Great Heights and Great Falls: It All Comes With Ambition

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode Review Title Image

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episodes 8 – 10 Review

Zhao’s character has been a curiosity from the beginning given despite being enslaved he ultimately chose to pursue power within the empire after it was offered to him. His lack of understanding of Yin’s disgust with the idea of serving an empire that wiped out their village was odd to say the least. See, I’d get his character if he knew the empire was evil but had decided that it was worth siding with them for the opportunity to have power. But instead, he’d kind of convinced himself that those getting wiped out deserved it because they were weak and the empire was right all along. It was a little bit odd.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 8 Zhao and Ning

However, despite the Empress’ favour, or perhaps because of it, Zhao wasn’t in the secure position he thought he’d established and these episodes bring that to the front loud and clear. As those plotting around the Empress seek to bring her down, it is only natural that Zhao’s weakness be exposed and Ning, who in episode 7 essentially ditched her sister for the chance to be with Zhao, became the lynch-pin that brought all of Zhao’s ambitions and prior achievements tumbling down.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 9 Cheng

To say that there are some uncomfortable moments in these episodes would be a bit of an understatement, and for once I’m not talking about the cringe worthy CG animation during fight sequences (though there is plenty of that as well). Seeing Cheng enraged that her toy has others he cares about and taking that anger out on Ning, who is without her arms and chained, is pretty horrific. As is Zhao’s decision after he’s been demoted four ranks and ordered to build his ultimate death machine to just suck it up and get on with it. Not one even vague thought that maybe he should use those secret passages Cheng showed off to him to maybe try and rescue Ning. It never even crosses his mind.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 10 Cheng punished Ning

However, the moment that really hits is the water torture. Not only do we get some horrible insight into what is going on in Ning’s mind while the drops of water continue to flow but we also see that Cheng is nearly self-destructing after inflicting the punishment. At least she didn’t delegate the task, which she was well within her rights to, but the previously composed child-ruler is clearly coming unhinged now. None of the three characters have come out of this scheme unscathed and Cheng’s enemies are delighted and becoming more open in their preparations to perhaps take her out.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 10 Ning

All of this is interspersed with cuts to the rebels, who for once weren’t the more interesting story. Instead we get some pretty ordinary action sequences and even after they unveil their new magic armour, it actually just makes the next fight sequence dull to watch. Yin is still a mopey character and while I kind of get her role in all of this, she wasn’t fun to watch and the absence of Ning really hurt her scenes as she no longer has anyone to bounce off of.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 8 Rebels

Still, with three episodes to go there’s quite a lot that can happen and my only real wish is that Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary does come to an end properly because leaving this story hanging will kind of hurt. I’ve really enjoyed the plot and the intrigues even if the animation and visuals haven’t quite been up to the same level of ambition.

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Karandi James
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Magical Girl Site Episode 2: Shock Factor Done, Set Into Familiar Patterns

Episode 2 of this anime turns down the extreme content, but what do we get instead?

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As much as the first episode of this show flaunted misery for the sake of it and gave us characters that we couldn’t sympathise with because they hadn’t tried to make them real characters, at least there was the potential that maybe, just maybe, this anime was going to do more than just inject death and misery into a magical girl story. Episode 2 kind of dashes those hopes and what we are left with is a protagonist who’s only personality trait is being timid or a punching bag, a mentor type figure who is clearly damaged but not in an interesting way, and a count down to some horrible future event that is about as non-specific as you can get.

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It doesn’t make for terribly compelling viewing. When they’ve frightened half the potential audience off in episode one by hitting us hard and fast with that kind of content, and episode 2 begins with blood rushing from a girl’s sliced throat, to follow that up with walking, talking, and a half-hearted confrontation between yet another unbalanced girl with magical powers and a protagonist we still don’t care about and all and all, it is just kind of dull.

Possibly they’ve given themselves some wiggle room with the oncoming tempest but this feels like they just intend to introduce psycho magic girl, have some kind of show down, at some point there will be a betrayal, and ultimately everyone will be miserable. Just my prediction though.

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Karandi James

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Magical Girl Site First Impressions – Warning on the Content and Images In This Post

In the battle to see which magical girl anime could hit the bottom first for dealing out sensationalist violence without substance, this one is a strong contender for victor unless it actually does have some point other than misery. What did you think of this first episode?

Magical1a

Other than Killing Stalking and the occasional BL manga, I haven’t had to issue content warnings on most the stuff I cover because I either don’t directly discuss or show the truly horrific parts or because most of the stuff I watch uses the violence and misery it presents for some actual narrative purpose (King’s Game was probably an exception but you really couldn’t take that seriously even if you were trying to). And now we have this ‘Magical Girl Site’ which from start to finish during the first episode manages to be a bottomless pit of the worst attributes of human nature with little to redeem it or to even make you think this has some other point other than the writer was wondering how much suffering he could inflict on his protagonist (maybe the writer was female, I don’t really care).

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I don’t actually mind seeing protagonists put through some horrific events, but usually that is because challenges help them grow, develop, find some hidden talent, make them realise some weakness in themselves, or something. There’s usually something. Even a power of friendship message might have been nice here, trite though that is. But no, we get to see Aya tormented, abused, threatened, assaulted, ignored, and generally treated as sub-human by every single person in her life. Literally every person in this show is scum. That includes every bystander in her classroom and the teacher that openly ignored the harassment that is being carried out.

And Aya herself is horrible. There’s no other way to describe her. She kills two people (accidentally of course as she gains a magical power she has no control over) and her first thoughts are of self-preservation and denial of guilt. Not one instant of actual guilt for killing them. All of her trauma is because she doesn’t want to suffer punishment for their deaths. This is after she’s spent the first however long it was telling us she wants to die. As much as she’s in a horrible situation, and the people who died really don’t deserve much in the way of sympathy, a single moment of thought for them may have helped me care a smidge for protagonist girl. Or, you know, any act that seemed like she was genuinely trying to overcome any of the situation rather than just trudging along and accepting it. This isn’t bullying she is suffering from. These are criminal and violent acts being inflicted upon her.

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So this should probably hit my dropped list and yet part of me really wants to see if this show is going to sink lower or whether all of this misery is actually going to end up serving some narrative purpose other than just seeing how much the audience can endure of watching this.


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Karandi James

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Killing Stalking Chapter 13 Review

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

This chapter is kind of amazing.

It is substantially longer than the previous one but all that build up comes to a head here and yet we get to the end of the chapter without anybody dying but it isn’t a let down.

If you aren’t interested in plot spoilers please stop reading now. There’s a few big ones in this review.

The police officer uses the lame excuse of a noise complaint to Sangwoo to get inside the house. We know Sangwoo doesn’t buy this. Firstly because we know that he’s stood outside and shouted for help with Bum with no concern whatsoever for anyone hearing or complaining. And in case that wasn’t enough to make the officer’s story totally suspect and for the readers to figure out that Sangwoo knew this, we get this line from Sangwoo:

“Which is why I’m so surprised you received a complaint…”

The whole scene as Sangwoo allows the officer to check the house just smacks of Sangwoo’s usual games. It’s satisfying enough but nothing spectacular and then the officer notices the missing knife.

Killing13.JPGAt this point the reader inevitably draws the conclusion that his time is short. It’s going to be brutal and its going to happen soon. We keep cutting between Sangwoo and the officer to Yoon Bum who is cowering, hands over his mouth (which is interesting in and of itself given this is potential rescue material but clearly Yoon Bum isn’t interested – unless he’s also smart enough to have figured out there’s no chance of one guy overpowering Sangwoo and is waiting a better chance).

Then the officer does the second idiotic thing in this chapter. To delay leaving he pretends to receive a phone call. Of course he actually gets a real phone call. It all seems like death is looming.

And finally, Sangwoo leads him to the wardrobe. He’s going to open the door and then he’s going to stab the officer with the knife. But that isn’t what happens. I love being surprised by a story in an intelligent manner and not something totally random. So the officer opens the wardrobe and there is no Yoon Bum. The officer is confused. He was certain someone was in the house. He was sure the wardrobe was where they had to be. But there’s nothing. And so he leaves.

Then, and this is why I started this review with ‘this chapter is kind of amazing’, we get this expression from Sangwoo:

Killing13b

That was so incredibly satisfying. For 13 chapters we’ve not seen Sangwoo even vaguely rattled. Crazy certainly, furious occasionally, smug and self-assured almost constantly, but that look… I would almost say it is worth reading the 13 chapters to this point, even if this isn’t your style of story, just for the satisfaction that this look will bring you.

Following this Sangwoo literally tears around the house, almost mirroring the path of the police officer, frantically searching. Then he runs outside and has kind of a break down and we get a weird mix of sexual desire and murderous intent. There’s also some foul language but all of this can be neatly summed up by Sangwoo’s statement:

“He actually ran away.”

Sangwoo is being hit by mixtures of betrayal, heart-break, loss of control, rage, abandonment issues, and there’s definitely some sexual tension thrown into the mix. And it shakes him hard.

Meanwhile, as a reader I’m frantically trying to put the pieces together. I know Yoon Bum hasn’t run away because the whole time the search was on we saw Yoon Bum in the closet…

Wait, no we didn’t.

We saw Yoon Bum in a small space, cowering. I assumed, as the police officer did, that he was in the wardrobe because that’s where we saw the foot through the mail slot in the door. And suddenly I get it.

It’s a very weird reunion at the end of the chapter and what, from anyone else, would sound like a marriage proposal but all and all it just means that this creepy and highly dysfunctional relationship is going to continue and now I’m really not sure what the end game is unless eventually the plan is for Sangwoo to just snap. More importantly, the officer still knows something is off. Will he come back?


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Killing Stalking Chapter 12 Review

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

It’s definitely wrong for me to get my hopes up that the police officer will prove useful. It’s definitely wrong. Even if he doesn’t turn out to be completely inept, I’m pretty sure Sangwoo is not going to take any interference lightly. Still…

Killing12.JPG

Not going to lie; seeing the police office actually see this in the footage and follow up kind of gave me hope that maybe there’s an out to this that doesn’t involve complete tragedy.

Of course, that just makes me think the writer is playing us the way Sangwoo keeps playing Bum. There’s the possibility, the che smallest of chances, that somehow things will be okay. Right, you believe that? Let’s snatch it away and watch you crumble.

Chapter 12 is pretty short and really we see the police officer get the footage and begin using his time to watch Sangwoo (I’m avoiding the term stalk only because well that mirrors Bum’s story too much but it might be accurate of what is happening here). Naturally because the officer in question has no friends at the station he’s working solo and the chapter ends with Sangwoo literally catching him on the doorstep.

I think there’s a great deal of credit needed for the writer here. Nothing in this chapter was unexpected and yet it still managed to keep me waiting and built tension beautifully throughout.

Seriously worried this is not going to end well for the officer.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 11

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

Okay, I’m confused, but that’s probably because I don’t get the whole black box thing.

This chapter gets us out of Sangwoo’s house for the first time in awhile. We follow the pint of view of that police officer we met quite a number of chapters ago. Turns out he isn’t well liked by the other police (partly because of past success, and because he’s new in the area, and partly because his personality stinks). Anyway, while out on patrol he comes across a argument between two drivers who have had a minor collision. I’m assuming the younger one is Sangwoo (or maybe he’s Clark Kent, I’m not really sure on that one given despite there being a police officer on the scene neither motorist was asked to identify themselves).

Anyway, it gets to a point where the police guy asks the two drivers to hand over their black box footage and given the next drawing, I’m guessing that’s some sort of camera in the car, but I’m not entirely sure. Nor am I entirely sure why the younger driver at that point admits they were both at fault, though the police officer jumps onto the idea that maybe he has something to hide on the footage.

Which then got me thinking so the rest of this is random speculation. If the driver is Sangwoo (which is a logical deduction given I don’t think we know any other characters at this point that it could be) and if we assume the black box footage comes from a car camera that can operate when the car is not operational, then there’s been a recent incident involving Sangwoo’s car that might be of note. When Yoon Bum crawled into the street and was beaten down, Sangwoo threw him at one point onto the hood of a car. If the camera caught that then it would be on the footage.

Again, this is highly speculative and I have no idea if that is how the black box thing works or not, nor do I know for sure that it is Sangwoo or his car.

Still, that might be some way to move the story along if someone actually starts looking for Yoon Bum.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 10

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

How is it? Your first killing.

I’m going to stop being surprised by how twisted Sangwoo is eventually.

There isn’t much too this chapter so this is going to be pretty short. Essentially, having lost the card game, Yoon Bum is now terrified of being killed but Sangwoo isn’t done playing just yet. He decides to have the other guy be the one to kill Yoon Bum.

Only, as much as the other guy wants out of there, homicide is apparently a step too far. So, Sangwoo, being the sweet guy he is helps him out. By blindfolding him and then taping the knife to his hands. Let me just assure you this doesn’t end well and leave the rest of the scenario for you to find out when you read it.

Taken by itself, this chapter really is nothing. As a follow up to the previous events, it is as horrifically perfect as can be expected. Although, given Sangwoo seems very seasoned at this sort of thing I have to wonder where he’s been hiding all the bodies.


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Karandi James.

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