The Will To Keep A Smile Shining

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 Review

The Price of Smiles plunges us headfirst into the war this week. While learning that Joshua has been deliberately keeping the Princess in the dark we also see the lengths he will go to in order to see her smile. And yet…

The Price of Smiles Episode 2

There just seems to be a small hole in the whole plan here. Given the military are currently losing the war against the empire you would think sooner or later the Princess is going to notice pieces of her kingdom getting overrun. Not to mention the costs associated with maintaining all those units and the death and injury of the soldiers. Joshua is just a little misguided and what worries me more is that everyone else in the entire Kingdom seems to be playing along with it.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

Though, because of this, the end of the episode didn’t hit with anywhere near the impact it should have. It seemed obvious this set up was flawed and couldn’t be maintained and if you thought about how the cruellest way would be to make the Princess aware of the situation you could probably nail the end of this episode. It still works and it still sets up a dramatic turning point, but emotionally you were more waiting for it to happen rather than shocked by it.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

That said, we do get a brief moment at the very end where the second character who is dancing about the opening sequence finally shows up. It will be interesting to see where this story chooses to go next week now that we’ve thoroughly broken the Princess’ smile. Or will she just bravely soldier on with her usual cheeriness because people expect it of her? So many possibilities and we might just cut to the other group altogether.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

I’m honestly not hugely into this show and yet at the same time I am intrigued by the possibilities so they’ve managed to get me very interested even if the execution and characters have so far been just okay (there really isn’t much to criticise it just doesn’t really grab me either).

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
TO ARU MAJUTSU NO INDEX III 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MIKOTO MISAKA
TO ARU MAJUTSU NO INDEX III 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MIKOTO MISAKA

Advertisements

The Small Victory and Loss Within a Greater Battle

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode Review Title Image

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Review

Reminder: the poll is now open for you to vote on the best and worst anime of the 2018 Autumn Anime Season. Be sure to jump in and have your say. Voting closes on the 29th of December.

This week we got the conclusion to Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary but really there was never much chance of the overall story being resolved. There was just too much going on in the world and so this final episode, much like the series, chose instead to focus on a battle that will decide the next steps for each of these characters.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13

The Yin, Ning and Zhao issue is effectively brought to a close by the events in this episode. And while Zhao remains a conflicted character who can’t really seem to pick a side, he does at least take action rather than waiting for power to be bestowed upon him. He pays a high price but he does manage to contribute in some small way to the survival of Yin, Ning and Cheng.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Zhao

Yin and Ning’s sisterly conflict is also kind of resolved though all things considered it just kind of feels like they are back to where they started at the beginning of the series. Possibly there was more of a resolution here but it just felt like we’d come full circle with Ning in even worse shape and Yin with yet more baggage to carry emotionally. While it might seem callous, it really felt like one of these two needed to be sacrificed for the story to make sense and while they kind of manage to make this work, it doesn’t have a lot of impact as you are kind of just left rolling your eyes as Yin refuses to leave Ning and Zhao and then they pull a power of love last minute save (though again, Ning and Zhao have already taken quite heavy losses throughout this fight).

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Cheng

However, it is Cheng, in her very limited screen time, who gains the most this episode. While Zhao is wishing for her happiness, Cheng has kind of adopted a very fatalistic attitude refusing to leave the palace despite the danger. She survives unscathed physically but her attitude during the credits and the ongoing expansion of the empire makes it clear that she’s been emotionally scarred and she has no one left around her to soften her attitude. While Cheng was the leader of the empire through this series, it was hard to see her as the big bad, but if this ever got a second season that is almost sure to change.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Zhao and Ning

It is hard to say if anything was actually accomplished by these events other than a big explosion and some personal dramas, but I will admit this season has been relatively fun to watch. I’ll get to a full season review of it soon, but despite the fairly dodgy animation, this was a fun historical/fantasy story to get lost in this season.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
NIER: AUTOMATA CHARACTER FIGURE: YORHA TYPE A NO.2
NIER: AUTOMATA CHARACTER FIGURE: YORHA TYPE A NO.2

December OWLS Post – What’s Important Is What You Do After The Miracle

OWLS Post Image

After a few months off I’m happy to get back into OWLS and what better month and topic than December where we look at miracles.

Spoiler warning for Code Geass.

Tis the season where miracles happen. For December’s theme, we will be exploring faith in anime and pop culture. We will discuss some of the miracles that enter a character’s life during their darkest moments. Some of their questions we will explore is how does a “miracle” change a person’s life? How do we define miracles? Can miracles only happen due to a legend or a mystical being? Or do miracles happen every day, but we just don’t see it?

Miracles are awesome when they happen. While media such as movies and TV series tend to exaggerate the response to miraculous events for dramatic events, we live in a world where each and every day we encounter small miracles. Whether it is a chance meeting with someone, the coin that dropped and made you stop rather than step out onto the street, the smile someone gave you when you were feeling down; all of these small miracles carry us day in and day out.

The Princess Bride - Miracle Max and Valerie

However, what we need to take away from stories is that we can’t rely on the miracle happening just because we need it and that even if we get a miracle that isn’t the end of the story. And while I was very tempted to look at Miracle Max’s pill in the Princess Bride – and if you’ve never seen that movie, please go watch it – I decided to stick with anime for this month because I think anime really does capture the spirit that miracles do come in and change people’s lives. Sometimes in a wonderful and welcome manner and sometimes in a way the character can’t appreciate until later. But, these characters can’t just stop just because a miracle has occurred.

Setsuna F Seiei - Child at war - Gundam 00

Starting with Setsuna F Seiei from Gundam 00, his survival as a child in a war torn country was a miracle. That wasn’t the only factor given how hard he worked to stay alive, but ultimately his efforts wouldn’t have been enough. The reason he survived was because at just the right moment a Gundam appeared.

For Setsuna, this defines his life after this point. He has an obsession with not just being a Gundam pilot but being a Gundam. His actual commitment to the cause is questionable, his interactions with his team are fairly disruptive, but he believes entirely in the power of the machine that saved his life as a child.

Setsuna F Seiei and the Gundam - Gundam 00

The problem with this approach is that Setsuna takes a long time to look beyond the Gundam to the people and the cause. These are lesser concerns to him because his whole life has really just been in a holding pattern ever since the day his life was saved. He didn’t think about who sent the Gundam, who piloted it originally, why it chose to intervene in that war at that time. Setsuna simply took the miracle that he was saved and it became to core of his life.

For Setsuna, he never really considered what his life was all about outside of being saved by the Gundam and as a result while he lived quite a bit longer and accomplished quite a lot, he never found what he was really searching for because he just missed so much. The miracle happened when he needed it, but that still didn’t give him the life he could have had. Because the miracle was the starting point and instead of finding out where he could go from there, Setsuna’s life stagnated around that single point until it was pretty much too late to change the course his life was set on. Though, it was good that he met Marina when he did.

Setsuna and Marina - Gundam 00

Setsuna isn’t the only mecha character experiencing a miracle though (actually considering mecha anime are built around technology it is amazing how often miracles feature where machines suddenly go beyond specs and the like). For Setsuna, he welcomed the miracle into his life, however if we turn our attention to Suzaku from Code Geass we can see sometimes ‘miracles’ aren’t exactly welcome even if they are exactly what we need.

Suzaku is a pretty complex character in Code Geass and unfortunately a pretty tragic one. Having killed his father and joined the British army in an attempt to end the war he is pretty much just living in hopes of dying. This doesn’t change as he begins the fight against the mysterious Zero. Yet, despite being Lelouch’s enemy, Lelouch uses his one command on Suzaku to force him to live.

Suzaku being compelled to live - Code Geass

It was a spur of the moment and probably not well thought out command but it has incredible implications on the rest of the story and Suzaku. No matter how close to death he comes, eventually the geass kicks in and he performs some fairly impressive manoeuvres to survive what seem like impossible situations.

But none of this makes Suzaku happy. He’s a character more or less bent on self-destruction and is denied it through his former friend’s command.

Code Geass - The Death of Lelouch

But… The important take-away is that because Suzaku lived despite his best efforts, he eventually found a cause to fight for and to believe in, a role to play, and while I won’t say he absolutely found happiness at the end of so much tragedy, he definitely found purpose. While for Suzaku the geass to live may have been seen as a curse initially, it was exactly the miracle he needed.

This holiday season, it would be nice if we all took a step back and remembered not just to see the miracles, but to think about what we will do after them. Will we use the miracle to grow to new heights or will we wait for another miracle to come and save us again? Will we question why the miracle occurred at all or will we simply assume it was meant to be? And most importantly, will we reach out to someone else when they need a hand and become the miracle they need this season?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
CHIMERICAL ART GALLERY
CHIMERICAL ART GALLERY

The Sword, The Confession, and the Betrayal

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode Review Title Image

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episodes 6 + 7 Review

I’m almost glad for these two episodes. Mostly, because as Ning says to Yin during episode 6, she’s more or less tired of hearing the same argument over and over.

Now Zhao makes no sense as a character. Okay, superficially he does but his whole desire for power from the people who destroyed his home doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Nor does his expecting that Yin is just going to go with him. And if he honestly thinks being friends with the Empress will keep him alive and in power he clearly hasn’t been paying all that much attention given quite clearly people fall out of power as quickly as they gain it.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 7 Zhao and Yin

But I’m getting this all out of order. The group of rebels Yin and Ning have hooked up with formally invite them to rebel and of course Ning is ready to go and Yin is a wet-blanket. This leads to a touching sisterly moment where Ning finally admits she lied to Yin about Zhao wanting to see her at the dance but Ning keeps to herself the whole part where apparently Yin is some reincarnated soul with a destiny – what can we say, sisters?

Almost immediately after this, they are rafting down a river to join up with some other rebels when Zhao’s squad of really creepy contraptions attacks them. The trio are reunited, end up taking a swim, and Yin and Zhao kind of have a heart to heart while in their undergarments sitting by a fire with Ning knocked out and recovering.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 7 Yin, Ning and Zhao

This is of course after we’ve seen Zhao making happy plans with the empress to build a grave for these two and the villagers for most of the two episodes. Now he’s insisting Yin come back with him because he has power and for some weird reason he doesn’t understand why she might object. Ning on the other hand, knows exactly what she’s always wanted and when Yin doesn’t take Zhao’s hand, Yin is right there and ready to go.

It is almost as if Yin cursed herself when she hugged Ning in episode 6 and said they would be together forever. She should just be happy it wasn’t actually a death flag she raised.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 6 Yin and Ning

Anyway, Xuan Yuan remains an interesting watch though it is riddled with issues. I can’t actually imagine this having a happy ending so I’m preparing to watch all the characters die tragically. If anyone ends up surviving that would just be a happy surprise at this point.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
Play Asia Exclusive
Play Asia Exclusive

Captain Earth Series Review: Earth is Doomed and As Usual Only a Group of Teens (And Robots) Can Save Us

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in July 2016 and can be found here.

Another post that originally I did in a plus/minus format and I’m going to try and untangle that a bit. This is an interesting series in that it is not exactly one I like but I find myself rewatching it on the odd occasion for whatever reason. As a result, I’m never really sure where I stand on it and so reviewing it kind of helps to sort out some of the clutter with this one. So without any further rambling, let’s get on with the review, and just a note there are some plot spoilers ahead.

Review:

There’s something about mecha anime that for whatever reason make me super critical before I start even watching them. It isn’t as though I dislike the genre given there are plenty of mecha anime I’ve enjoyed. I think the real issue is that the genre is a little hit and miss for me and as a general rule I go in expecting not to end up enjoying the show so the ones that work end up pleasantly enjoyable. Still, Captain Earth balances perilously in that inbetween area where I find myself enjoying it enough even as I laugh at the once again ineffectual adults who ultimately shove the entire fate of the earth onto some emotionally traumatised kids (admittedly, only two of the kids are human if that makes the concept any better).

Captain Earth at its core accepts what it is and what it is presenting. The planetary gears who act as the face of the villains for the majority of the series (before the real bad guys step forward – where have I seen that before) are as over the top ridiculous as you would expect and their motives more or less amount to being kids fighting over the largest scoop of ice-cream. About as effective too, because while they are squabbling the ice-cream probably melted and no one ended up with anything. There’s technobabble, there are the bureaucrats that get in the way, and then there are the troubled teens that all just want to help and be free and maybe pair up and live happily ever after.

This anime embraces that and makes it work. So while there is certainly plenty to mock if you are in the mood to mock, if what you want is another one of ‘those’ kinds of stories, you could do far worse than Captain Earth.

captain-earth

One of the best things about the anime are the way the characters are presented. Admittedly, all of the characters are barely fleshed out archetypes and copies of characters who have appeared in other mecha anime or the like and taken individually they don’t amount to much. However, when you step back and look at the whole cast as an ensemble and just the small touches given to them you start to notice how much thought was put into balancing the archetypes and roles. There’s no excess and some of the details are really fantastic. For instance, in the feature picture, the two ‘human’ characters in the group (Daichi and Akari) don’t zip their uniforms all the way whereas the two ‘non-human’ characters wear them completely zipped. It’s those little touches that show the individual attitudes and natures of the characters that are fun to spot throughout the series and they are consistent and actually meaningful.

captainearth4-1

Though while I’m giving the characters props, I’m going to give the planetary gears the rant they deserve. Our villains are the most cliché driven and useless creatures in creation. Their motivations are actually endlessly explained. Why are they attacking the earth? Because humans are weak and insignificant and we can devour their libido. They tell us this over and over again. Whether it is the humans discussing the threat or the villains discussing their plans. Other than that, they just seem like highly sexually charged teenagers playing with toys and their planning sucks. Let’s try repeating the same sequence of events again. Oh, that didn’t work. Maybe if I try the exact same thing? How about you try it now?

Finding out that the planetary gears were also being manipulated from above was not a surprise. Given their singular lack of a master plan other than eat everything and the fact that most of their advice came from an outside source, the betrayal is pretty inevitable and by that stage you more or less have written off these guys as pathetic.

On the most recent rewatch, I started to like some of the planetary gears a little bit more as some of their interactions weren’t as over the top as I remembered, but they are still terrible villains and they really do let down what is an otherwise fairly competent cast and realistically, a lot of my rant should be saved for Salty Dog.

saltydogcoffeecup1

These guys are the most nonsensical element of the whole show. It is like the writers knew they didn’t have enough conflict or drama with the planetary gears (given that they were useless and they needed recharging after every encounter so couldn’t attack next episode) so they threw in some of the most repugnant human beings they could find and gave them a position of authority. Delete all Salty Dog characters, cut down the number of episodes, and the anime still works and is probably the better for it. And realistically, this is probably the sticking point. Everything else in this anime is fine or actually quite good, but Salty Dog are neither interesting enough as villains or menacing enough to actually serve any purpose other than filling screen time.

captain-earth-02-10bit-720p-final_001_27371

Moving away from the characters, this anime is pretty. And while prettiness isn’t reason enough to watch, it is enough to hold your interest in the down times between attacks and the like in this series. Some of the sequences on the space station are truly gorgeous and that’s probably a good thing given little else happens on the space station (a few major plot points aside). The animation is competent and each setting has its own unique kind of feel. They certainly go out of their way to romanticise the island setting and even the trip into space has a distinct look and feel about it.

horriblesubs-captain-earth-20-720p-mkv_snapshot_21-36_2014-08-21_06-49-46

And of course, because we’re dealing with teenagers we’re going to go for a romance. It doesn’t matter that the world might end as long as we find out who ends up with who (okay, that’s a little depressing so we’ll move on from that thought). I’ll admit Daichi and Hana are adorable together but it is nice to see Akari and Teppei really grow as characters and help each other overcome their personal hang-ups. A lot of shows would have just kind of thrown these two together or left them as the friends of the actual couple we were supposed to be interested in, but these two really get the chance to shine throughout the mid-way parts of the anime. They get a little sidelined at the end, but they aren’t the protagonists so it kind of had to happen. Still, Akari’s magical girl act and Teppei’s slow growth to becoming more human, is one of the real strengths of this anime.

2s6x2zd

However, two years ago when I wrote my first review, the biggest minus of all was the failure of the plot and I have to admit, watching Captain Earth again for this review just reminded me of how big of a plot failure there is. Wow, I gave Darling in the Franxx some smack talk and yet this anime probably does just as much wrong from a plot point of view and yet I remember it affectionately. Amazing what seeing something when you are younger and more impressionable will do for your view on it.

After a barrage of half-hints and the like during the first few episodes the story then eschews all sense of mystery and just kind of hits you with enough made-up jargon to drown you in it. Following that, we settle into a rinse and repeat battle of attrition with the planetary gears. During this, a betrayal occurs (and I’ll leave that one a mystery) that leaves a new villain to move behind the scenes to set up a final confrontation that still doesn’t seem to have all that much in the way of purpose, and to distract us from this we have the Salty Dog group hindering our heroes for no apparent purpose other than ‘because’. Finally, we all get in a space ship and fly to Uranus for a smack down that happens but doesn’t and then some of us race back to earth where an even more confused smack down occurs and then somehow we all end up okay. Right.

So nothing wrong with that convoluted mess of a plot.

If you don’t think about the details it is straight forward. Kid admires father. Becomes hero in his own right. Get’s the girl. Unfortunately the details plastered on that are persistent and very hard to overlook and why should we even try. There’s also enough jargon and babble thrown at you that you keep feeling like perhaps there should be a decent plot under all of that and yet really it is the kid becomes the hero, saves the world and gets the girl plot made convoluted because its fun to try to be pretzel?

captain-earth-cover

This all brings me back to my original point. This is not a particularly good anime. The story does not hold up when judged objectively on its own merits. That was true when I first saw it, it was true after watching it again, it is true two years later when I’ve revisited it.

And yet, I like this anime.

I genuinely enjoy it for what it is and I enjoy the cast enough that even when they are taking the absurd far too seriously I can just kind of go with it. The kids get into dangerous situations and at times sustain injuries, but it isn’t angsty for the sake of it and even though these kids all have their own traumas they are genuinely fairly happy teens (all things considered). It makes a refreshing change and they bring a bit of warmth and charm to a concept that isn’t new in any way.

Sure, this won’t work for everyone but there is fun to be found in Captain Earth.

If you’ve ever had the chance to see it, I’d love to know your thoughts.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

avatar

Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or use one of my affiliate product links:


CAPTAIN EARTH: COLLECTION 1

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 4: Velcro Wallets and Cockpit Stickers

Space Battleship Tiramisu Episode 4

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei continues the trend of focusing on the minutia for its humour with this week both Isuzu and Subaru getting called on fairly petty things by minor characters.

Space Battleship Tiramisu Episode 4

In Isuzu’s case, one of his compatriots who has clearly been given an artificial universal sense joins him  for a drink which he then makes her pay for. That said, it isn’t that part that tips her over the edge. She’s still a little put out but she’d probably have coped. No, what tips her over the edge is firstly that his wallet is a velcro one and very different from her illusion of what he would carry and then that he asks for her points on his card. In a show that sets brothers against each other in an epic space battle, this is what we spend half an episode on, and yet it is where this anime actually manages to hit its mark because it is all just so overblown it ends up being funny.

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 4

Then the robot head decides to leave Subaru and ends up going to the cockpit of the Neo-Durandel where he meets the AI. Now the AI is also incredibly petty having finally found someone to voice complaints to. And of all the things it could complain about, it gets stuck on the fact that Subaru has been sticking stickers to his outside.

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 4

However, all this means that once again the overall plot has screeched to an absolute halt and while the episode was amusing enough it all amounts to very little other than six minutes of filled in screen time.

On that note, this is probably my last episode review for this one as it really is just the same thing each week. I will do a full season review once it is done provided I get to the end of the season.

Linked Reviews:


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

avatar

Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or use one of my affiliate product links:


KAWAII KAWAII NEKO NO KABURIMONO - 2019 DESKTOP CALENDAR

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 3: Yakisoba and Co-op Heroes

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 3

Once again, Space Battleship Tiramisu proves itself baffling in the way it handles plot. It is almost as if it can’t handle having a plot or a direction for too long and after an episode or even half an episode it literally jettisons whatever thought process was being followed to throw something random in before the characters just seem to forget what was happening before (not entirely but enough that any tension that might ever have been constructed is instantly eroded). And thus it is that Isuzu holding the father hostage lasts until some random delivery guy shows up, proves he can also operate the Neo Durandel and Isuzu decides he’s had enough and runs away.

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 3

But it doesn’t make any sense. Isuzu was the only one who seemed to have a weapon or a team in place so he should have been able to either take the new machine or destroy it even if he couldn’t use it. And yet he just abandoned his plan and ran laving his enemies and their new shiny weapon perfectly in-tact. While I’m not asking for much in the way of logic from a show that featured a talking pubic hair in season one I’d at least like the characters to occasionally at least act in their own best interest.

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 3

Then, instead of looking at the massive security breach that has seemingly just occurred, Subaru and his father get on with testing the Neo Durandel and apparently some universe sense is awakening in Subaru. Let’s be real, the guy is just hopeless and yet somehow manages to occasionally win in space. But I did appreciate the use of yakisoba preparation as a means of testing deft handling of the Durandel and the image of Subaru drifting around surrounded by floating noodles was kind of amusing.

Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei Episode 3

As always, this anime remains watchable enough with the occasional spark of really solid narrative and humour and then there’s everything else. Fortunately with short episodes that everything else doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Linked Reviews:


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

avatar

Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or use one of my affiliate product links:


FLCL ALTERNATIVE/PROGRESSIVE COMPLETE CD-BOX