The Disastrous Life of Saiki K Series Review: Increasingly Diminishing Returns

Right, so we know I don’t like comedy anime and I’m not a big fan of anime set in a high school, but I do like supernatural stories or stories about characters with some sort of power. Hmm. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K really is one of those anime I just had to watch to decide whether or not I liked it.

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Review:

I’m going to save some people some time and just come out and admit I didn’t like this anime and I won’t be watching the second season. And yet, I did watch all of the first season because as much as I didn’t like this anime, there was something quite interesting about it. The problem was, none of the jokes ever landed for me so I was never particularly amused by the show and as interesting as the premise is and as each new character who is introduced is, unless the humour is actually working for you it isn’t as though there is some grand plot of the like to keep you hooked. So once you’ve figured out what each character is doing and how they interact with the rest of the cast, you’re just kind of waiting for the next character to come along.

That isn’t really fair to the show. Some people find this very funny and entertaining and that humour manages to carry them through the whole season. But it’s kind of like a story that relies on being able to distinguish colour and being colour blind – a show relying on zany humour when you don’t find it funny is kind of just bland.

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What got me through the show for the most part was the title character. Kusuo is an interesting guy in that he’s incredibly powerful but become entirely jaded by life because of it. He spends his days avoiding interactions with others and generally trying not to get too annoyed by the mundane world and fails miserable at doing so. Being able to read people’s thoughts he generally has a low opinion of humanity in general and while he isn’t on the path to being a super villain, he’s certainly become fairly dispassionate towards everyone including his parents.

One of the things I really appreciated about Kusuo is that he hasn’t given himself needless and petty restrictions about not using his powers in general. Kusuo uses his powers whenever it suits him, however because it would be a bother he does make sure to keep it low key as he doesn’t want it to become public knowledge. There’s no rule breaking or guilt about using his powers against his parents or classmates when it suits his current purposes. This allows him to also walk a morally grey line without the whole is he good or bad coming into the discussion. It isn’t about right or wrong. He’s a teenager making choices and mostly working off of self-interest. It makes for a change and is kind of refreshing that someone with powers isn’t forced to decide whether they’ll be good or evil. He’s just living his life on his own terms.

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However, as much as I appreciate Kusuo as a character, the support cast only work in that they give Kusuo obstacles and interactions to deal with. While some people might enjoy each of these characters, for me each one was progressively more painful than the last and the episodes where lots of the support characters converge were particularly painful. My biggest issue being that because we only see these characters through Kusuo’s lens they really are all one note characters who exist to bring one specific type of conflict into Kusuo’s life. Potentially less characters and giving each character more depth would have worked, but I kind of realise that doing so would kind of undermine the entire point of most of these characters and kill the humour that they are supposed to be a part of.

I will also note I wasn’t the biggest fan of the art or colour scheme on this one. It all works and is consistent enough, but it just wasn’t to my general taste. The music is functional but outside of the OP I don’t really remember any of it after the fact so it didn’t leave much of an impression.

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I kind of knew going in that The Disastrous Life of Saiki K was unlikely to work for me given what I had read about it. Still, despite thinking that when I started it, and despite not laughing once while watching, I don’t feel bad that I watched this. It was an interesting enough series for what it was and there were sufficient interesting moments with the main character to feel that it was worth the time. Still, I won’t go on to another season and I’ll never revisit this series.

Over to the readers: What are your thoughts on this one?


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Karandi James

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Series Review: Bliss Out With Cafe Food

While Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori isn’t the most original, exciting, or beautiful anime out there, this one ended up being a surprisingly good anime just to chill out to each week during the Spring 2018 anime season.

Review:

This is another one of those shows where I genuinely went into the first episode expecting to drop it at the end, maybe write up an impressions post, and never think about it ever again. However, I think I phrased it best in my First Impressions post where I said:

…I really just fell into a happy watching coma while watching this…

And yeah, that’s more or less the experience of watching these four guys serving tea and really great looking anime food in a cafe using plates and cups made by one of the guys while serving latte art that is kind of terrifyingly bad.

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Exhibit A.

It isn’t as though this show didn’t have a few mis-fires. While some people really enjoy Gure’s character, I found him kind of the painful weak link in the set of four and when we were thrown an episode that entirely focused on him it kind of broke my general calm mood while watching. The other three characters, Sui, Tokitaka and Tsubaki all have their moments and I quite enjoyed watching their interactions. Even Gure was fine when diluted by the rest of the cast. It’s only when the show focuses on him for a longer period that it started damaging my calm.

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Visually this anime isn’t exceptional. The cafe, Rokuhoudou, is a beautiful cafe and I’d love to actually know somewhere like that to eat because just going there would be an experience. However, other than a fairly washed out colour palette for everything except the food, there’s nothing really distinguishing about how this looks. With character designs they are all pretty ordinary so a lot of the support cast and cafe guests end up blending together, not that it matters all that much.

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For the most part this is a slice of life and just follows the general daily business of the guys at the cafe so don’t expect much in the way of a compelling story. There is an ongoing plot involving Sui and his family but it kind of gets introduced in the first couple of episodes and then abandoned save for minor mentions here and there until the very end. This isn’t a plot driven drama so if you are looking for a story that moves, look elsewhere. Normally I would, and yet I really did have fun here.

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Do not watch this show while hungry.

Maybe it was just good timing because I happened to watch the first episode while really stressed and to be honest, there’s literally no way you can remain stressed while watching this. There were a number of episodes where I just completely spaced out while watching altogether and while that might not normally equal a recommendation, it was more or less exactly what I needed at the time.

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If you want a clear idea of what you are getting into, each episode is basically split into two parts. Normally one of the guys will mention something or be thinking about something that will somehow connect to some customer problem or issue and then everyone will band together to drink tea until the problem goes away. Okay, that is somewhat sarcastic, but really they don’t go about solving all the world’s problems and they do like to think about things, usually while sipping on tea.

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How much mileage individuals viewers will get out of these episodes will depend entirely on how well they like the focus character and the customer that they are helping. What that means is that some episodes will strike home better than others, but the series as a whole is pretty consistent in terms of tone and quality. The exception is episode 5 that goes off on some weird tangent that I still haven’t figured out. Just weird.

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Overall though, I’d recommend giving this show a shot unless you absolutely despise slice of life stories. I’m not normally a fan of anime that lack a driving plot, but this one worked for me and at the very least it isn’t another cute girls doing cute things slice of life.

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Karandi James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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NATSUME YUJINCHO ICHIBAN KUJI PREMIUM


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

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

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


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Karandi James

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Episodes 11 and 12: Bringing In The New Year

Good food and good company; while not everything wraps up nicely this slice of life allows for things to just kind of come to a close.

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I get the feeling when I do a full series review of this anime I’m going to spend a lot of time saying ‘but’ as I point out that this anime does something I normally really dislike, but it works here. While this anime didn’t really give closure on the issue of Sui and his brother, it did bring us an encounter in episode 12 between the two where almost no words were exchanged, but the few that were said and the silences were quite powerful. No dramatic speeches or long winded expositions. The anime let the silence and what the audience has already discerned about their relationship speak in the scene and it was all the more affective because of it.

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Outside of that, these two episodes are the usual thing for this show with the cast making people happy by feeding them ridiculously good looking food and really good coffee with terrifying latte art. It didn’t really feel like they went all out for a final episode of a season other than setting it as a New Year event for the restaurant.

You might notice I’ve barely mentioned episode 11 and that is because it is just another encounter with a character who loves the restaurant and the pottery classes. Episode 11 lays the groundwork for the events in episode 12 and that is really its only significance.

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While I will get to a full review of this soon, this is one anime I’ve been fairly consistently happy with this season outside of a Gure focused episode.

 

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Episode 10: Happy Customers

While there’s not a lot of substance here, watching customer enjoy good food is kind of a pleasure in and of itself.

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In case we had forgotten the core business that this anime is built around, this week we’re back to just watching the guys serve food and make the customers happy. The biggest drama comes from running out of an ingredient after there’s a spike in the number of people ordering a dish due to a TV show the night before. And that’s actually fine. This is laid back viewing at its finest with enough happening to keep you from dozing off, but not much of anything actually going on.

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I did like that the latte art is getting the lion’s share of reviews though. Kind of funny that the restaurant’s biggest weakness is actually talked about more than the rest of the food and drinks served. Still, once again this episode has left me hungry.

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Episode 9: Back To Romance, Food and Rivalry

This episode firmly splits itself into two parts which are both equally successful in achieving their purpose making for an overall satisfying viewing experience.

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Note: Do not ask Gure for love advice.

While the first half of this episode returns its focus to the male reporter who was struggling to go into cafes solo and his attempt at starting a love life, I found myself generally enjoying the sweet nothingness that was unfolding. The parallel between hi situation and the shoujo manga the boys had all read the day before was reasonable even if a bit heavy handed, and watching the date was kind of sweet.

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The second half also featured a returning character, though a more annoying one. Here though it works well as it brings us back to Sui and his brother’s story and I still want a little bit more of that.

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This episode isn’t overly exciting but it does have some great character moments, some excellent food shots, and just enough intrigue to make me want more.

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Episode 8: Inconsistencies Mounting

What happens when you focus the entire episode on Gure, the least interesting of the group? Well, mostly a lot of eye-rolling.

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When this anime is good, it is very good. It is the supreme relaxer. Calmness in anime form. It is exactly what you need after a stressful day at work. When this anime misses its mark, as it did at episode 5, it really misses the mark. And episode 8 is another example of Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori missing the mark.

I’m going to level a lot of the blame at Gure for this. His happy go lucky and pushy persona irks me at the best of times but when off-set with the other personalities at the cafe he usually doesn’t overstay his welcome. This episode didn’t off-set him. The other guys between them had about two minutes screen time. No, this was a Gure on a side-quest episode and it was pretty painful.

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Of course, we have to point the other finger at the nature of his quest. Help the down-trodden student. Everything is going wrong in his life at home and school and he’s miserable, etc, etc. But hey, serve him coffee, give him a pep-talk, shove your own childhood trauma and story of salvation onto him, and by the end of the episode we’ll be all smiles. It is trite. It really is. Made worse by superimposing the image of Gure’s master over him as he waves farewell to You, as if the situations are in anyway comparable. Guy he’s known five minutes vs the master who gave him a trade and clearly built up a fairly extensive relationship with.

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Sure, because that’s how life works.

So yeah, I didn’t really get into this episode and quite frankly is has been the low point for the season so far.

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Episode 7: Back to Relaxation

Two stories of happy customers and the relaxing bliss of this food anime from episode one returns, made more bittersweet because right now I’d rather see more of Sui’s story.

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When you find out your friend is moving, and hates tea, there’s nothing to do of course except beg the cute dessert chef to help you learn how to make matcha ice-cream. The criminal aspect of this episode is, of course, that I can’t have any right at the moment and it looks delicious. This is pure fluff made heart-warming even as the first half of this episode is filled with extremely over-the top reaction faces.

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Part two brings us a widower who ventures to the cafe seeking an ‘adventure’ given he so rarely leaves his home. He finds curry and apparently a new lease on life in the course of the afternoon and as always things end with a smile.

While I might seem sarcastic, I am most sincere when I say that this anime brings a genuine calm to the viewer and while I would really like the plot elements that have occasionally been introduced to be developed further, these moment in time episodes are kind of fantastic in their own way if you are chasing something resembling bliss.

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Episode 6: The Start of Sui’s Rokyhoudou

While the boys clean the shop, the narrative takes us back to when Sui still worked in an office and dreamed of reopening his grandfather’s restaurant. This anime is taking its time but it seems to be getting somewhere.

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It wasn’t much of an episode really in terms of plot and even the character reveals weren’t great. We kind of already knew that Sui hadn’t always run the restaurant and we also already knew there were issues between him and his brother. Yet this is one of those cases where the point is the journey and not the destination and the journey was pretty enjoyable. While the food shots weren’t as spectacular, the general peaceful air that permeated the first two episodes came back and made for quite the relaxing tale as we learned about how Rokuhoudou came back to life.

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Of course now I want to know when the other two guys came on board and where the story with the brother is going but I guess that kind of means the episode did its job in making me want to know more about the show.

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Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori Episodes 4 + 5: Seriously, What?

After the interesting turn taken in episode 3, this anime takes a bit of a nose dive through episodes 4 and 5 as we return to episodic events and, in the case of episode 5, events that are just weird.

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There might still end up being an ongoing drama in this anime, as presented in episode 3, but essentially episode 4 gives us two disconnected episodic events in serving a character who really wanted to eat tempura and then a story about the boys finding a kitten. Both of these were fine in their own way and certainly continued the relaxing feel of the first two episodes, but after seeing a hint of what this anime might be I was a little disappointed.

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This is not what I was looking for when I asked for hot boys in a cafe.

Then episode 5. I’m just going to ask, why? Admittedly, the story of a guy who wants to report on cafes but doesn’t feel comfortable going into one isn’t anything new in anime. I’m not sure why Japanese males feel they can’t enter a cafe in anime and whether this is actually a thing, but it is a fairly commonly presented issue. Of course our cafe boys help out and everything is fine.

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However, soon after that, things go weird. We are in a rainstorm and the cafe cat walks past a soaking woman and leads her down an alley where we have a door to a restaurant where the boys from our usual cafe seem to have all been given personality make-overs and for some reason are being very pretentious about food. For a moment I felt like we’d fallen into an episode of food wars without the actual conflict.

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What anime am I watching right now?

Honestly, episode 5 was a definite miss for me. So after three episodes of really enjoying this anime, and thinking at episode 3 that maybe this would be great, episodes 4 and 5 have brought my expectations back down. Episode 4 is fine, but 5 was just pushed things a bit too far for me to enjoy it. I’m kind of hoping episode 6 gets us back on track.

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