The Disastrous Life of Saiki K Series Review: Increasingly Diminishing Returns

Right, so we know I don’t like comedy anime and I’m not a big fan of anime set in a high school, but I do like supernatural stories or stories about characters with some sort of power. Hmm. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K really is one of those anime I just had to watch to decide whether or not I liked it.

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Review:

I’m going to save some people some time and just come out and admit I didn’t like this anime and I won’t be watching the second season. And yet, I did watch all of the first season because as much as I didn’t like this anime, there was something quite interesting about it. The problem was, none of the jokes ever landed for me so I was never particularly amused by the show and as interesting as the premise is and as each new character who is introduced is, unless the humour is actually working for you it isn’t as though there is some grand plot of the like to keep you hooked. So once you’ve figured out what each character is doing and how they interact with the rest of the cast, you’re just kind of waiting for the next character to come along.

That isn’t really fair to the show. Some people find this very funny and entertaining and that humour manages to carry them through the whole season. But it’s kind of like a story that relies on being able to distinguish colour and being colour blind – a show relying on zany humour when you don’t find it funny is kind of just bland.

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What got me through the show for the most part was the title character. Kusuo is an interesting guy in that he’s incredibly powerful but become entirely jaded by life because of it. He spends his days avoiding interactions with others and generally trying not to get too annoyed by the mundane world and fails miserable at doing so. Being able to read people’s thoughts he generally has a low opinion of humanity in general and while he isn’t on the path to being a super villain, he’s certainly become fairly dispassionate towards everyone including his parents.

One of the things I really appreciated about Kusuo is that he hasn’t given himself needless and petty restrictions about not using his powers in general. Kusuo uses his powers whenever it suits him, however because it would be a bother he does make sure to keep it low key as he doesn’t want it to become public knowledge. There’s no rule breaking or guilt about using his powers against his parents or classmates when it suits his current purposes. This allows him to also walk a morally grey line without the whole is he good or bad coming into the discussion. It isn’t about right or wrong. He’s a teenager making choices and mostly working off of self-interest. It makes for a change and is kind of refreshing that someone with powers isn’t forced to decide whether they’ll be good or evil. He’s just living his life on his own terms.

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However, as much as I appreciate Kusuo as a character, the support cast only work in that they give Kusuo obstacles and interactions to deal with. While some people might enjoy each of these characters, for me each one was progressively more painful than the last and the episodes where lots of the support characters converge were particularly painful. My biggest issue being that because we only see these characters through Kusuo’s lens they really are all one note characters who exist to bring one specific type of conflict into Kusuo’s life. Potentially less characters and giving each character more depth would have worked, but I kind of realise that doing so would kind of undermine the entire point of most of these characters and kill the humour that they are supposed to be a part of.

I will also note I wasn’t the biggest fan of the art or colour scheme on this one. It all works and is consistent enough, but it just wasn’t to my general taste. The music is functional but outside of the OP I don’t really remember any of it after the fact so it didn’t leave much of an impression.

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I kind of knew going in that The Disastrous Life of Saiki K was unlikely to work for me given what I had read about it. Still, despite thinking that when I started it, and despite not laughing once while watching, I don’t feel bad that I watched this. It was an interesting enough series for what it was and there were sufficient interesting moments with the main character to feel that it was worth the time. Still, I won’t go on to another season and I’ll never revisit this series.

Over to the readers: What are your thoughts on this one?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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School Babysitters Episode 4: It’s Moments Like These…

Review:

With a plethora of ‘cute’ this season, School Babysitters is something of an interesting find. While it certainly is going for the whole cute aesthetic with the overly chibi styled toddlers (who for some reason aren’t growing despite the older characters moving into a new school year) this show is kind of differentiating itself in more ways than just having a primarily male cast rather than the usual cute girls in middle-school.

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It distinguished itself back in episode 1 when after overloading the viewer with sugary sweet moments it hit us hard with the emotional fall-out of Ryuichi and Kotaro dealing with the recent loss of their parents in a way that actually felt like real human drama rather than a cheap appear to our tear ducts. And after a couple of reasonably generic type episodes, we find ourselves with episode 4 where they finally address what Ryuichi is missing out on because of his commitment to the babysitting club (which wasn’t exactly his choice even if he doesn’t resent doing it).

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It’s a nice moment, not overly dragged out, and serves the purpose of making our usually nice and happy protagonist feel like a very human character. These small moments cropping up every now and then in amongst the excessively sweet rest of the show make it just that little bit more interesting than if the show just engaged cute mode from start to finish.

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I do want to come back to Kotaro and Ryuichi’s relationship later (probably in a feature) and the dream Ryuichi had while suffering a fever (what is it with cute shows and fever’s this week). Whichever way, this show is definitely staying on my watch list which given it is a slice of life/high school thing featuring toddlers in lead roles greatly surprises me and makes me wonder if I would have kept watching this in a stronger season. Yet, I don’t think I’m watching this from lack of options. I actually think I am enjoying this simple story because of how they handle those moments of real human drama.


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Karandi James

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The Everlasting: Eye of the Wise Volume 1 Review

Overview:

The Everlasting—a title given to those who’ve reached a state closest to godhood. This honor is a dream to all novice mages and warriors. Our story begins with Asura Shirogami, an orphaned sixteen-year-old boy trained in warrior arts who transfers to Albion. Having no friends and an embarrassing first day, Asura must adapt to his new life and learn magic. With no knowledge of magic spells, he unknowingly gets entangled in a school competition where the whole campus is the battlefield. What starts as an intense battle between classmates turns deadly as a powerful intruder interferes.

– From Vic’s Lab.

Review:

Okay, unlike the handful of other light novels I have so far reviewed this one is actually an original English light novel. Full disclosure: I was given a review copy of this one after being approached on Twitter about whether I was interested in reviewing original English light novels by Vic’s Lab. I’m also going to point out that as it is an ebook, I had the usual issue I have with ebooks in that I can’t flick back to pages easily when something comes up later and I want to confirm something quickly and when I finish the book it isn’t easy to go back and re-read just certain sections because finding the place is often really quite challenging. None of that takes away from the book itself, but kind of shows I’m just a little bit old school still and I would have liked to have been able to easily flick back to certain points. So into the review.

I’m going to start with my main issue with The Everlasting before getting to its better points. Though, I will admit that this is an issue across a number of the light novels I have read; and that is the sheer amount of exposition. Early on this book gives us massive amounts of information about the city and the world and it is an interesting city and world being described, but there is so much information dumped on the reader so quickly and at the time it isn’t integrated into the story so some of those details get forgotten (hence the wanting to be able to flick back later in the story when I wanted to confirm a detail that I’d forgotten and found that it was too much effort on my kindle so gave up the idea and ended up just assuming I’d remembered it correctly).

Now as I said, what is being described is really interesting. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put in to how this world, city and school function. But instead of the audience learning about these things as the story progresses we’re hit very quickly with a lot of information and very little happens with the plot or characters for a fair chunk of the relatively short book (okay, it isn’t that much but while reading it, it feels longer). While I didn’t mind it enough to stop reading, I can see a lot of people I know getting quite frustrated with it and just wanting the story to get going. Also the style of narration itself which is very straightforward, isn’t going to be for everyone. It makes sense given the character perspective of the narrator, he is a fairly straightforward person, but it means the writing itself isn’t overly compelling and it is left to the plot to draw the audience in.

However, if you can sit through the exposition, and the apparently mandatory clichés of even original English light novels (being caught naked by a girl before being slapped and being called a pervert), what you actually end up with is a fairly decent volume one of what should be a fairly decent story. The exposition may not be delivered in the best way, but the thought that has been put into things allows a lot of possibilities and the small details have helped to flesh out what might be an otherwise overly generic magic high school. A shallow explanation of the plot would have you drawing comparisons to Harry Potter (or any of the other magic high school stories out there) but the reality of reading it is quite different and it manages to feel like it has its own identity in a fairly crowded sub-genre. That isn’t to say it is totally unique, there’s a lot of elements here you will find elsewhere, but it doesn’t feel borrowed or cobbled together from other works.

I must admit, I really liked Asura by the end of the story. Early on he seemed a little lacking in personality as the narrator as he seemed to just be going through the motions of telling us what was happening to him, but as the story continued he kind of grew on me. I also like that despite being a complete novice with magic, Asura is not completely useless. He’s a well-trained fighter and can look after himself  (mostly) even if his opponent has a magical advantage. This not being useless at the beginning of the story, but still having a fair way to grow, is a good choice and makes him a fairly likeable protagonist.

The other characters are all just kind of there at the moment. They are starting to make an impression but really Asura has only just met them so it makes sense that they aren’t fully realised or fleshed out at this point.

It is a shame this volume is as short as it is. While the story ends after a fairly good battle sequence and we see a little of the fall out after the battle, it honestly does feel like this story has only just gotten started (I guess that explains why it was clearly labelled as volume 1).  There’s definitely set up here for some really interesting developments further down the line and the protagonist still has plenty of room for growth and it kind of looks like he will grow as a character which is kind of nice.

All and all, I had fun reading this. While there are definitely some moments where coincidence and cliché drive the plot and even though the writing isn’t the best, there’s a lot of potential in this story.


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Evil or Live Episode 2: Could There Be One Nice Character In This Story?

Review:

This week we move away from the instructors and their deliberate acts of cruelty (though they do get one fairly ominous looking scene) and instead we focus on the cruelty that people can inflict upon one another once they start forming packs and seem to have absolutely zero empathy. It wouldn’t be so hard to watch except that each new character you meet seems to be more warped and twisted than the previous, to the point where for a moment I kind of thought Hibiki wasn’t so bad (then of course I remembered he’s an obnoxious little rat of a human being).

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This is certainly not comfortable viewing as we have female ‘students’ publicly groped and stripped and deals involving females sleeping with a male in order to gain access to a phone. Though one has to wonder where the instructors were during any of that and how purple hair has seemingly unlimited information access (which opens up a whole other series of issues).

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Visually this remains odd and from a story point of view, uncomfortable. Yet it is kind of like watching a train derail in slow motion so I somehow don’t think I’m going to look away just yet particularly because despite finding every character in this show so far to be hideously obnoxious, I still actually kind of want to know what happens to them (even if what happens turns out to be very bad things).

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So, not recommending this one but not dropping it either.


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Evil or Live Episode 1: Can We Switch Protagonists?

Overview:

In this modern society, a new kind of “illness” is striking young boys and girls; Loneliness, disbelief and outrage push this generation to get more or more attached to Internet and technologies. The experts called those symptom “Net Addiction”. To prevent that, a certain Rehabilitation Facility has been set up to “Lead the young man back to the right path”. Enrolled to treat is addiction, Hibiki had no idea that this Rehabilitation Facility is nothing more than a prison. In this place where it’s not permitted to escape, how will Hibiki challenge despair in this hell?

– From Crunchyroll

Review:

I read a number of reviews of this before I watched the episode so I kind of knew what to expect. At the same time, a lot of those reviews were by people who found the basic violent nature of the setting off-putting. While the thought of any school actually embracing such actions as a means of ‘reeducating’ is despicable and clearly the violence in this episode is there for shock factor, the basic setting isn’t a deal breaker for the show so far, mostly because this episode didn’t seem to want to have the audience side with the instructors in instigating the violence but also didn’t make much effort to try to get us to sympathise with the ‘students’.

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Unfortunately what that leaves us with is an unsympathetic lead who so far has moved between horrible, delusional and pathetic at various points in the episode and while that actually makes the events somewhat more palatable it doesn’t really help get you into the story. Mostly because the synopsis claims Hibiki is going to try to challenge things and yet this episode seemed to imply he was merely going to be another character’s patsy and he could later come into his own but so far he seems too pathetic to ever succeed in that sort of role.

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While I’m not really sold on the characters or the premise (though haven’t been thrown off by them either), the visuals do some interesting things. Note, in this case interesting doesn’t actually mean good because while there are some great shots and cuts at times that actually help the story along, a lot of the visuals leave you feeling like they were trying for a look they haven’t quite pulled off.

Still, I kind of feel this one is worth at least another episode though if they actually start trying to justify the instructor’s cruelty I am definitely checking out.


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Tokyo Majin Season 1 Series Review: It’s Like Someone Gave the Scooby Gang Super Powers But Forgot About Fun

Overview:

During senior year an apparently mysterious new student transfers in to some academy. And then a groups of kids get superpowers. Seriously, that’s all I got out of this though I guess there was some destiny/fate thing going on as well if I’d been able to pay more attention toward the end.

Review:

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because to be honest, by about episode 8 the only thing keeping me watching was that I refuse to review a series I don’t finish, and having sat through eight episodes of this train wreck, I very much wanted to have something to show for it. Pretty much, avoid. Sure there are zombies, demons, cackling villains, superpowered teens, and a mish mash of religious and spiritual references tossed about in a way that should actually appeal to me on every level, and yet this is a horrendous chore to watch.

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Starting with the characters, the group of five from the school have zero chemistry. Admittedly, at the start they aren’t a group and the new kid and the bad boy aren’t too bad together, and the other three aren’t so bad as a group, it is just when they put all five together or start trying to do intersecting relationships the whole thing falls flat fast. In some fight sequences I’m sure the writers even forgot certain characters were in particular scenes because they would literally just stand and do nothing (not even call encouragement) until there was no one else left standing and then maybe they’d get involved.

The bad boy is the bad boy because he speaks frankly to his teacher, walks out of class (like straight out the window), and gets into fights on school grounds because why not. This is really incredibly lazy characterisation and we have the same issues with each of the other characters. New kid has no personality. Zip. Unless he’s standing with someone, you could almost just pretend he wasn’t in the scene. Which given he’s apparently important you might want to give him some personality trait. The good girl is only seen as such because everyone else refers to her that way. We seldom see her do anything that would actually make us think she’s a goody two-shoes. The other two characters have their school club related personality traits and their friendship/attraction to the other one or the good girl and basically that’s their entire personality. There’s almost no growth for these characters in the early episodes and by the time you see some positive changes, it is a little bit too late to make you care.

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The story is a mess that heavily relies on throw a random monster/villain into the city and go crazy for a bit. Have the teens sniff out the issue. Some sort of fight sequence where they are royally smacked down. Go regroup and have a pep-talk training session. Give up with the planning and have someone in the group go off to face whatever it is. Everyone else will then decide they have to go too. Some other fight sequence where they may or may not actually win. Occasionally remember that there actually has been some severe collateral damage (read many many victims in the city). Honestly, there is no way anyone still lives in that town after all those incidents. They packed up and moved on.

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Then we have our cackling villains and occasional other superpowered individual. They delightfully add nothing to the story of note except an occasional fight or bit of less than witty banter. Possibly these characters could have been more interesting, but they receive about as much attention as the main cast do, which is very little.

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There’s apparently another season of this. I won’t be starting it. I’d love to know your thoughts on this series if you’ve watched it. Maybe someone has a better opinion of it?


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My Hero Academia Episode 35: Aizawa’s Always A Teacher

Review:

There’s a lot of terrible teachers out in the anime universe, fortunately for Todoroki and Yaoyorozu, Aizawa isn’t one of them. Even when he’s hunting them down, he still takes the time to reflect on their progress as students and to give them the push they need to overcome their own difficulties. As much as he likes to play the tough guy, when it comes to his students, he is always a teacher.

Still this episode sees us go through three different tests and after the inglorious defeat of the two muscle heads in round one it seems like most pairs have at least discussed possible plans.

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The teachers aren’t going all out but they aren’t playing overly nice either so it is kind of nice to see the students rise to the challenge.

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Still, this episode hits you with the emotional high of Yaoyorozu finally getting to do something other than fret or worry about her own inadequacies. It has been a long time coming but she’s finally joined the many other awesome female characters in this show that get to stand on their own two feet and be counted. And seeing Todoroki follow her lead and learn from his own mistakes was also pretty cool.

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Now we just have to hope that some of our other favourite characters don’t bomb out next week. This show continues to be a bundle of fun as even the most mundane of events (a school exam) comes to life when these characters take the stage.


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Princess Principal Episode 9: East Meets West

Review:

We kind of knew it had to come along, an episode that focusses on the fact that Chise is actually Japanese and that there are different cultural expectations. Fortunately, this episode elicits more laughs than groans and actually manages to make for some great character moments even while it plays on some fairly obvious cultural clichés.

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Of course, Chise is the focus of this episode and the narrator, bringing her unique view of the other characters to the forefront as well as highlighting the dynamics of the group. And again, this could have felt really trite and it is definitely a nod to the strength of the writing that this episode pulls it off and makes you feel you’ve gained a greater understanding of all the members of the team through this episode.

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Still, the bully triggering the duel was a fairly clunky plot device, even if it was ultimately well used. As he isn’t a character we’ve ever seen before or one we are likely to see again, there was little emotional investment and you kind of knew that he was more or less a fly to be swatted (though it was still pretty satisfying when Chise landed that hit – despite the fact that I now want to know what her ribbon is made out of).

Overall, a fairly good episode in what has been a pretty great watch this season.


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Gamers Episode 1: Loners Going to Lone

Overview:

“Would you like to be with me… in the Gamers Club?” Amano Keita is a perfectly mediocre loner with no particular distinguishing features other than his love for games. One day, his school’s prettiest girl and Gamer Club President Tendo Karen suddenly calls out to him.

– From Crunchyroll.

Review:

There’s this thing I really hate about stories where they make out that being alone is the single worst thing that can happen to a person and the loner is almost always ‘cured’ when someone or something reaches out to them and helps them see themselves in a new light and gives them some confidence. While some people are alone and desperately want someone to reach out to them, there are genuinely people who are happy with their life being pretty spartan in terms of interactions with other people. So where does Gamers come into this? As a first episode it was going directly down the path of so many other stories, and then Amano turned the pretty blonde down.

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Admittedly, I don’t think his rejection is actually going to stick given its kind of clear he is going to join the club, but it was so nice for him to assert that he was happy playing games on his terms. It means, when he inevitably does join the club, this show doesn’t have to be about transforming him as some sort of charity case. More importantly, it gives his character time to figure out whether he really wants to join and why rather than being dragged into it by the pushy blonde which is the set up of so many other stories.

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I’m really sitting on the fence with this story. I’m not really into high school anime about clubs but I do love the sound track so far (gaming sound effects are releasing strong nostalgia vibes) and there have been enough moments of genuine amusement to make this seem like a promising pick up for the season. Still, this one is a wait and see.


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Princess Principal Episode 1: This Might Be A Fun Ride

Overview:

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

– From AnimeLab

Review:

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

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

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


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