My Hero Academia Season 2 Series Review: Shining the Light on Heroes and Villains

Overview:

There’s no denying that season 1 of this show made me sit up and take notice when I picked it up mid-season after reading many positive reviews. The second season continues Midoriya’s journey (as well as the rest of the students’ journies) to becoming a hero.

Earlier I covered some of the ideas in this series in Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea.

Review:

With the exception of Bleach (which even I’ll admit isn’t all that great when you break down the story) I’ve never been much for straight shonen action shows. I can’t stand the shouting, the long drawn out fight, the pointless arcs where a villain is built up to be beaten down, the random hero power ups, and all the other silliness that tends to infect those kinds of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action story, I just prefer something a little less aimed at teenage males. Surprisingly, My Hero Academia kind of has all of the qualities of a shonen story that usually annoy me and yet, much like Bleach before it, instead of turning me away it kind of manages to draw me in a little bit more with every ridiculous fight sequence.

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The first season was utterly charming and just plain fun to watch, and season 2, despite launching into firstly a tournament arc, and then a training/power up sequence, before going into an exam sequence (all of which should have killed any fun or momentum for me) managed to not alone maintain that sense of fun, it also fleshed out a very real and meaningful dialogue around the nature of heroes and villains. All of this while characters continued to grow and develop and come to a greater understanding of themselves.

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Now, there is nothing new to be found in My Hero Academia. We have seen each of these characters before and asking the question of what makes a hero is pretty much story-telling from cave-man days. So it isn’t the novel content that is keeping me fixated. It is all about the delivery.

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This world and these characters are bright and larger than life. Their actions, their ideals, their emotions, everything is heightened unapologetically and then dropped into a world is becoming more and more real with every point we learn about it. While we don’t have Quirks in the real world (or at least not that I’ve noticed), there is something extremely relatable about this social media, popularity focused society that has taken a noble calling (being a hero) and made it a vocation. One that is highly sought due to monetary rewards and social recognition. All of this makes for a very grand and highly energetic narrative even when not a lot is actually happening with the main characters. I’m pretty sure these students could make catching a bus entertaining at this point.

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Part of this is because of the sheer number of characters and their diverse personalities. While some of the less important classmates are still pretty one-note, a lot of these characters have had their moment in the spot light and have started to become far more interesting as the series has progressed. My Hero Academia is very big on giving characters clear motivations for their behaviours and attitudes and ensuring the audience understands these. That way, when a character begins to change or grow, or even just acts out of character, it is immediately apparent and the impact is even greater because we’ve understood why that trait was significant in the first place.

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It also helps that the characters are just fun to spend time with. Even Bakugo, the overly angry and shouty one, is always great fun on the screen. If he could learn to focus some of that rage he could be a truly awesome asset in the future, though at the moment he’s more of comic relief and occasional bringer of tension to an otherwise fairly happy group of kids.

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This season saw Todoroki and Uraraka both gain ground as characters. Each had a number of moments to shine throughout the series and learned from their own actions and the actions of others to progress toward their goals. Seeing the these two characters finding their way and seeing how that changed their relationships with other characters in the story, felt very rewarding. Both kind of gained ground in terms of being my favourite characters from this show by mid-season.

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However, the real spot-light this season needs to go on All Might and Midoriya’s relationship. If growth along a journey was the theme for the season, Midoriya truly personified this as he fought hard to gain control of his ability and also really considered why he wanted to become a hero. Early in the season he loses a fight in the tournament to Todoroki, not necessarily because he couldn’t win (although arguably at the time he couldn’t) but because he needed to help Todoroki. Midoriya chose a tournament loss to ensure a greater victory, helping a friend. And that more or less defined who he was. But, there are greater dangers coming and All Might is trying to prepare Midoriya for those. We see the greatest change in Midoriya, spurred on by Bakugo, when he actually strikes All Might during the exam. Season 1 Midoriya couldn’t have even tried to strike All Might. This transition from idolising All Might, to working to surpass him as a symbol of justice, is just another step on the road for Midoriya though for the audience, there’s the added tension of kind of suspecting All Might’s time is more limited than Midoriya knows. All Might is definitely holding back from telling Midoriya everything so that is one puzzle piece we’ll all be waiting for in the next season.

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Turning our attention to the villains, we see the Hero Killer rise up during this season and his impact on both the narrative and the characters is enormous. Even other villains are launched into renewed vigour because of the Hero Killer’s actions. For me, this part of the season was by far the strongest and most interesting. Mostly because the rest of the season focused on the growth of the future heroes but didn’t really give them a real world challenge to face. Though, the final episode this season leaves little doubt as to where the story is going.

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To begin bringing things to a close, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the openings this season. They worked and they definitely grew on me after several episodes, but initially I was kind of underwhelmed by them. Also, some of the fights in both the tournament and the exam arcs just felt like they were there for the sake of completion rather than for adding anything into the story. But these are minor complaints when considering the season as a whole.

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Season 2 gave me more of what I loved about season 1, and continued to grow both the world and characters in an  immensely satisfying manner. While I would have liked a little bit more from the narrative as we seem to be moving very slowly forward, this is a minor nit-pick to what is a fun series to get into.

I’d love to know your thoughts on My Hero Academia so be sure to leave me a comment below.


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Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Series Review: Why Details Are Important

Overview:

Some group want to change history and the characters we follow want to stop them. And the characters we follow happen to be the spirit of swords brought to life by a sage from the future who can sense time distortions.

Review:

I kind of covered a lot of my issues with this show in my feature a few weeks ago where I asked what went wrong with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu?

I stand by that question now that the series has ended. Because, it seems like this show has what it needs to be truly great and yet what we have instead is a shallow dive into a story the audience never actually gets to experience and characters who really don’t progress beyond a name, a fighting style, and a single note personality. It is telling that after 13 episodes of this I’m still not actually sure of all the character names and had to resort to looking them up and even then when looking at a character list it took me a moment to remember what some of the characters had even done in the show.

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Part of this is definitely because this is a game adaptation and there is certainly some expectation from the anime that viewers are at least passingly familiar with these characters already. But I haven’t played the game and even if I had, source material does not excuse sloppy characterisation (or none as the case may be) in the anime. The same might be true for the lack of plot development but again, even if the answers can be found elsewhere, that doesn’t make watching the anime any better.

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Basically what is lacking from this anime are the details. We don’t know anything about any of the characters other than these two (Horikawa and Kanesada) used to work together serving the same master who died. That’s the one character plot that is developed and kind of resolved by the last episode. Still, given neither one of those characters has any personality beyond loyal to their master and mopey as they question their purpose, it isn’t exactly a draw to the show nor when we finally get the end of this sub-plot does it provide satisfaction. The heroes of this story are trying to stop events from changing so it is more or less obvious what the end of this story will be.

The other characters we get the names of and occasional references to their former lives and masters, but none of this information goes anywhere or leads to anything. It barely connects to the overall plot with the exception Mutsunokami when we meet his former master. And what is the overall plot?

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Well, just in case we forget the swords mention it every other breath. They are going to protect history. They’ll stop history from changing. Why history is being targeted and by whom is something apparently the audience doesn’t need to know. I mean, yes, we are told the Time Retrograde Army are responsible, but who are they? No names, no discernible characters, no motive other than change history. No idea how many there are so basically they just spawn as many as they want in each occasion going so ridiculous as to have 1000 of them show up in the final episode only to do nothing but charge blindly forward and be mowed down by a significantly smaller force that previously struggled with groups of 10 or 20. Minor plot issue but whatever.

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It seems like this anime wanted to focus on Horikawa but didn’t want to leave out the other characters. So instead of getting a focused story revolving around Horikawa growing into his role in the second unit we kind of flit all over the place as we introduce a late addition to the second unit, then the entire first unit, and the we’ll finally get back to Horikawa but by that stage we haven’t really grown attached to him because he practically disappeared mid-season.

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However, this anime looks amazing and the sound is pretty impressive. Even when there is no tension to be found in a battle, if you close your eyes and just listen, it sounds super dramatic. But even mundane sounds like the leaves, the characters walking, gusts of wind, it all just very impressively done. If only even some of that attention to detail had gone into characters or plot (and I don’t mean the overdone character designs, I mean their personalities).

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While this show isn’t by any means unwatchable, there’s just not a lot of point. You won’t learn anything about the overall conflict or what the end game for either side might be. You won’t learn all that much about the characters and what you do learn could have been covered in about two episodes. Visually impressive fight sequences aside, there’s just not enough reason to bother with this show.

If you watched Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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Fastest Finger First Series Review: Do You Like Watching Characters Answer Questions?

Overview:

Koshiyama is about as typical an anime dweeb as they come. A book nerd starting high school with few friends or social skills. Then he get dragged into a practice quiz and discovers Quiz Bowl.

Review:

There’s really not a lot of story here. Geeky and shy kid joins new quiz circle at his high school and as a result gains some confidence, kind of makes some friends, and kind of finds a rival. I say kind of, because in these 12 episodes the skeleton for future developments is set up but very little time is devoted to anything outside of quizzing and learning about question formats and practicing to answer.

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Enjoyment of this show relies very heavily on the audience enjoying game shows or playing along with quizzes. If you like hearing characters discuss strategies for when you can quiz in or narrow down answers, then you will have fun. If you like seeing if you can beat characters to the right answer, you’ll probably have fun. If you actually want the back story on the characters or to see any of the potential character developments realized you’ll probably end up disappointed.

For me, I loved being inside Koshiyama’s head as he tried to find the answer to questions. Sometimes he was successful and sometimes not (so at least no plot armour for the rookie quizzer) but his thinking and how he drew on his knowledge from the vast array of books he had read was kind of fun to follow.

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The other members of the team and most the rival players are also fun enough, but they just don’t spend enough time with any of them. They all remain more types than characters and, particularly with the leader of Koshiyama’s team, it felt like there was a lot missing that would just make all these characters feel a bit more real and fleshed out.

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Mikuriya gets a lot more time as the set up rival from another school, but even he doesn’t get much beyond his attitude and aptitude. We literally know nothing about him beyond the fact that he likes quizzes and he doesn’t like to lose.

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Of course, the show isn’t all smooth sailing. The introduction of Akira in the latter half hurt my enjoyment of some of the final episodes. He was a really annoying character and while the show needed something to shake up all the composed quizzers and Akira served that role well, he didn’t make it more fun to watch.

The opening song is enjoyable enough and the dings and beeps of the buzzers are certainly nostalgic sounding. Otherwise the music and sound is pretty unremarkable as are most of the visuals.

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There’s no greater narrative going on here. No fighting for a greater good. This is just about the characters and quizzing with Quiz Bowl getting the lion’s share of development even at the expense of the characters. Still, if that works for you then you should have some fun with this show. I certainly did and while it is hardly going to be my favourite anime ever and rewatch value is pretty low (sorry, once I know what the answer is going to be a lot of the fun goes out the window) I’d actually happy watch a second season of this, though that seems unlikely that we’ll get one.

Probably the best thing I can say about this show is that it is consistent in what it delivers.

If you watched Fastest Finger First I’d love to know your thoughts on it.


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Clean Freak Aoyama-Kun Series Review – It’s a Gag Anime About a Germaphobe Soccer Player: What Do You Really Expect?

Overview:

Aoyama is a brilliant soccer player who also happens to be a germaphobe. When he starts highschool he defies expectations by going to a school that isn’t particularly strong at soccer and there continues to go about his daily life.

Review:

The whole way through the Summer 2017 anime season I kept this show on my watch list. At times that was more to see if I could finish a show that was built around a really basic gag that Aoyama didn’t like to get dirty and everyone around him was clearly crazy. At other times though, this show did manage to make a decent point or be amusing. I think for me, what saved this show from the endless list of comedy shows I have dropped in a heartbeat was that I didn’t hate the main character.

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Comedy anime have a really terrible tendency to make their lead characters truly insufferable to watch. They whine, they are usually loud or run about flailing their arms, they talk a lot, and usually have some fairly repugnant personality traits. Okay, I don’t like comedy so I’m fairly harsh on these characters. Aoyama isn’t like that because the main character, other than his one quirk of cleaning things, is pretty stoic. The idiocy and energy come from the rest of the cast and they are fortunately diluted by being side characters and not appearing all the time.

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That isn’t to say there weren’t those episodes that made me roll my eyes and want to stop watching. Episode 11 (the second last episode) was genuinely painful to get through. And why was it so bad? Because Aoyama barely appeared in it and we were forced to endure the side characters taking the lead on the episode and they were really annoying.

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Basically that’s all for this review. Either you will find the basic set up amusing and enjoy the way the idea of difference and tolerance is discussed through the various over the top set-ups, and occasional cool moments in the last five minutes of soccer games, or you will find the screaming girls chanting for Aoyama sickening to the core and flee the viewing. That said, there are some really good social commentary moments to be found beneath the comedy, though that really isn’t enough to off-set some of the sillier moments the show delivers or the fact that the characters I enjoyed the most seemed to be the ones who were quickly shuffled to the sidelines and the more irritating characters ate up more and more screen time.

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The music works but isn’t exceptional. The visuals similarly do their job but aren’t really particularly good or bad. Though occasionally I wish they hadn’t gone for the simplistic expression on Aoyama’s face because the white eye thing is really kind of creepy. There were a few jokes I could have happily lived without and to be honest this has zero rewatch value because there’s nothing you would have missed the first time and the jokes will not get funnier with retelling.

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Still, I made it to the end. I had a bit of fun with it. If you didn’t check it out at all it may be worth an episode, though likely this is one that will quickly be forgotten.


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Nurarihyon no Mago Series Review: Fascinated by Fear

Overview:

Rikuo is one quarter yokai and tries to live his life as a normal human. The problem is, his grandfather is the former supreme commander of yokai and his house is literally overflowing with them. That and his grandfather wants Rikuo to take over as the next commander of yokai. Despite this, Rikuo still fights to keep his human life separate until some dangerous yokai come to town endangering his friends.

Review:

It should be no surprise by now that I absolutely love stories about yokai and Nurarihyon certainly hits the mark. With some silly school comedy elements, some ho-hum romance, but a fair decent amount of action and supernatural antics, this show isn’t perfect by any means but is a pretty enjoyable ride. There is another season, and I will review that separately, but this is definitely a show that’s worth giving a go.

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That said, I’m going to start with the negative. Both opening songs are just plain wrong. The first one isn’t too bad. It kind of fits the show, but it doesn’t feel finished. It’s like they get to the end of the title animation and the song just kind of gets cut off. Every time it is jarring and kind of undermines what is a not-great but not-bad song. The second one however does not fit the show. It kind of highlights the silly school antic side of things in its tone and by that stage of the show, the school segments of the show are pretty small. When you are gearing up to watch a yokai vs yokai fight sequence and the opening is some lighthearted tune about sunshine, there’s a real disconnect.

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My other major negative is the way the human characters are treated. Rikuo has friends at school and even belongs to a club that apparently seeks out yokai but mostly that’s just one character’s obsession and the others all just kind of tag along. Early on, this is used helpfully to introduce a monster of the arc kind of feel but later, the human characters are pretty useless to the plot and yet just keep hanging around. Realistically you could have halved the number of students and they could have served the same purpose and gotten more development and screen time. Then again, this show wasn’t great at balancing things, which for a show that focuses primarily on the main character trying to find balance in his life, is kind of ironic really.

You could also criticise some of the animation, the choppy pace early on, and a number of other things but mostly these don’t interfere with enjoying the show.

Plus, there is a strong second half. Once we’ve been introduced to the idea that Rikuo has a night form that he can take and we’ve seen him in action a few times, the show finally introduces the main antagonist of the series, a yokai from out of town who has come to overthrow the Nura clan. With Rikuo’s grandfather missing in action and no one else to lead the defense, Rikuo is forced to step up his game and from then on the story really doesn’t take a break.

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There’s a great range of yokai and supernatural powers and these are used well to keep things fresh visually as well as provide some interesting moments in the story where they manage to turn things in a fight through an unconventional method. Admittedly, the second or third time that happens you are more or less expecting it, but they still manage to make it feel like something a bit different. Also, the yokai who surround Rikuo for the most part and act as his guards are pretty entertaining though could have been fleshed out a little more.

This show does get dark at times with humans being kidnapped by yokai and a real sense of danger permeating a lot of the fight sequences. Ultimately you know that no one of consequence will actually be killed but they do sustain some fairly substantial injuries. There’s blood and gore to be found but not so much that it is particularly shocking, though I was glad when one particular yokai finally was dealt with because at least it meant I didn’t have to worry about him licking anyone else.

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My favourite part of this show though is the central character. Rikuo is pretty stock standard in his human form. All jumps and worry when his friends visit his house as he worries about them seeing some of the yokai who conveniently hide just around corners and the like in a fairly poor attempt at humour. But he does have a more serious side. Even though he wants to be human, he does accept that there are things he has to do, so he isn’t just denying outright the yokai around him. This stops him crossing the line into whiney cry-baby territory that other protagonists of a similar style might fall into. And then we have his night form. I kind of get why the yokai are so fascinated by him. Admittedly, he’s just kind of smug and broody guy when all is said and done but everything about the presentation makes him look cool. The perpetually floating cherry blossoms, the music, the way he stands, everything is just perfect for presenting this ultra cool guy that you would want to follow. It works beautifully.

Anyway, if you are into supernatural stories at all and you haven’t checked this one out, it is worth your time. There are definitely some parts that won’t quite hit the mark, but overall this is a fun show to watch.


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Sagrada Reset Series Review: Why An Interesting Premise Isn’t Always Enough

Overview:

Sakurada is a town where the majority of the people have power. One specific power each that can be used under specific conditions. Most of these powers are harmless and fairly useless individually, but this is still a point of concern for those watching over the city. Kei’s power is that he doesn’t forget anything including time even after the world is reset by Misora. By combining their powers they are going to work to help people.

Review:

Sagrada Reset (or Sakurada Reset) is a fairly interesting anime. That will probably be hard to believe if you spend even five minutes doing a google search on it and see the parade of reviews of the first, second and third episodes and then see that the internet went pretty silent on this title as a large number of viewers dropped this and moved on. However, this is a 24 episode anime and one that the writers clearly intended people to watch the whole of rather than receiving instant gratification each and every episode, and to be honest I’m really glad I watched this through to the end, despite my own stated desire to drop this show mid-season.

There are plenty of shows where the whole is greater than the sum of their parts and some of those actually manage to be decent week to week, so I guess the question I’m left with is why was Sagrada such a frustrating viewing experience when stretched out from April to early September?

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For a lot of the reviews I read of the early episodes, it was the characterisation and pacing that was killing the show. The characters were compared to robots, androids, lifeless dolls and pretty much anything else that has about as much personality as a brick. It wasn’t even that much of a stretch. These characters do spend a great deal of time sitting very still with limited movement other than the occasional head tilt, talking in a manner that to the average listener sounds grossly unnatural. To be precise, the characters are ridiculously precise in a way that no-one ever is when speaking. It is an odd experience listening to them and there isn’t much visually happening to distract you.

That isn’t the same thing as a criticism though. Certainly it isn’t natural, but natural is probably not what anyone intended to go for with these characters. So for the first three episodes, I found these characters fascinating. Not actually good characters or terribly real, but interesting in that unique, what-are-they-doing kind of way. Admittedly, by mid-season, some of that charm had worn off and what I was left with was stilted characters who I will admit now were developing (as evidenced by where they end up) but it was happening so slowly that it was almost imperceptible until you actually reflected back.  Kei in the final episodes isn’t the Kei we met early on despite what the other characters might say and Misora, the emotionless robot girl herself is almost getting close to real person status by the end and you can’t really put your finger on when that transformation occurred because it has been a slow build of a myriad of tiny changes.

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Basically, the characters won’t work for everyone and none of them are going to end up on my character of the year list, but I am going to remember them because they don’t fit into the average moulds I’m used to seeing marched out onto the screen in anime. Again, not sure if that is positive, but it isn’t a criticism either. It just kind of is and different people in the audience will respond to them differently. For a lot of people that response is to turn the show off.

The second major criticism of the pacing is a harder one to discuss. The pacing is incredibly slow. Even with a two year time-skip by the time I got to the end of this show’s run it felt like I had been watching it forever. Part of that I think will be solved now that the full show is released and I intend to revisit this show and binge it in three or four blocks to see if that makes the pacing any more tolerable. With the pacing as it is though… Well, you have to either be really interested in the premise or find the characters really fascinating if you are actually going to push through with this one particularly during the first twelve episodes. Fortunately the second half definitely hits the accelerator and while it is still fairly measured, it isn’t making you want to pull your own hair out anymore.

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But these aren’t the only issues the show suffers from. It also suffers from a main character whose motives and actual personality are murky. He isn’t the good guy trying to save the world because he can. He isn’t on any kind of ego trip. He doesn’t necessarily want to be the best. He openly admits he is being selfish and that his own goals don’t have any higher meaning other than they are what he wants to do. Basically Kei Asai is the central figure of a story and his actions do drive a lot of the plot but those actions regularly have no significant meaning behind them. There is the motivator of trying to undo the death of Sumire Soma from early in the story, but most of the missions Kei undertakes for the Bureau have no direct connection to that event and it is hard to see what benefit Kei is seeking from his actions sometimes. That made it hard to care whether he succeeded or not, a lot of the time.

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Misora isn’t much better. Particularly early on. She seems so empty and useless as a character, her entire identity defined by how Kei sees her. It would be very easy to rant about female characters lacking agency but when we see the entire journey Misora takes, while it doesn’t make her earlier character all that palatable, it makes it hard to get on a high horse about character development. Misora arguably has the most development as Kei, despite changes that you would expect from the life he has lived, doesn’t gain anywhere near as much in terms of personality as Misora does from the events and experiences.

With the two central characters being hard to care about or rally behind, it keeps the audience at a distance from the show. There’s limited investment in the events and in their outcomes early on. Not to mention, Misora’s Reset ability is overwhelming and it is hard to imagine something coming along that she couldn’t fix despite the early blunder where a Reset had already been used making it ‘impossible’ to fix Soma’s death.

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Yet despite all these potential criticisms and deal breaking flaws that the show exhibits, there is one thing that having watched it from start to finish that I am very happy with. This is a planned and fully cohesive story. With one exception (that I’m hoping does tie in and I just missed it), every one of the earlier stories and events that Kei and Misora go through in that first half of the series is utilised and drawn back into the central plot as the show moved into and through its final arc. Conversations and ideas that felt meaningless, bewildering, or tacked on and then forgotten, suddenly serve great purpose and come together to make an ending which is rich in meaning and purpose and feels genuinely rewarding. Part of the reward is that you succeeded in the endurance test of not dropping this show, but the other part is that what you are seeing is actually satisfying story telling.

It is the kind of thing that is seen far too rarely in anime. As a medium, anime is there and then gone. One season is quickly followed by another and so many shows come out that viewers take one or two looks (and a lot follow a three episode rule) and make their choices. So shows stack their ideas and displays of prowess and frequently forget the greater narrative leading to stagnating middle-seasons and convoluted or messy endings (or worse, a non-ending). For everything that Sagrada Reset has against it, that ending alone made it worth my time.

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But, I wouldn’t have gotten there if I hadn’t been drawn to other aspects of the shows. The main draw for me was the premise. The town of Sakurada was interesting and the way powers could be combined and used for unexpected purposes was enough of a novelty for a slowly moving plot to keep me coming back even at the mid-season point where I seriously considered letting this show go from my line-up. The interactions between the students and the bureau also gave me hope that this story had some greater purpose or meaning in store for us and ultimately it did do something with those ideas even if it was never quite what I expected. And that was the other part of the show’s charm. It never quite went the direction I thought it might go but it never did anything that you could consider overly crazy with its narrative. Everything was logical and methodical and while that may not sound all that appealing, I quite appreciated it.

I will put a warning on this anime though if you are triggered by acts of self-harm. Kei has very little sense of self-preservation and some of his tactics and moves are quite underhanded and on at least two occasions violent. So while this show is not a gore fest or anything of the sort, those scenes are confronting, more so because the rest of the events are so benign.

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This isn’t an anime I will recommend because the vast majority of people are not going to like it. However, it you’ve got the time and you like to see something that takes a slightly different approach (not a radical reinvention or innovation but just not exactly the norm), then this is worth watching. If you make it through to the end you’ll probably gain some satisfaction though whether you end up feeling it was worth the time it took to get there is something only you can decide.


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Drifters Series Review: Was This Worth The Wait?

Overview:

Toyohisa is injured in a battle and as he starts to die finds himself in a mysterious corridor facing a man in a suit reading a newspaper. A door opens and Toyohisa finds himself in a new world where he is called a Drifter. Uniting with other Drifters, they begin to fight, well, everyone.

This obviously came out last year but due to lack of access, it was only very recently I was finally able to watch it (thanks AnimeLab for brining it to Australia). So after reading all the reviews as it aired and series reviews of people who finished it after that, I had a fair idea of what I was getting into. So the questions is, was it worth waiting for?

Review:

Drifters is one of those stories where it could be really cool, but at the moment we’re very much feeling like we’ve read the prologue to a much grander story and we still don’t really know what is going on. The obvious is the confrontation between Drifters and Ends except that the Ends don’t seem to be exactly what we’ve been told and the Drifters aren’t overly concerned with fighting them unless they happen to directly be in the path of what the Drifters are currently trying to do.

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Also, the Drifters aren’t all exactly united. It is clear some have been in the world for a long time and have their own plans and ideas and the three Japanese Drifters that are freeing elves and dwarves and generally going on a mission of conquest are really just out for their own ideals and don’t really seem to care much for the grander scheme (or anyone else’s plans). This makes it really hard to know what the actual end game for this whole story would be particularly as we don’t know the deal with the guy and the girl in the tunnel (other than a clear binary opposition though why we don’t know).

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Despite a lack of answers or real sense of urgency in any of the actions, Drifters manages to be pretty entertaining as we lurch from conflict to conflict. The time periods the various characters come from shape their fighting styles and philosophies and this allows for the action sequences to not get dull. The humour is at times crude but it actually works quite well and adds to the overall entertainment of the show.

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Visually Drifters is interesting. I’m not going to say I particularly like the character designs but it is striking and the characters are distinct and memorable. The art style very much suits the story being told and contributes to the overall tone so it is successful in that respect. Okay, I found it ugly, but that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of this series and it definitely stood out from a lot of other shows.

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The opening song is also quite distinct and again the visuals work. They aren’t what I would call pretty, but the opening very much gets you ready for the feel of the show and that is what it is supposed to be doing.

All and all, unless you don’t like the subject matter, which is pretty much various characters thinking of ways to more effectively kill and conquer other characters, with quite a bit of crude humour thrown in, Drifters is quite a nice action anime. I wouldn’t outright recommend it due to the narrative feeling like it barely got started but there is certainly some fun to be had in watching it. Basically, don’t think too hard, enjoy the gore, don’t even begin to try to figure out whether a character is actually supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy because that’s a lost cause.


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Karandi James.

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Tokyo Majin Season 1 Series Review: It’s Like Someone Gave the Scooby Gang Super Powers But Forgot About Fun

Overview:

During senior year an apparently mysterious new student transfers in to some academy. And then a groups of kids get superpowers. Seriously, that’s all I got out of this though I guess there was some destiny/fate thing going on as well if I’d been able to pay more attention toward the end.

Review:

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because to be honest, by about episode 8 the only thing keeping me watching was that I refuse to review a series I don’t finish, and having sat through eight episodes of this train wreck, I very much wanted to have something to show for it. Pretty much, avoid. Sure there are zombies, demons, cackling villains, superpowered teens, and a mish mash of religious and spiritual references tossed about in a way that should actually appeal to me on every level, and yet this is a horrendous chore to watch.

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Starting with the characters, the group of five from the school have zero chemistry. Admittedly, at the start they aren’t a group and the new kid and the bad boy aren’t too bad together, and the other three aren’t so bad as a group, it is just when they put all five together or start trying to do intersecting relationships the whole thing falls flat fast. In some fight sequences I’m sure the writers even forgot certain characters were in particular scenes because they would literally just stand and do nothing (not even call encouragement) until there was no one else left standing and then maybe they’d get involved.

The bad boy is the bad boy because he speaks frankly to his teacher, walks out of class (like straight out the window), and gets into fights on school grounds because why not. This is really incredibly lazy characterisation and we have the same issues with each of the other characters. New kid has no personality. Zip. Unless he’s standing with someone, you could almost just pretend he wasn’t in the scene. Which given he’s apparently important you might want to give him some personality trait. The good girl is only seen as such because everyone else refers to her that way. We seldom see her do anything that would actually make us think she’s a goody two-shoes. The other two characters have their school club related personality traits and their friendship/attraction to the other one or the good girl and basically that’s their entire personality. There’s almost no growth for these characters in the early episodes and by the time you see some positive changes, it is a little bit too late to make you care.

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The story is a mess that heavily relies on throw a random monster/villain into the city and go crazy for a bit. Have the teens sniff out the issue. Some sort of fight sequence where they are royally smacked down. Go regroup and have a pep-talk training session. Give up with the planning and have someone in the group go off to face whatever it is. Everyone else will then decide they have to go too. Some other fight sequence where they may or may not actually win. Occasionally remember that there actually has been some severe collateral damage (read many many victims in the city). Honestly, there is no way anyone still lives in that town after all those incidents. They packed up and moved on.

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Then we have our cackling villains and occasional other superpowered individual. They delightfully add nothing to the story of note except an occasional fight or bit of less than witty banter. Possibly these characters could have been more interesting, but they receive about as much attention as the main cast do, which is very little.

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There’s apparently another season of this. I won’t be starting it. I’d love to know your thoughts on this series if you’ve watched it. Maybe someone has a better opinion of it?


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Karandi James.

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The Eccentric Family Season 1 Series Review: Grief, Family, Adventure, and Foolishness – This Tanuki Will Experience Them All

Overview:

Yasaburo is a tanuki and one of four brothers who have recently lost their father, the one who used to lead the Tanuki world in Kyoto. With an election fast approaching to decide who the next leader will be, plenty of family drama, and an absolute sense of adventure, this is one story that will quickly take on a life of its own. I’ve already reviewed season 2 of this so if you are looking for that review please click here.

Review:

It is hard work having a famous father. Regardless of how down to earth he might be, people outside the family are always going to judge you based on a comparison to him. For Yasaburo and his brothers they have for most of their lives been found wanting as each one seems to have one part of their father within them but none of them can really match up to the man they remember only as the warm and comforting father who cared for them regardless of their faults and foolish ways (and actually encouraged some of their sillier traits).

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The Eccentric Family tries to keep the slice-of-life and upbeat comedic tone going through its run time with quirky and fast paced dialogue. Certainly the story is jumping around through a series of seemingly disconnected events as Yasaburo pokes his nose into the business of his mother, his various brothers, his uncle and cousins, his tengu mentor and the mentor’s protegé, and the human group that eats Tanuki the Friday Fellows. All of this would make you think that perhaps this is kind of empty viewing or light hearted at best. But this is a show not afraid to delve headfirst into grief and how grief can change a family. For all their foolish actions and the distractions they are seeking out, at their core, every member of the family is deeply hurt by the death of a man they much admired.

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Though, the same can be true of all the characters. None of them are what they at first appear, or at least that isn’t all there is to them. As the story progresses we learn small details about them, we see the characters pushed into a variety of situations and how they respond, and occasionally we see the masks they have carefully constructed for the world come down.

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The character designs are interesting and characters are easy to distinguish though that isn’t the same as being pretty to look at. There’s a weird thing going on with ears in this show, and to be honest the characters aren’t that good to look at, but they are distinct and after awhile you realise how their appearance is such a reflection of their personality, or at least the personality they are trying to project. In that sense, Yasaburo’s near constant shifts early in the show make a great deal more sense.

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For me the strength of the show is in the character dialogue and the music. Both are distinct enough to be memorable and there are some very good exchanges between the characters that leve you smiling or just a little bit broken hearted. However, if you aren’t the kind to enjoy listening to characters exchange barbs, or quirky comments, than you may just find episodes becoming tedious because while there is some action to be found it is definitely spread sparsely throughout the series run time.

I certainly recommend trying this anime though. It has a real charm to it and really portrays the connections between family members in a way that I feel few anime really get (while at the same time it seldom falls into slow drama). There’s a lot going on but all the stories eventually come together and ultimately it is hard to follow Yasaburo around and not get a smile.

I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve watched The Eccentric Family.


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Karandi James.

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Kenka Banchou Otome Series Review: Just Your Typical Girl Meets Boy, Trades Places With Him, and Aims to Rule the School Kind of Story

Overview:

Apparently based on a game, this story has a heroine who is either unnamed or who has a name I can’t remember run into her twin brother who pretty much coerces her to take on his identity and attend an all boy’s school. There she’s forced to fight to prove she can be the top of the school. And other than some stuff about the power of friendship that’s about it.

Review:

There’s nothing overly wrong with Kenka Banchou Otome given the short anime format being used and the premise. Plus, the whole based on a game thing is painfully obvious. That said, there’s not a lot overly praiseworthy about the show either.

The heroine, who I am going to refer to as Hikaru because that’s the name she uses most of this series, has the same problem a lot of male harem protagonists have. Other than being good at pretty much everything she has practically zero personality. Maybe mopey. She does mope well. For a show where episodes barely crack the one minute mark with their closing credits, I get we aren’t going to develop an entire cast of well rounded individuals, and to be honest they do a decent enough job of most characters given the time they have. The characters all run pretty cliché but they feel distinct enough in the moment so they work.

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The fight sequences are necessarily short given again the episode lengths. A few punches, a kick or two, some still images of other dramatic poses and facial expressions, and then we’re pretty much down to the huffing and puffing aftermath and someone conceding defeat. To be honest, for a show about fight your way to the top of a school, there are surprisingly few fights. They manage to make this make sense given the reputations of most of the characters that few people want to pick a fight and just accept that they would lose, but it still seems like there’s be at least one random attack of opportunity around the school at some point.

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One thing I didn’t like was the diary style entries that cut into the episodes. We’d be watching a sequence and then one of the characters would be narrating their thoughts and we’d see them in some other random setting apparently thinking back on that time. Its the kind of conceit that works in a story when the characters have some actual depth and there might actually be something to reveal from their inner thoughts and reflections but to be honest it is just a distraction and it eats up episode time this show didn’t have to spare. It adds nothing to the characters or the narrative at all.

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Otherwise the music is relatively good and the story makes enough sense. And that’s literally all I have to say about this because there really isn’t a lot happening here. Basically this one is a watch if you’ve got a spare hour or so because that’s all it is going to take to watch and it isn’t bad. Again, it isn’t particularly good, but it is hard to imagine what else they could have managed with those episode lengths.

I’d love to know what you thought of the show if you’ve watched it.


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Karandi James.

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