One Punch Man Series Review: One Punch – One Joke

One Punch Man Saitama Flying

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

I’ve not made all that many changes to this one as my opinion really hasn’t changed. I did however, get rid of the plus/minus format. Still, if you read the original post, that kind of covers it.

It’s really difficult to review One Punch Man. On the one hand, it is awesome. The main character defeats his enemies with one punch. It’s funny. It’s visually striking. The music is really well chosen. On the other hand, essentially the plot is about a guy with almost zero motivation who instantly kills his opponents removing any tension from any conflict and once you’ve seen the punch line to most of the jokes there isn’t a lot of rewatch value. And in honesty, rewatching this one was kind of dull. While there are a few moments that still really shining, without the novelty factor there just isn’t much here.

onepunchman_forreal

At the centre of the story is Saitama. He really feels like a character for the modern world. He’s self-centred, lazy, and reasonably ignorant of things that don’t particularly impact on him (not saying that everyone in the modern world is like that but it is certainly a recognition of a social trend). He also has a very high opinion of himself and his value and at times seems to carry a giant chip on his shoulder about the lack of credit he receives for his work. Compared to the superheroes of the past (or the current Hollywood trend of dark and edgy heroes), Saitama is a fantastic breath of fresh air and fairly easy to relate to.

And he has even more depth than most of us initially give him credit  for. There are times when he could receive recognition but because of the ramifications to others, Saitama deliberately plays down his part in a job. Given his usual self-involved attitude, these moments are really important to making him feel like a genuine character and someone who is becoming more aware of the world around them even as he seeks recognition.

Basically, this character has toed the line and managed to make us not hate him, even while he plays up some of the less desirable traits of the modern culture. Its an interesting mix and one handled more deftly than you might at first assume, but a lot of that gets lost under a fairly one note plot.

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Sticking with characters though, I want to give a shout out to Genos. My favourite character from the show (and someone who deserves some kind of award for the sheer amount of determination he has and how little it actually gets him). He is your typical hero in every sense of the word. Tragic childhood on quest for revenge and to save others from the same fate. Willing to sacrifice himself and always working to improve. He is also the only one who really recognises Saitama for what he actually is (even if his perception is a little tinted by rose coloured glasses).

Genos also brings about some of the more amusing and tragic moments of the anime as he tends to attempt self-destruction fairly regularly (to save others of course) or gets swatted into pieces. You feel bad for him but can’t help but laugh and given how much damage he sustains in early episodes without lasting impact (because apparently being a cyborg means anything can be fixed) it takes a lot of the trauma out of his injuries. While Genos couldn’t carry the show by himself (he is too weighed down with clichés), he is an excellent support character and adds just the right notes of earnestness, dedication, and over-zealous stupidity to most scenes.

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However, that one note plot is a problem as is the inability to escalate tension throughout the story. When you start your anime with city destroying monsters, giants, cyborgs, gorillas and life sucking mosquitos, how do you up the ante? Sure, aliens? Why not? Only they don’t come off as any more threatening than the hoodlums or any of the other villains we’ve seen. I think they are supposed to, given all of the heroes are seemingly gathered to face them, but what we end up with is a series of small group fights that lack punch (sorry about that) and then Saitama squaring off against the leader of the aliens and… well winning with one punch. They may draw out this battle sequence for longer than others in the series, but to be honest the outcome is obvious and you’re not sitting on the edge of your seat waiting but rather just waiting for the inevitable punch line.

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And so our plot line boils down to a single manta. “Saitama is strong. Saitama is good. Saitama hits things and kills them in one punch.” Possibly this is a story about the organisation for heroes and maybe there’s more to the whole thing there but in the first season (which is all we have at the moment), there is genuinely no real plot. There are a series of incidents that get dealt with and in the process we see Saitama and Genos interacting more and more with other heroes (all of which have their own agendas and motives). This is not actually a plot. The series is a collection of set-ups and punch lines with just enough world building packed around it to make it feel like maybe there is some plot progression. Certainly there is space for there to be a plot. You know, the hero guy who seems to be wanting to take over, and the other guy who… wait we just don’t know what they are actually up to and they probably made up less than 5% of the screen time so let’s not justify that as a plot.

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But the weak plot isn’t enough to take away from the fact that this show knew what it wanted to bring. This is high energy fun. I may make fun of the obvious ends to battles but the show continues to find ways to make these amusing and visually appealing regardless. More importantly, they keep finding ways to make battle sequences look and feel different (even knowing they will end the same way). The sheer variety in the enemies and the use of lesser heroes and even the stronger heroes in the early stages of fights keeps things feeling fresh and moving.

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For me a lot of the jokes fell flat. Even the ones that were pretty funny the first time round weren’t particularly amusing when I tried to watch it again with a friend. A lot of the humour relies on shock and spectacle and unfortunately that just doesn’t hold up to a second viewing (and a third viewing for this review just killed it – there’s almost nothing left that sticks when you have already seen it and you know where its going). The character related humour worked better but even that didn’t have the same impact on rewatch. There are definitely some satirical elements at work here, but the show isn’t really cohesive enough to call itself a satire. Mostly, it’s just going for amusement and entertainment and for the most part it succeeds.

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After all of this, I’m still going to recommend this one to people who haven’t tried it. The first watch is great fun and you’ll have some great laughs with it. However, I don’t see myself ever wanting to buy this one on disc and I probably won’t go for another watch of it anytime soon.

What did you think of One Punch Man?

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Karandi James
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ONE PUNCH MAN ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
ONE PUNCH MAN ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

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Say I Love You Series Review

Say I Love You Mai and Yamato

It’s Sweet, Right?

Love stories are a dime a dozen and in anime particularly, high school romances are prolific. While not quite as notorious as isekai stories, these roll out with at least a handful every single season premiering. Some to great fanfare, most quietly appearing and disappearing with little comment or noteworthiness. Every now and then though, a romance comes along that really grabs my attention and even after it is done I still remember it and in such cases, while I’m still very much more fond of action, horror and fantasy, but in such cases the romance may very well work its way into my heart and become a story that I treasure.

Say I Love You didn’t quite succeed at that. However, it also wasn’t one that passed by without needing comment. It’s a story that actually deserves quite a bit of attention, even if ultimately it wasn’t one that really moved me in the way that something like Kimi ni Todoke did. 

To understand my feelings about Say I Love You, I kind of have to point out that what makes or breaks almost every romance story for me are the main pair. From a plot point of view, romance stories are incredibly formulaic, and while there are a few variations on the theme, once you’ve got lonely high school girl and popular high school guy together there really aren’t that many paths for the story to take and for it to still stay grounded in any kind of manner.

Say I Love You Mei and Yamato

Tachibana Mei is an amazing romantic heroine. She starts out as the typical loner who has chosen not to even try to make friends having been burned when she was younger. She deliberately keeps everyone and everything at arms length, save her mother and her cat. She tries not to let the ridiculous taunts of those at school get to her.

Yet one day, having had to put up with too much already, when a boy goes to pull her skirt on the stair-case, she snaps. And she does it in the fantastically amusing manner of a round house kick, that unfortunately doesn’t hit the idiot who actually deserves it, Nakanishi, but instead collides with Yamato, Nakanishi’s friends and one of the most popular guys at school.

This ends up resulting in Yamato pestering Mei and giving her his phone number among other things but she more or less resolves to ignore him, until she realises she’s being stalked and can’t get a hold of her mother. The romance begins and Mei gradually learns to open up and trust others. It actually is a fairly authentic character development and wasn’t a ‘get boyfriend and life gets better’ kind of deal. Mei has to work hard and want changes to happen for them to happen and even then there are set backs, failures, and misunderstandings. 

Through it all, Mei’s basic character doesn’t change, but her outlook on other people slowly expands and she starts to see potential that she couldn’t see before. This actually allows her by the end to help two other characters as they struggle with their own personal demons and is a nice circle to show us how Mei has overcome her own drama.

You know, if the story had focused entirely on Mei, I’d have been okay with that.

Say I Love You Cast

No, my mixed feelings and problems with this show come from Yamato. He is, by anime high school standards, incredibly good looking… and you know what, that’s about it. We don’t know if he is particularly good at anything. People just kind of converge around him and he puts on the face they want to see, and that’s kind of him. Even around Mei, he seems to just change to fit her mood and tone rather than being genuine. And while there are people like this, chameleons, who slide in and out of social groups and fit in everywhere and nowhere, they don’t make for a compelling romantic lead.

It also bothers me that Yamato defends his friend Nakanishi as being a good guy, despite the fact that he’s bad mouthed Mei even before we know who he is and then tried to pull her skirt. Sorry, not a good guy. The fact that the rest of the anime portrays Nakanishi as a ‘good guy’ who actually just wants to be Asami’s boyfriend and doesn’t mean any harm also doesn’t sit well with me. I’ll admit, if we cut the first two episodes off, Nakanishi is an idiot, but a good guy. However the impression left after the first episodes sticks for me and mostly I just want him to get kicked down a flight of stairs. And the guy I’m meant to believe is the romantic lead in this story is not only friends with him but rationalises and excuses his behaviour. It all makes it a bit hard to get behind Yamato from the outset.

I’ll give the anime props in that it did try to build Yamato’s character as it went. We see him as a doting big brother, protective boyfriend, slightly oblivious high school guy who ends up hurting his girlfriend without really thinking about it, and also typical teenager who has regrets about not helping a friend in middle-school who was being bullies.

The problem is that he never really becomes a cohesive character. We just kind of deal with whatever mode the anime has switched him into at the time. Over the top of all of these faces though is the teenage guy who fairly regularly pushes physical contact with Mei. And while he doesn’t go into inexcusable territory, he still moves a lot faster than Mei is ready for and he’s constantly pushing the agenda by kissing her or sitting way too closely.

Basically, I end up liking Say I Love You as a character study because Mei is fantastic and each part of Yamato is interesting enough, but the romance itself is more just a vehicle and not something I emotionally connect with enough to really get carried by.

But as a character study, Say I Love You is extraordinary as the support cast that grows as the series continues are pretty fantastic. Each character flawed in some manner and using others to hold themselves up or to recover from past traumas. 

Say I Love You Yamato and Megumi

Megumi is perhaps the one who undergoes the largest transformation, which makes sense given her impact on Mei and Yamato’s relationship. Still, her story still felt a little undeveloped and while the ideas were there it really did feel like we needed a little more insight into what was going on with Megumi for her story to stick. It is also very hard to sympathise with her plight when you see some of the stunts she pulls to get Yamato away from Mei.

Visually this anime is functional enough but unremarkable. Character designs are great and each character has a look appropriate to who they are, but the overall colour scheme is pretty bland and ordinary. Animation is fine but there’s little to show it off and the music works well but other than the OP is fairly forgettable.

I would recommend trying Say I Love You. It is a fun story and the characters are interesting. There’s some really good exploration of social issues such as self-image, friendship, bullying, social media use, and so on. And ultimately, the romance works well enough. I do have a friend who fell head-over-heels in love with this story, which is the reason I watched it more than once. I certainly think this is one that gets better the more you watch it because the strengths of the characters come out more and their flaws become more understandable when you know where the whole story is going.

Right, I’d love to know what you thought of Say I Love You so if you’ve seen it, let me know in the comments.

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Karandi James
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TOKYO GHOUL:RE 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: TOUKA KIRISHIMA
TOKYO GHOUL:RE 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: TOUKA KIRISHIMA

Erased Series Review: Weak Mystery, Great Character Drama

Erased Title Image

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

I first watched Erased when it aired and it was an anime everyone was talking about. Being apart of the conversation was fantastic particularly as it was a bit of a mystery so we all got to sit around on social media speculating about where it was going. That said, there was a lot of hype going on at the time and there was also a wave of enthusiasm around it. 

Going to be honest, I loved this anime then and I still really like it now. But it was an anime that benefited from going in cold, having to wait each week and being able to mull over what you’d learned and where it might be going and to engage in those conversations, and it also just benefited from the community behind it. In the absence of those things, Erased ends up being good enough, and still tells a fairly good story with interesting characters, but a lot of the ‘magic’ is kind of gone. The live action series is fairly solid as well though if you’d like to try the story again but a little bit differently (apparently it follows the manga closer or something like that).

Live Action - Erased

Though, it is a mystery anime which makes any kind of review hard. Particularly a re-visited review. There’s only so much you can say without giving the game away, particularly in a mystery like this one where it already seems pretty easy to figure out where things are going. Ultimately, mystery is a poor label to give this one. While technically the main character is playing ‘Whodunit’ the audience can figure it out far too easily and while the reveal is still very worth the price of admission, if that was all there was to Erased it would be a fairly easy to dismiss.

Erased

The plot however works well. The tie-in of the mystery with Satoru’s ability of revival is well managed and while they don’t explain the phenomenon, it almost doesn’t need to be. It is established that he can and does jump back in time and they use it appropriately as a vehicle to keep the story moving. Any explanation would have been pretty silly anyway so passing on that and just letting it go was actually the better option. And it does allow for a compelling story with a villain returning after a considerable length of time and seeing adult and child Satoru attempt to overcome his schemes with limited knowledge and at first few allies.

I’m not changing this next paragraph because I stand by it entirely from the original review.

“With Erased, it is the characters who sell the show. And even then you couldn’t point to anyone character and say that character is amazing. A lot of people liked Satoru’s mum but I found her one of the least interesting characters because she really didn’t seem like a realistic mother and was more a plot device that existed only to Satoru the advice he needed when he needed it, cause him distress with her death in the original timeline, and filled in any parts of the plot that you really couldn’t expect a child to succeed at overcoming. The friends Satoru has as a child are also a little off and at times serve no purpose. The first potential child victim is interesting but not overly believable as a character. However all of these characters complement each other perfectly and create a show that has a lot of heart and at times emotional depth. Even if they don’t shut up and like to endlessly articulate things that really don’t need to be said.”

Erased

Erased is a fun story. It isn’t an edge of your seat thriller but it will get you caught up in the mystery even after you figure it out and the characters will warm your heart. The OP is amazing so be sure to listen to it, and some of the visuals are really beautiful. Ultimately, Erased is an anime where lots of small details and moments add up to something that feels great to watch even though there are some issues with pacing, the ability to believe the plot, and the overall mystery falls a little short. Still, two years on I would still firmly recommend this anime for those who have never seen it.

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Karandi James
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Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Yona [w/ DVD, Limited Pressing]
Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Yona [w/ DVD, Limited Pressing]

Attack on Titan Season 3 Series Review

Attack on Titan Season 3 Episode 12 - Sasha

Less Shouting, More Plot, Still Great Action – Yes!

It’s taken awhile for me to get to this review and it isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the anime or that I didn’t have a strong opinion. It was more that the anime ended at a weird time of season and I’d already finished drafting my Summer anime reviews and scheduled them but I hadn’t yet gotten in to my backlog of anime to review and so Attack on Titan season 3 went on the list to catch up on at a future time and then I got busy.

Attack on Titan Episode 5

But, now that I’m writing about this anime again, the only thing I can really think is ‘wow, I really had a lot of fun with season 3’. If you recall my pre-season thoughts, I was pretty pessimistic about Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin). Season one started great but meandered. Season two did whatever it did. I guess we did get an amazing reveal but it really felt like the plot was lost and we spent a lot of time just kind of reacting to things or rushing from action show piece to action show piece. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were cool, but it felt like the plot was lost or stalled.

Well, season three has come along and it has brought us some wondrous things. Levi getting into the action as Kenny attacks his squad in the early stages of the season is a solid and exhilarating beginning to season 3.One that captures the adventurous spirit as well as the danger and idea of life being pretty cheap very well and reignites enthusiasm for the series in a way that was badly needed (at least in my case).

Attack on Titan - Season 3 - Episode 2 - Levi

Sure the fight across rooftops and through the streets of the district is over the top and from a physics point of view highly improbably(how dead is Levi if he actually attempted those stunts), but it is beautiful,fast paced, the sound perfectly complements it, and everything about the sequence just works from a raw emotional point of view. And it opens up the characters of Attack on Titan to us in a way we’ve never really had the chance to explore before.

From Eren and Historia, to the Ackerman’s, the  false King, Eren’s father, Kenny, all of the cast get some life breathed back into them as we take a break from riding around on horses and fighting and actually look at what is behind all the mystery and intrigue. Do we get all the answers? Well, it is Attack on Titan so not really, but it brings together a lot of the plot threads, the half hints and ideas, and it seems to throw them back into forward motion in a way that ends up being immensely satisfying.

Attack on Titan Episode 10

While I’m at it, I’ll mention that the OP this season is fantastic. I get that when you first hear it, or if you hear it without watching the show you will be wondering what that song is doing attached to Attack on Titan, but the opening perfectly captures what this season aimed for and ultimately accomplished. We see that the characters have grown up but that their pasts haven’t disappeared. Who they were and what they have been through has shaped them and continues to have an influence over their lives even as they try to find their own paths. The song and the visuals that go with it capture that, as well as the relationships these characters have formed. It really works and there’s a reason it ended up on my list of favourite OP’s for the year.

However, while the world and characters are being fleshed out there is a trade off. If you are after continuous bouts with Titans you may find season 3 a little bit of a disappointment. For me though, they more than made up for the lack of number of Titans early on by the sheer grotesqueness of the titan they fight just after the mid-season. And of course, by the end of the season we are back to many titans.

Attack on Ttian Episode 9

Still, the greatest accomplishment of season 3 is that it finally made me appreciate Eren as a character rather than merely tolerating him. As a shouting protagonist type, one of my least favourites, Eren has always been a sore point for me with Attack on Titan. While I joked early on in this season that gagging Eren helped immensely, when the gag came off, I found that Eren had finally moved forward as a character. Sure, there are still some stupid moments with him, such as his fist-fight with Jean, but Eren managed whole moments of character introspective later in the season without a single shouted line and with thoughts that I felt I could relate to and understand.This was quite the break through moment for him.

There are negatives of course. As I mentioned, there are less fight sequences this time around and so there are a lot of scenes of people standing or sitting around talking. There’s also a lot of characters from the political groups and military that you probably won’t be all that attached to getting a lot of screen time. And some of these moments could have been trimmed a little, though mostly I enjoyed it. The other thing of course is that we are still unfinished so now we’re back to waiting yet again.

Attack on Titan Episode 11

Attack on Titan really does like to keep us waiting.

Overall though, I’d definitely recommend continuing with season three if you made it through one and two. In my view, this was the best Titan has offered us so far and I’m looking forward to see where they go from here.

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Karandi James
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ATTACK ON TITAN 2
ATTACK ON TITAN 2

Caligula Series Review: Virtual Reality is Cool – Do You Really Need Plot?

Caligula Episode 5

Caligula Series Review

Caligula has the distinct honour (dishonour) or being the anime I watched this year that I just cannot find any merit in having sat through it. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a few good moments scattered throughout the 12 episodes, but I will admit that I was definitely breathing a sigh of relief as that final episode ended because it meant it was all over.

Caligula Episode 5

I think what frustrated me with this show was that I very much went into it wanting to like it. Virtual world with people trapped inside is a formula that’s been done more or less to death at this point but I’m a fan of a lot of these types of stories so that wasn’t a problem. There were cool character designs, some interesting music, and the basic idea of an AI wanting to make people happy and failing at it miserably all could have been interesting.

Caligula Episode 11

Even if the plot had just kind of dribbled along as it did, if the characters had been compelling or if they’d actually gotten into any of the ideas of whether living in the virtual world was real or not, or looked at the Musicians (the villains) and their motives with any kind of depth or desire to really explore the human condition, I still might have  really enjoyed this. Unfortunately, each episode I walked away and just kind of felt the entire thing was a little bit (okay a lot) juvenile.

Caligula Episode 9

Massacres and emotional releases/revelations are littered throughout the episodes of this series but none of them are ever given any weight. It is more that the writers seemed to get bored with all the talk and endless snack eating and so suddenly dropped one of these scenes in. The powers the kids unlock within themselves look cool but are poorly explained and ultimately serve little purpose. And given we’re almost at the end of the series before the characters decide to reintroduce themselves to one another (I guess they realised no one in the audience had a clue who these characters were or why we should care about them) it becomes really apparent that the characterisation and writing in this anime just aren’t up to scratch.

Caligula Episode 10

Now, I know some viewers had fun watching this. And I guess if you just want to go along for the ride there are some flashy fights, the music is pretty great (the one thing I won’t criticise), and it does in fact resolve at the end even if that resolution makes no sense. But for me, this is the anime I wish I had walked away from this year. It just didn’t do anything for me in the end except make me think about how much better it might have been.

I’m not going to drag this out anymore. I just didn’t like this anime. I never connected with a single character, the plot at first kind of meandered giving us glimpses at some possibly half-decent discussion about psychology and the like and then it derailed itself and just kind of blew stuff up for awhile before it got to some kind of ending, and so many of the ideas it presented just never went anywhere. Part of me really wishes that maybe this will get another anime one day just to tell the story with less clutter. In the meantime, I’m clearly not recommending this one. There are plenty of better anime out there.

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CALIGULA: OVERDOSE [LIMITED EDITION] (CHINESE & ENGLISH)
CALIGULA: OVERDOSE [LIMITED EDITION] (CHINESE & ENGLISH)

Cells at Work Series Review: They Are The Cutest Anthropomorphic Blood Cells You’ve Ever Seen

Cells at Work Episode 7

There was no denying that Cells at Work made a splash last season with its cute and boppy opening song, adorable cast of characters (including the unbeatable-in-the-cute-department platelets), and its weird mix of education and entertainment. This was an anime that caught a lot of the community by surprise and week after week it primarily delivered solid fun and cuteness. So after some time for the post-season high to wear down and another look at a couple of episodes, how does this one stack up?

Cells at Work Episode 8

Surprisingly quite well. Despite the sometimes copious amounts of text on screens explaining various fundamentals about cells or the body in general, the occasional bit of fairly rough animation, and the handful of episodes that focused on cells other than the super adorable Red Blood Cell, Cells at Work is pretty consistently entertaining. There’s a lot of imagination behind the concept and the way it is delivered and I know I’ll never feel the same way about hay-fever ever again after seeing how the body failed to cope with a pollen allergy.

Cells at Work Episode 4

Where this story works is that it keeps itself simple and true to its premise. The cells have jobs to do and each episode something comes along to disrupt the usual processes and then it needs to be dealt with. While this might sound repetitive, and one of my early worries was that this show would end up feeling repetitive, ultimately each new threat is executed in an interesting manner and the solutions are usually fairly entertaining to watch. Also, each of the cast brings something to the table.

Cells at Work Episode 12 - Platelet

It is really hard to talk about these characters without coming off sounding a little weird given we are in fact discussing various cells in the body. However, this anime did such an incredible job in humanising them and giving them what felt like real personalities within the confines of needing a drive to complete their job (no lazy blood cells here). The anime did such a great job with developing characters, sometimes in a very short span of time, to the point where many viewers even found themselves feeling a little sorry for the Cancer Cell after he’d been around just over an episode of time. That’s still hard to fathom but this anime actually succeeded in making that initial cancer cells being hunted down by the body’s immune system seem like a character we should have some sympathy for even as our usual characters sought its destruction.

Cells at Work Episode 7

Visually this anime has an interesting kind of look about it with the blood vessels being re-imagined as roads and pathways and a scrape becoming a massive explosion leaving a gaping hole in the world through which cells did in fact fall out and never returned (sad). Each cell type has a unique design in clothing and individuals within the cell type have defined enough features that you don’t confuse them. There are some interesting ideas about how the body reacts to certain situations with scenes going dark, the cells getting hotter or colder, or even the pathways becoming a desolate landscape during the heat stroke episode.

Cells at Work Episode 11

Basically it just works and it feels like the concept was well thought through. Does that mean there aren’t faults? Not really. None of these episodes are really anything more than simple meet cells in situation, introduce villain/obstacle, run around a bit, and then solve kind of stories. While their link to real health issues makes them a little more compelling and interesting, they are incredibly basic. There are also whole episodes where the focus cells aren’t ones I’m overly interested in and then I found my general interest waning.

Cells at Work Episode 9 Killer T Cell

Still, any episode with a platelet sighting (which is most of them) were plenty fine. Those cute characters need their own spin-off short anime right now and I will happily watch them do absolutely nothing except maybe drink some tea and walk down a stair case. Which for me, is pretty odd because normally characters not doing anything bores me but I just can’t imagine getting bored while watching a platelet.

Cells at Work - Episode 2 - Platelets

All and all, while this anime isn’t going to change the world anytime soon, it is a great deal of fun and one that is worth checking out. The episodic nature means you can watch one or two episodes and just walk away for awhile so perfect for busy people who don’t want to commit to a whole series. If you’ve watched it, I’d love to know your thoughts so leave me a comment below.

 

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NENDOROID NO. 979 CELLS AT WORK!: WHITE BLOOD CELL

Bungo Stray Dogs Series Review: Guys With Super Powers, What More Do You Need?

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

Now this post originally had those random circular images in it that just look kind of hideous and didn’t really have much in the way of flow. So I was kind of happy for the chance to revisit and to restructure just a little bit.

Review:

The first time I watched this series, my familiarity with the authors it was referencing was pretty much zero. I’d heard some of the names but knew little about them. After watching this and reading various blog posts that looked at how they were used in this series, and coming across many of these names in other anime, I spent a bit of time reading about these authors and their work and have even read small bits and pieces of some of their work. I don’t know that it appreciably adds to the viewing experience in the anime though I guess some things make a little more sense (but at the same time some things make a great deal less sense because while there is a reference there they seem to have taken a lot of artistic licence).

bungo 9

The other thing with revisiting this series is that I’ve since watched season two and that of course very much changed my impression of season one and where things were going so I’m trying to just focus on this season as I revisit it.

The first few minutes of the first episode remain my favourite part of this entire season. My original post summed it up best:

So I watched. And within the first few minutes just fell over laughing. The opening scene with Atsushi starving by the river and deciding to rob the next person who comes by. Then the motorcycle screams past and you see him realise that was never going to happen. Then the military group. Lastly, we see the floating legs going down the river. It was a beautifully written piece of comedy and the timing was perfect and the predictability of it and yet the still refreshing reveal just hit the spot.

However, as glorious as those first few minutes are, the rest of what follows will be a mixture of success and failure and none of it ever quite lives up to that opening. It kind of reminds me of Zombieland Saga n that I loved the opening act of that, however, I will admit what follows in Bungo Stray Dogs certainly held my interest better than what followed so far in Zombieland Saga.

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My biggest issue remains the pacing, though characterisation when watching again seems even rougher at times with some characters overstaying their welcome in a scene and other characters seemingly missing in action for no reason other than the plot said so. I also never found the comedy quite as solid as that opening scene, though I will admit there are some genuinely funny moments to be had. Again, the original post kind of captured my feelings perfectly.

Watching Bungo Stray Dogs makes you feel like you are on a see-saw. This joke hits the mark and things go your way, and then the next falls flat and you are just stranded up in the sky because someone left a rock on the other end of the see-saw and it won’t get off. That plot twist grabbed your attention… and then it went nowhere. That villain looks super-cool. Did they just unspectacularly knock him flat and move on without really dealing with why he even attacked?  For every moment of ‘now it’s getting going’ you get at least two moments of ‘what the?’. When reflecting on the whole, you realise the series seemed like fun but lacks anything of substance.

As for the characters, Atsushi and Dazai tend to dominate a lot of the screen time and that’s a problem in and of itself because both of these characters are brilliant at times and at others kind of painful. Dazai’s particular character quirks are really funny in the beginning but feel stale and repetitive, or just ill-timed, elsewhere. While he is an interesting character, he is also quite annoying. As a protagonist, Atsushi has a lot of dull moments where he is kind of propelled along because plot said so and the jumps in his ability to use his power seem really inconsistent.

The supporting cast are made up of some interesting characters but not enough is done with them in this first season to really make any kind of connection. They are there, they have the potential to be really fun but it isn’t really ever achieved. I just kept thinking how much I’d like to get to know more of the cast but always feeling like they were just kind of there.

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And it is a shame that I still feel much the same way about the plot presented in season one. There is a plot and it does continue into season two, but it is really scattered all over the place and there’s a lot of different ideas that never really seem to consolidate. It is more just watching the characters reacting to events rather than having a clear goal and that is partially what hurts this anime in its pacing because we’ll have a series of events coming one after the other and falling over each other and then we’ll have moment of kind of aimless meandering before the next thing happens.

 Um… Okay, plot?  Look, our characters are quirky and amusing and they have super powers. They fight each other over things that may or may not turn out to have any meaning and we’ll drop just enough hints that you think something may emerge from all of this.

Still, it is fun enough and even rewatching it and seeing that I wasn’t mistaken and that the plot really does just trip all over the place, I actually enjoyed watching these characters in action. The cool moments are cool enough and there is enough humour and action to keep things going and enough potential for the story in the future to bring things together if it chooses to do so.

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The music was pretty solid and I like the visuals. The first time I had a bit of an issue with the way things hang off of characters, ties, belts, hair, etc, but this time around I just kind of liked how the show seemed to have a consistent style in its character design and that kind of made the whole thing seem very together so as much as I’d still like to trim Atsushi’s belt I think I’ll just go with it for now.

I still like this anime, though Bungo Stray Dogs is one of those that I probably won’t ever buy on DVD. I don’t feel I really need to watch it over and over and while there’s fun enough to be had there’s plenty of other titles I’d rather watch. Still, if you haven’t seen it and Dazai’s suicide joke isn’t going to upset you, watching this series is probably a fun way to spend a weekend.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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