Inuyashiki Series Review: Welcome to the Land of the Lost Opportunities

Overview:

Inuyashiki is in his fifties but looks older, is overlooked at work and by his family, has been diagnosed with cancer, and one night while on a walk with his dog gets killed by an alien space craft and has his body rebuilt as a machine. While he is coming to terms with whether he is still human or not, he realises he isn’t alone as someone else was on the hill that night in the park and they have a very different view of how to use their new power.

Review – Some spoilers:

I really enjoyed watching Inuyashiki. Partly this was because a friend of mine agreed to watch it with me so we could discuss at the end of each episode what we thought and we watched it over a couple of nights so there wasn’t a long wait to find out where it was going. And partly that’s because the show is just kind of a ride. That isn’t necessarily the best description, but emotionally that is kind of how it feels.

You get on board at episode 1 and then you take that first sharp drop or corner as Inuyashiki is killed before you go through a series of dips and turns building up more tension and excitement before they pull out all the stops and throw an asteroid at the planet. This anime is very much focused on keeping you looking forward at what is coming next and it never allows too much dwelling on what has happened before and while that makes for a great popcorn viewing experience, what it misses out on is a chance to explore any of the underlying themes in this story.

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Both Inuyashiki and Shishigami are struggling with the idea of whether or not they are still human. They struggle in different ways and draw different conclusions about how to ‘feel’ human but the fact remains that the same event triggers both characters. Yet rather than explore this idea and their reactions, the anime pits them against each other in a good vs evil (hero vs villain) show down without any real dialogue ever being exchanged between the two. For the audience, this means we see how the change directly contributed to their future actions but little about their internal struggle or the nuances of their view points.

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The generational gap between these two characters is exploited through technological know-how and superficially through their values, but again, this idea could have gone much further and instead remains surface level. There are a number of other digs at the younger generations such as scenes where characters continue to carry their smart phones because they would ‘die without their phone’ or they throw their support behind a serial killer because he looks good. And while these could have been explored as interesting social commentary, the story uses them simply to paint a picture of a society that is breaking down from within and then does nothing with that idea.

Ando, as a supporting cast member, also has any chance for real exploration taken from him as he cuts Shishigami out of his life saying he can’t be friends with a killer but we never see him actually try to reason with Shishigami or try to change his mind. It is like Ando just assumes that Shishigami is a lost cause and he seeks out someone else to ‘stop’ him. Again, not to reason with him or try to change his mind, but to stop him.

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Though, perhaps the character who is the most wasted here is Mari, Inuyashiki’s daughter. She was in the same class as Shishigami, lives behind Ando and is Inuyashiki’s daughter so she’s literally the one character connected to all the major players and for the first half of the series she’s too wrapped up in herself to notice or care what is going on. Once she finally does notice, the show looks at her ambitions to become a manga author, a brief show of affection for her father, and makes her play the damsel in distress. Though at least she isn’t as hopelessly underdeveloped as Inuyashiki’s son who I don’t think plays even one meaningful role in the narrative.

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Outside of the characters, the visuals are a bit hit and miss. Some scenes look truly spectacular but other scenes are a little cringe-worthy. Fights between Shishigami and Inuyashiki end up being a laser show affair with little variation. And an someone please tell me what is with every single character leaking fluid from everywhere every single time they cry (and there’s a lot of crying over the course of the show). Whoever was responsible for the fluid animation in this really went over board.

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Likewise, the music is hit and miss. Some scenes it nails the tone whereas others, particularly the scene with the planes (those of you who have seen it will know which one). The music there just didn’t match what was happening at all and then we see Shishigami conducting the affair (very reminiscent of V in V for Vendetta) but without a score impressive enough to back up the visuals.

However, it is the final turn in the narrative that kind of left me feeling that this was a real lost opportunity. The meteorite threat to the earth that even has a character in the show ask whether or not we’re watching ‘Deep Impact’. It was such an unnecessary complication. There were so many other ideas and conflicts to explore that we didn’t really need a natural disaster thrown in for the final arc of the story. And while the threat was dealt with in a way that will probably leave you on the fence about whether that was satisfying or not, it is the lack of impact on the world that really got to me. We see the characters’ lives and the city after the events and really it is as though nothing changed. And again, this could be great social commentary, but the show has never spent enough time on this aspect for it to make an impact.

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All and all, as long as you don’t mind a bit of blood and violence, Inuyashiki is kind of a fun watch without too much down time in the story. While certain aspects leave you wanting more, what you get works for the most part even if it is a little superficial.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the series, so please feel free to leave a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Knight’s & Magic Series Review: It Is Going To Take More Than Duct Tape To Fix This Mess

Overview:

A guy who is apparently a genius programmer (the synopsis told me so) is killed but then is reborn in a fantasy world where he can use his somehow remembered understanding of programming to use magic and build robots. Now he wants to build his dream robot.

Review – Some spoilers:

I was watching a video review of this anime the other day (sorry, cannot remember which blog I was on or I would link) and they said (heavily paraphrased) that they didn’t know why this was even an isekai story as the fact that the guy was originally a programmer in our world literally added nothing to the story. This was something that kind of bothered me while watching the show as well. Other than eating up precious minutes in the first episode where we meet our robot obsessed programmer and then watch him die, there is zero mention of him coming from another world ever again in the anime. He does weird things occasionally and certainly a lot of his ideas are derivative of things he could have seen in his former life but he could just as easily have been a genius ahead of his time. There was no reason to add the extra complication of reincarnation. It added nothing to the story and it wasted set up time on a set up that wasn’t needed.

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And basically that explains a lot about what is wrong with Knight’s & Magic. It has a lot of things in it that aren’t necessary and what it doesn’t have is any clear or focused narrative. The premise is super cool. I love that they decided to mix mecha and fantasy. The mix of robots and magic is perfect because for once I’m not rolling my eyes at giant robots being able to move and jump or do anything that they are doing because they are powered and moved by magic so they can do whatever they like. The initial setting in the fantasy world where people are attacked by beasts and the robots are needed to fight them gives a fairly wide range of possible story lines and works well enough even if it is pretty standard, and the weird main character who doesn’t understand the concept of impossible could have been really fun.

This show should have been amazing.

The final battle takes place between a flying robot and a mechanical dragon. How do you manage to make that lame? Well, let Knight’s & Magic teach you.

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I guess we all should have been tipped off by the unnecessary apostrophe in the title. That bugged me all season but now that I reflect on the show it kind of matches it perfectly. It has an idea but wants to make it look even cooler than it is so it goes just that one step too far. Genius kid develops robots for his kingdom? We can do better than that. That kid is a reborn programmer from Earth who loved model robots. It adds nothing but it sounds cool.

While I’m being petty I’ll also take aim at the opening song. There’s actually nothing wrong with the opening as it visually works and the song, while fairly generic, is entertaining enough, but for some reason each week (and I’m not sure if they did this from the start or it if came along later on) they felt the need to break the song up with dialogue from the upcoming episode. Kind of jarring and a little spoilery. Right up there with those previews they used to give us for Sailor Moon back in the 90’s and then Serena would tell us to stay right there because they’d show us what happened. Only, we just kind of saw it in the preview so doesn’t that take a lot of the fun out of it?

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If I look at this more objectively, my biggest issue with Knight’s & Magic is the story. Or maybe it is the lack of story. A story implies that things are building toward a climax where as this is a series where stuff happens, the characters react, they overcome the challenge (which mostly doesn’t end up even seeming like a challenge) and then in the aftermath of the previous event, something else happens. So there’s a few issues.

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The first is the reactionary nature of the characters. Ernesti wants to build his own mecha. Great. That’s a character goal and something to work towards. And he does work toward that goal but he does a lot of stuff that seems superfluous to that goal along the way and seems to take great delight in the destruction of enemies even if they never stood a chance. The other characters however, don’t seem to have any goal. Kid and Ady are hanging with Ernesti. Because they made friends with him when he was young? Because they have zero ambitions or goals of their own? What do these two want? It is never made clear, they just kind of hang around as Ernesti’s entourage for the entire series. Other characters also seem to just get dragged along in Ernesti’s wake and even the villains for the most part have very little in the way of actual motive or vested interest in anything that is actually going on. So no one is driving this plot. Except maybe the narrator who is literally dragging the audience through months and years of development in a matter of a few minutes of perfunctory narration.

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The second is the lack of a clear antagonist. Ultimately the series chooses the war with some country whose name I don’t remember (it started with a Z as mandated by all derivative fantasy writers – close second if it started with an X) and we get a bit of a face off between Ernesti and another designer who is also a genius. This had me wondering whether other genius was also reborn in this world and that’s the only way someone shows any signs of intelligent thought (because the side characters sure didn’t) or whether he was this world’s version of a real genius and Ernesti just stomped out the evolution of an entirely different kind of technology for his own amusement. Yet other than one early encounter where technology is stolen from Ernesti by a character who returns later only to be cut down in seconds, there’s no sign of this Kingdom or any kind of political tension until very late in the series. Instead we see Ernesti handle the beasts (which are what we are introduced to in the first episode as the problem), then they disappear as we see Ernesti challenge another development lab, and then we see new robots fighting beasts, then Ernesti meets some not-elves and learns all the secrets of how to build a robot. All that happens before we get any hint of a war looming ahead. I know we need some background but could the show try foreshadowing.

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The third issue is how anti-climactic the climax is. Ernesti never loses. In the penultimate battle he is fought to a draw but even then it isn’t like his robot blows up or anything. There isn’t a single moment of actual tension in this series because you know Ernesti will win. Usually very easily. So even though the final battle works hard to make you think there might be some tension, by this point the audience knows how the story goes and you can almost narrate the story for them. It is an aerial battle with a mechanical dragon and I was bored. There’s something very wrong when a show can’t manage to make you worried that maybe the mechanical dragon might actually be an effective weapon against the protagonist.

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I’m not actually opposed to happy endings and the main characters having a triumphant return. But I’d like to feel they worked for it and earned it and to be honest this didn’t do it. Likely this is because not one of the main characters is even crippled let alone killed. Only one of them is even in any kind of danger during the entire final battle and other than some strategic blood on his face from unseen wounds, there’s no actual sign of injury. And after the battle, he’s fine. No recovery period. Okay, the robot broke, as did a few others, but not one main character left with any kind of lasting scar from a full on war that they fought on the front lines of? This feeds well into the idea that this is self-insert wish-fulfillment but it does not make for an interesting story.

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Basically, I really wanted to like this show. I kept hoping that the next week would do something with the really interesting premise that caught me in episode 1. Unfortunately this show had no interest in developing characters or plot and ultimately was nothing but a disappointment. A good-looking disappointment with some cool mecha designs, but still a disappointment.

I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 13: Some People Are Just Sore Losers

Review:

Well, this ended pretty much the way everyone predicted and managed to be pretty pointless right to the end. Ernesti fights the drake and shows off a few new tricks (though I’m not certain splattering it with oil and setting it on fire counts as a new trick).

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We then get the engineer from the otherside (name has totally escaped me at this point) and Ernesti having an argument which may have only been occurring in their heads or may have been broadcast, I don’t know as it was unclear, about the aesthetics of robot design. Because that’s super important in a life or death battle.

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All of this is interspersed with the side characters storming the fortress below and one final fight with the sword mecha which ends as expected before the captain of the drake decides to ram the Princess. This is where my mild irritation with the generally stupid writing decisions in this show blew up into full of rage as the Princess stubbornly insisted she wouldn’t move because she believed that she would be protected. Lady, there’s a giant robot dragon falling out of the sky about to land on you. Would it kill you to take three steps to the right? No, instead Kid has to have a moment to jump from one airship to the drake to fight the captain and then jump out of his mecha and into Ernesti’s hand because I guess Kid hadn’t done anything useful in a few episodes because wasn’t his mecha powering the airship? Oh yeah, his mecha was powering the airship. His and Ady. So why is it still flying given he’s just abandoned ship? So frustrating.

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Anyway the war wraps up, we get some more Kid and Princess stuff before they all head home. But this is my favourite part of the episode. The Smiths that actually build the machines that have made everything possible finally get official recognition for their effort. Then Ernesti begins plotting his next steps and we end the show. Of course nothing is resolved because opposing designer guy survived and is looking for a new hire, the King or whatever of the country that started the war hasn’t been defeated, the sword guy is still alive and heading home, and there’s new tech coming out everywhere changing political and economic landscapes, but sure, let’s just end the story here. Why not at this point?

I’m kind of looking forward to a full series review of this show. I think it is going to be fun to write.


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Knight’s & Magic Episodes 7 + 8: More Like a Development Timeline Than A Story

Review Episode 7:

Let me preface my review of this episode by pointing out that there is something infections about Ernesti’s raw enthusiasm. Not just within the show as other characters are drawn into his desire to create and build, but the audience also become a part of wanting to see what will happen and what could happen with these machines.  Early in the episode there’s a moment where he is piloting and this broad grin just bursts out across his face and you can’t help but smile with him for the sheer thrill of seeing that robot in action.

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However, that’s really the only thing carrying the show at this point and it is certainly the only thing carrying this episode. You feel good about the success and how amazing it is and you might walking away feeling that this was a good episode. And a lot of stuff happens. The fight between the lab and the kids, further developments over months, the king stepping down, Ernesti designing new units for the former king and the current heir, and just reading that list makes you realise that none of these events get the time and attention they probably deserved.

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The narrator pushes us through time by telling us months or whatever have passed and we see brief snippets of characterisation. The kids have graduated middle school, somehow, even they don’t know how given they point out they barely attended class, yet this means nothing to the audience because we only ever saw Ernesti really once at school and since then he’s just been playing in the workshop, which makes you wonder why even include the school?

Basically, I enjoyed this, but it wasn’t a good episode in an anime that increasingly reveals it isn’t a very good story. It gets the right ‘feel’ but when you step back from it you realise this is really quite shallow and is barely giving lip-service to narrative at this point.

Review Episode 8:

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Yep, this isn’t a very good story.

They are so absolutely determined to never let Ernesti actually face an obstacle. Start of this episode there’s a horde of beasts heading toward the location where the reactors are made. Seasoned veterans are getting swarmed and can’t hold them back. No problem. Ernesti and his friends will swoop in and save the day without effort, without a plan, without any issues at all.

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Ernesti is told he can’t learn the secret of the reactor because he doesn’t have the time and then the narrator tells us three months later he learned all their secrets. Really? All their secrets? In three months? I’m calling bull on that and this whole story right now. That’s where my credibility limit has been crossed even in an anime about a reincarnated programmer building giant robots powered by magic. Yep, that’s the line.

Besides that, this show continues to be plagued by pacing issues, rushing through significant moments, lack of any kind of overall villain, and basically is just not very good. Wish fulfillment escapism aside, there’s little else worth watching this show for.


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Knight’s & Magic Episodes 2 + 3: Well, He’s Remarkably Self-Assured

Review Episode 2:

I’ll start out by saying I enjoyed episode 2 but that title with the unnecessary apostrophe is really starting to bug. Much like the excessive number of exclamation marks in some titles.

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So, let’s actually review the episode and to be honest this was pretty fun. Okay, it is an extended fighting sequence but it is kind of fun to watch. There’s a sense of actual danger with knights being crushed left and right or just plain immolated, and even the student knights are not safe from sudden and inglorious death. Plus, its visually quite striking given the mix of mecha and fantasy going on here.

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Still, Ernesti as a character is not doing much for me. I get he’s been reincarnated in another world but his basic sense of self-preservation seems broken and he is way too cocky that he can just do whatever even though he clearly hasn’t tried it before. But other than that I really enjoyed this second episode and I’m curious as to what will happen next.

Review Episode 3:

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So Ernesti’s victory gets him an audience with the king and being Ernesti he asks for knowledge. Which the king agrees to give him if Ernesti can impress him by building a frame he approves of and then we begin an episode of discussions about design improvements and test piloting. It’s all kind of got a fun and relaxed kind of feel to it but I’m wondering how long the other characters are going to react with awe to everything Ernesti says.

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Anyway, new design and test successful though still a bit of work to do. I’m kind of hoping that isn’t an indication that the next episode is more of the same for while this was fun I kind of want to see the story progress beyond work-shopping robots.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 1: Exposition Much

Overview:

A genius programmer and hardcore robot otaku is reborn into a world of knights and magic, where huge robots called Silhouette Knights roar across the land! Now reborn as Ernesti Echevalier, he uses his vast knowledge of machines and programming talents to begin to make his ultimate robot. But his actions have unexpected results…?!

– From Crunchyroll.

Review:

This one may become a generic piece of fluff that doesn’t amount to much, or it might end up being great fun. It is really hard to tell from the first episode given we’re meeting our main character in our world, seeing him die, and then following him over nearly three years as he decides he wants to be Knight (mostly because he wants to continue pursuing his hobby of robots even after being reborn). There’s a lot of exposition and voice over as well as a lot of blatant plot dropping conversations. The kind that just feel incredibly unnatural but they are telling us something that will probably be significant later on.

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Basically, this one is a wait and see. There’s some interesting things that might happen with either the Knight’s or the magic and while the characters have started out pretty stock standard they all have potential. Still, there’s nothing really remarkable about this first episode so I’ll give it another couple of episodes to get going before I decide.

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Iron Blooded Orpahns Episode 46

Iron Blooded Orphans Episode 46

Review:

Shino’s death hits hard (you know, unlike the other half the cast that already died, we actually cared about Shino) and after the dust of the battle settles (or, rather Tekkadan and co scurry away to potential safety) we get the regret, the lamentation and the half-hearted I’m glad you didn’t die speeches. Yamagi offers the only purely positive moment when he esssentially tells Orga to get over himself and find some way to salvage the situation (or at least pretend it can be salvaged).

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The thing is, its all kind of meaningless at this juncture. Emotional investment in the boys from Tekkadan faded after season 1 when random new recruits and kids who hadn’t been through the same experiences joined (essentially, the group got too big to see as individuals anymore). And so far in this battle, Shino is the only significant casualty and it was so heavily foreshadowed and locked into place so early in the battle it was hardly stunning or in anyway surprising. The only surprise is the lack of core characters being dead.

By the way, if the comment about Atra looking different means she’s pregnant I’m truly terrified by her chances of survival. She’s about the only character at this point that I do care significantly about in terms of whether they make it to the end of this battle and I’m more or less ready to assume this show is going for pure tragedy given the position we find the characters in.

Iron Blooded Orpahns is available on AnimeLab.


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Flip Flappers Episode 8

Review:

Flip Flappers this week takes us to a futuristic city full of lights, giant birds, robot battles and a very short man who apparently created the city.Visually it is stunning as usual but from a story point of view all we see is Yayaka moving further away from her core purpose because of her genuine affection for Cocona (no matter how much she tries to pretend otherwise). I can’t help but think that Yayaka is walking a very fine line and will soon find herself either in real trouble with her group or thrown away. Other than this we really just see Cocona and Papika do their usual run around and let their emotions guide their actions. Somehow Cocona has recovered from her fear of changing things. We know this because she says so. And that’s it. There’s no real build up to this fairly major shift from the previous episode where she was nearly paralysed at the thought of change. Apparently hanging out with Papika has just done it. Still wondering what the end game of all of this is going to be but still entertained enough to keep going.

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Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Flip Flappers Episodes 1 + 2

Overview:

Cocona is a bright girl who is uncertain about her future, however, while wondering which path to take she encounters Papika.

Review Episode 1:

Okay, having watched the whole of episode 1, I’m still kind of clueless about who anyone is or what they want or where we are going with this story (or why the robot was pulling at the girls’ skirts earlier in the episodes). There’s the typical girl taking her practice exam and agonising over her future and then, after the free spiritied Papika runs into her they go into a tunnel but really kind of end up in some-sort of other dimension where they play in the snow before they have to chase down some snow trees (because smart girl’s glasses ended up on them), and then there’s a transformation, a hug, and finally a kidnapping. I’m lost. I have no idea. I was really engaged while watching. That said, episode 2 really needs to give us something resembling an explanation.

Review Episode 2:

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So still no idea what’s going on other than they are collecting shard things and they only go to the magic world place when they both feel the same way. This show is incredibly light on explanation but it’s also very good at distracting you from thinking about it. It’s very similar to Alice in Wonderland in that stuff just keeps happening and Alice is forced to deal with things as they come whether they make sense or not. Throw in the interesting visuals and sense of pace this show is keeping (even though not a lot is happening it feels like it is which is interesting in itself) and you have a show that hooks you in even as you stare puzzled at the screen.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Trickster Episode 1

Overview:

We have a detective agency and some boy who can’t die.

Review:

I’m going to be honest that this is probably the most interesting first episode so far (though there are still a number of shows to come out). That said, I’m not holding out a lot of hope that this one is going to maintain that level of energy or hold my interest for the whole season (please surprise me, I’d really enjoy that). From the opening monologue (which is your typical woe is me from a kid who is unable to die) the show at least managed to distinguish itself from all the other first episodes I’d watched this week and following that by dropping a robot from a blimp into the town and seeing the fate of the missing dog and I was kind of sold on continuing this series for a bit. The music in this is fairly generic but at least gave it a sense of pace and again, it’s one of the few shows this season where I’ve actually paid attention to the music. In honesty though, this first episode reminds me a lot of the first season on Bungou Stray Dogs (though it doesn’t seem to be trying quite so hard for the laugh out loud humour) and while I’m not going to judge it because of that, I am going into this expecting that it won’t be able to maintain the tone or pace.

 

Trickster is available on Crunchyroll.