Holmes of Kyoto Episode 1: Not So Much A Mystery – More Antiques Roadshow

I’m not sure if this is actually supposed to be a mystery of not (MAL claims it is), but this first episode is more chilling in an antique shop and sipping cups of tea with the minor disturbance of a counterfeit teacup thrown in.

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Aoi is our protagonist who has just started working part time at an antique shop alongside Kiyotaka (Holmes) who is also the grandson of the shop owner. He’s teaching her about antiques in their spare time so lets have lots of discussions about various Japanese art works. And that’s more or less all we’ve got so far other than the fact that Holmes seems to know everything about everyone and Aoi seems like a complete space cadet who just happens to like old things.

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Despite the absence of anything really happening in this episode other than the backstory of how Aoi first went to the shop (and why we needed a flashback to the previous two weeks and they couldn’t have just told us the story in order I will never figure out) this was still fairly pleasant viewing. Certainly not overly exciting but not without some points of interest.

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That said, I’m not sure about reviewing this one week to week unless the second episode does do more with the mystery aspect given if this is the standard for the show the reviews are going to end up pretty repetitive. For now, I’ll give this one another episode and see how it goes.

Did you like the first episode of Holmes of Kyoto?


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Karandi James

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Island Episodes 1 + 2: Amnesiac Protagonist Alert

What makes for a better mystery than a guy washing up on an island without a memory and then finding himself caught up in some ancient island legend? Probably lots of things but here we go for island.

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I’m really glad I watched both episodes of this together. The first episode is intriguing enough but really doesn’t do much other than have ‘Setsuna’ walk around and meet the various characters who will probably be important later. He thinks he’s from the future but doesn’t really remember and even the name Setsuna is a name he remembers but he isn’t sure if it is him. Of course all the people he’s meeting are cute girls who live on the island and belong to the three great families or whatever and there’s a bunch of legends and folklore surrounding them.

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Part of me really wants to enjoy this story and the other part of me is calling this show out on its extreme lack of originality. Amnesia, time travel, a harem of girls, ancient legends, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been employed before and while I’d like to think this anime was going to do something original with the cocktail it actually executes it all fairly by the numbers. possibly worse because it seems to be laying out a lot of explanations early on so unless we’re just getting mis-information I’m not sure how much mystery there’s going to be. Then again, MAL doesn’t list this as a mystery but as a drama/sci-fi and I haven’t seen much sci-fi yet so who knows what this will do going forward.

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Despite my misgivings, these first two episodes have made me interested in finding out what is actually going on here so I guess they served their purpose. That said, the characters are so far pretty ordinary and while it is visually quite pretty that isn’t going to be enough unless the plot really steps up its game.

What did you think of Island?


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The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria Volume 2 Light Novel Review: The Best Idea Has Flown

Overview:

They made it out of the time loop but now Kazuki finds himself with the unwanted attention of the being known only as O and someone else with a box has come to disrupt his everyday life.

Review:

I’m going to keep this review short because I don’t want to hit too many spoilers and really I don’t have a lot to say other than while this is a good read, it doesn’t quite hold up when compared to the first volume.

The first volume of this light novel really was like a bolt of lightning. Unexpected and yet glorious, I loved reading it and getting caught up in the mystery and wanting to see how they ultimately would escape. The second volume in this series remains well written and plays with the reader’s expectations but compared to near infinite loops over the same time period and a gradual unravelling of both the main characters, this volume instead has a time limit before the main character will disappear altogether. While it does put pressure on the characters to act as they don’t get the infinite do-overs, it also means that a lot of the playfulness and experimenting with ‘what might happen if’ is removed giving us a far more straight forward story.

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It isn’t that the story in this second volume is poor. It just doesn’t hold up when compared with the first volume. If anything it is kind of a bridge. It gives us a reason to believe that these characters will keep getting caught up in extraordinary events fuelled by the boxes, but in and of itself it isn’t terribly impressive.

Part of the problem lies with the central antagonists. Where their motives and actions are not terribly impressive, and their need to gloat and leave clues makes the overall mystery somewhat less mysterious and interesting, it really leaves the whole volume lacking something. It also doesn’t help that Kazuki and Maria spend a lot of this volume at odds and so there is very little chemistry between them save when it is important to the narrative.

There are a few interesting moments between Kazuki and some of his classmates. And the use of phone messages to communicate at times is used to clever effect. None of it is quite as intriguing as what the first volume offered but it is still entertaining in its own way.

Despite all of that, I would still recommend reading this. It is quite a solid follow up to the first volume and while it may not have quite the magic of the first book, it is still a decent story and leaves itself open for more to come. Basically, if you enjoyed the first book, this one isn’t as good but is still a quality read.


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Kokkoku Series Review: An Unexplained Mystery Wrapped Around An Uninteresting Cast

This anime starts out with a promising mystery even if the pace is slow, and yet it never quite manages to deliver. What were your thoughts on Kokkoku?

Review:

Kokkoku is one of those anime that on paper looks like a pretty good idea. You have a mysterious organisation kidnapping a family member to motivate the protagonist into action whereby a supernatural ability is revealed leaving the main characters in a frozen moment that they can navigate through. It seems really promising and full of potential. So where did Kokkoku go wrong?

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While I was drawn to the premise of this show and it was the ideas and where they might go with the mystery that kept me watching past the point where I might have dropped it, the characters are really not interesting. Juri, her grandfather, Takafumi (her father) and even her brother and nephew are incredibly dull and have no chemistry as a cast. Part of that is because they are trying to build up the idea of family dysfunction before they go into stasis, but at no point in the following 12 episodes do they manage to build anything from these characters. This kind of makes it hard to particularly care about any of the dangers faced by the family and that unfortunately makes even the few moments that might be tense fall kind of flat.

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When we add in that the initial motive for action is more or less resolved three or four episodes in with the nephew retrieved and yet for some reason they stay in stasis, you start wondering what the point of the anime actually is. Keep wondering because it is unlikely you will find yourself with a satisfactory answer to that one.

The introduction of Sagawa as a genuine villain and potential threat had possibilities for a moment at giving them something new to rally against, but that was also a plot thread that kind of went nowhere and by the time we got there a lot of viewers had ceased to care or were just kind of bemused by the explanation.

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And that takes us to the deal breaker for this anime. While the other points are possibly off-putting depending on your preferences, the way this anime explains things by simply having a character assert them and then never providing any justification or evidence is frustrating. The rules of stasis, how some weird transformation is occurring, and even the ultimate plot breaking move in the final episode which seems to undermine most of what you’ve watched, all just have an ‘explanation’ muttered by a character in a disinterested fashion and the other characters all just kind of accept that it is true and the audience is kind of forced to as well. It makes for an incredibly unsatisfying viewing experience.

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There are too many inconsistencies, illogical moments, and just plain random events for this anime to really be considered recommended viewing for anyone. Couple that with an incredibly slow pace and the tiresome cast and really there is very little left that could be positive about the review other than the OP is kind of weird in an interesting way and the premise sounds good even if it doesn’t quite work out.

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I haven’t really touched on visuals and that is because characters are pretty ugly to look at and the world of stasis is pretty colourless and dull. While there are at times some interesting visual effects used when expelling characters from stasis, for the most part the visuals are either bland or borderline ugly.

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I really wanted to enjoy this. I did. And yet week after week I kind of felt my hope for this show turning things around dwindle and by the time episode 10 rolled around I gave up even pretending there was hope for this series to end on any kind of positive.

That said, I’d love to know your thoughts on the series if you gave it a watch so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Episode Reviews:


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Kokkoku Episode 12: Happily Ever After?

We’ve reached the end and if you just take the end credits at face value the family have all reconciled and gotten over their pettiness that was plaguing them prior to their stint in stasis. Though how that transformation came about, I don’t know given they all still seemed much the same as they were forcibly removed from stasis. And Juri isn’t apparently mentally scarred by her longer stay in isolation.

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I wouldn’t mind the notion that the family did transform through these events, if we had actually been witness to a transformation. But the brother remained kind of a slacker right until he started becoming a Herald. Takafumi was an opportunist and incredibly poor decision maker. The grandfather just kind of dithered about without any real authority or purpose. And yet, they are all back in the real world and happy.

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Though worse than the magical healing power of an adventure (even though it isn’t really justified) is the deus ex machina ending they pull out for Juri to escape stasis. The argument that this is foreshadowed in episode 1 isn’t a particularly strong argument given it still amounts to clicking her heels together at getting a wish.

Ultimately this show seems to have not really delivered on anything that it potentially could have, though I’ll save the rest of that for the full review.

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Karandi James

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Kokkoku Episode 11: The Brain, The Spider Web and The Clean-up

There was definitely a lot of potential in this anime and even until the last couple of episodes it could have potentially been very good. However their lack of ability early on to make me care about the characters has been a persistent problem and with a plot lacking substantial explanations that might hold it together and weirdness that occurs seemingly for the sake of weirdness but isn’t really explored, overall this story is kind of failing to keep me engaged at this point.

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Sagawa as the villain has been a particular disappointment as he came along when the show desperately needed something to hook viewers in and it seemed like he offered some interesting possibilities. Silly fight sequence, lack of motive, and now transformation through being organs to being a cocoon, to whatever (no spoiler) at the end of the episode, he really is just another character I don’t really care about enough for this to have any impact even if it made sense.

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However, the story is drawing to a close. I think the big problem with this show is there is no central idea going on. It started out with the kidnapping of the grandchild to force the family into stasis so the stone could be stolen. We’ve move a long way away from save the grandchild and the stone has been smashed for episodes now. While it would be nice for some resolution from this story, I’m really not holding my breath at this point.

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Kokkoku Episode 10: Stuck – Unstuck

This anime is definitely maintaining that interesting in concept but not so much in execution vibe it has had since the beginning. The father pretending to have the power when really it was the grandson was just pointless given it was revealed to everyone less than half an episode later and genuinely served no purpose other than forcing the audience to endure the father’s gloating that he was needed for all of three seconds.

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Outside of that, we had the seemingly inevitable fight with the bad guy who ultimately runs away once things turn against him and then, when tracked down, he starts reminiscing about his upbringing. This isn’t really the time to try to make me care about the guy’s backstory. Or really anything new about these characters given how little has been done to give them character up until now. Right now we should be answering the greater question of why they are listening to the guy ramble on, what Juri thinks is going to happen if they actually beat him, and what he actually wants at this point and time to happen.

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However, this anime does not appear to be interested in moving the plot along and so we meander through his childhood trauma and then the episode ends. It isn’t exactly the episode that is going to change your opinion of this show for better or worse. It is kind of still progressing toward an ending but basically I still don’t know why the family minus Juri haven’t already left stasis and the anime isn’t really getting around to addressing that point.

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Karandi James

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Kokkoku Episode 9: No Idea What The End Game Is Here

Review:

So Sagawa wants to live forever but he’s going to waste time in a stalled world to kill the family that have no means of stopping him and don’t really care to try because…?

And Juri intends to get out of stasis, how?

As much as I love a good mystery, this one just seems intent on tying itself up in knots and at this point I can’t really understand why any of them are still in stasis given they have nothing to gain from it. Juri could send the all out and I’m guessing they continue their lives, unless of course they just stall and stay stalled until Juri gets out of stasis which seems to be impossible. And how exactly does Sagawa intend to get out of stasis?

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It is messy and even the reveal that Makoto can use a power (though that was a reveal to the audience and not the other characters because of course you need to set up some dramatic irony for later) doesn’t really help the situation. If anything it makes things more confusing as a herald is now acting weirdly, a power hasn’t been properly defined, and if the tenuous rules of the stasis are going to be broken before they’ve even been firmly established this mystery is just going to become one throw explainer after another as the plot skates over increasingly thin ice.

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None of this necessarily makes this terrible to watch. It just kind of means that this show won’t be climbing up my list any time soon. It remains watchable and thinking about the mystery is fun, but at this point there just isn’t enough known that the audience can actually actively participate in figuring out where the mystery is going or why. And I suspect this story is quickly going to become a monster smack down which would be kind of disappointing.

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Karandi James

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B: The Beginning Netflix Anime Series Review: There’s Murder and Mayhem But What Comes Next?

Overview:

The anime series, B: The Beginning, came out on Netflix and styled itself as a task force (known as the RIS) working a double murder that involved a notorious serious killer known only as ‘Killer B’. However, things soon take a turn for the strange when a military vehicle is stolen and taken for a joyride, poisonous gas is developed and used to threaten hostages, and other unsolvable crimes occur.

Review (Probably some spoilers – just warning you):

I think B: The Beginning wants to be a lot of things and I’m not sure it actually succeeded at any of them, at least not in any meaningful way. It is fun enough if you do just want to watch the mayhem unfold before they then painstakingly explain how clever they’ve all been for the last two episodes, but realistically there isn’t enough groundwork for any of it to have any effect. After finishing the last episode I pondered for awhile about what my overall opinion of this series was. Because, while I didn’t particularly like quite a lot of it, I didn’t exactly dislike the viewing and finished it off in three consecutive days of binge viewing and it wasn’t just so I could review it.

While I was pondering I actually sorted my main issue with the whole thing out, and that was that it just felt too similar to other shows I actually liked a lot but it didn’t manage to really hit on what made those stories work. I’ll admit that problem is entirely my own, but it helped me understand what I didn’t like about this show and why, even though it is definitely watchable, I probably won’t go for a second round. And that means this review is going to do something I normally don’t do, and it is going to rely heavily on comparisons to explain the points I want to make. It isn’t really something I like to do as I feel each show should be judged on its own merit (or lack of it) but it is a way for me to sort my mixed thoughts on this show.

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Terror in Resonance

The first and obvious comparison would be Terror in Resonance. Stylistically these shows are quite similar and the tone of the later episodes of this most definitely strikes a Terror in Resonance vibe. As do the kids being used as experiments, the burning down of the lab, and the central character, Keith Flick who is incredibly reminiscent of Shibazaki. Where B: The Beginning falters to capture my attention and interest in the way Terror in Resonance seemed to, was that it didn’t seem to have anything to say.

Whether you agree with the actions and ideas presented by Terror in Resonance or not, the show gets you thinking about the world and about the way the media manipulate events, about the decisions of governments and large institutions, about relationships between countries, and about the actions of those who are labelled radicals or terrorists. B: The Beginning doesn’t seem to have anything to say unless ‘murder is bad’ is somehow a message that I missed under all the cool trapping and laughter of those committing incessantly, or that you should always work in a ‘team’ which is definitely a sermon from the second act of this story but doesn’t really ground itself on anything substantial other than the team working together for about three seconds before Keith goes off on his own again.

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But despite the heavy and easy comparison to Terror in Resonance, that actually didn’t feel right to leave it there. Sure there are some parallels, but B has it’s own kind of edge that Terror in Resonance never aspired to taking itself far too seriously at times (though when dealing with terrorists who have a potential nuclear device I guess you should have some level of solemnity to your tale). And then it hit me. B is kind of what would happen if K was somehow crossbred with Terror in Resonance only about a third of the connecting plot points got dropped out of both shows.

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K

Once I realised that I understood the excessive fight sequence full of flash and grandeur (even if they only seemed loosely connected to the narrative) and the shifting tone between frantic and snail crawling exposition. See, K was all about the style and presented its supernaturally charged characters in the coolest light possible, even when they were just thugs. It gave each action sequence flash and bang and a sense of movement. Essentially what we see during the first two episodes of B. The trouble is, that B doesn’t have an interesting enough lead on the supernatural side to pull it off and the villain ultimately has no plan of note other than death to the protagonist.

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To a degree though, B works. It does get your attention in the early episodes, even if it is the hyperactive child shrieking at you for attention kind of attention. In fact, the show’s format reminds me very much of how most of the other characters describe Koku’s actions. He was screaming out that he was there but no one was listening. B declares it is here as it splatters blood across the screen, constructs incredible acts of violence, and generally does everything possible to grab the dark and edgy label that seems to be a flavour of the last couple of years (surely we’re ready for sunshine and rainbows again, or at least a dark and edgy that doesn’t rely just on making all the characters we meet horrible for every second of screen time).

Then it tries to segue into actual plot and that’s where it comes off the rails a bit, not unlike a train that somehow managed to land in a somewhat precise pattern and aren’t they glad the killer chose a sign that train carriages could actually form. Totally coincidence I am sure. Leaving beside all the comparisons, it is the plot that really drops the ball for this show because there are two central conflicts and while there is a connection and the characters, clues and mysteries intersect, their resolutions are essentially independent and neither ultimately feels like the actual climax or big finish because they’ve both been fighting for your attention and as a result you don’t much care about either.

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Koku wants to know his past, about the people who destroyed the institution, and to find a girl. There is always a girl. This story is full of supernatural characters, a very K like ancient tablet that has been deciphered and has some impact on his powers (though don’t expect that to be explained), and I’m guessing there is kind of a revenge goal in their somewhere but Koku isn’t exactly articulate in explaining what he is after and it wouldn’t matter anyway because it all comes down to rescue the damsel in distress. It isn’t a particularly satisfying narrative arc on its own, the powers just kind of exist and once you learn a bit more about Koku and what is going on you kind of realise exactly what the outcome of that plot-line will be so you just then wait for it to play out. Which it does, in cut sequences of bloody action which break up some of the driest dialogue I think I’ve endured for a long time between a protagonist and antagonist.

And this takes us to the second story involving the detectives. Because as much as their solving the crimes does involve a lot of the supernatural goings on, ultimately they do nothing about that part of the story. They track down the human element behind it all, and if you were paying even vague attention early on you will know precisely who the culprit is as soon as Keith mentions there are two culprits and sends Koku after one of them. It is another case of lack of options for suspects making it more or less impossible to miss.

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We then get what could have been an interesting attempt by the detectives to set up and ensnare the culprit but the story isn’t really happy with the whole power of team work dynamic and decides to overthrow it for a final attempt at tragedy. After that attempt essentially ends in failure, Keith takes the final clue (or signpost however you want to look at it) and tracks down the perpetrator and then calmly leans against the wall in front of a projector showing images of the killer taking out previous victims, including Keith’s sister, while he holds a conversation with the killer. There is no sense of tension or drama in this scene and any attempt at a serious tone is unhinged by the constant cuts to Koku and his fight sequence or the other detectives racing to the scene.

Anyway, it does wrap up and we see the next steps for the country and characters. There’s plenty left open that could still be explored should they want to do a sequel, but the current situation is done and you have a sense of closure.

This isn’t a train wreck by any means but nor is it particularly well done. It has elements that could be quite interesting, tones that I appreciate in other shows, and ideas that certainly could have merit, but ultimately it feels largely empty. I’m drafting this mere hours after watching the final episode and already details are escaping me because there’s nothing to ponder or consider and nothing to take from the viewing. And while that is fine in and of itself, and some people won’t see that as a negative, for me it feels like this show just missed its mark.

Anyway, if you’ve had a chance to watch it, I’d love to know your thoughts so leave me a comment below.


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Karandi James

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Kokkoku Episode 8: Sagawa Is A Man on A Mission

Review:

While it took a fair while for Sagawa’s motives to become apparent, and even now his final goal is still a little hazy, he has been shaping up over the last two episodes to be a fairly solid antagonist. Not so much because he actually seems to care about the protagonists and their goals, but more because he is utterly indifferent to anyone or anything that isn’t helping him to accomplish his goal in the moment. That’s actually more affective than a villain that just seems to want to see the family (that were already struggling) brought down.

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Still, his callous disregard for his own subordinates does cement him as a villainous character and I suppose I should want him to fail at whatever he is planning. However, it is so much more interesting than what Juri and the others were up to that I’m just kind of hoping he keeps going for awhile.

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Meanwhile, Juri’s father demonstrates exactly what unconscious incompetence looks like as he genuinely doesn’t seem to realise just how pathetic he actually has been.

Still, now that there is an antagonist to care about in this story, and with yet another cliff hanger ending on this episode, I guess I’ll be waiting for next week to find out if they can continue to bring things together.

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Karandi James

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