Spiritpact Series Review – When The Phrase ‘It Gets Better’ is Actually Accurate

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Spiritpact Overview:

After living a fairly nothing life at the beginning of Spiritpact, Keika dies quite unceremoniously when he’s hit by a truck. However that isn’t the end as Tanmoku shows up and asks Keika to become his spirit shadow. After a series of narratively convenient events a contract is made and the two are joined but there’s still a whole lot of mystery going on.

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Spiritpact Review:

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Let’s get this part of the review out of the way. The first episode of this is a nearly unwatchable mess. It has the hallmarks of an absolute train wreck and the only reason I didn’t chuck this show then and there and actually am now able to review the series is because of my slight intrigue about this whole spirit shadow thing.

In fact, this series along with Hand Shakers is kind of the reason I started wondering just how some anime got made or continued for a whole season when really it seems like it would make more sense just to toss them aside. However, I’m a sucker for ghost stories so despite thinking very little of it I moved on to episode two.

Episode two isn’t much better, but…

You knew there had to be a ‘but’ coming.

…what this show does incredibly well is each episode reveals something. Not much and at first it isn’t overly coherent (or it is just a massive information dump with little context) but it does reveal something. And even though there are points in pretty much every episode where you could pause the screen and just ask ‘Why am I watching this?’ the answer is pretty clear. Despite everything wrong with this show from a production and writing point of view it is telling a really compelling story (it just isn’t doing it well).

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And then you get to the second half of the series (this ended up only being 10 episodes so second half isn’t that far in). The biggest problems from early in the show are finally starting to sort themselves and you are getting less of the poor comedy and more of the straight up drama. By episode 9 you don’t know when it happened but you are completely caught up with these characters and the story and episode 10 delivers a satisfying conclusion.

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Does any of the emotional investment make this a better show?

Not really. It is a travesty at times. The comedy is truly hideous (and unhelped because it is accompanied by truly hideous visuals). Transitions between scenes are awkward. Characters come and go from the series around our protagonists but sometimes they’ve had so little to do early of consequence later when they return you don’t even know who they are. One character doesn’t appear early on, nor are they mentioned, but they play a fairly critical role in the second half. You spend a lot of the first three episodes asking ‘what?’ and you spend some of the time in the middle of the series wondering if they just forgot what was meant to happen next.

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I still had a great deal of fun watching this. Early on it was just to see if this could be my worst of the season. The premise was interesting enough that I’d be entertained and it would give me something to talk about. By the end I was genuinely waiting the week out just to get the next episode to find out what happened to the characters next.

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Keika is probably the character success story of the 2017 winter season really. I hated him in episode 1. I genuinely wanted his soul to disappear. By the end I was nearly in tears when his soul was in danger. I do not know why I started liking his character or caring about his fate but I know that somewhere along the line he became someone I genuinely wanted to see survive and find some happiness.

spiritpact - close moments between the main pair.

Despite that, I won’t recommend this. If the premise intrigues you, check it out and stick it out (it’s only ten episodes). You’ll probably wind up enjoying it even if you want to howl with frustration early on. If the premise isn’t really your thing and you’ve got a watch list that continues to grow forever, the fact that it ends well probably isn’t enough incentive to sit through this.

That said, season 2 improves in everyway on this story and wow I’m kind of hoping it eventually continues.

Images from: Spiritpact. Dir. Haoling Li. Haoliners Animation League. 2016.


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Karandi James


A Special Halloween Top 5: Spirits, Ghosts, and Dead People – With Luminous Mongoose

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Luminous Mongoose has had a busy month organising a number of collaborative top 5 lists for the spooky season. I was really happy they asked me to be a part of it, though I definitely struggled with time management (it has been a really busy month). Still, I love Halloween and all things creepy so getting to put together a list of top 5 ghosts seemed like a great idea.

Anyway, I’ve got the start of the list (5 – 3) but if you want to see who my favourite ghost/spirit character is, and Lumi’s, than you will have to jump over to their blog. Hopefully you enjoy the list and as always, I’d love to know which characters you would have included on your list.

Number 5:

Karandi’s Pick – Atsushi – Natsuyuki Rendezvous

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He’s the jealous husband who literally won’t go away and when the new part timer who has eyes on his wife notices him, Atsushi starts out trying to drive him away. When that is unsuccessful, he takes a new approach convincing him to share his body and allow the ghost to speak with his wife. Needless to say Atsushi has a few other things in mind.

Lumi’s Pick – Son Goku (While he was dead after fighting Cell) – Dragon Ball

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Okay, so right off the bat, counting Goku as a ghost will tell you that I’m being very loose with the entries on this list. While Goku has died as much as he has children and grandchildren, I always enjoyed his character the most when he was just a ghost exploring the afterlife of the Dragonball universe, and spectating on the affairs of his friends and family. The biggest reason why I included him here is thanks to the image above, which is the iconic Father-Son Kamehameha. Not only is it a beautiful shot, it also represents Goku passing on the torch to his son as the next savior of Earth, and it was a great send off for one of action shounen’s most iconic heroes.

At least until GT and Super crapped all over that.

Number 4:

Karandi’s Pick – Yuuko – Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

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She’s forgotten plenty but Yuuko has finally found someone who can see her and she’s ready to have fun exploring the mysteries of the old school house and generally mess around. Equally alluring and scary, Yuuko appears as people think she will and she uses this to her advantage as the ghost president of the supernatural research club.

Lumi’s Pick – No Face – Spirited Away

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No Face is a very simple but effective character. We have no clues as to his motivations, nor does he ever even string together complete sentences. All we know is that he wants to be friends with Chihiro, and gets cranky when he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s a strange thing to see a possibly centuries-old spirit act like a spoiled child, but it really works for the bizarre tone of Spirited Away. His design is  creepy and off-putting, while still being distinctly Ghibli, and that lands him a spot at number 4.

Number 3:

Karandi’s Pick Yukine – Noragami

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Okay, probably not technically a ghost but he is the spirit of a dead boy who was reforged into a weapon for a god so I’m still throwing him in my list. He’s a fantastic character and while at first he comes off kind of sullen and one dimensional, his growth as a character over the two seasons of Noragami are a delight.

Lumi’s Pick – Fuko Ibuki – Clannad

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Okay, major spoilers for the first arc of Clannad, so feel free to skip this if you somehow haven’t watched KyoAni’s magnum opus in terms of drama.

Having Fuko on here could be considered cheating since she is TECHNICALLY not dead, but she is the spirit of a girl in a coma, so I’m counting it. Just like Yuuko from Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, Fuko is a mysterious girl who is apparently tied to the school in some way, and has no memory of who they are.

When I first watched Clannad, I thought it was just gonna be a straightforward slice of life highschool drama, mysterious robot and girl in an astral plane aside. The reveal of her true nature was legitimately surprising and the mystery of it was intriguing.

She was the introduction of the supernatural element to the story which becomes a huge deal in the later arcs, and her arc was the highlight of my time with Clannad’s first season. Plus, her sudden reintroduction as a gag character despite her very heartfelt and emotional ending was hilarious and still completely in-character, so she makes the list at number 3!

And that’s our list numbers 5 – 3. Again, be sure to check out Luminous Mongoose’s post for the rest of the list.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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GHOST TRICK: PHANTOM DETECTIVE

Kieli Volume 1 Novel Review: Finding A Place To Be You Is Always Hard

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Kieli is a lonely girl with only a ghost roommate for company until the day she meets Harvey, an undying soldier who is being pursued by the church. These two unlikely companions will travel together and may just find what they are looking for in one another.

Review:

I have to admit, there was something interesting about reading Kieli even if I’m not thrilled enough to go looking for a second book. For me, this story was great to read and I loved watching Kieli and Harvey interacting with the commentary of the ‘corporal’, a ghost who lived inside a radio they carried. But I’m also kind of feeling that for me this was enough of that story. Certainly there are wider implications and more that can go on in the world, but I liked where this story chose to finish and felt a sense of completion from it. So I am going to recommend reading this book even while I decline to read any further in the series at the moment (I may eventually change my mind).

There’s a lot of fairly familiar antics going on in Kieli with the orphan girl who is a bit different getting picked on by others in the school and being the target of mistaken charity from others. Even her interactions with Becca, the ghost roommate, are all pretty much what you would expect. However, the familiar set-up is taking place in a world that is fresh and new even while it reflects a lot of what we’ve seen before.

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Set on a world colonised long ago and all but out of resources after a devastating war, there’s a sense that everything here is coming to an end and the people are just going through the motions of living because there’s nothing better to do. From a technological point of view there’s a strange mix between old and new as there are weapons and machines left over from by-gone eras that are pretty fantastic, and then there are things more reminiscent of more of the 19th Century. The mix works well to create a world that feels fresh even while a lot of what it presents has been done before.

Where it really missed a chance to distinguish itself was in the main antagonist of the novel, the controlling church and the bureaucracy beneath it. While religious organisations and dictatorship governments are pretty easy targets for dystopian settings, it felt like Kieli could have really tried something different if it wanted to given the nature of the setting and the history, and yet it does make perfect sense that the people did fall back to a theocracy of sorts.

Despite the intriguing setting, this is very much a story about Kieli and Harvey and while they are both products of the world they live in, they are first and foremost people who have been deeply hurt and for various reasons have cut themselves off from others. Despite Harvey’s secrets and the fact that they both see ghosts, they are both characters that it is easy to emphasise with and that is one of the greatest strengths of the story.

Some decent action sequences, including a train escape, and some supernatural goings on with the ghosts all make for a fairly interesting plot while we watch the two characters slowly come out of their self-imposed shells.

As I said, I really enjoyed reading this book and found it quite interesting, but for me the end point it enough. It’s like getting to the end of a movie and the characters get their happily ever after and then you realise there’s a sequel where they just kind of mess everything up for the characters again. I’m happy where this ended and where the characters are so for now I’ll leave Kieli and Harvey alone but if you are looking for something a bit interesting to read, than Kieli might just be what you are looking for.

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If you’re interested in reading Kieli Volume 1 it is available on the Book Depository.

Spiritpact Episode 9

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Review:

There were two or three moments while watching this episode of Spiritpact where I found myself unable to even breathe as I watched the characters in their current struggle. The story hasn’t got any more coherent (I barely understand why they are actually fighting at this point), but somewhere along the way I actually started really caring about these characters. That’s quite an achievement given after episode 1 I really just wanted to see how long it would take before Tanmoku decided just to kill Keika given how irritating he was. I’m not sure when the transition occurred or why but right now, Keika’s fate is something I’m very much invested in and this episode was an incredibly tense watch as a result. I still can’t believe he cut the string. Of all the things I thought he might do in that situation, cutting the string did not feature. Next episode please?

Spiritpact is available on Crunchyroll.


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Karandi James.

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Spiritpact Episode 8

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Review:

I really enjoyed this episode and it feels like the story is going full speed now and the episode title was pretty cool (Turbulence with a Chance of Dilemma). That isn’t to say the show isn’t without its stumbles. Keika had one of his incredibly stupid moments early in the episode  (I guess these are supposed to be comedic) and that was followed by a mid-episode Sailor Moon style transformation sequence complete with shimmering ribbon effects.

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Actually, my real complaint with the episode comes from the master they go to visit. He delivers this line to Tanmoku:

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Seriously? Combat or equivalent exchange? You’ve never heard of an IOU? It seems like an arbitrary thing to hold to under the circumstances and an unnecessary way to add a little bit of extra tension later now that Tanmoku has reopened the previously magically sealed wound. Still, Spiritpact has proven to be highly entertaining after a fairly rough start.

Spiritpact is available on Crunchyroll.


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Karandi James.

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Spiritpact Episode 4

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Review:

Episode 4 of Spiritpact kind of shows off the best and worst that this series has had to offer. The first third of the episode is decidedly the worst of this show as they showcase Keika being his absolute most idiotic with some poor humour (because why not go for the cliche) and very little point other than giving the audience one bit of information that we know will become significant later on (only it turns out it is going to be significant in the next 5 minutes because that’s how you foreshadow apparently). It’s very tedious. Then the next part of the episode takes off.

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Last week there was a character introduced who I was pretty sure existed just to be an antagonist, well much like info dump from first third of this episode, they decide to reveal his antagonism in this episode (because why wait and build up to something) but the fight between him and Keika is actually kind of cool and there’s a few interesting moments. The resolution to this episode is also pretty well done.

Spiritpact is available on Crunchyroll.


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Karandi James.

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Spiritpact Episode 3

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Review:

We finally arrived at Tanmoku’s place (mountain) and we meet the extended family and servants who live there including this guy who is clearly just being introduced to become an antagonist in the next couple of episodes.

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There’s no subtlety in this scene at all and while in another show the intra-family tensions might be quite intriguing here they just seem like a distraction from what is clearly a bigger story.

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Keika of course gets himself into trouble during the night when he is attacked by spirits and there’s a connection between Tanmoku and one of those spirits but in this case they just don’t let us see the full encounter between the two so we’re not really sure what the full story is. I guess that’s one way of building intrigue but it isn’t the best approach.

Visually this week was much better than either episodes 1 or 2 but the character introductions were sloppy at best.

Spiritpact is available on Crunchyroll.


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Spiritpact Episode 1

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Overview:

You Keika is a fortune teller who is very down on his luck and then proceeds to be killed in a traffic accident. Enter Tanmoku Ki who is apparently an exorcist who asks You to form a pact with him. No details given about what the pact actually entails.

Review:

It’s like watching a bus go off a bridge in slow motion right before it hits the water and then you watch the splash glistening in the sunlight. There’s no other way to describe this show. It is terrible. It is not well written, the main character is more or less completely unlikable and that’s before he becomes a spirit, visually it makes some questionable choices, and even at the end of the episode we’re totally in the dark about what a spiritpact actually is other than a pact with a spirit. Despite that, I was kind of entertained and once again we have the potential for a dark supernatural plot. And yes, I know this is exactly what I said about Hitori no Shita’s first episode and second episodes and I know terrible that was by the end. Still, I want to know about the pact. I want to know about the exorcist. And if the story makes me care enough that I actually want to know then it had to have done something right even if it was only appeal to my fascination with b-grade movies. Although saying this was b-grade might be complimenting it a bit too much. It’s kind of hideous and so far I really kind of hate every character in it.

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Spiritpact is available on Crunchyroll.


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Karandi James.

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