Gamers Episode 4: Do You Need a Reason?

Review Episode 4:

This episode focuses on Tendou as we see her perception of her daily life before and after meeting Amano. It’s interesting in that while she was playing at being the perfect everything before, afterward she is a more real person and yet she sees this as her not being herself. Admittedly, all of this is embedded in the usual high school unrequited love trope and to be honest I’m not that interested in the subject matter, however as we’ve had three episodes to kind of get used to these characters I’m a little more invested than I might otherwise be.

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It boils down to Tendou needing to figure out what she actually wants and why. She seriously thought she knew why she enjoyed gaming but Amano’s views shake her up and challenge her position. At first she sees his views as opposed to hers but she starts to realise the issue isn’t black and white, though that just adds to her confusion, shakes her focus, and ultimately she just isn’t playing like she used to.

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Despite the weak high school girl has crush on oblivious boy storyline running through this episode, it touches on quite a few interesting points and Tendou as a character is more than just a catalyst now. All and all, this show remains surprisingly decent and entertaining to watch.


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Friday’s Feature: Reality in Romance

With the Spring 2017 anime season wrapping up it is inevitable that a lot of people would be reviewing and discussing Tsuki ga Kirei. Overwhelmingly the reviews are positive and what I keep hearing again and again is how sweet the romance is, how pure it is, and how relatable and real it feels. It was a show I dropped early on but I’ve been watching double episodes over the last week to try to finish it and while I personally still find it incredibly slow moving I can also see some of the reasons why it has been held in such high regard by others, and yet it made me think about what I actually want from a romance story.

I’d like to put in here that I am not trying to actually review or critique the show.

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And that’s the key word. It is a story. Fiction. The whole get swept away and dream of everything working out happily ever after with the guy/girl/whatever of your dreams. While grounding the whole thing in reality might work for some people and the relatablility might help them engage with the story, for me Tsuki ga Kirei misses the mark. It is sweet that these two young people are engaged in a first romance and learning what that means and how to deal. It’s actually kind of adorable. But as far as a story goes it seems lacking to me.

When tension is inserted into the plot through flat phone batteries, confiscated phones, petty jealousy, third wheels, and the like it really feels like someone remembered it was supposed to be a story and that in the last twenty minutes nothing has happened other than the cute girl avoided eye contact with the reasonable looking boy again. That might seem like a harsh evaluation and certainly if you are more caught up with the characters you might not agree, but while watching the episodes I am openly checking the time in almost three minute intervals just to make sure it hasn’t stopped entirely. Plus, they were pushing the credibility of reality when they had a teenage girl let her phone go flat when she knew he was likely to message her.

But again, this is all personal preference. I don’t like the romance in Tsuki ga Kirei because it is, for the most part, very believable and (for lack of better words) kind of dull. Guy meets girl, they like each other, have a few minor hiccups on their journey and continue on (I haven’t got to the end yet so don’t know if I have a happily ever after awaiting me or not). Essentially, it is so real that it feels like I should just sit in a shopping centre foodcourt and watch it unfold around me rather than watching the show.

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Say, I Love You was another romance that I had difficulty enjoying. Despite a genuine fondness for the main character, I found the story slow moving and the character interactions mostly flat. The only reason I watched it more than once was a friend of mine quite liked the series. Admittedly, the third time I watched it through I started to really like it and I ended up buying it on DVD so all and all it couldn’t have been that bad. Essentially it depicted fairly believable high schoolers (other than the model who you have to admit was not a typical student even if her social networking issues were pretty relatable) engaging in relationships that were plagued by the usual issues of miscommunications, jealousy, and pettiness.

So what does it take for me to get into a romance?

Basically the romance needs to be one part of a bigger story. I need to feel that the interactions are moving somewhere and that there is a sense of movement in the plot and with the characters. It doesn’t hurt if the romance takes on a more fairy tale point of view either. There’s something to be said for sweet romances where people get swept off their feet and find their true love. It may not be ‘realistic’ but it makes for grandiose stories with characters I can get behind and fall in love with, at least for the duration of the show.

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This is where I think Yuri on Ice really sold itself to me. It had Yuri’s story as an ice skater and the romance was an integral part of that story. I could relate to the ups and downs and misunderstandings in their relationship and yet it moved along quickly and had that sweeping feeling of things just moving forward inexorably to a predetermined ending. Basically it felt like a story infused with romance rather than a series of events between two characters that might end up with them being romantically intertwined. I know from reading some reviews of Yuri on Ice, that some viewers didn’t really relate to Victor and Yuri’s romance and felt it was too easy, too rushed, too forced, or too one sided, and that’s where personal preferences come in and probably the reason there are so many different kinds of romance story out there.

We all like a good romance (even those people who insist they don’t will have that one story that makes them smile/cry every time they watch it). For me though, I think I’d like my romance a little less realistic and a little more fantastical. I can see reality already so what I’m looking for in a story is something that has some connection to reality but goes that little bit further to bring something truly special or memorable to the table.

That said, I am going to finish watching Tsuki ga Kirei. Who knows, by the time I get to the end I might have even learned to love it. But I’m turning it over to you and asking you how you like your romance? Do you prefer the realistic, the sweet, the spicy, the funny, the dramatic, or some completely different style of romance altogether? I’d love to know.


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30 Day Anime Challenge: Day 14

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Here we are at Day 14 and we’re looking for my favourite drama or romance anime. Previously I have done a top 5 list of my favourite romantic anime and the winner then was Kimi ni Todoke. I don’t think anything has come out since to change my mind.

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Kimi ni Todoke is just adorable to watch. I really love Sawako and Kazehaya as they slowly (and I do mean slowly) overcome her social awkwardness and eventually end up together.

My next choice after this would have been Snow White with the Red Hair.

What is your favourite romance or drama anime?


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The Moment You Fall in Love Review

Overview:

Hina’s fallen in love with an upper classman but then he graduates and goes to highschool. She follows along a couple of years later but still can’t approach him. Meanwhile, her childhood friend and neighbour only has eyes for her and has also enrolled at the same school. And just about everyone else in the show has a crush on everyone else.

Review:

In case you were thinking from the overview that this does not sound like my kind of thing, you’d be right. But every now and then I am in the mood for a sappy romance and this seemed like it would be a good use of my Sunday evening. I wasn’t exactly wrong but I wasn’t exactly right either.

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For sixty minutes, this is going to feel longer. Much, much longer depending on your taste in music. I’ll get this complaint out of the way first because it is the biggest one. You get around five minutes of story and then the music starts and you get a montage. There’s a study montage, a pining over the girl next door montage, a working together montage, a anything that my vaguely be a development in the story montage. While these musical interludes are all interrupted for a few lines of dialogue, mostly you’ll just listen to the music and watch characters go through the motions of telling a story. Whether this charms you or bores you silly will depend on whether this soft rock poppy music does anything for you or not. I was kind of on the fence. It wasn’t hideous enough for me to mute it but neither was I enthralled and the visuals were okay but not rich enough to make up for the long periods of time these scenes took up.

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However, if that isn’t going to be an issue and if you happen to like love stories told through music, you will probably enjoy the rest this has to offer. The characters are all pretty standard as are the developments. It is pretty obvious from the start who Hina is going to end up with in the end but watching her work through her emotions is still enjoyable enough. She cries a lot though. And part of me kept wondering if I was supposed to care more about her sadness but it was more just kind of another step on a fairly predictable journey so I didn’t really feel that emotionally invested in it.

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I didn’t mind child-hood friend and neighbour. He’s also pretty stock standard in terms of a character but of all the characters in the story he’s probably the one I’ll actually remember next week from this story. That said, he needs to ditch his friends. What is it with anime boys having that sleazy friend that they get embarrassed by but they never seem to tell them where to go? Do these characters actually hang around people who deliberately make them uncomfortable for a reason?

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I was also pretty happy with how the classmate developed. At first she seemed the typical rival/troublemaker existing only to throw a spanner in the works. While she doesn’t get a lot of development (sixty minutes and most of it taken up by montages), she actually has a nice turn around in her character arc and its kind of sweet. Part of me wanted her to get a happy ending out of this as well.

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Basically, this isn’t doing much more than a lot of other romances and while it is doing it okay, it isn’t great or mind blowing. Certainly not a terrible way to spend an evening by neither is it something I’m going to really think about in the future.

If you’ve had a chance to watch it I’d love to know your thoughts.

The Moment You Fall in Love is available on Crunchyroll.


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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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Super Lovers Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

Super Lovers season 2 picks up with Ren and Haru pretty much where season 1 left off. Their relationship is in limbo. That said, Ren is actively becoming more aggressive in his pursuit of a relationship this season.

I reviewed Super Lovers season 2 week to week over on my patreon, however the posts are public so feel free to check out my episode thoughts here.

Review:

There’s not much to say about this show. Either you made it through season 1, in which case you would probably continue happily on to season 2, or you didn’t. Season 2 does bring some revelations to the table about the accident and the various decisions made by the parents regarding the various adoptions, but mostly its more of the same. Ren and Haru don’t communicate well, some problem ensues, both look like a hurt puppy for awhile, and then one or the other manages some gesture that gets them both back on track.

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The support cast remain more or less one note. In fact, this season they feel even more tagged on, existing only to offer the occasional commentary on the relationship or be an audience to Ren or Haru’s various crises. Even an additional cast member in the form of a cousin with a complicated relationship to the brothers (who doesn’t have a complicated relationship in this show), doesn’t do much to liven up the support cast.

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Jealousy plays a key role through most of the story. Both Ren and Haru are possessive and for me that is most problematic thing in their relationship. The age difference is a little cringey, the could be brothers but not biological is a little off-putting, the power imbalance given Ren is dependent on Haru certainly concerns me, but the possessive nature of their emotions is where the relationship really sours for me. It kind of ceases to be cute and becomes close to emotional abuse when they both try to cut off the other’s relationships outside of themselves. The only consolation here is that it isn’t one character doing to the other but both characters are acting in an equally possessive manner.

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Really, though the largest problem the series faces (not the relationship but the show) is that the plot is practically non-existent. We just kind of drift from moment to moment with these ideas strung together only by the tenuous thread of where Haru and Ren are up to in their relationship. Its like trying to plot something from someone’s Facebook relationship status and its about as coherent really. It’s got a job, fought with my ex, had a dinner party, totally in love, invited on a date,  fought with my soon to be ex, went to the beach, and so on and so forth. The story is not compelling.

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Overall, I probably could have just stopped watching this at any point. I’ll admit, I’m still a little curious about where the two characters will ultimately end up and there was nothing so unwatchably bad about this season that I actually wanted to quit, but neither was I in any rush as the next episode came out. My episode reviews ran about a week behind the release of the episode which gave me plenty of time to delay watching and find other things to do.


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Tsukigakirei Episode 1

Overview:

Shy girl on track team meets shy boy who wants to write after being assigned to the same committee.

Review:

This one is pretty much a nothing start. The character designs (well more the colour scheme) is a little bit obnoxious, but otherwise there really isn’t anything to complain about. There also isn’t a lot to praise either.

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The main character reminds me a lot of Naho from Orange (and I remember how much I liked watching her) but there’s nothing so far that’s really a problem. Mostly this episode seems to be setting things up. It’s slow but pretty standard fare. I’ll give it another episode though this one is not a high priority for continuing at this point.

Tsukigakirei is available on Crunchyroll.


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One Week Friends Series Review

Overview:

Hase has been interested in Fujimiya for awhile but when he finally finds the courage to ask her to be friends she bluntly rejects him and then runs away. Later, he finds her on the roof and for a week they start to talk and get close before she starts to push him away again. Turns out Fujimiya forgets her friends every single week (total reset). After learning this, Hase becomes more determined than ever to make friends with her, every single week.

Review:

I often wonder where writers for manga and anime get their information about how amnesia works. While it isn’t totally impossible someone would forget part of their memories each week, nor is it totally impossible that they would just forget what aspect of their life, but to forget just one specific set of memories every single week on the exact same day is probably pushing the notion just a bit for the sake of a cheap plot device. And it is a cheap plot device. They can go through the same sequences of events over and over, the conflict is built right into the premise, and there’s all sorts of things that can go wrong for the main pair. Everything about this story is designed to make you feel for their plight but the question remains of whether or not it succeeds.

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One Week Friends succeeds at being an interesting take on the troubles of teen friendship. Why do people make friends? What stops them from being friends? How much work does it take to actually become a friend? And at what point are you friends rather than just acquaintances?

It also succeeds relatively well at being an okay slice-of-life drama thing with the gimmick of memory reset just being the device that stops us from getting too gushy as Hase and Fujimiya get closer and closer.

Where it fails to succeed is at making either of these main characters actually likable and as a direct result while there is interest in the premise the actual steps on their journey kind of lacks emotional impact.

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Hase is too nice. He just is. He wants to be Fujimiya’s friend for whatever reason. I know he explains it and he justifies it to his friend (particularly when his friend points out that this particular friendship is more trouble than it actually seems to be worth at the time), but I never buy his attachment to Fujimiya other than he’s the nice guy who can’t leave the puppy out in the rain. The side-effect of not really getting his drive is that some of his actions become questionable. For instance, when Fujimiya loses her journal (in one of the most contrived ways to ramp up tension in a story I’ve ever seen) and also knocks the sign on her door that tells her to read her journal down, Hase ends up spending days looking for said journal in the long grass by the river where he’s convinced (despite a lack of any evidence) she must have lost the book. There’s optimism, there’s plot convenience, and then there is sloppy writing that we’re supposed to forgive because isn’t it sweet how they made up.

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Conversely, Fujimiya is just kind of dull. At first she’s stand-offish and you get that she goes through the pain of forgetting people each week if they get close to her and her friends act all horrified the next week when she can’t remember them so it is easier to avoid people.That part of her character is totally understandable and is by far the most interesting part of her character. Once she starts with Hase though she quickly becomes just a nice girl. She’s incredibly passive, allowing the uncertain Hase to drive almost every encounter and step they take as she works toward recovery of memories, and mostly she does not seem all that interesting. Instead, Hase and Fujimiya start doing all the usual high school things as though they are dating but they are just friends. Hase asks her to be friends each week. It’s all very, “What’s the point?”.

Saki and Shougo as support characters fare better but Shougo is pretty laconic so while he does drop a rare gem of a common sense line of thought into the story he is far too often silent and merely watching the action. Saki is irritating in every way as a character but she balances out Shougo and her appearance in the story very much helps make Fujimiya just a little bit more bearable so all and all she’s kind of a necessary introduction to the cast.

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I’m not going to talk about the trauma that caused Fujimiya’s condition or how this story resolves but to be honest there are better shows out there if you just want to watch someone’s heart get stamped on week after week. There are better shows for manipulating the audience with contrived plots, and there are better shows for developing teenage characters. Other than the gimmick itself of memory loss there’s just nothing here that is new or fresh or interesting.

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That doesn’t make this bad. If you ignore the limited possibility that anyone could have such a condition, the story plays out as it needs to and moves along at a slow but steady pace. It isn’t particularly flash but it gets the job done and there are some good scenes that genuinely make you think. So it isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. Your enjoyment will largely come from whether you find Hase’s relentless desire for Fujimiya’s friendship appealing and whether you accept the overall premise that the show lays out before you.

If you’ve seen this one I’d love to know your thoughts.


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Spiritpact Episode 10

Review:

I really wish we knew going in how many episodes an anime was going to have. I don’t know if this was the final episode or not, but it really felt like a season finale. Okay, we still have loose ends and plots drifting about giving plenty of sequel fodder, but this episode resolved a few major issues from this season. We now know why Tanmoku made Keika his spirit shadow and why he went to such lengths to keep him alive. Keika finally became useful and even found the sheath to the sword (and hey there was some purpose to earlier actions afterall).

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Tanmoku got his power back and let off some steam (I wonder why everytime someone uses massive amounts of power mountains end up looking like a crescent moon). Surely they’d just collapse. And then Keika and Tanmoku kiss right before Tanmoku passes out pinning Keika to the floor. All and all, this feels like a pretty satisfying conclusion even while I’d wonder if a season 2 was ever on the cards. However, I’ve been unable to find out if this actually is the final episode. I’d actually be disappointed if there were 2 or 3 more episodes. There isn’t enough time to really build up another threat and how do you top mountain destroying power?

Spiritpact is available on Crunchyroll.


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Dance With Devils Series Review

Overview:

Have you ever wanted an anime musical? Not an anime with a character who wants to be an idol and occasionally performs, but an anime where the cast just burst into song and dance? Well look no further because Dance With Devils takes a typical supernatural harem show and adds music.

Review (a few major plot spoilers here if you are concerned):

It should probably be noted up-front that I’m not the biggest fan of harems (though I don’t hate them) nor do I particularly like musicals (but again I don’t hate them). Mostly I watched this for the sheer novelty of seeing an anime musical and yes, it is novel, but it isn’t great.

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To put it simply individual songs with their accompanying visuals within this anime are quite good. I particularly liked the fight sequence early on where Rem defeated the enemy during his song because visually it was interesting. The story itself with Ritsuka being a grimoire that both devils and vampires are fighting over is also pretty interesting. Throw in Lindo, the kind-of-brother-who-also-has-a-massive-crush-on-the-protagonist, who is somehow a vampire and an exorcist, and you’ve got a fairly impressive list of ingredients to make an interesting narrative. The show then proceeds to squander most opportunities to do this.

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Part of the issue is it is a harem show so for the first half the series each episode kind of focusses on a different member of the student council as they get their introductory song and get to torment Ritsuka in a way that makes no sense given their overall objective (then again it is never particularly clear why the other members of the student council care one way or the other about the grimoire). This means a lot of the plot is just kind of put on hold even though initially we are under the impression that time is of the essence, you know given Ritsuka’s mother was kidnapped by vampires and might be being killed. And of course each member of the student council is a devil and a particular ‘type’. You’ve got the handsome flirt, the strong guy, the massochist, and then literally a dog. It’s all pretty stock standard.

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When we finally have the introductions out of the way things do take a turn for the more serious including a character actually being killed (which I kind of didn’t expect and the show gets points for actually upping the danger level) but the relationships between the characters just kind of drift back and fourth without progressing (which again is probably the general issue with harem stories because if someone just stopped dithering and actually made their feelings clear the story would probably end).

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For all of that, the vampires are probably the weakest part of this show. They really just exist to launch attacks and force the plot forward but they themselves get almost no development and their motives, while explained, aren’t particularly compelling or convincing.

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This is definitely a show for fans of harems, people who will watch anything with a vampire in it, or anyone who is just curious about how an anime musical looks. For everyone else, there are probably better harem shows and there are most definitely better supernatural shows out there. This is never unwatchably bad and there are some good moments to be found in