Juni Taisen: Zodiac War Episode 1: Not Entirely Sure you Can Get A Season Out Of This

Overview:

The record of the bloody battle between the twelve proud warriors— The 12th Twelve Tournament that gets held every twelve years… Twelve brave warriors who bear the names of the signs of the zodiac fight each other for the lives and souls. The participants are twelve very strange warriors: “Rat,” “Ox,” “Tiger,” “Rabbit,” “Dragon,” “Snake,” “Horse,” “Goat,” Monkey,” “Rooster,” “Dog,” and “Pig.” The victor of this tournament gets to have one wish granted, whatever the wish may be. The one wish they want granted— Who will be the final survivor?

– From Crunchyroll

Review – Episode Spoilers Ahead:

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Okay, seriously, how is this a whole series? This episode is told from the boar’s perspective and she gets to the venue, finds out the rules for the seemingly idiotic death match (I assume we’ll get some justification though this story does not seem big on rationalizing), the match starts, an alliance almost forms and after that someone blows up the floor and we see boar girl face off with bunny boy and then the one character the audience has had any chance to connect with is killed.

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Um, right. So was I supposed to be interested in the other guys who may have combined spoken 100 words this episode? Am I meant to look forward to endless flashbacks of their traumatic childhood as they were prepped for this insanity?

Basically, other than ‘hey, cool death match’ this episode doesn’t do anything because the only characterisation they offered us ceased to be relevant by the end. The match itself isn’t actually interesting yet because other than vague ‘you’ll get a wish granted’ comment, there’s no actual motive or reason for this match. No motive, no characters to care about yet… it isn’t a great start.

Plus, they gave all the characters poison which will kill them in 12 hours. So each episode is going to be like an hour in real time and using flashbacks to fill in the rest of the run time (speculation)?

I guess there were supposed to be some shocks and gasps at some of the violence, gore, and trauma, particularly of the childhood the girl endured, but to be honest it all just kind of felt flat. It was more a shopping list of shocking imagery rather than an actual emotive viewing experience.

So, maybe this will draw me in more once I know some of the other characters, but my honest first opinion of this is it isn’t exactly getting me excited for what is to come. Which is kind of a shame because this is one I was kind of looking forward to. Oh well. I’ll give it another couple of episodes and then decide.


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Drifters Series Review: Was This Worth The Wait?

Overview:

Toyohisa is injured in a battle and as he starts to die finds himself in a mysterious corridor facing a man in a suit reading a newspaper. A door opens and Toyohisa finds himself in a new world where he is called a Drifter. Uniting with other Drifters, they begin to fight, well, everyone.

This obviously came out last year but due to lack of access, it was only very recently I was finally able to watch it (thanks AnimeLab for brining it to Australia). So after reading all the reviews as it aired and series reviews of people who finished it after that, I had a fair idea of what I was getting into. So the questions is, was it worth waiting for?

Review:

Drifters is one of those stories where it could be really cool, but at the moment we’re very much feeling like we’ve read the prologue to a much grander story and we still don’t really know what is going on. The obvious is the confrontation between Drifters and Ends except that the Ends don’t seem to be exactly what we’ve been told and the Drifters aren’t overly concerned with fighting them unless they happen to directly be in the path of what the Drifters are currently trying to do.

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Also, the Drifters aren’t all exactly united. It is clear some have been in the world for a long time and have their own plans and ideas and the three Japanese Drifters that are freeing elves and dwarves and generally going on a mission of conquest are really just out for their own ideals and don’t really seem to care much for the grander scheme (or anyone else’s plans). This makes it really hard to know what the actual end game for this whole story would be particularly as we don’t know the deal with the guy and the girl in the tunnel (other than a clear binary opposition though why we don’t know).

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Despite a lack of answers or real sense of urgency in any of the actions, Drifters manages to be pretty entertaining as we lurch from conflict to conflict. The time periods the various characters come from shape their fighting styles and philosophies and this allows for the action sequences to not get dull. The humour is at times crude but it actually works quite well and adds to the overall entertainment of the show.

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Visually Drifters is interesting. I’m not going to say I particularly like the character designs but it is striking and the characters are distinct and memorable. The art style very much suits the story being told and contributes to the overall tone so it is successful in that respect. Okay, I found it ugly, but that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of this series and it definitely stood out from a lot of other shows.

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The opening song is also quite distinct and again the visuals work. They aren’t what I would call pretty, but the opening very much gets you ready for the feel of the show and that is what it is supposed to be doing.

All and all, unless you don’t like the subject matter, which is pretty much various characters thinking of ways to more effectively kill and conquer other characters, with quite a bit of crude humour thrown in, Drifters is quite a nice action anime. I wouldn’t outright recommend it due to the narrative feeling like it barely got started but there is certainly some fun to be had in watching it. Basically, don’t think too hard, enjoy the gore, don’t even begin to try to figure out whether a character is actually supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy because that’s a lost cause.


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18if Episode 9: Crash and Burn

Review:

While I’m not overly easily offended by content in anything, this week’s episode of 18if just seems incredibly unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with the show wanting to highlight some of the issues idols have to deal with and looking at gender expectations, but this episode doesn’t actually take its own subject matter seriously and plays some fairly sensitive material for cheap shocks or laughs.

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Even then I probably would have just moved on from the episode thinking that next week we’ll get a new witch and a new problem, except that even the story this week didn’t really make sense. Was she stabbed in the real world? Was she not stabbed? Is Haruto actually her fan in the real world or did he just pretend because he was investigating her as the witch? So many questions that just make the endless montages of idol training this episode presents us with truly pointless to watch.

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And then after a short torture sequence (though more suggestion than actual presentation) and an incredibly stupid escape that continues to just kind of dismiss any kind of serious issue raised by this episode, Haruto shrugs and everything is fine.

I’ve actually enjoyed this anime so far but this is one episode I will happily skip if I ever watch this series again.


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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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Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 4

Reivew:

With the beast titan having climbed the wall last episode I kind of thought that having sent the titans after the group in the tower he was done. Oh no. He’s hanging around to cause more problems and it is just the kind of cruelty you expect from Attack on Titan.

However, rather than just get into the fight we’re skipping back two hours (what is with this season and time skips?). Connie is still obsessing about his village and it seems like he is trying to convince himself everyone survived but the common sense part of his brain keeps rejecting that notion.

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Ymir is far more vocal this episode than I ever think we’ve seen her and it is to her detriment as she let’s something that seems like it should be important slip (however the show is not lingering on this point as there are titans to fight).

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Anyway, the fight actually starts out pretty well. Given how the soldiers have done previously against titans I wasn’t convinced it was going to be a long fight, but the scouts are actually pretty good. You know, until the beast titan launches boulders at the tower, they run out of blades and then gas. It all kind of goes downhill from there. Leading to the final scene and the big reveal of the episode, which most of us saw coming about midway through the episode but was still pretty cool.

This episode was excellent. It hit all the points I loved about the first episode of Attack on Titan ever. The feeling of being desperate and trapped, actual fear of the titans, the inevitable deaths, the few shock moments of survival, some reasonable action in amongst frantic action and waiting. It just kind of kept you on edge and waiting and was satisfying in what it delivered. More like this, please.

Attack on Titan is available on AnimeLab.


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Armed Girls Machiavellism Episode 1

Overview:

An all girls school has gone co-ed but has armed all the girls and so male delinquents are sent there for correction. Enter Nomura, male delinquent not interested in being corrected.

Review:

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I’d blame Prison School for this but know that Prison School wasn’t the first to use this premise either. Early on we get the guy looking at the girl’s underwear but I thought we might make it to the end of the episode without an accidental kiss, but no, we had to unnecessarily throw in that trope as well. The shame is that there are actually a couple of very small good moments in this episode where you can see that buried somewhere under all that cliché are actual characters and even a possible story, but the question is do I want to wade through predictable comedy and poor execution to get to it assuming that they don’t just throw what little character and story moments there are out. So, not sure on this one and I’ll see what episode 2 looks like before I try to decide.

Armed Girls Machiavellism is available on AnimeLab.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 6

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:

Chapter 6 gives us a break from violence or even the implied threat of violence as Sangwoo and Yoon Bum seem to have found a new equilibrium early in the chapter. That doesn’t mean Bum isn’t jumping every time Sangwoo looks sideways at him, but there’s definitely a feeling that things are slipping into a slightly warped but stable pattern.

However, for a story that so far has pushed the audience and gone for shock, violence is replaced almost entirely by sex in terms of how much space it takes in the chapter and for some this might be just as confronting. Particularly when you consider the position Yoon Bum is in. This is not a romance built on good intentions or anything even vaguely stable. Most tellingly when Sangwoo pushes himself under Yoon Bum’s shirt and comments on how warm it is, comparing it to being back in his mother’s belly. Even when he isn’t being violent, Sangwoo remains a highly disturbing character.

Some spoilers below.

I’ll admit, I was waiting for the moments that came at the end of the chapter given someone posted there own thoughts on the situation on Twitter so I kind of knew it was coming and was paying fairly close attention. The only thing that I was left wondering about was why on earth does Bum feel Sangwoo is in any way being honest? Sangwoo who has played Bum at every single step and now he’s left him alone in the house with a warning to not cross the line. Seriously, read between the lines and realise you are being played.

Of course, even if the Twitter spoiler of what happens next hadn’t been a thing the clear clue to the audience is the umbrella. Sangwoo clearly comments on the rain while he’s on the phone and then we get three very clear images of Sangwoo exiting the house and leaving that umbrella sitting in the umbrella stand.

Killing Stalking is not subtle, but it does do foreshadowing very well. When something is seen like that, it is going to be important.

So now of course I want to read the next chapter but at the same time I’m a little apprehensive about just what will unfold.