Princess Principal Episodes 2 + 3: Intrigue Has Never Looked This Cute

Review Episode 2:

So after starting with the girls all working on the same team, we’re now going back in time to find out how that happened? At least that’s how I see it. I wonder why they felt the need to do that though given this episode would have been fine as a first episode and been more than interesting enough as a start to the series.

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Political intrigue, infiltration, murder, conspiracy, it’s all very interesting and while it isn’t quite as fast paced as episode 1, I feel much more at home with the characters this episode.

Review Episode 3:

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I wonder if they’ll ever tell us what is with Ange and the whole planet of the black lizard thing? While it is a cute character quirk it would be nice to know if there was some deeper meaning behind it.

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Primarily this episode focusses on Beatrice, or she of the squeaky voice. Which is odd considering that apparently her voice isn’t her voice so I wonder why she leaves it sounding like that and all, but anyway, minor nitpick. There’s some great character moments, some more secret spy business, and the group are becoming more cohesive. I guess we’ll soon find out how the other girl from the first episode joined the crew but I’m really enjoying this series so far.


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Iron Blooded Orphans Episode 47

Review:

This is like watching a collision in slow motion. You know the impact is coming and you know it is going to be bad but you’re just kind of inching toward it. This episode saw them finally arrive back on Mars but with no allies and no money, Tekkadan really has no chance. Zack is about the only one with a brain for bailing but even then I think he’s going to have trouble given they seem pretty determined to wipe out Tekkadan.

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And I love how they threw this line in from Kudelia but then backtracked and said they weren’t sure. Though it kind of seems like they are doing everything possible to raise a death flag for Atra.

Anyway, my emotional investment is still gone and this episode didn’t do much to bring it back. Tekkadan willingly threw themselves at this conflict naively believing things would work out because they did before. It kind of just seems like a logical consequence of that and while its tragic and all it isn’t as though they couldn’t have avoided this whole mess with some smarter decision making earlier on.

Iron Blooded Orphans is available on AnimeLab.


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Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Episodes 2 + 3

Review Episode 2:

Chain Chronicle picked up directly where we left off with Yuri and Aram defeating the soldiers who were attacking the village. After Aram faints and then wakes up, Yuri gives him a talking to and attempts to recruit him into his volunteer army which by the end of the episode he’s decided to change the name of. This show does not do subtle.

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These are the bad guys in case you couldn’t figure that part out. This is generic fantasy without any surprises so far and to be perfectly frank I’m enjoying it. It’s felt like a long time since someone just did a steep the world in darkness kind of story without trying to throw some massive over-complication in to make it seem more clever. There’s very little to recommend it, it doesn’t stand out from any of the other generic fantasy out there nor does it seem to be trying to at the moment. The writing is okay, the characters generic, the fight sequences passable, and basically if you just want to switch off and do fantasy for awhile this is working.

Review Episode 3:

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Is this the characters admitting they have no clue where to go or what their next step is so we’ll just kind of aim for this group of people and hope they can exposition us out of nowhere? Okay, it’s a fairly standard plot development in fantasy but it doesn’t make it any better. The Princess has gone to round up some allies and Yuri and his group are off to see the sages and then… I don’t think any of them have thought any further than we want to win. There are some cool moments this episode with Aram and Burckhardt (predictable but cool) and the final minutes give us a bit of excitement before the episode ends.

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This remains a fairly generic but decent enough fantasy so far.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 1

Overview:

Tanya is part of the imperial (totally not German) army in 1923. She’s a mage who can fly and blow things up. Apparently they are under attack from the allies.

Review:

I’m pretty much going to pass on this one. Between the really ugly character designs, the focus on alternate version of the world wars, and the truly annoying voice of Tanya, this just actively put me off from start to finish. While it isn’t fair to compare, the timing makes it inevitable that this will be compared with Izetta, also an alternate history story that featured magical intervention in warfare. I was amazed last season when Izetta grabbed me during episode 1 because I don’t like war stories and I really don’t like things that focus on the world wars. I generally prefer sword fights to guns. However Izetta’s first episode was beautiful and filled with characters that intrigued me. Tanya is full of characters that don’t really seem to have any character and it is ugly to look at. All and all, I’m probably passing on this.

Saga of Tanya the Evil is available on Crunchyroll.

 

Izetta: The Last Witch Series Review

Overview:

In a world torn apart by totally not WW2, soon to be Archduchess of a small European nation Fine travels to find allies for her country against Germania but instead finds an old friend of hers who happens to be a witch. I reviewed this week to week here.

Review:

Here’s the thing, after episode 1 I genuinely expected Izetta to be one of my must watch shows for the season. The first episode was dramatic, interesting, tiny bit of fan service but mostly a spunky young girl in a horrible situation and then we threw some magic in because who doesn’t want a world war with magic in it. It was perfect. Or at least as close as you expect from a first episode of an anime really.

So imagine by disappointment when by episode 4 any sense of tension or drama and been leached out of this flat story about a witch and her friend playing at war (and dress up and politics). Izetta has a fantastic setting and a great premise that it utterly fails to utilise to create anything of note.

Midway through a character is sacrificed. He’s kind of shown up a couple of times. He’s sweet. He’s loyal. He conveniently overhears something he shouldn’t, hints this to a friend who turns out to be a spy, is attacked by said spy, saved by his own people and then mercilessly shot through the head to preserve a secret that is found out less than two episodes later anyway. Sure it makes us realise lives are lost during a war and it paints a bleak picture but the execution (no pun intended) is dreadful.

We don’t care enough about this character for this to have that kind of desired impact. He’s a background, face of the common soldier kind of character who raises that many death flags for himself you are just wondering who will pull the trigger and when. The way in which he ‘overhears’ the conversation is the usual contrived nonsense that is really just plot convenience and his blurting this out to the one spy in his unit is ridiculous. Yep, he’s naive but he isn’t painted as a moron so why? The shooting itself is pretty dramatic. We get a nice lingering show of his face as he realises what is about to happen and that’s probably the most affective moment of this sequence. And as a positive, they use this later in the final episode where his killer faces another soldier who he sees with the same face. Then the aftermath of this drama is entirely washed under the bridge and we move on because there are more important things than actually building an emotional connection apparently.

Actually, my biggest issue isn’t the wasted potential of every possible dramatic moment but the introduction of Sophie. Seriously? Let’s just throw a clone of another witch at Izetta and they can fling things at each other while screaming about their personal philosophies. That will be fascinating. Not.

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Pretty much from the minute Sophie arrives the story falls apart. No more care for the soldiers, the spies, the alliances, the technological differences, or anything else. Just two overpowered juggernauts having at it while a few of the other characters scramble around trying to maintain relevance. It’s all just very trite. Plus, Sophie is a crazy lady with nothing but revenge on her mind so even if they wanted to go this way, she doesn’t carry her weight in the story. She’s boring and predictable.

Okay, positives. It is pretty. Very pretty. Good music. Some great action pieces scattered throughout. It just could have been better so while what is here isn’t broken you’ll just feel cheated of the better story you could have had.

Recommendation is to watch if you watch more or less anything or are just mildly curious but I’m not going to seriously recommend this to anyone is you haven’t watched it yet. Let it disappear into the vast vat of forgotten mediocre series.

Iron Blooded Orphans Episode 36

Review:

Seriously, Iok is getting my vote for dumbest character ever and there are some really stupid characters in the Gundam universe. Other than that, this episode picks up exactly where we left off last episode, races through different dialogues with various groups of characters before going straight for a disaster bordering on tragedy. I thought they were going for a full tragedy but they didn’t knock off the Tekkadan member yet so maybe they are waiting for next episode or maybe they feel we’ve wiped out enough Orphans until we get closer to the end. The real issue is that this enemy is a wild card. It doesn’t really fit with any of the pre-existing factions and while the mobile armour falling into any of their hands might be bad, essentially its a man-made force of nature acting on instinct rather than any plan. That makes it difficult to really be all that concerned about and it doesn’t feel like it really fits with everything else Orphans has presented up until now.

Iron Blooded Orphans is available on AnimeLab.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 12

Review:

I’ll give Izetta this, it at least resolves. It may be rushed, the final villain nonsensical, and the final battle may be completely boring to watch but I can’t argue that the story did not finish. I’m annoyed that they seemed unable to commit to Izetta actually sacrificing herself. I’m also annoyed that essentially they allowed the war to end exactly the way the real world war ended rather than allowing the magical sacrifice play a significant role (what is the point of alternative history that isn’t). However, I kind of liked Sieg’s fate as I felt it made that earlier death slightly more meaningful.

Come on, Sophie was throwing trains and they broke the Eiffel Tower for no reason other that because the could. That fight was over-extended rubbish full of action set pieces with no tension just stretching out the conclusion that actually could have been the opening move. Frustrating.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 10

Review:

Well, they didn’t commit to actually having Izetta stay captured by the enemy but at least she didn’t get out of last week’s predicament unharmed (because that would have pushed it way too far). Unconscious for a period of time and then without the use of her legs (for reasons unexplained), Izetta’s condition pushes Fine over the edge and for the first time in this entire war themed anime it seems like Fine is actually devastated by the results of war. Maybe she’s been playing the stoic leader because its expected, but as a young girl caught up in these events her reactions have been pretty much nothing up until now so seeing her all but break down this episode was a nice human touch.

My biggest criticism of this part of the show is Sophie. She’s evil because she is. She’s sworn revenge and doesn’t care if she’ll die or her body will wear out because she was dead anyway. A villain with nothing to lose, no allegiances, and giving no room for reason might seem like they’d be a good match for the overpowered Izetta but it doesn’t make for compelling writing as you can only listen to so many evil cackles over burning cities before you just want to roll your eyes.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 1 Series Review

Overview:

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The world has been divided into three large blocs; The Human Reform League, The Union and the AEU. Each group is in control of on the orbital elevators that goes to space and is responsible for providing solar energy to the earth.  In an effort to end war, a group named Celestial Being begin carrying out armed interventions using the mobile suits known as Gundam.

Review:

I will eventually get around to rewatching the second season of this and finalise my thoughts. Like most Gundam shows when you only watch the first part it is kind of incomplete and wholly depressing. Rather than the only half-kind of depressed you end up when you watch the entire thing. That said, Gundam 00 is among my favourite of the Gundam shows out there.

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If you’ve never watched one of the Gundam shows they all more or less come down to war is inevitable but no one really wants war and war has terrible consequences that trigger yet more violence. The morals and themes are contradictory as are the actions of many of the characters but if you ever want to look at the human condition and how we seem doomed to continue our cycle of violence, Gundam has you covered. It also has giant robots and fairly cool fight sequences so will keep you entertained while it destroys your faith in humanities ability to ever overcome their basic nature.

Gundam 00 focusses on a terrorist group that were set up by a scientist 200 years ago and have been given technology that at the beginning of the series is far superior to anything the major military powers have. Essentially that means they decide who is causing conflict and then wipe them out to make the point that people shouldn’t be fighting. The fact that the 4 chosen pilots are all opposed to war even while they carry out armed interventions, and they are all aware that they are walking contradictions, makes some of the dialogue intriguing but lacks any kind of subtlety.

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What makes this particular Gundam work for me, where others don’t, is Setsuna. Taken by himself he is a fairly bland individual but in the context of the show, his history, and the relationships he creates with the other characters, he becomes fairly interesting to watch and to see the small changes that occur in him throughout the first season. Part of this is to do with meeting Marina but a lot of it has to do with his choices to find a real purpose behind his being chosen to pilot a Gundam. For a character that outwardly seems fairly passive, he is probably one of the more self-aware characters I’ve come across. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and he second guesses his actions but keeps driving forward. His existence amongst the other Gundam pilots brings out the best, and worst, in them.

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Lockon is a really fun character to get to know, but that’s about as far as it goes, until we get to the final third of this first season when Setsuna’s past is revealed. This triggers a change in Lockon that has a profound flow on effect and forces the viewer to reconsider these characters yet again.

Tieria on the other hand, just hates Setsuna from the get go but even he manages to find common ground when the thrones show up and the two learn (briefly) how to work together. Admittedly, this is a short lived truce as both Setsuna and Tieria have some more growing up to do before they’ll actually find common ground.

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The pilot who has the least to do with Setsuna is probably my second favourite character(s). Allelujah (or Hallelujah depending on which personality is in charge) gives us some of the more entertaining moments and is strangely the most human of the four gundam pilots (despite being a modified super-soldier reject harbouring an inner psycho). That said, Allelujah is the first to deviate from the carefully laid out plan when he goes out of his way to rescue civillians and is also regularly the voice of reason amongst the group. He also provides one of my favourite moments of character progress during the final battle sequence in season 1 but I’ll leave you to watch that for yourself.

In honesty though, there are too many characters. We have representative pilots from all the major blocs as well as independent movements, the leaders of the different countries and organisations, and almost everyone has an aide or a friend following them around so they have someone to talk to rather than monologueing all of their inner thoughts. The vast majority of these characters fall into the trap of becoming caught up in an endless cycle of vengeance and having no personality outside of ‘I’ll get him for…’. After awhile it becomes easier not to remember who they are or to care too much about their stories and the series allows you to not care about them.

Even those characters not actively involved in the fighting are all setting up their own agendas and while it kind of feels believable in that all of these people are out for their own ends, it doesn’t make for compelling watching.

And if you haven’t watched it, stop reading now because I’m about to spoil the end of season 1 without any kind of filter.

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Why do we not care? Because the vast majority of characters that we have met will either be dead or irrelevant by the end of the first season. Yep, we go for an all out space battle and knock off so many of the minor bit players it makes you wonder why they even let them get that far. We also take out a few major players in an attempt to elicit some real emotion from what is otherwise a cold spectacle that serves no purpose other than to reinforce the overall message that violence doesn’t stop war.

Then of course we skip 4 years and get to see where some of the survivors have ended up and that’s where the season ends and we’ll pick it up next time, but don’t worry, we already know who the new main antagonists are going to be because they did knock off the last one.

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Before I give my final thoughts though, I also want to point out that Saji and Louise get my vote for most annoying ‘civilian’ representatives in a military anime. I get that they are trying to show how innocents get caught up in events and how lives are ruined and I also get that a lot of why these two are annoying is because they are trying to show us a happy and uncomplicated life prior to war ripping it apart, but if I could go back and remove every scene involving these two I would. Saji is a pathetic doormat of a character and Louise does not allow you to feel any sympathy for her when tragedy strikes because she’s been such an overbearing drama queen prior to that moment. I really disliked this pair and felt they added little to the viewing experience.

As I said in the beginning, I will rewatch the second season and then finalise my review but if you like mecha anime or if you are wanting to try one that has some interesting characters, the core cast of this are entertaining enough and the story works even if it does try to be too complicated for its own good some times.

What are your thoughts on Gundam  00?

 

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 9

Review:

Finally a second witch shows up and finally Izetta gets an actual taste of defeat. It would be nice if this meant that some of her naiveté will now wear off and she will actually deal with the reality of being pretty much the only line of defence for a country at war. Of course, only next episode will tell us what they will actually do with this development. My only complaint about this episode is the white witch and the fact that she’s clearly a psycho. We get it, you were betrayed and the legend they tell has been given a nice happy ending that didn’t exist. However, introducing a second witch who just wants to burn down the kingdom Izetta wants to save isn’t exactly the most innovative or interesting thing they could have done and possibly it would be nice to see a bit more to this new character’s personality than revenge against the descendants of people who did her wrong.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.