lizardman massacre by meteorites can’t make it any more exciting.


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Maerchen Maedchen Episode 1: I’m Curious

Overview:

This is a story about girls (called “Maedchen”) who are selected by “Origin”. They attend school of witchcraft located all over the world to wield their magic and become first-rate “Origin Masters”. Their goal is to win at the annual Hexennacht competition, where representatives of each school compete in their abilities to wield their magic. The winner gets to have one wish magically granted.

– From Crunchyroll

Review:

If the synopsis hadn’t told me about the whole magic competition thing this first episode certainly didn’t tell me anything about it. So I’m kind of on the fence whether I’ll end up sticking this one out or not because I actually really had fun watching this episode, even as it walked through about a million cliché plot developments including a chase sequence with a naked girl.

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But, I kind of liked the set up for this. Okay, it won me over right from the start with the respect the main character has for books. More importantly, I found Hazuki an instantly relatable character after she fled dealing with her new sister to escape into a book.

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So while all the usual girl travels to magic world standards seem to be at play here, the first episode made me curious about the world and the books and the main character. Which means it more or less did its job. Do I think this will be amazing? Probably not. But it did make me want to give it a go.


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The Rising of the Shield Hero 2 Light Novel Review: Grinding, Crafting and Lots of Travel

Overview:

Naogumi continues his adventure as the Shield Hero (although the term Hero here might be highly misplaced for a lot of reasons) in this second book. My thoughts on book 1 can be read here in case you missed it, but essentially boy gets summoned to another world where everything is more or less set up like a game and he finds out he’s a hero that can’t use weapons but is still expected to help save the day even though everyone treats him horribly.

Review:

I really enjoyed reading book one though had some issues with Naofumi as a protagonist and those aren’t entirely diminished with book 2, but at the same time some of my issues are actually what make him pretty memorable from all the bland characters out there who just try to be the good guy all the time, or the overly scummy ones that are a parody of the overly nice ones. Naofumi has a distinct personality, I’m just not entirely sure I like it. That isn’t the same as it not working for the story.

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However, it will definitely make more sense if I logically order my thoughts so lets take each part of this book one step at a time.

Firstly, this book needs a new edit and a reprint. Sorry, but basic errors where quotation marks are left off the start of dialogue so you can’t tell when the character starts speaking and issues where in a fight sequence the wrong character name was used leaving me entirely confused until I realised what had happened actually make some parts of this story a little more painful to read then they should be. In the fight example, Raphtalia points to draw Naofumi’s attention to Filo but the line about Filo uses Raphtalia’s name again making me wonder what on earth was going on until I re-read and subbed in the other name. Then it all made sense. Equally problematic are the scene and chapter transitions that regularly either reiterate information for seemingly no reason or are just really awkward. My personal favourite was the end of chapter 14 into 15 where they are discussing that they have been told there’s an area in desperate need of weed killer and there was money to make so they hurried to the Southwest. That seems fine as a chapter end as it gives us direction for where the story is going. Chapter 15 starts:

So there was a village that needed a large quantity of weed killer. We hurried there.

Um, wasn’t that exactly what I was just told only in a more interesting way at the end of the previous chapter? Even if originally these chapters were released separately or if this was originally a story told in a different medium, that’s a really simple thing to fix. Book chapters should not link like this. So yeah, new editor and fix it. Because this is a great story and has a real unique feel to it. Don’t make it needlessly difficult or annoying to read because when the story is flowing well, there’s some really good stuff here.

What is this good stuff?

As I said before, Naofumi is problematic as a protagonist and as a hero, but that’s what makes him so fascinating. He literally hates everyone in the world he is being forced to save (except Raphtalia who has become his life-line and beacon of hope and is probably the only reason he has actually continued on in this ridiculous adventure and not just laid down and waited for a wave to wipe him out). However, regardless of what a lot of book 1 set up, this is a world. It might have a lot of gaming gimmicks and the like, but it is full of people. Not everyone sucks. What book 2 does is lets the audience see the struggle inside Naofumi as he holds firmly onto that hate for everyone, but then realises he can’t act so incredibly coldly to others. What he ends up doing for the most part is fairly mercantile but his actions are good and save many of the poorer citizens who are equally treated like dirt by those in power, even if he demands payment for those acts and steadfastly denies any righteous actions.

That doesn’t mean he really gets close to anyone else though. Raphtalia, and later Filo, both work their way through his defenses but everyone else either falls into the category of potential money source or source of hatred. Still, Naofumi’s ongoing wavering and responses to events continue to be interesting.

Again, we are faced with the complex issue of slavery in this world as Naofumi already bought Raphtalia (though she chose to regain her slave curse after being forcibly removed from Naofumi last book) and now he has purchased a monster egg that grew into a Bird-God that of course can transform into a blonde girl with wings. Why not? These two are Naofumi’s slaves and he has considerable power over them, not just because he owns them, but because of the curse on them that will hurt they if they deny his orders. The fact that Naofumi is painted as someone with reasonable moral standing in a fairly corrupt world makes his slave ownership a really grey area. He doesn’t mistreat them but at times does treat them like objects and he certainly gets annoyed when they deny his commands (though usually they are commands meant to keep the pair safe).

I’m really hoping this line continues to be pursued in future books. I would love to see him release both Raphtalia and Filo from their curse and have them simply continue to work with him by choice (they pretty much would anyway but as Raphtalia has correctly pointed out at this point in the story Naofumi would never trust them if they weren’t owned by him). So yes, it is very grey and it is interesting because of it.

I also like that while there are some fight sequences depicted in this book, the majority of the time we’ll spend watching Naofumi develop his medicinal and crafting skills in the back of a carriage and trading with others. We see a lot more of the world in this book as the wave isn’t coming for over a month, and Naofumi is working to raise money for better equipment before the next wave. They do spend some time fighting to level up, but really the focus is on the other skills Naofumi can learn and develop while in this world. That does mean we are essentially reading about a character grinding in an RPG style fashion but to be honest, I enjoyed it well enough as there was a nice range and variety. A bit of jewel making, mixing medicines, gathering ingredients, collecting ore, learning magic, trying out new shields; it all just kind of flows on naturally from one thing to the next broken up by the occasional side character that they either give a lift too or the occasional monster fight.

The other heroes all get kind of a mention at times throughout the story. They are obviously still around at the start as we literally pick up where the last book left off, but then we mostly only run into Motoyasu who is one of the main causes behind Naofumi’s general hatred of humanity. Still, it is interesting that this book chooses to focus on the chaos that remains after the acts of the other heroes as a lot of Naofumi’s time is spent cleaning up something that one of the other heroes set in motion or failed to deal with adequately. While a lot of this world is based on a game design, when you kill a dragon it doesn’t just go poof and disappear. There’s a rotting corpse to deal with in this world and all the concerns that go with that. I like that touch it adds to the realness of the fantasy world.

Overall, the characters and story remained interesting and a bit different while also being much the same, but the writing didn’t feel as well edited this time round and that was a little disappointing. Still, I will definitely be on the look out for the next book.


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