Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Episode 6: Learn to Take The Win

Review Episode 6:

So far I’ve enjoyed the fight sequences in this series and not a lot else and then along comes episode 6 where we have no fighting going on as the swords have returned to the citadel to have their wounds treated and deal with their issues after the last mission. Despite being reassured that history hadn’t changed they are all brooding on things during this episode which actually makes you wonder what the advantage is of having living swords fighting in the first place if they are as prone to emotional damage as a standard person.

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We also get to meet members of the first unit who are apparently about to set out on a mission for next week. I wonder if that means we won’t see any of the characters that I still haven’t really connected with or whether the second unit will end up getting involved.

The other thing we see this episode are more of the little fox things but to be honest their role could kind of be filled by a smartphone so I haven’t really paid attention to them as characters.

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All and all, these guys really should pick a fight with someone, anyone, just to keep this from getting too dull.


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Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Episodes 4 + 5: These Guys Seriously Need An Actual Strategy

Review Episode 4:

You know, it sounds like a great plan for protecting time and all, but apparently anthropomorphized swords aren’t particularly good at strategy. After the last arc where they kind of knew the time and place of an attack and they more or less just waited around until it was mostly too late to stop it, at the start of this arc where they know the time and place they mostly just wait around until it is almost too late to stop it. Genius.

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We get more of the silent, surly boy sword this time and I’ll admit, I like his fighting style so I could happily watch more of him, but he gets hurt toward the end of the episode while the others flail about trying to regroup after utterly failing to realise where the danger was going to come from.

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Of course we end on a flashy arrival by another time traveller so I guess we’ll see what happens next, next week.

Review Episode 5:

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See, the enemy actually has a contingency plan and while they didn’t succeed at their overall objective, they certainly made a mess of the city by the end of this so you would assume there would be some fall out in the future. Meanwhile, the show attempts to bring some tragedy to the table but unfortunately that would require me to have made some kind of emotional connection with the character they chose to throw under the emotional bus and to have not have seen it coming from the minute they realised he wasn’t trying to get past them on the bridge.

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Oh well. Once again, some spectacular fight sequences to watch and some pretty good music.


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In Another World With My Smartphone Episodes 2 + 3: Touya to the Rescue

Review Episode 2:

I think the best way to describe this show is lighthearted. It isn’t taking itself seriously, nor is it trying to be a serious comedy. It’s walking very obviously through seen tropes but it isn’t trying to apologise for that or subvert them. It’s just telling the story it wants to tell whether we’ve seen something similar before or not.

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Basically, it is a very relaxing viewing experience if you are used to in another world type stories with an all-powerful protagonist who can do literally anything surrounded by a bunch of cute girls who for whatever reason admire him. None of the characters are too obnoxious but they aren’t so bland they disappear either. Just don’t pay too much attention to gender roles or equality because the show isn’t going to come out of that kind of scrutiny well. I’m on board with this. It isn’t a show I’m going to recommend overly but I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes.

Review Episode 3:

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The first part of this episode seems decidedly fillery but does make it clear that Touya’s connection to the Duke wasn’t a one-off thing as they now regularly visit and give updates. Despite having a lack of any real conflict, it was nice seeing the characters go about their day-to-day before we moved to part two and another adventure.

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I liked that they managed to finish their mission pretty easily and then openly looked for more trouble (well, they were looking for treasure but the two kind of go hand in hand in this kind of story). I also like that Touya isn’t just learning a spell and using it once before we never see it again. He’s combining the spells we’ve seen him use previously as well as adding new spells to his repertoire.

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This continues to just be lighthearted fun (even with the King being poisoned, it is impossible to take any of the dangers faced here seriously) and hopefully it can continue to be entertaining.


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Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Episodes 2 + 3: Remaining One Step Behind

Review Episode 2:

As I said when reviewing episode 1, I’m just not feeling this. It isn’t actually bad, but the characters aren’t really clicking for me and I’m still pretty disconnected from the events. Despite the show spending five minutes having the characters sitting around introducing themselves I couldn’t actually commit any of their names to memory and mostly I’ve got the ‘loud and annoying one’, ‘the sullen one’, ‘the spear guy’, ‘the new guy’, and ‘the most boring guy so obviously he’s going to be the leader type guy’.

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Basically they are getting all worked up about time potentially being changed and maybe a war starting, but I just don’t care and am not invested in this conflict. It doesn’t help that they themselves seem to only care in as much as they’ve been told to do something about it. They don’t seem personally invested in the conflict. Oh well, next episode.

Review Episode 3:

Great, we’ve got the loud guy and the boring guy butting heads Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars style while the others looks on and do nothing. And still the only thing they care about is serving their master so they lack any actual agency of their own which keeps the audience at arms length from the events.

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There were some actually quite pretty scenes this week and less times when the characters felt like they were obviously popping out of the scenery and the fight sequences remain impressive. I’m neither particularly liking nor disliking this show at the moment. I kind of want to like it but I’m just not there yet.

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It would probably be nice also to know what the villains intend to get out of all of this as that might make the conflict something I can actually care about.


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Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Episode 1: Boys, Swords and Time Travel

Overview:

The year is 1863, Japan is split between the pro-shogunate and anti-shogunate factions. In this chaotic time, the era of the swords is coming to a close. Horikawa Kunihiro has manifested as a Sword Warrior and is joined by Izuminokami Kanesada, a warrior who served under the same master as him. Sword Warriors are “Tsukumogami”, spirits and willpower that reside within a sword. These spirits are awakened by Saniwa to protect the world from the “Time Retrograde Army,” who were sent by historical revisionists from the future to alter history.

– From AnimeLab

Review:

My honest opinion of this is that I’m not really feeling it. Despite spending most of the episode with Kunihiro and Kanesada, I don’t actually know anything about them or care in the slightest about the conflicts they get involved in. Even the random saving of a child that apparently shouldn’t have happened but we’ll all just agree didn’t, isn’t enough to in any way make these characters anything more than shiny characters on a screen surrounded by gorgeous backgrounds that don’t really fit together at all times in a way I’ve come to expect after Tales of Zestiria the X.

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That isn’t to say it looks bad. For most of the episode it looks amazing. However, there are other scenes where the characters look beautiful, the background looks beautiful, and they both look like they belong in two different shows. I won’t harp on that though given even if I watched this on my usual set up I’d be viewing it in fairly low resolution and given I snuck a watch of this while travelling I had the video quality on the lowest possible setting just to get it to play.

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Outside of the visuals and characters though, we have some guys trying to change the past and other guys trying to stop them. The whole personified sword thing is neither here nor there in making this any more interesting and the sudden appearance of a whole bunch of characters at the end of episode 1 made  for a visually interesting fight sequence but not a lot else.

I’m not dropping this because it wasn’t bad, but neither am I feeling particularly compelled to stick with it after episode 1. We’ll see what happens next and whether I can start caring about the characters enough to get into the story.


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Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Series Review

Overview:

The Black King has stolen half of the chain chronicle (which apparently documents everything that happens in the world) and now he’s using it to engulf the world in darkness. The heroes have already tried to defeat him and failed, but have they given up hope? I reviewed Chain Chronicle week to week so if you want thoughts on the individual episodes click here.

Review:

Before getting into this there’s a couple of things I’m going to make clear. I am a major old-school fantasy fan. I have read pretty much every sword and sorcery style fantasy book I could get my hands on growing up and read out entire fantasy sections of school and public libraries. My appetite for these kinds of stories is voracious and I’m not too picky about quality as long as it isn’t boring. Therefore, when I say that this story is lacking in originality but still really fun, you should probably understand that it really only applies if you are equally fixated on good vs evil, hack and slash with swords, with some magical explosions and the occasional dragon thrown in.

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When this came out in Winter I was really happy because it has been a long time since we’ve gotten an anime that is so unapologetically classic fantasy. It wasn’t trying to give us a subversive hero, add in unnecessary self-aware comedy, give the villains complex backgrounds and having people make morally grey decisions. There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but they aren’t classic fantasy and while they can make for stories that feel a bit different, I still just like my fantasy pretty straight forward. There’s something comforting about the familiarity of light vs darkness and the good guys will be down but not out for three quarters of the story before they rally for the final conflict. So I’m not going to spend much time discussing the plot but rather the characters and the execution.

The issues that emerge from these sorts of stories though usually concern lazy writing. Because the story is so familiar and the characters are such well-worn archetypes, writers end up taking short cuts and you kind of feel like you are reading a plot synopsis or a description of a movie rather than being immersed in a story. The other issue that comes along is that the writers themselves are aware that everything they are writing is derivative and so they don’t give anything the extra attention or oomph it needs to make it stand out.

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So does Chain Chronicle have these issues?

Yes and no.

The villains do suffer incredibly from poor writing and limited screen time. They are either mindless summoned puppets who can get cut down in droves and just respawn (so zero care factor from the audience) or they are so beyond cliché in their dialogue it is impossible to take them even vaguely seriously as a threat. Plus, there’s the lingering question of even if they succeed in dying the world black, what then? Is there some sort of grand plan beyond make everything black?

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Realistically this is my biggest complaint of this series as a whole is the lack of real motive or care put into these villains (that and what is with that female villain’s armour). Also, we see not one but two of the ‘heroes’ of the story get turned into demons through their own inner doubts and losing to their inner darkness.

Yuri, as the main hero, has a whole group of friends continuously rallying behind him and trying to bring him back. His character and back story get quite a lot of exploration to understand why he gave in to the darkness and to really hammer the point that anyone can fall. Also giving the whole love, bonds, and friendship theme a boost in the final episode.

Burkhardt on the other hand turns evil and mostly people spend the rest of the series shouting at him and then the Princess cuts him down declaring that she would take on responsibility for him. Um, Princess, wouldn’t it be better to believe in him and try to get him back like Yuri’s group are doing for him? Aren’t you kind of writing off your own subordinate fairly cheaply? And why is Yuri so much better? Then again, Burkhardt’s character is portrayed as a proud narcissist before he turns, we get no back story, and no development. And it turns out he has no friends so clearly he doesn’t fit with the theme of bonds and friendship and so must get unceremoniously crushed.

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It’s fairly contradictory the way these two characters are treated and while I get that we probably don’t have time to explore the back story of every character, why introduce Burkhardt at all and why have him go evil if you aren’t doing anything with that. Or even if they tried to turn him back and his inner self resisted and continued to give in to darkness forcing them to kill him it would have made more sense because it would have shown the moral choice of being evil despite having someone reach out for you.

So yeah, the villains were not great.

In terms of all of the other characters, the biggest issue is the sheer number of them. This story wants to be an epic. It really does with the scale of the threat and the number of alliances and people caught up in the battle. But with 12 episodes instead of grandiose and epic what we end up with is a shallow view of a much deeper world and we don’t really have time to deal with the ins and outs of most the characters.

That said, some of them were really fun. By the half-way point I kind of loved Aram. He was such a cliché character getting picked up by the heroes in a random village and then apparently being excellent at fighting before he learns about hope and bonds and ends up all but being the main hero of the story. Plus, he picked up Furball who was adorable, and then transformed into a dragon (needed a new name, seriously who calls a dragon Furball). Aram was awesome and yes he gave in to the shout your ideals loudly at anyone who disagrees philosophy that so many young, male anime protagonists fall into but due to the sheer number of other characters the effect of this was somewhat diluted making that aspect of his personality tolerable.

The other character I really enjoyed and wished we’d learnt more about was Shuza. He was such an antagonistic character throughout most of the series and I really wish the show had spent a bit more time on him so that we could really appreciate the moral ambiguity he really represented. Everything else in the story was incredibly divided into darkness and light but he managed to be technically on the side of light but had some pretty dark views and really the ending gives us no clue about what now. In my own head I’m seeing him take his army and sweeping across the continent taking advantage of the fact that all the other armies have been significantly weakened. But we don’t actually know what he is doing other than still leading the army because pretty much no time is devoted to him after the battle.

There were other characters that I either liked or didn’t but essentially if you can think of a character who usually appears in these kinds of stories, they are likely to show up somewhere along the way, even if only for a little bit and even if their actions seem pretty inconsequential.

There also some really cool settings and locations, though at times you’ll get sick of them being on yet another road. Also, don’t pay too much attention to travel time. Apparently armies can fast travel (not really but realistically they must have for all of those armies from all of those different locations to be able to arrive in that location at that time). Time and distance mean very little in this story and you kind of just have to go with it.

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All and all, as I said at the start I had a lot of fun watching this. There’s definitely issues and at times common sense has to be dismissed just to get through a certain plot point, and I really wish that they’d either trimmed down the scale of the conflict or given this another 12 episodes to actually flesh out the world in a way that made it feel a bit more real, but entertaining nonetheless. I’d really only recommend this to major fantasy fans who are wanting something just to casually watch where they don’t have to think too much and they aren’t wanting anything unexpected. Otherwise, there’s probably better stories out there to spend your time on.

Still, fun.


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Sword Oratoria Episode 3

Review:

Spin-off by their very nature are always going to be compared to the original and cross overs between events in the original series and the spin-off are more or less inevitable. However, Sword Oratoria seems devoted to walking us through the events that Bell experienced, only without Bell actually being present but for the occasional run past Ais’ line of vision. The end result is that the character we’re following is really not facing any actual conflict or issues and is kind of just walking around while interesting events happen elsewhere.

In fairness to the show, they try to counter this by having the elf girl slowly getting over her fear of fighting monsters and learning to use her magic in combat, but to be perfectly honest they’ve given me no reason to care about her and the story is pretty ordinary at best, so as a distraction from a distinct lack of plot elsewhere it falls tragically short.

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I had a small glimmer of hope that maybe this episode would actually explore Freya’s motivation for pursuing Bell, given this was not really addressed in DanMachi, but Sword Oratoria doesn’t seem interested in giving more information about events in the other story, it seems content to view them from the outside while not adding anything of substance. And that is probably my overall conclusion for this so far. Lacking in substance or anything to engage an audience. This episode was so lacking in detail, I’m thinking without knowing the original story of the monsters being set free most of the events will just feel completely without meaning.

Definitely not a satisfying viewing experience.

Sword Oratoria is available on AnimeLab.


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Granblue Fantasy Episode 3

Review:

So, they crashed the airship. Surprising how that happens when you don’t have a pilot (I mean helmsman) to fly the thing. Actually, this is the episode where Katalina just kind of loses her cool look. From episode 1 she’s been cool and the most interesting of the cast. This episode she’s pretty lame. And part of the reason is because we have to make the new guy look cool.

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Rackman the helmsman who spends all his time repairing an old crashed airship. I wonder if he’ll end up being helpful (eyeroll).

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Okay, I’m mocking a lot but that’s because as watchable as this episode was, it kind of doesn’t do much. We run around the island for a while, run into potential empire agents, and then while our main group are out of town to ask Rackman if he’ll be their helmsman, an army from the empire led by shrimp-crazy-guy shows up. It kind of sounds like it should be fun but mostly its just stepping through the motions and taking us along with it.

Granblue Fantasy is available on Crunchyroll.


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Sword Oratoria Episode 1

Overview:

A spin-off of DanMachi (It is Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon), Sword Oratoria focusses on Ais and the Loki Familia.

Review:

For a show that is supposed to focus on Ais, she’s remarkably passive to absent in this first episode with far more time being given to introducing a young magic user who freezes at the sight of monsters (useful). And because of the kind of show it is of course she’s making puppy dog eyes at Ais.

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That said, it wasn’t a bad episode. After an initial narration where we zoom around the city and see some familiar faces we find ourselves on level 50 of the dungeon with the party from the Loki Familia. We get a reintroduction to the members because even though we’ve met most of them before they weren’t the main characters in DanMachi. Then we get a pretty cool fight against some acid spewing caterpillar thing. Before we start returning to the surface and we get our first direct cross over with the previous series and we see how the minotaur ended up attacking Bell.

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My issue with this is that Ais was a pretty boring character back in DanMachi (she served her purpose well enough as a potential love interest and a goal to work towards in terms of strength for Bell) but her personality was pretty much non-existent. When I first heard she was going to be the focus in this I had some real concerns about whether she could carry a show and this episode has done nothing to lay those concerns to rest. The things I liked this episode were throw backs to DanMachi and reminders of how fun that show was. Just being back in the dungeon was fun, the ridiculous monsters and the fighting styles, even seeing Bell again was fun. Ais, not so much.

All and all, I have no intention of dropping this. Even is Ais doesn’t manage to develop a personality, there are plenty of other enjoyable characters and its a dungeon crawling fantasy in a world I already love so we’ll continue on.

Sword Oratoria is available on AnimeLab.


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Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Episode 10

Review:

Right, I had a lot of fun with this episode, so my criticisms are not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the free-for-all being set up but at the same time I am concerned that there were so many issues in this episode.

The main one being time. Somehow we’ve all regrouped with the various factions and the army is all ready just to march straight back into the black king’s space as soon as they bring down the shield. Great. Only didn’t it take them weeks to retreat from there and when did they leave the desert? I get that Aram and friends flew back to the Mage towers so I won’t even question that they seem to have instantly arrived (because flight is akin to instant-travel apparently) but Julianna and the others need a couple of weeks at the smallest estimate to be in any kind of position to fight. Nope, they are ready and raring to go.

Then again, apparently this show has no end of ‘magical’ solutions to issues.

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Seriously? Anywhere? Instantly? I know you just built this thing but surely it should be a little bit harder to get inside the black bubble to bring the shield down.

And apparently now the Black King is sitting around watching Aram and friends on his equivalent to a big screen TV. Why? And if he could do that why hasn’t he just sent someone to kill them while they’re sleeping given his minions have been teleporting anywhere they like for the entire length of the show? Is there any reason for kidnapping Phoena at this point? She doesn’t seem like as much of a threat as the guy who is suddenly purifying everything.

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Anyway, cool battle sequence and set up for great fight to come. Just check logic at the door first but that’s much the same as the whole series so far. Plus, dragon involved in fight (not dragon being fought). I really wish someone had changed it’s name. Furball the dragon doesn’t really inspire.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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