Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 4

Reivew:

With the beast titan having climbed the wall last episode I kind of thought that having sent the titans after the group in the tower he was done. Oh no. He’s hanging around to cause more problems and it is just the kind of cruelty you expect from Attack on Titan.

However, rather than just get into the fight we’re skipping back two hours (what is with this season and time skips?). Connie is still obsessing about his village and it seems like he is trying to convince himself everyone survived but the common sense part of his brain keeps rejecting that notion.

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Ymir is far more vocal this episode than I ever think we’ve seen her and it is to her detriment as she let’s something that seems like it should be important slip (however the show is not lingering on this point as there are titans to fight).

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Anyway, the fight actually starts out pretty well. Given how the soldiers have done previously against titans I wasn’t convinced it was going to be a long fight, but the scouts are actually pretty good. You know, until the beast titan launches boulders at the tower, they run out of blades and then gas. It all kind of goes downhill from there. Leading to the final scene and the big reveal of the episode, which most of us saw coming about midway through the episode but was still pretty cool.

This episode was excellent. It hit all the points I loved about the first episode of Attack on Titan ever. The feeling of being desperate and trapped, actual fear of the titans, the inevitable deaths, the few shock moments of survival, some reasonable action in amongst frantic action and waiting. It just kind of kept you on edge and waiting and was satisfying in what it delivered. More like this, please.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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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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Ajin Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

A continuation of Ajin on Netflix, the story picks up with Sato essentially declaring war on Japan through acts of terrorism and Nagai is still on the run. I have previously reviewed season 1 here.

Review:

If you haven’t watched the first season of this, it might be time to check it out. While there are certainly issues with the story, Ajin makes for some reasonably compelling viewing and at the very least isn’t really trying to justify the villains actions. At times the series attempts to look at the decisions made by governments and corporations where saving face and profits outweigh moral decisions. It may be a little in-your-face about it, but there is certainly a cautionary tale underlying the carnage, though it isn’t a central point in the narrative at any stage.

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We’ll address the biggest issue straight up. The animation and visuals. While they may appeal to some I personally find the character designs quite hideous and the way the characters move in their day to day interactions is actually quite creepy and unnerving. They look fantastic when they are in action or combat but the hand gestures, head tilts, facial expressions and everything else just feels wrong. It isn’t quite unwatchable but it definitely takes a few episodes to get used to and even then every now and then a character will move in a certain way or they’ll do a close up on a facial expression and I found myself pulled from the world they were trying to create. Essentially, if you can get over this, or if you are one of the people who thinks it looks good or at the least interesting, the rest of the show is very good. Not best ever, but certainly quite an enjoyable watch.

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There is absolutely no point in watching this second season without the first. Given season 1 spent a lot of time explaining what little is known about Ajin, season 2 does not bother. Occasionally new bits of information come to light but it won’t make any sense without the context provided in season 1. Also, all of the character relationships have been established in season 1 so while these are built on you kind of need the prior knowledge to really care.

So, let’s look at Ajin season 2 in more detail.

Nagai as a main character continues to attempt to be logical but there are definitely moments where his emotions break through the shell he’s built around himself. Most notably he starts to actually connect with others even as he insists he’s using them and that leads to some issues for him later on in the season.  We also see him briefly reunited with Kai. After the early stage of season 1, Kai just kind of disappeared, but now we learn he was put in detention for helping Nagai and his return is quite welcome even as it is brief.

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Perhaps the biggest change in Nagai’s character is that instead of running and avoiding he makes the decision to take the fight to Sato but knows he can’t do that alone. Enter a deal with Tosaki (who is in hot water all on his own due to his various failures and the murder he committed back in season 1). I’m guessing they were working on the principle of the enemy of my enemy might be my friend long enough to succeed. While I didn’t really believe Tosaki would make a deal with Nagai (and certainly wouldn’t honour it) the way the two interact after that is pretty realistic so if we just accept that they did make a deal and move on everything after that is fairly interesting. The two dislike each other on principle but both are cold and calculating enough to put that aside, but not enough to actually bother trying to play nice. It makes some of the down time between action sequences a lot more entertaining.

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Due to the increase in the terrorist attacks we see the playing field widen this season and we have various special forces and then the US become actively involved. Things just keep escalating which is exactly what Sato wants and it makes for entertaining if fairly senselessly violent entertainment. There are social issues addressed and there is certainly some blatant criticism of corporate culture (as I said earlier) but this isn’t the main focus.

Ultimately this season comes down to the show down between Sato and Nagai. Nagai doesn’t want to fight and Sato’s goals are bigger than dealing with Nagai but Nagai keeps getting in his way. It’s an interesting way to put to characters against each other when neither one really wants anything to do with the other but personal circumstances keep getting in the way.

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The other criticism I will make though is the music. While it is actually pretty well chosen and nice and dramatic, the show has this weird tendency to swap scenes almost mid-note and the music just kind of cuts out. It’s a little bit disconcerting (which may be what they were going for) but it also makes the transitions between scenes a little jarring.

Basically, season 1 was fun though had some exposition and character issues as well as predictable narrative structure. Season 2 drops the exposition dumping because we already know enough but substitutes in character dialogue that at times seems to exist only to fill in space. We still have some excellent action and a narrative that inherently works. Plus, season 2 resolves (but of course leaves just enough of a loose end for a season 3).

I’d recommend trying Ajin if you are into action or just like shows with a reasonable pace and violence. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are squeamish though. It isn’t the most graphic thing ever and season 2 isn’t as bad as season 1 (no direct torture) but it is still pretty bloody at times.


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Bungo Stray Dogs Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

Season 1 ended with the Guild attacking the Agency and essentially declaring war. Season 2 continues following Atsushi (mostly) as he works with the Agency to protect the city. I reviewed this episode to episode if you want to check out my thoughts (which progressively got more negative as the series continued).

Review (full of spoilers):

Bungo is such an odd show to try and review because there are moments and little snippets of plot that I absolutely love and then there is everything else that the show mixes into its little pot and tries to serve up to us as something resembling a character focused narrative. I say character focused because it surely can’t be plot focused. There is still nothing in this show that resembles an overarching plot.

Villains are introduced and  then as quickly discarded in this season as the first. Remember how bad Akutagawa  was supposed to be in season 1? If you see him, run. And then by the end of the season, absolutely nothing. He was easily dealt with and turns out he isn’t all that impressive. This season does it again. Over and over. Talk someone up. Show them being unstoppable and powerful. And then nothing.

Even the ‘final’ boss (who it turns out is not actually the final boss) is stupidly overpowered at first but his power has one very obvious flaw. Eventually he will run out of funds so just keep hitting him. Apparently Atsushi is completely untouchable given regardless of damage he seems to regenerate (but only when he is mid-battle and only when he really knows he can’t afford to lose) so just keep flinging Atsushi at the guy and eventually he’ll fail.

This doesn’t make for compelling viewing.

The best moments of season 2 come from the fairly independent arc showing Dazai’s past with the Port Mafia and the moments between Kyouko and Atsushi. While that isn’t a romance made in heaven and isn’t exactly brilliantly written or balanced in any way, it is one of the stronger narrative arcs going through the series and the reunion between the two at the end was actually kind of touching.

Another positive is the half episode devoted to Rampo. Locked door mystery and no Atsushi made this one of my favourite post-flash-back moments in season 2 and I really enjoy watching Rampo. He’s one of the few characters in the show I find consistently entertaining.

Last positive point, Lovecraft. Okay, we got zero explanation for this guy but he kind of sold every scene he was in and when he finally dove into the ocean I just kind of thought ‘oh, are we not getting to see any more of you’. One of the few characters I am sad to see leave.

So this leaves everything else. Dazai continues to be smugly perfect at everything and while I loved his flash-back episodes and brief reconciliation with his old partner from the Port Mafia, pretty much everything else Dazai related grated on my nerves, yet he still managed to be on my top male character list  from 2016 because when Dazai is entertaining he is very entertaining.

There are just too many characters chopping and changing meaning none of them get proper development, their motives are explained in info-dumps and then they leave. The fight sequences range from awesome to completely tacky to just plain dull so it is always hit and miss what you will get. Oh, and did I mention the absence of an actual plot other than Guild wants something so Guild smash city?

Overall, Bungo Stray Dogs season 2 can’t be called a disappointment as most of these issues are just continuations of the flaws of season 1, but I’m disappointed anyway that none of these seem to have been dealt with. Is it watchable? Definitely. Will you enjoy it? That entirely depends on whether you liked season 1 and whether you will put up with the issues. Pretty much if you thought season 1 was okay, check this out and you’ll probably get a few good moments from it.


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Food Wars Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

Yukihira Souma is back in the kitchen and battling it out to win the Autumn elections while blowing people’s clothes off with great tasting food.

I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in individual episode thoughts click here. I’ve also reviewed season 1.

Review:

Season 2’s always have a bit of trouble. Season 1 has usually used all of the real mind-blowing ideas and the fun of getting to know the characters has passed. So how do you make a good season 2? Very few shows really succeed.

That said, Food Wars Season 2 (or the second plate) really does work hard. They continue on with a competition set up in season 1, they introduce new and zany characters to try to compensate for the fact that a large number of the original cast aren’t actually involved in the competition, they ensure there is actually some sense of challenge for our protagonist so he isn’t just zooming through the competition. All of these things really should help season 2 out.

Yet, the whole way through I just found this season lacking. It was at its best when they weren’t in the kitchen and we got to see the characters interacting, but far too much time was spent in the competition. The comedy that really sold season 1 of what is essentially a cooking show was toned down and even the visuals while tasting the food seemed subdued (or at times just so bizarre that they lacked the impact they could have had).

If you are watching this show for Yukihira, then you will get a lot of him. His character growth this season is significant compared to season 1 where he only made minimal gains as a person. However, this focus comes at the expense of every other character and to be honest, Yukihira is not one of my favourite anime characters. I find him pretty obnoxious. While it was nice to see him growing up, I just wanted something to break up his screen time and there just wasn’t anything else happening this season.

There isn’t a lot more to say because if you haven’t watched season 1, this is all kind of irrelevant, and if you have you more or less know what to expect going in.

My recommendation: Can’t help you. If you watched season 1 and want to find out who wins the competition, you have to continue watching. If you don’t care who wins, then maybe give season 2 a miss because it isn’t bringing anything really new to the table and it isn’t as interesting as season 1 was.

 

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans Episodes 26 + 27

Overview:

Tekkadan are back and they’ve won some respect after the first season but things are far from secure for the group. A lot of plots are still running in the background while all new issues begin to raise their head in yet another Gundam anime.

Review Episode 26:

Time has passed but the critical plot points left over from season 1 have all been brought back (not in a way that would make all that much sense to people who hadn’t watched season 1, but enough that those of us who did don’t need to rewatch 25 episodes to make sense of this). The tone hasn’t changed in the slightest and neither has the weird habit of characters using incredibly stilted dialogue to convey their motives to one another (and I guess the audience). Everything has to be said outloud no matter how awkward that makes the dialogue at times.  Visually it is as impressive as ever and the music is definitely trying to push us into excitement mode. That said, this episode was weighed down with recap (without recapping) and constant shifts through the cast so we knew where everyone was up to after the last season. I’m kind of expecting more of the same from season 1 which will leave this as a Gundam series I enjoyed watching but not one of my favourite shows ever.

Review Episode 27:

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Yep, more of the same. We’ve had our action set piece so now everyone will sit around and reflect on their failures and their next moves. In the meantime, we’ll also ensure that our newly introduced and seemingly driven character is given a rushed backstory that is much the same as everyone else’s but somehow it has twisted his logic into an incomprehensible mess. The takeaway from this episode is that in expanding as fast as it did after the events last season, Tekkadan is no longer the cohesive group it was as the original members are fiercely loyal to their leader and an ideal whereas other members have their own thoughts about the priorities of the organisation. All and all, we’re setting up for everything to fall apart so right on track for most Gundam shows really.

Iron Blooded Orphans is available on AnimeLab.

Snow White with the Red Hair Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

We’re back in Clarines with Shirayuki, Zen and the rest but Zen’s brother Izana is scheming again. Shirayuki is sent to Tanbarun (her home kingdom) to attend a ball with Prince Raj and Zen is not invited. After some touching moments there, Shirayuki is kidnapped and then we spend most of the rest of the season rescuing Shirayuki.

Review:

Season 2’s are always a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the wow factor has faded away and the characters have already developed to a certain extent and relationships have been forged. It’s hard to balance ongoing development, while maintaining what people like about a show, and manage to keep it interesting and fresh.

So does Season 2 of Snow White with the Red Hair succeed?

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The answer is mostly.

I absolutely loved season 1, as you probably figured from my review, and I fell in love with the characters. I particularly liked the relationship that had developed and consolidated between Shirayuki and Zen. This is where season 2 took a big risk. Most of the season separates these characters and at first it seems like a really contrived way to stretch out a love story. However, by the time Zen realises that Shirayuki is in potential danger and goes chasing into the next kingdom to get her back, you realise we kind of needed to see these characters apart again.

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Part of what fans of the series loved was Shirayuki’s independence even as she became closer to Zen. In order for the audience to realise that Shirayuki is still that intelligent and independent character we need to have her travel on her own, take on Raj as a person, and genuinely stand on her own two feet. It might seem disappointing that this interlude is ended when she is kidnapped leading to the need have not one but two princes follow after her to rescue her, the kidnapping doesn’t make Shirayuki appear weak. Yeah, she is genuinely in over her head and she isn’t getting out of it on her own. And yes, she’s scared. But she still faces this challenge with her usual quiet determination and while there are some excellent moments where her fear and anxiety is allowed to show, for the most part she is very calm under extreme circumstances.

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More importantly, Zen as a character didn’t get as many chances to shine in season 1. He had his moment or two, but Shirayuki stole the show out from under him. It’s important that we see him refusing to let Shirayuki go, refusing to allow a difficult political situation (or his brother) stand in his way, and that he has learned a lot about how to take on challenges in his time with Shirayuki in season 1.

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So both Zen and Shirayuki get to show us the full extent of their growth since coming together. And they are only given this chance because the show took a risk and split them apart. Not in a childish or petty fight (like some stories would have), but by a series of circumstances that force them to rise to the occasion.

We also get far more back story for the attendants. Kiki get’s her moment and while I was less fond of these episodes, they certainly helped us develop a clearer picture of the fairly stoic character. We also see more of her relationship with Mitsuhide and these moments are really quite cute. That said, I felt like they were also some of the weaker moments of the season.

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Obi, on the other hand, glowed. We see his relationship with both Shirayuki and Zen pushed and tested. One of my favourite moments came when Obi challenged Zen to a fight in order to prove he was able to be Shirayuki’s attendent while she was away. And Obi’s reaction when he failed to protect Shirayuki from being kidnapped was priceless. Pretty much every scene with Obi this season was spot on and I’m glad we got to meet someone from his past. Even though most of what was revealed we could have guessed, it was excellent seeing this get some screen time.

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We also meet Shirayuki’s father which is all kinds of interesting but I won’t say anymore about that because it would ruin the surprise if you haven’t watched.

My main criticisms of season 2 are these:

  1. The herbalists are all but non-existent. Which given how hard Shirayuki worked to become a court herbalist during season 1 just seems a little drastic. I know she doesn’t have a lot of time to make medicine while being kidnapped and all, but it just felt like this aspect of the show (and a crucial part of her character) really got sidelined for most of the season.
  2. What was with that ending? Unless we get a season 3, I am never going to be able to watch season 2 without wanting to knock Zen over the head (or Shirayuki – not sure who deserves it more after that last episode). Yes, anime relationships in sweet romances are notorious for moving slowly but that was ridiculous. Without saying what happened, when I finished the last few minutes of the final episode I immediately searched to see if a third season had been announced because it just felt like it was unfinished. Yes, we can fill in the blanks on our own, but no, I don’t want to, I want to see it.

Once again though, Snow White with the Red Hair has delivered a really nice fairy-tale like story that just makes you feel happy to be watching. If you haven’t checked it out, give it a go.

Food Wars Season 2 Episode 7

Review:

While going into this episode I really didn’t care who won this battle as neither of the characters competing had particularly interested me up until this point, somehow I got drawn into their match. The moment of judging was particularly tense and that outcome was actually kind of cool. I’m not going to say anything else about plot so let’s move on to the visual metaphors. An eagle vs a tiger for the most part (a theme which carried to the taste reactions) coupled with some sort of card battle theme which actually worked really well considering the characters and the context. Okay, it was still a one off duel in the kitchen but this episode packed a lot more punch than some of the previous ones.

And Soma sitting with Erina and Alice for most of the cooking was kind of perfect.

Food Wars is available on Crunchyroll.