Sirius The Jaeger Series Review

Sirius The Jaeger

Things that go bump in the night should watch out.

It isn’t all that often that I watch a Netflix anime (or I should more accurately say it isn’t often that I finish one) and there’s a lot of reasons for that, however having read some mixed reviews about Serius but seeing it was a bit of an action story featuring vampires, I decided to take the plunge. I watched a handful of episodes one afternoon and was hooked. Clearing my schedule the following afternoon, I binged the rest of the series.

And it turns out, Sirius the Jaeger is actually great fun. We have a group called the Jaegers hunting down vampires and trying to exterminate them, meanwhile the vampires are conspiring with political activists and the like to get some shady and nebulous plot off the ground. It is a great set up and the pre-World War 2 setting really helps to allow some credibility for some of the goings on here.

That said, it isn’t as though Sirius the Jaeger is a perfect anime series. We’ve got a lot of cliché characters, some plot points that don’t really seem to make a great deal of sense, a villain who seems kind of together but ultimately makes stupid choices just to make things more interesting and as a direct result gets seriously burned, and just some general moments where if you applied any kind of real world physics to a situation you could write most of the characters off. Yet, none of that really gets in the way of the story because the story doesn’t really let it. It isn’t taking itself all that seriously as it powers through introducing ancient tribes, vampires, vampire hunters and building in a subplot about nations arming for war. It just wants us to enjoy the ride as we see Yuliy first work to kill all the vampires and then to try to find out about his tribe and the Ark of Serius.

Sirius The Jaeger - Yuliy

Where some anime might get very exposition heavy while trying to balance all of that, Sirius the Jaeger limits talk time between characters and information about all of these different aspects comes to us over time and fairly naturally. It’s built into exchanges between characters in small bite size chunks with only a few longer more focused conversations to flesh out key points. There’s only one point where the Professor stands with Yuliy and essentially information dumps and it’s about three quarters of the way through and is a fairly significant reveal that directs the final turn of the series. Given it comes on the tail of a fairly impressive battle between the Japanese military and the vampires, the down time isn’t too much of a problem.

However, what really drives this story is the action. We will be taken from one action set piece to another and be prepared for lots of jumping over roof tops, a car chase sequence, a battle on a train, fighting in the woods, and finally fighting on an airship because why not. Each fight is fairly distinct and while Yuliy is at the centre of most of them, the conditions are vastly different as are the other participants and potential collateral damage and so it continues to feel fresh.

Sirius The Jaeger fight

There’s also a sense of urgency around a lot of the fight sequences. While it never gets to a point where you actually fear too much for a main character, it always feels like losing a fight will cost the characters something and even if they win the fight there is always damage. The near destruction of the house they were staying in while in Japan and the company having to pay compensation to the owner is one example but in every fight it felt like there was a lot potentially riding on their decisions.

I really enjoyed how the series dealt with Yuliy. Even though we ultimately get a standard chosen one fantasy plot where he’s lost his family, last survivor, needs to take control of the shiny powerful thing, his character manages to feel reasonably fresh as it treads this fairly standard path. While his surly revenge driven opening isn’t exactly a breath of fresh air (think Eren from Attack on Titan only competent and less shouty), Yuliy actually manages to have quite a well developed personality and his interactions with the other characters are usually entertaining.

Sirius The Jaeger

Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same about Ryouko, the daughter of the family who host the vampire hunters (Jaegers) in Japan. Her character is kind of a love interest for Yuliy only she’s utterly unnecessary. Though at times she delivered crucial items or got herself into trouble at particular points, realistically her character brought nothing to the table and honestly her following Yuliy around into increasingly dangerous situations just struck me as slightly stupid so I couldn’t really get behind her character.

They did far better with Mikhail (Yuliy’s brother) who we encounter throughout the story, despite Yuliy thinking he died when the vampires attacked his village. The interactions between Yuliy and Mikhail, while at times pushing at the boundaries of logical, always have a good chemistry about them.

Sirius The Jaeger Yuliy and Mikhail

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However, this is a vampire story so how are the vampires?

A bit hit and miss. The royals are very entertaining and classic kind of vampires (other than the whole able to deal with daylight thing). The control older vampires have over those they’ve turned is a feature that I really like in vampire stories as is the fact that turned vampires retain their memories of being human but at the same time aren’t any longer. The slave vampires and their monstrous form was a bit less likeable because it essentially turned a lot of the fights into waves of red bat things that had very little to distinguish them and none of them were really strong enough to be of note anyway.

One interesting bit they threw in was that the vampire race was dying because of a sickness that had no cure. That was an interesting addition to the story and actually worked as a good catalyst for moving the immortal vampires with a sense of urgency.

The Jaegers

So overall, a pretty fun action story. Definitely not a horror despite the presence of vampires. It move along at a nice pace, has some good fight sequences and largely decently realised characters. While it isn’t going to be anime of the year or anything like that, this one was certainly an entertaining romp.

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Karandi James
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Inquiring Minds Want To Know 2019 #4

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Rise is back with another Netflix related question. I’m sure there are some mixed opinions out there on this one so I’d love to know your answer if you would like to leave a comment below. As always if you have something to ask you can send the question my way by filling in the simple survey at the end of the post or you can use this link to the inquiring minds survey.

How do you feel about Netflix producing their own anime verses a traditional ‘Japanese studio’ producing them?

Rise

I’m actually pretty indifferent about who produces anime or any kind of media really. My only real concern is whether it is entertaining and accessible. I was previously asked how I felt about Chinese co-productions and mostly again, while some of these have been terrible, I don’t dislike them just because they were co-produced. And some have actually been pretty good.

When it comes to Netflix, they definitely are making things accessible (even if they don’t stream weekly for the seasonal anime they get the rights to at this point in all countries – and they really, really should). But, when it comes to being entertaining, I’m guessing someone is entertained given how well Netflix is doing, but so far their anime has been, well, not to my taste.

Basically, of the Netflix anime (or one’s I think are Netflix) I’ve watched I really enjoyed Ajin and Kuromukuro. I found A.I.C.O disappointing but watchable and had a similar experience with Knights of Sidonia. However this year ID-0, B the Beginning, and a number of other titles just haven’t hit their mark for me. While they aren’t necessarily bad, they just aren’t what I’m interested in.

But, that doesn’t mean I want Netflix out of the industry. They are making anime more accessible to a wider western audience. What they are producing is entertaining some people. They are generally working with Japanese studios (as far as I am aware) in producing these anime which means there is money going back to the industry that might end up going towards other projects that I do enjoy. And that’s a fairly good thing.

I know some people don’t want to see anime go mainstream, but I think with the number of genres within anime, some being quite niche even within an already niche market, even if some anime ends up being mainstream, there will always be those smaller projects that hit the spot for those who want something a little bit different.

B the Beginning - Netflix anime

But, that’s just my opinion. As I said at the start, I’d love to know how the rest of you feel about this so please give us a comment below.

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Inquiring Minds Want to Know 2019 #2

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Continuing the ‘Inquiring Minds’ series of posts for 2019 I’m taking on my second question for the year and this one is sure to divide opinions. As always if you have something to ask you can send the question my way by filling in the simple survey at the end of the post or you can use this link to the inquiring minds survey.

How do you feel about Netflix creating live action adaptations? Especially thoughts and feelings towards the new Cowboy Bebop live action?

Rise

I’ve covered a few live action adaptations on the blog previously, including the Netflix adaptations of Death Note and Bleach. I also looked at the live action Erased series that aired on Netflix. So clearly I don’t hate the idea of anime being made into live action given I keep giving it a go.

However, like with most adaptations, sequels, spin-offs, re-imaginings and other things, I end up wondering what the point of a lot of it is and why we can’t just be happy with the story as it was told and move on to telling a new story. Not that adaptations are new and even classic authors and the stories they told were frequently adaptations of earlier works, myths, fairy tales and other stories so to claim that I’m looking for something original would be pretty hypocritical. I think I’m just looking for a story told well, whether it is new or a retelling but if you are going to retell something I really think there should be some thought put into why and how.

Netflix, needless to say, has been pretty hit and miss in most of their work. Other than Stranger Things, I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of a lot of their originals, their anime has very much not been really the sort of style or tone I like, and their movies are of incredibly varying quality. The same is true so far of their live action anime adaptations.

Death Note as an adaptation was terrible. There’s no real getting around that. As an individual movie, it was decidedly average (assuming you compare it to other thriller/horror stories and not every movie ever made). While I enjoyed aspects I felt it didn’t go far enough to make the story its own so it neither followed the source well enough for fans to be happy, nor cut itself free from the restrictions of the source to tell a good story.

Bleach I liked much more and felt they made some fairly good decisions about what to include and what to leave out and how much to adapt. Still, I’d strongly recommend the anime over the live action adaptation.

When it comes to Cowboy Bebop I’m just kind of shaking my head. Sure it is a popular commodity so people will watch it regardless, but the fans of Bebop are unlikely to be happy with any modifications to the story or tone so they are really just setting themselves up for a mountain of criticism. Maybe they are working on the theory that any publicity is good, but that seems fairly pointless. They might actually make a decent series. Bebop certainly has some great ideas behind it that could easily make a decent live action. But hampered by fan expectations and trying to please everyone by leaving in certain elements even if they don’t fit the new format will probably kill it.

Cowboy Bebop
Who knows how this will turn out?

That said, I still haven’t finished the anime series (I know, that’s almost a crime) so I don’t have a lot of personal investment in it. I’m just waiting for the Twitter tirades and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if people can just accept that even if this is a bad adaptation, it doesn’t take anything away from the original series. See, a bad adaptation doesn’t kill something. You can just not watch it.

Let’s be honest, love it or hate it, adaptations just keep on coming out and while the occasional one hits the right notes, most really are just compressed and sub-standard retellings of a story that was fine as it was. Still, I’ll probably keep watching them just hoping that eventually someone will figure out how to do it well because that will be something worth seeing.

Thanks again Rise for the great question and now I will turn it over to the readers. How do you feel about Netflix and their live action anime adaptations?

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Castlevania Season 2 Series Review: Oh Look, We Got The End Of The Season

Castlevania Season 2 Promotional Image

I mentioned repeatedly in my season 1 review of this that it really wasn’t a season. It was a taste test. A preview or introduction to a series that hadn’t been fully made before release. Here, with the so called season 2, we get the rest of the season bringing the total episode count now to 12 which is pretty much a standard season. So other than a prolonged gap during which time I forgot most of the pertinent details forcing me to rewatch the first four episodes before getting into this, was there any real purpose to this? All I can figure is that they really weren’t sure of their market and wouldn’t commit the resources but that’s a really terrible way to deliver a story as all it really did was make the faults of this second season more apparent.

See, there’s a flow to stories. When you get caught up in them, it is easy to miss small details or to stop yourself from asking hard questions or picking at the edges to see what falls out. But once the story has had a jarring pause and you’ve had months plus a rewatch to contemplate, it is much harder to become immersed in the world. Particularly when the series itself seems to be doing everything possible to stop you.

Castlevania Season 2 Camilla and Hector

Now, that isn’t to say Castlevania is bad. Because, it actually is quite a fun little romp of a story provided the copious blood and guts being splashed around aren’t a problem and the clear sequel bait endings for the surviving cast members doesn’t annoy. If this had come out in a solid chunk and I’d binged the 12 episodes altogether, I’d have had an absolute blast and while I still probably would have noted a few of the flaws, I don’t think I would have been as disappointed.

I was going to try to start positive but I realised that every positive I have for this season comes with a caveat so we’re just going to have to wade right in and hope we don’t sink.

If you like your blood and violence (and if you made it through the first four episodes the answer to that is probably yes), then season 2 is going to deliver. However, there’s a different kind of feel to it. Whereas season 1 had kind of a cruel humour with its demons running from the city carrying an infant (the excess of this imagery just made it more amusing than horrific and maybe that’s saying something terrible about me) and Trevor’s whip cracking removing eyes and the like. It was excessive but fun. It was almost pushing things to the absurdist level as it rained fire and blood down upon the masses. Season 2 sadly lacks any of this kind of edge and instead we are left with vampires tearing through small packs of fleeing humans and a few fights between various demons and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard. These conflicts are still bloody but nowhere near the same level as the city slaughtering madness that the first four episodes threw at us.

Castlevania Season 2 Trevor

And that seems to be a reoccurring theme of season 2. We get more of things given there are more episodes, but at the same time it is less. There’s less impact, less care, and generally less involvement. The church that was such a threat in season one gets some mentions but otherwise are completely absent from the conflict. The vampires spend more time squabbling amongst themselves inside the castle and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard spend an inordinate amount of time investigating the museum that is Trevor’s family vault. With the three main groups separated for vast spans of time (and the church more or less vanishing) there’s a lot of waiting for things to get moving. It doesn’t help that the vampires barely attack anything during the run of the eight episodes here so unless you are fresh on the memory of season one you may not even really remember why we should care about Dracula’s whole kill all the humans plan.

But, we’ve just gotten to my big issue with this second season. Dracula. In season one, the time we spent with him was not great but it was well used time. They built up a very strong impression of this character who was literally larger than life. His love for his wife, his fury at her loss, the pain he felt and his anger being distributed amongst the masses in a slaughter that wasn’t justified but understandable. Here, well Dracula is just a hollow shell waiting to be killed (as more than one character points out). There’s a clever line from Alucard about this whole massacre thing just being a really long suicide note, and he’s right but that just kind of makes Dracula’s character seem even more hollow. The fire and fury is gone and we never even got to see it fade. We went from this extraordinary and imposing menace to the guy who spent nearly eight episodes sitting in his chair staring at the fireplace and occasionally having one on one chats with the various minions who were all scheming around him as he sat more or less oblivious or indifferent.

Castlevania Season 2 Dracula

Perhaps if we’d seen this transition and the slow loss of his connection to the war he started and the drive he had, it might have played out more emotionally. However, the transition happened off screen. One season we see him in one form and now here he is a different and much less interesting one.

They do fill a lot of the screen time with his followers though. The majority of the vampire characters are either glorified extras or just annoying, with Camilla being a notable exception. That said, her character remains more or less on the side of things and ultimately hers is a story unresolved so there’s little satisfaction to be found in this one. Also, her sudden swearing at various points might have been amusing but it kind of seemed vastly out of character for her (plenty of other characters swear and that’s fine, but it just sounded so wrong coming from Camilla – and not just because she was female but rather because it seemed like it didn’t fit with the rest of her persona). The two human generals Dracula acknowledges could have both been interesting but instead they come off as fairly cheap characters with contrasting ends just for the sake of it.

It might be fair to say that none of these characters left an impression, except that even when they are just stuffing around in a library, Trevor and Sypha have real chemistry and the addition of Alucard’s comments and provocations actually just worked really well. Every moment spent with the main group (and admittedly, there weren’t enough moments spent with them) was purely fun and once the fighting started things got very good very quickly. It’s just a shame that there’s so much down time focusing on things that aren’t really all that interesting first.

Sypha - Castlevania

I mean, there are questions about Sypha’s seemingly unlimited magical reserves and Trevor not being totally dead because even though he’s from a family of monster hunters he is actually a human, and Alucard just kind of does whatever because apparently half-vampire means worse than a full vampire though how that works is unclear… but none of this matters. This group is awesome fun. Let’s see more of them.

All and all, watching both season 1 and 2 of Castlevania together won’t be a bad watch. There’s plenty to enjoy – again though with a warning about the blood and gore, it is definitely a feature. However, this isn’t something that is unmissable and it probably won’t be remembered for long. But hey, whips, swords, magic, vampire killing… It is all good fun just remember not to ask too many questions.

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Karandi James

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Bleach Live Action Movie Review: I Loved The Anime But What About This?

Bleach Live Action

There’s always some trepidation when hearing about a live action adaptation of a beloved anime. It’s a feeling that I might try to push to the side because I want to give something a go on its own merit rather than lumping it in with predecessors that may have failed to leave much of a positive impression. But just like with video game adaptations, while there are certainly a fair share of truly dreadful ones to be found there are also adaptations that have worked and given a fairly satisfying watch. So the question becomes whether or not Bleach survived this adaptation? There’s no way I’m not comparing as I go given how much I love Bleach but hopefully you’ll join me as I look at this movie.

Review:

I’ll get to the point fairly quickly and then explain my reasoning, but I found myself incredibly engrossed in this movie while watching it. I pressed play with that same sinking feeling of trepidation, wondering if I should put it off and wait until more reviews were out and wondering if I should possibly just forget it was even available rather than risk the feeling of disappointment that would come from a poor movie. I didn’t want much from this film, but what I absolutely needed it to do was to be fun to watch.

Netflix Live Action Bleach

Bleach was my ultimate pop-corn viewing anime that swept me up in its grandiose (albeit overly stretched out and bloated) story and cast and just its sheer brazen silliness at times. In short, it seemed the kind of thing that absolutely would not translate very well to real actors because anime fans have kind of learned to cope with the hero losing more litres of blood than that human body holds and still managing to stand up whereas when it happens on screen it kind of makes you wonder what is wrong with the writer.

However, Bleach actually managed to defy my expectations in a lot of ways as I watched this live action unfold on Netflix. The characters were not attempting to copy exactly the look of the anime (or if they did they clearly gave up for practicality’s sake). As a result Ichigo and Rukia look pretty awesome in their roles (and thank-you for someone having enough sense not to put that stupid fringe down the middle of Rukia’s face). Orihime and Chad are likewise altered so that while they retain some of what makes them distinct in the anime they come across looking fairly much like the belong in the setting rather then looking like they escaped a cosplay convention. My only real disappointment with Orihime was the look of her hair-clip which seems like it is missing a few petals which kind of means they are going to have to do some modification later on with how her power works, assuming of course they go there at all (which they definitely should).

Actually, the only character who really came across poorly in appearance was Urahara. Possibly I’m just being overly critical because I really like Urahara’s look in the anime, but to be honest I found his human counterpart here to be the only character who just looked out of place and garishly cosplay like rather than a real character. Even Renji’s hair came out fairly believably (at least within the context of the movie) so I was a little disappointed with Urahara.

Netflix Bleach Live Action

Outside of their appearances, I really liked the way these characters interacted. Again, they weren’t identical to how they behaved in the anime. None of Orihime’s silliness is on display nor does she get countless scenes eating bizarre foods. Karen, Ichigo’s sister, is certainly toned down and while I appreciate the need for that from a time point of view I kind of missed the spunky anime Karen. But these changes all make sense and with the plot having a much tighter focus on Ichigo and Rukia the changes are necessary.

And that was probably my favourite part of this adaptation. Scenes from the anime were merged and pushed together or deleted entirely for the sake of having a coherent story that felt like it was well paced in the time given. We meet Ichigo and very rapidly move to his meeting with Rukia and the transfer of her power to him. However, we then rapidly move on to Ishida confronting Ichigo at school (so no Chad and bird story, no Orihime and her dead brother, and no random encountering Hollows) and we see the Hollow bait getting used. This doesn’t spark a full on fight in its own right though as they combine this conflict with a later one and we see Ichigo and Rukia being confronted by Renji.

The upshot of this is we are dealing pretty much entirely with Rukia’s transgression and need to get her power back with other events that are crucial for introducing characters for later occurring but in a way that feeds into this main plot. Anyone who has watched the anime of Bleach will know how regularly the main plot gets kind of put on hold while the characters run around and do other things or get diverted by other issues, or just how long some of those fight sequences last as you deal with each and every person involved. This movie is well aware of its time limitations and maximises what it can show us through some fairly deliberate modification of the narrative.

However, if you think I’m just going to sing the praises of this movie I’m about to turn this around. There are two points that really stop this from being the truly excellent experience it was pretty close to becoming.

The first is the ending. We get to essentially the end of the first season where Rukia returns to Soul Society and that is a great place for the movie to end. But the fight sequence against the Grand Fisher is… well I hesitate to call it bloated given compared to most of the fight scenes in the Bleach anime it is pretty succinct. Yet, we have Ichigo running from the Hollow through crowded streets (wasn’t he just in a graveyard) and fighting the Grand Fisher in a fairly public space.

Bleach Netflix Live Action

I get that partly this is because they combining events from the fight in the park in the anime where Ishida and Ichigo team up, with the Grand Fisher fight, and then they are transitioning to the fight against Renji, so there were going to need to be some fairly major adjustments to this sequence to make it work. However, it doesn’t fit with Ichigo’s character to lead a Hollow into a public space where others might be put at risk. It also shows off the CG Hollow for far too long. Its first appearance in the graveyard is pretty amazing and in short bursts it could have looked exceptional and had real impact. But, because of the length of the screen time, it ends up looking pretty cheap by the end.

I’ll also point out through the whole chase sequence I was just reminded of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the totally unnecessary dragon chase across the rooftops that ate screen time, wasn’t in the book, and totally wasn’t needed. Yes, we get your wind effects look cool and you are damaging a lot of buildings. We’re at the climax so big boom. And yet, this scene could have been so much tighter and had so much more impact.

The second complaint I’ll raise is the music. Bleach has one of the best soundtracks ever – I’m totally not biased. Every single OP is amazing – again, not biased. The fight music that accompanies Ichigo as he gets geared up to take down anything is unforgettably cool – alright, fine, I’m totally and completely biased when it comes to Bleach music. I’m not going to say the soundtrack to this movie is actually bad… it’s just kind of forgettable. There isn’t one track which just made me sit up and take notice or drew me into a scene. And that was probably my biggest disappointment about this entire movie. The music.

Right, objectively the acting isn’t amazing though it certainly isn’t dreadful. The script is fairly average with dialogue serving its purpose but not doing a lot more. I’m not entirely sure how caught up in events non-Bleach fans will be because I can only watch this film from the perspective of a major fan of the series.

But, this movie was fun to watch. At no point did I feel bored or like I was wasting my time. I didn’t have a single moment where I considered stopping it (Full Metal Alchemist on the other hand I had several moments where I wondered if I should cut my losses and move on).

Do I recommend this movie? Certainly. If you are a Bleach fan but open to necessary changes to accompany the changed format, you’ll have a great time. If you’ve never watched Bleach, this movie will give you a good taste of the plot of season 1 though I’d still recommend watching the anime. That said, if you already jumped in and watched the movie, I’d love to know what you thought of it so leave me a comment.

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Children of the Whales Series Review: Youthful Cast, Pastel Colours, and Genocide

I will get back to my ongoing reviews of the original Sailor Moon seasons in the near future but I decided I needed a short break from blonde pig-tailed heroines who fight for justice. And so I found myself eyeing off this title in my review list.

Review:

I should probably admit I watched the first episode of this back when it first became available on Netflix and decided to pass. on the back of having watched Made in Abyss and Girls’ Last Tour, I wasn’t really in the mood for another anime that relied on a juxtaposition between adorable art and dark themes to hit my emotional resonance buttons so that I would ooh and ah and gush over another modern master-piece (not that Made in Abyss got all that much gushing being an incomplete story). And it isn’t that there is anything wrong with that particular ideal, it just feels like we’re getting a lot of these kinds of anime recently and to be honest the emotional payoff goes way down when you are waiting for the tragedy to strike.

Whales1

Anyway, after I got over my preconceptions and comparisons to other series, I finally sat down and binged watched this anime in two sessions. That would make you think I was seriously into the story but that actually wasn’t the case. The reason I finished it during the second viewing session was I knew I would never go back and finish it if I stopped the viewing. I would find something else to watch and that would be the end of knowing what happened to the children on the Mud Whale and so I pushed forward through dialogue that never quite landed its mark and cheap emotional ploys that felt like they would have much greater weight on paper then they ever did on the screen.

What made this worse was the sequel-bait ending leaving huge chunks of the character journey and world-building as yet undone and yet I can’t really bring myself to care. We know the secret of how the Mud Whale came to be and how such a clearly flawed social structure formed and the immediate threat has been dealt with, kind of. For me, that’s enough and I certainly am not attached enough to any of the characters to care what happens next on their journey.

Whales6

While this might make Children of the Whales sound dreadful, that is hardly the case. Visually it hits its mark with both character designs and the settings. At times it is remarkably beautiful and the fight sequences where characters use a mixture of weapons and magic power are usually very fluid and pretty to watch. The musical score is fairly on point and the narrative, what we get of it, is functional with no glaring issues other than the lack of an ending and unanswered questions. Yet from start to finish I was not drawn into the wonder that was the Mud Whale and those who inhabited it. As I went  to draft this review I had to seriously ask myself why. Yes, the story doesn’t end, but I was disengaged long before I got to that point. What actually wasn’t working here that made me want this show to end?

The conclusion I came to was that this story feels very much like it was written by committee and tested by crowd preferences. It’s dystopian because dystopians are popular. The main character is male and an underdog. The coolest character is a bit of a rebel who ultimately wants to help his people. Female characters get cool powers but don’t ever do anything in fight sequences (trust me, it doesn’t matter how cool they seem, they don’t do anything in the fights). We have an attempted genocide of an island where the population is almost entirely made up of children because that will be dramatic. Oh, and the main character has a cool nickname. He’s known as the ‘destroyer’ because he has little control over his powers. Sounds important, but it never amounts to anything in the course of this first season.

Whales2

And, the thing is, not one of those ideas is bad. Except the whole female characters being sidelined at every possible turn for no apparent reason given some of them are more trained and more powerful than the boy who seems to run through the heart of every conflict, that’s a pretty poor idea. But they are all just thrown in without any real heart behind them. Despite the circumstances of the Mud Whale, it never really feels like a real place. It’s just a setting for a fight to occur on. A location where characters are stranded. As much as the Mud Whale should feel like an actual character in this story and the setting needs to feel genuine, it never achieves that. Its a pretty play piece that has been beautifully built, but no real life has been breathed into it.

Each of the characters suffers the same fate. They have everything they need to be a real character. They have relationships and ties with others, frequently they have back stories, they have motives and desires. These characters should feel vibrant and alive, at least until they die tragically or watch others die tragically. And yet, you can’t help but feel that each one of these characters lacks any real presence outside of the script they’ve been given. While they all have character, that character feels so tightly controlled that they cease to feel real. Whether it is is Suou’s hand clenching, Ouni’s petulant desire for escape, or Sami’s hopeless love, it always feels scripted and calculated rather than genuine.

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This isn’t helped by the presence of the villains who just seem like a bunch of psychos. And given they are supposed to have had their emotions eaten (and I know they come up with a bunch of babble as to why some retain emotions, but still), these characters are literally just war crazy, blood-thirsty murderers and it does nothing to aid the suspension of disbelief about the reality we are plunged into.

Nor does it help when the villains declare one of the Mud Whales kids to have some super special power that had never been mentioned prior and then suddenly he has some super special power. Props at least for not giving this to the main character, but still, then his nickname might have made sense.

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So what I was left with was the hollow shell of an anime with a story that should work, characters who sound like they would be awesome on paper, and visually looks impressive, but ultimately it failed to reach me at all. And as the Mud Whale continues on its journey I can’t help but wonder about how much better things might have been with this idea if the story had narrowed its focus down or just really found its own sense of identity which is something I felt over and over again that this anime lacked.

What did you think of the Children of the Whales?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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A.I.C.O Incarnation Series Review: Do You Ever Get That Sinking Feeling…

Netflix continues to dabble in anime, working with BONES to produce this action/sci-fi story. If you’ve watched it, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Review:

I must admit before I get into this review, that I went into this anime expecting a lot. Firstly, it was from Bones and they are far and away my favourite studio. So even though this was part of Netflix’s push for more anime content, I kind of expected to see Bones’ usual love and attention lavished on the series and its characters. Secondly, it is an action/sci-fi, or at least so the promotions would have you believe. An action/sci-fi made by Bones? I was in for that.

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The end result was one mostly of disappointment and when I finished the first watch through I had to put this on the shelf for awhile because I really couldn’t write a review at the time. With a bit of distance, some levelling out of my expectations, and rewatches of key sequences, I’m finally ready to take on this show in a review. All and all though, this anime is pretty average even if I’m feeling like being generous toward it.

There’s a few main points that generally lead to this being an average at best anime. The first one is the main character, Aiko. In addition to the confusion of A.I.C.O/Aiko, she really doesn’t have any notable characteristics or traits for much of the series. She reacts to things, and in filler moments she does the usual sweet heroine thing of feeling useless so she’ll cook for everyone, but it would be very hard to actually pin down a defining characteristic of the character.

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She begins the anime in a wheel-chair and that actually had potential to be cool. It is very rare for a protagonist to have their movement hampered like that in an anime and it offered a lot of possibilities. All of which get shot in the foot before we move on from the first episode when she just stands up at the sight of the transfer student. See! All better! It makes you wonder why they even bothered with this conceit given the fact that she was living in the hospital was more than enough evidence that she was being treated for or recovering from something. Sticking her in a wheel-chair just to get rid of it by episode 2 seems very cheap really.

Furthermore, Aiko has no goal or direction. I know, I can hear the dissent right now that she’s trying to rescue her family. But she wasn’t. She didn’t even know about them. She genuinely wasn’t doing anything and then the transfer student shows up and shows her a dodgy video that might reveal her mother and brother are alive at primary point (or anywhere else considering video editing) and then tells her she has to travel there. It is his mission and his goal. Not hers. While she adopts it and commits to it from there, she’s never the one driving anything or making the decisions. She’s just kind of baggage being dragged through the plot.

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While there are a few better moments for our heroine in the final episodes, I’m not going to go into details as that would involve heavy spoilers. That said, it is a case of too little too late. By then the disconnect from her has set in and any emotion that the final couple of episodes were aiming for kind of fall flat.

The second real issue I have with this anime is the ‘burst’ and the ‘matter’. It really has only impacted one small area and yet the characters act like it is life and death and people regularly risk their lives entering the zone. Why the whole thing hasn’t been properly sealed off or the matter cut back into a controlled region (given they clearly have the means of short term neutralisation) does not make sense. I understand that this was definitely a personal tragedy for a lot of people and a local ecological disaster, but the scale of response at times (as well as the sheer drama attached to events in one gorge) seems a little overblown at times and this could have been avoided by either explaining the ramifications of the whole thing on the rest of the world more clearly or just narrow the scope of the drama being presented.

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So with the background setting of the story and the main character causing me some issues, the third thing I want to comment on before I look at some of the positives is the repetitiveness of some aspects of the show. I know the team are working their way along the gorge and the situation is meant to be getting more dire as they travel, but each fight sequence looks much the same and the final fight isn’t any more impressive than the situation the side-characters found themselves in back during episode 1. There’s no real sense that the danger has escalated. They try to put in some time pressures and other related dramas to build up a sense that things are critical, but it all misses its mark because visually we’re watching the same sequences of red stuff oozing around and characters make tense expressions while shooting it.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some positives here. The character designs are nicely done and each one is distinct. With a more impressive cast and plot, these character designs would have been quite memorable. There’s also the usual fluid feeling to the animation that I have come to expect from Bones. It may not be the best but visually it pleases and there are only rare moments where you are pulled out of the story because of either a visual or animation issue.

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Also, the music is pretty ordinary. It isn’t good or bad but just kind of sits in the background.

There’s also a real attempt at asking some questions about the morality of synthetic humans and human clones for medical purposes. While the writing and plot don’t allow this the serious examination it needs, thematically it does work within this setting and that is probably the take away from the anime. Not what the anime does, but the questions it wants to ask.

So watching this may not be the best use of your time you would probably find other series that have a bit more bite to them, you wouldn’t be entirely wasting your hours by giving this some attention.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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