Angels of Death Episode 4: This Is The End

That minor nagging voice from last week telling me this might get better has now been dragged out and beaten to death by common sense. Angels of Death is boring which is the most irredeemable thing something made for entertainment can ever be.

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I love psychological horror. I love bad horror. Cheesy dialogue. Cliche set ups. Standard horror settings. Angels of Death has all the ingredients to engage me as a viewer regardless of whether it did it well or in a terrible King’s Game kind of way. And yet since about midway through the first episode I’ve been kind of bored and just waiting and hoping that somehow this would improve.

Episode 4 is no exception and I’m pretty sure I knew four minutes in that I wasn’t continuing beyond this episode. Yet another floor boss is introduced and we get the usual tongue licking the lips to show she’s unbalanced (though later we’ll also get the mismatched eye thing too) and then maniacal ear-grating laughter. This by itself isn’t the end of a show but lets look at every character other than Rachel so far.

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We meet Zack in episode one and he kills bird and laughs maniacally. Great, he’s crazy, better run. We meet the Doctor who pins Rachel down and throws his head back and laughs crazily before getting skewered on Zack’s scythe. We then meet Eddie. Now in Eddie’s defence, he was more of a giggler than a laugher but the point remains that other than giggling and ranting about his love for Rachel from the shadows, we once again have an extremely shallow characterisation that somehow is supposed to be thrilling.

Maybe I’m just missing something but all I feel while watching Rachel stare blankly at walls before commenting that there is something there or nothing is bored. All I feel when I see Zack getting electrocuted in a chair he idiotically sat on is exasperated. And all I feel when the show ends on a cliffhanger with Rachel potentially about to be done in by poison gas is weary.

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For me, watching anime is fun and engaging. In that sense, I think I’d rather go back and watch Record of Grancrest War than even one more episode of this (not that I intend to do that).

However, next week I’ve decided to finally start a formal rewatch of Yuri on Ice, as opposed to just binge watching it whenever I’m feeling a bit down, and I’m going to review the episodes again, hopefully a little more objectively than I did the first time (though honestly, given Yuri and Victor are smiling at me from the wall next to my computer, I somehow doubt it). Anyway, if you want to join me, I’ll be covering episodes 1 and 2 next week instead of watching anymore of Angels of Death.

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Angels of Death Episode 3: Surrender to Game Style Dialogue and Repetition

Episode 3 continues with the mediocrity and makes it clear that no one really thought through how this would play out as an anime. I’d like to say I was done with this, but there’s this minor nagging voice in my head telling me it might get better.

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There’s not much positive to say about episode 3 of this. The creepy atmosphere kind of developed in episode 1 is completely gone at this point. While we’re still wandering around dark levels of a hospital, the environment is so different at this point it is impossible to really think that and instead we’re just in kind of a generic creepy place. However other than a lack of decent lighting, there’s little to actually give you a sense of creepiness. Oh look there’s running water and grave stones. But that’s not enough and it doesn’t evoke anything as we watch the characters stumble around in this episode.

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If we add to that the ongoing lack of chemistry between the two main characters and that the giggling floor owner this week was a pumpkin headed kid with some romance delusion that was insufficiently explained to have any impact, there’s just not much to hold onto as the show forces us through one game mechanic filled set piece to the next. Whether it is Rachel drawing the audience’s attention to the torch, the notes, or even the final fight sequence which reminded me of playing King’s Quest where if you didn’t have ‘this’ item you were doomed to failure, this show doesn’t sit well as an anime but really does look like someone playing a game and it isn’t doing the show any favours.

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Also, lack of anything else to pay attention to has me wondering how Zack’s mouth even works given he has a bandage clean over it and yet he manages to speak just fine and it opens and closes.  I guess he could have cut a slit but then wouldn’t we occasionally see lips instead of bandage that somehow seems to move perfectly with his mouth. This is the kind of thing that only distracts me when I’m slightly bored while watching, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the emotion the show was going for.

Honestly, I should drop this and if I have any sense this will be the last episode I watch. However, I somehow suspect next week curiosity as to whether it can improve will get the better of me. We’ll see.

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Angels of Death Episode 2: When It Feels Like You Are Watching A Play Through Rather Than An Anime

While the first episode of Angels of Death was intriguing in its atmosphere, episode 2 kind of just walks us through a level with mediocre results.

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Continuing on directly from the end of episode 1, episode 2 ends with Zack refusing to kill Rachel because of the bored look on her face but promises to kill her if she can show him a better look. Then changes his mind and promises to do so if she helps him leave the building (though apparently he entered it voluntarily because he was told he could kill people). It is all a bit convoluted and unexplained and the mysterious announcements have kind of disappeared and in exchange we have Rachel finding notes from an unnamed giggler who won’t show up until the end of the episode.

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What this means is we spend most of this episode listening to Rachel make some sort of observation about the world, Zack react, usually over the top angrily with a snarl in his voice, Rachel calmly explain something, and then they go to look at the next thing. It’s all very much like watching someone play a really dull point and click adventure and all of the tension and atmosphere that was kind of promised in episode one has evaporated entirely. Which of course isn’t helped along by Zack who rotates between dumb, loud and violent, or suspicious depending on which roll of the dive the writers decided to go with for his next reaction.

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We even get a ‘cut scene’ style sequence when he goes on a rampage destroying the grave stones. I’m sure someone thought that music and laughter gave it some kind of edgy tone but mostly it was just a cringe worthy sequence in amongst what was a pretty boring episode.

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Angels of Death Episode 1: Here’s This Season’s Edgy Show

Rachel has woken up in a strange building without much in the way of memories. After talking to a type-writer she gets into the elevator just as she hears an announcement that calls the girl in the basement a sacrifice. After that, things get weird.

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There’s something inherently creepy about hospitals, basements, and isolation and Angels of Death capitalises on all of these elements to set up what could be quite an interesting story. The problem being that so far the two encounters Rachel has had with other characters has them being comically over the top in their psychotic natures to the point where any tension that may have been constructed by the setting and some of the interesting visual choices is more or less instantly shattered.

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That isn’t to say that there might not be some fun to be had with this series. But for something labelled as psychological horror I’d kind of want a little bit more than the cackling scythe wielding guy seems to offer or the duplicitous doctor that doesn’t do such a great job of keeping his crazy in check.

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Still, with a setting this interesting, I’m willing to give the show a little more time to set up its story and to see where this intends to go. There was a lot of chatter about this one prior to the season and while I have attempted to avoid spoilers I must admit I’m a little curious. However, judging this episode on its own, it is fairly average. Great setting and establishment of atmosphere, fairly ordinary to poor characterisation so far.

What do you think of this first episode of Angels of Death?


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B: The Beginning Netflix Anime Series Review: There’s Murder and Mayhem But What Comes Next?

Overview:

The anime series, B: The Beginning, came out on Netflix and styled itself as a task force (known as the RIS) working a double murder that involved a notorious serious killer known only as ‘Killer B’. However, things soon take a turn for the strange when a military vehicle is stolen and taken for a joyride, poisonous gas is developed and used to threaten hostages, and other unsolvable crimes occur.

Review (Probably some spoilers – just warning you):

I think B: The Beginning wants to be a lot of things and I’m not sure it actually succeeded at any of them, at least not in any meaningful way. It is fun enough if you do just want to watch the mayhem unfold before they then painstakingly explain how clever they’ve all been for the last two episodes, but realistically there isn’t enough groundwork for any of it to have any effect. After finishing the last episode I pondered for awhile about what my overall opinion of this series was. Because, while I didn’t particularly like quite a lot of it, I didn’t exactly dislike the viewing and finished it off in three consecutive days of binge viewing and it wasn’t just so I could review it.

While I was pondering I actually sorted my main issue with the whole thing out, and that was that it just felt too similar to other shows I actually liked a lot but it didn’t manage to really hit on what made those stories work. I’ll admit that problem is entirely my own, but it helped me understand what I didn’t like about this show and why, even though it is definitely watchable, I probably won’t go for a second round. And that means this review is going to do something I normally don’t do, and it is going to rely heavily on comparisons to explain the points I want to make. It isn’t really something I like to do as I feel each show should be judged on its own merit (or lack of it) but it is a way for me to sort my mixed thoughts on this show.

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Terror in Resonance

The first and obvious comparison would be Terror in Resonance. Stylistically these shows are quite similar and the tone of the later episodes of this most definitely strikes a Terror in Resonance vibe. As do the kids being used as experiments, the burning down of the lab, and the central character, Keith Flick who is incredibly reminiscent of Shibazaki. Where B: The Beginning falters to capture my attention and interest in the way Terror in Resonance seemed to, was that it didn’t seem to have anything to say.

Whether you agree with the actions and ideas presented by Terror in Resonance or not, the show gets you thinking about the world and about the way the media manipulate events, about the decisions of governments and large institutions, about relationships between countries, and about the actions of those who are labelled radicals or terrorists. B: The Beginning doesn’t seem to have anything to say unless ‘murder is bad’ is somehow a message that I missed under all the cool trapping and laughter of those committing incessantly, or that you should always work in a ‘team’ which is definitely a sermon from the second act of this story but doesn’t really ground itself on anything substantial other than the team working together for about three seconds before Keith goes off on his own again.

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But despite the heavy and easy comparison to Terror in Resonance, that actually didn’t feel right to leave it there. Sure there are some parallels, but B has it’s own kind of edge that Terror in Resonance never aspired to taking itself far too seriously at times (though when dealing with terrorists who have a potential nuclear device I guess you should have some level of solemnity to your tale). And then it hit me. B is kind of what would happen if K was somehow crossbred with Terror in Resonance only about a third of the connecting plot points got dropped out of both shows.

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Once I realised that I understood the excessive fight sequence full of flash and grandeur (even if they only seemed loosely connected to the narrative) and the shifting tone between frantic and snail crawling exposition. See, K was all about the style and presented its supernaturally charged characters in the coolest light possible, even when they were just thugs. It gave each action sequence flash and bang and a sense of movement. Essentially what we see during the first two episodes of B. The trouble is, that B doesn’t have an interesting enough lead on the supernatural side to pull it off and the villain ultimately has no plan of note other than death to the protagonist.

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To a degree though, B works. It does get your attention in the early episodes, even if it is the hyperactive child shrieking at you for attention kind of attention. In fact, the show’s format reminds me very much of how most of the other characters describe Koku’s actions. He was screaming out that he was there but no one was listening. B declares it is here as it splatters blood across the screen, constructs incredible acts of violence, and generally does everything possible to grab the dark and edgy label that seems to be a flavour of the last couple of years (surely we’re ready for sunshine and rainbows again, or at least a dark and edgy that doesn’t rely just on making all the characters we meet horrible for every second of screen time).

Then it tries to segue into actual plot and that’s where it comes off the rails a bit, not unlike a train that somehow managed to land in a somewhat precise pattern and aren’t they glad the killer chose a sign that train carriages could actually form. Totally coincidence I am sure. Leaving beside all the comparisons, it is the plot that really drops the ball for this show because there are two central conflicts and while there is a connection and the characters, clues and mysteries intersect, their resolutions are essentially independent and neither ultimately feels like the actual climax or big finish because they’ve both been fighting for your attention and as a result you don’t much care about either.

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Koku wants to know his past, about the people who destroyed the institution, and to find a girl. There is always a girl. This story is full of supernatural characters, a very K like ancient tablet that has been deciphered and has some impact on his powers (though don’t expect that to be explained), and I’m guessing there is kind of a revenge goal in their somewhere but Koku isn’t exactly articulate in explaining what he is after and it wouldn’t matter anyway because it all comes down to rescue the damsel in distress. It isn’t a particularly satisfying narrative arc on its own, the powers just kind of exist and once you learn a bit more about Koku and what is going on you kind of realise exactly what the outcome of that plot-line will be so you just then wait for it to play out. Which it does, in cut sequences of bloody action which break up some of the driest dialogue I think I’ve endured for a long time between a protagonist and antagonist.

And this takes us to the second story involving the detectives. Because as much as their solving the crimes does involve a lot of the supernatural goings on, ultimately they do nothing about that part of the story. They track down the human element behind it all, and if you were paying even vague attention early on you will know precisely who the culprit is as soon as Keith mentions there are two culprits and sends Koku after one of them. It is another case of lack of options for suspects making it more or less impossible to miss.

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We then get what could have been an interesting attempt by the detectives to set up and ensnare the culprit but the story isn’t really happy with the whole power of team work dynamic and decides to overthrow it for a final attempt at tragedy. After that attempt essentially ends in failure, Keith takes the final clue (or signpost however you want to look at it) and tracks down the perpetrator and then calmly leans against the wall in front of a projector showing images of the killer taking out previous victims, including Keith’s sister, while he holds a conversation with the killer. There is no sense of tension or drama in this scene and any attempt at a serious tone is unhinged by the constant cuts to Koku and his fight sequence or the other detectives racing to the scene.

Anyway, it does wrap up and we see the next steps for the country and characters. There’s plenty left open that could still be explored should they want to do a sequel, but the current situation is done and you have a sense of closure.

This isn’t a train wreck by any means but nor is it particularly well done. It has elements that could be quite interesting, tones that I appreciate in other shows, and ideas that certainly could have merit, but ultimately it feels largely empty. I’m drafting this mere hours after watching the final episode and already details are escaping me because there’s nothing to ponder or consider and nothing to take from the viewing. And while that is fine in and of itself, and some people won’t see that as a negative, for me it feels like this show just missed its mark.

Anyway, if you’ve had a chance to watch it, I’d love to know your thoughts so leave me a comment below.


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Karandi James

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 3: Game On

Review:

Well, this anime just became my favourite of this season (still sitting underneath March Comes in Like a Lion which carried over from last season). The first two episodes interested me and started getting me drawn into these characters and their world but episode 3 consolidated everything I wanted from this show. Between the great sound track, betrayals, murder, and all of the general chaos, this is a great start to a season.

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Saito decides to do something about his situation and seeks out the avengers to frame the guy who framed him (sounds like it could be fun). This plot doesn’t get a huge amount of development but the seeds are there and it is definitely going to mess up other plans later on. More importantly, at least Lin and everyone else is smart enough to realise Saito has clearly been framed and not one person actually believes he killed the girl.

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As for Lin, he gets a very cool opening sequence when he goes to confront his former boss. The boss kind of bothers me because he has had countless chances to actually kill Lin and each time he ends up gloating and not actually doing it. In the office he gloats about how he’s been pocketing the money that Lin thought he was sending to his mother (who has apparently been dead for five years). That’s kind of petty and gloating about it just makes this guy look even more pathetic. Though I guess then we don’t just wonder about why Lin isn’t dead at the end of the episode given this guy already has a clearly established M.O of talking too much.

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Meanwhile, Lin isn’t the only one being targeted now as Banba’s also stuck his nose in too far. Lin and Banba teaming up was inevitable so I’m glad they didn’t drag it out and have Lin act stubborn for half a season before they got to this point. Still, it won’t matter if they don’t find a way to avoid the hitman who is clearly going to be coming for them sooner rather than later.

Basically, this was a lot of fun (you know if you don’t mind murder in your stories) and there’s plenty of characters to like and despise in various measures and plenty of plots bubbling away. I’m looking forward to seeing where this should go next but I’m very glad I picked this show up this season.


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Erased Live Action Series Review: A Decent Ride

Overview:

Satoru is an unsuccessful manga writer working in a pizza shop and really just going through the motions of life. He has one strange ability where sometimes he will go back in time and it always happens after something has gone wrong and sometimes he can help to avoid it. However, when his mother dies, Satoru finds himself 15 years in the past as the chain of events leading to her death is quite complex and caught up in a series of mysterious abductions and murders from when he was a child.

Review:

While I already discussed my initial impressions of this series having completed viewing it I’m now going to review the entire show. To be honest, I was fairly impressed by the end of this. While it isn’t a master piece by any means the story is well paced, the characters for the most part play their roles well, and the climax is dramatic enough to make it feel worth the wait.

That isn’t to say that I changed my mind about Airi. She really does seem to be the weak link in the performances as she just doesn’t sit right in any scene and I’m still feeling like she was a little too unnerving or creepy in the early episodes. However, the rest of the cast all deliver a decent performance and it is easy to get swept up in their story (though I do think the person who designed the fake beard probably needs to start over).

Outside of the acting, the story itself was well executed. None of the scenes seemed to linger overly long but the plot didn’t feel rushed. The reveals made sense and were well timed and even knowing who the villain was didn’t take away from the experience of seeing it revealed. The climax has a few minor issues in that I think we’re supposed to believe they are in danger but it just doesn’t quite come across that way, but it is dramatic and it brings the story nicely to a close.

In terms of the scenes themselves there is very little risk taken in this series. Shot types and cuts are all pretty standard which makes them unobtrusive but also means they aren’t really adding anything to the story. Likewise, the music and sound works, but are mostly unremarkable.

Still, this was a great way to spend a few hours and the story is compelling enough on its own. The pacing is probably where this series shines and all in all, it was a pretty good version of the story.

Now, for those who have watched the anime there are differences. Mostly these are cosmetic but the climax has a scene change (and actually makes a great deal more sense) in this version and the one major improvement on the anime adaptation is the villain’s back story. So much better here and given that was a definite weak link in the anime it is something I really appreciated. There’s a few other minor changes but this is basically the same story so if you loved the anime there may not be a lot of point in watching this version.

I’d love to know your final thoughts on the series so leave me a comment below.


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