Food Wars Series Review – There Are Foodgasms Galore

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Food Wars Overview:

Imagine Master Chef as an anime where tasting incredible food is an orgasm inducing experience. Then put in a cocky male lead and the usual shounen tropes for the other students and staff members, an absentee father, and lots of intense trash talk between students. There we have it, Food Wars.

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Food Wars Review:

Food Wars is an anime that surprised me. Mostly because I hate watching cooking shows. About the only one I’ve ever really gotten into is Iron Chef and largely that was because I found the way the judges described the food they were tasting so over-the-top ridiculous it was absolutely hilarious.

And that’s kind of part of what ended up selling me on Food Wars. Everybody in the story takes things so incredibly seriously and yet its really all very trivial given the worst case scenario is they’ll end up being asked to leave a school that by any real measure seems demonstrably broken as an educational institute. And honestly, that was kind of why I gave up on the franchise eventually but I did watch season two.

However, outside of the general humour and over the top nature of the premise, Food Wars neither particularly amazes me or annoys. It was pleasantly surprising in that it was a very enjoyable watch the first time through and I had a lot of fun the second time around (though a lot of that was from laughing at my friend’s reactions to the anime rather than the show itself – this is why you should always watch anime with someone).

Seriously, if you don’t pre-warn someone about the Foodgasms, watching Food Wars with someone because one of the most hysterical events you can imagine.

Soma (our protagonist) is cocky, hotheaded, and frequently gets himself into unnecessary complications due to his lack of ability to emphasise with others (let’s face it if it isn’t food, Soma is clueless) and yet he is actually surprisingly pleasant. He isn’t the shouting protagonist or the crying one. When he fails in a cook off (which does happen even though we usually forget that it does because it wasn’t an official cook off) he faces genuine frustrations but doesn’t fall into the trap of bottomless and depression inducing despair. 

The fact that he also uses all of his experiences as a chance to learn and he helps build up the confidence of those around him (provided they fall into the magic category of protagonist’s friend or dorm-mate) makes him quite a fun character to watch mess around in a kitchen for a season.

Food Wars - Soma presents his dish.

But for all that I’ll sing the praises of Soma too many of the other characters are nothing more than a one dimensional idea of a character.

This is the nervous one, this is the elitist one, this is the angry one, this is the clumsy one, etc. While some of the support cast (particularly Megumi) do start to flesh out within the series, most of the others don’t escape being hit with one colour brush stroke and staying put for the duration.

Though part of the problem is there are a lot of characters. Soma’s home town friends and the other shop owners, the excessively large student body at the school, the staff members, the former students of the school, and on and on it goes. When large chunks of episodes are devoted to cooking there isn’t a huge amount of time to give these characters much depth.

Food Wars - Soma with a knife.

Then again, despite the characters feeling a little flat, the humour works more often than it fails.

Soma’s ongoing attempts to create the worst recipe as well as his tallying his wins and losses against his father, the over the top commentary during the food battles themselves, the outfits some of the students wear in the kitchens, Soma’s reactions when hearing the actual names for cooking techniques, and most of the other student’s reactions to Soma’s more ordinary food; all of these elements work to keep a smile on your face if they don’t make you laugh out loud.

Also, we have the foodgasms which are so over-the-top the only possible reaction is laughter. Okay, you could also be offended but I somehow doubt someone would stick with this anime if they found that offensive so minor issue.

Food Wars - Soma and Megumi

So we have flat characters but a lot of laughs. And because this one is very much leaning into comedy, other than Soma wanting to be number 1, there really doesn’t feel like there’s much at stake here.

So if he fails a challenge he’ll be expelled? And? There are other cooking schools. That’s what bothered me the whole time watching this. These kids are killing themselves to avoid expulsion (because a school can certainly continue to operate by excluding the majority of its student body – not) and while they keep reminding us how exclusive this school is and how prestigious, the kids already know how to cook and they can do it well. There is nothing stopping any of them just leaving and getting an apprenticeship and becoming chefs.

Basically, stakes not so high. While the characters keep viewing this prospect as a fate worse than death, for the audience it really doesn’t feel like much is at stake and there’s really no drive beyond pride for most of the characters.

Food Wars

Of course I do appreciate food shots.


Lots of them. Lots of different foods beautifully presented. Don’t ever watch this show while hungry. Though, I do dislike the occasional chibi versions of the characters that appear. While it is probably there for the humour value, it kind of ruins the aesthetics of the show.

Food Wars - anime food done right.

And that’s more or less the sum total of my thoughts on this series. The fact that I watched it at all when I hate reality cooking shows and cooking contests still surprises me. The fact that I must honestly admit I had a great time while watching (even if it isn’t going to make my list of favourite anime any time soon) also surprises me

. Reading the plot synopsis I wouldn’t really believe this to be my kind of anime. But its charming, amusing, at times exciting and occasionally dramatic and for the most part it’s pretty.  Unless the characters losing their clothes after eating is going to bother you, check it out.

One warning though – watching people cook does not qualify you to cook. Avoid attempting duplications of Food Wars recipes no matter how good they look. Hey, I warned you.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

The Complete Collection of How Not to Summon a Demon Lord Anime Review Posts


2018 saw How Not To Summon a Demon Lord or Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu come to life in anime form during the Summer Anime Season. It received a fairly positive reception though the ecchi and fan-service elements did put some viewers off while the comedy wasn’t to everybody’s taste.

Come 2021, and the Spring Anime Season has delivered How Not to Summon a Demon Lord Ω, a follow-up that by rights should have been a pretty fun romp and yet didn’t quite manage that.

Anyway, having done episodic coverage of both seasons among other posts and commentary, I am putting links to all How Not To Summon a Demon Lord content from my blog in one place.

Season 1 and 2 Series Reviews

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 7

You know that feeling when you start an anime and you don’t really have a lot of expectations for it? How Not to Summon a Demon Lord season one more or less was that anime for me.

Between the derivative sounding premise and the ecchi tag I was more or less expecting it to maybe be watchable and perhaps a little entertaining but I didn’t have any higher expectations. Fortunately, Diablo, Shera and Rem turned out to be more charming than anticipated and really provided the ecchi moments aren’t too much for your individual tastes it ends up being quite a fun ride.

Be sure to check out my full series review of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord.

Irina has her own thoughts on the anime and might provide you with a different perspective.

However, season one’s charm managed to convince me that season two of how Not To Summon a Demon Lord would actually be quite the ride. Unfortunately, it ended up being a little bit of a misfire. Here’s my full review of Omega.

Though you could always check out this review from Dewbond discussing their thoughts on season two of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord.


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All Articles Discussing How Not To Summon a Demon Lord

Image from: How Not To Summon a Demon Lord season 1 - Shera

While How Not To Summon a Demon Lord didn’t get my pick for best anime of the Summer during the 2018 season, it did get a few nods because honestly it was just a lot of fun to watch.

After committing to two fan-service laden isekai stories in one season I decided to discuss fan-service in anime and used How Not To Summon a Demon Lord as a starting point for the discussion. I’d love to hear your views on fan service so be sure to check out the article and leave a comment.

Celebrating the best moments of season one of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord, here’s a top 5 list for moments that just stood out from the pack.

Irina celebrates ecchi anime sharing her favourite top 5 anime that earned this tag. Given I’ve link it here I’m sure you can guess at least one of the anime on the list.

While How Not To Summon a Demon Lord might be pretty derivative in its premise is that necessarily a bad thing? This posts discusses the positives of using tried and true tropes in stories.

Celebrating the lead up to the holiday season, Diablo made the list of characters I wanted to celebrate. For all kinds of reasons. I’d love to know what you thought of the demon from another world, Diablo.

So many anime can’t stick their landing. Here’s a discussion about the importance of final episodes and how stories come to a close with How Not To Summon a Demon Lord being one of the anime on the floor.

But if you want to look at things that make no sense in season two of Demon-Lord be sure to check out this list over on Sae with a K’s blog.


All How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode Reviews

Image from: How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Omega

What follows are links to every individual episode review of season one and two of how Not To Summon a Demon Lord. Some of the season two posts are found on Irina’s blog.


Images from: How Not To Summon a Demon Lord. Dir. Y Murano. Ajia-Do. 2018 and How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Season 2. Dir. S. Kuwahara. Tezuka Productions and Okuruto Noboru. 2021.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

The Morose Mononokean Season 1 – From Beginning To End A Viewer’s Journey

Morose Mononkean Episodic Thoughts 1

The Morose Mononokean or Fukigen na Mononokean, aired in the Summer Season of 2016 and while I was initially a little put out that it didn’t quite meet my expectations, this supernatural story ultimately won me over with its cute character interactions and interesting lore.

My thoughts on each episode of season 1, The Morose Mononokean.

Episode 1

I quite enjoyed this first episode of The Morose Mononokean even though it is largely set up and getting the two characters together. The whole time watching it I kind of got the feeling that it was somewhere between Natsume Yuujinchou and XXXHolic. I’m kind of hoping it get’s its own vibe somewhere along the line but I found this very cute and entertaining.

I’m hoping Ashiya develops as a character and I’m kind of hoping we learn more about the exorcist but overall this episode gave us a nice intro to the world and how things are going to play out.

Episode 2

Ashiya - The Morose Mononokean

This one is definitely trying for the position of my favourite anime this season. It is a perfect blend of sweetness, fantasy, and just enough drama to keep things moving and interesting. Like episode 1, I’m definitely getting a Natsume feeling from this but even then the characters are a little bit livelier and have a bit more attitude.

It’s definitely shaping up to be a yokai of the week story but it feels like the developing relationship between the two characters and Ashiya becoming more attuned to seeing yokai will nicely tie this all together. Loving this so far.

Episode 3

By the end of the season, I am going to be able to spell the title without checking it twice. Anyway, I am still loving this anime. This week we see Ashiya attempting to help a laughing priest by crying and we get to watch Abeno wondering if Ashiya is actually able to succeed. There’s very little that is subtle about The Morose Mononokean.

Abeno spends a lot of this episode talking with a yokai about Ashiya and various observations are made about both characters. Meanwhile, Ashiya helps the priest’s daughter leaving us all with a shiny, happy feeling by the end. All and all it is a nice solid episode with a self-contained story while advancing the relationship between the two main characters. We also get to learn a bit more about the room itself this week. Looking forward to the next episode.

Episode 4

Abeno - The Morose Mononokean

So this is probably my least favourite episode of this show so far. Mostly because when you give any character a set of rules you just know they are going to break every single one so the whole thing falls into the path of beyond predictable.

It’s paint by numbers and while the trip to the underworld is pretty it hasn’t been particularly enlightening so mostly we’re just hanging around waiting for Ashiya to get into trouble, which he inevitably does. And Abeno is going to be so annoyed when he catches up with him. Hoping things pick up again next episode.


Episode 5

The underworld - The Morose Mononokean

Ashiya is either getting more annoying, or my tolerance for him is dropping as the episodes progress, but this episode I was finding him particularly irritating. Although, in retrospect, that’s probably because we got this awesome glimpse of a different kind of Ashiya at the beginning after Fuzzy got hurt and then Abeno showed up and he went right back to usual whimpering Ashiya.

That said, I liked the episode. We finally learned a bit more about Abeno and got some hints about how he became the master (actually we probably have enough to put most of it together now). I’m glad Ashiya reunited with Fuzzy as it kind of felt like that needed to happen and I was surprised it hadn’t happened earlier. Also, the introduction of the Legislator has worked well and he looks like he could be an interesting character (or failing that an interesting plot device).

Looking forward to the next episode of The Morose Mononokean.

Episode 6

I really hope they are eventually going to explain Ashiya. Weird power last week that got cut off and then this week a strange ability to find metal things. Not that it isn’t cool, but an explanation would be lovely. This is a nice and simple fetch quest of an episode. Find a ring and return it.

Turns out the returning brings up some of Abeno’s baggage about humans not really understanding yokai (not that he’s really bothering to try and overcome that hurdle on his own). It’s a pleasant enough story and has a lot of charm. My favourite moment though is the tease that occurs right before the ending and now I really want to know what’s coming.

Episode 7


This episode of The Morose Mononokean brings back the girl Ashiya met at the temple and introduces a fox yokai that at first seems more annoying than anything else. I really enjoyed watching this episode as all the way through it there was a growing sense of unease. Shame the episode doesn’t resolve but it does leave off at an excellent spot if they want to make us wait for next week.

Also, it’s kind of fun watching Abeno get flustered not once but twice this episode. Ashiya also get’s a moment where he actually uses his powers of observation. Anyway, great episode, a little darker than some of the previous ones, and now I need episode 8.

Episode 8

This show has done this twice now. Set up a conflict at the end of one episode only to resolve it within minutes of the next making it more or less a non-issue. Abeno’s foul mood about the jobs this episode aside, very little happened after the issue with the fox was finalised.

Yes, we did get to see a young Abeno (so cute) playing with the fox in what was probably a totally unnecessary flashback and we got to see Ashiya taking the initiative on a job, but really this episode felt like we were marking time.

Episode 9

Humans doubt exorcists. There’s a revelation for Ashiya. In what was probably the least interesting episode yet of The Morose Mononokean, Abeno and Ashiya are called to a house by a girl who thinks her room is possessed. Turns out she’s right, but her mother is not particularly thrilled at her spending her allowance on an exorcism.

Anyway, little is learned or revealed through the episode but the end then sets up the next issue for next week. As you can tell, I didn’t much love this week’s episode.

Episode 10


Once again the ‘problem’ set up in the previous episode turned out to be not much and while Ashiya and Abeno did succeed at exorcising a yokai (helped him move on from past regret), the reason they went to the farm was actually not addressed in the end.

As much as I like the look and feel of this show, from the point of view of the plot it isn’t really going very far. I do like the addition of Zenko to the group as she provides a little bit of a buffer between the rounds of Ashiya and Abeno bickering but because she can’t really see the yokai she isn’t involved at critical moments. It makes her a nice supporting cast member and I hope she hangs around.

Episode 11

I feel this episode would have had far more impact if my internet connection hadn’t continuously dropped while trying to watch it. As a result, I saw the episode in 2 – 5 minute blocks with a lot of frustrated waiting and reloading in between.

The episode picks up from last episode and we finally see Ashiya face a consequence for being an overly kind nit-wit. The question becomes will this lead to anything resembling a real conflict to be resolved or will they just wrap it up nicely in the first three minutes of the next episode (if there were any hints after the credits, I didn’t see them this week due to lack of loading).

I enjoyed this episode of The Morose Mononokean more than the last couple despite the interruptions but I still feel this anime hasn’t quite managed to nail consistency or engage me with the characters as well as I would have liked to be.

Episode 12


For the first time this series has decided to actually take a problem seriously and drag it out. While it almost seems certain that everything will be fine by the end of next episode, it was nice to see the characters we’ve met over the season rallying to solve Ashiya’s problem. And Fuzzy clinging to Ashiya toward the end was just kind of heart breaking.

What this series hasn’t done is given us any further information about either Ashiya or Abeno and maybe there isn’t anymore to these characters than what meets the eye but it hasn’t felt like that for most of the series so it really feels like we’re going to end this series barely scratching the surface of the mysteries that might have been. Not really fair to criticise a show for what it isn’t, but in this case the show just isn’t quite enough as it is. it is pleasant and enjoyable and the characters have been fun but there’s always something missing from the mix.

On a side note, I finally managed to spell the title right (The Morose Mononokean) first go and now the show is about to end.


Episode 13

The episode is called ‘The End’ and while it certainly ended the crisis with Ashiya’s vision it didn’t really offer any other insight or resolution. That and they kind of just gathered every character together and used their emotions to solve the problem. Really?

Anyway, the final episode ends much the way the show has gone all the way along. It’s as if we are just continuing to skim over the top of a much more interesting story but at the same time being given enough that we keep coming back. I haven’t heard any news of a season 2 at this stage so I guess we’ll just have to be satisfied with a ho-hum story of two human boys learning to find the balance between human and yokai.

But wait…

Actually, there is a season two and Irina and I did episodic coverage of it together. If you weren’t following my blog then be sure to check it out.

Images from: Fukigen na Mononkean. Dir. A Iwanaga. Pierrot Plus. 2016

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Sailor Moon Season 1 Series Review


How has it taken me this long to review Sailor Moon? Well I guess I did already review Crystal, but it is time to take on the original anime series and the one that won over my heart as a child (and more than likely planted the seed for me becoming the anime fan I am today – thanks Sailor Moon).



Welcome to the world of Serena (Usagi – though given I originally watched this dubbed on TV I’m just sticking with the English names). In her world getting up late is the norm, blaming others for being late, crying over scraped knees, and being ecstatic at the sight of food. She’s your typical middle-school girl (at least as anime proclaims typical) and while she is subjected to fairly awful 90’s fashion and colouring through the duration of the series, she’s an instantly recognisable character. A little extreme but we all know the person who is always eating, wants to sleep, and has big dreams and no drive.

If that were all there was to Serena, they probably still could have pulled out an alright series around it. I’ve certainly seen worse characters have a show built around them. But Sailor Moon is a magical girl series. For some of us, it is ‘the’ magical girl series. While it wasn’t the first, and it objectively isn’t the best, Sailor Moon was a gateway into anime back in the 90’s and there are more than a few anime fans I know who look back fondly on days of watching this series.

But that isn’t really reviewing the show so much as nostalgia tripping over it. I will admit, I have a lot of love for the klutzy heroine, even if part of me wishes they’d used her crying as a weapon in more than just the first episode. Wow, that sound is hard on the ears. I can fully understand the villains faltering in the face of that sound.


Despite that, I’m not blind to the shows many flaws. The overly bloated episode count of season 1, the extreme repetition of some of the early sequences, and the fact that the anime doesn’t get over the idea of repetition. First we have the villains collecting energy. Introduce villain, see 4 – 5 episodes of said villain failing miserably at the hands of the clearly nefarious Sailor Moon (why are these villains a threat if sleepy-head can beat them), Beryl loses her temper and villain is usually offed by his own Queen before the next one gets introduced. Rinse and repeat.

Though somewhere along the line they introduce the idea of needing to collect crystals and then we get seven nearly identical episodes of Serena or one of the other scouts bumping into someone who of course turns out to be a carrier but of course they don’t realise. Said person gets attacked, a fight breaks out, and then either the scouts, the villains, or occasionally Tuxedo Mask pick up the crystal.

Even in the latter half of the season where it feels like the show should have better things to do we have another round of repetition as Beryl’s minions set up plot after plot to ‘identify’ the mysterious Princess. And the throw-away line that they look different in real life is no excuse for not recognising Serena as Sailor Moon. Seriously, how dumb are these villains?

And yet, despite so many obvious narrative flaws and questionable execution, as well as the fact that visually this anime has definitely not aged well, there are a lot of reasons to love it.


First and foremost, Serena might be lazy, uncoordinated and downright silly at times, but she’s still an incredible female character from the 90’s. A girl who loves being a girl but also kicks butt when the occasion calls for it. Okay, she might whine a bit in the process but the sheer body count in Sailor Moon’s wake (or dust count) speaks for itself. You don’t mess with Sailor Moon. She kind of likes her sleepy and lazy life, her random crushes, her lunches with friends, and shopping. She really likes shopping. Curse the villain who gets in the way of her doing any one of these or stops any of her friends from experiencing their life.


Secondly, the rest of the scouts are amazing. Ami shows us girls with brains. Rei has grace and focus. Jupiter is the tough girl with the heart of gold (my personal favourite). And while I don’t have as much love for Venus, she certainly provides a lot of heart in the show. Their interactions are silly and trivial sometimes, deadly serious at others. At one point early on, Rei and Ami actually quit because they don’t like Serena’s leadership, but ultimately the message of the show is one of teamwork and so the Scout’s eventually come together.


Thirdly, they actually destroy their enemies. Not so impressive when compared to a lot of shounen, although if we look at Bleach, most of the people Ichigo has crossed blades with are still alive and kicking. Serena turns her enemies into Moon Dust and she does it with a fanfare of pop music and usually a floral decorated crescent moon in the background. That’s almost insulting and yet it is brilliant. She spends more time transforming and posing, her attacks take forever to power up, her weapons are absurd, and yet somehow the entire thing works beautifully.

Also, did I mention the scope of this story. I mean really. Starting from ordinary school girl we introduce magical talking cats, transforming students, magic crystals, reincarnation of an alien Princess on earth, global destruction, true love, and pretty much anything else you can think of. There’s a lot to this seemingly simple story and while at times it becomes fairly overblown, there’s something genuine about the drama here.


I guess I should probably mention Tuxedo Mask. He appears. He makes speeches. I’m going to be honest, while I quite like Darien as a character (okay, I admit he was my first anime crush), the only episode Tuxedo Mask is cool in is the one where he makes the Scouts think he just flew when instead he’s crouched just below them on a ledge.

And basically that is Sailor Moon. There are some incredibly flashy fight sequences, lots of stuff about love and friendship, some very cool lines and poses if you are into that kind of thing, and an entire cast of characters to choose from when it comes to Cosplay. Sailor Moon is a classic for a reason. And while I understand that visually it is underwhelming, and that the sound track is definitely infused with 90’s pop-rock, there’s still a real appeal here.

This is one that is well worth checking out if you missed this era. The English dubbed version (original) has a few episodes cut from it and some fairly significant edits in places, but works well enough.


Sailor Moon is where my journey into anime began and I really am thankful to it. I’m sure everyone else blogging about anime has that one show that really started them on their path to where they are now and I’d love to know what it is for you. But also, what do you think of Sailor Moon? Share your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James


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Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom Season 1 Series Review


Lots of cute guys, historical setting, swords, and a girl disguised as a boy in the middle of it all. Where have I seen that before?


This review is going to be a bit difficult to write. Mostly because this anime is fine and I actually think a lot of viewers will really enjoy it, evidenced by the fact that they made another two seasons of it and you find references to it everywhere on line and copious amount of fan art of the characters. I didn’t actually dislike this anime while watching it, but I also got to the end of it and kind of wondered if there had been some sort of point that I had just missed or if there was something about the characters I was supposed to remember because other than their designs they all seemed pretty much exactly the same. To the point where I would honestly struggle to match their names to their faces if I were forced to do so.


Which makes it difficult to review. The music was fine. I’m not walking around humming any of the songs and to be honest I’ve forgotten what most of the background music was like, but the OP worked well enough and I never found the music a particular problem.

Visually it is very pretty, much like many of these kinds of anime. There’s a lot of time and attention put into character designs for a large cast of characters, though in this case that is only true of main cast members. Supporting members of the various factions are all very generic historically Japanese looking and they get routinely cut down and nobody cares. Scratch a main character and everyone will be up in arms, but run through three of the guys with the standard hair cut and nobody will even pause to watch them fall. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but it felt like that at times.


My biggest issue with the visuals was they went to a lot of trouble to explain that the main heroine disguised herself as a boy but realistically at no point does the viewer think she might be a boy and every single character in the anime knows she isn’t a boy more or less immediately, so you have to wonder why they even bothered. Its another one of those plot points that seems there because someone at some planning meeting thought it sounded cool or added something but then they never did anything with it but they also didn’t edit it out. And yes, it is a historical anime so it kind of makes sense that she would need to disguise herself as a boy, but then they should commit to that and actually kind of make her look like a boy.

However, what really failed to sell me on this anime was the story itself. We’ve got classic historical moment going on and we jump from conflict to conflict getting a nice narration to tell us what the different groups are up to. And then we have some supernatural mumbo-jumbo that utterly fails to be interesting and doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story at all. Characters fight, they get injured, some change sides, some pretend to change sides, more fighting, occasionally they remember they are looking for her father, there’s some weird elixir that turns people into demon like things but not all of them because some manage to not go crazy, and then we kind of get to the end of the season where clearly things are going really poorly for them but that just leaves room for the sequel where they can maybe stage a comeback.


I guess it is interesting to some but for me it just felt like it was going through its paces and as I never really got drawn into the characters I wasn’t that hooked by their comings and goings.

Overall, if you really like historical fiction with a bit of a reverse harem going on, there’s probably a lot you will enjoy about this one (though you’ve probably already watched it). For me, I’m not so sure I’ll get around to season 2, though I guess it might happen at some point. This wasn’t impossible to watch, it just didn’t leave much impact.

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James


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Haikyuu Season 1 Series Review



Hinata just really wants to play volleyball but his middle-school doesn’t have a functioning male team so despite his efforts he only plays one game. Now at high school, he is determined to be on the team and to stay on the court. However, on day one of joining the team, he encounters Kageyama, an opponent from the one game he played and someone Hinata considers a rival. How will the two of them learn to play together?

Review (with spoilers):

I honestly did enjoy this series more than I expected I would and by around episode 15 or 16 I was very much caught up in this team’s journey as they tried to secure a place in the nationals. But when it comes to reviewing this series I am kind of torn about where it stands. It hasn’t exactly blown me away and made me want to do an instant rewatch (and to be honest I’m not sure when if ever I will rewatch this first season). At the same time I was fairly keen to jump straight into season 2 because this show had really built some momentum by the end of season 1.  So with my thoughts a bit confused I am going to go with a plus/minus approach to the review.


Plus +

It’s a sports anime that makes the sport exciting. I don’t say that lightly. I hate watching sport. The only sports I have ever actively sought out to watch on TV are figure skating and gymnastics (because they are pretty). And unlike a lot of other sports, I’ve barely played volleyball and found it to be a fairly dull sport (mostly because I stank at it and really don’t like sports where people pelt balls at you). So when I say that this show makes volleyball look fun and inviting as well as fairly complex with actual strategies, know that this show had to work hard to get me to shift my view on this sport. The games are undeniably the best part of watching the show, though that’s only because they link the games so intensely with character development. Just watching a sport by itself, no matter how well animated, would never interest me. But watching characters evolve from one serve to the next as they learn from experiences and from others around them and watching them continually re-evaluate their situation and try to progress is really fun and it is where Haikyuu absolutely nailed its execution.


Minus –

While I’ll be more specific about particular points later on, literally everything off the court was weaker than the games. The pace of episodes stagnated when they weren’t being pushed forward by the next ball and the characters were never as alive or as interesting when they were off the court. The write up on AnimeLab about this anime actually describes it as a slice-of-life sports anime and that’s probably the best genre description for it. But the slice-of-life aspects aren’t particularly strong. They aren’t terrible or unwatchable or dull (and I’ve certainly described other slice-of-life anime with those words) but compared to the sports side of this anime they don’t hold their weight. It makes the viewing experience a little unbalanced.


Plus +

The support cast are fantastic. While a lot of the attention, particularly early in the anime, is on Hinata and Kageyama, the other characters slowly but surely make their presence felt and each of them contribute something fairly invaluable to both the team and the viewing experience. I really like Tsukishima for his sarcasm and cynical attitude but Sugawara all the way through manages to be that quiet supporter and just when they need him the most he really delivers. The opponents are also for the most part well characterised. Probably my biggest complaint their would go to Oikawa from the final game. Given how much screen time he had, including flash-backs, he still didn’t really become anything more than a prop. Just another opponent there to push the team forward. Still, with such a large cast of characters, plus coaches, opponents, and spectators, this show has done a marvellous job with the vast majority.


Minus –

Hinata is just not that interesting. When the story focusses on Hinata himself, you are forced to realise that underneath peppy energy and an absolutely fierce desire to improve and to win, there’s almost nothing else of substance. When every other character, even the ones who initial seem one-note, are delivering fairly nuanced performances, having a protagonist of sorts who is mostly just a standard cut out shonen protagonist (only playing volleyball and not waving a sword around) kind of lets things down from time to time. Hinata gets more interesting when he’s observing others, but when the focus is him it all just feels pretty basic. Of course, we do get to enjoy some Hinata speak where he kind of mangles onomatopoeia into his descriptions of game play. It’s amusing enough but after awhile you have to start wondering just how old he is meant to sound.


Plus +

While early on we had the win that really shouldn’t have happened given how inexperienced the team was, this show didn’t pull a last minute reprieve and victory just to end the season on a high note. Yet it also didn’t depress the viewer (though the characters are another story). It gave us some incredible character growth and something to look forward to, so I was pretty satisfied with that loss as I felt any other ending to the tournament would probably have just felt like plot armour anyway.


Minus –

This one is probably petty and is definitely totally subjective, but I really didn’t think much of the soundtrack. It works well enough but it is also pretty forgettable. Given how exciting some moments are and how dramatic the games get, it feels like we could have had something really memorable and amazing and instead we kind of got generic, this will do, kind of music. As I said, it is a petty complaint given there is nothing actually wrong with the music, but I’d struggle the day after an episode to even remember what the OP sounded like let alone any particular music from an episode.


I’m actually really glad I tried this (it had certainly been recommended to me enough). Again, I’m not certain what rewatch value this will have long term because honestly it feels like once I’ve gone through this journey with the characters that will be enough. But for an anime that combines two genres I’m not made-keen on it is an impressive and highly entertaining watch.


I know there are a lot of Haikyuu fans out there (and thanks for following my very late watch of this series). Let me know your favourite moments or characters or why you love this show. Or, if you didn’t like it, I’d love to know what didn’t work for you.

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Karandi James.


Darker Than Black Season 1 Series Review



Approximately 10 years ago a mysterious gate appeared in South America (Heaven’s Gate) and then another appeared in Tokyo (Hell’s Gate). At the same time the real stars disappeared from view and fake stars started appearing, as did people with special abilities known as contractors. After a war for control of Heaven’s Gate ended disastrously, the agency’s of the world now manoeuvre around each other for control of Hell’s Gate (so of course we are set in Tokyo).


If I was forced to ever write a list of my favourite anime of all time, Darker Than Black would be right up there. It wouldn’t be number 1, and probably would get bumped out of the top 5 all together because it is a flawed series (and that’s just season 1, eventually I will review season 2 and it will go about as well as my review for season 2 of Black Butler did). That said, this is an anime that I have watched at least once every year since I bought the DVD’s and if I’m honest it’s usually more than once in a given year that I pull it out to watch through again.


So what is the appeal of this series and what are some of the flaws? Let’s tackle them one at a time and then I’d love to turn it over to you guys for your thoughts.

Darker Than Black is episodic in nature with each mini-story being mostly stand-alone within a greater narrative. Each of the stories lasts for two episodes and follows much the same pattern (at least for the majority of the season – toward the end we get a more continuous run of events). During these stories we see the various representatives of the various organisations interacting and maneuvering within Tokyo and we slowly get to know them as individuals. But each of these stories also contain clues about the overall narrative and a lot of these will be missed first time round so mostly just seem like random bits of information being thrown around. Second time through it all kind of clicks together but that makes it difficult to embrace the first time.


Our first group of characters, and the one those of us who love Darker Than Black come to love, include Hei (a contractor who seems to control electricity and has way too many names), Mao (a contractor trapped in the body of a talking cat), Yin (a doll who can send her spectre through water to spy on others, and Huang (the human and supposed leader of this group). They work for a group known only as the Syndicate and they are clearly up to no good. While Huang passes along the orders and Yin and Mao act mostly as support, Hei tackles a range of missions including infiltration, recovery, assassination, and so on. The only problem is that Hei isn’t exactly a standard contractor.


This is where Darker Than Black loses a lot of its audience. It clearly establishes that contractors are completely emotionless and rational. They will always make the logical decision. Then we have multiple contractors who don’t do that (or at least not consistently). While the ending explains this, and these inconsistencies are actually a major part of the plot and are intentional, early on it just feels like sloppy world building as a fairly concrete rule is ignored time and again. With Hei being the main contractor that we get to know early on it makes it hard for the rules to really ground themselves. That said, if you watch it through, it actually does make perfect sense and I’m going to leave that discussion there because it is impossible to say why Hei is the way he is without throwing in a major plot spoiler for the end of the series. While I’m not normally all that concerned, in this case, it is kind of the big reveal that you are waiting for so just watch it and find out.


Another group we see a lot of are the police. Mostly this is through the eyes of Misaki Kirihara who also narrates the first and last episodes. She’s the audience’s way into this world (not high enough up to have all the government secrets, not a contractor, just a human doing her job) which allows her to give us the explanations we need and ask the questions we need asked in order to begin making sense of any of what is going on. Even then, she doesn’t get her answers until very near the end (and a lot of what she is told early on is misleading) and she doesn’t get everything wrapped up in a neat little package so don’t expect all the answers or you might just end up disappointed. That said, Kirihara is more than just a framing device. She’s a savvy and intelligent career driven woman who cares very much about the quality of her work. The loose ends bother her so even when advised to let things go she continues to dig. She also helps to humanize Hei who doesn’t have many real interactions with people (he usually has a mask on – sometimes literally but usually metaphorically). All and all, this group help push the plot along.


Mid-way through the season we are introduced to Evening Primrose, a terrorist group that is claiming they want human rights for Contractors. It’s clear from the beginning that this group are up to something else but again, we won’t know what that is until right at the end. That said, the fact that Hei has personal history with the group’s leader makes for some interesting encounters as Evening Primrose and the Syndicate face off numerous times over intelligence and various pieces of technology.


We also have the British Secret Service snooping around, usually with November 11 at the lead though after he encounters Amber and Evening Primrose he decides his best interests lie elsewhere (with fairly predictable results). November 11 is hilarious. He is so dry and laid back and often comes out with the most unexpected insights (usually following it up by telling the listener that he was joking). His memorised litany of facts about the dangers of second hand smoke is also kind of amusing considering his contract price (this show is big on irony) and you can’t help but wonder if the writers were paid by an anti-smoking campaign given the number of negative statements about cigarettes that come up during the run time.


There are also the Americans running around, though other than getting in the way a few times they aren’t overly significant. There’s other teams representing the same groups, there’s scientists, other dolls, gangsters for some reason in one of the stories, and all sorts of independent contractors all with their own set of values and agendas. There’s a lot going on in this world and you only ever feel like you are seeing the surface and that there is a greater story going on but because the characters we spend the most time with are in the dark so are we.

And that’s probably the greatest strength and flaw of the series. The story itself isn’t that deep. It’s a little weird and the gate phenomena is explained simply as being inexplicable, but Kirihara’s quest for answers around what the government are doing about the gate and with contractors and Hei’s quest for answers about what happened in South America and to his sister, both come to a reasonable and pretty obvious conclusion if you remove all the odd visual metaphors. And this could have been a really solid story by itself but there are a lot of other characters and plot threads that are just kind of hanging around and aren’t resolved and while at times those side stories support the main narrative, a lot of the time they are simply filling in time while we wait for the next bit of crucial information.

That said, I couldn’t really imagine this story any other way. It really wouldn’t be Darker Than Black anymore and while it suffers from trying to appear more clever than it is, that doesn’t actually stop it being enjoyable.


Before I begin wrapping up though, I watched this anime the first time with a friend of mine who was a massive Evangelion fan. His conclusion about the end was that it was a failed attempt at ripping off the confused mess that was the end of Evangelion (I actually like the end of Evangelion so confused mess isn’t actually all that negative). In honesty, visually, Darker Than Black becomes quite similar for a part of the final episode and does focus on an individual character’s choice about their future, and thinking on it from that point of view you would have to wonder what they were actually trying to accomplish. But it is distinct enough that it doesn’t feel like a rip-off (at least I didn’t think so).

Okay, last point to address before we get to the end. The Contractors themselves. These are some of the coolest powers and the fact that they come with such heavy price tags (so definitely a think before you use scenario) just makes them more interesting. The interesting match between the price and some fundamental characteristic of the contractor is intriguing and it just makes you wonder about those characters where their price isn’t given an explanation. I also love the link to the stars and that the death of a contractor means ‘their’ star will fall. It’s all really well thought out and well presented (and as I said at the start, the inconsistencies in the system are there for a reason).

 I love this anime. I get that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it has some great music, great action, interesting characters, and it develops a reasonable story that is resolved, even as the surrounding questions about the nature of the world are left mostly unresolved. It’s also got a lot of rewatch potential as those individual stories early on all hold clues and hints about where the overall story is going and most of these aren’t obvious the first time through. The more I rewatch this series, the more I love the characters and the details in this world.  Yeah, it’s definitely violent at times (there’s plenty worse) and there are some themes dealt with that might not be to everyone’s taste (the episode that dealt with a ‘doll’ being sold was definitely touching on a few sensitive issues), but overall it is a reasonably solid piece of entertainment.

If you haven’t given Darker Than Black a go, you really should try it. If you have given it a go, what were your thoughts?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Days Series Review – Sport Anime About Not Giving Up And Friendship and Stuff

Days Episode 18

Days Overview:

Our lead character in Days, Tsukishi Tsukamoto, doesn’t really have friends and doesn’t really have much going on but he’s a nice guy. One day, after starting high school, Kazama invites him on a whim to play and soon after Tsukamoto decides he wants to join the Seiseki Soccer team.

Problem is, they are a really good team and Tsukamoto has never played before. Can raw enthusiasm and determination really help him overcome his weaknesses and allow him to become part of the team?

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Days Review:

I’d be lying if I said the story of Days isn’t trite and overly generic drivel that’s been the basis of about a million stories before. I’m not even a fan of sports movies and shows and even I know the one about the loser who becomes the star player of the team.

Sports anime like to focus on hard work overcoming all difficulties though they do throw in a few cautions about talent. Maybe the writers think it is inspiring. Not that some people don’t have their hard work rewarded but there are plenty of others who will put in the time and effort and still get a big fat nothing for their efforts.

Days episode 7 - logic has no place in an inspirational sports anime.

Despite this set up which sounds like it should make me want to roll my eyes right outside of my skull, and a main character who normally I would call a pathetic doormat and find truly irritating (though I guess he’s a ‘nice guy protagonist‘ just not a particularly interesting one), and being based on a sport I could not care less about, I really enjoyed watching Days.

I found it genuinely charming and at times vaguely inspirational until my usual cynical self kicked in. That didn’t stop me wanting to call out with Tsukamoto as he cheered on his team mates and it didn’t stop me smiling when he finally intercepted the ball or realised what he should be doing on the field and it didn’t stop me nearly crying when he failed and felt the utter and complete devastation of that failure.

It also didn’t stop that big cheesy grin spreading over my face when he got right back up again and continued to try his hardest.

Days 23 - yep guts will get you anywhere according to anime.

It would be great if  I could say that there was a single concrete reason for this show working for me and yet that would also be a lie. There are pacing issues, animation issues, at times characterization is an issue as someone we barely know is suddenly important and you’re left rummaging through your head for any information you remember about them (large cast of soccer players from main team and competitors).

From any objective standpoint this show is average at best. Not terrible or broken. Just average.

Days episode 8 - why would you cheer for your opponent other than nice guy syndrome?

But maybe that’s enough. It’s a story we all know so they don’t waste time trying to be clever about the premise. There are no real unexpected twists and turns in the story and while there is a large cast this works in the show’s favour as we never really get sick of any one character and even those with obnoxious personalities aren’t around long enough to bring down the overall show.

Besides, there are some fun characters in this show. Mizuki (the Captain), the other first year players, Kimishita, the manager, and many of the opponents really shine in their moments before fading back into the background. This is Tsukamoto’s story and we are seldom allowed to forget that but that doesn’t stop us learning about these characters and falling in love with them as Tsukamoto really wants to be included in their world.

The animation isn’t amazing but were we tuning in to watch animated soccer or were we watching Tsukamoto and how he develops as a character. There’s a clear correlation between his improvement on the field and his mental state and yet even at the end he is riddled with insecurities about whether he ‘deserves’ to be part of the team.

Days 11 - Kazama getting fired up.

Probably my real criticism of this show would be Kazama. He is the one who leads Tsukamoto into the world of soccer and at times it looks like his journey should be significant as well but we get so few glances at this other side of the story. Kazama is talented and confident but has some real issues with trusting a team. He’s the opposite of Tsukamoto and giving their stories equal time so the moments where they intersect and help each other could have had more meaning.

Instead Kazama ends up almost like a fairy god-mother hovering around the edges of the story and giving Tsukamoto the tiniest of pushes when needed. The one moment of conflict between the two was resolved almost instantly. This is probably the weakest part of the series in my opinion.

So if you want to watch a trite (wondrous) journey of a wimpy (driven) character going from nothing to vaguely competent but still developing this first season of Days will probably be a fun watch. It’s full of warmth and heart and by the end you really will support this team in their push for Nationals – which of course we still need season 2 to find out what happens next.

Yep, season 1 leaves us without even knowing if they got to Nationals. I expected them to qualify and then if we got another season to see the Nationals but instead we still have the finals to qualify to go before we get there.

And then of course no season 2. There are apparently three episodes of an OVA that I’ve never seen but regardless, I’m guessing we’re just going to have to celebrate the victories we get during this season and be happy for the time we had.

Images from: Days. Dir. K Uda. MAPPA. 2016

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James