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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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Episodes 2 + 3: This Anime is in Need of a Better Protagonist

Review Episode 2:

Inaba is getting used to the apartment and meeting more of the residents but there are two things that stop me from really getting into this episode early on. Despite all the different kinds of yokai literally floating around the apartment complex the only characters we’re really engaging with are either human or are ghosts with pretty much human appearance. It’s an incredibly wasted opportunity and while Inaba might later on interact more with the other residents, at this point it is more like he’s just kind of hovering on the edge of the complex rather than living in it. The second reason I’m not loving it is Inaba himself.

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We get a brief glimpse of his background but he is kind of dull as a protagonist and even as a character he is more random classmate number 7 rather than someone you would pay attention to. The end of this episode kind of tried to bring in some needed drama and tension but mostly this episode was a bit of a snore.

Review Episode 3:

The third episode was far more enjoyable but I’m still not really enjoying the protagonist here. And I’m not really sure what random classmate guy is up to but I’m guessing something because otherwise he is just a really annoying character.

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This episode definitely hit a more emotional tone but they were working overtime to hit you with that. Cute kid ghost, tragic childhood and early death, pursued even after death by a mother who no longer remembers even being human… They were seriously driving home the ‘feels’ part of the story.

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All and all, this show has so far been watchable but hasn’t really managed to be anything particularly special. It would be fine if it stayed this way as I’d watch through the season, but I’d really like to see it improve and make use of the introduced characters and a setting that should be inherently interesting but is so far kind of just okay.


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Vatican Miracle Examiner Episodes 2 + 3: Rush, Rush, Rush.

Review Episode 2:

There’s a few key elements in making a good mystery but one of the most important is pacing. This is where Vatican Miracle Examiner is getting it very wrong. In a show dripping with atmosphere and disturbing imagery all set within the confines of the Catholic Church, you would think they’d be able to build some decent tension and draw you into the mystery at hand.

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However, like with episode 1, this show is determined to pack everything it possibly can into its story and you have plot elements piling up on top of others to the point where you’ve barely reacted to one gruesome death or revelation when another is thrust into centre stage. The end result is a somewhat underwhelming viewing experience as it seems to be going through the motions of mystery and investigation without actually asking the audience to invest in any of the events.

Review Episode 3:

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In case we didn’t have enough going on in this mystery we now have nazis, drug trafficking and sexual assault. There comes a point where you aren’t making things more mysterious but simply cluttering things up. It was quite hard to even remember that they were initially sent to investigate an apparent immaculate conception though they do at least remind us of that mid-episode before we launch into yet more potential supernatural hijinks that will probably be explained away.

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Actually, the thing that bothered me more this episode was Robert’s existence. Hiraga is pretty much doing all the actual mystery solving, and what he doesn’t know his internet contact fills him in on, so Robert’s skills seem pretty superfluous to the story at this point. Essentially just allowing someone to be on screen when Hiraga makes his next leap in logic so that he can explain it to the audience.

In case it wasn’t fairly clear, I’m not overly impressed with this as a mystery or just a story. That said, I’m also not hating it and still think the setting has potential so I’m sticking with it and hoping for something interesting.


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18if Episodes 2 + 3: Good Witch, Bad Witch, Whichever…

Review Episode 2:

This episode is kind of an interesting follow up to episode 1. In episode 1, you didn’t know who the people were the witch was playing with or whether there were any real world consequences. Essentially she was just playing house in dream land and there wasn’t really any need on the part of the audience to get invested. This episode makes it clear that at least this witch is having a very real impact on the real world.

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Note, avoid if you are squeamish about death, dismemberment or blood. As none of these put me off in the slightest, I found the story interesting as I found the show’s very heavy handed attempt at establishing moral ambiguity for the central character. It works, but we don’t know enough about him (and is he actually permanently in the dream world or not) to really care about his colourful moral choices and the way he chooses to resolve the crisis.

I liked this. It isn’t great viewing but it kind of fits for popcorn viewing. Hopefully episode 3 can be equally interesting.

Review Episode 3:

This changes things up a bit (most notably the colour scheme) as we enter the dream of a girl who becomes a witch (which seems like it should be a big deal but apparently isn’t in this case) and then Haruto gets his heart broken (though how serious he was in the first place is still undetermined).

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First episode played with split screens and eye jarring colour schemes, the second episode dove us straight into a red and black toned world of gore, and the third takes us to a washed out world of a sick girl before transitioning to a more vibrant colour scheme. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

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It would be lovely to know though why only girls become witches in the dream world, why Haruto is wandering around in dream land, who Lily actually is, and whether there was some overall plot here or if we really are just drifting from dream to dream so Haruto can save all the lonely girls from their nightmares.


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Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episode 1: People Never Learn

Overview:

“Jigoku Tsushin,” a website that only accessible exactly at midnight. If you post a hopeless grudge there, Hell Girl will appear and drag your hated foe into Hell. The rumor sounded like an urban myth, yet it spread among the young people and turned out to be true. The girl’s name is Ai Enma. However, the legend does not speak of the contract with the Hell Girl.

– From Crunchyroll.

Review:

You would think after three seasons people would start realising that this whole cursing people thing is a terrible idea. And yet here we go again. I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of this franchise and yet I always find it fairly watchable so I’ve picked up this installment not expecting much more than what we’ve already seen but hoping it will keep me suitably entertained.

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This first episode brings us our designated victim of the week and the usual twist where the audience realises that the curser is making a mistake even as we are powerless to prevent them doing something stupid. It is a pretty solid formula and it works even if this show has a tendency to get repetitive.

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However, my biggest issue with this first episode was how quickly the situation escalated. Admittedly, bullying sucks and being cornered can make you do some crazy things, but this went from 0 – 100 almost instantly. It kind of cheapens the conflict when it is being driven by a need to fit it into a single episode rather than by being given the time it needs to properly unfold.

That aside, Hell Girl remains suitably creepy and watchable so I guess I’ll follow along for the season.


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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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