There’s no denying that six months ago, when Dr Stone first rolled out its early episodes, I was somewhat less than impressed. It wasn’t until around six episodes in that Dr Stone really got my attention. There’s reasons for that and I’ll get into those soon but the important thing is that once Dr Stone got my attention, it didn’t lose momentum again. This is a story that continually builds on past events toward a future outcome and builds on the characters and generally gets more and more interesting. The only real and glaring issue with season one is that it builds up to a war that hasn’t happened yet and now we’re all waiting for a season two.
The first episode of this anime is decent enough and sets up the story introducing three characters: Senku, the high school genius, Taiju, his goofy friend, and Yuzuriha, Taiju’s love interest. Each of these characters work well enough and Taiju’s attempted confession just as the world gets turned to stone is entertaining enough, but nothing in the first episode really grabbed me. Watching the interactions in the next few episodes as Senku and Taiju took their first steps to reviving other characters was interesting enough but I could have easily walked away from Dr Stone at that point.
Comparing these early episodes to later ones I can’t help but feel the issue is the chemistry within the cast itself. While I have no issue with any of the initial characters and find most of them interesting individually, though Yuzuriha being cast as damsel in distress a lot didn’t do much for her, as a group they weren’t really greater than the sum of their parts. They were just who they were on screen with the other characters.
While this doesn’t feel like a big deal early on, the contrast with the interactions between these early characters and the characters Senku meets later at Ishigami village is dramatic. Characters like Kohaku and Chrome, Kinro and Ginro have beautiful synergy bringing life to the story and it makes things so much more fun.
While that is definitely a personal opinion, there was a tangible improvement in the viewing experience once Senku left Taiju and Yuzuriha behind. The story also seemed to gain momentum as there was now a clear antagonist opposing Senku’s goal of building civilisation again. This gave Senku more of a goal than just surviving and building technology. He had to prepare to deal with immediate threats and also win over a village that distrusted outsiders. Overall, things definitely picked up and just kept getting better from that point.
Now, the basis of the story is that Senku is trying to bring back science and there is plenty of discussion about how things work and how to make various bits of technology. By and large this is pretty accurate though some of it is overly simplistic and they most definitely improve in leaps and bounds without anywhere near enough set-backs given the scale of what they create. Particularly in the final episodes where there is a flurry of activity and invention after invention is churned out on the path to creating Senku’s ultimate ‘weapon’ for dealing with the upcoming war.
Still, it is exciting watching characters respond to innovations like glasses or even simple foods. Again, it is a little simplified with a lot of positivity and many pitfalls of the modern world kind of overlooked for the sake of narrative convenience, but the tone is consistent through the show and to be honest the enthusiasm for science that the characters have is kind of infectious.
Visually Dr Stone is a nicely made anime. Early episodes rely heavily on natural backgrounds that while beautifully drawn all look much the same and so it isn’t the most visually interesting anime to look at with one pile of rocks and group of trees looking much like another, yet the visual quality is solid. Movement is also pretty fluid and as the characters begin moving about there are some fairly interesting scenes that come along. My favourite was the personification of poisonous gas and ultimately it is those moments that stick with you once you are done viewing.
The character designs are all very nicely done. I’m still wondering where the villagers get their blue dye for their clothing but the characters are distinct and fun enough to look at. I still think Senku looks like a Velociraptor from Jurassic Park when he smiles but his design is fine. However this anime does like its exaggerated character reactions and you will some of the most ridiculous face and body contortions ever at times. It works and it is consistently used throughout the season with most the characters having moments of eye-popping, jaw-dropping, or withered looking appearance. It conveys the tone of the scene well even if reality is kicked far away.
Ultimately, Dr Stone is just a lot of fun. It delivers a lot of familiar sequences and puts its own spin on it or just embraces what it is. The science is pushed to absurd levels and speeds and the show just gives you a smile and dares you to criticise. The fighting tournament is over within episodes with each fight delivering an unexpected outcome (or at least gets to the expected outcome in an unexpected way).
The cast continues to grow and each character contributes a different skill to the overall group in a way that feels perfectly natural even while it seems fairly unrealistic in reality that they would have exactly the people they need altogether. It all makes sense but doesn’t and you either embrace what Dr Stone does and enjoy it, or you could pick it apart but I think you’d miss out on a lot of fun.
A second season has aired. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the second cour of season one and feel this is an anime that took a little bit of time to set itself up but it was worth waiting through those slower opening episodes. Whether or not this anime continues to build on these successes in season two remains to be seen but there’s more than enough promise in the story and the characters to suggest that it will be worth waiting for.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Sequels are tricky things to get right and The Promised Neverland demonstrated in spectacular fashion how wrong a second anime season can go. Moriarty the Patriot hasn’t fallen to such a low point in this second season follow up but it also hadn’t risen to such lofty heights in the first place.
Moriarty The Patriot Season 2 – Not What I Signed Up For
When the spring 2021 season kicked off I wasn’t really sure what I would watch and review though I ended up agreeing to review a couple of anime with Irina and then there were the series that were sponsored by readers. Moriarty the Patriot I decided to cover because I’d been looking forward to seeing the story continue and I’d hoped that I would be satisfied with how it went.
The opening episode of Moriarty the Patriot Season 2, with the heavy focus on Sherlock rather than Moriarty, wasn’t great but had some intriguing ideas. However, those who followed my episode reviews will know that by the mid-season I was pretty much over this anime and ultimately I stopped doing episodic coverage entirely, choosing instead to wait out the final arc and then watching in a single binge session.
However it did make me wonder just what it was about this second season that really didn’t sit right with me. It wasn’t like it took a huge deviation from the set-up in season one. Though a lot of that set-up ended up feeling superfluous with the final plan really feeling kind of thrown together and not well thought out.
Going back through my episode posts, I realised episode 15 was where I more or less admitted I wasn’t really enjoying watching it and a large part of the problem was that our title character, Moriarty, wasn’t really the main character anymore.
In season one, William James Moriarty was almost always in the centre of things and his plans were nicely detailed. He also seemed to be actively involved in their execution even if he didn’t deliver the final blow. The introduction of Sherlock during season one shifted the dynamic and as more and more cast members stepped up Moriarty’s role diminished.
Despite this being the story of Moriarty and supposedly telling the story of him actually being a patriot and not just a criminal foil for a master detective, Moriarty’s presence becomes increasingly irrelevant. Sure his brother’s defer to him and his gang all revere him, but his own actions becoming increasingly less important – you know until the anime just kind of throws its hands in the air and sends him on an outright murder spree.
Given a lot of the appeal for me in season one was his character and how much I enjoyed seeing the reframing of his villainous acts, season 2 of Moriarty the Patriot just felt like it wasn’t giving me what I wanted from the anime.
And a lot of what we were getting felt like bloat just to stretch out the conclusion of a story that really could have been told in a single twelve episode season without all the unnecessary additions and complications that ultimately added nothing.
Whether we are talking about Irene’s character arc and conversion into one of the gang or the entire Jack the Ripper near rebellion incident, neither of these ultimately contributed anything to the end story and really we could have got to the same place faster and felt a better connection with the central players without it.
Likewise, an attempt to bring in a third player who could rival Holmes and Moriarty, Milverton, proved just another distraction and ultimately he and his plots amounted to nothing. Admittedly, at least his interaction with the main pair forced the main plot into action but again, it just felt like he existed to give Moriarty the Patriot another handful of episodes before we limped over the finish line.
However, if I wasn’t going to get more of a character I loved, I was hoping at least that the plot would hold itself together. Yet season 2 of Moriarty the Patriot more or less doubles down on the same issues that plagued season one with the mob characters, both nobility and commoners, being particularly stupid and the schemes of those manipulating the masses being pretty transparent and poorly executed.
There’s little joy in seeing a plan succeed when it seems so incredibly weak.
Moriarty the Patriot wants to delve into serious issues of class warfare and seems to want to explore the character of individuals when placed under duress. Yet at no point does it have the ability to really write these scenarios in a way that makes them feel anything more than a superficial nod to themes that are kind of essential for the story to hold together.
From start to finish my main complaint about Moriarty the Patriot season 2 would be that I wanted more. More from the characters I liked, more from the writing, and more intrigue from the plot. It all just fell that little bit short leaving the viewing experience feeling lacking.
It was always watchable. At no point does this anime derail and become a terrible incomprehensible mess. At no point are the characters so stupid that watching them another minute would be painful. But there’s little joy in watching it either. It just kind of is and the most disappointing thing is the potential that is in this premise and plot that feels like it was just missed.
What I will say is that at the very least we were given a conclusion. It is as satisfying as could be expected from the series given how the second season plays out and while there’s room for a follow-up any such attempt would undermine what little good this season did bring to the characters (so let’s hope this is the end).
It is kind of tricky because this anime isn’t all that bad and I’m sure that there will be some people who quite enjoyed it for what it was. I can’t personally recommend it because ultimately I feel that Moriarty the Patriot just squandered too much of its own potential leaving me feeling more frustrated while watching than anything else. Still, there’s certainly worse anime out there and at least this one finishes.
Images used for review from: Moriarty the Patriot. Dir. K. Nomura. Production I. G. 2020.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Days is pretty much the story of two characters playing soccer together. One is supremely talented and the other has never played before and isn’t all that fit. That said, apparently all it takes is heart and effort because this is a feel good kind of story.
I think if I had to describe this series as a colour that colour would be beige. It is all pretty average but works.
I’ll admit it, I read nothing about this anime and didn’t do any further investigating after watching the episode.
It’s a sport anime so it isn’t my usual thing but I watched the first episode of Days out of curiosity (plus I’ve had one or two surprises even though the vast majority of shows in this genre just don’t work for me). I was pleasantly surprised.
Our two main characters contrast quite nicely (though there seems little reason why they are interacting) and the pace of this episode was quite well done. It didn’t feel like an extended commercial for soccer (football). Don’t know how many episodes I’ll watch but this definitely made me want to at least try one more so well done.
There is something really sweet about the main character in Days and that’s about the only draw this show still has for me. I kind of want to see him succeed and they have just the right ratio of failure and idiocy to success to string you along and make you keep watching.
That said, the short cuts in animation and storytelling make this episode of Days significantly less compelling than it might be. Why animate all the guys running up a hill when you can pan over still images of guys who might be running up a hill? Plus, there’s only so many running scenes and people huffing and puffing after running you can take in an episode.
Days Episode 3
Well, they finally played an actual game of soccer and it went as well as can be expected for Tsukushi.
Despite the usual training camp setting, the boys with clashing with boys from other schools, and the random moments of philosophy thrown in that you usually get with sports anime, this one is still kind of winning me over because I just can’t help but smile. I’m actively disliking the genre but the characters and the general uplifting feeling I’m getting while watching this is making it pleasant.
This was close to dropped after episode 2 but I kind of feel like I’m committed now as I do genuinely want to see where this team goes (even though it is probably the same place every anime team goes).
Days Episode 4
I’m fully committed to this show now. I love Tsukamoto as a character. Yeah, he is incredibly lame and overly earnest and all of those other things but somehow he is carrying it off well and making me really want to see him succeed. The other members of the soccer club are also interesting and the introduction to the girls in his class this episode was entertaining.
This episode of Days is full of clichés and the ending is predictable but it is a very nice ride to get there. I also like that Kazama is still present in this episode but has definitely taken a back seat. Tsukamoto isn’t being endlessly protected by his presence anymore but they haven’t just made him disappear from the story.
The first half of this Days episode is slow but helps build things up to the tournament. We kind of get introduced to a new character but it doesn’t really feel like he is going to be sticking around and he was more of a stepping stone in the whole plot. I could be wrong though.
There are a few cringe worthy moments as Tsukamoto cheers from the side-lines and as usual he misconstrues a lot of what is happening around him, but by the end that seems to have washed away and we’re back to just being kind of sweet. All and all, a satisfying episode but not quite as charming as the previous one.
I still think it is weird that I actually care about the outcome of a soccer game but this anime has done a great job of making me want to see the team succeed.
Days Episode 6
There isn’t that much more to say this week than any other. Tsukamoto continues to learn various parts of playing soccer, we have a firmly established rivalry between two school soccer captains, and we get to see how one of the seniors on the team is having a hard time playing with an amateur.
I actually kind of enjoyed the futsal game with the rival school captain and liked how we saw Tsukamoto internalising some of what he was watching from the other players. All and all, it continues its move forward and work hard philosophy. This episode was pleasant and enjoyable but not a lot else.
Days Episode 7
We finally met a mean-spirited soccer team. It seems insane that none of the players ended up with serious injuries after a match like that but otherwise this was actually really fun to watch.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed that, despite Tsukamoto’s short comings, most people have been supportive, but it meant there was little tension in each episode. Having an actual conflict to overcome was a nice change of pace. Plus, the captain finally took the field which may not have been the smartest move but was certainly entertaining.
And early in the episode, Kazama finally has a revelation of value. Overall, this maintains its feel good kind of mood with an overloaded message about teamwork and trying your hardest.
Days Episode 8
Sport takes a bit of a back seat as we spend a lot of this episode with Tsukamoto and his mother. This episode of Days is adorable as we have a chance to really see how joining a team has affected Tsukamoto’s entire life and outlook. Then of course we get right back into prep for the finals as the team get pumped up and ready to go.
From a plot point of view, this Days episode is all set up and reflection, but it’s the good kind that feels like it is going to make the payoff worth the effort and not the kind that feels like they were trying to stretch the run time unnecessarily. Looking forward to the match next week.
Days Episode 9
The final game is on and we finally get to see some of the better players actually playing well. That said, that’s about all we get other than a few flashbacks and a heartfelt message that was kind of obvious from the get go. There’s also some good rivalry between the teams. It isn’t that one team is full of jerks tearing down our favourites, it’s that both teams are competitive and in it to win.
It’s a reasonable episode but without the outcome of the game clear, it really is just marking time. Looking forward to what happens next week with the team though.
Days Episode 10
Must be the season for protracted final battles. This game continues on (in fact we’ve only just passed the half-way point).
Part of the problem is that they are trying to give each of the players a few moments in the lime light and while this is great for actually giving some of these names and faces a bit of personality, it is stretching this game far longer than I would like and makes this episode of Days feel a little drawn out.
That isn’t saying the game itself hasn’t been exciting. In terms of watching a soccer game, it is interesting enough. Kazama’s self-realisation that he hates losing was definitely entertaining. And I’ll admit, I was probably cheering the wrong thing when Tsukamoto got head butted on the side-lines.
Okay, next week here we come. Will we resolve this game or are we going to stretch it one more week?
Days Episode 11
Alright, when you’re one game of soccer needs a five minute recap at the start of the episode there’s a little bit of a problem with your narrative pacing.
That complaint aside (and it is a big complaint for this Days Episode), I was hooked for the rest of the episode to the point where I was actually surprised when the end credits started. And of course, we don’t know whether he got the last goal or not. I’d like it if he did but given everything else I kind of feel they’ve set it up for another case of Tsukamoto sending the ball flying off the field.
I guess we’ll know next week. The game certainly got more interesting once Tsukamoto took the field though I feel bad for all the other subs on the team because they don’t seem to have been given any field time.
Days Episode 12
So after excessively long game watching, Days decided this week to just jump to after the match and allowed us to see the fallout. Turns out, nobody likes losing. There’s a revelation for us.
That said, I didn’t much mind following the characters around and watching them deal with their loss as well as coming to terms with what it means for them personally. Ubukata and Tsukamoto are particularly adorable in the second half of the episode.
The question then become, what next? Where do we go from losing this match? Hopefully next week will start pointing us in the next direction because this week chose to wallow rather than move us on.
There are times when you could almost forget that this anime is supposed to be a show about soccer.
The Days episode this week goes to a festival and then a study session and other than a little bit of running and conversation the sport fades well into the background. That said, at least we are getting some more time with the first year team members which is something we haven’t seen in a long time and realistically as a viewer I was starting to forget who some of the characters were.
This week continues to show us Tsukamoto as he tries to overcome the failure at the tournament and it really is show-casing that even though outwardly things have changed a lot for this character, on the inside he really hasn’t progressed that much but the little progress he has made has been for the better.
Days Episode 14
And we’re off on soccer camp and back into playing games but now our first years are getting a chance to play. This transition is nice and we’re learning a lot more about both the seniors and the first years by seeing them seek their motivation and trying to secure their position in the next tournament.
That said, mid-episode hit a slightly depressing note before they did their usual feel-good turn around. Hopefully next week can continue and we can get some more character development in amongst the kicking the ball around the field. Days continues to be a pretty even note anime. Each Days episode feels much the same as the last and the quality hasn’t noticeably gotten better or worse. It’s a nice consistent watch each week.
Days Episode 15
I’m starting to feel a little bit worn down by Days.
Not surprising really given it was never the kind of anime I’m really interested in. I still do like the characters and I don’t intend to drop this because I do want to see how they develop right until the end but I did find this episode of Days in particular a little tedious.
From the opening gag with the boys finding a bra to Tsukamoto’s excessive emotional outbursts and self-doubt (not really new to the series but this episode it just felt a little too much). Not to mention this episode individually accomplished nothing, though lay the ground work for future developments.
The only real shining part of this episode was finally getting to know Haibara. Up until now he’d very much just been in the background and this episode gave him a bit of a moment though it felt like the writers new we didn’t have a clue who he really was given they had almost every character say his name in about a five minute span (slight exaggeration).
All and all, this series is continuing as it has been going and I know it is only my attention that is starting to waver that made this feel like it was less than previous episodes.
Days Episode 16
After feeling like I’d hit my limit of this last week I was pleasantly surprised by this episode. I complained that Tsukamoto hadn’t really developed and they show us in the game this week that he is finally putting everything together in his own weird way.
I was annoyed by the general lack of tension or anything to really keep you interested and so this week we set up a whole series of rivalries both within the team and with the opposition. So after this episode I’m looking forward to the next one again.
Whether this is an ongoing change or whether this is just the last hurrah before this show falls into the forgettable realms of mediocrity still remains to be seen. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode this week and now I want to know how the next game goes.
Days Episode 17
Okay, I was ready to call this series dead in the water after we had over 3 minutes of recap from the previous Days episode before the opening song. 5 minutes in and we only just started with new material. However, that’s when things got better and didn’t stop.
The game this time is actually quite intense and the events at half-time (the end of this episode) leave you wanting more. You also see some of the results of the journey each of these characters have been on throughout this series which is something we’ve been wanting for awhile.
This episode doesn’t make this series a must watch again. This show has been fairly hit and miss in terms of tone and pace right from the start and once the novelty of something different (for me at least because I don’t normally follow anything sport related) wore off what I was left with was a fairly generic story about someone who felt they were useless gradually finding out where they belonged and working hard to achieve a goal.
All and all though, this episode was kind of exciting to watch.
There’s a number of issues with pacing and characterisation going on. This episode, however, I loved. From start to finish I was absolutely engrossed. It helped that the main focus of this episode were the characters on the team we’ve spent the most time with.
It also helped that they continued their development as characters and players that was kicked off last episode. Kimishita and Tsukamoto particularly come out of this episode quite strong and even Kazama has an off-field revelation spurred on by the team manager, Ubukata. It’s a great way to finish off this two part game and it really feels like all of the episodes up to now have had some ort of purpose.
I am starting to think that part of the problem with this team’s lack of consistency is that no-one really gets what the Captain is thinking because he’s a really poor communicator. Great soccer player or not he really isn’t a great leader and that leaves his players at loose ends far too often. That said, compared to some of the other Captains we’ve encountered in this series he isn’t too bad.
Days Episode 19
Days doesn’t do all that much this week and yet kind of does what it needs to. The summer camp ends (and amazingly Tsukamoto and Kazama are just over their conflict so that was a plot thread that went nowhere) and they are now in the preliminaries fighting for a spot at nationals. Events kind of blip past and we don’t spend a lot of time on the field but more watching how the players are getting read to deal with this new challenge.
Of course we spend time watching Tsukamoto freak out and question his own abilities. We end the episode 1 game into the preliminaries with preparations for the next game but of course its pouring rain so there’s our new challenge ready to go. It isn’t that this wasn’t fun to watch but it is definitely a bridging episode so by itself doesn’t amount to much.
Though, if you ever want a lesson on how to have an awkward conversation with a parent, just ask Kazama. He’s nailed this as an art form.
Days Episode 20
Days continues into the tournament and we injure yet more players before the semi-finals. Of course, we only make it into the first couple of minutes of that game before it is episode over.
So what did we do for the rest of the Days episode? Well, we spent a lot of it with the team they are facing in the semi-finals and I still haven’t figured out the point of that choice. Either they are about to win and knock Seiseki out, in which case that’s the end of the road for Seiseki. Or they are about to lose, in which case we won’t really see these guys again so why do we care about them starting up a soccer club?
So yeah, I didn’t see the point of a lot of this episode but generally I’m still enjoying Days and I’m looking forward to the last few episodes this season.
Days Episode 21
The game from the last Days episode continues and we see both sides make some mistakes and we also get to see the team’s first years struggle to deal with the pressure of suddenly being forced into a high pressure game. At the centre though is Tsukamoto who has finally genuinely found a love of the game and not just of being included as part of the team.
For once we see him playing with a smile on his face and not crumbling under the pressure or fear of letting the team down. This is a fantastic step forward for his character and it was great fun to watch. I also liked the commentary from the characters who’ve been sidelined in this match.
All and all, a fun episode in this series but nothing really amazing. Of course ending the episode with a ball flying toward the goal but not knowing if it lands or not is just kind of annoying. We’re 21 episodes in, we don’t need bait to come back next week.
Days Episode 22
After two full episodes of Days the game still isn’t over and I must point out that the animation definitely took a downward turn again this episode. Normally that doesn’t bother me but the sheer number of still images this week, plus some really terrible faces on background characters, kind of ruined the overall tension of whether or not they’d win this game.
I like how the benched players are still being kept involved in the game and are offering their thoughts as we go. I like that most of the players on the team, even those that usually take background roles, have all been involved. However, this week offered a lot more on field bickering for both teams than what we’ve been used to in Days and it was a welcome relief when Usui (as acting Captain) got Seiseki back on track.
Days Episode 23
So this Days episode surprised me as it made me care time and again about the outcome of the game even if it feels this week like it was a foregone conclusion. The ride getting to that final goal was definitely exciting.
Of course, once again, we spent the entire episode watching the game and in honesty I didn’t much care for the other team and those characters so those moments were a little less than satisfying. Looking forward to next week and how this season concludes.
Days Episode 24
Well, if you made it this far through Days you won’t come across anything surprising in this final episode of season 1.
Basically if you have enjoyed the ride to here you will smile, reflect, remember the journey the characters have been on and generally just be happy to be a part of the Seiseki experience. There’s no added depth here, no surprises, no last minute twists in the story.
Days, as it always has been, played this last episode straight focussing on the characters we’ve come to love and then it left us wanting to see how they go in this final game and whether they go to Nationals. Thanks. Season 1 review is available here an I’ve not watched the OVA so don’t know if they go any further or not.
Images from: Days. Dir. K Uda. MAPPA. 2016
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
The original D Gray Man anime came out in 2006 and ran for 103 episodes before just kind of abruptly ending more or less mid-battle and the series vanished from notice. Which is a shame because I absolutely loved it and it was a case where even tracking down the source material wouldn’t help because the manga kept going on hiatus as well and wasn’t finished.
So with the announcement in 2016 of a return for D Gray Man with Hallow, I was thrilled. Would it be a reboot and kick the series off again? Turns out no. It was a continuation but with new character designs and quite a few other new things thrown in as well. That said, D Gray Man Hallow ended up being an interesting enough watch even if it didn’t quite hit the spot I’d hoped for.
Anyway, the story is about Allen Walker who is an exorcist of sorts, but Hallow more or less kicks off with him being accused of siding with the Akuma and Hallow is not something you can jump into without having watched the original series. So for fans of D Gray Man, yay. For everyone else, there’s a lot of episodes to watch but even unfinished this series is kind of fun (dark but fun).
Below are my episodic thoughts of the series.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 1
So D.Gray-Man Hallow (other than adding even more punctuation to the title than I remember) tossed us straight into the narrative. We get a brief fight sequence where we see our core exorcists fighting (just to remind us what their weapons are and that they are awesome) and then we are heading to the new exorcist headquarters (the old one was kind of destroyed – watch the previous episodes).
No time to breathe as we get into the usual Allen/Kanda bickering before Allen is hauled away to continue the ongoing plot where the Black Order suspect him of having ties to the Noah and the Millenium Earl. It works and doesn’t stop for any explanations or recaps so it isn’t friendly to the uninitiated but it gave me exactly what I wanted and that was the story to keep moving.
There’s also a great cliff-hanger ending and some more hints about what the Bookmen are up to. Yay!
Still not 100% sold on the new character designs but it isn’t as though they are ugly, just different.
Loved this episode and really looking forward to the next.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 2
This episode is classic D Gray Man in everyway imaginable (good and bad). While we get a few moments and discussions around the greater battle and the exorcists plan as usual Allen and crew are mostly in the dark so let’s put aside the main plot and go investigate a random thief who may or may not have Innocence.
Well, there’s a reason the show already ran 103 episodes but has actually progressed the plot about as far as most anime do in 24. That isn’t to say that this episode is bad. As I said, it’s just the way D Gray Man has always been. And it flips the switch between random and ridiculous humour in a fight sequence to deadly serious (and hey, soon to be dead orphans) so quickly.
It makes you laugh, groan, roll your eyes, fill with curiosity about all the things you don’t know, support the exorcists (or at least the ones you like) and fear the enemy (which isn’t easy given their frequently clown like appearances). I know that this aspect of D Gray Man always rubbed some people the wrong way but for me, even though the tone is all over the place, it just feels right.
All the different elements come together and combine with overly dramatic music and fight sequences that just make you sit up and take notice. Besides, other than Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul), I’ve yet to meet a protagonist other than Allen Walker who I genuinely feel is in peril on a regular basis.
Oh, and Kanda was awesome this episode.
D Gray Man is available on AnimeLab. If you haven’t watched the original, you really have to before you can watch this, but it is worth at least trying (this is one of the few series that hadn’t been given any kind of resolution that I still rewatched over and over). Of course, if you don’t like your anime dark than maybe give it a miss because this one has some real pain in store for its characters even if it isn’t as visually confrontational as some of the more contemporary anime.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 3
Spoilers abound if you haven’t watched the episode. Normally I avoid critical plot points in episode reviews, but this one kind of needs to be here.
I’ll cover the bad first. The animation and character designs took a serious dive in the second half of this episode. Which in a series where the original was way too dark and the animation was passable but worked with the atmosphere and now the reboot has taken extreme liberties with the colour and character designs seems risky. Change was fine after a long break but further reduction in quality isn’t.
From a plot point of view this episode nicely wraps up the orphanage story, introduces yet another type of Innocence and has someone who doesn’t possess Innocence defeat an Akuma (which if you haven’t watched a lot of D Gray Man won’t seem like such a big deal except that it is a major plot development). Now I want to know what the Crows are up to and how underhanded they’ve been to acquire that power and I’m positive it is going to have some really nasty consequences down the line.
And Allen… Okay, we knew right from the first episode of Hallow that there was some serious focus on what was going on with Allen and whether or not he is part of the Noah, but this was fantastic. When his sword stabbed him I kind of had an ‘oh no’ moment because I remembered what happened when he used it on a Noah in the previous series and yep, this was not good.
Though, in true D Gray Man style, rather than let this happen now, they give us just a taste of the disaster awaiting our characters and then Kanda swoops in and snaps Allen out of it. Though, I’m going to be honest, I felt like Allen was off for the remainder of the episode and I wonder if that is deliberate or just a by-product of the change in character design. Really wanting to know where this one is going.
So, still in love with this show but would really appreciate some consistency in the animation quality – not asking for amazing animation because that would be out of character for the series, but just stable performance. It is really rare for an action anime to get me this emotionally invested but D Gray Man succeeded in the original series and it has managed to maintain that feeling now.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 4
It may just have been me, but I felt all the characters were excessively chatty this episode. So many new bits of information dumped very quickly in fairly awkward lines of conversation, to the point where we jumped into a battle mid-way along and really don’t know where they are fighting or why because nobody bothered to tell us that. I’m thinking this is probably necessary when we’ve only got 13 episodes, but that doesn’t make for great story telling.
Don’t get me wrong, this was still good fun and there are so many looming catastrophes you just kind of feel like you’re waiting to see which one manages to hit them first, or whether they’ll all strike at once.
My main complaint would be the Millenium Earl. In the original series he was an amazing villain. Yeah, he laughed and did all the cliché villain things but there was a sense of genuine malice about him. Unlike most villains, I really believed he intended to destroy the world. New Millenium Earl is just kind of meh. It took a lot of thunder away from the episode.
Meanwhile, Allan is definitely having some identity issues and Kanda seems to be the next character to finally get some sort of details added into his back story. Given everyone else, I’m thinking this is going to be tragic.
Looking forward to whatever new tragic past and future disaster this show will bring us next week.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 5
Right, I’m back to fangirling.
This episode was amazing. From start to finish I loved it. I loved that the scientists had some focus time, and I really, really hope they don’t die tragically in the next episode or two, though given it’s D Gray Man, they actually might kill them off. It would be too much to hope that the directors of human experimentation (and I know that isn’t their title but it really should be) get killed off instead.
The Noah attack on the base, Allen coming to the rescue, the brief moment of comedy before the fourteenth tried an extreme hostile takeover on Allen, the scuffle that followed and ending with Allen seeing Alma and Yu’s memories… It was a near perfect episode. Okay, the pacing was all over the shop and the comedy, while very D Gray Man, probably interfered with what was otherwise a super tense moment, but I just loved watching this episode.
I think this show highlights what I enjoy about D Gray Man. Allen charges in to save a comrade and lands on the Millenium Earl and has to be first told that he has just landed on the main villain, meanwhile he’s looking around at all the other hostages and Noah thinking ‘what is going on?’.
The following exchange that goes from deadly serious to comedy to slapstick and back again might rub some people the wrong way but it is what I love about this show. And then it ends just when things are getting even more interesting meaning I now have to count the days down to the next episode.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 6
It must be the week for flashback episodes because D Gray Man sees us spending almost the entire episode inside Kanda’s memories. This episode is particularly affective because the audience have always known the the dark order were not exactly the white knights of the world and that they have been up to some pretty despicable things, however seeing it from the viewpoint of 2 children, with Allen thrown into the mix, really hits home and makes you wonder who the villain of the story really is.
That said, I am going to criticise the constant over the top expressions this week. Seriously, at times you could have mistaken Allen Walker for Atsushi from Bungo Stray Dogs from the way his face was twisting around. While the comedy elements of D Gray Man usually hit home and make a nice relief from the otherwise overwhelming darkness, this week it just interfered with what was in all other respects a pretty compelling episode.
Kanda also suffered from some really ridiculous facial contortions this week which just felt out of character, even for a younger, test subject Kanda.
Alma is an interesting character and while we mostly see him from young Kanda’s viewpoint, seeing him toward the end from Allen’s point of view just adds to the many mysteries surrounding him. While at first he seems like the annoying little brother character found anywhere, he actually has surprising depth for a character we’ve only just met.
Road is back. She was always one of my favourite among the Noah and she doesn’t disappoint in her few moments of flirtation with Allen. While I’m not sold on this voice for Road, her playful tone undercut with a whole lot of malice is still well in effect and as always you just have to wonder whether she likes Allen or wants to kill him or both.
Lastly, Wisely gave us an excellent line early in the episode prior to getting buried in the flashback when one of the exorcists asked him to leave Alma alone. “We’re the Noah. We have no mercy to show you guys.” This kind of sums up why the Millenium Earl and the Noah are among my favourite villains ever.
Yeah, they are kind of trying to destroy the world which on the surface seems like a stupid goal, but unlike so many other self-proclaimed super villains on a mission to the destroy the world, you kind of believe that the Noah are actually committed to the goal and have the power to back it up. There’s an absolute callousness about their characters that tells you that they can and will cross any and all lines.
In the original 103 episodes, there are a lot of events with the Noah that back this up. They aren’t all talk. They aren’t the gloaty villains sending their minions out while they criticise their efforts. These guys bring pain with them.
So that’s my overblown thoughts on episode 6. Clearly I’m still very attached to this series and even with the idiotic facial animations this episode still dragged me into the story and didn’t let up until the credits rolled.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 7
When D Gray Man first came back, one of my biggest worries was that it wouldn’t be the dark and emotionally turbulent story I knew and loved. The last two episodes have really put that worry to rest. I am really thankful for previews of the next episode now because I was genuinely worried about the fate of one character this episode and got no closure before the credits on whether he was still alive.
On this episode, we continue our journey through Kanda and Alma’s memories until Allen decides he’s had enough and breaks out. However, as Road points out, it’s just a little bit too late and things in the real world are only getting worse. Still, that final shot of Kanda is all kinds of awesome so looking forward to next week.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 8
Is it possible to become darker and more tragic than child experimentation in the name of saving the Earth? D Gray Man makes a good attempt at answering that question this week when Allen is given a choice of ending the fight between Kanda and Alma by joining the Earl.
Obviously he refuses, but that’s more or less what the Earl had in mind and things only get worse from there. We do get a very classic Allen and Kanda moment mid-battle but it is a brief reprieve and by the end we realise that no matter what the outcome of this battle is going to be, Kanda is going to be even more emotionally damaged than he was going in, and that cannot possibly be a good thing.
Amazing episode. Still loving D Gray Man.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 9
Too much to say. Firstly, Alma and Kanda Yu’s saga decided to take things and make them just one step sadder and they were already pretty devastating.
I loved how Allen helped them this episode and feel that if anything ‘good'(?) was going to come out of it, Allen found the best possible solution to one of the worst situations for two characters to be in. And the brass’ reaction is pretty much expected at this point and time. Brand Allen a traitor. Because nothing inspires loyalty in your troops like doubting them, arresting them, performing medical experiments on them, etc.
Why does anyone even still work for the Order? It isn’t like they are doing such a great job in fighting this war. Maybe the exorcists would be better off forming their own order. One that isn’t crazy and sadistic.
Anyway, despite being told he’s committed an act of treason and that if he doesn’t retrieve Alma he won’t be an exorcist anymore, Allen continues to try to save one of the exorsists that has Alma’s cells inside of him going crazy. And you know, he was even kind of succeeding until Link shows up right at the end just in time to make things worse. Yeah, we know there’s a whole thing going on with Allen and the Fourteeth, but time and place Link.
On the other hand, Kanda actually thanked Allen. I couldn’t believe it. Over a 100 episodes and for once, Kanda is actually grateful for Allen’s well-intentioned soft-hearted intrusions. Admittedly, Kanda has been through a lot in the last three episodes, but that was unexpected and totally heart breaking simultaneously.
If I have to complain about something, it would be the fact that the Earl and the others seems to be sitting around having a tea party while the exorcists are doing all this in-fighting. Hello, Earl, are you actually serious about defeating anyone? Because this episode would have been the perfect time to do it.
And from the preview of next episode it looks like after this the bad guys are just packing up and leaving even though right now they really could crush the Order and there really isn’t anyone left to stop them.
Just what the show needed, more infighting on both sides and more complications (I’m being a little sarcastic).
This was a great episode. Characters reflected on the previous battle and began manoeuvring for the next rounds. There was a good balance between depression and feeling sorry for themselves and the desperate humour that the characters interject in order to stop the audience falling into a chasm of self-loathing. Allen and Link’s discussion in the prison was touching.
Lenalee and friends being force-fed to try to get over the losses in the battle and to think about the next fight was both funny and sweet as we once again realise the bonds these characters have built up throughout the series. And the leaders of the order continue to be completely arrogant and I really wanted the ceiling to fall in on them. Oh, and Lavi and Bookman look like they are in some serious trouble.
Plus Road showed up again. Even when she isn’t doing much, Road appearing is fantastic. A lot of emotions in a fairly low key episode when you consider that action-wise almost nothing happened.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 11
Does Link actually taking action for Allen this week redeem him for not trusting Allen in the first place? Probably not, but at least Link made a decision and didn’t blindly follow orders. While they didn’t show us his ultimate fate, it kind of seems like that’s more or less it for Link at this time.
We still didn’t find the heart but we now found a ‘special’ kind of innocence that exists to protect the heart and we now know who killed Cross but we don’t know why. That said, the Cardinal’s actions force Allen out of the Order and the thing is, it kind of felt like going with the Noah was the less horrible decision to make which given some of things they’ve done really makes you wonder what the Order is up to that the Noah are a better choice.
Of course, Tyki and Road are just kind of awesome so if Allen had to go with the Noah at least it was those two (cruel and twisted though they both are).
I just need to mention Lenalee. For most of Hallow she’s either been background or absent, which is a shame because in the early days of D Gray Man she was a very tough fighter and she helped Allen out a lot. Okay, she did go through that whole part where her innocence broke and she couldn’t fight but she finally overcame even that. Seeing her spring back into action at the end of this episode was definitely a great moment and I am looking forward to seeing some more next time (assuming they continue with this and don’t go off on some weird tangent).
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 12
With only one episode to go this show is most definitely going to leave us hanging again (let’s just hope we don’t have to wait that many years for a continuation again). That said, the show is also determined to break our hearts. First we get a reminder that Allen has had his arm destroyed previously (thanks for that memory).
Then we have Road disappearing fairly dramatically after brining us a fresh reminder about Mana’s message to Allen about moving forward. And then we get Lenalee appearing right before Allen uses the gate to leave (possibly for good even if he did promise her that he would always be an exorcist no matter what happened).
Of the three events, that was the one that really got to me because Allen and Lenalee have always been two very broken characters that have used each other numerous times to find the strength to carry on. Inside I was begging Lenalee to get off the ground and dive through the gate after Allen (but we all know that Lenalee couldn’t leave the order or her brother at this point and time because she has no identity outside of that at this point).
While this episode was heart-wrenching for long time fans, was it a good episode? Objectively I’d have to say no. We simply pick up where we left off and essentially set up obstacles to stop anyone who isn’t supposed to get to Allen from getting there.
No new information is revealed and while it is dramatic to see so many sore points raised for a single character, this doesn’t lead to development (although there the preview for the next episode kind of tells us that we have reached a critical turning point for Allen so it will be interesting to see what they do next).
I know I’ve been fan-girling a lot over this series and that isn’t about to change but we’re getting close to the point where I’ll have to review the series as a whole and while there’s been a lot to like the essential problem remains the same: if you haven’t watched the original you are missing too much to really care about any of these touching moments.
If you have seen the original, a lot has changed that you are just having to accept or you are going to be frustrated. It’s going to make any kind of review really difficult.
D Gray Man Hallow Episode 13
As a season end this was kind of lame (assuming 13 episodes is season end). Nothing is resolved and we have one character on the run, another one returning from being on the run but not really re-joining the team and two characters still in enemy hands but then again, I never expected anything to be resolved in 13 episodes. It’s been a long running series and nothing has ever happened that fast so the fact that the Kanda and Alma story was wrapped up as quickly as it was surprised me earlier in the season.
This episode as an episode was really enjoyable. Seeing Allen and Cross after they first met and getting some more hints about Cross’ involvement with Allen becoming the Fourteenth was interesting. Actually being reminded that Lavi and Bookman are still in the hands of the Noah and the Noah being their usual callous selves was entertaining (though, they hurt Lavi so now they have to die – sorry).
Lenalee being her usual overly emotional self before Kanda’s return felt really nostalgic and the crystallisation of Mugen (while downplayed within an already packed episode) was something I’d kind of been waiting for given the enemies just keep getting stronger so eventually our exorcists are going to have to catch up or die.
By the way, is Link actually dead? I know we saw his gravestone but it just seems really kind of anti-climatic for him to have died then.
Alright, whole season review of this is going to be tough to write but look out for it. If you are still deciding whether to watch Hallow, basically don’t bother unless you have watched the previous D Gray Man. While you might catch up on the storyline, without the emotional connections to the events, it is going to be pretty flat. That said, if you have watched the original, while there are definitely stylistic difference, from a story point of view this is a great continuation, we just need more.
Kemono Jihen is one of those anime that has a lot of elements in it that I like. There’s some darker moments, some supernatural threads, a bit of mystery along the way, and the main characters seem to have a personal investment in most of the events making them feel a little more interesting than if these kids just kind of stumbled into a random encounter.
However, after getting to the end of season one I find myself neither particularly invested in Kemono Jihen and whether it will ever continue nor did I particularly dislike it. All these good ingredients didn’t quite come together and the story itself barely feels like it started after watching 12 episodes.
Kemono Jihen doesn’t do a great job of selling it’s world building.
It isn’t as though there’s anything terribly wrong with the material deliver in Kemono Jihen.
After Inugami solves the mystery in Kabane’s village and takes Kabane with him to Tokyo, things kind of settle into a series of arcs where the agency, or some of the agency members, go to investigate something that usually ends up being kemono related and then Kabane beats something up until it dies. Meanwhile, Inugami continues to withhold information from the younger members of the agency and Inari continues to plot against Inugami but avoids direct confrontation.
Each little arc or mystery takes an episode or a couple of episodes to run their course and the three kids in the agency build on their relationship throughout the story.
So, it all just kind of works and each story has a satisfying conclusion to the immediate concern. If this had decided to be a mystery of the week kind of gig without any grander aspirations, it would probably be a more enjoyable ride.
The problem is that the adults in this story all seem to have their own plans and agendas but the audience is kept more or less out of the loop other than knowing that eventually this might amount to something. By the end of the series though, it hasn’t gone very far at all.
Honestly, Inari and Inugami and their ‘rivalry’ or whatever it is, is perhaps the weakest part of the narrative overall. It is slow, spread-out, feels like it is distracting from what is actually happening, neither character is particularly interesting and other than Inugami being the one who hired the kids he doesn’t do all that much in this story, and while I know that if this anime had continued this would eventually go somewhere, so far it has gone nowhere.
Basically it is a disappointing preview of a story that may or may not ever get told and it is just unnecessary clutter for the current anime.
Because when Kemono Jihen focuses on Kabane learning about the modern world or interacting with Shiki and Akira, the story is very entertaining. Even Kon kind of grew on me after awhile because largely she only really interacts with Kabane and their different volume levels kind of balanced out nicely.
Shiki confronting his past was excellent viewing even with Inari’s minion dropping in lame hints about future conflicts throughout. Even the plot focusing on Akira’s reasons for coming to Tokyo, the weakest of the little plots, was pretty entertaining and would have been better without Inari’s presence.
Though, while we’re on characters, perhaps my favourite inclusion was Mihai. Admittedly, he only shows up sporadically, but a little goes a long way and his overall personality and the way he interacts with the kids is pretty entertaining even if he really is just personifying the internet troll here (and he’s a vampire).
I don’t think Mihai needs more screen time, because too much would become a little hard to take, but I certainly appreciated his appearances and the mission he accompanies the kids on (through a remote control car) is one of the more entertaining moments as he throws a number of spanners in the works for the kids.
However, even this mission is soured by the ridiculous visuals used for the monsters. Imagine a giant mosquito head on top of a normal sized woman. See, giant mosquitos aren’t scary – they look kind of stupid. Any kind of tension in the otherwise tight plot of the kids infiltrating a facility while being hampered by Mihai because he wanted some entertainment kind of went out the window as soon as the monsters appeared.
Part of me also kind of wonders if the move from Kabane’s village to Tokyo was a good move as the atmosphere from episode one isn’t really replicated again. The closest they get is the story involving Shiki’s background when they travel from Tokyo to investigate.
It is a shame, because I really enjoyed the atmosphere of that first episode and that arc, but most stories were more urban fantasy with a bit of action and comedy rather than feeling like real supernatural mystery. That’s a personal preference, but I’d have enjoyed the supernatural mystery story more.
All and all, I did enjoy Kemono Jihen, but I’m left feeling it never quite did enough to really be memorable. Sure, there are a few visuals that won’t let go after it is done and there’s one or two moments that just perfectly hit the mark. But there’s a lot inbetween that feels like fluffing about and the series ends when it feels like the story is really just kicking off.
With no announced sequel, and no real indication that this anime will continue, it all just feels like it could have given us a bit more closure in the final episode.
How did you find Kemono Jihen?
Images from: Kemono Jihen. Dir. M Fujimori. Ajia Do. 2021
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Legends and Rumours Hide A Greater Story in Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun
At some point I feel I need to write a post about studio Lerche. It is a studio that when you look at their catalogue superficially you will see a number of similar titles where they aesthetically combine cute or bright characters with horrific realities and supernatural elements such as Assassination Classroom or Danganronpa, though even Gakkougurashi! (School Live!) wold definitely fit into this niche that Lerche seems to be carving out.
Yet at the same time there’s a range of other anime in the list that seem to entirely break out of this mould and do something totally different (Given).
Either way, while there’s a some anime in Lerche’s line-up that I’m not particularly interested in, they’ve also managed to produce quite the catalogue of anime during the 2010’s that actually managed to just hit the right note for me with a number of them being among my favourite anime of the decade.
All of which is a long-winded way of me saying that I wasn’t actually all that interested when I read the premise of Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun however I did try a few episodes while it was airing after reading some positive reviews. What made me go back to it and complete it in 2021 was a curiosity about what this studio had produced this time around.
Right off the bat I am going to say that this isn’t going to be topping any of my favourite anime even lists, not even in the supernatural category. There’s a definite charm to Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun and the jarring juxtaposition of over-the-top comedy and almost cartoonish visuals with some of the darker subjects and events that Nene and Hanako get themselves into with Kou often just along for the ride actually kind of works.
There’s a few genuine creeps along the way as well as a few laugh out loud moments as Nene learns about the seven wonders of her school and their fairly complex relationship with rumours and gossip.
Now, this isn’t the first ghost story that has manipulated supernatural elements through manipulating rumours, myths and legends, however the concept remains an interesting one to explore. Supernatural beings that exist only through the way they are remembered opens up a range of nasty story possibilities particularly when antagonistic characters are most definitely using the laws of this reality for their own nefarious (if reasonably undisclosed) purposes.
However, while in principle, I really like Hanako-kun and the world established in this anime, and I also loved the visuals and use of colour, and the music was fantastic (really that OP is exactly what this premise needed) and there’s even a lot of moments along the way in the story that managed to hit the right emotional notes, overall I have to come back to the fact that while I wanted to like this and at times did, a lot of it really just felt like I was detached from what I was watching.
Arguably, this isn’t something objectively wrong with the story in Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun but rather I just never felt like things came together for me and that feeling is only heightened when the series ends on a relatively inconclusive note between the main pair.
If I had to pin down the parts of Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun that really just didn’t click quite into place for me, I’d probably start with Nene, our central character who kicks off the story by making a wish to Hanako-Kun before circumstances push her into becoming his assistant. Again, not a lot new in that set-up as we’ve seen characters dragged into supernatural occupations before working alongside or beneath either a more knowledgeable character or one that actually is of supernatural origins.
With Nene the reoccurring jokes about her romantic fantasies, her appearance and lack of self-confidence really undermined her likeability for me and while she did have a few moments where she seemed to rise about bumbling human-plot-device who stumbled into any supernatural situation that existed in the school, these moments were few and far between.
And with not particularly enjoying Nene, Hanako’s attachment to her and relationship throughout the series wasn’t quite as interesting to watch as it may have been. I ended up finding Kou, an exorcist who ends up working alongside the other two, the more interesting character of the three and even then he takes a fair while to feel fleshed out and like a real person rather than a trope that exists to make the jokes happen.
While many of the episodes feature a wonder or ghost of the week, the story is actually an ongoing one that explores Nene learning more about the supernatural world but feeling a distance between herself and Hanako. Unfortunately just when we learn enough to actually be a bit curious about Hanako we hit the season end point. The antagonistic characters of the series have so far been impressive only in-as-much as they seem to be mostly getting their own way but personality-wise there isn’t one in the bunch that has actually made me want to know more about them.
As a point of curiosity, AnimeLab listed Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun under it’s horror genre whereas MAL plays up the comedy and school aspects as well as supernatural. The reality is it definitely gyrates between these two positions. I bring this up because there’s definitely death, dismemberment, suicide and abuse sitting behind a lot of this story. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of young ghosts in it and what we learn of their lives and deaths isn’t exactly pretty. Not to mention what some of these ghosts are doing to the current students as their legends get warped in fairly hideous ways.
Now, as a fan of horror, this doesn’t both me and actually was part of the appeal of Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun, but for those expecting a school-comedy while there is definitely a school and comedy in this anime you are going to get some dark subject matter as well.
The end result here is one that is a bit mixed. This is an entertaining anime that works and should we get another season is starting off a pretty interesting story in a world with well thought out supernatural lore. It didn’t personally work for me (at least not enough that I’d turn-cartwheels over another season being announced) largely because of the characters and that is a little disappointing because I really did want to like this as I watched it.
Images used for review from: Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun. Dir. Y. Higa. Lerche. 2020.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Season one of Dr Stone was a lot of fun. Or at least it was once I got into it. The first few episodes were interesting but didn’t really draw me in and it was mostly once Senku found the village and a whole bunch of other characters that I really became invested.
Which means Stone Wars should definitely work for me because its all about the village that Senku now essentially runs, because of his knowledge of science, preparing for and then heading out to wage war on Tsukasa and his goons. And while Tsukasa remains a charismatic opposition to Senku, I don’t think much of the set-up of his group given they all seem to have very little to do most of the time and the majority of them seem to have little going on between their ears.
All of this, plus an about face in character positioning pulled off in the second last episode, means that while Stone Wars does deliver the promised war and we once again have a bit of fun with characters making incredible technologies given their limited resources, this anime never moves beyond just being fun and entertaining enough into something that I’d describe as truly great. That said, not everything needs to be great so maybe fun and entertaining is enough.
And while I may have seem a bit negative above, I actually did enjoy watching Stone Wars as it has some great moments throughout it. Chrome in particular gets quite a good showing across these 11 episodes as he gets taken prisoner in order to prevent one of Senku’s schemes being discovered too soon and then realises that he needs to escape himself rather than wait for rescue.
He does it in true Chrome fashion and at times you really do wish he’d shut up, but it was an excellent moment for his character and it was fantastic to see him putting together his own knowledge gathered through hard work and labour as well as the knowledge he’d absorbed from Senku in the past year.
Chrome deserves credit as perhaps the stand out character from Stone Wars.
Chrome’s progress and abilities (while not the best at physcial conflict) are even acknowledge late in the series by another character who suggests they’d pick Chrome over Senku for exploration. While Chrome might not have the vast knowledge bank that Senku has, he makes up for it in resourcefulness and he’s a quick study. it was absolutely fantastic seeing him getting some time away from Senku’s shadow in this second season and watching him work through a problem entirely on his own.
We also had the return of Taiju and Yuzuriha into the story after such a long absence and got to find out what they’d been up to while in Tsukasa’s camp. While neither of these were my favourite characters and I felt season one got better after they parted with Senku, their return was a suitably emotional moment and the anime gave these two enough screen time to feel like it was purposeful without taking too much away from Senku’s other friends.
Likewise Gen remains an interesting addition to Senku’s forces being far more underhanded than Senku. His reactions to some of Senku’s decisions continue to be a little overblown (however exaggerated reactions are more or less what this anime does so I’m kind of used to it) but it is nice for Senku to have someone near him who understands just how insane some of his ideas are and has a modern context so that Senku isn’t just surrounded by people who’ve never heard of the various inventions they are creating.
Literally any revived character could fulfil this role but Gen works overtime to ensure that his contributions, while not always successful, do feel fairly meaningful and he offers a different perspective on events that is sometimes needed.
There’s even a few characters on Tsukasa’s side who end up being interesting to a point. Ukyou took a while to really grow on me but ends up being an interesting character who seems a little underused by the series and Niki gets a brief shining moment and then more or less becomes the face of the mob characters reacting to what is going on around her. Still, there was at least an attempt at humanising Tsukasa’s followers and ensuring we didn’t just write them all off as meat-heads who were utterly disposable.
However, it is in the actions and decisions of main antagonists of Tsukasa and Hyouga that my main complaints lie and I’m not going to get into too much detail as after all the build up of the Stone Wars and the conflict itself a few key moments in later episodes more or less let all of the tension out of the situation like someone puncturing a balloon. It isn’t as though it is a narrative breaking moment as it all kind of fits, it just doesn’t feel like a satisfactory direction to go in after all the lead in.
Though that is almost immediately countered by the final episode taking a more emotional tone rather than a comedic one. Basically this anime took a turn I ultimately didn’t really buy in to and that left me feeling a little less invested in this season than I might otherwise have been. It wasn’t actually a bad watch, but I’m also not jumping up and down for a rewatch any time soon.
A final thought on this series: I never really did get the opening theme, Rakuen. I mean, it just felt like it belonged on a totally different story. If this season had just been one of scientific exploration and playing around with steam cars on the beach it would have made the theme fairly fitting, but ultimately I just never felt like it got me ready for most of the episodes where characters were actively preparing for or engaging in a war.
Minor complaints aside, Stone Wars continues to be a bright and fun series with a mix of scientific explanations, over the top facial expressions and a few cool action set-pieces sprinkled around with the overall mystery of how this world came about and how it should progress from this point continuing to be a driving force in the background. It largely works even if I didn’t agree with all the plot points and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing Senku’s smile after he succeeds at something outrageous.
That said, I’d love to know your thoughts on this follow up to Dr Stone so be sure to leave me a comment.
Images used for review from: Dr Stone: Stone Wars. Dir. S Iina. TMS Entertainment. 2021.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
The higher expectations the harder the landing – so it is for The Promised Neverland Season 2.
It is a pretty common phenomenon in any long running series that as the story progresses the narrative will begin to add in twists and turns that don’t always sit well with the audience. Characters will make decisions that don’t seem to align with who they were in the beginning, and ultimately only the die-hard fans will watch the entirety of the property. However, The Promised Neverland is only 2 seasons so there’s really no excuse for this mess.
Season one set up a sequel fantastically with the kids dramatically escaping from the farms and venturing forth into the unknown world for the very first time. A sequel was needed and unlike so many other season 2’s, they didn’t even have to contrive the next step of the journey because it was handed to them. What awaited the kids in the world and how would they survive.
With such a beautiful set-up gift-wrapped for season 2, even if they made the decision to deviate from source material and go anime original for reasons that many other bloggers have already discussed, they really could have made a very decent go of season 2.
Please note: there are spoilers here.
The first episode seemed to indicate that we would get another dark season with the kids facing a range of dangers and having to use their wits and skills to survive. It more or less gave me exactly what I was hoping for in the return to Neverland and that was a glimpse of the world surrounding the farm and seeing the kids now exposed to even greater dangers now that they weren’t protected (even if that protection was just so that they could be raised to a more delicious taste).
Very quickly though, The Promised Neverland Season 2 moved from psychological escape story to meandering journey through a forest making friends, to setting up camp in a bunker, being chased out of the bunker due to some kind of military invasion that was conveniently solved by a monster that seemed to specifically target the adults and all the kids managed to get away.
Then we transitioned to Emma going through some kind of depression as she realised that things weren’t going so great, to Norman conveniently showing up but now he’s all vengeful and unreasonable, to finally one of the most contrived and ridiculous plots to overthrow the powerful I’ve ever seen and idiotically it even worked. All of this in 11 episodes with little to no exploration of a single idea within.
If I focus in on the central three characters from season one we can see where a lot of the story went wrong. Emma was known for her endless optimism and can-do attitude but for a lot of season 2 she’s tired and grim, worn down by her responsibilities. It is a realistic transition for her character but not a welcome one. What’s worse is that the final episodes bounce her back to foolish optimism for no apparent reason and everything just kind of works out because it does.
Season 1 at least required a sacrifice of her ear in order to pull off the rescue she intended and the compromise of leaving the younger children in the farm. She couldn’t have everything. Whereas, the only condition season 2 places on her victory is the death of a character we didn’t care about in the slightest and even a slide-show backstory played seconds before his death wasn’t going to change that or make us care.
Ray also suffers in season 2 as he becomes simply Emma’s moral support. Gone are his own schemes and machinations as well as any of his snarky comments that really added a little bit of spice into the otherwise sickly sweet cast. Basically, he offers nothing of his own in this season. In almost every one of his scenes he is merely standing beside Emma. He rarely talks to anyone outside of Emma.
Everything about his character has been stripped away and he is just an Emma devotee who exists to progress her plans and encourage her. It’s a little sad for someone who was such a great character in season one.
And then we have Norman. Norman who was the smartest of them all who after being taken away has endured some horrible things however don’t expect to really ever get an understanding of what he was going through because a brief montage is all you’re ever going to get and yet we’re supposed to buy in to the fact that it was dramatic enough to be entirely character altering.
Before Norman was cautious and planned things out well. Now he’s rushing forward with a poorly thought out plan with limited chance of actually succeeding and he’s not even willing to listen to Emma-logic (which is always right because she’s Emma). Norman’s character makes some incredibly stupid decisions in this season before he ends up hugging and making up with Emma and Ray and then he just throws his lot in with the Emma fan-club and everyone is team Emma.
What a waste of two of the three main characters from the previous season who were both fantastically written characters once upon a time.
Other characters come and go throughout this season as Isabella gets revealed early on but then does nothing until the end and newcomers Mujika and Sonju are introduced but other than helping the kids little is done about giving them their own personality. Sonju briefly shows glimpses of who he is early on but in every future scene simply quietly helps out with whatever the kids request. The various other demons we meet along the way leave little impression and the laughably badly characterised Peter Ratri leaves an impression but it isn’t one that is particularly good for the series.
Visually and in terms of direction season 2 is a step backward in everyway to season one. Even the early episodes of season 2 made this clear with the odd angles and shot compositions used so well in season one of The Promised Neverland to create an atmosphere that was tense and unsettling being completely absent. Season 2 is almost entirely a series of talking heads and when you do get longer shot types they are straight on and direct.
No odd perspectives or cut-aways, no clever use of shadows or anything else to really add anything to the viewing experience. That said, we were outside of Grace Field Farm so maybe they were trying to establish a different tone for the broader world. But even giving the earlier episodes of The Promised Neverland Season 2 the benefit of the doubt, nothing is going to defend the final few episodes that almost forego actual animation using stills and pans to convey almost the entirety of the final conflict.
Even the mid-season episodes very much give us scene after scene of kids standing around with one person talking and barely animated with the other kids being completed still before we get a close-up of a frozen reaction expression. These conversations are long, circular, and repeated and there’s almost no animation taking place in these scenes. They are dull to watch and with little content to actually draw you in you can’t help but pay attention to how bland this season looks compared to its predecessor as well as just how little effort had seemingly gone into it.
So we have a plot that makes no sense and rushes us from sequence to sequence but gives us no reason to care about any of the events, characters who are no longer interesting and compelling but go through the motions anyway, and animation and direction that seems to just take the quickest option to get through this ‘story’ with the least amount of effort. It is all just a bit sad to watch unfold and really viewers who haven’t already jumped in to season 2 can just end with the escape from the farm.
Lots of stories do end with characters stepping out into the unknown and leave it the audience to figure out what is next. There’s no reason we can’t just pretend season 2 never happened. Some people will tell you to jump in and read the source but not every anime viewer wants to do that. Season 2 certainly didn’t encourage me to remain invested in this particularly property.
I will take one final swipe at the final plot the kids come up with. We see a preparation montage and then suddenly we have multiple fully functioning hot-air balloons (I can assure you that their preparations would not have logically achieved this), that they then navigate, in darkness, to multiple precise locations in order to launch their final assault. I can only assume that the writers have never actually watched a hot-air balloon or talked to anyone who has tried to navigate one because pretty sure untrained children pilots would have failed at this somewhat spectacularly.
Not to mention, part of their plan seemed to involve the enemies spearing the balloons so they crashed inside the farms but what would they have done if they’d downed the balloons over that huge ravine surrounding the entire complex? So much could have gone wrong here it defied belief. That by the end of the entire final conflict the balloons seem the least of the issues just kind of points out how insane and inept this story really got by the end.
I watched season 2 week to week with a friend of mine who I managed to get to watch season one because it was amazing. He takes a lot of convincing to watch an anime with me and usually we watch shows I’ve finished and can sell him on. He agreed to season 2 because of the strength of the first season and then progressively became more vocal in his disapproval of season 2 as it continued.
By the final episode we were both just raising our eye-brows and throwing up our hands and ultimately had abandoned any hope of The Promised Neverland actually delivering anything worthwhile in season 2. After I finish writing this review we’ve both agreed just to pretend season 2 didn’t happen.
Images used for review from: The Promised Neverland Season 2. Dir. M Kanbe. CloverWorks. 2021.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Moriarty: The Greatest of Villains Have Equally Great Ambitions
I will admit I was a little intrigued by this title when I first had this recommended to me as an anime to catch up on. While Sherlock Holmes movies haven’t done a great deal for me, I have enjoyed a number of TV shows that have updated the characters or taken great influence from the world’s greatest consulting detective, and even though many anime attempts at borrowing these characters haven’t exactly been brilliant, the attempts are usually intriguing for a whole bunch of reasons.
I also didn’t mind revisiting Victorian London as the setting is one that various anime have utilised again and again with varying results. But when they get it right, something kind of magical happens and long time readers of my blog will know about my love of Black Butler which is also set in the era (though I’ve learned my lesson and will never watch another historical anime set in this era with one particular friend of mine who spent the entire run time of Black Butler pointing out historical inaccuracies).
What made me particularly interested in Moriarty the Patriot (or Yuukoku no Moriarty) was that from the title it was clear we were going to be focused not on the detective but on the man who becomes his antagonist. More than that it seemed like we were going to very much explore Moriarty’s motives and worldviews that shaped him into the criminal mastermind we are somewhat more familiar with.
This review is going to end up being a bit strange because my impression of this anime very much changed from my initial impressions in episode 1, to my half-way impressions, to my final impressions. That is largely due to the fact that the opening act is strongly written, atmospheric, and generally intrigues, the mid-way point has kind of settled into more episodic and predictable patters, and then just after the half-way mark we finally meet Sherlock Holmes and from there the anime begins to split its focus away from Moriarty and to be honest I felt that was to the show’s detriment.
However, let us start with the first three episodes, which to be perfectly honest were everything I could have wanted going into this anime.
Outside of the fact that these apparently very English characters have largely standard anime hairtstyles (there’s some attempt to localise them but really, these boys are all rocking fairly contemporary anime looks), I loved the visuals in the first episode. The cuts to old statues, the use of a dark colour palette in the appropriate scenes, the fog and gloom that we associate with the city and era just worked.
Even the music in the episode relied heavily on the organ and while it might have been a little on the melodramatic side it still served the purpose for the story as did the periodic thunder in the background. Admittedly, I wasn’t entirely sold on the boppy techno-esque music that hit us at the end of the episode as it was just a little on the jarring side.
Equally, the first episode delivered in terms of story and character introduction. We meet the three Moriarty brothers, Albert, William and Louis and learn a little about the dynamics of how they operate as we see them investigate a series of murdered boys in the town and then organise for ‘justice’ to be served.
There is definitely a bit of a comparison to be made between these characters, particularly William, and Light from Death Note. Admittedly, Moriarty doesn’t go as over-the-top in being drunk on his own power and also has no particular supernatural assistance, but both Light and Moriarty see their world as rotten and in need of fixing and both take fairly extreme measures in order to repair what they perceive as broken.
I also like that Moriarty has a great ambition here. He wants to improve the world even if he has to break the existing society down in order to achieve that and he isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty even if he usually prefers to work via proxy leaving him clear to take the next step in his grand plan.
For those who are a little on the squeamish side, there will be blood and vengeance in this story. Between stabbings, poisonings, potential shootings, and burning a building down with the family inside, this one isn’t a shiny-happy story full of happy characters. That said, it also ensures each of these deaths serves a narrative purpose and while it doesn’t shy away from showing the killing, it doesn’t really glorify it either. Here, death is a tool and murder a means to an end.
Immediately after a strong first episode, the audience is given the background on how these brothers came together and how the dynamic formed, as we are given a two episode reminiscence of how Albert Moriarty came to meet William and Louis and just how they ended up ‘brothers’.
This is definitely what I wanted going into this anime as we see a young Moriarty developing his views on the England at the time, the class system, as well as his own sense of morality. Realistically, I could have been happy with this anime ending after episode 3 as seeing young Moriarty was a pretty solid viewing experience.
You know, aside from the fact that various noble characters are ridiculous caricatures rather than human beings in how they make their class prejudices and overall stupidity abundantly clear. A lack of subtlety in the characterisation of every character outside of the central protagonists is an ongoing issue with the series. Sure, you get the point across that things are really messed up and that the noble classes aren’t exactly to be pitied, however they are all just so blunt in their power abuse and general despicable attitudes.
The mid-season works rather effectively as we move back to the brothers being grown up and we end up in a fairly episodic sequence where Moriarty becomes aware of a situation and offers ‘assistance’ and we see just how clever he really is as he plans out and executes what he calls ‘perfect crimes’. Again, a serious failing here is that while Moriarty does appear to be quite the genius, it is difficult to really appreciate him when every character he’s up against is so very, very stupid.
Despite that criticism there’s a nice range of scenarios carried out over the episodes and Moriarty is actually quite fascinating as a character here. I just kind of wish the supporting cast and the villains and victims of the week were written better in order to really showcase him in a better light.
We also are introduced to two other members of Moriarty’s network who then hang around and support in all subsequent cases (which kind of makes you wonder where they were in the first episode). I’d like to say that the two brought something to the party, but other than anonymity (which none of the Moriarty brothers have) and some weapon skills, they ultimately don’t amount to much.
The turning point, is of course the two part episode in the mid-season where Moriarty boards a boat to stage a wonderful show for nobles and commoners alike and while on board encounters another young man who seems to have a gift for deduction. This particular story is great with the only negative I can find being again the seriously over-the-top villainous nature of the noble at the centre of the story. As a first encounter between Moriarty and the later-to-be-identified Sherlock, it also works exceptionally well.
Unfortunately for me, this was where the series did take a turn for the less interesting with subsequent episodes focusing on Sherlock meeting Watson and Moriarty setting up an elaborate ‘test’ for the consulting detective. The only real high point from the end season comes when the two end up coincidentally on the same train and end up solving a crime on board.
Possibly it is because Sherlock’s story is so well-known and so seeing something that had originally provided a different take and perspective on the characters suddenly shift to the standard Watson meeting Sherlock narrative was a bit of a disappointment, or it could be that really once Sherlock comes along Moriarty’s screen-time is reduced and he was very much a selling point for me in this.
The other disappointment comes as episode 11 ends without really establishing where to next but leaves lots of loose ends. Admittedly, there’s a second half or season that’s supposed to air in the Spring 2021 season which may actually give this a bit more of a finish, but as it stands it just kind of stops leaving the audience without much in the way of closure or resolution.
When left wondering if I recommend this I’m in two minds. Part of me thinks yes, if you enjoy this kind of mystery story and don’t mind taking the villain’s perspective for the majority, there’s plenty to enjoy particularly in the early part of the series. Depending on how you take Sherlock’s episodes later in the season, there’s no real change in quality throughout, so you might find these more or less enjoyable depending on whether you like this particular anime’s take on the detective.
Despite that, this isn’t a must watch and while I really enjoyed this depiction of Moriarty, too many other characters just don’t feel nuanced enough or well written enough to really do the overall concept justice. I appreciate what it was trying to convey but felt it could have done it better.
Still, if you’ve watched Moriarty the Patriot I would love to know your thoughts on it.
Images used for review from: Moriarty the Patriot. Dir. K. Nomura. Production I. G. 2020.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
I’ll watch as much as it takes to make a decisionas to whether the anime will be added to the watch/review list or dropped and forgotten. For good.
The short synopsis given on both MAL and AnimeLab of Kemono Jihen largely leave the viewer with little to go on as they both more or less detail the events setting up episode one without giving much in the way of an indication of how this story will develop. Still, it sounded interesting enough and it was ticking off a number of genre boxes that I quite enjoy with its claims of action, mystery, demons and the supernatural.
I will admit though that Inugami’s initial introduction more or less made me want to put this one down to a nice try and move on. With his ridiculous hair and fairly cliche position as a supernatural investigator, I honestly wasn’t all that impressed. Fortunately, once he took an interest in Kabane, a young outcast villager, things picked up and the first episode ended up being quite an enjoyable ride. That said, we then immediately transition away from the rural setting to the city and I’m not sure that the next two episodes have finished really establishing the new setting. With only 12 episodes in the season, it seems unlikely that this one will manage to tell a whole story in its run time, which will be a bit of a shame because there are some very interesting elements at play here.
An absolute ten out of ten to the dead-pan Kabane in these early episodes. While a lot of the other characters are either pushed so far into their trope they’ve more or less become caricatures, he’s actually managing to pull off a nice combination of dulled emotions, inner strength but odd vulnerability as a child more or less alone in the world. His interactions with the other characters have all been pretty solid so far and when the story focuses on him it gets an immediate lift.
I’m also really loving the world that is being crafted here with the supernatural characters slotting into the modern world either subtly or through brute force. The different approaches to modern existence at play in episode three when the kids under Inugami’s care clash with Inari was really interesting and I’d love to see more of how this develops as we meet more characters and learn more about this supernatural world. It’s the right mix of fascinating, magical and yet dark and dangerous. It is a setting you want to learn more about and you look forward to seeing the characters delve more deeply into the world around them.
So far Inugami hasn’t impressed. It wasn’t just the first episode. Even after that he seems to deliberately withhold information from the kids for the sake of being mysterious and it is really difficult to get any kind of read on his overall motives. I’m sure they’ll reveal some purpose later on for him being like that but really we’ve seen this type of character before and done better, and to be honest sometimes it isn’t so much mysterious to withhold facts as it is annoying. Certainly giving the kids a heads-up before sending them in to deal with Inari might have been wise given how many ways that situation could have ended badly. Characters making bad choices is one thing if it makes sense for the characters; but writers who force characters to do silly things for the sake of a bit of drama just bring down the viewing experience.
The other negative probably comes from a number of the supporting cast with the other characters seeming to be trying to make up for the fact that Kabane is a pretty quiet and reserved character by being excessively noisy and boisterous. They have their charm and they work playing off Kabane but I think too much of Shiki and Kon simultaneously could definitely lead to eye-rolling unless they both develop a bit as the show goes on.
Despite the negatives, I really quite enjoyed the first three episodes. There’s enough intrigue here to keep me wondering and the setting has a lot of potential. Also, despite some gripes about the characters, mostly these first three episodes were pretty enjoyable to watch. I’m very much looking forward to more, though I kind of think it would have been better to remain in the village because there was some great atmosphere there. As much fun as urban fantasy settings are there’s just something a bit more thrilling about the isolated village.
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