Granbelm Episode 2 – Well This Was Unexpected

It seems I will be taking over the Granbelm reviewing for Karandi. She’s still going to be watching the show so I’m sure she’ll be reading the posts along with you! I hope I don’t disappoint!

I’m also trying out this review layout. Feel free to give me your comments on it! Oh and of course you can see the full gallery HERE!

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let’s start with a bang

What I Thought Would Happen

After last week, I honestly thought we were going to get some more difficult to follow magical exposition mumbo jumbo, intercut with some more mecha battles. Maybe a flashback scene to how the previous girls became magical pilots. Something along those lines.

What Did Happen

After a out of the blue but quick naked scenes, the episode actually settled into a school based Slice of Life. After pushing her newfound magical powers to their limit Mangetsu had been completely exhausted and ended up spending the night at Shing’s place….without warning her parents….who reasonably called the police! When’s the last time we saw fit parents in anime??? After this, we got some more magical world building exposition. It was still a bit garbled but the jist of it is that Magical Girls are all decedents of Magicians but only one of them can claim the title for herself so every ten years, when the stars align or something, they fight to see who will become the next hokage. That sounds about right.

Why our girl Mang is suddenly involved is still nebulous but moving on. To help her out keep an eye on her, Shing transfers to Mang’s school. No one shortens the names like that, purely my initiative. Meanwhile. Magical girls all over town are on the move and all of them attend the same school. Who knew?

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if I had a nickel every time someone said that about me!

What About the Characters

Actually, I liked them. I can’t say they improved much. It’s not like they got more complex or interesting really. In fact Mang went from being a Mary Sue to being a Pollyanna and a Mary Sue. But they have decent chemistry. Shingetsu got a few humanizing moments that were very fun and therefore her character seemed more fun for them, even though she really hasn’t changed much. And although the antagonists (I have to learn her name at some point) is pretty one note “bad”, she did have this warning in the very last scene that made it seem like there’s more depth to her than expected. That warning wounded sincere and that’s intriguing.

What I Liked

I really liked the mundane moments. I think if they skew the show to 80-90% CGDCT content and leave the magical girl and mecha stuff as a bit of background flavour, Granbelm may in fact have a lot of promise. If you had told me this last week, I would have called you a liar…under my breath.

Shingetsu’s backpack scene was a brilliant sight gag. It managed to be funny yet sweet and relatable at the same time. And as I mentioned the show looks pretty good.

What I Liked Less

The overaching magical mecha plot just seems to bring the series down. I sometimes get the impression that the writers haven’t figured out all the details yet so they’re keeping it vague on purpose. But even the stuff we do know if pretty lacklustre. We’ve seen very similar done way better. I think there’s a missed opportunity to go in a bit deeper on the macha side of things.

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there may have been a lot of pictures of lilies at some point….

Closing Thoughts

Granted, at this point I was expecting almost nothing out of Granbelm so I may be a little skewed in my perception. This said, although not necessarily impressive on any level, I found this episode enjoyable. It had some sweet moments, a few laughs, a very convenient magical power! Basically I had a good time with it. If this keeps up, I might even recommend the series.

Looking forward to next week.

Mood: Pleasantly surprised

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Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

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Granbelm Review Episode 1

This anime got my attention.

Granbelm Episode 1

Magic girls fight in an imaginary space using giant robots that are actually a materialised version of their heart? Okay, Granbelm, I’ll bite.

Admittedly outside of the giant robots we’ve essentially got another magical girl battle royale going on which have kind of become a dime a dozen in a post Madoka era. That doesn’t mean these kinds of stories can’t be fun, particularly if they have a bit of energy behind them and Granbelm certainly has that. About the only time this episode took a pause for air was when Shingetsu sat down with Mangetsu to try to explain the basic origin of what was going on and that didn’t last long before a formerly downed enemy got up and went back on the attack.

And, no.

As an anime original there’s a definite novelty here in that no one will really know what to expect and there’s no sneaking a peak at the end of the story. While we might compare elements of Granbelm with other magical girl stories, there was a definite feeling of freshness about this one as Mangetsu scuttled about what used to be the school building trying to evade attacks by robots.

Of course the standard tropes are there. The heroine’s transformation has her in pink and white and despite not having a clue about magic or how to use her giant robot thing, after being told to envision what she wanted to happen she suddenly becomes super powered. We’ve also got a number of mages that look like they missed the boat for Magical Girl Raising Project in terms of personality. Then the crystals the girls have strongly remind me of the crystallised souls the girls were given in Madoka Magica. About all we’re really missing is a cute mascot animal but I guess that’s hard to squeeze in when we’ve also got giant robots in play (though I won’t be surprised to see one turn up later).

I kind of think this looks like a giant frog. How about you?

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	FIGMA NO. 443 MY HERO ACADEMIA: KATSUKI BAKUGO

However, there’s one undeniable fact about this first episode of Granbelm and that is that it is really fun to watch. It draws you right into the action and you learn enough about the characters and the world on the way with only a minor exposition dump to bridge a few gaps that passes quickly. The music is amazing with the soundtrack while the robot fight was going on reminded me of an old school sci-fi as did the noises the robots made as they moved and attacked. Visually it is rich in colour but not an eye-sore.

About my only worry here is that next week when we return to the ‘real’ world this will become a stock standard school anime only occasionally broken up by the kind of content we saw this week. Hopefully that isn’t the case, but it is definitely a possibility.

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Magical Torture, Pain, and the Unending War

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 12 Review

Don’t expect an ending or even a satisfying last ditch battle. This is more a conglomerate of character moments, set up for future plot lines, and random flash backs that just kind of splatter their way across the screen for twenty minutes before we get a narration that more or less tells us the story is nowhere near finished. Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka has been at times underwhelming and has never really lived up to its potential, but nowhere is this more clear than in the final episode which mostly just leaves the series on its lowest note yet.

Mia- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 12

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting points along the way and the series as a whole has been kind of fun and introduced some interesting ideas and concepts. But it does mean that as a season it is sort of lacking given the absolute lack of resolution in this final episode.

Part of the problem is this episode is jumping between Asuka and Kurumi writing reports, time at school and hanging out with friends, the special forces group making an alliances with some other agency that I can’t remember in order to gather intelligence, Kurumi torturing the captured magical girls, a sex scene between the villains, and flashes to what the other magical five are up to, plus the flashbacks to prior to the end of the previous war. That’s way too much and as a result everything feels like it is just kind of crammed in and nothing gets developed or dealt with or feels overly satisfying.

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It isn’t a great way for this anime to go out this season and it probably has shot itself in the foot for a season 2 (then again, maybe it already has one planned, who knows). I do know that this series hasn’t made me interested enough to go read the books and with an ending like that I’m not sure I’ll watch season 2.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

Still, this one is going to be a tricky one to fully review with some fairly strong positives in some areas and some really big flaws elsewhere. I’ll have to think that through but for now Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is done for the Winter season.

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Bring the Pain; It Won’t Stop These Magical Girls

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 11 Review

As Asuka faces off against Giess and War Nurse Kurumi faces of against Whiplash, the fighting above ground grinds to a halt with The Russian magical girl rescuing Mia as well as Nozomi and Sayako. Of course, there’s no more reason for the fighting to go on above ground given the box with the magical tool in it has already left the building and so the fight below ground, while grand and all, is mostly just marking time.

Asuka vs Giess - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka  - Episode 11

Kurumi gets quite the beating in this episode, both physically and emotionally. We already knew War Nurse wasn’t amazing at hand to hand combat so her opponent couldn’t be any worse. Yet, despite flash backs to days of being bullied and a lot of mental trauma, War Nurse isn’t going to take a beating lying down.

Kurumi - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

This is probably the best showing Kurumi has been given so far in this series. She’s wanting to go help Asuka, but more than that, she doesn’t want to feel pathetic. She doesn’t want to return to who she was. Kurumi gives this fight everything she has and while she is still very much a support fighter, you have to respect her victory in this instance.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

Asuka on the other hand is a front line fighter but her opponent is also ill-suited. She takes significant damage including the loss of an arm, but don’t think that’s going to stop her.

Now, I should point out, that the fact that Nozomi lost an arm earlier in the series and they simply reattached it takes a lot of the tension out of this sequence. There’s never any doubt that Kurumi will get there and repair Asuka’s arm for her so the cringe and fear that should really work with this scene isn’t there. So instead it feels a little bit flat despite the apparent gravity of a teenage girl having her arm torn off.

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Again though, we know it isn’t going to be permanent, unless Kurumi dies before the fight is over but that seemed unlikely, and also, the audience knows the reason for this fight has already gone. Asuka isn’t aware of it so is fighting for real, but it makes it hard for the audience to invest.

Of course, that doesn’t make Asuka’s winning attack any less cool to watch.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 11

I don’t know what they are going to do to Whiplash but I don’t think it will matter. She was pretty broken after losing her fight and then Giess put the final nail in the coffin by revealing what his side did to her.

Whiplash - Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka - Episode 11

The one thing I do know is that none of this will be properly solved next week unless it is done at break neck speed so it seems we’ll be left hanging at season’s end. And was that last comment by the villain about the magical tool a sign that Sayako is actually going to become a magical girl or am I reading too much into that?

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The Battle of the Magical Girls Begins

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Review

With the invasion of the military base and the parallel invasion of Naha city occurring at the end of last episode it was clear that this week Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka would be focused on the battle at hand. What follows is a fairly scattered affair with the audience jumping from one scene of the battle to another and seeing Tamara and Mia in action at their respective locations as well as following the actions of various soldiers and Nozomi and Sayako in amongst the fight before we finally get down to business in the bunker with Rapture, War Nurse and the main villains of this fight.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Disas

While it is a scattered affair frantically jumping from one point where the soldiers are being beaten back to another, interspersed with civilians fleeing and dying and ordinary police being incredibly heroic before dying, all of this cut with scenes of the military commanders glaring at their screens and musing about potential strategy, it works really well because the set up for this fight was put in place last episode. Even though the overall motives of the villains is still unclear, making that the weakest link in the whole series, the basic parameters for this sequence were clearly laid out and the target of the General in the basement was pretty straight-forward, even if it turns out they were after something the general had rather than the general herself.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Nozomi and Sayako

Action sequences in this anime remain very entertaining to watch with a real sense of pace and movement about them. It makes getting screen caps kind of difficult because of the amount of motion blur at times but at the same time, watching the sequence it is very solid portrayal of a frantic fight sequence. It’s also fun watching the transition between the soldiers and their standard tactics compared to the Magical Girls who are almost a whole army on their own and have their own way of fighting.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 10 Mia

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While characterisation gets put to the side for a large majority of the episode, Asuka still manages to deliver a decent effort at remembering that she was traumatised by the previous war and has yet to really accept that she’s back involved with the conflict. While many an anime hero would have committed to fighting and then never mentioned their trauma again, Asuka is wearing hers on her sleeve and it really is only Kurumi’s presence at her side while they wait that keeps her grounded and prevents her from breaking down entirely as they listen to the sounds of battle and dying over the radio.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Kurumi and Asuka

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka remains a fairly decent viewing experience and while it has at times pushed the violence a little further than some people would like, its been delivering a reasonably compelling story and it seems to be heading to a decent climax. Now whether or not we get a decent end point or are left hanging is really all that’s left to find out in the next two episodes and that could really change my overall opinion of the show.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10
Well, I’m scared.

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Up Close With Madoka

You know, plenty of people want to change the world. Most of us won’t ever be given the chance to. But what if one day a small, white, bunny like creature appeared and told you that you could make a wish, and because of your great potential you could wish for almost anything you wanted and it would come true?

Would you end up like the Rat from Juni Taisen who simply wishes to forget everything that has happened so that he could find some peace? Or would you manage to find a wish worth changing everything for?

This is the question Madoka is confronted with early on in Madoka Magica and it isn’t really surprising that it takes her the full series to finally come to a resolution. Madoka is living an ordinary life. She is an ordinary girl. This wasn’t a case of her being reborn in human form or born into a family of magician or anything along those lines. Madoka is painfully ordinary and she is well aware of the fact.

Madoka Magica - Madoka's Family

That said, her family interactions are adorable. She has a career driven mother who still tries to find time to bond with her daughter and to support her through the awkward transition into adulthood sharing small pearls of wisdom while preparing for a day of work/school. The father prepares meals and takes care of the younger brother and again provides that quiet background support within the story. Madoka’s home life is well established and her family feels warm and caring, though also busy with their own concerns. I would have liked to have seen more of hose Madoka’s choices impacted upon her family but realistically in the episode count they had they did a great job with this.

Madoka also has well established friendships with Sayaka Miki and Hitomi. These three are very well grounded and while Hitomi gets sidelined a little from the main action, serving more as a catalyst for Sayaka’s disintegrating mental state, early on it is fun spending time with these characters as they head to school and the like.

Madoka Magica - Sayaka

So from this very ordinary beginning, Madoka is asked to consider making a wish that might very well change the world. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to become a magical girl. It is clear early on she is interested as even the prospect of it has her daydreaming and drawing potential costume designs while at school. She also jumps at the chance to observe Mami in action so that she knows more about what a magical girl is.

The problem Madoka faces is she doesn’t want to waste her one and only wish and yet she doesn’t want anything badly enough to wish for it. Her life is settled and happy. Good family and friends. It makes sense that while she has things she’d like, none of them seem like something that are worth using such a wish for.

Of course, this is where things get ugly, because being a magical girl isn’t all it is cracked up to be and as Madoka witnesses the tragedies of the other magical girls and ultimately the threat to her family and friends from a witch that is really too powerful to be fought, Madoka finally does find her wish.

For a character who is fairly unassuming and comes from such an ordinary background, Madoka really does think this one through and while there are consequences and implications she couldn’t possibly have imagined, her wish really did change the world.

Madoka is a great character. She truly transforms in response to the circumstances around her and ultimately manages to figure out what it is she wants and uses her one and only wish to ensure it happens. Watching the journey as she tries to figure out what is really worth wishing for is truly a rewarding experience and one I absolutely loved.

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The Dark Side of the Magical Girl Myth

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 8 Review

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka continues to hover on that narrow line between dark and violent with narrative purpose and gratuitous with a scene this week of Kurumi torturing the captured magical girl stepping over the line and firmly into gratuitous territory. While the themes and ideas in Spec-Ops continue to be interesting and characterisation at least for Asuka fairly solidly handled, it is scenes like this one, that could easily have been cut down and still maintained their effectiveness, that will make this series fairly hard to recommend without some strong caveats attached.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8 Kurumi

Kurumi’s character is also becoming something of a problem. While her obsession with Asuka was already known and understood, this week we see that Kurumi has really got some issues and needs a lengthy amount of mental health care at this point. What she doesn’t need to be is put in charge of extracting information from prisoners and while I get the need for the military to use magical girls, I’m not entirely convinced that relying on someone that unbalanced is exactly a great plan A.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8

However, equal opportunity for crazy this episode as we see another girl with some mental health issues (grounded firmly in trauma caused by drunken humans killing her mother and crippling her followed by abuse by her father) being given the opportunity to become a magical girl for the villains. Her transformed costume is perhaps the least subtle so far and isn’t exactly magical girl so much as BDSM and really makes you wonder how far they will push it. Not to mention, her initiation being to kill the four teens who kills her mother while in her human and un-transformed state really does make you wonder just how far she is willing to go.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8 Asuka

Still, for all that this episode was definitely getting close to the line I’ll draw for myself, it continues to pose excellent questions for the characters to deal with and while the villain’s grand plan is still no where near clear at least these villains aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. If you can handle the violence, blood and torture, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka remains an intriguing viewing experience even if at times it isn’t as nuanced as it needs to be to really land the point it seems to be trying to make.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 9 Review

Episode 9 of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka gives us almost an all out war as the military base hosting talks with the spirit world comes under attack by the Disas. It’s a tense situation and we have magical girls all ready to fight but civilian casualties are definitely going to happen.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 9

For all that the episode ends up building to one of the biggest conflicts yet, we still have quite a bit of downtime early in the episode as they set up the scene and move all the characters into position. Kurumi and Asuka are reunited with Mia and Tamara as well as a general from the spirit world who apparently is the target of the most recent attack. Meanwhile their classmates are in the city currently being attacked.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 9

But they still manage to waste time on a stupid fan-service joke which just kind of broke the tension of the episode entirely.

There’s a lot going on and a lot at stake and I’m really kind of looking forward to seeing where they go next episode. It would be great to see all the magical girls fighting and really great to see how the military handle this current threat.

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