Cowboy Bebop Series Review – Netflix’s Live Action Take on a Legendary Anime

Cowboy Bebop Netflix Live Action Review

It is very hard to make a fandom happy and anime fandoms are notoriously hard to please when it comes to live action adaptations of their beloved franchises. Netflix’s announcement that it was adapting Cowboy Bebop was therefore met with a mixture of derision and some cautious hope that maybe, just maybe, they would get it right.

As the promotional art and trailer came out you could find discussions everywhere online as people dissected the outfits, the actors, the music, and literally everything else they could glean from bare minutes of footage and some interviews.

Through it all, I kind of remained on the fence other than my usual general cautiousness about any remake or adaptation given how few have ended well and I’ve learned from past experience that ignoring the rumour mill and watching the show once it is available is about the only way to make my mind up about something. And unlike so many other anime fans, I don’t have a long history with Cowboy Bebop or any particular emotional connection to the original anime.

See, the first time I watched Cowboy Bebop was during 2020 (otherwise known as the year that will not be named). I still haven’t gotten through a full rewatch and I haven’t even started drafting a review of the anime at this point. Largely because it does have a very strong fan base and I really want to make sure I get the review right when I finally put it out (mostly because while I enjoyed the series I’m not holding it up on a pedestal with all my other hopes and dreams and looking at it only through the lens of nostalgia).

So, the Cowboy Bebop live action came out on Netflix and I watched it from start to finish. And I’m going to say, it was a pretty fun viewing experience.

Cowboy Bebop cast
NETFLIX © 2021

Others may not appreciate it, but I found Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop a fun romp through space.

I’ve already seen the headlines online and my twitter feed has run the negative reactions passed me, but honestly this is a series that took the characters and premise from an anime, narrowed the focus a bit, tweaked a few points and considered what to include, what to leave out, and made a few deliberate changes, and generally managed to produce a piece of entertainment that works in its own right.

Sure, if you want to do a scene by scene dissection against the anime it is pretty obvious that this Cowboy Bebop isn’t just a recreation. And in fairness, the ending of the anime is so much stronger emotionally than the half-hearted ending we have here with Netflix quite clearly banking on a season two rather than letting the characters run their course and providing a solid resolution for them and the audience.

But it is not a cautionary tale about adapting anime. For me, Cowboy Bebop was a triumph giving me a lot of what I had enjoyed in the anime series in a slightly different form and with different packaging, but by and large presenting great characters with a story to tell.

There were only two moments in the live action series when I really felt jarred from my suspension of disbelief. One was an early fight scene in which Spike Spiegel, played fairly gloriously by John Cho, is punching some random guy but there is almost no weight behind his punches. This happens in a few other fight sequences where the moves seem right but it doesn’t look convincingly like the blows are landing or that they would do any damage.

The second moment is unfortunately during the final act where Julia’s character ends up in a car crash for reasons almost too stupid to contemplate but it was directly caused by someone else sitting in the car and the whole sequence was just so mind-blowingly dumb that it nearly soured the final episode.

Anyway, if a series these days makes it nearly ten episodes with only one or two moments that genuinely make you sit back and ask ‘what the hell are you doing’ then usually that is a pretty good sign. Of course, the conclusion where Netflix is obviously gunning for a sequel will also have fans of the Cowboy Bebop anime shaking their heads but it is a sign of the times. Let’s be honest, creating an ongoing franchise is more or less the goal of every new release.

So what is there to like about this new version of Cowboy Bebop?

The characters are fantastic. Admittedly, there is very little subtlety in the script and exposition tends to just be dropped into conversation with key reveals coming earlier in the series than the anime may have leading to a different view on some situations, but if you aren’t locked into a pre-conceived notion of each of these characters, the live action ones are pretty good.

By Netflix live action standards, I’m going to elevate that to very good.

I’ve already mentioned that outside of a few fight scenes I loved John Cho as Spike. Jet, played by Mustafa Shakir, is very solid in the role pulling Spike into line, doing an excellent job of showing Jet’s frustration and sadness at his past dishonour being framed and the disconnect from his child, and also just holding the core cast together.

Though, if I’m honest, my favourite in this new adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is Faye, played by Daniella Pineda. A character who could very easily have become unlikeable manages to play her role with a lot of heart and she brings a real sense of fun to most of her scenes. And you know what, I don’t care that they changed her outfit.

Vicious is a little bit more hit and miss with some really over-the-top facial expressions and the script doesn’t help him out much as his dialogue comes off as either petulant, insane rant, or derivative. Admittedly, I think it fit the character quite well and Alex Hassell clearly put a lot of care into the role but it ends up a little too pantomime-like leaving him feeling less like a threat and more of a hassle the other characters simply have to deal with before they can all move on with their lives.

Cowboy Bebop - Vicious and Fearless

The live action Cowboy Bebop’s Julia, played by Elena Satine, is quite the departure from her anime counterpart which may be because of the westernisation of the adaptation, the modernisation of the story, or maybe they just wanted to give her something more to do than be the MacGuffin of the narrative. I suspect some people will not enjoy the changes to Julia’s character and the role she plays in the conflict between Vicious and Spike, but I know for the most part I found this version of Julia quite entertaining (until the aforementioned moment in the car).

The supporting cast vary in quality but largely work and there are some really fun one episode characters in the ten episode run here.

Cowboy Bebop also kind of got the length right. These ten episodes, most running just under 60 minutes in length, give time to make the world feel fleshed out enough but there isn’t enough time to drag or linger on any particular moment.

I mentioned before a lack of subtlety in character backstories and exposition, and honestly the plot does suffer from a similar issue. Everything is kind of spelled out, betrayals and motives telegraphed by obvious facial expressions when the characters don’t just outright explain their actions directly. It makes for a story that is easily binged and digested but leaves little to contemplate once it is over, other than whether a second season will actually drop.

I suspect, if anything will spell doom for this version of Cowboy Bebop, it will be that it asks nothing of the audience. It really is pop-corn viewing with stylised action, some bright pretty colours, memorable characters, at times excessive and gratuitous violence for an emotional jolt, and all of it wrapped together with a sound track that you could just listen to forever.

But there are no greater issues or questions. There’s no underlying motives to figure out or questions about where characters have ended up. There’s little to really make you question the morality of the characters either. Where Spike in the anime could be quite the grey character, here when contrasted with Vicious, there’s little doubt as to which character truly is a monster.

So I guess the question is, what are you watching for? If you are watching to compare to the anime, Cowboy Bebop’s live action adaptation is different. If you are watching for something a bit thought provoking, you probably won’t find it here. However, if you are wanting a bit of sci-fi entertainment, you could do a lot worse than this series.

For me, this adaptation was a solid effort. There’s clear love for the original but also a sense that the creators weren’t bound by trying to duplicate it exactly. Sure, there are a few key scenes and moments they’ve clearly tried to recreate for the fans, but they’ve told their story, their way, and now it is up to the viewers to decide if this was a good thing.

Honestly, for people who have never seen the Cowboy Bebop anime, this is a series that can very easily be enjoyed even if it isn’t all that memorable in its own right. And what is entertainment for if not to be entertaining?

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Karandi James

Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi Series Review – Enthralling Viewing But The Ending Kills It

Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi series review

I’m feeling a little sad writing my full season review of Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi. It was far and away my favourite anime during the Summer 2021 season and the one anime I consistently looked forward to the next episode of. Sure it pushed boundaries and underneath all the bright and pretty colours was actually a fairly gory and violent piece of entertainment but it was pretty entertaining and had some fairly interesting ideas at play.

The problem is as at episode 11 the story just stops almost mid-sentence. There’s no sense that anything has been resolved and there’s no real climatic battle. It is almost as if they didn’t care where the story was up to when they ran out of episodes.

Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi

Which means without another season it makes it pretty much impossible to recommend Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi as an anime no matter how entertaining it may have been. I can’t even suggest reading the source because a lot of what I loved about this anime was the animation, colour and music, all of these things will be lost by reading a manga so I somehow doubt I would find the story as enthralling in that medium.

Basically, as much as I loved aspects of this, I won’t buy the DVD of such an incomplete story, I probably won’t rewatch because I know there’s no resolution, and really it just leaves you feeling somewhat less than satisfied.

If only it had given us something in its ending or resolved an issue I may have left the series feeling a bit differently.

Image from Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi episode 9

What is Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi about?

For those who didn’t watch it during the season, Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi follows a group of young Idaten (more or less gods) who came into being after the last generation of Idaten sealed away the demons. These new Idaten have only known peace so are more or less taken by surprise when demons show up again.

Of course, the story is a lot more than that as it looks at the very nature of gods and how they might actually view humans. It also gives the demons a lot of characterisation and really fleshes out their motives. There’s also some commentary on war, peaceful ideals, and for an anime that spends so much time with characters training to punch each other there’s a lot of focus on the more intellectual characters who are planning things behind the scenes.

Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi

The plot moves along at a quick pace as we go from the young Idaten discovering that demons exist, to identifying where they’ve made their base, dealing with the political fall-out of disrupting a major power in the world before taking down the country that supports the demons, and even the fall-out after that as we time skip forward and finish with the demons fighting back. Which is where Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi abruptly ends and leaves us without any kind of closure.

Along the way we’ll have some explosive battles, a lot of training sequences, and meet a range of interesting characters.

The characters for the most part are what gives Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi a lift from just being a relatively forgettable action story. While Rin and Hayato from the Idaten side remain pretty flat throughout as they seem to be very much representative of standard shounen tropes, Ysley, Paula and the late entry of Gil more than make up for it as each brings an interesting perspective and trait to the group. I don’t know that Gil really had enough time to be fleshed out but her existence makes for an interesting discussion and potentially she could be quite interesting.

Idaten Ep7 7

It is however the demonic characters, even those that are fairly quickly snuffed out, that really sell the story. Right from the early episodes I was amazed that this anime hadn’t taken a monster of the week approach, sending out one mindless henchmen after another to be beaten up by the good guys (such as Sailor Moon and many other stories have done).

Instead, the demons offered a range of interesting personalities and for the most part demonstrated shrewd intelligence. They also demonstrated a range of human characteristics. The Empress Brandy even surprised herself when realising that the demon empire was about to fall she chose to send her biological children away in the hopes that they would survive.

Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi episode 7

But we can’t talk characters without looking at Miku.

Miku has a lot of potential as a character. She’s a demon but not physically strong as apparently she was some experiment in the blending of human and demon that didn’t go quite right, but she is brilliant. Her ability to see through the plots and plans of her enemies and to determine when it is time to cut and run make her quite a formidable opponent and honestly I kind of love that aspect of her.

The part I love a little less is ties up in how over-sexualised she is as a character. If done in a more nuanced way, Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi could have potentially given us a sexually liberated and confident demon who made some kind of commentary on societies taboos. Instead what we get is a story that occasionally throws in some really confronting material such as rape and molestation seemingly more for shock factor than anything else and Miku, who is constantly engaging in some kind of sexualised act even when it serves no narrative purpose and at times actually distracts.

Idaten Ep11 3

It would have been quite interesting to see such a character in a somewhat more mature form and less shock factor for the sake of it as Miku’s combination of brains and sexuality could have made her quite the unique character. Certainly she’s pretty memorable as is.

Aside from the characters, the visuals of Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi are a feast for the eyes. One might also say that at times they are obnoxiously bright as they obscure blood splatter through the use of neon colours and almost every fight sequence ends up being an explosion of colour on the screen. Right from the OP, Seija no Koushin, (which is also just awesome to listen to) you get a sense that this anime really wanted to make you pay attention to it visually.

Basically, Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi is one of those anime that I would love to call brilliant. Even with the few negatives in it and being that little bit over the top and at times lacking in subtlety, it was doing enough that was unique or different or just interesting to really hold my attention and it was fun. Even when the subject matter is quite monstrous there’s always this sense that it wants to be entertaining rather than depressing.

Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi Episode 3

Unfortunately, without an ending, this one will be one of those anime that I hope eventually continues and in the meantime I’ll move on. If that goes on long enough I’ll probably forget about Heion Sedai no Idaten-Tachi which is a bit of a shame. When looking at the field of fantasy action anime, this one certainly had potential to be a stand out from the crowd.

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Karandi James

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy Series Review – An Indulgent But Enjoyable Isekai

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy Series Review

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy is one of those rare anime that made me regret choosing not to watch it weekly. Already having a number of Summer 2021 isekai anime on my watch list I decided to wait and binge it once it was finished. Little did I know that despite fairly generic and ordinary beginnings, this anime would end up being significantly better than either Seirei Gensouki or Realist Hero and despite having a second season announced still managed to deliver a decent climax and enough of a resolution to the end of this first season.

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy

That said, simply being better than somewhat mediocre competition isn’t really a recommendation, so I’ll follow that up by pointing out that Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy was just kind of fun to watch. While the comedy remained largely situational with over-powered characters accidentally destroying things or extreme over-reactions to dialogue, and the journey the protagonist, Misumi, takes isn’t exactly breaking free of any of the usual isekai trappings, this is definitely an anime where the enjoyment is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Being consistent and competent work for Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy.

Where I found the opening episodes of other anime from the Summer 2021 season more intriguing (hence why I didn’t pick up Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy from the beginning), Tsukimichi managed to be consistent from its opening. While never exceptionally good, the goddess’ quick dismissal of Misumi and then his journey as he gathered demi-human followers and more or less just tries to find a new way to live in this world he has been cast into ends up creating an interesting setting for the cast and as the series progresses we see the relationships being formed between these characters.

Tsukimichi - Misumi, Mio and Tomoe go to town.

And it is the characters that will hold this fantasy story together. The plot is more or less Misumi journeying at first and trying to figure out the world he’s been dumped in. However, as more characters, and yes most of them are feisty female characters, join him he starts taking on responsibilities and they take on the role of adventurers and then merchants. While we really haven’t seen an overall game plan and the plot never really feels like it is speeding toward something, Misumi is always setting short term goals that keep events feeling like thy are moving along.

If I had to compare Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy to any of the other recent isekai stories, it would probably remind me most of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime in the sense that Misumi is working with demi-humans who are either hated or feared by humans, or discriminated against and slaughtered for seemingly little reason. He’s also building his own settlement and bringing together different races. That said, this anime feels like it is moving at a faster pace and feels a little less laid-back than Slime.

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy

Like so many other isekai stories though, our monstrous creatures don’t remain monstrous for too long. The dragon Misumi fights and then wins over ends up transforming into a blue haired girl. The giant spider who seems pretty ominous at first transforms into a black haired beauty. Even the Lich, introduced late in the series, ends up being a timid red-haired human guy. It seems like a waste to introduce a monster and then more or less revert them into a human character.

Admittedly, the rivalry between Tomoe and Mio (the spider and dragon) is pretty entertaining even if it is taken to ridiculous levels at times. Also, the passion with which they absorb Misumi’s memories of Earth (and particularly historical and fictional works) is nicely done.

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy

However as the cast expands, Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy seems to struggle to find a place for all of the characters. Emma, who is the first girl Misumi really meets, appears throughout the series but seems to serve little purpose at times. Even Tomoe and Mio are at times sent away from the action, probably because it is hard for any other character to shine when either of those two takes to the screen.

There’s also the problem of a lot of the antagonist of the story coming across as very one note. While the Goddess is clearly an issue for Misumi to eventually deal with, given she banished him from human civilisation just because she found him ugly, she’s barely in the story. Instead we get the usual isekai muscle heads with thieves, adventurers on the wrong side of things, and corrupt noble-men for our protagonist to deal with one way or another.

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy

At times you could almost be forgiven for forgetting about the Goddess as Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy seems content just to deal with immediate issues. Though then the final confrontation of this season would come as a bit of a surprise given the Goddess may not appear but she most definitely orchestrates Misumi’s involvement in it.

And can I just say, that is how you do a season final climatic battle. It may not end the overall story, and the main antagonist isn’t even really involved, but it was a very cool battle-sequence and a great way for the season to come to a close. It was also an amazing character moment for the protagonist and I liked that they do at least indicate some of the future fall out from it without stretching the series conclusion for too long.

Basically if you like magical fights and want an isekai that isn’t taking itself too seriously, Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy might just hit the spot for you. There’s some tense moments but they largely quickly get broken up by silliness and while there are some bloody and gory moments few of these are lingered on.

Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy

Misumi ends up being a pleasant enough protagonist even if he ultimately does little to stand to from the horde of other isekai protagonists and the ensemble cast here actually has great chemistry.

Pretty much if you like the isekai genre, Tsukimichi Moonlit Fantasy is worth watching. While it isn’t unmissable it is certainly entertaining enough and with another season coming in the future there’s comfort in knowing that we’ll see these characters again.

Images from: Tsukimichi – Moonlit Fantasy. Dir. S Ishihira. C2C. 2021

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Karandi James

Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei Series Review – Will This Spin-Off Satisfy Irregular Fans?

Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei Series Review

Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei is an anime I approached with great enthusiasm.

After all, I had loved The Irregular at Magic High School and thought Miyuki’s character had a lot more to say than she’d been given the opportunity for when playing support to Tatsuya’s overpowered main character.

However as a spin-off it is inevitable that Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei would be compared to its parent story. And even outside of that, the approach taken here of shifting an action fantasy into a more cute girls kind of story with a bit of magic thrown in had been done before by Index/Railgun only I kind of feel that franchise understood its audience a lot better and what would make for a more interesting story.

Mahouka Koukou no Yuutsousei

Which ultimately meant that while Mahouka Koukou no Yuutsouei, or The Honor Student at Magic High School, is perfecty watchable, there’s little here that would lead me to recommend this over the original. Even people who enjoyed Irregular would probably do better rewatching that as there’s little in this iteration that is done better, not so much added, and a lot of world-building and the aspects that make the magic high school franchise so interesting just feel lacking here.

Is Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei worth watching?

At thirteen episodes and covering the Enrolment arc (including the attempt by terrorist group Blanche to attack the school) and the Nine Schools Competition Arc, Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei packs in content that was covered across 18 episodes in Irregular. When you also consider that episode 1 is essential before the story of Irregular starts you really only have 12 episodes to cover this content. It was inevitable that something was going to suffer from this.

And by and large, what suffers is the world building itself and the context for the various sub-plots.

Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei

While Irregular had Tatsuya finding out who was behind the various plots and foiling them in order to keep his sister safe, Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei follows Miyuki and her friends and the various plots only kind of brush past them while they involve themselves in school activities. Not to mention we lose a lot of the information about how magic in this world works and how Tatusya excels at engineering spells.

For viewers who have watched the original series, you can fill in the gaps just fine and see how the events here run parallel to the events there and support the overall narrative.

For new viewers I kind of feel like this would feel like Lord of the Rings if you only saw Aragorn’s story and never followed Frodo, Sam, or Gandalf. Don’t get me wrong, Aragorn is a cool character and gets some very solid moments. However ultimately Frodo and Sam get to Mount Doom and Aragorn is essentially playing decoy. He isn’t the main event.

Miyuki is very much like Aragorn in that she has some amazing moments, her magic is very cool (quite literally at times), but while she’s competing in the Nine School’s Competition, Tatsuya is the one foiling another terrorist plot only in Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei we barely see Tatsuya’s contribution which makes the story feel a little incomplete.

Don't mess with Miyuki - Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei

The other core problem that Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei ends up suffering from is it is hard to really surprise your audience when they already know how events play out. There’s little or no tension during the enrolment arc as we know none of the main characters suffer harm from it. Equally, the Nine Schools Competition has little bite when you already know the outcome of every event.

At times, this spin-off is actually up to the challenge of finding other ways to draw the audience in.

For instance, during the enrolment arc they have Eimi teaming up with Shizuku and Honoka to play detective in a previously unseen side-story about the girls wanting to help out Tatsuya without letting Miyuki or Tatsuya know. The girls are charming as a group and the sequence is fun and energetic and even knowing they weren’t going to really solve the case or get into real danger they managed to make this scene engaging and as the girls find themselves in some peril it really drew the audience in.

Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei Episode 4 - Eimi, Shizuku and Honoka

If nothing else, this sequence firmly establishes why these girls are such big fans of Miyuki going forward.

Furthermore, when we get to the nine schools competition, clearly they knew they couldn’t rely on tension with the outcomes already shown in the original series. Instead, they worked on upping the emotional stakes for the competitors themselves and nowhere was this more effective than in the competition between Shizuku and Miyuki for winner of Pillar’s Break.

The audience will probably all know exactly how this competition ends but they really made us care about it and this was perhaps the pinnacle achievement of Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei. Too bad it wasn’t actually the climax as it was certainly the highest emotional point the series reached.

Shizuku - Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei

Which probably brings me to a positive I should mention. While the theory behind magic and how it has been blended with technology is only very loosely explained in Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei, the actual use of magic by characters in the events of the Nine School Competition remains very impressive. The versatility with which the characters use the various magics makes for some visually very interesting sequences and ultimately one of the things I always loved about this franchise was the thought behind the magic system here.

Not to mention, totally beautiful.

Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei Episode 8

The other real positive I am taking away from Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei is the additional screen time given to the girls from Third High. It was kind of nice to see another school humanised this time around and while those characters didn’t get quite enough screen time to really become favourites, Airi and Shiori certainly gave the competition their all and by the time the series ended I kind of wished the spin-off had just jumped from first to third high and given us a totally different take on this world.

Actually, I’d watch that spin-off. Airi and Shiori at third high, convinced they were the strongest of the new generation magicians and then coming smack up against the Shiba’s. It would be awesome to see what they do next.

Equally, it would have been good if we’d had a couple more episodes to get to know these girls before the competition started as they could have been really stolen the show I think.

Honor Ep9 2

As I said at the beginning of the review, Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei is watchable. There’s some fun moments along the way, some great magical feats, and the competition is enjoyable enough with rival characters given enough substance to be entertaining.

Ultimately though, it doesn’t do enough to break free from the shackles of feeling like it is just filling in cracks in the original. I almost feel like the best way to watch Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei might be just to figure out where each of these episodes fit in conjunction with the originally series and alternate between the two perspectives.

Honour Ep2 5

That said, for fans of this franchise, this isn’t bad. While you might, like me, find it a little lacking in punch, you will get to spend time with the girls from the first course and you will certainly get many more moments of Miyuki and Tatsuya together.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the series if you’ve watched it so be sure to leave a comment below.

Images from: Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei. Dir. Hideki Tachibana. Connect. 2021

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Karandi James

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X Series Review – Another Sequel Without The Charm of the Original

My Next Life as a Villainess Season 2 Series Review

What is it about 2021 and sequels? Is there some kind of curse over the anime industry at the moment that means all sequels have to lose what made the original season so entertaining? Then again, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with sequels not measuring up for one reason or another so it is no surprise really that a story focused on comedy, such as the isekai My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X didn’t quite end up hitting the same sweet spot as the original.

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My Next Life as a Villainess Season 2

That isn’t to say that the charm is entirely gone from Catarina’s life as this isekai female lead meanders obliviously over her harem’s emotions, gets kidnapped, eats a lot of food, rescues her brother from being kidnapped and then eats more food. However, season one of My Next Life as a Villainess felt like there was a purpose in Catarina avoiding the death flags from the game she had played. No matter how loose the plot got, there was always the basic premise to fall back on to hold things together.

So what went wrong for My Next Life as a Villainess Season 2?

Season two lacks that and it isn’t until the final episode that we even really get directed back to the game in a sequel or movie bait moment that actually kind of made me interested in watching more even though I had more or less decided not to continue with this franchise after this season. Given the best part of this season was discussing each episode with both Crow and Irina despite having gone in excited for more of Catarina’s story, I came to the conclusion that more was not necessarily better.

My Next Life as a Villainess Season 2 Episode 6

That isn’t to say that My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X is actually bad. It really isn’t. But nor is it infectiously charming and silly in the way season one was. Instead we’re left with an anime that has short arcs where the stakes might seem high but they aren’t, plots that could be dark but will be resolved too swiftly to be taken seriously, and a cast that is actually suffering from bloat because while each character is charming none of them get enough time to really sell their charm to the audience.

Its a bit of a shame when there are some delightful moments along the way.

Early on we were introduced to a ‘villain’ who had kidnapped Catarina. He was a fun character (you know despite being a kidnapper and all) as he verbally sparred with Catarina, sat and ate cakes and had tea with her, delivered a heart-wrenching back story that really went nowhere, but he had a bit of spice as a character and the glasses and butler outfit kind of worked for me.

Villainess S2 Ep3 3

While he wasn’t toppling Nicol as my favourite in the harem, Sora’s introduction had the potential to shake up a group that had fallen into fairly predictable patterns and routine repeats of jokes we’d seen before. There’s only so many confessions, acts of jealousy, and friendly verbal sparring you can watch before it all feels like you’ve seen and heard it all before.


Instead My Next Life as a Villainess has Sora’s character ending up working at the department of magic with Raphael. Fine. However, the next few times we see him there’s no spice or entertainment to be had. He’s just another generic nice guy who kind of crushes on Catarina. Instead of mixing things up and giving us some new beats, Sora just eats up screen time from other cast members but contributed nothing particularly new.

My Next Life as a Villainess Season 2

It didn’t help that he ditched the glasses and went for a more casual and forgettable wardrobe in the final arc. Ultimately, Sora just blends in to the background of My Next Life as a Villainess and I couldn’t help but feel it was a waste of a character introduction. He had the potential to be so much more.

And while we’re on the topic of wasted potential, we had not one but two kidnapping plots this season. How often do nobles in this kingdom get kidnapped that both Catarina and Keith from the same family can be kidnapped in two separate incidents?

Catarina’s abduction was definitely never intended to be taken seriously as she uses it as an excuse to enjoy not having to get up on time, to eat as much as she wants, and generally be quite lazy. It also did bring Sora into the story and seemed like a decent enough arc. Furthermore, this arc did some solid heavy lifting in world-building as it introduced anime viewers to the complex political relationship between the four princes when really they just want to get along.

Catarina kidnapped? My Next Life as a Villainess

As always though, the conflict is resolved pretty easily and Catarina is rescued without ever really being in danger.

Keith isn’t so lucky as he doesn’t have protagonist plot armour in My Next Life as a Villainess and his kidnapping is actually quite a painful ordeal, not that the follow-up episode would in anyway support that. Despite being tortured for days, Keith seems entirely mentally fine and not at all traumatised by the experience, because you wouldn’t want reality to be a downer on a rom-com (which makes you wonder why bother putting the sub-plot in at all if you aren’t doing anything with it).

Keith kidnapped - My Next life as a Villainess

There are some solid moments of entertainment sprinkled around the messy plot. The play the characters put on early in the season is a delightful return to the world of My Next Life as a Villainess. Also, Gerald finally just telling Catarina straight out how he feels and kissing her was a pretty show-stopping way to end an episode, but then Catarina just plays it super dense so this also goes nowhere fast.

Perhaps my favourite stand-alone plot point was Nicol’s episode where he decided to actually have some marriage interviews. In terms of characters actually being entertaining and charming, this was the episode highlight of the whole season. It felt like it was moving Nicol’s character forward, deepening our understanding of him, and just giving him and his potential matched partner space to really shine. That there were so few other moments like this for the rest of the cast is a little bit sad as Mary and Sophia more or less become background chorus for the majority of the season.

My Next life as a Villainess S2

Visually, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X is still the same bright and bubbly affair that season one was with some nice contrasting colours, great character costumes, and some beautiful anime food (oh, the food). It isn’t exceptional in terms of the animation, nor does it need to be when a lot of the time that characters are being pretty still, but it does enough in the few action sequences throughout.

The opening theme wasn’t quite as entertaining as season one’s, but the ending theme for episodes 1-11 “give me ♡ me” was one of my season highlights. I didn’t ever stop the episode without watching the ending which is kind of rare for me with anime as I usually get hooked on openings but find most endings fairly skippable.

Overall thoughts on My Next Life as a Villainess:

All Routes Lead to Doom! X

Honestly, I didn’t hate this follow up season to My Next Life as a Villainess, I just kind of found it a little lacking and there were so many moments where it felt like it didn’t make the most of particular opportunities. The end result is it becomes pleasant enough watching characters you like going through the motions of a ho-hum plot with a lot less humour but it also isn’t something you could recommend as a must watch.

Images from: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X. Dir. K Inoue. Silver Link. 2021

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Karandi James

Given 2021 Series Review: Bringing This Beautiful Story To Life

Given 2021 Series Review

Given 2021: The live action drama version of the boys love story.

In 2019 the Given anime took my breath away and was one of my favourite series for the year. I’d never read the manga, and I will admit, I don’t really ever intend to. Largely because so much of what I enjoyed about the anime was the play between sound, music and colour and I’m just not sure that a static telling of the story could be as involving. So Given 2021 was coming hot on the heels of an anime I’d loved and had some big shoes to fill.

Given 2021

Then again, that isn’t really fair to this live action drama. And ultimately comparing it to the anime is a relatively futile activity because viewers have either not watched the anime or will already be able to make that comparison themselves. What most people want to know is whether Given 2021 is actually worth watching.

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And in all honesty, the answer is “yes, but…”

That ‘but’ is fairly important and yet doesn’t take away from the ‘yes’ part of the answer.

Given 2021

See, the one issue the Given 2021 live action drama cannot escape is that ultimately it is only 6 episodes long. While I recently proposed that an anime like Mars Red would have benefited from being only seven or eight episodes, rather than stretching a full season, the story of Given really did need more time.

We needed more time to get to know these characters and feel their situations. Particularly the supporting cast that really felt just kind of there and the stories they have to tell felt barely sketched in.

However, let’s take this all a bit more logically.

Let’s talk about Given 2021

Given 2021 is the story of Uenoyama (a high schooler who is in a band) who when looking for a place to nap at school runs in Mafuyu who is asleep in a stairwell holding a guitar. After one of the most awkward and yet adorable meetings, which ultimately ends with Uenoyama fixing the broken strings of Mafuyu’s guitar the two end up meeting in the stairwell more often and Mafuyu works to convince Uenoyama to teach him how to play.

All of which is pretty ordinary until Uenoyama hears Mafuyu sing.

Given Live Action Drama - Uenoyama shouts at Mafuyu

Here I will praise the casting of this live action drama over and over again. Sanari, who plays Mafuyu, really does manage to bring everything to a halt with his voice and it really does make you stop and just listen. You can never quite tell if it is beautiful or heart-breaking and it just kind of overwhelms you. That the character only has a few moments where we hear his voice throughout the series in the build-up to the live-performance at the end really works because too much would simply lose the effect.

However, as much as the sound of this character works, and as much as the group of boys in the band kind of come together by the end, for those who are fans of either the manga or anime, there will be a small adjustment period as visually they aren’t quite what you would expect. Then again, they do all at least look like real people and there are no awful wigs in sight (such as the live action Full Metal Alchemist) so maybe we should just be happy. But Haruki at least took some getting used to in this form and he wasn’t really given enough screen time for the adjustment to be smooth.

Given 2021

If I were to go in with no expectations then I’d have to admit, they all kind of worked in their roles. And considering Given 2021 is a dramatic story rather than a fantastical one, turning this story into a live action drama is considerably easier because there are no weird weapons, physics defying movements, or even complex action pieces to somehow bring to life.


About the most action we get is a sequence where one of the characters runs across a bridge while having an internal monologue and while that was nicely done it does mean that this story didn’t come with a lot of the challenges other manga and anime have when being translated to live action.

Though, on that note, I did point out during my episode reviews that while scenes shot indoors were beautifully controlled in how they framed characters and the use of light and colour, exterior shots were a little more hit and miss. Notably when the characters were in a car or on a motorbike, shaking camera and less deliberate shot composition seemed to be on the cards.

Given Live Action - Tokyo Tower

It’s a minor point but an important one when one of the key strengths of this story is in the visuals and sound direction. While Given 2021 takes a different approach to sound to the anime, having more background music and using repeated motifs behind characters and filling silences, it is still a key component in what makes this enjoyable viewing. And they still build up to the explosion of sound that is the live performance. While the song may not be to everyone’s taste, the build up to it and the culmination of the drama of the final three episodes make it one of those amazing television moments that can really sweep you away.

The romance aspect between Uenoyama and Mafuyu is also well built up to, though again it suffers a little due to the short run time here. As much as everything makes sense, it all seems very quick. Though what was perhaps the biggest issue is that Mafuyu’s relationship with Yuki gets so little time and even the montage it does get feels a little rushed. Without this backgrounding, Uenoyama’s presence doesn’t come across as quite so necessary to Mafuyu.

Given live-action episode 6

Also, while we do get the after the performance moment with the two boys, as the series then abruptly comes to an end it feels like things have barely gotten going when the story concludes.

So, while I still think the anime did a better job of telling this story (particularly in giving us the aftermath of the concert), the live action does have a lot to offer. And for those who have never watched the anime, they probably won’t have many issues at all with what Given 2021 has on offer, though they will probably be left with some questions about Akihiko and Haruki because they get seriously left out in terms of any kind of detail here.

Given 2021

What is important is that this live action drama can and does stand on its own and offers a fairly solid viewing experience that you could go in to without prior knowledge. And for those who have read the manga or watched the anime, this is just another version of a story you probably already love.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Fairy Ranmaru Series Review – And I Thought Magical Girls Had Some Terrible Outfits

Fairy Ranmaru Series Review

Timing is a very curious thing because just a few weeks ago I updated my series of posts about magical girl anime and I left off that series with a comment about a lack of an equivalent magical boy genre. Pretty much the same day those posts were scheduled for reposting and I came across Fairy Ranmaru on Crunchyroll, realised it had aired in the Spring 2021 season and had literally just come to a conclusion.

The boys from Fairy Ranmaru
What is this and why didn’t I know about it?

With an open weekend ahead of me and a fierce desire to do as little as humanly possible and to recharge, a binge watch of this action/slice of life/magic anime (as described on MAL) seemed to be in order.

Fairy Ranmaru: Anata no Kokoro Otasuke Shimasu is kind of a hot mess.

I found it interesting in re-reading the tags on Fairy Ranmaru that it isn’t described as a comedy or parody which made me wonder if I was meant to be taking this story seriously. I kind of hope I wasn’t because as a flipped take on magical girls and the over-sexualised transformation sequences and costumes these boys had taking it seriously was more or less out of the question.

And then the plot threw itself off a cliff in the final act. Without specific spoilers I’m just going to point out that somehow everything just ends up being forgiven and they all go back to following rules that make no sense given the reason they were created and nobody actually really seems to have progressed or changed…

Potential antagonist in Fairy Ranmaru - too little screen time to have much impact.
This felt like it needed a lot more build up to have any impact.

So if the purpose was to take this story seriously, then this anime was a mis-fire because the narrative is full of holes and there’s little satisfaction in seeing it play out.

However, in terms of just being engaging, bewildering, over-the-top, sparkly, intriguing, and a nostalgia trip all kind of blended into one less than stellar package, Fairy Ranmaru actually succeeds.

To put it bluntly, it is a fun watch but not a good one.

Of course, the fun factor really only exists for those who are tolerant of the standard magical girl tropes because this anime is going to pack in a lot of them.

Fairy Ranmaru - the fairies before their queen.
Image cropped but yes, they were naked.

We have a group of 5 fairy boys all from a different fairy clan with their own colour and weaponry. There’s some clashing personalities within the group but when push comes to shove they all come together and let the power of friendship/love do its thing. It is very Sailor Moon-esque (and like every other magical girl series ever) but they weren’t really content with just that.

The boys essentially just kind of wander around, go to school, hang out at their bar, until they come across someone who is feeling a bit sad or down and then they more or less tell them to give them their hearts, go through a magic door leading to an over-the-top transformation sequence before we end up in kind of a Madoka Magica-esque witch realm which I guess is reflective of the heart of the person causing the distress.


Any of these ‘clients’ or problems could have been interesting but largely they just kind of happen, escalate within about two scenes and then the client is either crying or attempting suicide before we jump into the transformation sequence. Fairy Ranmaru then follows this with a repeated animation of the focus boy of the week running and singing before we get to the magic door thing (there’s a lot of down time in these episodes which is reminiscent of 1990’s anime but we’re in 2021).

The realms they fight in are visually very cool and each one has a distinct style. In terms of visuals, these areas were probably the strongest parts of each episode.

There’s an attempt at character development by usually linking the fairy boy’s own personal history and trauma but again too little time is spent on this outside of Uruu and Homura (the water and fire fairies) and for the most part ends up being pretty shallow.

We then get another repeated animation after the fight where the fairy boy summons a key and unlocks the villain of the week’s heart and then breaks it somehow collecting ‘attachment’ in the process.

The whole key hole and unlocking people’s hearts gave me a direct flashback to Shugo Chara but it made infinitely more sense there.

I mean sure, the characters all kind of peering through key holes in to the fight sequence and the humans who were at the centre of the conflict being mere spectators was interesting, but there were just so many questions. Like why they ended up collecting ‘attachment’ from the villain and not the victim who was potentially the one with the warm fuzzy feelings? Are they really trying to rebuild the fairy kingdom using the emotions of basic human scum?

4 Fairies peering through a key hole.
Image from Fairy Ranmaru.
The key-holes were nice they just didn’t quite feel purposeful enough.

Oh yeah, I forget, the reason they are doing all this in Fairy Ranmaru is apparently there was some cataclysmic event that destroyed the fairy kingdom, or nearly destroyed it. And it had something to do with every single character’s father’s issues, except for the characters who were apparently alive and more or less the same age when it all went down… I guess they are fairies but they really don’t explain all that.

We do of course, because it is using the magical girl tropes, have a Queen of the fairies that the boys are serving and her supporting staff member who basically provide commentary and ominous warnings throughout the series before the point at which the plot ceases making any sense. Honestly, these two characters did nothing for me and I’m pretty sure you could hack their scenes out of this anime and it would still mostly make as much sense as it does.

We also have a kind of villain character who is either spectating the downfall of various humans or causing it (unclear), but he’s certainly hindering the other fairies at times before making ominous statements and disappearing. That’s kind of his M.O. until we get to near the end of Fairy Ranmaru and suddenly he decides to stick around.

The villain?
Image from Fairy Ranmaru.
Good question?

However, I’m pretty sure anyone who watched the first episode knows that the plot of this story isn’t going to be its strength. Nor should we expect our characters to really get deep and meaningful. What we have here are 5 different pretty boys who each have some issues to overcome and in the process this anime is going to stuff them into super-tight outfits, show off their six packs and other assets, and really just try to be some very solid eye-candy with a little bit of romance thrown in for the fun.

That said, we now have some more anime characters with wings for the list.

If that is what you are wanting to see, Fairy Ranmaru gets fan service just right (or at least pretty explicitly). Cue endless sparkles, and a nice slow panning camera over those rippling muscles from head to chest to toes before we see each arm, leg and then the rest of the body encased in an outfit that is pretty suggestive anyway.

And in case there was any confusion about what they were doing here we also get a nice slow-motion pose as they transition from running to flying that most definitely makes sure you know this isn’t just coincidence, they are putting these boys on display.

Which is something magical girl anime have been doing to young female characters for a very long time and it passes almost without notice because its just part of the genre. Fairy Ranmaru kind of reminded me of that meme that went around a fair few years back that had all the male super-heroes from Marvel or whatever posed in the same way female super-heroes are posed.

That said, I’m not entirely sure they were doing this so much as commentary as for comedic exaggeration or maybe the team behind this really just had a muscle fetish and were trying to appeal to that audience.

Like with everything else in Fairy Ranmaru there’s just not enough substance or consistency to really know what they were trying to get at. There’s lots of ideas and lots of things that happen. Some of it looks like it wants to lead to a point and various ideas emerge but nothing really sticks. And by the time the story limps to a conclusion any basic messages have been lost in the confusion of trying to figure out what any of the characters were thinking when they made their final choices.

Villain with incomprehensible motive - Fairy Ranmaru has you covered.
Life goals.

Honestly, I did enjoy binge watching this. I wanted more from Ranmaru as a main character. I wanted the plot to make more sense. I wanted some deeper explorations into the various character’s personalities and issues. I wanted the final conflict to actually feel satisfying and I really wanted a better resolution. But… I didn’t ever feel like turning this off.

Maybe it is just nostalgia for classic magical girl stories and the curiosity of the gender swap or maybe it was because that while these boys don’t get enough time to really be fleshed out they are still fun to spend time with, but I had fun.

And sometimes, fun is enough.

That said, if you find the first episode of Fairy Ranmaru painful or end up staring at your screen incredulously, walk away. This series will not get any better or worse from start to finish. It just is.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on Fairy Ranmaru so feel free to leave us a comment below.

Images from: Fairy Ranmaru: Anata no Kokoro Otasuke Shimasu. Dir. M Hishida + K Kobayashi. Studio Comet. 2021

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Karandi James

Horimiya Series Review – Fascinating Anime Romance

Horimiya Review

Will Hori and Miyamura get their happily ever after in Horimiya?

As much as I am a fan of great action and horror, I must admit I’m also a sucker for romantic comedies, provided the comedy lands its mark and doesn’t take away from the sweet ‘awww’ inducing moments; so Horimiya seemed like an interesting anime to pick up.

This is definitely a by-product of many a rainy afternoon spent bingeing rom-com movies with my mother growing up and I will admit these stories are still great, feel good, popcorn entertainment. Sure, the genre relies heavily on coincidences and far-fetched overly dramatic moments but if the personalities work the emotional high when the end credits begin rolling is very real.

Basically, I jumped into Horimiya not necessarily looking for narrative depth. I was looking for characters I could care enough about that I wanted them to get to a happily ever after and I wanted to connect with enough to get taken on the emotional journey they are on. As such, Horimiya works pretty well as a romantic comedy and manages to mostly hit the right notes.

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Hori getting flustered (you'll see this a lot).
Image from Horimiya anime 2021.
Hori on the other hand gets flustered by everything.

Horimiya primarily follows the relationship that develops between popular pretty girl (at school), Hori, and the loner kid, Miyamura and the changes that both go through after they see beneath the surface of each other’s personas. The transformation is a lot more noticeable in Miyamura who comes out of his shell significantly and even does that standard symbolic hair-cut mid-season which coincidentally also reveals his heavily pierced ears to his class mates.

However, Hori is also changed by Miyamura’s presence in her life and the relationship between these two sets off a chain of effects within the class and across a number of groups within the school so while the majority of the time focuses on the main couple we’ll see a number of characters navigating relationship drama across the 13 episodes.

Honestly though, I think Horimiya suffers from a little bit of clutter. The student council members, particularly Remi and Kakeru add little to the overall story and mostly just eat screen-time that could be better spent else-where. The love triangle (quadrangle) formed around Hori’s friends Ishikawa and Yuki definitely stretches coincidence thin and again adds a bit of bloat that the story didn’t really need.

Admittedly, I was a little more invested because Ishikawa and Yuki were at least closely involved with Hori and Miyamura’s story but again, it all just felt like a bit of distraction from the main plotline.

I’ll tie up my other negative observations about Horimiya and then we’ll jump to the positives, because there are a lot more positives than negatives for this series. In my watch-or-drop post after watching three episodes, I made the comment that some of the comedy didn’t quite land and that continues to be an ongoing issue for the anime.

The majority of the humour works relying on the reactions of characters to things and for the most part fits in with the story and adds a few laughs. Occasionally though there will be a set-up or joke that just leaves you wondering why it was left in as it clearly breaks the overall flow and adds nothing.

Don't mess with Miyamura - Image from Horimiya anime 2021.
Perfectly sound reasoning really.

The other minor negative, and it will depend on your view, comes from some of Hori’s requests as her relationship with Miyamura progresses. They could have actually explored this a lot more in a serious relationship story but in a romantic comedy, her requests that Miyamura speak badly to her and at one point he hits her, really didn’t sit well with me.

I think this was largely because these moments were played for laughs and also because it kind of came out of nowhere and about an episode later that part of their relationship disappeared altogether so they didn’t explore it at all. It just felt like a lost opportunity or as something that wasn’t really well thought out, thrown in for a laugh and then abandoned.

Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting a deep exploration of relationships from a rom-com but then why include it at all if you do nothing with it?


With those points out of the way though this anime is pretty charming. The chemistry between Hori and Miyamura is solid and scenes which focus on these two, particularly on Miyamura’s many visits to Hori’s home, are all pretty brilliant. The developing relationship from forming a friendship, to dating, to getting physical, through to being engaged and then graduating high school together all feels pretty natural because these two work so well together.

I also genuinely loved Miyamura’s interactions with Hori’s family as they essentially accepted him as one of the clan from the beginning.

Feel the serenity - Miyamura in Hori's living room. Image from Horimiya anime. 2021.
Miyamura remains the star performer and I’m thinking he’s going to be my pick for best male character this year (bold claim, I know).

Likewise Miyamura’s developing friendship with Ishikawa feels relatively natural, particularly after they get into a fight and then get over it. Other characters, like Sawada felt a little less natural as they intruded on the plot line, but still had some solid character moments throughout.

And while I may have found some of the other relationships stole time away from the main couple, the story does make an effort to give closure on most of these by the end. This is helped by the plot finishing with the graduation of most of the characters from high school as it gives a natural end point to part of their lives, but it is effective even if we’ve seen this kind of thing many times before.


Visually this anime is great to look at with solid character designs and great colour palettes to set the tone for each scene. It isn’t an animation heavy weight and there will be a lot of still background characters and lots of scenes with characters sitting and talking, but the focus here is on the relationship and not the action. That said, it doesn’t look cheap and nasty and most of the time scenes are animated rather than stills even if animation is minimalised.

Hori is not impressed - image from Horimiya anime (2021).
Don’t mess with Hori.

The music is fantastic throughout and definitely ties the story together. The final episode definitely used this to its advantage and drove a lot of the farewell emotions through the background music. Again, for those feeling critical, it is a ploy to tug at your emotions, but it was effective and given the use of music throughout the season, it didn’t feel like a sudden add on but more part of the overall production. I loved the OP to Horimiya and didn’t skip it throughout my watch.

While there are definitely a couple of points I think could have been improved, Horimiya was a fun rom-com to watch with a great central pair. It doesn’t offer anything too new as we’ve seen characters finding out who they are, connecting with others and opening up through the final year of high school through an unexpected relationship before, but what it does offer it serves competently and entertainingly in a bright little package.

For those who like rom-coms with happy endings, Horimiya is one to watch. That said, I wouldn’t object to seeing more from these two in the future if the anime were to continue.

Images from: Horimiya. Dir. M. Ishihama. Cloverworks. 2021

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Karandi James

How Not to Summon a Demon Lord Ω Ep 10

Demon Lord Episode 10 Review
Karandi Bored Transparent

I don’t know that I really had any expectations left going into this final episode. Do I suppose this season was called omega because they weren’t planning another? Though the end of this episode seemed to indicate the adventures continue. Anyway, I’m a little stuck with how to talk about this given the fight seemed to descend into lots of coloured lights and shouting with a miracle light thrown in. Anyway, how are you doing Irina?

Irina 2020

I’m doing good. I hate to say but I am a little happy I get to spend my Thursday evenings doing something other than watching How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Ω. I don’t want to get too down on the show, it was by no means the worst thing I have ever seen but I wanted it to be better. I’m having a Tyra Banks moment. 

I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!

Demon Lord S2 Ep10 1
Wow, judgemental much.

I’m not going to say this episode was actually bad, because realistically it is on par with everything that came before it this season. It also more or less rounded out the adventure of Diablo helping Lumachima and restoring the church so even though the villain never got any kind of presence or a sense that he even mattered as anything more than an excuse for a fight sequence and Lumachima’s growth, while specifically mentioned by the characters, seems pretty minimal (though at least she’s acknowledging not everyone is sweet and honest now) the story did get resolved. 

We got closure. That’s something. There’s tons of blatantly abandoned plot threads just lying around and it seems as they started the main plot in episode 7 of a 10 episode season so structurally it’s not the best, but at the same time lost of shows just don’t get any proper conclusion so I’ll give it that. 

It’s too bad that it wasn’t all that interesting. 

Demon Lord S2 Ep10 7
How do you just forget threatening to wipe out a whole congregation?

And honestly, I’m not sure what could have made it better when I wasn’t invested in the fight with Vishos and Lumachima hasn’t exactly won me over either. Horn all but disappeared from the story until the end where she suddenly decides to leave the party (probably because whoever wrote her character realised she was just clutter) and Rem and Shera both get very tokenistic one off moments just to pretend like those characters still matter.

It feels like Diablo has outgrown his support cast from season one and could have gone on this journey with Lumachima and that could have been an interesting story, but the writer was unwilling to cast off the other characters and instead they get dragged along through a plot they serve no purpose in.

Then again, it isn’t as though newly introduced characters fare any better. Rose and Horn are both very much introduced, left kind of floating around outside of some poor fan-service and humour and ultimately got pushed out of the way of the finale. Rose gets even less spotlight than Horn did last week. At least Horn got half-an-episode before they were unceremoniously cut down in order for Diablo to feel the need to avenge them. Rose got about two lines of dialogue and then was broken to pieces in a single hit.

Demon Lord S2 Ep10 3
The gang is all here. Now watch them do very little.

And that red head pseudo antagonist that has a fairly good presence in the OP didn’t even have a part. She ended up a non character even though the early season was building her up as if she was one of the main supporting cast. It’s odd how much time How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Ω wasted on setting up events that either never happened or ended trivial and introducing characters that had no real bearing. 

When you consider this was a 10 episode season, if you take out all the meandering elements they ended up not really using, you sort of end up with a 3 to 5 episode season. And maybe that’s what they should have gone for. I understand that these are based on light novels and that most of the season did take place in the source material. But this is where it becomes clear that you have the make sure stories like this still work in adaptation. And to be blunt, I’m not so sure it worked in the light novel either. Although I suspect the ecchi scenes were more exciting and engaging when you get to use your imagination a bit more.

About the only other thing I really noticed was how long the ‘epilogue’ seemed to go. The fight is over, they part ways with Lumachima and then we just keep going. It was like the anime had to remind us of every person Diablo had crossed paths with while trying to set up some new adventure the core group would go on even while I was mostly just happy the season was done. Anyway, by the time we finally got through the end credits it felt like this episode was much longer than twenty minutes.

Am I the only one that completely loses interest in harems the minute marriage (or some fantasy marriage analogy) comes into the picture. This probably says something about me. Something not terribly great. But I can’t help it. I feel like so much of the harem appeal is in the balancing act of multiple partners and in the chase. Once everyone has settled down those elements aren’t really all that relevant.

You know I say that but I bet a show that was honestly exploring the intricacies of multiple marriages would actually be rather interesting. And unusual. 

I guess all I’m really saying was that the ring bit didn’t appeal to me.

Demon Lord S2 Ep10 4
If they’d trimmed the fat, demon lord saving head priest from giant monster could have worked for a plot.

Anyway, Irina I’m glad I reviewed this show this you week to week. I possibly would have given up at the mid-way point on my own or mostly just thrown rocks at it. Still, I kind of feel this season has been a let down for a lot of viewers who were pretty keen to see the demon lord back in action. Maybe another season could turn things around but honestly I’m kind of feeling like this is the end of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord in anime form. But, it seems other people feel differently with plenty of speculation already about a third season. How about you?

Oh yea, the reviewing part became my favourite thing about the show at some point. But no offence, I’m sort of glad we can stop it. This said, it’s good to have this sort of show once in a while. A show I just don’t like but that doesn’t make me suffer either. It made the other anime I was watching so much more enjoyable by comparison without draining me. So all in all, good job Demon Lord?

Images from: How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Season 2. Dir. S. Kuwahara. Tezuka Productions and Okuruto Noboru. 2021.

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Irina and Karandi

Irina 2020

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Kemono Jihen Series Review – Missed Opportunities Aplenty

Kemono Series Review

Kemono Jihen is one of those anime that has a lot of elements in it that I like. There’s some darker moments, some supernatural threads, a bit of mystery along the way, and the main characters seem to have a personal investment in most of the events making them feel a little more interesting than if these kids just kind of stumbled into a random encounter.

However, after getting to the end of season one I find myself neither particularly invested in Kemono Jihen and whether it will ever continue nor did I particularly dislike it. All these good ingredients didn’t quite come together and the story itself barely feels like it started after watching 12 episodes.

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Kemono Jihen doesn’t do a great job of selling it’s world building.

Kemono Jihen - I wanted to like this, I really did.
Got to watch out for slime from sewer creatures.

It isn’t as though there’s anything terribly wrong with the material deliver in Kemono Jihen.

After Inugami solves the mystery in Kabane’s village and takes Kabane with him to Tokyo, things kind of settle into a series of arcs where the agency, or some of the agency members, go to investigate something that usually ends up being kemono related and then Kabane beats something up until it dies. Meanwhile, Inugami continues to withhold information from the younger members of the agency and Inari continues to plot against Inugami but avoids direct confrontation.

Each little arc or mystery takes an episode or a couple of episodes to run their course and the three kids in the agency build on their relationship throughout the story.

So, it all just kind of works and each story has a satisfying conclusion to the immediate concern. If this had decided to be a mystery of the week kind of gig without any grander aspirations, it would probably be a more enjoyable ride.

The problem is that the adults in this story all seem to have their own plans and agendas but the audience is kept more or less out of the loop other than knowing that eventually this might amount to something. By the end of the series though, it hasn’t gone very far at all.

Kemono Jihen - Inari might not give up on the lifestone but she isn't doing much about getting it either.
And yet Inari-sama is being maddeningly passive about this whole thing and so the story really isn’t going anywhere.

Honestly, Inari and Inugami and their ‘rivalry’ or whatever it is, is perhaps the weakest part of the narrative overall. It is slow, spread-out, feels like it is distracting from what is actually happening, neither character is particularly interesting and other than Inugami being the one who hired the kids he doesn’t do all that much in this story, and while I know that if this anime had continued this would eventually go somewhere, so far it has gone nowhere.

Basically it is a disappointing preview of a story that may or may not ever get told and it is just unnecessary clutter for the current anime.


Because when Kemono Jihen focuses on Kabane learning about the modern world or interacting with Shiki and Akira, the story is very entertaining. Even Kon kind of grew on me after awhile because largely she only really interacts with Kabane and their different volume levels kind of balanced out nicely.

Shiki confronting his past was excellent viewing even with Inari’s minion dropping in lame hints about future conflicts throughout. Even the plot focusing on Akira’s reasons for coming to Tokyo, the weakest of the little plots, was pretty entertaining and would have been better without Inari’s presence.

Kemono Jihen - Inugami
Inugami eating screen time.

Though, while we’re on characters, perhaps my favourite inclusion was Mihai. Admittedly, he only shows up sporadically, but a little goes a long way and his overall personality and the way he interacts with the kids is pretty entertaining even if he really is just personifying the internet troll here (and he’s a vampire).

I don’t think Mihai needs more screen time, because too much would become a little hard to take, but I certainly appreciated his appearances and the mission he accompanies the kids on (through a remote control car) is one of the more entertaining moments as he throws a number of spanners in the works for the kids.

However, even this mission is soured by the ridiculous visuals used for the monsters. Imagine a giant mosquito head on top of a normal sized woman. See, giant mosquitos aren’t scary – they look kind of stupid. Any kind of tension in the otherwise tight plot of the kids infiltrating a facility while being hampered by Mihai because he wanted some entertainment kind of went out the window as soon as the monsters appeared.

Mihai - favourite character from Kemono Jihen
Mihai for favourite character of the series.

Part of me also kind of wonders if the move from Kabane’s village to Tokyo was a good move as the atmosphere from episode one isn’t really replicated again. The closest they get is the story involving Shiki’s background when they travel from Tokyo to investigate.

It is a shame, because I really enjoyed the atmosphere of that first episode and that arc, but most stories were more urban fantasy with a bit of action and comedy rather than feeling like real supernatural mystery. That’s a personal preference, but I’d have enjoyed the supernatural mystery story more.

All and all, I did enjoy Kemono Jihen, but I’m left feeling it never quite did enough to really be memorable. Sure, there are a few visuals that won’t let go after it is done and there’s one or two moments that just perfectly hit the mark. But there’s a lot inbetween that feels like fluffing about and the series ends when it feels like the story is really just kicking off.

With no announced sequel, and no real indication that this anime will continue, it all just feels like it could have given us a bit more closure in the final episode.

How did you find Kemono Jihen?

Images from: Kemono Jihen. Dir. M Fujimori. Ajia Do. 2021

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Karandi James