Sengoku Night Blood Episode 3: Sake, Herbs, Bees and an Attack

Review:

If the goal here is to walk through a loosely based on actual history historical setting where the cast have been replaced by pretty boy vampires and werewolves than this episode accomplishes its goal wonderfully. If there was an intention of actually helping us learn anything about these characters (other than the name of the person they are supposed to be) or to progress some sort of plot than this episode comes up short.

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That isn’t to say this isn’t still kind of fun. The vampire group meet with the werewolf group and drink sake before a contrived fetch quest sends the girl into the woods to look for herbs where she conveniently and for no apparent purpose steps on a bee hive. Seriously, they do nothing with that other than scene transition. Why even include it?

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We do however see that every single guy is going to fall for the girl regardless of her seeming lack of personality. So yes, plenty to criticise, but this still works from a switch your brain off and enjoy the pretty visuals kind of  perspective and there is still the possibility of the plot going somewhere as they do have a few scenes that indicate more is going on than drinking and flirting.


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Sengoku Night Blood Episode 2: My Teenage Self Would Have Loved This

Review:

I really think that if this had come out (and I’d had the means to watch it) when I was fourteen or fifteen, I’d have been in love with it. However, as I am not a teenager (and haven’t been for well over a decade) and I’ve watched a lot of anime at this point, I know that this is not particularly good. They still haven’t bothered to explain anything about the characters to the audience so either you just accept that it doesn’t matter who they are and just define them by whatever bizarre outfit they are wearing, or you dredge up every memory of these names from every other anime and try to piece it together and even then, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

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The female heroine is starting to get a tiny bit of personality rather than blank slate, but mostly it is just the usual ‘I’d like to be helpful’ personality that so many harem leads fall into and of course her acts of kindness charm every single guy she talks to. Be prepared for blushing warriors left and right as she ‘helps’ them out (and that sounded more suggestive than intended given nothing is actually happening).

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Despite the obvious and fairly relevant criticisms of this show’s set up, characters and plot, I’m still having fun watching it. Okay, it is definitely appealing to that inner teenager inside rather than the adult I supposedly am, and I definitely will not argue that this is actually quality viewing (the series so far has a two star rating on Crunchyroll and I’ve never seen a functional show score so low on there given most things are at least three stars even if they are hopelessly broken), but I’m kind of happy to just switch my brain off and admire the pretty shiny spectacle playing out.

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Yeah, the dialogue is also an issue but I’m going to ignore that for a bit.


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Sengoku Night Blood Episode 1: Diabolik Lovers Meets the Warring States?

Overview:

One day, Yuzuki is enveloped by a mysterious light suddenly emanating from her cell phone and finds herself in an unfamiliar place. The scenery spread out before her almost resembles Sengoku period Japan– But this is another world known as “Shinga” where non-human creatures such as vampires and werewolves reside. Long ago, the various tribes of Shinga lived together peacefully under the protection of the Himemiko who possessed special blood. However, one day the Himemiko suddenly vanished. With the protection of the Himemiko gone, the world has fallen into a period of strife.

– from Crunchyroll

Review:

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Okay, objectively I know that other than the appearance of this, which is very, very pretty, the story itself hasn’t done much yet and they’ve introduced way too many characters in a first episode for any of them to have more than a one defining trait personality at this point. If you ever wondered if the warring states era would be made better by subbing in pretty boy vampires and werewolves than this might be the answer for that curiosity but otherwise this first episode doesn’t give us much else.

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Except perhaps an uncomfortable moment where the heroine of the story (and so far only female character in existence) has a cut on her neck that the main vampire guy forcibly licks despite her protests. Hey, at least he didn’t actually bite her and the animated saliva was only a little bit icky. Honestly, why do that?  Though, we don’t really know anything about her yet given she’s just kind of staring blankly at stuff after being teleported to a different world and dumped on the edge of a battle (she really needs a refund on her phone plan after that effort).

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But despite my nit-picking, I’m going to admit I was pretty hooked during the run time. Admittedly, if you don’t know much about the conflict (as in you haven’t watched 6000 other anime set in the same time period) you may get totally lost as they just kind of throw a whole bunch of names at you, but this episode moved along fairly briskly and I’m not entirely opposed to watching pretty-boy samurai vampires for a season. As long as they lay-off the non-consensual neck licking.


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UQ Holder Episode 1: Not A Total Disaster

Overview:

In the decade since the world became aware of the existence of magic, the world has undergone massive upheaval. However, a boy named Tōta lives in seclusion in a rural town far removed from these changes. His ordinary life is highlighted by his magic-using female teacher and his supportive friends. When his tranquil daily life is disrupted, he embarks on a unique adventure.

– From AnimeLab

Review:

This show opens with a scene of a group of school girls greeting a male teacher. The male teacher sneezes and magically blows the girls clothes off. Then we see some other blonde girl acting all smug who starts a monologue about being a 700 year old vampire. Then we get an opening sequence before we meet an entirely different group of boys who are trying to defeat their teacher so that they can go to the capital.

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Honestly, this introduction is a mess. I’m not exactly sure who that opening sequence was attempting to appeal to but it is just a confused mess of ambiguous, dull, or generic tropes and none of it really screamed keep watching me. As the episode progressed, things got better but Touta, the main character, is pretty much your stock standard shonen hero. He’s training to beat his teacher to achieve some nebulous goal that doesn’t seem well thought through, his parents are dead and he’s raised by his mentor, turns out he’s also lost his memory, and by the way, after nearly dying his mentor reveals that she turned him into an immortal to save his life.

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The episode ends with teacher and boy heading off to the capital and from the opening and ending it looks like we’ll meet a whole new cast of characters so no reason to really care about anyone we’ve met so far.

This is not a great introduction to a series, but there’s been worse opening episodes. I’ll give this one a couple more to see if it can settle in to something that might eventually come up with an original idea (seriously, this show has an orbital elevator which they keep referring to as a tower that he wants to climb – how many other anime just flashed through your mind). Or even if this show can find a way to present a generic story in an interesting manner given it kind of failed completely at that in this first episode.

If you checked out the first episode, let me know your thoughts.


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Castlevania Series Review: Nice Introduction

Overview:

Based on the games, this is a four episode anime available on Netflix. After Dracula’s human wife is burned as a witch he curses the country. Trevor Belmont, a hunter from an out of favour family is just trying to get by but finds himself dragged in to the fight.

Review:

I’m going to be honest and point out I’ve never played the Castlevania games. I’ve seen them, watched reviews about them, I know the gist of what the games are about, but I’ve never actually played one. Despite that, I was kind of excited when I heard Castlevania was getting an anime adaptation mostly because the basic story and style seemed like it would work well in an adaptation. And for what it is worth, that is true. These four episodes show case how epically a vampire/demon hunter story that includes decent fight sequences, chase scenes, and obvious adapted platforming sequences can translate into an anime.

What these four episodes don’t do is actually give us a series to review. I mean, they can call it a series if they like, but what that doesn’t change that all this really just wants to test the waters and to see whether or not there’s a market for it. Basically, I asked you into my restaurant, asked you to try out our new sandwich and then gave you the crust and said the rest might come later depending on your reaction.

Let’s be honest: no matter how good that crust was you are still going to be disappointed.

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The story here ends just as the team for future story is finally assembled and all are actually on board for hunting down a vengeful Dracula. This was a cool introduction into a story that while there are rumours it will come out and possibly next year, it doesn’t yet exist. That makes reviewing this kind of difficult because if nothing more ever comes out, then this is entirely skippable. There’s nothing revolutionary here and it isn’t amazing enough that you should watch an unfinished story. However, if the promised continuation occurs, and you happen to like horror, gore and action with a bit of off-colour and slightly earthy humour thrown in from time to time, this is actually a pretty good watch.

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The first episode gives us a pretty decent set up and motivation for the villain of the piece. Though calling Dracula the villain seems kind of wrong given he was minding his own business when the church set his wife on fire. However, I somehow doubt that justifies the mass slaughter of the population of an entire kingdom so maybe Dracula needs to get some anger management lessons and learn how to appropriately direct his anger at the individuals who actually deserve it.

After that, we switch pretty much entirely to following Trevor, our plucky hero who is selflessly dashing into the fray… okay, not quite. He’s a sour drunk who is over the slurs the church and the peasants hurl at his family for doing their job of demon hunting and basically he’s pretty happy is Dracula wants to burn the whole kingdom down as long as he can get a drink. Through various circumstances he ends up getting dragged into the conflict but while he’s fine with stopping Dracula he isn’t making friends with the church any time soon. There’s nothing particularly amazing about this kind of slovenly protagonist who is actually an amazing fighter if given the right trigger but his presentation works and some of his lines are actually pretty hilarious.

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However, that’s the end of positives for characterisation. The church and peasants suffer from incredible stereotyping and are mostly just around to be hated. Yes, we hate the priests and most of the peasants more than the genocidal vampire we’re supposed to see as the eventual villain (wait, remind me why we want Dracula stopped). Eventually we do meet a priest and some peasants that aren’t entirely unlikable and they even assist in the final fight in the city before a falling sequence that really should have left both the main characters dead, but it really isn’t enough to excuse the vilification of all the extras for the entire three episodes prior.

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Visually, this works as a horror. It has an older style look, which helps it fit in a bit more with the games, and the colour scheme works perfectly well for gothic horror. The music is also suitable for what it is trying to do though hardly noteworthy.

Basically, this could be great, if they get around to finishing the story. As it is, unless you are a die hard Castlevania fan or you are just curious, there’s not a lot of reason to jump into it.


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Hellsing Series Review

Overview:

Alucard is a vampire serving the Hellsing organisation and pretty much eliminating other undead and things. This is a review of the 2002 anime series, not Hellsing Ultimate.

Review:

Seriously, this show sounds like it should be right up my ally. We’ve got vampires, horror, violence, secret organisations, it should be a blast. That said, I put off watching this for a fair while because I’d previously watched the first episode and was left feeling pretty meh about the entire series. However, this one came around on my list of watched and dropped anime to give a second go to and given it is available on AnimeLab I gave it a go and made it through to the end. But I probably shouldn’t have.

For an anime made in 2002, this already looks kind of dated. Alucard of course looks amazing as the creature of the night and his Japanese voice really suits him sounding both menacing and seductive. Outside of Alucard, the other character designs are all kind of flat when they aren’t outright ugly. They serve their purpose but they are hardly something to draw you in to the story. Similarly, the occasional setting will grab your attention but too often we’re in generic hallway A, or walking past generic building B. Visually it just isn’t a very appealing show and this is a show that splashes around copious amounts of my very favourite colour and it still didn’t manage to appeal.

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If I get over the fact that this looks its age and focus on the story, the issues actually get worse. While there is an ongoing narrative around an unusual number of vampires showing up and some chip creating vampires that they are investigating, mostly it feels like freak of the week shows up, the expendable human characters get expended (why were there even humans still working for these organisations), and then the vampire/s go in and clean up the mess. There’s the occasional point of interest with conspiracies and media interaction, but mostly its just a by the numbers set up and deliver kind of story.

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All of this is fine for a horror really. Low budget horror movies have kind of made me immune to poor visuals and generic storylines that aren’t that engaging, but there still needs to be some hook. Are the characters interacting well? Is there some sort of twist or surprise? Do we just deliver the same old horror with a lot of energy? Hellsing kind of doesn’t achieve any of these. Seras Victoria is about the only other character I vaguely cared about outside of Alucard, and she was still incredibly boring as she transitioned from human to vampire. Integra, as the leader of Hellsing, was probably my least favourite character and more than once I found myself wishing something would bite her, which given her limited screen time was impressive that she managed to irk me that much.

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Basically, this was my own fault. The first episode of this didn’t grab me the first time I watched it. Even this time, I wasn’t really keen on it and yet I just kind of pushed through. I became increasingly distracted during the watch and started making excuses to delay the next episode. That’s probably why my review is light on details. I wasn’t paying enough attention after about episode 4 so maybe it has some amazing plot twist that just went straight over my head.

At some point, I do want to check out Hellsing Ultimate, but I’m not going back to this series again. I’ve made it to the end, it is watchable, but ultimately I just don’t see that this is really worth the time investment when there are more interesting stories out there.


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Dance With Devils Series Review

Overview:

Have you ever wanted an anime musical? Not an anime with a character who wants to be an idol and occasionally performs, but an anime where the cast just burst into song and dance? Well look no further because Dance With Devils takes a typical supernatural harem show and adds music.

Review (a few major plot spoilers here if you are concerned):

It should probably be noted up-front that I’m not the biggest fan of harems (though I don’t hate them) nor do I particularly like musicals (but again I don’t hate them). Mostly I watched this for the sheer novelty of seeing an anime musical and yes, it is novel, but it isn’t great.

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To put it simply individual songs with their accompanying visuals within this anime are quite good. I particularly liked the fight sequence early on where Rem defeated the enemy during his song because visually it was interesting. The story itself with Ritsuka being a grimoire that both devils and vampires are fighting over is also pretty interesting. Throw in Lindo, the kind-of-brother-who-also-has-a-massive-crush-on-the-protagonist, who is somehow a vampire and an exorcist, and you’ve got a fairly impressive list of ingredients to make an interesting narrative. The show then proceeds to squander most opportunities to do this.

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Part of the issue is it is a harem show so for the first half the series each episode kind of focusses on a different member of the student council as they get their introductory song and get to torment Ritsuka in a way that makes no sense given their overall objective (then again it is never particularly clear why the other members of the student council care one way or the other about the grimoire). This means a lot of the plot is just kind of put on hold even though initially we are under the impression that time is of the essence, you know given Ritsuka’s mother was kidnapped by vampires and might be being killed. And of course each member of the student council is a devil and a particular ‘type’. You’ve got the handsome flirt, the strong guy, the massochist, and then literally a dog. It’s all pretty stock standard.

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When we finally have the introductions out of the way things do take a turn for the more serious including a character actually being killed (which I kind of didn’t expect and the show gets points for actually upping the danger level) but the relationships between the characters just kind of drift back and fourth without progressing (which again is probably the general issue with harem stories because if someone just stopped dithering and actually made their feelings clear the story would probably end).

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For all of that, the vampires are probably the weakest part of this show. They really just exist to launch attacks and force the plot forward but they themselves get almost no development and their motives, while explained, aren’t particularly compelling or convincing.

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This is definitely a show for fans of harems, people who will watch anything with a vampire in it, or anyone who is just curious about how an anime musical looks. For everyone else, there are probably better harem shows and there are most definitely better supernatural shows out there. This is never unwatchably bad and there are some good moments to be found in

Interviews with Monster Girls Episode 6

Review:

If you ever want to see twins, one a vampire and one not, engage in petty squabbles over the use of the fridge and who at the ice-cream then episode 6 of Interviews with Monster Girls is for you. While the dialogue keeps the first three-quarters of this episode feeling like it is moving, ultimately, other than a glimpse at Hikari’s home life very little is gained. The final quarter seems determined to touch base with the other characters as if to remind us they exist but again little is gained from it. This show is definitely falling into the slice of life category where I guess if you enjoy watching the girls in their daily goings on and the monster gimmick is enough to hold your interest this show works. While I liked this episode more than last week I just keep feeling a little underwhelmed by it.

Interviews with Monster Girls is available on Crunchyroll.


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Interviews with Monster Girls Episodes 1 + 2

Overview:

Demi-humans are apparently a thing so there are vampires, snow women and whatever else running around in the world. Takahashi is a Biology teacher who wants to interview demi-humans for a paper he’s writing but hasn’t met any, until the new teacher at school and three students turn out to be demis.

Review Episode 1:

Honestly, I passed on this from the synopsis. It really just kind of seemed like a sleazy harem set-up or like a dull daily lives kind of thing with the cheap gimmick of some of the characters being monsters thrown in. And that second view is kind of accurate except that it isn’t all that dull. Okay, nothing momentous happened but the characters kind of kept things moving along and most of the interactions between them were entertaining enough. Whether or not I stay interested in this remains to be seen but for now I’m in for at least one more episode.

Review Episode 2:

This episode was a little bit more on the dull side probably because we spend a great deal of it on a date with Macchi and Takahashi (what is it with girls crushing on their teacher in anime).

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Anyway, the suspected harem setting seems to be closer than I thought with Macchi already looking at teacher, Hikari a little bit jealous, and the succubus teacher starting to warm up to Takahashi because of the way he deals with the girls and their problems. This stayed fairly cute and there were one or two funny moments, mostly involving Hikari’s promise to look after Macchi’s body while she went on her date.

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But if this is going to be the ongoing tone and pace of the show I’m probably not going to make it through a full season. We’ll see what happens.

Interviews with Monster Girls is available on Crunchyroll.


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Bloodivores Series Review

Overview:

Mi Liu and a group of Bloodivores (probably vampires but after episode 1 it becomes entirely unnecessary to care as this plays no significant role in the show) break into a bank to steal something. Things go awry and they are taken in by the police and charged with the murder of the hostages (though they claim they didn’t do it – the murder not the robbery).  Then the prison transport is attacked and instead of jail they end up somewhere else where we will spend the rest of the series watching them run from one unlikely and unexplained situation to the next. I reviewed this week to week if you wanted to check out my thoughts.

Review:

Wow, it has been awhile since I’ve been quite that sarcastic in an overview. The issue is this show is not well written, or well animated, nor does it have compelling characters, interesting themes or a stunning resolution. What we have here is a concept that probably sounded great in planning and then was executed like a group of children were fighting over the keyboard as they came up with increasingly silly ideas to stuff into a show that was trying so hard to be cool and maybe even edge and failed to even rise above inoffensive nothingness.

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I’m going to start with the animation because I so rarely criticize this aspect of a show. I’m fairly happy to watch still images as long as there’s a good story and compelling voice acting so I’m not overly critical of this. But Bloodivores is not just average, it is bad. Just watch the initial car chase where they are pumping the music at you as they sit in the car and desperately try to make you believe these characters are cool and hip while the only reason you know the car is speeding at all is because they show you the speedometer. Yep. No sense of haste otherwise. This is almost as bad as if a character had just leaned over and said ‘you’re going fast’. You don’t feel any sense of tension or movement and visually it isn’t there. This is a common feature in all of the fight sequences where things look like they are moving very slowly (and no it isn’t a slow-mo effect it is just badly done). Plus character eyes and expressions regularly look wrong, arms move independently of shoulders, and characters move in highly unnatural ways. It is jarring and off-putting and does not help the others mediocre story being told.

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The cast of characters are incredibly dull. We learn all but nothing about them and they have no distinguishing personality traits. Seriously I can kind of only tell them apart because they had different hair colours and each one kind of had a signature outfit for most of the show. Most of these characters don’t do anything. Mi Liu is the most proactive of the bunch and after careful reflection I’ve decided he’s probably one of the most moronic main characters I’ve come across in recent history. He blithely makes assumptions and passes these off as facts or at least theories and his plans are so full of holes you don’t get surprised when things fall apart, you wonder why it took so long. None of the other characters contribute much of anything other than occasional noise, fight or rescue sequences, or give someone for Mi Liu to babble at and they are all pretty forgettable.

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I’m not even going to bother with plot. There is a story but we are still completely in the dark about anything at seasons end and to be honest it isn’t compelling enough to make me want to know what happens. Personally, I hope the monsters eat them all.

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Last point before I end this vaguely ranty review. If you name a show Bloodivores, and make a big deal in episode 1 about how Bloodivores came to be, maybe the characters being Bloodivores should occasionally come up as a significant plot point rather than as an excuse to give them super powers.

Recommendation – avoid. It isn’t as broken as something like Big Order or Taboo Tattoo but it is definitely a time suck most people don’t need.