Rare Case When Naive Heroism Doesn’t Win The Day

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Review

The Price of Smiles is still definitely a mixed bag four episodes in, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that even if it doesn’t nail its narrative, I’m happy I stuck with it because it at least feels like it is trying a few things. After this week’s episode I’m particularly impressed with how they are handling Yuuki, post Joshua.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Yuuki

Does anyone else find it odd watching the opening and seeing Joshua smiling and waving in central position in so many shots given he lasted all of two episodes and gets some flashbacks?

This episode sees the Princess’s military still fighting a losing retreat as they try to hold a line and evacuate cities being attacked pretty much continuously. At first Yuuki is completely unable to cope with the new situation (keeping in mind that everyone has worked to keep her completely in the dark). She screams at them and asks why they want her approval now when they’ve never asked her before or told her anything. It is a legitimate complaint and one that probably wouldn’t come up under normal circumstances. She doesn’t just smile bravely and do her job but has to take the time to process the new situation.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Princess Yuuki

We get a lot of backstory about the death of Yuuki’s parents and a lot of this explains how Leila came into the picture as someone close to Yuuki. Now this is where I felt they were laying coincidences on far too thickly as Leila was also in the explosion that killed Yuuki’s parents and during the course of events she lost her own family, including a blue haired daughter who I’m guessing is not so dead after all and isn’t that a convenient plot development, but Leila also saved Yuuki’s life when she was an infant.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Leila serves Yuuki

Still, as interesting as learning what triggered the war all those years ago was, it wasn’t half as interesting as what happened when the Princess decided to actually step up. She went to where the leaders were directing the evacuation and listened as they told her they’d used the technology she’d already told them wasn’t for war. Instead of flying off the handle she accepted that it was necessary to save lives.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4

Then we realise that in the evacuated city there are some civilians making their own stand. Yuuki asks the military leader to save them and he sends in a team to do just that, and they all get killed.

In so many other stories they’d have narrowly saved the day or come up with some clever plan. But here, under-resourced and under-pressure, they try and they fail and the soldiers sent in and the civilians are killed. Yuuki’s face sells the whole scene and it is curious to wonder just how many more blows she can take emotionally given her whole world has literally been upended over the past few days.

The Price of Smiles may not be amazing or revolutionary, but there’s enough interesting ideas being thrown about here and the cast work well enough. I’m having a good time with it and if it actually can develop these ideas without feeling rushed in its run then it could end up being fairly solid. Even if it doesn’t, it has so far proven entertaining enough.

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Karandi James
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ACCA Series Review

Overview:

ACCA tells the story of Jean Otus, an inspector who travels the 13 districts of the Kingdom of Dowa, who is about to get drawn into a whole lot of political intrigue. With rumours of a coup gathering momentum, what will Jean do? Probably smoke a cigarette.

I reviewed ACCA week to week so if you are interested in my episodic thoughts click here.

Review:

Those of you who followed my week to week reviews, or if you’ve read my overviews on Saturday, you already know, I loved this anime. It was a must watch every week and I couldn’t get enough of it. Watching it, talking to others about it, speculating about where it was all going. So, now that it is finished, what are my thoughts.

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Unsurprisingly, I still think ACCA is truly an incredible story. I’ll go into detail later but, after getting to the end and thinking about it, I realise that the audience for ACCA is actually kind of small. The opening act moves almost terminally slow, the information is revealed as necessary during the second act but requires a lot of work on the part of the audience to put together, and by the third act the cards are on the table but for the final twist, which I found immensely satisfying but I can understand that many people out there my wonder what on earth the point of watching the show was.

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So, I’m going to explain why I loved ACCA and why it is amazing. But I’ll also not be surprised if you tell me in the comments you dropped this early on, or it didn’t do much for you. This one is definitely a matter of whether you get into it or not, or whether you enjoy stories that slowly give out the details and allow you to fit them together numerous ways before it shows its hand.

First and foremost, the opening theme is perfect. While it isn’t the most striking anime theme music in history and nor does it pack much punch outside of the context of the show it perfectly sets the tone for the anime you are about to watch. Heavily influenced by jazz and yet not particularly fast paced the opening hints at a show that is laid back, just a little bit off-beat, but full of hidden intrigue, and that’s more or less exactly what it delivers. I must admit the opening theme was part of what made me so excited to start each episode.

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Secondly, the characters really grabbed me. I know some people will disagree, but I found Jean Otus fascinating from start to finish. He is different from your usual anime protagonist being older, non-violent, no shouting of any sort, not a super genius or particularly amazing at anything, not incompetent, not the focus of a harem, etc, etc. While some may dismiss him as bland, I found him to be a highly nuanced character and a lot of my enjoyment in the earlier episodes came from trying to figure out what was going on inside his head. Later in the series we get more of a look at him and there are moments where full and genuine expressions cross his face, and it all just works perfectly at fleshing out a character who feels very real.

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However every character in this series, regardless of screen time (and some of them barely appear in two episodes) manage to feel like an individual. A character crafted with care and attention to detail. They fill the role they are given in the narrative but also add some truth to the world being constructed.

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And that brings me to the third reason I loved this series. The small details. Everything in this story has purpose. Whether it is creating a distinction between one district and another, foreshadowing a later plot point, giving a character back story, every single detail is there for a reason. Some obviously carry more weight than others, but nothing is wasted. Even the excessive focus on food (do not watch this show hungry) serves the valuable purpose of clearly identifying districts and later creates links between characters who share a love of a particular type of food.

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But my number one reason for loving my watch of ACCA is that at no point did I feel I was being talked down to by the narrative. They allow the audience time to process information and to put it together. Even when information is revealed they don’t feel the need to excessively explain how the new information fits in with the old. They just reveal it and move on expecting that the audience can and will make the connection themself. It’s been a long time since I’ve really found something that didn’t make me feel like they expected my memory was jettisoned every twenty seconds.

All that said, I do have to address a few minor criticisms because no matter how much I loved it there are definitely some criticisms that are needed. Spoilers coming.

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The big one that actually really rocked me was after they formally acknowledge (by having a character say it) that Jean was royalty, suddenly every character was just talking about his bloodline like it had been common knowledge from the start. While it did help steer the narrative along it felt like a very sharp turn in the narrative that didn’t get quite enough time to develop.

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The other criticism I have is Lotta, Jean’s sister. While she is certainly cute and loves her bread, and she does at times progress plot points, I kind of felt like her removal from the story wouldn’t have harmed it in the least at most points. Okay, they would have needed a different portrait to draw the link between the Otus’ and the royals, and the whole attempted assassination plot probably would have needed to be scrapped but it didn’t serve all that much purpose anyway. The Rail being infatuated by her storyline also could have easily been swept away. That said, if they did that, then a lot of the air time of the series vanishes, so I guess they just needed to do more with her character to make her feel a little bit more needed. At the moment she just kind of feels there.

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As I said at the start, I fully understand why this anime won’t appeal to everyone so I won’t tell you that you have to watch it or that I don’t understand why you didn’t like it. However, if you haven’t given it a go and you wouldn’t mind an anime that has a fairly clever story and some great writing, then its worth checking out. I had a blast with this during the 2017 Winter season and I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more shows like it.


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Karandi James.

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KADO Episode 5

Review:

After the UN made their declaration in the previous episode I was ready for Japan to either capitulate or defy and I was ready for the inevitable war to get rolling along or for zaShunina to do something really crazy but this show once again surprised me in the best possible way.

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Even the reporters in this show expected that outcome.

While a lot of attention is given to the scientist who works in the lab (the one who wanted to crash a drone into the side of the cube and no I cannot remember her name at this point) during the episode, I am more interested in the older scientist’s observation about Shindo. It’s been observed previously that Shindo is too calm and collected and while even before episode 1 (in episode 0) he was shown to be fairly brilliant and flexible in his thinking, it seems odd to belive that a negotiator could help a scientist figure out wam in a matter of hours. There’s something up with that and it probably comes back to the direct communication with zaShunina in episode 1 but to be honest that is my speculation.

Episode Spoiler Ahead

However, here’s the bomb that zaShunina wanted to drop (admittedly it may not be and this is my interpretation of his previous statement and the events this episode):

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For a show that has so far been all talk, they still manage to make things thrilling as you really just get caught up in the possibilities.

Kado is available on Crunchryoll.


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Karandi James.

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KADO Episode 4

Review:

While this show has previously moved at a snail’s pace (though this has been needed given how much information we’ve had to take in), episode 4 seems to have finally planted its foot on the accelerator. Part of that came from the absence of zaShunina for the large majority of the episode as we instead focussed on the humans scrambling around trying to figure out what to do with the infinite energy literally dropped into their laps.

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That said, this episode isn’t without zaShunina’s particular take on the world and his discussion about countries and their purpose and how they operate is kind of interesting. Though, more interesting is his declaration that the wam are not for countries but for humanity, cleanly separating the concepts even as the UN and other countries work to put pressure on Japan.

Not sure what the intention is for the next move but things are definitely rolling along now and certainly we saw a lot more tension in the narrative during episode 4 than in the previous episodes. Really enjoyable story so far.

KADO is available on Crunchyroll.


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Karandi James.

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Iron Blooded Orphans Episode 50

Review:

This ends exactly as you would expect though I will give them points for one or two surprises (such as Ride’s future which I didn’t see coming). Still, any potential character growth for Mikazuki ends rather abruptly mid-episode much as it should given what they were up against.

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However, the general tone of the episode is reflective. More importantly, after all is said and done and all the battles and fighting, things resume pretty much the status quo. There’s some changes in how the different organisations are run and Mars does gain a bit more freedom, but these are changes that could have come about just through negotiations if people had been willing to talk. And overall, the people in charge are still the people in charge. Given the massive cost and number of deaths Gundam remains true to its general message that war really doesn’t get us very far.

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While you can mostly pick where the characters will be in the future, the second half of this episode progresses through them one by one and we see where they have ended up. For the most part this is satisfying, though very little is as satisfying as seeing Iok finally get his on the battle field.

All and all, I didn’t love this second season but it holds it together well enough. I’ll do a full review soonish.

Iron Blooded Orphans is available on AnimeLab.


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Karandi James.

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ACCA Episode 12

Review:

While I suspect not all will be thrilled with the way this resolved, for me it was the perfect way to end this story. At all times, things have been pretty laid back and resolved without much in the way of violence, and for the coup to end the way it did works perfectly in terms of being true to the feel of the story and characters. It probably would have been unnatural for this to end any other way.

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There’s something immensely satisfying in seeing where the characters end up after the ceremony and while this journey was meandering at times, it doesn’t feel like any of it has been wasted. I fully enjoyed every moment of this story. I’ll do a full review of the series soon and I’m definitely going to rewatch this series later in the year just to see if it can stand up to a second watch (I’m still concerned that half the fun of this show will vanish when you know where it is going).

ACCA is available on Crunchyroll.


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Karandi James.

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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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Karandi James.

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