Tales of Zestiria The X Season 2 Episode 13

Review:

While this final episode is not bad when compared to the rest of the show, it was definitely hurt by the extended break between episode 12 and 13. The momentum (what little this show had) was definitely gone and it took me awhile to remember exactly where we’d left the characters and then I got to marvel all over again that they were really doing a power combine thing to win the final battle. Actually, what really hurts this episode is the game like nature of that battle.  The villain just stands there as they have a pep-talk, call the names, combine, Sorey falls to his knees, multiple times, before he’s finally able to stand, and the villain is still just standing there. Worse, the villain then gets his own power up and Sorey just stands there while it happens.

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After the battle things get better, but even then the show can’t commit to actually having Sorey’s sacrifice mean something and post credits be prepared for everything to be smiley happy, even if that makes no sense given the nature of what they were facing. I’ll review the full series of this soon, but not particularly impressed with season 2 of this.

Tales of Zestiria the X is available on AnimeLab.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 4

Review:

I’ve got nothing. While the reveals this episode don’t really completely destroy my working theories from after episode 3, they don’t add any support to them and some of the reveals make it seem like this show is a little more about plot convenience then about making a cohesive mystery. Though, that isn’t saying it couldn’t be doing both but episode 4 was certainly full of more coincidences and throw away lines of explanation than I would have liked.

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I’m going to have to do a feature on Kei at some point. His character is really asking to be dissected (probably not literally). Whichever, episode 4 solves the whole cat mystery, finds the MacGuffin (actually literally) though does nothing with it, reveals a few points of information but doesn’t give us any closer look at what the overall plot might be. It annoys me that I’m as hooked on this show as I am given the ongoing issues with its overall pacing and presentation, but I am definitely still hooked at this point.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Kuromukuro Series Review

Overview:

Kennosuke is a samurai who lived 450 years ago when ogres attacked his home and killed/kidnapped his Princess. Trapped in some sort of suspended animation, he is woken when the ‘ogres’ return and finds the world is a very different place.

Review (there’s a few spoilers):

I haven’t watched a lot of anime on Netflix, mostly because there isn’t very much available in Australia, and most of what is there is already available on other services. Still, I’ve tried a few now of the Netflix originals and for the most part found them watchable, bingeable even, but not overly remarkable. Kuromukuro doesn’t do much to buck the trend there.

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In all seriousness, I actually finished a watch of this series in very quick order and then had to go back and rewatch bits for the purpose of review. Mostly because what this story does right is keeps you wanting more at the end of each episode. Things are happening. The plot continues to drive forward. It doesn’t matter that it is predictable and gimmicky, it just keeps driving onward and you get to the end credits and you are jumping straight into the next episode because anything else just seems silly.

I was going to review season 1 and season 2 separately (given Netflix so nicely insists they are 2 different seasons and labels them as such) but given episode 13 (final episode of season 1) ended with one of the main characters getting run through with a sword and being critically injured and that’s where it ended I kind of just kept watching. Even though I knew that’s why they did and even though it annoys me when stories pull those cheap emotional stunts to make you wait for the next episode or season. This show got away with it not annoying me because all of season 2 was already sitting there but if I’d had to wait 6 or 12 months there’s a good chance I’d have never gone back to it.

So other than my petty dislike of being overtly manipulated as a viewer, what works in this show and what doesn’t? Let’s go for a plus/minus approach.

Plus +

The cast works really well. Okay, every character is actually a walking archetype at various times but they also get small moments where they get to be real humans even if only momentarily, and there are enough cast members that none of them really hang around long enough to get too painful. I liked the dynamics of Yukina’s family, I liked her group of school friends, I liked the UN office workers and researchers, and I liked the soldiers. They all just kind of did what they needed to do. Are any of these characters going to make my favourite ever list? Not a chance, they are pretty forgettable. But, within the context of the story they are in they work remarkably well.

Plus, I really enjoyed the romance element that came into it later on. It was kind of clear from the start they were going to go there, but it was actually kind of sweet when that part of the story got moving.

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Minus –

The villains are all but cape wearing, cackling clichés. And no, they aren’t quite that bad but they get close at times. Initially one of the ‘ogres’ gets killed by Ken and then they said another, single warrior against him. Then they have this weird honour thing where they can’t return if they don’t win and they like one on one battles (though using puppets to pin your enemy down apparently doesn’t count as cheating). It’s all kind of depressing because it reminds me of Beryl’s minions in the 1990’s Sailor Moon and the main villain is about as useful as Beryl really. Turns out he isn’t the actual big bad because he’s also just a cog in the works of a much grander plan. Whichever way, there wasn’t really much satisfaction to be found from overcoming these villains because they were pretty much basic plot points derived from other stories and they weren’t particularly interesting. The only ‘villain’ who gets some points is the clone of Princess Yuki and that’s only because it ties in nicely with Ken’s story and Yukina.

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Plus +

While the fights are not using the smoothest animation ever, they actually give you a feeling of speed and you feel some real concern for the pilots at times (even though it becomes obvious fairly early on that this show isn’t interested in permanently knocking off any of its main cast even when they deserve it). As a result, the fights are pretty fun to watch even once the outcome becomes inevitable.

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Minus –

How many clichés can you pack into a single show? While this show probably isn’t the worst offender ever for this, some of these just felt so unnecessarily tacked on. We had the pool scene, because high school right, and yes the transfer student who is actually a 450 year old samurai, and the school festival of course, the overlooked love interest, the cosplaying best friend, the useless female teacher (hate that one), the teenage mecha pilots, the hot springs trip, the doppelgänger, the 450 year old machine that still somehow works perfectly, the internet obsessed guy, and so on. While some of these were used well within the context of this narrative, others, as I said, felt really unnecessary and like they existed just because the writers were told to make an anime so they did. Clichés aren’t always bad, but some of these just weren’t needed.

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Plus +

I kind of like how this ends. Yeah, there’s still plenty of story out there but it really feels like they brought things to a close. Particularly given the five year time jump (which doesn’t seem like enough given the changes but we had a dialogue line of explanation on that one) which gave us insight into what everyone had done and was doing and really gave the series a sense of closure. Such a rare feeling with anime.

Minus –

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Okay, this one is a minus I don’t normally point out or worry about and most people won’t care, but I found the sub-titles to not be great on this one. I’m aware subs don’t always direct translate and the people who sub things think about the intended meaning and flow and all sorts of other things (or at least if they are good they do, some terrible subs just direct translate everything whether it makes sense in English or not). However, there were a few instances in this where I had to wonder if the sub-title was making it less clear what the intended meaning had been. My Japanese isn’t great so I usually assume that the subs are closer than what I’ve translated and the problem is on my end, but there were a few times where I actually went back and re-listened because what I was reading was definitely not conveying the idea the same way I’d heard it. Again, the problem could definitely be on my end but it was a distraction from my viewing.

Mostly, this is a lot of fun, but there’s not a lot of depth and nothing much to take away from it. If you want to watch some giant robots smash each other with samurai swords, and a vaguely moralistic message about the general nature of human beings and organisations (and if you want aliens, ogres, and nanomachines thrown into the mix) then you’ll probably have a great time watching this. If you’re wanting something that requires a bit more thinking than maybe look elsewhere. Definitely a popcorn viewing anime but not memorable.


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Hunter x Hunter Episodes 34 + 35

Review Episode 34:

Why is it when Killua says not to worry, I start to worry? Still, the events this episode were not unexpected and I kind of wondered why coercion to fight hadn’t come up earlier. Essentially, Gon’s 2 months of non-training have come to an end and now he and Killua are apparently determined to set speed records for learning everything because amazingly enough being the protagonist means you just can. While I appreciate we aren’t stuck here for months in training it’s a little ridiculous. Though, Killua’s solution in the end was somewhat more peaceful than I expected.

Review Episode 35:

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Okay, peaceful may not have been the best way to describe Killua’s solution. It was, however, effective. From that little game Gon and Killua now each have three wins and Hisoka has finally told Gon that he can pick the time for their fight. I’m not sure if that’s actually an achievement or not.

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And given some of the things happening in this arena in all the fights why on earth is the commentator bothering to say something is unbelievable at this point?

The only real negative here is the fights are getting a little samey and I’m kind of hoping we move away from the arena soon because as cute as Gon and Killua are I’m not a big fan of arena matches in any anime.


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WorldEnd Episode 3

Review:

With the exception of one scene early on where there’s an intentionally misleading comment about Willem sleeping with one of the girls, this episode actually dialed the fan-service moments way back down and instead finally turned its attention to Willem.

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He’s a decidedly level headed individual really first looking through old records and then assisting in teaching a better way to use the magic sword thing (Dug weapon or whatever they want to call it – though it was very cool when he was putting on the light show with it at the end). We learn a tiny bit more about how a supposedly extinct member of the human race is still wandering around but other than answering how he managed to still be around 500 years after they lost the war, we still know little about his actual life. The episode ends with the girls heading off for what should have been a life-ending mission however there’s a chance they’ll survive now (and thank goodness we were spared the training montage).

I really enjoyed this episode. Things moved along nicely, we got the information we needed, a few touching moments, a couple of smiles, and some actual character development. You can’t really ask for more in a show like this.

WorldEnd is available on Crunchyroll.


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The Royal Tutor Episode 4

Review:

While the first three episodes of this were fine in their own way, and probably quite enjoyable if the style of comedy is more your thing, I honestly felt I could stop watching this show at any time and be perfectly fine with that. At the end of episode 4, I had a smile on my face and kind of wished the next episode was available which left me wondering why it had more of an impact.

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I think it mostly came down to the fact that this episode didn’t feel like yet more character introductions and the interactions between the Princes, the Tutor, and the people in town all felt a little bit more natural than some of the stilted interactions we’d seen as they clamoured to give us the necessary information about each player in this story. Whichever way, I quite enjoyed following the Princes on their trip into town and the end of this episode is just sweet.

The Royal Tutor is available on Crunchyroll.


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Akashic Records of a Bastard Magical Instructor Episode 4

Review:

And Glenn is back to being a bit scummy as he essentially places bets on his classes performance in the magical competition. This underlying idea kind of smashes any of his kindness or reasoned decision making in setting up the students and preparing them, and he does do some good work building the students up and getting them to acknowledge their own strengths. But knowing underneath that he’s just trying to get some extra cash kind of kills it for him as a character moment.

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The episode was still kind of fun because we’re moving through events at a very good pace. Rumia gets a bit more development with the royal mother who abandoned her dropping by for the competition and there’s some set up for something happening next episode though fairly ambiguous as to what that something might be. All and all, since episode 1, this show has definitely improved and continues to build on that, if only they didn’t keep giving me reasons to hate Glenn.

Akashic Records of a Bastard Magical Instructor is available on Crunchyroll.


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Natsume Yuujinchou Roku Episode 3

Review:

There’s something very cyclical about the nature of Natsume Yuujinchou. Events have a way of repeating and characters who have long disappeared from the narrative return at the most unexpected of times. Admittedly, Shibata wasn’t from that long ago, but he had a decidedly single episode air about him so his return this season is something of a surprise though perhaps shouldn’t be when this season has so far been about connections. Shibata knew Natsume back when everyone still thought he was a liar and only called on him for help when he was in trouble. Unlike Tanuma and the others who now know Natsume’s secret, Natsume regards Shibata with a great deal of suspicion and it is hard to take his overtures of friendship as anything other than being driven by guilt of past wrongs.

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As a result, I quite enjoyed this episode as it brought Tanuma and Shibata face to face and made the contrast between them clear, even while it has moved Shibata closer to becoming an actual friend.

Natsume Yuujinchou remains a sweet and pleasurable viewing experience and I have no complaints about how this season is going so far.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 3

Review:

Grimoire of Zero remains pretty bland. I didn’t mind the episode this week and the problem of the week that the main duo dealt with, but the overall story and world still feels pretty much like it hasn’t gone anywhere after the info-dumping first episode.

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While we get a glimpse of some of the reasons why normal humans might not like the beastfallen so much, the two characters in particular that we meet are both so ridiculously over the top in their poor behaviour and it hardly seems like it would be the typical behaviour given the beast fallen are clearly not totally hated in the town. It is all kind of inconsistent (as is the comment that the mercenary knows the girls aren’t witches but later on they clearly say that only a witch could tell). Still, this is watchable even if I’m not terribly into it.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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The Laughing Salesman Episode 4

Review:

Moguro is quite a cruel person when you think about it. Neither of the characters this week particularly deserved the outcome of their story, unlike previous characters who have had some deep character flaw. Story 1 has a guy who has fallen in love at first sight but insists it has nothing to do with the girl’s looks.

Salesman4 This makes him a little delusional but not an inherently bad person, and really, he probably would have been fine if he’d found out the girl had buck teeth under her mask however turning into whatever that was definitely pushed it past the plausible.

Salesman4cIn the second story, the guy is actually a kind of nice guy. You could claim his motivation for sharing his paradise with the girl was that he was attracted to her, but even if it was a friend, he had something that was working well for him and he wanted to share it.

This makes the stories this week different int tone from the previous ones where the characters either deliberately asked for trouble or acted in ways where the consequences made you feel strangely satisfied. Still enjoying these strange little stories each week.

The Laughing Salesman is available on Crunchyroll.


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