King’s Game Episode 1: This Could Get Interesting

Overview:

Kanazawa Nobuaki has transferred to a high school far from where he used to live. Due to an incident at his old school, Nobuaki is afraid of getting close to his new classmates and keeps himself at a distance, but he starts opening up because of a sports day inter-class relay. Then, a single text message from someone calling themselves the “King” is sent to everyone in class. Nobuaki’s classmates think it’s a simple prank, and don’t take it seriously–but Nobuaki knows that a death game is about to begin, and struggles to oppose it

– From Crunchyroll

Review:

It is very hard to judge a supernatural horror from a first episode, mostly because you can get something really lame and have it turn out amazing, or you can have something pretty decent that doesn’t manage to do anything with its set up. King’s Game definitely gave us the fairly decent beginning.

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That said, it doesn’t do much to break from your standard horror tropes (which is probably why it works so well for me because this is very much slipping into comfortable viewing). Nobuaki has been through the King’s Game before and is traumatized so even before anything happens at his new school he’s on edge and trying to keep classmates at a distance. Already we know he’s going to give in and make friends and it is going to end tragically. The class photo more or less sealed that deal.

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Though, I like that they return to this at the end to do the body count. And that is where this kind of deviated from the expected. It wasn’t just one dead in the first episode to prove the seriousness of the game. Ten die in the first episode. Which makes far more sense when they don’t yet know to take the game seriously (and who ever listens to the ravings of the one student who claims that it is real), and they don’t yet know the consequences. So it makes a lot of sense that they aren’t checking their phone and they aren’t taking the instructions seriously and the high body count (while clearly being played for shock value) automatically lets the audience know that we just shouldn’t get attached to these characters.

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They also lay to rest the question of whether this is supernatural or a serial killer with that final death of the episode being unable to be anything but unnatural (if they try and explain that away later I’m calling bull on it).

There is however some fairly gory imagery and horror isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea so this isn’t going to appeal to everyone (plus they start the episode with my least favourite trauma as the main character dreams of drowning).

That said, I’m pretty sold on this for the season. Even if it derails, bad horror can still be entertaining and this was a pretty good set up. I’m in and if I change my mind later I’ll pretend I never said that.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episode 12: Why Wasn’t the Rest of the Series This Good?

Review:

I know some people will find this episode of Vatican Miracle Examiner overly emotional trite and it would be hard to argue that point. The focus is entirely on Hiraga’s brother who is dying in a hospital full of other dying kids and we get a flash back of another boy who died to young (and happened to know Roberto because this show loves an excess of coincidence).

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And in case that wasn’t enough forced drama the show throws in dead parents and visions of other dead and dying people. My consistent complaint about this show is that it always over-reaches in its mysteries and as a result the whole thing is left feeling half-baked.

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Yet episode 12, with a single episode and not three or four, manages to deliver an emotionally moving and dramatic story that makes you care for the characters and question the nature of miracles. Something that not one of the other mysteries managed in all their over the top antics. If only the rest of the series had managed the tone of this episode I probably would have liked it a lot more.

I’ll get around to a series review of this soon.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episode 10: They Threw Him Off the Matterhorn?

Review:

You know sometimes when you are watching something and there’s this one line or moment that just sticks with you afterwards, even though it is really inconsequential? Well, I had that moment while watching this episode of Vatican Miracle Examiner. In an effort to prove that Hiraga doesn’t really get people or jokes or anything else outside of the church, he gullibly believes the investigator when he tells him another character was taken up the Matterhorn, frozen, and then thrown off resulting in him crashing through the roof of a barn.

There’s actually nothing wrong with this scene and it is quite amusing, except that the fact that Hiraga doesn’t get these sorts of things was told to us by him early in the episode, and then emphasised when he didn’t get what Roberto was implying about the relationships from 30 something years ago, and then they hit the audience in the head with it in this scene. If this is such an important character point, possibly it should have come up in the 9 previous episodes rather than having the writers just get a hammer out and keep pounding the point home in the space of twenty minutes.

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Anyway, onto the mystery.

Hiraga has apparently figured out the whole rainbow light mystery in the church, though only part of that has been explained to the audience, but the priests all but don’t care as they are fully into the murder investigation. Which has now turned into some sort of economic terrorism case involving forged American money and a boy who lived underground and lived on bugs. This show really does love to overcomplicate everything.

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Still, it isn’t like I’m walking away mid-mystery so I guess we’ll all just wait and see what happens next week.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episode 9: Somehow a Decapitating Clown Just Doesn’t Sound Scary

Review:

And here we go again with yet another mystery. This time Hiraga and Roberto find themselves in a small village where a magic horn plays before people see rainbow coloured lights every single day. There’s also potentially a killer clown in the forest behind the church and for reasons that will never make sense everyone gets locked in their rooms at night (as Roberto points out, that’s just a fire hazard).

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I think my issue with these mysteries is very simply that they try to do too much. Every  time they go to investigate one thing, there’s about four other things going on that somehow all end up relating. Just once it would be nice for the miracle to be pretty straight forward but then there just be a separate story that they stumble upon while they are there.

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Not to mention, if people keep dying when these two show up, eventually they are going to stop being let in to new places.


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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episode 9: Here’s a Set Up

Review:

So it is a new school year and Inaba is now a second year. Other than that, nothing has really changed and we’re still just kind of following him around occasionally observing things that might be interesting. Though, this episode does rather heavily and clumsily point out that something is up with the new teacher other than the fact that they end lessons mid-sentence.

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But otherwise we just hang around the apartment, Hase visits, they laugh over some fly eating plant yokai, Ryu returns… Things just kind of happen and some of it might end up being significant and some of it is just stuff. It is all kind of maddening because there have been some good ideas in this show but overall it is kind of like someone gave the most boring person on earth a camera crew to follow them around.

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Basically, Inaba lacks any kind of motive outside of his initial wanting to move out of his uncle’s house. Once that was accomplished, way back when, he’s had no goal and no reason to do anything. So we’re watching a protagonist work toward nothing.


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Ghost Hunt Series Review: Episodic, Mysterious, Awesome

Overview:

Ghost Hunt follows Mai as she takes on a part time job working for Shibuya Psychic Research under a guy she ends up nicknaming Naru the Narcissist for obvious reasons. With the help of other psychics/spiritualists/etc they take on a number of cases involving ghosts and spirits and work to bring them to a resolution.

Review:

It occurred to me recently that despite having reviewed the individual stories within Ghost Hunt I never reviewed the show as a whole show (though I can’t imagine why not). So if you want to know my thoughts on the individual cases, click here. Admittedly, you can watch an individual case from the show and have it make perfect sense, but the series manages to bring about some nice character progression for most of the characters so watching it in sequence gives the better viewing experience.

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I really love Ghost Hunt. It is one of those anime I genuinely enjoy revisiting every so often because it knows exactly what it wants to be and it doesn’t attempt to be anything else. It is a mystery. Each episode starts with the date coming up and Mai giving us an introduction into the current case they are working on and then we see how the case unfolds. Along the way the characters meet set backs, have interesting asides, occasionally some banter and insults with a low key possible romantic tone between Mai and Naru, and very short bursts of actual supernatural activity or action sequences.

Right from the opening theme you know this story is pretty laid back and heavily focussed on the mystery aspect. It isn’t really a mystery that is asking for audience participation though, it is more the mystery of ‘isn’t this mysterious’. We end up with haunted schools, ghost children, dolls that change location, creepy messages appearing on walls, and all the usual staples of ghost stories will appear throughout the series. There are some moments that go more for horror and the final two cases both really escalate the amount of blood and the unsettled feeling you get while watching, but for the most part this show isn’t about shock and gore. The show is very much about feeling unnerved. And it manages that feeling spectacularly. While it isn’t making you cringe or hide under the chair, it certainly will have you looking at dolls a bit differently and that old house that you thought was empty…

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The characters are all pretty fantastic in their roles as well. You have Mai, the ‘normal’ high schooler taking on the part-time job who acts as the audience’s guide to the world of spiritualists as she asks the questions needed to get explanations that the other characters would have no reason to give one another. Mai also turns out to have some not so normal aspects as you would imagine as the show continues and it is a shame the show doesn’t have a second season because developing this would be fantastic.

Naru is pretty standard for overly confident and young boss type, but he works really well due to the cast surrounding him. Plus his chemistry with Mai works really well and the two of them together (even when they are involved in a silly argument) is just great fun to watch. Of course, dream Naru who helps out unconscious Mai is always more fun and again it would be nice to see further development of Naru in another season but he’s great nonetheless.

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The Priest, Shrine Maiden, Exorcist, and Medium all make for a great supporting cast with each one serving their role in the team as well as bringing their own personality quirk to the table. Ayako as the self-styled Shrine Maiden is probably the most annoying of the group, but even she has some truly great moments particularly during the final case. Honestly, John as the Exorcist is probably the one who annoys me the most and that’s only because of the accent in the English dub. Wow, that is bad. I will point out though, I’ve only ever heard the English dub of this anime, it is one of the very few I’ve never watched subbed or heard the original Japanese. For the most part the dub is fantastic and really great to listen to, but John has the kind of Australian accent that people who have learned Australian accents by watching TV think Australian’s have. It hurts just listening to it.

There’s definitely some down sides to this story though. The animation and art are definitely looking dated and it isn’t that old of an anime. While this isn’t really a problem because the story works regardless, it isn’t exactly visually appealing and the overuse of purple to make things look creepy seems to scream Sailor Moon villain from the 90’s.

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The story is also decidedly slow paced. The characters take their time setting up base each case and while a case might go for multiple episodes, by the end of the series you have to wonder just how many times you watched the characters setting up a camera or running a cable. Regardless of how quick a response the characters claim they are getting from the ghosts, there is still a lot of sitting around and talking, interviewing people, musing about the possibilities, and just a lot of nothing really happening moments.

Still, if you like a good ghost story, and you don’t mind some blood and gore, Ghost Hunt may be just the thing for you.

If you’ve seen it I’d love to know your thoughts.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episode 8: The Truth is Revealed (Kind Of)

Review:

I’m in two minds about this episode. This was a much more satisfying conclusion to a mystery than the first mystery presented in Vatican Miracle Examiner where they decided to go for Hitler clones as their solution. I liked that Roberto got to take centre stage (quite literally) in rationally explaining away each prophesy. That was fairly satisfying to watch.

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But I less liked that Hiraga pretended to disagree with Roberto, that they then had to link the mystery to Roberto’s tragic childhood, the unnecessarily loose ends that they left hanging, and even the final resolution where both Roberto and Hiraga offer to quit being examiners to atone for stuffing up when technically they didn’t. Admittedly, debunking a prophesy and a sainthood on camera in front of a large audience is probably not part of their standard operating procedure either.

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So yeah, some good stuff this episode. Certainly a better ending to this mystery than the last, but I’m still not sold on this show overall.


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Vatican Miracle Examine Episode 7: Snake Bites and Visions

Review:

The mystery continues with Roberto getting increasingly worked up over the mystery, the prophecy of his death, some childhood trauma, old texts found in the library, and finally a snake bit and a demonic vision. Once again Vatican Miracle Examiner is determined to shove everything into one story and it just keeps piling one thing on top of another and much like the first mystery, this really starts to hurt the impact of each revelation or clue.

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Though, I am kind of enjoying this mystery more than the first one despite still picking fault with the pacing and delivery.  This mystery has at least managed to give both priests some purpose and they have begun to feel like an actual team rather than a one man show with an overprotective tag-along.

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One thing that did annoy was that Roberto didn’t just share his thoughts on the corpse (you know, pre-snake bite) with his partner. Instead, the audience is deliberately kept in the dark in an unnatural way on this point. That’s an annoying way to add suspense.

This show isn’t getting any better or any worse. It kind of just is at this point.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episode 6: Here We Go Again

Review:

This episode seems pretty much identical to the first episode of Vatican Miracle Examiner in that it is setting up what might be a pretty interesting mystery. Unfortunately, this show has a credibility issue at this point with how it might bring things together as this mystery progresses. On the other hand, at least Roberto is actually getting to take a more lead role at this point and doesn’t seem like excess baggage in this episode.

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Still, with a non-decomposing corpse of a possible prophet who is being investigated to see if he is a saint, some weird snake cult and a dead foreigner, and an FBI agent moving around, things are very likely to get messier before they get any better.

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I don’t mind mess given it is kind of necessary at the start of a mystery. My issue is that I know exactly where they went with the last messy mystery and I won’t be overly thrilled if we get a re-run here.


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Princess Principal Episodes 2 + 3: Intrigue Has Never Looked This Cute

Review Episode 2:

So after starting with the girls all working on the same team, we’re now going back in time to find out how that happened? At least that’s how I see it. I wonder why they felt the need to do that though given this episode would have been fine as a first episode and been more than interesting enough as a start to the series.

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Political intrigue, infiltration, murder, conspiracy, it’s all very interesting and while it isn’t quite as fast paced as episode 1, I feel much more at home with the characters this episode.

Review Episode 3:

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I wonder if they’ll ever tell us what is with Ange and the whole planet of the black lizard thing? While it is a cute character quirk it would be nice to know if there was some deeper meaning behind it.

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Primarily this episode focusses on Beatrice, or she of the squeaky voice. Which is odd considering that apparently her voice isn’t her voice so I wonder why she leaves it sounding like that and all, but anyway, minor nitpick. There’s some great character moments, some more secret spy business, and the group are becoming more cohesive. I guess we’ll soon find out how the other girl from the first episode joined the crew but I’m really enjoying this series so far.


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