The Laughing Salesman Episode 10

Review:

Story one follows a guy who right from the start walks into his own catastrophe by first falling ‘in love’ with a girl in an image, secondly by dismissing her friend as serving only the purpose of making her prettier, thirdly by dating said friend in the hopes of getting close to the first girl, and finally by taking advantage of the friend after being warned to not get her hopes up. Even if Moguro hadn’t delivered his just deserts this guy kind of had an unhappy ending coming.

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That said, the second story this week was kind of heart breaking. Focussing on a lonely man, Moguro takes his phone and puts a service on it that sends him messages from his ‘grandchild’. While at first the old man dismisses it he slowly becomes attached.

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While he does do something stupid later on in the story, I couldn’t help but think about the number of old people who find themselves in a position where they don’t really have any family or anyone to look out for them and they kind of are alone. A service like the one on the phone isn’t exactly an ideal solution given its entirely fake, but certainly some method of helping them forge connections would be needed.

Once again however, whether they are asking for trouble or not, both characters this week ultimately fall victim to Moguro’s brand of healing and his mocking laughter. Another fairly standard set of stories but I’m continuing to enjoy this series in a very low-key manner.

The Laughing Salesman is available on Crunchyroll.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 4

Review:

I’ve got nothing. While the reveals this episode don’t really completely destroy my working theories from after episode 3, they don’t add any support to them and some of the reveals make it seem like this show is a little more about plot convenience then about making a cohesive mystery. Though, that isn’t saying it couldn’t be doing both but episode 4 was certainly full of more coincidences and throw away lines of explanation than I would have liked.

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I’m going to have to do a feature on Kei at some point. His character is really asking to be dissected (probably not literally). Whichever, episode 4 solves the whole cat mystery, finds the MacGuffin (actually literally) though does nothing with it, reveals a few points of information but doesn’t give us any closer look at what the overall plot might be. It annoys me that I’m as hooked on this show as I am given the ongoing issues with its overall pacing and presentation, but I am definitely still hooked at this point.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 3

Review:

Little bit long this time for a single episode review this time.

Despite the ongoing question of whether everyone in this show is actually a robot, episode 3 has finally managed to move this show from ‘interesting concept but what are you doing’ to ‘okay, show me more I’m really quite intrigued’. In a previous episode Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics were used to make an interesting point and now now we have a fairly ongoing MacGuffin around the character figuring out why someone asked him if he knew what a MacGuffin was.

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Self-aware comedies annoy me, I admit that openly. However this show is aware its characters are portrayed in a robotic manner and deliberately raised the issue that one of them might be an android and continued that line of thought with Asimov’s three laws. This week we have a clear MacGuffin thrown at our protagonists in the form of ‘save the cat’ and the characters are discussing what a MacGuffin is and how it works in stories.

The clear self-aware and slightly pretentious vein running through this story would annoy me if this were a comedy, and yet in this context, is working remarkably well. Because the story without this commentary on their own use of plot devices and references, and without the potentially multi-layered interpretations these have created, Sagrada Reset would be pretty much a nothing show. In fact it would be a dull show where little to nothing ever happened. With these devices in place it remains slightly pretentious though it just might live up to that if it can bring all of these ideas together into something that resembles an actual cohesive theme by the end of the season and might even be kind of brilliant in its own self-aware way.

Otherwise, we’re going to have a mess of ideas and references that will entertain me enough to keep me watching but at the end of the season will make this show unrecommendable.

Despite all that, this episode introduces a number of possibilities both in regards to the resets and to the purpose of the Bureau. The thing is, despite being obvious and heavy handed in some areas, Sagrada really does play the important information close to the chest and there are too many possible theories that would actually fit the information we’ve been given at this point. The obvious would be that the Bureau is trying to see if it can use the Resets for some nefarious plan of its own and sent cat-girl with the request to Kei having set the whole thing up in advance given he clearly reports when they have a save point to the Bureau guy and everything that is happening at the moment is just a field test. That conclusion is supported by the teacher telling Kei not to Reset until the maximum time had passed, implying he knew that an occasion for a Reset was going to come up despite the fact that they theoretically were on a new timeline.

While that fits most of the clues it doesn’t explain the hole in the wall that appeared after the first Reset and loose ends tend to irk me when I’m theorising but I just don’t think I’ve got enough pieces yet to see what the picture is that I’m constructing.

Even if this show ends up tanking, this episode got me really thinking and wanting to sit and pull it apart and put it back together so Sagrada is kind of a keeper for the season at this point.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom Series Review

Overview:

A young man from Japan wakes up without memories and finds himself thrust into a world of assassins and betrayal. He’s a puppet for an organisation known as Inferno and he exists only to kill. However, he might not want to stay a puppet forever and as he grows closer to Ein, another of Inferno’s assassins, he’ll begin to think of a different future.

Review:

Phantom is one of those series that is really fun to watch and you get drawn into the story and the intrigue but when you think about it after all the plot holes that you kind of saw at the time just become more and more apparent. That said, this isn’t a story that wants you to look closely at it. It’s a story that wants you to journey with the characters to their end point and it wants to shock you along the way.

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Fair warning, shocks in this series come in the form of nudity, sexual encounters, murder (obviously), torture, brain washing, and the young age of certain characters and the situations they find themselves in. If you can stomach that (and while it isn’t overly gratuitous it is at times confronting) then you’ll probably have a blast watching the boy named Zwei become the best assassin ever before trying to get away and reclaim an actual life.

The story very much follows Zwei (and we do learn his real name but given even the character realises he’s gone too far down the road to return to that life this revelation doesn’t really change the fact that he has become Zwei whether he did it willingly or not). We meet him after he’s had his memories stripped and he is forced to endure a fairly harsh training regime to become an assassin. While he doesn’t strike the audience as particularly formidable early on, you realise he’s accelerating through the training sequence quite quickly and when we get the flashback to find out how he came to be in Inferno’s hands at all you realise why the crazy guy keeps carrying on about natural talent. (Yes, crazy guy has a name and no I don’t remember it.)

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But as much as the story follows this action and Zwei’s transformation, it also builds some intrigue and solid character relationships. That’s probably the strength of this series is it manages to balance some very cool action with those slower character building moments and it gives us a sense of the world Zwei has found himself in but never tries to info-dump on us. Mostly because everyone is pretty keen on keeping Zwei in the dark so it isn’t as though he knows much about what is going on or why.

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Once we progress to carrying out missions, we see Ein and Zwei and the clear difference between them. Ein is undoubtably a killing machine but while Zwei is talented he never has the outright blankness of personality that afflicts Ein. Nor is he technically all that rebellious and it is the intrigues within Inferno and the manipulation of some of its members that ultimately tip Zwei’s hand.

What I like is that Zwei tries numerous times to get out of this life he finds himself in, and to help remove Ein from it, but they continuously get drawn back in. It is only during the later stages of the series that a break is made and fortunately that bit of boredom (and probably the weakest moment of the series given we end up in a Japanese school setting which serves no real purpose other than anime and its ongoing obsession with Japanese schools) only lasts a short period of time.

Cal’s arrival in the story in the later half is both confronting and a brilliant move for the story. Zwei has been in the organisation for a long period of time when he takes Cal on and ends up doing much the same thing to her that was done to him before he abandons her. This leads to a major confrontation between them later, though the actual confrontation sounds better in theory than the delivery of it.

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And this is probably the major criticism of Phantom. It has a really solid first half but the second half with Cal and the running away to Japan and other events is decidedly weaker. It doesn’t help that many of the main players introduced in the first half are no longer in the story or have taken on new roles. This is where we start seeing major plot holes and start seeing the cracks in the characters and the reality that have been constructed.

Most likely, this won’t ruin your viewing experience but it does change a series from being a must watch to just being a good time with a few bumps along the road. That said if you like something a bit dark and assassination sounds like a nice plot device then definitely jump into this series. I had a lot of fun with it though I’ll admit it is far from perfect.

If you’ve seen Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, let me know your thoughts.


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Gosick Series Review

Overview:

Kujou is a Japanese student in a rich European school but because of his appearance is avoided and given the nickname ‘Black Reaper’ (a point that will only be made early in the series and sporadically after because it really serves no purpose to the narrative). However, one day while exploring a library he comes across Victorique who pretty much lives in the library and attempts to solve mysteries. Of course she takes Kujou on as her off-sider (gofer, whatever).

Review:

There are two things I am absolutely certain of when reviewing this anime. One is that the first story in the series (where Kujou meets Victorique and they solve their first mystery) is the most interesting part of this entire series and the quality of the mysteries and the story continues a slow but steady decline for the rest of the run time. The second thing is that this show was in love with the idea of a doll-like golden-haired heroine who could take on a Holmes like attitude but while that could have been the start of an interesting character and set up they did very little with that.

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That isn’t to say that Gosick is not an interesting watch. The individual mysteries as the characters collect the fragments of chaos (or clues as most of us would call them) and Victorique puts them together in her head before coming out with an improbable and yet somehow totally accurate conclusion are satisfying enough and there’s enough attention to detail that these mysteries don’t totally fall over.

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Where the story actually goes down though is in the atmosphere. The first episodes are just steeped in this rich air of mystery and the time period and the whole thing is beautifully cohesive and enthralling. It never manages that again in the series as too many anime tropes as well as their desire to put Victorique through forced character development keep detracting from what made those first episode work.

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Of course Victorique is not alone in not holding her own as a believable central character. Kujou is… well he’s Japanese when he needs to be but most of the time you’ll see him wearing that shocked expression as if everything he hears is totally mind blowing. You would think by the sixth time in an episode he would just accept that Victorique is going to know the answer and that he would be ready to just move on. It’s a shame because later in the series there is a central story built around the fact that Kujou is Japanese and a foreigner, but so little has been done to make that more than a tag on to his character up until that point that it really feels more like a plot contrivance than a genuine challenge faced by the pair (and it really shouldn’t feel like that).

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Victorique’s half-brother Grevil is kind of entertaining as comic relief but can become a bit obnoxious at times, however as a support character he works well enough. There’s even a reason for that hairstyle and that particular sub-plot is kind of well played.

All and all, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by Gosick. Not because it isn’t an okay anime, but because those first two episodes show us what could have been a really interesting, sweeping, moving anime and instead we got an okay one. Still, if you like a bit of historical drama with some mysteries woven through it then you will probably find something to like here. For people who aren’t into that genre this anime isn’t really interesting enough to recommend.

What did you think of Gosick?

ACCA Episode 11

Review:

ACCA has been a great watch and while part of me wondered if the final episodes could deliver after the last of the mysteries seemed revealed, episode 11 answers the question with a resounding ‘yes’. Everything about this episode worked and continues to tie the plot together while continuing to give us highly nuanced and interesting characters.

A few points to touch on (so 100 words bye-bye).

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Firstly, Nino came back in one of the most dramatic ways possible. I won’t spoil, but this was actually the first action-like scene this show really delivered on and provided both a great reunion between Nino and Jean and pushed the plot forward. No tugging heartstrings just for a cheap emotional outcome. This scene was used with purpose and did no overstay its welcome as it was one of many major plot developments in the episode.

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Secondly, Jean, who I have always found fascinating, actually emoted regularly throughout this episode and yet didn’t break from his usual stoic character. It is amazing how they made him seem more involved and emotional, while it didn’t seem like they’d just transformed his character for narrative convenience.

Thirdly, of course, we have the coup which is pretty much out in the open at this point. I’m still not certain whether Jean seriously intends to go through with the plan as laid out or if he has his own agenda and thoughts about how it will end, but he’s certainly letting things run its course at the moment. Still, a few of his lines this week made it seem as though there is one more secret to be revealed and I hope that I’m not disappointed.

And finally, the Prince is heading to Badon for the ACCA centennial (or whatever it is) and it seems like Maggie was trying to give him one last chance to not be a moron which the Prince utterly and completely threw away. Regardless of how the coup turns out, I’d really like the Prince to be brought down several pegs. Not necessarily killed (though I probably wouldn’t shed many tears) but at least soundly given a reality check.

Okay, I loved this episode and I cannot wait until next week.

ACCA is available on Crunchyroll.


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ACCA Episode 5

Review:

This show is fascinating.

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Okay, the food obsession continues with the various people watching Lotta continually being distracted by eating, which is just kind of amusing but is hiding the more important question of whether or not the Prince’s infatuation with Lotta is actually of any significance or whether it is just one more plot thread that is being strung along.

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Jean gets a hint about his watcher and that leads him to finally confronting Nino, only this doesn’t go the way most confrontations go. I guess when you are permanently laid back even the momentary shock that maybe a friend of yours betrayed you can quickly be rationalised, and what I like is that Jean thought through all of the other times he may have suspected Nino was involved and kind of put it all together. I also really liked Nino’s momentary despair when he realised Jean had noticed. Other shows this season don’t get subtle. ACCA thrives on these small moments that show when a character is about to change their thinking or has suddenly experienced a set-back.

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I am really starting to wonder if any coup exists or if this really is just a lot of political maneuvering but either way I’m keen to see where this show goes next.

ACCA is available on Crunchyroll.


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ACCA Episode 4

Review:

You kind of suspected that some of these 13 districts wouldn’t be all sweetness and light and giant food and episode 4 takes us to a district where the locals are less than impressed by the leadership they are receiving. Their representative, who promised to change the district, essentially left to live the good life elsewhere and never returns to the district.

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But while the story of the local district coup is interesting it all feels a little diversionary from the overall picture, even though certain comments by characters keep reminding us that Jean is still under suspicion and that in each district there are some issues sitting just beneath the surface.

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Probably the part of this episode that most intrigued me was the first few minutes where we have Lotta talking with Nino (who seems ot have nowhere else to go other than hang around his supposed friends little sister). Lotta’s putting together a package for the owner of the building that Jean and Lotta look after but she’s never met the owner. Nino skillfully manages to take the package from her under the guise of delivering it to the post office but then makes a phone call where it seems he is talking to the owner of the building because Nino tells them he has the package from Lotta and he also confirms that this is the same person he was talking to on the phone in the last episode (so the mysterious other person Nino was working for). This has definitely given me plenty to speculate about as to who the owner is and why everyone finds Jean so fascinating but I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how this plays out.

Random speculation: The owner is either the King of the King’s advisor and Jean and Lotta are related to them. It kind of fits with the information we have but is probably wrong (still it’s fun theory). I kind of want it to be right because then we can have Jean take the place of the idiot Prince and because he’s been out in the districts he actually knows what is going on so as either advisor or royalty he’d be kind of useful to have in a position of power provided he could be bothered to act.

ACCA is available on Crunchyroll.

Bloodivores Episode 12

Review:

How many synonyms are there for saying something is bad?

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There we go, episode 12 of Bloodivores reviewed in all its shining glory. Not only is this series without any resolution, the one reveal of any note this episode was something we’d all kind of figured out (or at least suspe cted) since episode 3 and we still don’t know why Anji did it (sorry, that’s the least spoilery way to put it). And did Li Shin just feed his arm to a monster to save the guy who tried to feed him to a monster before attempting to beat him unconscious? And does Mi Liu still suck at searching for actual information? Okay, I’m done. This series is done. The last I’ll have to look at it is for a full season review and should this monstrosity get a follow up, I won’t be going anywhere near it. You know what though, still not as bad as Taboo Tattoo.

Bloodivores is available on Crunchyroll.

Black Butler Book of Murder Series Review

Okay, you already know I’m a fan of Black Butler and I loved Book of Circus but hated Black Butler 2. I bought Book of Murder on disc blind (never watched) and finally got around to viewing it. How does this entry stack up against the others in the series?

Overview:

The Queen is at it again giving Ciel an unhelpful request to host a dinner party but then one of the guests is murdered and of course due to a storm the suspect must be amongst the guests (or the hosts).

Review:

Five minutes in and Mei Rin has her glasses off and is shooting. This is a bit more action driven then we’ve seen Black Butler before. That said, after an initial skirmish that serves no purpose other than to point out that the Queen’s Butlers (messengers, whatevers) are a little dodgy (or a lot dodgy given they didn’t die facing off against Ciel’s staff), the series settles down into its usual routine of cat and mouse, dripping with atmosphere and the usual over exaggerated mystery feeling without actually delivering much in the way of mystery.

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I actually loved this. It has all the components that made the original Black Butler series entertaining but with only 123 minutes run time the story is concluded in a single sitting and everything is nicely wrapped up. At least as much as anything ever is in Black Butler keeping in mind that both Book of Circus and Book of Murder are set somewhere in the timeline before the end of season 1. What that means is the overall story of Ciel and Sebastian isn’t going anywhere in these side stories though we are getting some more understanding of the depth of their relationship which is a nice takeaway for when you go back and watch the original series.

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The problem with Book of Murder is that unless you’ve already watched the other entries in Black Butler, a lot of it isn’t going to make sense. Other than a few side characters making reference to Ciel’s eye patch, the significance of it is not explained and while it’s unlikely that you don’t know that Sebastian’s a demon it isn’t in any revealed early on in the piece so likely you won’t have a clue how the situation is going to get resolved. Not to mention, his standard line about being one hell of a butler seems to have finally taken a vacation. Also, the flashback the servants have of being recruited while crying in the rain provides enough to be a solid link for those of us watching through the lens of a fan but for new arrivals to the series it will just be another baffling fact that doesn’t give enough context to really make any sense. Lastly, the final twist and conclusion rely very heavily on you knowing what happened in Book of Circus, and they manage to leave a dangling inconsistency in the story that doesn’t match up with the original time line of the anime (unless events in other stories we’ve yet to see eliminate that inconsistency).

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What Book of Murder does succeed at is providing some light entertainment for those who like classic locked room mysteries with a bit of supernatural nonsense mixed in. Also, if you ever wanted to watch Ciel actually look distressed (not ticked off or shocked but actually distressed) then your chance will come during the first part (even if it isn’t actually genuine). Ciel also smiles several times throughout the two episodes, though most of these are kind of cruelly amused smiles rather than ones of genuine mirth.

And that’s all I’ve got on this one. The music is standard Black Butler fair. We’ve got our usual cast of characters lined up and the new additions mostly just fill the roles of other characters that for the sake of narrative continuity can’t be around in this particular arc. Character and background design is all much the same as well. Basically, if you like Black Butler, pick up Book of Murder. If you haven’t liked the other entries then continue to steer clear.