Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Series Review: The Experiment Has Ended

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I’d never read the source material before watching an anime before so Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody was something of an experiment to see if knowing what was going to happen would change my enjoyment of it. I can’t say that it did but that’s more because this anime probably would have bored me to tears either way. What did you think of it?

Review:

There’s very little for me to really say about this anime, which is kind of odd given I watched it through to the end and it wasn’t as though it was toxically terrible. That’s actually probably the worst thing about this show. It isn’t good or bad. It just kind of is. It is your typical game developer/designer/whatever wakes up inside game world kind of story and then just to make sure we aren’t worried about his safety he is transformed into a teenage version of himself with super stats. Of course he gains a harem of girls but being a gentlemen won’t do a thing with any of them, but he will slip off to a tavern if he gets the chance, and will definitely comment on the breast size of older women.

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However, that was the same as the source material and why it wasn’t great, it was enjoyable enough to read with some interesting descriptions of places and people. The anime on the other hand doesn’t get the benefit of the interesting descriptions and really just kind of drags the viewer along after Satou as he explores the new world. He also seems to gain levels and skills super fast, which again was the experience in the book but it didn’t feel as much like he was cheating his way through a story in the book for some reason even though the progress was much the same.

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The visuals aren’t great and a lot of the images end up being from Satou’s point of view with game menus dominating a large part of the screen and a weird filter over some shots. However, even when that isn’t the case, nothing is overly distinct visually. The town, the food, the scenery are all just kind of pseudo-medieval and while that was the case in the book, when you could imagine it yourself it looked a lot more interesting than this.

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The girls Satou rescues and befriends over the course of the series all have their good points and moments. The issue of course is the sheer number of them and they end up with overlapping personalities and roles within the group meaning they all become relatively inconsequential and interchangeable. You’d be forgiven for not being able to name any of them outside of Tama, Pochi and Arisa given the rest keep getting sidelined.

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As I said, not much to say about this. It wasn’t terrible. But it was probably the least interesting thing I watched this season. I really wanted more from it, but when you decide to follow events in a story as they are written rather than thinking about how to make them interesting to view on screen, this is more or less what you are going to end up with.

Episode Reviews:


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Karandi James

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode Reviews:


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Karandi James

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Sanrio Boys Series Review: At Least They Tried?

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This was always going to be a Sanrio advertisement but did they manage to also make an interesting anime? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.

Review:

The first episode of this anime was quite the surprise. Despite the wafer thin premise which was clearly just a justification to make an anime featuring a range of Sanrio characters and sell merchandise, there seemed to be some genuine effort to craft a story around a group of boys who were struggling against the stereotype that high school boys shouldn’t like Sanrio. There was real potential in this story and the characters. And then it all went very wrong.

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I know there are a few people who did enjoy this until the end and really there are some positives to be found. If you happen to like messages about the power of friendship and working with others and you aren’t too picky about overblown friendship dramas, then this actually works quite well. My biggest issue with the story though is that these boys are meant to be in high school and the youngest of them turns 16 during the series which logically means the other characters are 17 and 18, and yet they still need a pep-talk about the power of friendship?

It really doesn’t sit well.

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Even then, I probably could have rolled with it, except that the main character really unravels. He starts as a typically aimless high school student who reconnects with his love of Sanrio which kind of inspires him to get involved in things again. That is fine and is one of the positives from early in the series. By the final three episodes, however, he’s throwing temper tantrums and whining about how he wants to ‘sparkle’. I’m wondering when he took a blow to the head and how his character deteriorated that much.

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The other real problem I had with this anime is that we open the show with the five boys on stage performing a play with a voice over telling us that we’re going to find out how they got there. So by the mid-way point of the series when they are all together and begin working on the play, there’s nothing left to be surprising. Even the fall-out between the boys as a last hurrah final tension isn’t something you can take seriously because we already know they end up on the stage together happy as can be.

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Again, if you love Sanrio characters, if you happen to really like stories focusing on the importance of friendship, or even if you just like the five main character designs and want to switch off for awhile, there’s probably some fun to be had with this show. For me, by the end, I was mostly over it and wasn’t really enjoying the viewing experience. That doesn’t make it an anime to avoid, but it isn’t one I would personally recommend and nor do I intent to ever watch it again.

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Karandi James

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

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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.


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Karandi James

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Junji Ito Collection Series Review: Twisted Tales and Weird Delusions, But Something Is Not Quite Right

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This horror anime collection was talked up a lot before the season started, but how did it go in the end? Be sure to share your thoughts on the series in the comments below.

Review:

There are many creepy moments in this animated horror collection. Some of these include body horror, disgusting imagery, blood, and just a general feeling of unease and that something is very, very wrong. Where Collection doesn’t quite succeed is in translated these into a memorable narrative that lasts beyond the initial viewing.

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Part of the issue is the format of the show itself. Trying to convey two separate tales per twenty minute episode where the cast and object of horror is completely separate from the previous story means that there is never any build up or connection made with these weird and strange events. While in written form perhaps there is more lasting impact, but in anime form, these stories simply feel like sketches or outlines of a much greater narrative we’ll never get to see.

Even the stories I quite enjoyed, such as Smashed in episode 12 or earlier stories about the doll disease or the weird neighbour, never left more than a momentary impression before they were forgotten. Other stories just never clicked in the first place because we had no reason to be invested. This was definitely the case with the circus story where mostly it just seemed random and stupid rather than in any way creepy or scary. And yet, if time were given to building up the characters and providing motives and actually fleshing out the horror (and spreading out the deaths so it wasn’t quite so in your face) there is still real potential here.

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I’ve read the argument that the point of this anime is to introduce people to Ito’s work and while it might do that the impression it leaves on those who have never read the original work is not a particularly favourable one. You would have to admit after watching this that it is neither a particularly impressive animated series or a particularly impressive advertisement for the source material, though I imagine the source material probably works quite well as some of the imagery in the anime is quite disturbing and in still images would probably be more affective.

Which leads us to the artistic choices for this series. It is very dark (visually, though the subject matter is also clearly dark), but that doesn’t really add much to the atmosphere as at times it is actually difficult to make out what we are supposed to be seeing on the screen. The characters are all very flat and dull to look at and I guess if they are standing in for Average Joe they have succeeded but you would be hard pressed to remember a one of them after the anime was done (except Souichi who most of us will just wish we didn’t remember because that giggle of his was really obnoxious).

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Where the art shines is in some of the moments of horror themselves. The creepy smile, the model, the slug emerging from the girl’s mouth, even the centipede/brain thing, are all really remarkable images that while the animation isn’t amazing, the image itself sticks. Given more time and possibly a larger budget, bringing these moments to life could have lead to something truly amazing and instead we get glimpses of genius underneath a smearing of the very ordinary.

There isn’t a lot more to say about this other than it is basically formulaic with each story setting up a character dealing with or walking into a weird situation which rapidly escalates before the story ends, sometimes without any kind of resolution. The very good thing about this is you are not compelled to watch the whole series. You really could just pick and choose individual tales to watch from the collection and enjoy them for what they are without sitting through a whole series.

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While I’m not really recommending this, I didn’t hate it. Okay, I hated one or two moments where they crossed the line from horror to disgusting for the sake of it, but for the most part I found the episodes worked well enough even if I always felt the series was somewhat lacking. If you really enjoy horror, there’s enough here to make it worth while checking out, but ultimately the potential of this show far outweighs what it delivers.

Episode Reviews:


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Karandi James

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