Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Series Review

Their Fight Isn’t To Save The World – Just Their Corner Of It

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary was one of those odd titles that comes out each season where I haven’t heard of it, haven’t seen any promotional materials, and just kind of go in blind. A fantasy-action, according to MAL at least, it seemed like it could be quite fun. And I was pleasantly surprised to find a fantasy that wasn’t isekai and instead had a faintly historical setting though the inclusion of mechas and ultimately flying armour kind of threw any basis in reality right out the window.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 6 Cheng

Now, I am going to end up recommending this title, mostly because very few people watched it while it was airing and I feel it really got overlooked in a strong season. However, that recommendation comes with a caution. The animation goes from average to terrible and remains that way through most of the run time. So if you are someone who expects modern anime to have high quality or at least reasonably consistent animation, I’d suggest not even trying this one because you are not going to enjoy it. For those that don’t mind the slightly shoddy visuals, there’s a pretty decent story to be found here.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

The setting works very well in Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary. The Taibai Empire is expanding and wants to conquer the world and does so by brutalising the inhabitants of small villages. It is more or less the expansion of China though don’t expect historical accuracy here. Yin and Ning are two sisters whose lives are destroyed when their village is attacked. Yin is waiting outside the village at the time and escapes mostly unscathed but Ning loses both arms (in what becomes an ongoing trend in this story – seriously, how many sets of arms does she go through?).

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 6 Yin and Ning

With this backdrop we follow Yin and Ning as they join up with the rebels fighting the empire. However, their scenes are interspersed with Zhao (Yin and Ning’s childhood friend) and Cheng, the Empress. We see both sides of this conflict and the personal dramas of these four young people all propelled into a war they didn’t start but are now just kind of destined to get caught up in. It borders on melodramatic at times, but each of the characters is interesting in their own way.

Yin and Ning, despite being close as sisters, are changed by the events in different ways. Yin just wants to keep her sister safe and out of the war but Ning is far more violent and wanting revenge for Zhao’s ‘death’ as well as the loss of her arms. It is probably telling that Ning’s fate isn’t exactly wonderful given her motivation rides from one hatred to the next. Yin on the other-hand suffers ongoing heartache as she tries and fails to keep the war away from her life.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

Zhao’s transition to serving the empire seems really odd at first but ultimately his character begins to make sense as he consistently chooses the path of least resistance. He’s someone who just wants to get a little ahead in the world and find a small piece of strength for himself. But it is his wavering between his various allegiances that ends up costing him.

Lastly, we have Cheng who is torn between being a very young girl who lost her father and being the Empress of a vastly expanded nation. I really liked that Cheng got treated as a human throughout all of this rather than just being the face of the enemy. Her relationship with Zhao is complicated and interesting to watch unfold even if you know early on there is no way it will end well.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

With a cast that all hold their own ground and a setting rich with potential, it is almost a shame that the animation wasn’t up to the challenge. We have sword fights, magic, burning villages, explosive death machines, and impossibly awkward mechas. The story choosing to focus in on the young cast members caught up in events makes things feel more personal and allows there to be some resolution within the thirteen episodes but a lot of the plot is implied or occurs off-screen with plenty more to happen after the end of the final episode, should there ever be a continuation.

As I said at the start, I do recommend this one for people looking for a fantasy or action story though it isn’t without its problems. Still, despite it not being that great, it was a little different and certainly interesting enough week to week.

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Karandi James
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The Winter Anime Watch List

Endro! Episode 1

Here we go again. This season has already gotten off to an interesting start and while there aren’t as many anime that I’m thinking will become amazing there’s certainly a wide variety and quite a few that will potentially be very entertaining this season. My watch list is fairly diverse this season and there’s a few on there that I’m a little hesitant about and may end up dropping and swapping out but for now here is the schedule for the blog. Anyway, this schedule will kick in from next Monday.

The Rising of the Shield Hero and Meiji Tokyo Renka are not on the list because Arthifis and I will be sharing our thoughts on those together at episode 4.

The Rising of the Shield Hero: Naofumi, "Whatever".

Monday

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 1 Natsuo

Tuesday

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 - Hanae hiding behind Rippou.

Wednesday

Grimms Notes: Robin Hood finds a gun.

Thursday

That Time I Got Reincarnated as A Slime Episode 14 Rimuru

Friday

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

Saturday

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 2 Cat on Keyboard

Sunday

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Kirito and Eugeo

Episode reviews with stars next to them (*) are ones I’m not certain about whether they’ll stay on the watch list for a season. We’ll see how they go.

I’d like to remind my patrons that they can still nominate the anime they want reviewed for patrons only this season. Once that is selected future episode posts will be password protected for patrons only. And if you would like to support the blog in 2019 please consider becoming a patron.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the line up this season. I’ve got comedy, isekai, drama (and melodrama), there’s cute girls, there’s magical girls, and a slice of life featuring a cat. One thing this season is not going to be is repetitive as I get through this watch list each week.

I’d love to know what you are watching this season and hopefully you will join me as we follow some of these show’s this season.

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Karandi James
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The Accidental Creation of A Slime Nation

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode Review Title Image

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 Review

Rimuru is remaining very much a character that plot just happens to. He died because the plot killed him off and was reborn for the same reason. He stumbled across Veldora in the cave by chance and equally became the leader of the goblins by a series of events mostly outside of his control. Same with the ogres. And now the Lizardmen and Orcs have decided to leave him in charge of the whole forest alliance supported by the Dryad and before Rimuru knows it the Dwarf King shows up and acknowledges the alliances as an actual nation.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as  a Slime Episode 15 - Dwarf King

At no point does Rimuru have any real plan for where this is going (outside of getting his bath constructed because that’s apparently a really high priority). And while Rimuru does make decisions, for instance he could have ignored the goblins when they asked for help against the direwolves, in terms of being the protagonist his choices are always kind of driven by circumstance.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 - Rimuru becomes a chancellor

What it means is that this bouncy blue blob, while amusing to be sure, seems very passive in a story that seems to be revolving around him. Certainly Rimuru gets some great moments, and watching him getting flustered as more and more titles and responsibility get thrust upon him, is entertaining, but Rimuru isn’t really driving this story. In point of fact, the plot isn’t really pushing forward at all. It progresses and there’s certainly indicators of future conflicts, but the story seems content to wallow in the everyday moments broken up by action only by necessity.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 - Bad guy

Episode 15 of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is an excellent example of what this story seems to want to do. We see the town being constructed and encounters between characters. While there is a fight in this episode it is short and more good-natured than hostile and afterwards everybody eats.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 - Orcs

For me this means while I am enjoying That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime but it isn’t going to be a story I hold up as a favourite and these characters are never going to leave all that much of an impression on me. From week to week I don’t really think about this show outside of watching it and even when things end on a bit of a cliff-hanger I’m not overly concerned. Still, for relaxing and entertaining, That Time I Got Reincarnated as Slime is certainly hitting the mark and it is just kind of a fun way to pass the time.

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Karandi James
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THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME – RIMURU CHANGING MUG CUP
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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 7 Review – Matoba Makes the Scene

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 7 Manga Cover

No surprise that I got excited when I saw the cover of this volume. Natori has been hanging around for awhile but in volume 7 we finally get introduced to Matoba. And what an introduction. With four chapters worth of story, this is certainly an entrance worth paying attention to.

There’s also another special episode which features the yokai and Natsume playing a game of tag and then another separate story at the end, but I’m not going to review it because this is definitely all about Matoba.

Chapters 23 – 26

One odd thing that I noticed with this volume is that the back of the book that does a quick chapter summary actually only lists this story as chapters 23 – 25 but then there are definitely four chapter markers in the story (and these are some of the most beautiful the series has given us so far). It isn’t really a problem, it is just a bit odd as I’m wondering where chapter 26 disappeared to when they went to write the summary.

So other than pretty chapter cover pages, what do these chapters brings us?

Well, I finally understand why Irina loves Matoba so much. While I found him an intriguing character in the anime, his presence in these chapters of the manga is amazing. He’s a force of nature and a blast of darkness into Natsume’s life. Where most of the characters we’ve encountered have been at their core nice people or at least frequenting that grey area in between right and wrong, Matoba is an incredibly rational and cold character and he does not like yokai or view them as anything more than tools.

Given the story is framed entirely from Natsume’s perspective and Matoba’s view is so at odds with his, it puts these two against each other. It also re-positions Natori as the middle ground and so it is vital that Natori is present in this story. Natori is the exorcist we are most familiar with and up until has been the one we’ve been a little wary of even though he has helped Natsume in the past. Particularly after volume 6 where Natori and Natsume go more or less head-to-head, these chapters really help to bring Natori back into the kind of an ally point of view particularly when contrasted with Matoba’s relentless pursuit of power.

Even in the anime, Matoba’s stories were always some of the darkest and most memorable, and reading it is no exception. If anything, this story, carried over four chapters, has far more impact here than it did played out over two episodes. There’s more time to linger on particular moments and more time to think about just how dangerous the situation is that Natsume now finds himself. It is comparable to when we met Taki and Natsume was kidnapped by a yokai, only things get a great deal more serious for longer here.

Needless to say, I loved this volume and reading this story. These chapters are the best I have read so far and I really look forward to whenever Matoba appears next. If it like the anime his appearances will be few and far between and that is a shame because he really heightened my emotional response to this story and made me feel a real sense of unease and danger.

I also like that Natsume is forced to deal with his own views on yokai whenever he is confronted by other exorcists. The drama that it creates is always good fun and I feel we see Natsume at his best when put in these situations.

Looking forward to more from Natsume and I’m really looking forward to getting beyond what I’ve watched. Because if the stories afterwards are anything like this one was then it will be an absolute delight to read.

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If you’re interested in reading Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 7 it is available on the Book Depository.

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Karandi James
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Another Cute Girls Beat Demon With A Time-Warp Twist

Endro - Post Title Image

Endro! Episode 1 Review

We see to be swimming in stories that take place after a final battle in recent times, though here’s a twist… they went back in time to before they beat the villain and the villain has gone back to but remembers that final battle. It all sounds kind of cool and fun and then we realise it is a slice of life story featuring a quartet of cute girls with the demon being transformed into a loli teacher for whatever reason.

Endro Episode 1

If we find out at the end that the only reason the heroes get strong enough to defeat the demon lord is because the demon lord was the one who trained them (though technically she’s trying to get them expelled), I’m probably going to be really annoyed at this.

Endro! Episode 1

All and all though, the first episode is pleasant. The characters are cute without becoming annoying and so far we haven’t had any random boob groping or the like (though we did get some ear nibbling and sleep talk plus the outfits of a couple of these girls are reminiscent of the uniforms in Akashic Records of a Bastard Magical Instructor).

Endro Episode 1

What might get annoying is the demon as the loli teacher. While she has the potential to be quite interesting as the only one aware of the time travel and what happened when the heroes confronted the demon lord, so far she’s kind of petty and pathetic and her schemes are transparent and juvenile. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to like here but she’s certainly the weakest link for me so far.

While I’m not 100% sold on this one if it comes down to a choice this season of watching this or Ueno-San I will definitely pick this without hesitation.

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Karandi James
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SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI
SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI

Is It Time For the Team To Get It Together?

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 12 Review

Tsurune as a sports anime has remained a bit of an oddity. Sure the boys do spend a lot of time drawing their bows and practising but realistically whether they win or lose in this tournament has been made utterly irrelevant by their character journeys and their own desire for self-improvement. Seo, as the only female character getting any kind of time with archery, says herself after getting knocked out that she’s satisfied that the result reflects her current level of ability and leaves it at that.

Last week the episode left us with the bomb-shell that Masaki had been in a car accident and after a tense week of waiting and hand wringing to find out if he was okay, the start of this episode leaves us with a big, we don’t know. It’s a realistic answer but it means that stomach squirmy feeling that we’ve had all week while waiting to find out what has happened continues and it colours every sequence of the tournament until the end when they finally tip their hand (note to every other anime ever, this is how you use an emotional cliff-hanger).

Tsurune Episode 12 - Seiya is best boy

That makes the reasonably mundane events of this episode all take on a certain urgency and whether it is Minato’s initial plunge into self-blame immediately cut off by Seiya (who after his own brief bout of self-pity a few episodes ago has come back even stronger as best boy). But it is the girls, whose names I don’t even remember because they’ve had so little to do in this series and so little development, that actually really step up to the plate when the boys are all staring at their phones and panicking. It is a fantastic scene and one that was definitely needed. It also really makes me wish the female characters got to be more than emotional support or commentators more often in this series even though I know the focus is the male team.

Tsurune Episode 12
You rock even though I cannot remember what your name is.

Kaito then tries to rally them and reminds them to use what Masaki has taught them in the tournament. This gets them motivated but they still struggle through the early rounds. Ultimately it is an insight by Minato that turns it all around but as usual his poor communication skills almost blow the team apart (fortunately he holds his ground and makes himself heard).

Tsurune Episode 12 - Kaito

The final round of shooting this episode is a sight to behold and it is one of those moments in anime where you can cry an cheer simultaneously with the episode ending out on the team and audience finally finding out what is up with Masaki before the episode ends. With one episode left to go, I’m just kind of hoping this gets a follow up series though all things considered I don’t know that it will. I do know that I’ve loved following this anime this season and I love this team.

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Karandi James
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TSURUNE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
TSURUNE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

A Comedy About A Broken Philosophy on Love and Romance

Kaguya Sama: Love is War Post Title

Kaguya-Sama: Love is War Episode 1 Review

Warning: Minor rant in-coming. You can skip to the review in the third paragraph if you don’t want to deal with my personal hang-ups.

I watched the opening narration of this anime and was left feeling kind of annoyed. The narrator spouting that tired garbage about love being a competition and that someone will be dominant in a relationship and the other submissive. Utter and complete dribble spouted without context over still and panning shots of high school students as though this idea applies to everyone and all relationships. And that was really the part that made it as annoying as it was. They were generalising their statements to encompass all relationships.

Kaguya-Sama Love Is War Episode 1 - Shirogane

Clearly though, I watched the whole episode or I wouldn’t be reviewing it. I firmly believe you could take the scissors to the entire opening narration without actually harming the anime in any meaningful way and we can get rid of that completely ridiculous (at best – potentially harmful more likely) generalisation. However when we actually get on with the specific case this anime is looking at, with two of the single most petty characters in all existence who kind of like each other (or maybe like the idea of the other) but won’t confess because whoever confesses first will lose, the end result isn’t that bad.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1 Shinomiya

Because clearly ending up in an actual relationship rather than a stand-off should be considered a loss. Okay, I’m not going to try to work my way through the mine-field of horrible ideas about romance this anime has in it. I’m actually just going to go with the obvious, this is a work of fiction and these are characters. So the only question left would be, is it entertaining?

To which the answer would be: surprisingly, yes. Very. For a comedy based around an idea I find fairly repulsive that got off on the wrong foot before it even started around characters I find to be really unpleasant human beings, I actually really had fun by the time this ended.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

The episode presents three scenarios where the two leads essentially try to manoeuvre the other into confessing their love and the set ups and the way the situations play out are quite innovative and interesting. The exaggeration of the character reactions as they feel they are losing the upper hand works well, as do their smug expressions when they think they are going to win. While the narrator remains an intrusive presence at times, at others they provide fairly needed insight, and the inner monologues of the characters thinking through their actions are amusing.

Kaguya Sama Love is War Episode 1

It works. I just don’t know that I’d be describing this as a romance of any description (even a comedic one) given even if these two end up together I’m not going to find that overly romantic. Probably more tragic that these two manipulators would then be trapped by their own pride in a self-destructive relationship.

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Karandi James
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HIMOUTO! UMARU-CHAN THE THING WHICH UMARU WEARS AT HOME
HIMOUTO! UMARU-CHAN THE THING WHICH UMARU WEARS AT HOME