Amazing Stranger Review Episodes 5 + 6

Battle of the Female Figures

Episode 5

As bizarre as it is to say, episode 5 was kind of fun. They kept going with the plot set up last episode where Haruto was drawn into Bellnoa’s game and the two of them travel about before taking on a castle. Some fairly standard things happen (or standard based on the premise of this anime) in that Haruto is attacked by a hot ninja girl and he and Bellnoa get close around a camp fire. Meanwhile Nona is watching on and with the aid of another living figure is ultimately able to enter the game.

What I particularly liked about this episode was Haruto’s realisation that the reason Bellnoa didn’t want to finish the game was because she was obsessed with travelling around and levelling up and part of that was his fault for the way he played the game. Now I feel bad for every character I’ve ever created because I know I don’t exactly go straight to the finish and there are more than a few games in the backlog that I’ve just never made it to the end of.

Now, there is definitely fan-service here as the demon king of karma blows Bellnoa’s clothes clean off of her in a fight (amazing how that happens in anime and movies without injuring the person) and there’s also Haruto’s eyeing off the ninja girl but nothing extreme.

This seems a sensible reaction.

Realistically, episode 5 is about as much as you can expect from this anime. It progressed the plot, continued to set some stuff up for future development, fleshed out Bellnoa’s character, and allowed Nona to play the role of concerned wife. It all just kind of worked even if it wasn’t particularly amazing.

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Episode 6

Episode 6 of Amazing Stranger is absurd, but given the context of the show where figures and game characters have come to life it really isn’t too much of a leap that the two characters fighting over Haruto would challenge each other to a fight and then spend the rest of the run time trying to one up each other in terms of sleeping next to Haruto, whispering in his ear, feeding him and so on. It is most definitely pandering to a particular audience and yet still kind of amusing.

What makes this work is both Bellnoa and Nona remain true to their character types in how they take on each of these challenges and ultimately the back and forth between the two is always kind of energised and entertaining. Haruto remains the dullest of the three as he just gets to play the embarrassed geek while the girls fawn over him.

I will say the scene with the two whispering sweet nothings into his ears was probably the icing on the cake. For my pick, I’d go Bellnoa has the better voice for whispering with Nona’s high pitch getting in the way of really creating the experience, but listen to the scene yourself and see which whisper works best for you.

While the winner was a foregone conclusion from the start, and the competition was ridiculous and contrived drama for the sake of it, I can’t say I disliked this episode. Amazing Stranger is well aware that it isn’t meant to be taken seriously and so just went with their premise this week and the end result was something that entertained but doesn’t work if you start asking any questions of it.

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Karandi James
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Amazing Stranger Review Episodes 3 + 4

When sexy anime figures go to war?

Episode 3

Okay, I’d be lying if I said this was a good episode. By itself it doesn’t do much with just two skits. The first being Bouida’s sister interviewing Nona and the second involving Bouida going out to Christmas dinner with an old friend and getting into a fight about anime. Both sections work well enough, although Bouida’s sister seems way too fixated on her brother’s love life.

What this episode really cements though is that there is a potential for the premise to be more than a one trick pony though whether they do anything with this or not still remains to be seen.

Where Amazing Stranger is slightly elevated beyond just being background noise is in the genuinely warm relationship being formed between Bouida and Nona. While it isn’t as heart wrenching as some anime couple’s out there, there’s still a fierce loyalty and sweetness to their affection and that’s probably the show’s greatest strength right now. Where it fails is that it can’t decide if it wants to use sex to sell or stay on the safer side of the line and the end result is something that probably doesn’t meet the needs of either the fan-service fans or those who prefer more wholesome viewing.

That and the comedy is far more miss than hit.

Still, the dinner scene and the arguments between two old friends and anime fans, one who denies everything and looks for faults and the other being a hopeless dreamer, is kind of fun to listen to and while I’m sure most anime fans don’t get worked up enough to flip a table in a restaurant, I’m sure most of us have had sillier arguments with our friends over anime at some point.

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Episode 4

That was actually a pretty good twist at the end of this episode of Amazing Stranger. I’m not going to get into what happens but I kind of hope next episode continues from this point and doesn’t just scrap the plot line and go on to the next set up because that was kind of fun.

Anyway, this week Nona and Bouida are being sickeningly sweet together so naturally another figure shows up and attacks. Watching Nona explain reality to the new figure and the new character’s interpretation of what it meant was fairly good and the fight sequence that followed between the two figures was actually pretty entertaining.

However, the punch line of the sequence was Bouida solving the problem by opening the character’s in-game stat screen and unequipping all their best gear and then playing dress-up with them. Honestly, this is another of those moments that while it is kind of amusing is also kind of creepy. What makes it kind of work is that at least all the other characters point out that Bouida is the worst for his actions even if they were effective and neutralising the threat.

For those who have felt the keen absence of solid fan-service both the dress up sequence and the subsequent bath sequence kind of fill that gap, though quality fan-service it really isn’t, not that I particularly like any fan-service but fairly lazy and uninspired fan-service is definitely worse than just the usual fan-service.

But as I said at the beginning, the episode ending was pretty solid and I definitely appreciated it. I’ll appreciate it more if episode 5 moves on from that point.

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Voice of Fox Series Review

Voice of Fox Episode 1

Singing, Lies, Rumours, and Social Media – You’re Always On Stage

Voice of Fox is one of those short anime that comes out that very few people seemed to pay attention to. And it kind of makes sense. The Autumn anime season was full of some amazing titles and you can’t watch everything. A short anime that adapts a Chinese Manhwa about a kid wearing a fox mask and wanting to make it as a singer probably isn’t high on people’s watching priority list. Still, there was something about the first episode that drew me in and I’m really glad I strapped in for the ride. While Voice of Fox isn’t a ground breaking masterpiece that must be watched, it is a solid effort at telling a reasonably interesting story in a fairly short run time given episodes are only around ten minutes long.

Voice of Fox Episode 6 Hu Li

Where Voice of Fox works is the tight focus on a very small pool of characters who interact within a larger social setting. With idols and stars making up a large part of the cast, social media and the internet play a huge part in this story as public perception sways and changes with events, rumours, apologies, and performances. While at times the public opinion seems to veer far too strongly too quickly, it is a good look at the pressure of anyone living in the public view and who relies upon fans and an audience for their livelihood. Hu Li also explored the idea of being independent or being part of an agency and the difficulties in getting yourself out there alone vs what a large company can achieve.

Where it falls down is that too many of these characters are either good people with poor luck getting trod on by an uncaring system or they are ruthlessly ambitious with very little in the way of actual human emotions. The characters who are set up as the antagonists don’t get to be anything other than star hungry and while the anime does attempt to give Kong Que (the guy who Hu Li is the ghost singer for) some sort of angsty back-story, it is one of the moments that is a bit rushed and the emotional impact is minimal. It also is quickly forgotten when you realise that despite what has happened to Kong Que he is still pretty ready to throw Hu Li or anyone else under a bus for just a scrap of fame so he’s not exactly a nuanced character.

The story largely focuses on the events around a reality idol show searching for the Rising Star of China, at least for the first half. The filming is rocked by scandals as singers get sick, power outages occur mid-performance and Kong Que is revealed as a fake and Hu Li as the real voice. This section of the story is really quite focused and driven and while there are some comedy moments that don’t quite stick their landing, by and large it is highly entertaining.

Voice of Fox Episode 6 Hu Li

The second half, where we explore the characters and their motivations a bit more and wait for their final decisions, is a little less well handled. It does come back to the competition and we do get a satisfying ending, but there’s a little loss of momentum in the second half.

There’s also a lot of singing in this. I really enjoyed the music including the OP and ED but I also really just liked the performances. If the music doesn’t work for you, that is possibly going to be a deal breaker because all of these characters are on stage at some point and singing.

Voice of Fox Episode 3

I’d recommend giving this one a go. It was one of those pleasant surprises of the Autumn season and I really wish more people had watched it because it would have been fun to discuss it more each week. Not a perfect show by any means, but one that I could definitely get lost in and just go along for the ride.

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Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San Series Review

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 5

A Skeleton in A Bookshop? I Have To See That

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San is an anime series that has one idea and that is we have a skeleton working in a bookshop. Everything that happens after that is either delightful or groan inducing depending on your tolerance for situational comedy.

It’s kind of well-known that I’m not big on comedy anime. Or slice of life anime. So a comedy/slice-of-life short form anime shouldn’t have ever appeared on my radar and certainly isn’t the kind of thing I would normally follow week to week for episode reviews. Yet, Honda-San had two very important attributes that drew me to it.

Firstly, it featured a skeleton in a bookshop. Seriously. That idea never stops being visually amusing no matter how many episodes we have. And then episode 12 puts the skeleton in a Christmas hat and that image is just perfectly hilarious by itself.

Secondly, it is set in a bookshop. More specifically, a Japanese bookshop where our main character works with manga. Playing spot the reference is a delightful way to pass the time in this series and more importantly, what book-lover hasn’t thought at some point of working in a bookshop (until you remember that it is retail and working with customers).

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 10

Both of these aspects were actually enough to carry me through the whole twelve episodes of this anime, even when some of the comedy didn’t quite hit its mark.

Part of the problem is that this anime relies very much on exaggeration, particularly exaggerated reactions from characters, as its primary form of humour. And while this works well enough and some of the facial expressions (although that isn’t quite right given all the characters wear masks) are fantastically done and the timing works beautifully. Other times, you just kind of sit back and wonder why the characters are freaking out so much. For instance, the episode where the characters were thinking about one of the workers who actually manages to keep their stock organised and how amazing that was. I just kept wondering why they didn’t all keep their stock organised and spend less time freaking out.

Skull face Book Seller Honda San Episode 8

The best moments for Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San are far and away Honda’s interactions with the customers. These can be positive, negative or just weird, but each time a customer came to the counter or approached Honda in the shop there was a sense of anticipation. These encounters were great mostly because there was a ring of truth around each one as anyone who had worked in customer service had probably encountered someone just like that at some point.

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 7

I am going to have to mention the visuals though. Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San is very much a basic anime in terms of its animation and visuals. There’s a heavy reliance on simple backgrounds or no background. Character reactions are repeated. The character designs, while distinct, are pretty basic and there is limited character movement. This anime stands out from others of its season and is recognisable, but it isn’t pretty, sophisticated, or even particularly well done.

However, the OP, “ISBN ~Inner Sound & Book’s Narrative~” is pretty distinct and fairly amusing to listen to. Likewise, for the most part the voice work by the characters serves its purpose and gets across the tone very well. They aren’t heavily nuanced performances, but given the material they don’t really need to be.

I’d certainly recommend giving this one a go. It gets a little repetitive as the season wears on and depending on how well the humour works for you will really have a big impact on your relative enjoyment, but this one is an interesting title from the Autumn season and one that has enough positives to recommend at least trying it.

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JAGGED ALLIANCE: RAGE!
JAGGED ALLIANCE: RAGE!

Panty Shots and Drinking Pee – This is Funny?

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Post Title Image

How Clumsy You Are, Miss Ueno Episode 1 Review

I actually ended up quite enjoying a lot of the short anime I watched in 2018. Space Battleship Tiramisu (season one), Skull Face Bookseller Honda-San, and Voice of Fox all entertained in their own way even if none of them are vying for position of best anime of the year. Short anime are their own thing and with limited run time they do what they can but by nature the stories they tell and their approaches are different. And a lot of short anime are gag comedy which is a genre that just doesn’t really appeal. How Clumsy You Are, Miss Ueno, as the first short anime I’ve come across in 2019 is exactly that and the episode left me wondering if perhaps I just missed something because even by gag standards it was pretty sad.

While plenty of people are discussing the problems of including slavery and rape in a story without dealing with the larger social consequences, it feels to me like this anime with its focus on a socially inept girl trying to somehow convey that she likes the boy, without saying it, and ending up in situations where she’s lifting her skirt up in the name of science, is a lot more immediately problematic than the fantasy repercussions of an isekai rape accusation. The thin pretence that her ‘device’ was perfect and wouldn’t allow the boy to see her panties (or lack of them because she declared she was wearing none) doesn’t actually change the fact that the set up here is that the boy is looking up this girl’s skirt and taking notes, and she is actively encouraging him to do so.

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Episode 1

Part of my issue here is that the setting is supposedly a real world junior high club room in which case I’d first wonder where the supervisor is for this club. Secondly I’d wonder why we’re supposed to swallow not one, but three completely socially inept characters that somehow all come together.

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Episode 1

Finally, I’d wonder who thought opening on a gag about drinking pee (purified or not) was somehow a brilliant move. Because if that’s the best you’ve got this show is in for a rocky ride.

I’m suspecting I’m not the audience for this one, though I will probably watch the second episode just to see if the jokes get any better or if the characters start vaguely appearing like more than just grotesque caricatures of overly-worn tropes, but pretty sure I’m not sticking this series out.

How Clumsy You Are Miss Ueno Episode 1

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TENSEI SHITARA SLIME DATTA KEN: MILIM NAVA
TENSEI SHITARA SLIME DATTA KEN: MILIM NAVA

Jingai-San No Yome Anime Series Review

The Happy Marriage Should Be Just The Beginning

There isn’t a lot to say about this short anime from Autumn 2018. With just three minutes each episode and over a minute of that being the theme song played at the end of each episode (with only episode 12 actually continuing the episode during the credits) there just wasn’t much substance to Jingai-San no Yome.

Jingai San No Yome Episode 6

I’m not even really sure why I watched this each week. Part of me was drawn in by the premise because the idea of a normal high school student being told that they are now married to a monster and they have to move in with them seems kind of interesting. However, the fundamentals of how this works or why it happens are never actually touched upon or explored (that would probably require them to get off their happy floaty cloud and actually deal with reality for a moment).

And Jingai-San is definitely not interested in touching base with reality.

There’s no real problem with a romantic fantasy and all, but even if we just accept the premise at face value and never question it, the relationship itself just kind of happens. The protagonist, Hinowa, more or less liked the monster’s (Kanenogi) fluffiness and from almost episode one we see him regularly blush and hug Kanenogi but any actual basis for a relationship is never explored. They do get a few sweet moments together where they look out for one another during sickness, or cheer the other on at the sports carnival, but there’s never any real grounds for their relationship other than it simply exists.

Rather than doing anything to develop the premise, the story instead has Hinowa encounter other students who also have monster partners and then they all hang out. They talk at school, they walk home together, they spend time with their partners, and that is all there is to this anime.

You could argue that at three minutes an episode there wasn’t much else they could do, and given this is apparently based on a 4-koma manga (essentially 4 panel), it would be kind of a mistake to expect depth. However, I think after twelve episodes we needed a little bit more other than a blushing Hinowa to carry the anime.

Visually this one is quite soft looking, though the character designs are a little odd. The two toned hair thing is just a bit bizarre and I’m not sure why they’ve done it. Otherwise, the characters are distinct enough, the monster designs are suitably cute but monster looking, and the backgrounds are pretty simple but work well enough.

Jingai San No Yome Episode 8

Now, given almost half the run time is the closing song, it is a good thing that it is a high energy song that is just kind of fun to bop along to, but you have to wonder if the time would have been better served on actually writing a plot.

Realistically at 3 minutes an episode you can watch this whole series in under forty minutes, though I suspect binge watching it may cause your brain to liquefy under the gooey-sugary-sweetness of the protagonist, but it actually is entertaining enough for the time commitment. However, as I said on Twitter, more than once, I just don’t know what the point of this anime is. Maybe there is no point other than being a cute little diversion. However, that makes it very hard to actually recommend.

Ultimately, this isn’t bad, but there just isn’t much substance here.

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Happy Life Spectacle [Regular Edition]
Happy Life Spectacle [Regular Edition]

Bored At The Bookstore? Just Add Monsters

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode Review Title Image

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11 Review

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-San takes its viewers to an alternate setting this week for the first story where we see them selling books to yokai. Honestly, other than pushing the scenario to the extreme with one of them losing an arm to an angry customer, nothing seemed all that different to their normal day to day.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11

All of this made me wonder why we were bothering, and then I realised this anime doesn’t really have anything left to say. From the start it has just been about the day-to-day of working in a book shop and the different scenarios faced by the workers as they do their jobs and interact with customers, and what became fairly obvious by the sequence in the yokai world was that any point that was to be made through this has already been made.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11

That lack of new material became even more apparent in the second story where we did return to the normal book shop but we see Honda getting abused on the phone by an irate customer and then meeting a calming and healing customer who loves books and thanks him. Again, there’s no new material here and nothing more to be said.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11

With one episode left to go I’m actually glad this one has come to the end of its run as I’m fairly certain I don’t have much investment left in it. That said, in small bits and pieces this show has been fun, it is just that I’m not sure it ever had enough to carry a full anime season even as a short anime.

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