Summer 2017 Week 7

Most shows have kind of settled in now and while some are better than expected (Gamers and In Another World With My Smartphone) others are not going so great (Chronos Ruler and Vatican Miracle Examiner). Though even the ones going better than expected aren’t exactly blowing me away. Overall though, I’m not watching anything truly dreadful this season and there’s been some interesting characters and scenes so far. As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the shows of the season so please leave me a comment below.

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Must Watch

My Hero Academia (Episode 32)

Alright, episode 32 was a bit of filler and fluff to be honest, but at this point the show has been going so strongly and even though episode 32 didn’t really progress the main narrative it was still a pretty good episode, I’m going to forgive a little bit of filler. Hopefully though the show doesn’t lose its momentum at this point because it has really been driving forward this whole second season.

Princess Principal (Episode 6)

Finally we’ve finished the introductions and these episodes have been great. Now to stay a must watch, they now need to do something with these characters and the set up. Hopefully they succeed at kicking the story into gear next episode.

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Usually Entertaining

Gamers (Episode 5)

I’m still entertained by this, but I will point out that if we get another episode like this I’m going to have to move it back down into the just okay pile because there’s really no way to say that this show is actually better than okay. The fact that I’m personally amused by it doesn’t actually make it any better. I’m still hopeful that this show will do something with its premise but it seems it is pretty happy to move into cliché teen-romantic-drama territory and while that might make for amusement it doesn’t make for a show that I’d easily recommend.

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Okay, I Guess

In Another World With My Smartphone (Episode 5)

Okay, when you have a whole episode mostly dedicated to slimes dissolving girls clothes in an openly stolen trope like scene and otherwise there is almost nothing of note in the episode, I kind of can’t justify leaving this in the usually entertaining category. I’m hoping the story picks up again next episode but episode five was strictly fan servicey filler.

18if (Episode 6)

This was my favourite episode so far. Still absolutely not answers or any idea what the overall narrative might be, assuming there is one and this isn’t going to remain strictly episodic (though the presence of Lily kind of indicates there is supposed to be a bigger story going on). But this episode really nailed feeling like a dream sequence and was a lot of fun in the process. More like this would be appreciated in this series.

Knight’s & Magic (Episode 6)

And the okay but not amazing continues with this show. It is definitely watchable and also kind of fun, but realistically the story, characters and setting are all just kind of average. There’s a few minor points of interest where it is trying something new, but it isn’t really distinguishing itself from the many other similar stories we’ve seen before.

Fastest Finger First (Episode 6)

With a bit of a break from anything resembling serious quizzes or quiz practice, the show took a little bit of a dive this week. It wasn’t enough to really move it on the list, but I definitely enjoyed this episode less. I’m kind of hoping its a mid-season slump and next week I’m back to having fun with it.

Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight (Episode 5)

Episode 5 packs a bit of an emotional punch so if you’ve dropped off watching this it may be an episode to pick up. Of course it really is working the tragedy angle but it is doing it well. Nothing particularly mind blowing here but a strong episode in the series.

Clean Freak Aoyama Kun (Episode 6)

This continues to be watchable, mildly amusing, and occasionally slightly clever (also occasionally too stupid for words but that was to be expected from the premise). Anyway, it seems I’ll be sticking out the season of this show which I didn’t think would be the case when I started it.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life (Episode 7)

I feel bad that Clean Freak Aoyama-Kun is now above this on the list because just reading what these shows are about, that should not happen. Yet Elegant Yokai Apartment Life spent most of episode 6 making me sleepy before giving me maybe five minutes of entertainment. Then episode 7 delayed actually dealing with that situation and ended on another cliff hanger to find out what happens next. I really wish this was better, but it isn’t.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu (Episode 6)

Take the fight sequences out of this and what you have are semi-attractive male anime characters walking around talking a lot about things they’ve given you no reason to care about. Admittedly, some of the dialogue in episode 6 kind of makes it seem like we are heading towards an actual point but it is all a matter of wait and see.

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They Made This

Sagrada Reset (Episode 19)

Sagrada really does need its own category. It isn’t good, and the first half was barely even okay when viewed as a half season, but the story remained full of possibilities. This second half is drawing on all those possibilities and weaving something that is actually a really fascinating narrative and yet the question of whether that offsets the robotic characters and pacing issues remains to be seen.

Vatican Miracle Examiner (Episode 6)

Okay, we are starting a new mystery so here is Vatican Miracle Examiner’s chance to not be crazy and actually bring together a nice story. It has everything it needs, now it just needs to deliver.

Chronos Ruler (Episode 6)

This show is owning this category this season. The writing remains dreadful and the characters remain completely erratic and nonsensical. While the premise is really interesting, everything about the execution is kind of failing hard, except its appearance which is actually kind of nice.

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Tried and Dropped

Restaurant to Another World (Episode 1)

Centaur’s Life (Episode 1)

Convenience Store Boyfriends (Episode 1)

Saiyuki Reload Blast (Episode 1)

Battle Girl High School (Episode 1)

Hina Logic (Episode 1)

Tsuredure Children (Episode 1)

Fox Spirit Matchmaker (Episode 1)

Aho Girl (Episode 1)

The Irresponsible Galaxy Tylor (Episode 1)

I’m struggling this week with deciding who the best villain is. I’m thinking it is going to go to Hero Killer Stain but what are your thoughts?


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Princess Principal Episodes 5 + 6: Always A Train Story

Review Episode 5:

I get that trains were really important as a mode of transport way back when, but I find train episodes relatively boring for the simple reason that there are only so many things you can do in a train episode. Basically you have linear paths because the carriages are strung out behind one another, and you can go above or below the carriage, and you always have to worry about derailment and carriage separation, but the stories always end up playing out much the same way. Okay, Baccano managed something a little different on a train, but Princess Principal adds only anti-gravity catch up from the separated carriages to the ones ahead and a merging track that may cause two trains to collide.

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However, while the plot of Princess Principal becomes quite predictable this week due to his chosen setting, the focus on character, particularly Chise, is quite interesting. We’ve now seen how each of the girls has come to this group and each story has given us a bit more insight into the group itself. Hopefully now the overall narrative can kick into gear because we’ve now gotten through these introductions.

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This remains quite a strong anime this season even if I was making fun of the train setting earlier. The episode works, the characters are fantastic, and some of the fight sequences on the train were pretty cool.

Review Episode 6:

Nope, instead we’re going to get some back story on Dorothy and a fairly tragic tale that is pretty predictable but great to watch nonetheless. It was also great to see the dynamic between Dorothy and Beatrice as this episode unfolded given while they were in the last episode they were more in the background to Ange and Chise (who this time are the ones sent to the sidelines).

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This is an episode of real highs and lows for Dorothy with Beatrice acting as the observer and the one who asks the questions the audience want an answer to and it works really well. The drunken father may have been a fairly generic plot device, but it is delivered well and overall the story, while not complicated, is largely entertaining.

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None of this however changes the fact that at episode 6, other than Ange wanting to help the Princess and the Princess wanting to maybe be the Queen, we really don’t have a central plot here. The individual cases are pretty entertaining and the girls are a real joy to watch, but what is holding this back from being truly fantastic is a sense that we are heading toward something.


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Summer 2017 Week 6

Technically this would be halfway through the season and I really feel like I’m scrambling to keep up. There’s a number of shows that I was watching to not review but I’m so far behind at this point there’s almost no chance I’ll finish them with the end of the season. Anyway, while there’s not a lot making me dance with joy this season, there’s some fairly reasonable shows just to relax and watch without a lot of stress. I may end up with quite a few titles on my buy list at the end of the season for when they get a DVD release because there’s a lot of the kinds of shows that I just kind of enjoy binge watching on the weekend.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the shows of the season so please leave me a comment below.

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Must Watch

My Hero Academia (Episode 30)

Loving this. No other way to put it. This show continues to demonstrate control over pacing and characters and knows when to kick the action into high gear. It just works. While it may not be the most inventive story ever, I’m really caught up with Midoriya and his classmates as they work toward becoming heroes.

Princess Principal (Episode 4)

I’m not sure if Princess Principal is going to stay a must watch, but the first four episodes have impressed. Sure, there’s a bit playing on the cute girls as spies, but there’s also some really interesting writing and some unexpected character depth. Plus the whole steampunk, alternative history thing is actually working quite well for it. All and all, I’m just really enjoying the story so far.

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Usually Entertaining

Gamers (Episode 4)

I can’t help it, this show is just a bundle of fun to watch. It plays on clichés and stereotypes but so far hasn’t managed to just be insulting and lazy in its delivery. The music has remained top-notch and the characters are definitely pulling their weight. While not a must watch show (at least not yet) there’s a great deal to like about this show so far.

In Another World With My Smartphone (Episode 4)

This is actually becoming genuine fun to watch. I’m not watching it and tolerating the comedy, I’m actually enjoying the jokes even if they are a little tired and overused in places. The characters are strictly filling their assigned tropes, the story has almost zero depth, and while it looks good enough there’s nothing exceptional about the visuals here. Yet, this show is good fun. It isn’t asking you to take it seriously and it knows very well that it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

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Okay, I Guess

18if (Episode 5)

I was a little optimistic on this one. It isn’t bad but it is becoming repetitive and without further revelations, the story is pretty pointless as Haruto saves the witch of the week. There’s certainly potential for this show to pick up toward the end, but at the moment, okay is the best descriptor for it and what it is delivering. It is interesting in its own way but without any kind of clear direction or any kind of answer, there isn’t much more to say about it. Visually it remains one of the more interesting anime of the season.

Knight’s & Magic (Episode 5)

This show continues to remain entertaining in places, fairly relaxing to watch, but it isn’t really asking me to care too much about what is going on or really seeming to build on its foundations. It’s still fun enough and I’m interested enough, but it isn’t particularly amazing.

Fastest Finger First (Episode 5)

This seems to finally be trying to push the characters rather than the quizzes, and it worked fairly well. Admittedly, the characters still aren’t the most interesting thing in the show, but at least they seem to have something resembling a personality. Hopefully this show can maintain some consistency over the season. The quizzes however remain the highlight for me.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu (Episode 5)

Right, so the story and characters are going nowhere, but the fight sequences remain impressive. Watch for cool sword play and some awesome music, ignore everything else and this is pretty tolerable so far. It is attempting to elicit some kind of emotional response from its audience, but so far it is missing the mark.

Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight (Episode 4)

And this continues its episodic trudge along so if you’ve watched so far, there’s nothing either particularly good or bad about this week (unless watching old people be mistreated upsets you in which case, pass).

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life (Episode 5)

This show would be better if you kept the set up the same but changed the protagonist out for someone with a personality and then switched the writers out for ones that had some sense of how to build drama or any kind of emotion. It remains a very pretty show and one full of characters I want to like, but is pretty bland all around.

Clean Freak Aoyama Kun (Episode 5)

I’m still sticking with this one, which for me and a comedy show is pretty unusual. I must admit, I’m still actually having some fun with it. Though, at 5 episodes in its beginning to tire me as jokes that were kind of tolerable are being reused just that little bit too often and I still don’t really have any concern for any of the characters.

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They Made This

Sagrada Reset (Episode 18)

Sagrada Reset is definitely attempting a late in the season come back. Nothing is going to make this an anime I would recommend to someone given it is incredibly awkward to watch at times with some very stilted characters, and yet, it would be fantastic if those of us who did watch it got to feel some sense of satisfaction as we close in on the end.

Vatican Miracle Examiner (Episode 5)

I wonder if the whole mystery was written out before they started making this. I guess it would have to be. So that means, someone read that script and that resolution and thought it seemed like a good idea and still decided to make this into an anime. It isn’t a total train wreck, but neither is it particularly good or worth watching. Episode 5 fills in some details about Lauren and is a little bit better to watch, but that’s probably because they aren’t on a case.

Chronos Ruler (Episode 5)

Looks like I was right in moving this one down into this category. The writing of this show is appalling as is the characterisation and pacing. Basically it has a kind of decent concept underneath all that and it might get to a point but I’m pretty much expecting this to just meander about and squander any potential it has before sputtering to a fairly flat conclusion.

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Tried and Dropped

Restaurant to Another World (Episode 1)

Centaur’s Life (Episode 1)

Convenience Store Boyfriends (Episode 1)

Saiyuki Reload Blast (Episode 1)

Battle Girl High School (Episode 1)

Hina Logic (Episode 1)

Tsuredure Children (Episode 1)

Fox Spirit Matchmaker (Episode 1)

Aho Girl (Episode 1)

The Irresponsible Galaxy Tylor (Episode 1)

Halfway point of the season: which shows do you think are going to be the stand out of the season?


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Friday’s Feature: Characters Seeking Who They Are

While I have said that I’m not loving the Summer 2017 line up all that much, I’ve been surprised by a number of shows that at first seemed like they wouldn’t really appeal but have then managed to bring me around. One of the common features of these shows is their focus on the theme of identity and characters who seem to either be in search of who they are supposed to be or trying to reconnect with something. On its own, characters doing some soul searching won’t sell a show, but when done in a way that resonates with its audience or in a way that feels real, can make even a reasonably average story suddenly come to life.

With so many anime featuring young and adolescent characters, it is not really all that surprising that many characters are seeking out who they are or who are trying to be something they aren’t. It’s a fairly standard theme of adolescent literature. However, regardless of the age of the characters, or the age of the audience, this idea of figuring out who and what you are is something that people connect with because everyone has at some point wondered if they are who they are actually supposed to be or even if there is someone that they should be.

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Knight’s & Magic takes a very wish fulfillment view of this topic and it isn’t one that is particularly new or surprising. Take an otaku (who actually was doing okay in his normal life) and drop him into a fantasy world where his fascination with robots and skills as a programmer are pretty much allowing him to rise quickly to a position of renown. The key to this kind of story working is that many people have gone through this experience of feeling like they were born in the wrong time or place, that if given a different setting their skills would be valued so much more and they would be appreciated better. It might seem self-indulgent but Knight’s & Magic does have a few things going for it that sets it a little apart from other similar titles.

Firstly, Ernesti’s skills are limited to programming and while he can apply that to the system of magic in the world (making him pretty powerful), he isn’t a super genius at everything and he is highly reliant on the skills of the team of mechanics and the like he is working with to get his ideas of the ground. Regardless of his genius, without these guys, none of Ernesti’s visions would ever have seen the light of day.

Secondly, it isn’t entirely clear whether Ernesti has full memories of his former life or not. Certainly he’s carried quite a bit of knowledge over and some terminology, but otherwise he seems very much a young boy in the fantasy world rather than the adult he was in the real world (which almost makes you wonder why bother saying he was reincarnated in the first place when he could just be a plucky genius). Of course, there’s always room for the story to go back and address this point later so maybe there’s more to this reincarnation thing than initially meets the eye.

Thirdly, while Ernesti is fascinated with creating a robot, his vision doesn’t really extend beyond that. He doesn’t actually seem to have any ambition or drive or understanding or care for the politics and the like of the world he is in. Normally in this kind of story there would already be some great injustice that the plucky hero would be able to judge evil and start raising forces against, but in this story it really just seems like Ernesti is happily oblivious to anything outside of his immediate goals. Maybe this will change as he is forced into increasingly complex situations and Ernesti will be forced to deal with the fall out of his choices, but for the early part of this series it seems Ernesti has zero interest in politics, rules, norms, or anything else that does not lead to him building a giant robot he can pilot.

Still, the entire thing begs the question of what would happen if you were really transported to a fantasy world and would your skills actually amount to anything of value.

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Outside of the fantasy realm, we actually have a darker story set in an alternate history with Princess Principal. Given the duplicitous nature of all of the characters, they are spies afterall, it is no wonder that the theme of identity comes up time and time again. However, it is Ange’s character that has particularly caught my attention, and clearly I’m not alone on that one.

The very first episode “Wired Liar” makes it clear that Ange is not the kind of person that can be trusted. She appears extremely stoic on the outside, hardened as a spy and the life she’s lived, but we later learn of her deep friendship for the Princess. Outside of this, she keeps others at arm’s length by giving them ridiculous answers to simple questions or avoiding their questions altogether. And then in episode 4, as the group struggled with the question of what to name themselves, Ange outright told the Princess she hated who she used to be. So what does that mean for her friendship with the Princess that is rooted very firmly in that past that Ange apparently hates?

Unlike Knight’s & Magic, this isn’t a story about wish fulfillment. It so far has been a story very much walking inside the grey zones we all see where we can’t really define right or wrong. The characters are also grey. Not in the way the Princess is described as grey because her loyalty can’t be trusted, but grey because the true history of all of these characters is obscured. I don’t think Ange’s motive of saving the Princess is a lie (although that would be quite the twist), but nor do I believe that Ange truly believes she can save the Princess. There’s something very sad about Ange and how she has so far been portrayed and I find it fascinating and desperately want to know more about her, but much like her comrades she keeps the audience at arm’s length.

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The last anime I want to look at from the Summer 2017 line up is Gamers. This show has been surprisingly entertaining, and surprisingly good. For a silly comedy that is rapidly becoming a high school rom-com there’s still enough going on in the story that I can’t help but enjoy it. Mostly this is because all of the five main characters who feature in the opening have so far been struggling with finding who they are (and searching for that answer in relation to why they game).

Admittedly, the girls’ stories and actions have all been so far driven by their relationship (or desired relationship) with the males of the story and it would be nice to see them have motivation beyond romantic, yet the stories have been pretty interesting. Aguri and Uehara’s story is particularly interesting. Uehara having transformed himself from perceived geek in middle school to someone who would be socially accepted, even picking up Aguri as a girlfriend even if he wasn’t that in to her. Aguri had also undergone a transformation as she wanted to be someone Uehara liked. However, she knew him back before his own transformation and liked him regardless. All of that might seem pretty shallow until the characters themselves are forced to face the consequences of creating and living a lie or trying to creat an ‘ideal’ high school life.

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But it was episode four with Tendou, the catalyst for the whole story, narrating her daily life that really tipped this one. Tendou’s narration paints a vivid picture but what the audience is seeing is a girl who is obsessed with creating a particular image of who she thinks she is. Then we see her life and her narration after she’s been turned down by the protagonist (not for dating, just for joining the game club) and we realise that Tendou is really unaware that she has created an artificial view of herself. Tendou’s world begins to crumble as she can’t make sense of Amano’s views within the confines of her artificial reality. Whether she comes out the other side of this a better person, or at least a more real person, is another story and one that we don’t yet have an answer to, but the fact that this show is willing to ask the hard questions about who these characters actually are and why they became that way is kind of refreshing.

And while a single character, or even a pair of characters, may get this treatment, to see the entire cast thrust under the microscope as they start out as archetypes, are then fleshed out archetypes, and then have their own perception of who they are challenged, is an interesting and so far entertaining experience. The narrative itself isn’t amazing, but there’s certainly enough in the characterisation to make it interesting.

As none of these shows are finished, it is impossible to know where these characters will end up. That said, there are a lot of interesting characters with interesting possibilities facing them this season. While the shows so far have been a bit hit and miss for me, I know that I’ll remember many of these characters well after this season ends regardless of how their character arcs end.


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Princess Principal Episode 4: Lost and Found Identity

Review Episode 4:

This episode gave us another case with the girls (although Chise has been added into the mix) and they are once again infiltrating and finding their target with a few hijinks along the way. Still, a large part of the dialogue this episode was given to the characters trying to find a name for the team, which is interesting given that at this point the team is clearly lacking cohesion with Chise being left out at key moments, Ange trying to protect the Princess and keep her out of anything, Ange and the Princess trying to keep their former friendship a secret, and Dorothy having been tasked with keeping an eye on the Princess in case she turns out to be a double agent.

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However, the Princess is clearly unwilling to take on the passive role Ange has in mind for her and takes matters into her own hands. Despite their former friendship and genuine affection for one another, the Princess isn’t willing to wait in the tower for Ange to rescue her.

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As for Ange, she clearly states she hates her past self, which is odd given how hard she is working to save a friend from her former life. She continues to be a character full of contradictions and it is kind of interesting to try to figure out who she is beneath the many layers of lies she’s piled on top of herself. Depending on how she goes for the rest of the season I may need to write an article on her at some point.

I’ll admit that I’m kind of loving this show at this point. I’m not sure exactly where I think it is going in terms of the whole narrative arc but I don’t think that matters at this point given how much fun and how interesting the journey so far has been.


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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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Princess Principal Episode 1: This Might Be A Fun Ride

Overview:

At the end of the 19th century, London, the Kingdom of Albion has been split into East and West sides by a giant wall. Five girls attend Queen’s Mayfaire, a conventional and prestigious school. Under the guise of regular high school girls, they act as spies under cover. Disguise, reconnaissance, infiltration, car chases… Each girl uses their own set of special skills to dart around the world of shadow.

– From AnimeLab

Review:

This show was one of the few titles that has been getting quite a lot of praise this season that I actually have access to so I was looking forward to checking out the first episode. Even so, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much. It kind of reminded me a bit of Joker Game, but with a bit more energy and (let’s be honest) more cute added in to it. The combination might work but more importantly, it looks like we have a far more focussed cast so hopefully I won’t feel as disconnected from the show as I did when watching Joker Game.

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I really like the set up in this first episode. There’s still a lot we don’t know about why these girls are spies or what really caused the conflict or what the end game is, but you don’t feel confused while watching these girls carry out their mission. While one of the girls is of the overly cute, squeaky voice variety that might get on my nerves, the others all seem quite interesting and I look forward to learning more about them.

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That said, right from the word go, this show is making sure we know it isn’t all sunshine and roses just because young girls have taken the lead roles. This had some dark moments and it doesn’t look like we’re heading for a happily ever after any time soon. Definitely going to keep this one and see how it goes. It may not end up being amazing, but this first episode certainly hit the mark.


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