March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 Episode 23: I Missed This

Overview:

March Comes in Like a Lion is back and we are resuming Rei’s journey as he figures out how to live and what he wants. If you missed my review of season 1 be sure to check it out.

Review:

The second season has started and initially we find ourselves with a more upbeat Rei. He’s engaged with the science/shogi club and actually opening his window and not dreading the outside world. We quickly see however that as much as things are going well for him, there is no instant fix for the deep and complex emotional issues that have plagued Rei from the beginning.

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Still, there’s a more upbeat tone to the opening song and far more interaction from Rei with others than the first season ever gave us. He’s also proactive  in deciding to visit the sisters and to share his story with them. Emotionally this was a joy to watch as was the realisation that they aren’t sweeping any of the issues under the rug. The opening might be more upbeat but it isn’t all sunshine and roses and the visuals are still brilliant at depicting emotional states. All and all, an excellent start to a second season and hopefully I continue to love being on this journey with Rei.

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One criticism, just so it doesn’t look like I’m giving this show a free pass because of emotional connections, they hit us with the shogi cats in the first episode this season (just thankful they didn’t sing the song).

Anyway, loved this. Can’t wait for more.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Series Review: How Much Trouble Can One Tanuki Get Into?

Overview:

As I went to write this, it occurred to me that I have yet to actually review season 1 of this show so I really must bump that up my priority list given reviewing season 2 without season 1 just seems odd. That said, season 2 picks up the story in the year following the events of season 1 and the tanuki are still trying to elect a trick magister and Yasaburo’s way too serious brother Yaichiro is still trying to follow in his father’s footsteps and assume the role. However, Yasaburo is not content to just have one thing going so once again he is interfering in tengu and human affairs as things get more and more out of control. I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.

Review:

The Eccentric Family is one of those very odd anime where there is a story and you could boil it down fairly simply in terms of the main plot, and yet that is almost incidental to what you are actually going to be watching. Season 2 follows the same format as season 1, in that we’ll mostly be following Yasaburo on his rambles around as he stirs up trouble and mischief, offers ‘advice’, and generally seeks out trouble for the sake of having a bit of fun. That said, season 2 seems to have decided it was time for a number of the cast members to grow up and so we have far more focus on romance and relationships outside of the family than in the previous season. There’s also a few quite dark moments (though season 1 did deal with the fall out of their father getting eaten so even though it is a comedy it isn’t as though it wasn’t always dealing with tragedy in one form or another).

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Because of the large cast and the rambling nature of the plot, it is more or less impossible to summarise the story given any summary is going to leave out massive amounts of subplot, all of which come back into the main storyline eventually. Basically season 2 follows yet another attempt at tanuki society electing a new trick magister only this time things seem to be going relatively smoothly for Yaichiro with almost no-one in tanuki society standing against him. The issue comes that Akadama-sensei has refused to be the tengu representative and has instead appointed Benten (who eats tanuki) and so the tanuki ask the recently returned not-tengu (his own insistence), Nidaime, to oversee the election instead, which really upsets Benten. Clearly that’s not all that is going on given we have a trip to hell, the return of the banished uncle, not one but two budding romances, the Friday Fellows seeking out yet another tanuki to eat, and multiple other storylines just bubbling along. Despite the sheer amount of content this show packs in it never feels overly rushed and even when things initially feel random, you know they will make sense eventually so you kind of just wait for them to twist back into the main narrative and then it all just kind of clicks.

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Basically, if you liked season 1 and enjoyed this eccentric cast walking around and having off beat conversations while stuff happens and they react, then season 2 gives you more of the same with a slightly more mature tone at times and with Yasaburo having a few more moments of reflection given even he realises that eventually his actions are going to get him killed.

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My favourite part of season 2, other than the music and the character designs which I loved in season 1 as well, was the inclusion of Nidaime. Any scene where he and Benten appeared together was fantastic. The tension between those characters and the occasional explosive encounters were well worth waiting for though I regret that they didn’t get a chance to meet in the aftermath as it would be interesting to see where they’ve ended up after that final encounter.

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Benten is still a fantastic support character in her own right, stealing literally every scene she is in, but this season she isn’t alone amongst a seemingly male dominated cast as Kaisei and Gyokuran (the two tanuki love interests) definitely step into the spot light at times (and isn’t it nice that these fool brothers are finding some fairly sensible matches to help keep them from going too far).

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The one complaint I would raise is that the ‘magic’ seems to have gone missing from a lot of this season. Yes, the tanuki still do transform but this is for the most part no big deal. There are a few encounters between Nidaime and Benten, however the last of them ends in hair pulling and barely anything of note (other than a storm being summoned and how jaded am I that this barely registered as magical). Basically, season 1 had a sense of wonder about the supernatural even as it worked to integrate the magical world into the city of Kyoto. Season 2 makes everything fairly common place and a lot of the wonder has just kind of fizzled. Admittedly, it was replaced by higher emotional stakes but I missed that feeling as I watched this season.

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If you’ve never given The Eccentric Family a go, don’t start with season 2. It assumes an understanding of the events of season 1 and the relationships between most of the characters are already pre-established and assumed knowledge. That said, this is one anime worth trying because it is kind of zany fun with a lot of drama thrown in and certainly feels a bit different.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 12

Review:

Pretty sure I’d given up expecting a Nidaime/Benten face off and yet that’s what we get this week after Benten ‘allows’ Yasaburo to crash the flying bus straight into Nidaime’s home. Yasaburo really does think on his feet and yet he never thinks long term.

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Needless to say, Nidaime’s reaction to the destruction of his home is fairly explosive, but only after a sulk session. It’s probably where we see his true character coming out for the first time beneath his reserved exterior. He’s someone who when he doesn’t get his way packs the toys into the toy box and stomps off, and that kind of explains everything about him and why he left Kyoto in the first place. Just in case we weren’t clear though, they do give us a flash back to the fight against Akadama-Sensei that started it all and to be honest, that was kind of unnecessary given all the pieces had really come into place without it and all that seemed to do was break the pace of what was otherwise a fairly brilliant final episode.

That said, the fight against Benten was both cool and lame simultaneously. I never expected a fight between the two to result in hair pulling and biting and that just seemed all kinds of childish, particularly when Nidaime set Benten’s hair on fire (though you can’t say she didn’t deserve it at that point).

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Anyway, Akadama-Sensei returns after Benten is run off, makes a statement that indicates that Yasaburo is no longer excommunicated, and then has words with a crying Nidaime who has finally calmed down enough to see the destruction of his own home.

And that’s it. Crisis averted. Still, there’s all the loose ends to tie up including a tanuki wedding and so the final moments of the episodes have Yasaburo bouncing around to catch up with literally every character of importance so they can all have their moment of closure. That said, Yasaburo and Kaisei are too cute together so hopefully they work it out so he can actually look at her eventually given they’ve finally agreed they are going to get married one day. However, it is Nidaime’s words to Yasaburo that really sum everything up.

And as Yasaburo says, that clearly a result of his fool’s blood.

So the second season of this very odd show brings us right back where we started with the tanuki seeking a fun life, the tengu doing tengu things, and the humans being for the most part irrelevant to the actual plot and merely a minor hindrance in the grander scheme of things. I’ll do a full series review shortly.

The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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My Hero Academia Episode 26

Review:

This was a much more low-key episode than what we’ve been watching but it was quite effective as we see the students all hyped up after the tournament and moving into an internship and we also finally get to see the full impact on Iida of his brother’s attack.

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While we saw the attack and saw Iida visit his brother previously, that was kind of background to the tournament. This episode, it takes a far more central role and is certainly the major point of drama given the silliness going on in the classroom with the name choosing (silliness here is not synonymous with nonsense – it was a really good way to re-establish the personalities of some of the lesser known students and to see where our main characters were sitting emotionally).

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We also got a blast from the past with the mumbling Midoriya returning to the scene showing once and for all that for all of his growth, Midoriya will remain who he is.

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If I had to pick a fault with this episode it would be the moment where Iida heads off to his internship and Midoriya’s exposition heavy voice over. I get that this kind of works for the genre and given how light the episode was it did add some tension as it foreshadowed darker events, but it was just so unnecessary. We already knew that Midoriya was worried about Iida (as is their teacher) and we already knew that Iida was about to bite off more than he could chew. Putting it out there in such an obvious way just felt really clunky and like they didn’t trust the way they’d portrayed the characters to convey the idea and so they just had Midoriya say it straight out.

Okay, I’m an episode behind now but hopefully I’ll catch up at some point along the way. Still really enjoying this season of My Hero Academia.

My Hero Academia is available on Crunchyroll.


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Attack on Titan Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

Continuing on from season 1 after the fight with Annie, the scouts are trying to investigate when reports of titans inside the walls come in. Then we spend a lot of time running around and screaming. It is attack on titan afterall. I reviewed individual episodes of this while it was airing so if you are interested in my thoughts on the episodes click here.

Review:

This season was very much like season one for me in that I really loved the first half and let myself get swept away with it, and then in the second half the nagging feeling that this show can’t remember that it is actually supposed to have a plot started kicking in. The difference being that season one started with that incredible titan attack sequence that just blew me away and sucked me straight into the story whereas season two’s first episode, while it had its own charm, just isn’t going to stack up. The other major difference being with half as many episodes, things derailed a bit faster this time round then last time.

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Before I get into the positives, of which there are many given despite my complaints I’m still watching this show and still actually hopeful season 3 will come out next year as announced, I am going to go through my major issues with this season.

The first is the pacing and the way plot points are introduced and dealt with. Attack on Titan does not have good pacing. It didn’t in season 1 and it hasn’t fixed the issue in season 2. The Beast Titan makes an appearance early on, we get one other appearance and then he vanishes until the tease right at the end of the series. Delaying information is a fine tactic for building suspense when done right. Something like ACCA did it very well. But in this instance we don’t have any clues or ideas and there’s no reminders of this particular plot point. It just kind of appears and then goes and nobody even seems to mention it thereafter. Much like the titans in the walls who seem important only no one seems to be in much of a rush to deal with that issue. Or what happened to Annie? Or the key from last season? And when did Eren actually become the hope for humanity? Stuff happens or is said but nothing is built on.

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Another problem, the first half of this season deals almost entirely with the side cast as each seems to get an episode focus and then once they are reunited the focus shifts entirely onto Eren and Reiner. And while some of these episodes are very good (more on that when I get to the positives), there isn’t really a lot of cohesion between these stories and when we eventually slam all these characters together only a few actually survive all these plots being crammed together to have any further relevance. It kind of feels like most of those episodes exist only so you stop calling Sasha ‘potato girl’ and can actually distinguish characters from the support cast if you have never read the manga.

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Honestly, the show really only knows how to deal with one thing at a time. There’s never any subtlety in the presentation and as a direct result when we are investigating the titans in the wall, that’s all we’re doing. When we are learning about Ymir’s back story, that’s all we’re doing. While some shows might get away with that, Attack on Titan has created the problem of far too many ideas, and if it is only dealing with one at a time that means it has shelved everything else and the audience is just left waiting. I think Eren’s basement got mentioned once in this second season. Season 1 it seemed like a big deal but apparently it isn’t a big enough deal that we actually need to mention it or even seem to remember it. More importantly, once the action starts, all of the ideas kind of get tossed and instead we just get to see this show be cool action.

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Of course my final major issue is our supposed protagonist, Eren. He says it himself that he hasn’t changed at all and while he might have said that in the midst of understandable depression and desperation, it really rang far too true. He hasn’t changed. He’s the same angry little kid shouting at the world and just kind of demanding that it fix itself in a way that benefits him. While he has had some development over the two seasons, he’s still just plain unlikable. The fact that the other scouts seems to realise he is the single most irritating person in the world doesn’t help. It isn’t exactly surprising that his return to the main group at mid-season marked the down-turn in my enjoyment of the show.

So now that it sounds like I hate the show, I’m going to turn this around and tell you why you should probably watch this season anyway (if you haven’t already).

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For all its faults with story and character, Attack on Titan gets one thing right every single time. It gets into the audience’s head and it moves the audience. Whether it is the visual spectacle and tragedy of Mike getting torn apart at the start of the season, the horrified expressions on the young scouts faces as they realise that the older scouts (the only ones with weapons) have finally lost and are being eaten alive by titans, Reiner’s casual but show stopping declaration that he was the armoured titan, of the final episode of this season where they mirrored the death of Eren’s mother right in front of him yet again, this show manages to make you sit up and take notice. It might be shock, it might be sadness, it might be anger, but while watching you feel these emotions surging through you and these images and the sounds stick in your head after the episodes are done. Plus, the titan tossingmoment in the final battle was kind of fantastic. This season is worth watching just for the touching Eren/Mikasa moment in the final episode. As much as I dislike both of those characters, that was one excellently handled emotional point.

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Part of this is due to the artwork. The world, the titans, and the characters while not beautiful (not the right descriptor) are perfectly suited to the story they are telling. There’s an enormous focus on character reactions to the horror surrounding them and this is told largely through their eyes and they are impressively expressive. The titans this season no longer had the surprise factor that season one gave them, but they still managed to make them suitably creepy and devastating. Even the smaller titans were made incredibly terrifying, particularly when Sasha was facing off with one without and gear. There’s a few moments where the animation might be off, but this show is still incredibly impressive from a visual point of view.

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The music also remains on point. It took nearly half the season before the theme song grew on me but it certainly did and while I still don’t understand the point of some of the visuals in that opening, I actually began looking forward to it as it framed the episode nicely. However, it is the music and sound-effects throughout the episodes that will really just drag you in. They aren’t intrusive but rather add to an immersive viewing experience. The show also makes fairly affective use of silence in the final episode which was a pretty excellent choice.

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So pretty much if you are going to sit a pick faults with the storyline, you will most definitely find them. If you want to pull characters apart and look at whether they seem like real people or have real motivations or any kind of normal reaction to situations, you will probably find it fairly easy to fault this season. If you think too hard about all the story threads that seem to get pulled into the spot light for a brief moment and then tossed aside, you will absolutely be disappointed. However, if you strap in and just watch, you will probably get swept away by the grandeur of the moment and watch some pretty cool fights and some really tragic deaths.

My review of season 1 finished like this:

It’s beautiful, fast paced, and dramatic and when it is at its best it truly shines and those moments will carry you over the slower bits. If we actually get a continuation that matches the feel and quality of season 1 then this could be a very memorable anime. Otherwise I think it is one of those ones that had its moment in the sun but without finishing won’t have staying power.

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My thoughts have changed a little as season 2 was far better during the first half when it did finally focus on some of the more interesting characters. However, it still suffers from a lack of ending and without knowing where all these conspiracies and plot threads are going there’s little other than a wait and see mind set when thinking about how I feel overall about this show.

That said, I’d love to know your thoughts on season 2 if you’ve finished watching it. I know some of the bloggers out there loved this season a lot more than I did but some have been more critical please feel free to share your stance now that it has concluded.


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Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 12

Review – Yes Spoilers:

Okay, I’m still kind of annoyed that we don’t know what’s up with the Beast Titan (but hey, there’s a nice tease at the end of the episode in case we forgot he was supposed to be significant), we don’t know what’s in Eren’s basement, we don’t know why some Titans can shift and some can’t and why eating someone transferred that power to Ymir, but credit where it is due, they did answer something in this final episode of season 2.

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Levi, I totally agree with this point given the speed of reveals compared to the speed of the deaths in this show.

The episode began with the smiling titan advancing on Eren and Mikasa. Hannes swoops in to save them and after putting up quite a good show manages to die heroically and bloodily right in front of Mikasa and Eren (because those two need more trauma in their lives). This actually led to a fairly nice moment of near silence. For a show that normally pelts us with sound from everything (horses, wind, capes, weapons, screams) the sudden silence was jarring and probably one of the most affective things it has done in terms of creating a moment. Still, hard to take Hannes’ death too seriously after watching some of the other deaths from other scouts. Why does this one smiling titan insist on splattering the surrounds with blood and gore while others manage to eat in a way that looks like they belong in a Saturday morning cartoon?

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This is the cartoon version – I will never stop laughing at this image.

But, I will say this for Eren. He is the type to never give up. He’ll just keep doing the same stupid thing over and over even when it doesn’t work. But he will get really angry with himself and need a pep-talk from Mikasa. And points to her, she actually seemed to be a real person for about two minutes in this episode with a real and genuine personality.

I’m totally overlooking the Ymir and Historia bit but to be honest they didn’t do anything with Christa/Historia. Ymir ultimately went with Reiner after a touching farewell, but weren’t the scouts looking for Christa as well because she knew something about the walls? Why didn’t they even hint at that later in the episode? We got confirmation about Connie’s village and Levi and Ervin now know what the audience has known for a few episodes that the titans inside the walls were the people from the village (did someone poison a well, or how does that happen?) but Christa’s story never gets mentioned.

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So last point I’ll touch on is the actual answer we got. A while back Reiner mentioned that Eren was a coordinate (or might be) and we had no context for what that might have meant. This episode, we get to see just what that means even if Eren is too dumb to figure out what just happened. And I guess Reiner’s point of view about Eren having the coordinate is pretty understandable given Eren is not the person I’d want to entrust with that sort of power either.

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Anyway, I now have to think back over the whole of this season and figure out where I stand on it. There have been some good moments but my overall impression is really mixed. I’ll write a full season review soon.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 10

Review:

This show continues to charm with its pleasant character interactions and exchanges even while it drops some pretty big bomb shells in this episode. Things have been heating up for a while and a lot of the plot threads have started to come together but now we get the big revelation for this season and it is definitely matching up with the expectations season 1 gave us.

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Not the revelation but a line that was too cute to ignore.

This episode is dealing with the fall out of Yasaburo’s choices in convincing the Nidaime to be the tanuki representative when the Trick Master is chosen rather than Benten. Admittedly, the logic behind that makes sense because even though Yasaburo kind of likes Benten, she does eat Tanuki so it would be kind of hard for them to have her around. Not to mention they all turn into furballs at the sight of her. Still she isn’t exactly someone you want looking for you.

Still, the real revelation comes through the second eldest brother visiting some branch family on his journey. I wasn’t paying enough attention to that particular plot point thinking it was only a minor concern but they just revealed something that is literally going to change everything about how this season wraps up and needless to say it has to do with the whole election of the Trick Master and the feud between the families that they so neatly tucked away a few episodes ago.

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But before the full weight of that reveal sinks in, Kaisei reappears in front of Yasaburo. While part of her presence there just reinforces what we had just learned, the next moments, while not unexpected, certainly escalate the tension of this series. They are clearly going for a very dramatic finish and we’ve not got all the key players in place.

I’m just hoping they don’t actually eat a tanuki.

The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 11

Review:

There were so many moments in this episode where I just had to stop the episode and ask what on earth they were doing. Admittedly, the first half of this second season seemed like it had finally taken the hint and was working to develop the world and characters as well as lead us toward some answers. It was really, really enjoyable and nicely done. This second half however has devolved into more or less the mess that the second half of season one fell into. Events occurring and then more events (with some shouting in between).

There’s only one episode left of this second season. At this point there is zero chance of anything happening to allow this to end well (or logically, sensibly, or satisfyingly) and that is a real shame. Unfortunately, they will always choose cool over substance in this plot and as a direct result we have a mess.

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When did Attack on Titan start doing panels? I’m thinking back through all the previous episodes and when this style might have been used and I’m drawing an absolute blank. Why in the second last episode of the second season would you suddenly decide to do this? A more appropriate time to try this would have been back when Reiner pulled Eren aside to reveal he was a titan. A reveal of that magnitude would have deserved an artistically different choice and wouldn’t have felt as out of place as this moment did.

Then we have Mikasa revealing what we already knew. Her sole reason for existing in this anime and in this world is to save Eren. While I wouldn’t mind her wanting to save Eren while accomplishing other goals, her absolute single minded focus makes her an incredibly dull character. She doesn’t talk much, but she wastes what few words she has this episode on threats and lines you would expect a b grade villain to utter. Her absolute dismissal of the situation for the other characters also pretty much shuts down any possibility that we might find out their actual motives because you know, we still don’t know where they are going or why they are wanting Eren or Christa other than vaguely knowing they are going ‘home’ and that Christa knows something about the walls (not sure what), and Eren might be something but that point hasn’t been explained and yet:

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Where did that come from? And why does everyone just buy that? Since when was Eren being held up as humanities only hope? So frustrated right now.

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But hey, looks cool. Okay, some people will really enjoy this because we’re back to fast paced action for most of the second half of the episode and it is a cool fight (even if a lot of what is going on makes very little sense and once again a lot of the ‘extras’ get mowed down without drawing a weapon – aren’t these guys trained).  The titan throwing at the end was particularly cool to look at. But cool does not make for a good storyline and to be honest, the parts of the story I’m wanting to see kind of get buried here.

One more to go. I’d cross my fingers and hope for a worthwhile conclusion but I’d really hate to end up disappointed so at this stage I’ll just kind of hope for a really cool fight and maybe I’ll get that.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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My Hero Academia Episode 24

Review:

This episode is a bit blur like given we get 5 separate match ups and we get a lot of time out of the stadium dealing with the fallout of Midoriya and Todoroki’s fight from last week. I’m not upset about this as everything that is covered is kind of needed to get us to the end of the tournament and I’m glad they didn’t overly dwell on anything in this episode in particular, but it means that this episode works as a transition and not a lot else.

That said, there’s still a few major points that come up.

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Firstly, Todoroki is confronted by his father and it seems that My Hero Academia isn’t going for the instant healing of childhood trauma. Certainly Todoroki has a bit of a break-through in his fight with Midoriya but he isn’t about to let go of all of that baggage just because of one fight. My respect for the writers of this show shot up enormously after that revelation.

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Secondly, one of the teachers at the school finally acted like an adult and pretty much told Midoriya to stop breaking himself at the drop of the hat. The permanent disfigurement suffered already should have been incentive enough for him to tone it down but this is Midoriya we’re talking about so hopefully he pays attention.

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Also, we get a new villain in the mix who I’m guessing will become a bit more relevant after the tournament wraps up (unless the villains actually are psycho enough to attack a stadium full of pro-heroes – that could be amusing but deeply stupid). Okay, he does take out Iida’s brother here and that is probably going to lead to some other character trauma but that point, while made, wasn’t exactly prominent.

Lastly, Todoroki and Bakugo both made it through to the final round (like we were expecting anything else after Midoriya was taken out of the running).

As I said, this episode isn’t particularly good as a stand alone episode (unlike the previous two stories that have been phenomenal to watch just because of what they delivered in the episode), but it works well enough at getting us from point A to point B and has more than enough relevant plot points to ensure it isn’t an entirely skippable bit of filler. Looking forward to the next episode.

My Hero Academia is available on Crunchyroll.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 9

Review:

This show continues to demonstrate it really understands the bonds between its characters and it is that spiderweb of relationships and the stain that gets put on certain strands that makes this episode great. Admittedly, by itself it isn’t particularly impressive, but having seen all the pieces getting put into place leading up to this episode and then the episode terminating with one of the more dramatic entrances of the series and setting up a face off between Benten and Nidaime which we’ve essentially wanted since meeting Nidaime this season, plus placing the Tanuki right in the middle of it all just kind of makes everything work.

As usual Yasaburo is getting in way over his head and being cautioned by his brother, however he plows on with his plan though I don’t think even he realised just how big a storm he was in the process of stirring up.

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As viewers we’ve known that the Nidaime and Benten had to have had some backstory even though up until now they haven’t admitted to knowing each other previously. We’ve also known that a show down between the two was more or less inevitable and that when it finally happened it would be explosive. This episode leaves us poised for that show down but I can’t help but think they may delay a little longer, possibly fill in the back story or choose to go a different path. This show has never been about direct confrontations and has had a fairly interesting tendency to have situations resolve in unusual ways so I’m actually looking forward to the next choice. Whether I get a fight between these characters or not, I’m sure to be entertained.

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The Eccentric Family is available on Crunchyroll.


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