Sunday Without God Series Review: When Moe Meets Life and Death

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in June 2016 and can be found here.

I’ve watched this series a couple of times since my initial review and while some of the shine may have come off of this show on repeated viewings, there’s still something pretty great about it. I was kind of happy revisiting this one for a repost and to reconsider where it sits.

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Like last time, one of the most striking things about  this anime was how beautiful it was. Every scene is just a feast for the eyes. Whether they are showing souls dancing in the air, the trees, leaves, sunlight or anything else, it is truly beautiful. And the music that accompanies most scenes is rich and lovely to listen to while conveying a lot of the mood of the current scene. And this anime is all about atmosphere.

While at first it seems Ai is just another overly cute anime protagonist who is going to save the world with peppiness, there are a lot of dark undertones to the world in Sunday Without God and the plot never shies away from dealing with these. And Ai, to her credit, tackles most obstacles head on with very little denial of reality of insistence that something isn’t right. She works to overcome things on her own.

Which means the aesthetics of this anime are amazing and our protagonist (after we get through the initial scenes of her life before she was aware of anything) grows in leaps and bounds and takes us on a journey of discovery about life and its purpose (even if it gives us few answers on the way). The support cast are also a great asset to this story.

I’ll admit though, that Ai is probably the part of this show that is the weakest when you rewatch it. Though the first viewing was great, in follow up viewings her excessive optimism and overall cuteness kind of get a little harder to take so even her development as a character doesn’t manage to off-set it. However, if you like up-beat moe characters, Ai is going to be a hit.

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Sunday Without God is episodic in that there are distinct story arcs within the greater journey Ai is taking. The first few episodes deal with her meeting a stranger who changes her perception about the village she was raised in. The next arc takes her to a city that is almost entirely populated with the dead who are trying to live their own lives. Then we have a school arc, because they just kind of had to stick a kid in school (and to be honest this is the weakest of all the arcs but it does lead very nicely into the final arc). And lastly, Ai is recruited by a boy named Alis and asked to help him destroy his world. The explanation behind that request is more mundane than it at might at first appear but it is an excellent story to end on.

While some characters travel with Ai, each arc brings new characters into the fold and then they go their own ways. This is both a strength and a weakness. The strength of this is that we continually meet new characters appropriate to the current setting and we also don’t have to keep inventing reasons for others to still be hanging around. But it’s a weakness because some characters are really interesting and then they are left behind. In a longer series, this could have been a nice touch as Ai may have had a chance to revisit these characters when she was a little bit more worldly. Unfortunately, in 12 episodes, mostly these characters are simply forgotten.

And the more I think about it, the more I wish Ai had returned to the city of the dead and after seeing some other parts of the world and meeting the other characters. I feel that this would have helped to show how far she had come in her journey, and more importantly there were some great characters left in the city of the dead that I wouldn’t have minded seeing how they had fared since encountering Ai. I would really love to see this further explored but at this point it seems unlikely.

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I’ll be honest and admit that if you are after something fast paced, Sunday Without God is not for you. Even though there are occasional moments of action, the show focuses very heavily on character dialogue and interactions. This is a story about how people deal with life, death, and what comes next and it is very focused on their reasons and their emotions. Large lengths of time are focused on characters either sitting and talking or driving together and talking or eating together and talking.

There are so many unsolved mysteries in the world of Sunday Without God. And a lot of that can be laid at the feet of the episode count. 12 episodes is barely enough to scrape the surface of this world where people do not stay dead and wishes come true. The world here is bizarre and intriguing and there’s a certain pessimism underpinning everything that happens but Ai brightens each and every situation with her presence preventing it from becoming truly depressing. More time to develop this world and more time to unravel these mysteries would have been fantastic.

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This is a show full of fascinating moments and ideas. I love the initial story and watching as Ai confronts her rapidly expanding world. I also love the city of the dead and how we see the different views on death and life. But my favourite character is Alis who isn’t introduced until the school arc and doesn’t really do much until his request for Ai’s help. The relationship between Ai and Alis and how they work together to save/destroy his world is really interesting.

Overall, I loved Sunday Without God, though will admit the rewatch value is pretty ordinary as the missing pieces of the story become more apparent and the shine comes off the protagonist. However it is sweet and thought provoking and just a pleasure to watch. However, it is also heavy at times and the plot is slow moving. I’d strongly recommend that if you haven’t watched the anime, at least watch the first three episodes and see the first story before you make up your mind about it. It’s well worth checking out.


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Karandi James

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3D Kanojo: Real Girl Series Review: Average Is Being Generous

Self-proclaimed otaku with a dislike of flashy girls draws the attention of a flashy girl. Must be love.

Review:

3D Kanojo: Real Girl falls into a couple of pretty obvious traps that prevent this anime from ever rising above being fairly ordinary and actually make it pretty painful to watch at times. And I’m not talking about the characters themselves, though many viewers did seem to find Tsutsui pretty hard to take early in the series as he is a fairly unlikable protagonist (kind of the point though).

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No, what this series does wrong is set up a premise that is pretty standard, made only even vaguely memorable by the strength of the character personalities (whether you like them or not) and then essentially spent the first half of the season eradicating any discernible evidence that the characters ever had a personality outside of their romantic trope. It’s painful to watch as the characters are leached of all defining traits outside of boyfriend and girlfriend from a standard high school romance and even the few attempts to recall that Tsutsui was supposed to be an otaku and Iroha had a reputation for playing around just kind of fall flat as these two generically empty shells of characters go through the motions of every cliche misunderstanding that can occur in such a story.

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Which brings us to the second trap which is that this anime has nothing new to say or bring to the table. While being derivative or basic genre fiction isn’t a death sentence in and of itself, if you aren’t bringing anything new then you have to at least bring your A game and 3D Kanojo: Real Girl is anything but.

I won’t lie. I actually quite enjoyed the first episode. While I didn’t like the main characters, given they were both pretty unlikable, I found them interesting enough and was curious as to how they would come together. Unfortunately, they got together in fairly quick order and then proceeded to do that on again, off again thing where the story would have them being happy and then just throw a random spanner into the works of one or the other’s emotional make-up to have them suddenly get annoyed at the other for being who they were. It didn’t help that literally every issue the two had as a couple could have been solved by a conversation.

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However, the narrative isn’t the only area where this anime falls a little short. The pastel colour scheme and character designs work well enough, but are also fairly unremarkable. Then we had some fairly obvious character off-model moments in the latter half of the season which weren’t a complete game over for the series but certainly made watching it less enjoyable as you had to wonder if one of the characters had just turned sideways or if they’d actually morphed into a different human being.

The OP is also pleasant enough but totally forgettable.

Then we have the support cast who all seem like they might be important. And yet not one of them ever brings anything of consequence to the story. Occasionally they are a catalyst for some kind of drama but then they just kind of fade into the crowd of generic ‘friends’ that Tsutsui somehow has and at the end they all go for ramen.

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Which brings me to my other concern with this series and that is that things get forgotten fairly quickly. Iroha says she can only date for six months. Tsutsui never asks why and the audience never gets an answer. Another character literally frames Tsutsui as a potential child-predator and yet that’s also forgotten. Tsutsui just goes about his normal life afterward and the guy who did it is never actually held accountable for being a liar and making false reports to the police (defamation of character, etc). In fact, he becomes one of the friends in the background. The kids at school go from being completely anti-Tsutsui to exactly as they were at the start which is ignoring his existence, but someone who has gained infamy for potential trouble with the police probably isn’t regaining their peaceful life that easily.

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It all just adds to the overall feeling that no one really knew what the point of this story should be. Nothing has weight and nothing matters. Stuff happens, it is overcome and then the next things happens. While it never becomes unwatchable, nor is there much reason to watch it.

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Ultimately, there’s no real way to recommend 3D Kanojo: Real Girl. It won’t be the worst thing you ever watched, but it isn’t really something you need to watch either.

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Karandi James

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Kiznaiver Series Review: Share Their Pain

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in June 2016 and can be found here.

When I first watched Kiznaiver I was overwhelmed at the end by a feeling of utter disappointment. Revisiting it two years on, the issue I found was that neither the emotional highs or the parts that didn’t quite work, managed to really have any impact. Without the novelty of being something new and shiny to watch, this show really did fall fairly flat and given I so rarely hear about it in chatter, I’m guessing most other people swiftly forgot about it. However, with a few edits, I’m pretty much standing behind my review from last time, so here it is.

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Review:

I’m going to admit, there are moments of Kiznaiver that are amazing. There are some superb emotional moments (that hit hard the first time at least) for the characters where the audience really feels for the character and everything just hits that absolutely perfect note where you are blown away by the power of that moment in the story. Or at least the melodrama of the moment.

However, these moments are framed by utter and complete moments of rubbish that are even harder to swallow when you  know they are coming. For a story about a science experiment allowing the group to share their pain, very little ultimately feels well thought out or controlled and you can’t really ever believe that such an experiment would be allowed to occur which kind of pokes a whole bunch of  holes in the believability of the story before you even get going.

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The first two episodes of this series introduces most of the cast. Another group member is introduced late seemingly because the writers couldn’t think of anything else exciting for their plot twist of the week other than sending the characters on a scavenger hunt for a missing member. While some people quite like these characters, I find the majority of them too stupid for words and generally don’t care enough about them to be caught up in whatever personal drama they are currently experiencing. The second time through it gets worse because even knowing their back-stories, some of their actions don’t make a lot of sense and the idea that the character are incredibly dense seems truer than ever.

That said, it shows the strength of Kiznaiver when it gets it right that it managed to bring me back into the story and the characters for those moments when it really mattered. The two episodes that focus on Honoka and Yuta remain my favourites of this series. While it might be a contrived drama at best, at least it is a contrived drama that managed to land its mark.

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I remain very much in favour of the soundtrack for this anime. The OP is fantastic and was one of my favourites when it came out, and the rest of the music works very well. The character designs and the general look of the show definitely work and work very well. Even after two years this anime still holds up and its appearance and soundtrack are going to age very well.

Too bad about the plot and some massive issues with the basic premise. Even if we overlook the unexplained science that allows the experiment to work and pain to actually be shared between characters, there’s still the matter of who is in charge of this experiment and the question of why that was ever allowed. It really doesn’t make any sense and the conclusion is very much a shout-fest that relies entirely on the power of friendship and the thin hope that the audience is so swept up in emotion that they don’t ask for an actual explanation.

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I know some people have really loved this series and if you don’t reject the power of friendship as a plot saving solution it can actually work. However, it didn’t really click with me when it first aired or now.

What are your thoughts on Kiznaiver?


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Karandi James

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Black Butler Season 1 Series Review: One Hell of A Good Time

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in May 2016 and can be found here.

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I’ve been a big fan of Black Butler since I first saw the anime many years ago – though most of the time I try to pretend season 2 does not exist and for the duration of this review I’m going to. I’ve also reviewed Book of Circus and Book of Murder in case you are interested. Irina and I also debated the merits, or lack of them, of season 2 in a collaboration that you should definitely check out if you missed it.

We’ll get this out of the way first. Yes, there are some uncomfortable moments for some people in Black Butler. The relationship between Ciel and Sebastian is at times just a few steps over the line of what some people find acceptable and while nothing is overt on screen the dialogue and insinuation is not exactly subtle. There’s plenty more explicit out there but this will still rub a few people the wrong way. If that’s you, thanks for visiting the blog, please read one of my other reviews.

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Still with me? Great. Moving on.

Alright, any history buffs in the room that care whether or not 19th Century London is portrayed accurately in terms of dress, mannerisms, status, etc, you should probably also step out.

For those who are left, this is why you should watch Black Butler.

Ciel is brilliant as a character. No, he doesn’t really develop as a character. He comes into this series fully formed. Everything truly terrible has already happened to him and he is utterly resolved. Not on revenge, as he states several times in the series, but on ensuring those who humiliated him are in turn humiliated because that is what he wants. He’s under no illusion. This isn’t a noble quest and he knows he has made a deal with a demon. For 95% of the series he is unwavering. It’s kind of refreshing to have a protagonist not trying to find themselves.

Instead, Ciel is fighting to remain who he has decided to be. In the face of everything that comes his way throughout the series he is determined not to leave his path. This allows for there to be conflict and self-reflection but means he isn’t really developing and there is no over-arching character arc here. But it is a joy to watch.

Some might disagree with that last statement. In honesty, Ciel’s a snobbish, childish, jerk who is like the kid who didn’t get picked to play so now he’s going to steal all the equipment so no one else can either. That doesn’t mean he isn’t appealing as a character though. You just wouldn’t invite him around for dinner any time soon.

And then there is Sebastian.

He is polished and cool and refined and he steals every scene he is in. Perhaps he is a boring character because he is so perfect but I always enjoyed watching how he would meet Ciel’s demands and I loved the play between the two as they found new ways to torment each other within the bounds of their contract.


Black Butler Artworks 1
Black Butler Artworks 1


Mostly the series is a kind-of-mystery of the week. The mysteries aren’t particularly compelling and the solutions are usually pretty basic or rely heavily on the supernatural to explain, so don’t get too invested in that aspect of the show, it won’t hold up. However, the overall story of Ciel seeking those who killed his family and working under the Queen to draw his enemies to him, is quite compelling even as it makes you question the logic of those actions.

Angela is also a rich and interesting character, even though she is sadistic and a little bit crazed. Though she isn’t in all that much of the series she is definitely a highlight and her appearances signal some big movements in the plot.

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Lastly, we have probably the most annoying aspect of the show. The other servants in the Phantomhive mansion. While they are useful(?) to the plot in the final episodes, their presence mostly serves as an irritant and delivers some of the poorer comedy found in the show.

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I recommend Black Butler for a watch, but I am aware it isn’t for everyone. Let me know your thoughts on this series.


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Karandi James

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Lostorage Conflated Wixoss Series Review: The Final End of the Battles?

If you haven’t watched the previous three seasons of this franchise, I’d strongly suggest this isn’t the place to start. That said, if you’ve been onboard through Selector Infected WIXOSS up until now, you will probably quite enjoy the latest round of Selector Battles.

Review:

Where many continuing series go wrong is they end up either feeling totally disconnected from the previous story or they feel like a complete rerun of the original story with maybe a new villain tacked on. While they might end up feeling better or worse than the original, the fact remains that they don’t really need to exist as they don’t add anything more from a thematic or world building point of view and ultimately it just depends on whether they have a more interesting character or a bigger budget as to whether people enjoy it or not. WIXOSS avoided this handily when it first moved to Lostorage Incited WIXOSS through introducing new protagonists and very much focusing on the relationship between Suzuko and Chi and changing up the rules of the game sufficiently that it added new threats and new considerations.

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Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS then makes the bold move of fusing together characters and ideas from the original two seasons with the first Lostorage season and it does it in a pretty interesting way. The rules of the game are murkier than ever, and that’s kind of the point that the anime is ultimately making. The game isn’t fair and the rules have always been open to exploitation.  Through this approach, Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS has managed to avoid feeling like a tacked on extra and feels like a genuine conclusion to a story that started three seasons ago.

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It isn’t all smooth sailing. The inclusion of Carnival as the primary antagonist for most of the season is a definite hang-over from the prior season and it almost feels at times like Conflated doesn’t really know what to do with this character other than have them be horrible to everyone else. While the Bookmaker was a fantastic character for stirring things together in the previous season, Carnival lacks subtlety and while they are the catalyst for so many events in this season, they are definitely a weak link and even their appearance in the final episode felt more obligatory than necessary.

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Fortunately, the rest of the cast are working hard to overcome that weakness. It is clear even early on that the greater challenge is the system that allows the Selector Battles in the first place and that is what they are fighting to overcome, Carnival is more an obstacle to that. In this season we see old relationships re-examined and the impacts of prior battles on characters. It feels satisfying and these characters don’t remain stagnant in this season but continue to work towards becoming the people they want to be.

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Perhaps the biggest issue remains the WIXOSS game itself. As I mentioned earlier, the rules are even murkier than normal, and normally it is hard to follow what the rules are as sometimes the characters take turns and other times they just annihilate each other. There are also more random power ups and sudden victories that seem unwarranted here than ever before. While emotionally it makes sense and if the game just serves to show the mental state of the characters it works fine enough, but it really doesn’t lend itself to making the game feel like a real game. It is ultimately just a plot device to get the characters to where they need to be.

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The other overall issue I have, on looking back, is that WIXOSS has always gone for a bittersweet ending. Things are gained but things are lost and that which is lost is gone for good. It makes a nice change to the overly twee endings found so often. This most recent ending however actually undermines that by essentially resetting things. The characters still have their memories of the painful times, in fact they’ve gained memories of pain back, but so much of the damage of the prior seasons is erased in this ending. It almost feels like a cheat this late in the game and it takes a lot of the weight of the prior battles away.

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Still, WIXOSS is a great franchise. While it isn’t as exciting as some and doesn’t quite pack the punch it might, season after season it has provided fairly consistent and decent story telling and this latest season does that again and provides some closure on this franchise. Is it the complete end? It feels like it should be but you never know with some stories.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave me a comment below.


Product Link:

Lostorage Incited Wixoss Official Fan Book
Lostorage Incited WIXOSS Official Fan Book


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Karandi James

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Natsume Yujincho Seasons 1 – 4 Review: Great Characters, Great Atmosphere, and Just Pure Relaxation

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in May 2016 and can be found here.

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It might seem strange that I love Natsume. Given my usual tastes for faster paced stories, stories that are a little bit darker, or stories that do something a bit unexpected, there really isn’t any reason for me to be such a huge fan of Natsume.

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And yet there is something incredibly compelling and adorable about Natsume himself that manages to draw me into this world and makes me want to spend more and more time with him.  Natsume in the early episodes of season 1 is damaged, and that damage doesn’t just disappear. It fades and comes out in different ways at appropriate times, and slowly, ever so slowly, it is being healed, but there isn’t an instant fix.

In point of fact, it’s hard to even notice how far Natsume has developed as a character until you go from an episode mid-way through season 4 and maybe watch an episode from late season 1 or early season 2. Natsume is a dynamic character who continues to take on board the experiences he goes through and these become integrated into his overall character. While it is subtle development it is consistent and ultimately it makes this whole story feel authentic in a way few manage. And it isn’t just Natsume.

All of the characters in this show develop slowly but surely in ways that fit with the experiences they go through. You really feel like you are part of this group and watching this show is like catching up with old friends. There’s a strength of writing and character development that you do not normally come across. This is something Irina and I explored when we took on the Natsume Supporter Character Battle to determine who the best supporting character was in this story. It ended up being a heart-breaking experience as we pitted truly great cast members against one another.

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The plot also moves. While each episode really is the yokai of the week appears with either a problem to be solved or a desire to get their name back, each season feels like it is moving forward. Season one helps Natsume overcome his unreasonable hatred of all yokai. Season two sees him developing some actual human relationships that aren’t superficial or simply being acted out. Season three helps Natsume begin to understand Reiko (his grandmother) and her actions. The season four plunges us into finally facing some of Natsume’s child-hood trauma and finding some closure.


NATSUME YUJINCHO ICHIBAN KUJI PREMIUM
NATSUME YUJINCHO ICHIBAN KUJI PREMIUM


The art style is also really pretty. There’s definitely a reliance on soft colours but the nature effects, whether it be sunlight, flowers, leaves, snow or rain are always gorgeous and the characters are simple but easily distinguished.

Music is used well throughout the series but again has a very laid back kind of feel to it. Sound effects are mostly understated which makes the occasional dramatic effect really stand out.

The fifth and sixth seasons of this show continue building on the compelling foundation and this is one story that just keeps getting better. I completely recommend this series. If you want something warm and fuzzy and don’t mind watching events unfold at their own pace, Natsume will be a very rewarding watch.


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Karandi James

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The Devil is a Part-Timer Series Review: Conquering The World Through Climbing The Corporate Structure

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in May 2016 and can be found here.

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The comedy in this show is fantastic as it balances absurd humour and satire fairly well throughout most of the series while still managing the odd moment of touching friendship and drama. While the occasional boob joke may intrude, for the most part the show relies on situational comedy and it plays the fish out of water card with precision and for merciless laughs.

Highlights include Satan’s dilemma over whether to use his power to cook chips when the fryer breaks. This is a moment stretched out for dramatic tension. He stands poised but frozen in indecision. He doesn’t have much power. But they won’t be first in sales if they can’t sell the chips. What should he do? And then the moment is broken and we see him hanging his head in utter defeat.

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Also, Emilia’s dissatisfaction with her own mundane life and her inability to accept her changing relationship with Satan is regularly played for laughs even while it addresses real issues about not judging books by their covers and learning to move on. That and to stop projecting onto other people.

Lucifer’s portrayal as an introvert and lay about also brings on some good laughs later in the series. As does his plaintive complaints about his treatment (given he did try to kill most of the other cast members).


The Devil is a Part Time Complete Series
The Devil is a Part Timer Complete Series


In addition to comedy the show offers some good satirical commentary about the nature of the modern world and whether or not our current work/corporate culture is evil. This point is further emphasised in the final episode that moves entirely away from the clash between angels and demons and focuses entirely on sales scams.

While some of the characters remain one dimensional and the basic premise never really evolves beyond Lord Satan is working part time and somehow believes he will one day rule the world, this series is more than entertaining enough. The few complaints about the odd missed joke and the sleazy portrayal of Sariel seem petty when looking at the overall.

The music is neither good nor bad (it fulfils its purpose but is readily forgotten after the fact) and the animation is neither particularly good or bad.

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That said, I have to nominate Ashiya/Alciel for being the single most useless minion of all time.


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Tokyo Ghoul:Re Series Review: This Franchise Demonstrates How Not To Adapt Something

Given I stopped doing episode reviews after episode 4, it should be fairly clear that this anime didn’t really do much for me. And normally I would just drop it and call it a day, but I decided to finish watching it. Mostly because the madness of creating an anime season that follows on from the manga but not the previous anime season just struck me as being a particularly harsh slap in the face for anime fans.

Review:

Let’s get the biggest point out of the way and then I can get on with reviewing this somewhat troubled narrative on its own merit, or lack of it, rather than the perceived slight of being literally dropped into the middle of a mess without any attempt to bridge where anime viewers were left after the previous season and where this began. I actually do get that a lot of anime exists just to sell manga or for fans of the source material. That’s all fine. But I have to wonder if even fans of the manga are happy by how this played out. It isn’t as though they can watch the anime from start to finish and get a coherent story. Instead they’ll get an introduction, a trainwreck of original material and then a jarring leap back to the source. Without heavy reliance on the source there is genuinely no way to follow this leap because characters aren’t where they were and half of them are either unknown or poorly introduced. As someone who never read the manga, I can assure you it is incomprehensible without at least some reading on various wikis and fan sites.

And that is not okay.

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Who is entertained by this? Anime viewers can’t possibly be because this franchise has no rewatch on its own without using the manga as a bridge. Manga fans may as well just read the manga because at least the story might be cohesive rather than what this presented. This is possibly the worst decision they could have made. A full reboot would have been better. A filler original series to somehow skew events back in line with the manga might have satisfied. Honestly, a ten minute character narration explaining events from point A to B would have been something.

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But no. That kind of courtesy is apparently not given when there is a clear expectation by producers that people will watch this franchise regardless of what dribble they drop on them. And given I watched it all the way through, I can’t say they were wrong. And yet, I know on hearing the announcement that Re was getting a second season, my only thought was that I was done. I have no desire to revisit this franchise. Not even the first season which I actually quite liked. And that lack of desire for more comes from the issues in this story on its own rather than from the annoyance that they did nothing to soften the jarring change in narrative for anime fans.

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Standing on its own, Tokyo Ghoul Re is riddled with issues. The central conceit that Haise has no memories of who he is and somehow this is a journey to find himself is poorly executed at best. With a visible transference of hair colour to indicate his current mental state (something that doesn’t play well given Kaneki’s hair went white due to trauma and that is a believable phenomenon whereas hair changing back from white sure isn’t) essentially everything about this struggle is blunt forced into the story bringing the current action sequence to a screeching halt while Haise/Kaneki play around in mental la-la land.

While it might be argued this mirrors Kaneki’s original transformation with Rize acting as a guide, this lacks any of the finesse or poignancy of that encounter. Superficially it is much the same and yet it is inelegant and, to be perfectly honest, quite dull to watch play out.

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Equally, the new characters introduced under Haise’s care are incredibly flat and one dimensional. They barely get screen time and when they do it is to the detriment of the story. And while some new bit players isn’t the worst thing Tokyo Ghoul drops on its audience, it seems it doesn’t realise that nobody cares about these characters building to what is set up as a tragic moment during its final episode that falls flat because to be perfectly frank I was more than happy to see that particular character bite the dust. I only wondered why more hadn’t joined him.

They are clutter and distractions from the older cast members who really just make cameo appearances. Arima gets talked about a lot but barely appears on screen. Touka shows up briefly and Haise gets all teary, but nothing ever comes out of this sequence. He then just moves on. Tsukiyama spends the majority of his time being crazy for reasons unclear to anime only viewers, and then his fate makes up the majority of the final battle sequence and I’m still not sure why anything about that plot line mattered.

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Basically, this entry into the franchise lacks any kind of central theme or driving force. Done better, Haise’s identity might have carried the episodes, but it really didn’t have anywhere near enough power to do that in its current state. And there’s literally nothing else. They go out. They investigate ghouls. They fight. Occasionally a ghoul investigator gets killed (or lots do) and everyone acts all outraged. There are some large scale fights with even more ridiculous antics going on than earlier seasons and none of them look very good.

I guess if you are a really big fan of this franchise there might be something here to cling to, but I didn’t find it. I watched the final scenes play out and breathed a sigh of relief that I was done. So clearly I’m not recommending it.


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Ouran Highschool Host Club Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at a school for the super elite and while looking for a quiet place to study stumbles upon the host club. Anxious to leave, she accidentally knocks over a vase of considerable worth and after a series of events where the vast majority of the members of the host club mistake her for a boy, she becomes a host. While the club members figure out that she isn’t a boy in order to pay off her debt, Haruhi continues to masquerade as a male for the remainder of the series.

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Review:

This anime was heavily recommended to me quite a while ago and the first time I tried to watch it I just did not get it. The boys seemed vapid and pointless, as well as stereotypical archetypes rather than characters, the jokes seemed pretty obvious and flat and the plot felt absent other than a set up for the scenario that the animators had in mind. Sure it was pretty and had some bouncy music and lots of close ups of handsome anime guys but that didn’t seem like enough to make it watchable.

I didn’t finish it the first time through. I got, maybe 10 episodes in and just couldn’t take any more vapidness so walked away.

So why did I go back and watch it and how did that then lead to it becoming one of my favourite binge worthy animes of all time? (Note, that is different from becoming my favourite anime or even a good anime.)

I’ll have to repeat my initial thoughts to explain.

The boys seemed vapid and pointless. Yes, they are. It’s a harem comedy so of course they start that way. How on earth are you going to introduce a harem comedy and address all six of the guy’s back stories in the first episode? This is a case where the characters aren’t so much developing as they are slowly being fleshed out. Toward the second half of the series, most of the characters get an episode or two specifically aimed at rounding them out and at least explaining some of their more interesting character quirks. They aren’t wrapped up in a neat little package but by the end of the series they are least feel like vaguely plausible human beings.

More importantly, on a second watch I started quite liking Kyoya as a character. He’s in the background a lot but his words and actions carry weight and it is interesting seeing how he interacts with the others. From starting to like one character, I began to see a bit more of the other characters. While Tamaki and ‘Honey’ are never going to be my pick for characters given their overly needy natures, I found the twins (by the third watch through) fascinating. Re-watching for the umpteemth time, any episode that focusses on the twins has become one of my favourites.

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Will I argue that these characters have depth and complexity and are outstanding at demonstrating the nuances of the human condition? Not a chance. They are still archetypes but for the context of the show they work and when given a chance they have enough variation to to be more than just cardboard cutouts.

As to the comedy and jokes being obvious and flat, well there isn’t really a counter argument. It really just depends if you are in the mood for yet another he slipped on a banana peel, he just massively misunderstood that, or general mistaken identity humour. Most of the humour relies on overexaggeration which if you are in the wrong frame of mind will definitely come off as more annoying than humorous but when you are in the mood to just relax and not think about much, it can work. More importantly, the humour is consistent. It isn’t that some jokes hit and others miss the mark; it is simply that this is the type of humour they are delivering, take it or leave it.

In terms of plot, it is highly episodic with the overall story of Haruhi paying off a debt. But this is character driven. It is how the characters respond to the challenge of the week and what we learn about them. The events are more of less irrelevant at times and it seems the writers knew that too as many of the transitions and motives for things occurring were dismissed as simply being a particular character’s whim and off they went to the next set or costume change.

What I ultimately like about this show is it isn’t trying too hard to claim any legitimacy. The fact that the boys are using a music room as a host club in a school is never explained other than Tamaki decided he wanted to start one. There is no teacher presence anywhere and only once or twice does studying come up (which given it was apparently part of Haruhi’s motivation for going to the music room in the first place seems a bit odd that they didn’t use that as a source of tension later in the story). The characters are all (except Haruhi) super rich and have connections and any plot point that can’t be explained sensibly gets dismissed as a perk of being rich and having connections. This allows for some fairly extravagant set-ups for otherwise fairly ordinary rom-com events.

Possibly what seals the deal with this anime for me is Haruhi herself. At first she comes off as an emotionally cut-off tomboyish girl with very few defining traits other than intimidated by rich people and smart. That quickly fades and we see how Haruhi deals with each of the events in the Host Club. Again, not a huge amount of development, but she certainly comes out of her shell as the series progresses and learning who Haruhi is can be quite a fun adventure.

ourands

The theme song is definitely infectious though so if you aren’t in the mood for a pop song to go bopping around your head for the next week you may want to hit skip on that. However, even the end credits have pretty great music.

My favourite moments include the commoner coffee scene, the ‘date’ with Hikaru, and watching the twins play the which one is Hikaru game.

My recommendation: watch this when you are wanting to seriously relax and just shut off from the world. It’s light and sweet and when you don’t think about it, pretty funny. Don’t watch it if you are in the mood to deconstruct something, because it won’t ever stand up to close scrutiny.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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