Bringing Back Smiles Through Over-Simplification

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Review

Well we have come to the end and I can say with confidence at least that this anime concludes its story. The fact that it does so through over-simplifying the situation in the extreme and relies on cute girls smiling to sell the solution is kind of a point against it, but at least we aren’t left hanging for a sequel that probably would never have happened.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Stella

I’m going to really try to avoid spoilers, but we kind of new the end The Price of Smiles had in store for us at the end of the last episode. There aren’t any particular curve balls in this episode with the character who was clearly going to die following through beautifully in doing so, those who were always going to survive also doing so even against sensible reason, and Yuki’s vision achieved and any negative consequences played down to a ridiculous extent.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Yuki and Layla

That doesn’t stop it being a perfectly sound ending. It takes the tone, ideas, and characters from the series and finalises it in a way not so many anime manage, so even though the word ‘trite’ is springing to mind when describing this ending, at least I am not left annoyed that plot threads were just never addressed or that characters seemed to serve no purpose. In fact, other than the fact that this narrative ended up being fairly ordinary despite having the potential to go into so much more, they never seemed to bite off more than they could chew and this ending makes it clear they were never planning to be that ambitious.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Yuki and Stella

I will fault Yuki as a character though. Without to much detail, she is put in a position where she needs to get Stella onside and her arguments are around peace and smiles. That’s all well and good but why not use the one compelling argument that has been revealed? If they don’t stop the chrars the entire eco-system is going to collapse and everyone will be dead anyway regardless of who wins the war. This would have been a much more compelling reason for an enemy to suddenly assist and would have made the whole shoe-horned in environmental narrative actually become more than just an add on to the anti-war stance this war focused anime seemed to be taking.

Affiliate Link
	MURAKUMO: RENEGADE MECH PURSUIT

Anyway, I’ll get to a full review soon as this is the first of my Winter anime to be completed, and I’ll look more at what the series did and didn’t accomplish then. However, in terms of being interesting and watchable, The Price of Smiles has succeeded, even if it didn’t do much beyond that.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11
Back to the picture – yep everyone except Yuki died. The message? Don’t stand in a photo with Yuki.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Advertisements

The Battle of the Magical Girls Begins

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Review

With the invasion of the military base and the parallel invasion of Naha city occurring at the end of last episode it was clear that this week Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka would be focused on the battle at hand. What follows is a fairly scattered affair with the audience jumping from one scene of the battle to another and seeing Tamara and Mia in action at their respective locations as well as following the actions of various soldiers and Nozomi and Sayako in amongst the fight before we finally get down to business in the bunker with Rapture, War Nurse and the main villains of this fight.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Disas

While it is a scattered affair frantically jumping from one point where the soldiers are being beaten back to another, interspersed with civilians fleeing and dying and ordinary police being incredibly heroic before dying, all of this cut with scenes of the military commanders glaring at their screens and musing about potential strategy, it works really well because the set up for this fight was put in place last episode. Even though the overall motives of the villains is still unclear, making that the weakest link in the whole series, the basic parameters for this sequence were clearly laid out and the target of the General in the basement was pretty straight-forward, even if it turns out they were after something the general had rather than the general herself.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Nozomi and Sayako

Action sequences in this anime remain very entertaining to watch with a real sense of pace and movement about them. It makes getting screen caps kind of difficult because of the amount of motion blur at times but at the same time, watching the sequence it is very solid portrayal of a frantic fight sequence. It’s also fun watching the transition between the soldiers and their standard tactics compared to the Magical Girls who are almost a whole army on their own and have their own way of fighting.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 10 Mia

Affiliate Link
Magical Girl Special Ops Asuka Vol. 1

While characterisation gets put to the side for a large majority of the episode, Asuka still manages to deliver a decent effort at remembering that she was traumatised by the previous war and has yet to really accept that she’s back involved with the conflict. While many an anime hero would have committed to fighting and then never mentioned their trauma again, Asuka is wearing hers on her sleeve and it really is only Kurumi’s presence at her side while they wait that keeps her grounded and prevents her from breaking down entirely as they listen to the sounds of battle and dying over the radio.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Kurumi and Asuka

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka remains a fairly decent viewing experience and while it has at times pushed the violence a little further than some people would like, its been delivering a reasonably compelling story and it seems to be heading to a decent climax. Now whether or not we get a decent end point or are left hanging is really all that’s left to find out in the next two episodes and that could really change my overall opinion of the show.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10
Well, I’m scared.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Not About Who Is Right, Only Who Is Left

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 10 Review Review

Death has definitely lost its impact in The Price of Smiles as three episodes have played three key deaths against the other. My only real concern was that Lily still hasn’t managed to bite the dust given she insists on raising her own death flag. However, with the exception of Joshua, this anime seems to have gone out of its way to target older men for death in battle despite the number of young females flying around in the mechs. It makes you wonder if the writer just couldn’t bring themselves to kill off the cuter characters.

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

There’s also an issue in episode 10 with the visuals. While The Price of Smiles hasn’t been exceptional, it has been relatively decent from both an art and animation point of view. However, this week felt rushed with long shots of characters frequently looking either off-model or facial expressions looking very sketched in and then jarringly we would snap to full detail for a closer image. It all just felt a little slap-dash and that is a shame as the season approaches it’s end game.

Outside of those complaints though, The Price of Smiles manages to continue furthering its development of Stella’s squad as the Kingdom presses forward with their battle. We get some more orphan dramas as Lily and Stella go with the commander to entertain some kids they come across (the irony of first making orphans and then feeling sorry for them is a little heavy handed but otherwise it makes a solid point).

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

The battle sequence also looks very well done. For all the earlier glitches in quality, the commanders final battle was a suitable spectacle, albeit brief.

What troubles me is that it seems really unlikely that this war can wrap up in the two episodes remaining because regardless of what Princess Yuki is up to she doesn’t have the power to stop the war. Stella is an interesting character but far too low in the military hierarchy to have any say on the direction of the war. All and all, this doesn’t feel like it can wrap up, unless of course they just blow the whole planet up and wouldn’t that be a depressing way for The Price of Smiles to wrap up.

Affiliate Link
UT MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM 40TH ANNIVERSARY - BATTLES T-SHIRT WHITE (XL SIZE)

The Price of Smiles Episode 11 Review Review

Apparently we’ll get to episode 12 before Stella and Yuki actually meet (that’s assuming they do though it seems almost certain given the post credits sequence this episode). And we’re also apparently going for a destroy the thing everyone is fighting over kind of ending even though that is going to make life incredibly hard for everyone for a fair while. Oh well, with one more episode to go after this I guess there wasn’t much else they could do.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Stella’s squad are dealing with the death of their commander which causes some emotional outpourings and some punches, but otherwise they are still just following orders. It is Yuki who surprises this week by using propaganda of her own, declaring they have a new weapon, and taking a more aggressive approach by claiming they’ll reclaim one of the cities firmly in enemy hands.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Unsurprisingly this is a ruse and Yuki has cooked up a plan to destroy all the chraras which are the cause of the failing eco-system but also the source of their power. While the new weapon entertains the main forces, Yuki and her group are slipping through to the old Verde Empire to enact their plan. Which is where they encounter Stella’s squad which were ordered to watch a border.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11
3 Out of Five Of These Characters Are Dead – Who’s Next?

I’m not entirely certain if this is a satisfying direction but at least Yuki is taking a direct hand in the final events and if we actually get a Stella/Yuki meeting that would be kind of great after this long. Not to mention, Stella’s mother, Leila is with Yuki, and is also currently the only one of the four who essentially raised Yuki still alive. Does anyone else sense a death flag here?

Whichever way, next week’s episode is called ‘The Price of Smiles’ so I guess we’ll find out what it really costs to bring happiness to everyone.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support
100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Everybody Loses In A Magical War

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6 Review

There are two distinct parts of this episode that kind of overlap through a character Asuka encounters and gives directions to who later becomes significant in Mia’s story. I’m going to start looking at Asuka’s side of the episode because that is the less significant part of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka this week.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6 Asuka

We begin with Asuka and her school friends having a study session. There’s some very clunky exposition where Asuka is asked what her dream is, but otherwise the only up-shot of this whole scene is that Nozomi is bubbly as can be almost as if her whole torture didn’t happen… Oh wait, it didn’t because they erased her memory. They do decide to go to a festival which leads to the main girls in yukatas and Asuka running into the blonde girl she gave directions to earlier who tells her that her wish should be to be happy and everything else will sort itself out.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6 Festival

I’m not really sure why they bothered to bring the rest of the members of M squad to the festival and all and all this whole sequence just seems relatively like episode filler. I don’t really like saying that given it is still kind of fun to watch, but I can’t imagine this has much purpose other than adding to the overall contrast because Mia’s story is anything but happy filler.

Mia arrives in Japan to investigate the guy in the box we saw at the villains’ lair earlier in the season. She transforms and she and her team check out the apartment before finding the magical girls’ motto written on the mirror. Then the blonde girl who has been encountering Asuka all episode shows up and it turns out she’s a magical mercenary who wants revenge because her family were killed during the war. It all seems just a little bit over the top and Mia is completely cold. Why? Because her family were killed by terrorists. Turns out no one is winning in this war because the disas were a threat and the military used methods that killed civilians, terrorists have risen up but they also kill civilians and basically everyone is suffering from some kind of regret or trauma.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 6 - Mia

It isn’t the most deft handling of the themes but it does get the point across. I do kind of wonder what is going to happen when Mia, Kurumi and Asuka end up together because it doesn’t seem like Mia is really looking for a team to join and she has good reason to suspect one of the magical five is involved in her case. I guess we’ll find out.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support 100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
ITEMYA BOOK OF MAGIC BAG
ITEMYA BOOK OF MAGIC BAG

Where Will Yuuki Find Her Smile Now?

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Review

There’s a price for everything and a consequence for all actions and The Price of Smiles seems determined to hammer that point home like a blunt instrument by continuing to emotionally throttle Princess Yuuki. The fact that it is obvious what the anime is doing isn’t actually a problem because it is doing it very well and because we occasionally perspective jump to Stella and her squad on the other side of the war, it doesn’t feel like we’re constantly getting beaten down as so far they’ve been pretty successful at their missions. It has been nicely executed even if heavy handed.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Episode 6 is pretty much all about Yuuki. She’s assisted the military in evacuating her people out of the capital by delivering a heart rending speech and she’s watching the final operation and keeping her eyes open without looking away. She feels the full weight and responsibility for her people being in this position even though there was literally nothing she could have done to change anything prior to this point. Twelve years old and she is watching the Kingdom her parents lead fall apart around her as the enemy comes for the power source that was supposed to bring everyone peace. It is all kinds of tragic and yet she continues to try to hold on.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6

The one bright spot in an episode that seems designed entirely to make you feel like this is completely hopeless, is when Yuuki orders a retreat of her forces and detonates all the mines left on the field. It is actually a pretty solid tactic and one that throws us back to episode one where we saw Yuuki directing Joshua with great success. For all that Yuuki has been kept in the dark about a lot of things, she’s a solid tactician when the occasion calls for it and her decision here possibly saved a lot of lives.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Soon after though she declares that she is going to surrender and this is where things get dicey again. While everyone around her claims to follow her and respect her, they’ve conspired to keep her in the dark about the threat to her kingdom and now they trick her and remove her from the city before the surrender. It makes you wonder whether she’ll ever be a Princess in anything more than name. Meanwhile, the guy who stays behind to surrender (and who will probably die) had his pregnant wife and kid introduced this episode just to twist that knife a bit further (and why didn’t one of the older military guys stay instead).

Why didn’t the suicidal guy stay and let the guy with the pregnant wife go with Yuuki?

The Price of Smiles is definitely a flawed show and one that is relying heavily on tearing at its audience emotionally through the age and inexperience of Yuuki as well as the subject matter in general, but despite that it manages to be an interesting watch and so far seems to be holding its own quite well. I’m still wondering if Yuuki and Stella will ever actually interact but otherwise I’m pretty happy just to watch and see where this one wants to take me.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support 100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
NENDOROID NO. 1082 BANANA FISH: EIJI OKUMURA
	NENDOROID NO. 1082 BANANA FISH: EIJI OKUMURA

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Series Review

Their Fight Isn’t To Save The World – Just Their Corner Of It

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary was one of those odd titles that comes out each season where I haven’t heard of it, haven’t seen any promotional materials, and just kind of go in blind. A fantasy-action, according to MAL at least, it seemed like it could be quite fun. And I was pleasantly surprised to find a fantasy that wasn’t isekai and instead had a faintly historical setting though the inclusion of mechas and ultimately flying armour kind of threw any basis in reality right out the window.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 6 Cheng

Now, I am going to end up recommending this title, mostly because very few people watched it while it was airing and I feel it really got overlooked in a strong season. However, that recommendation comes with a caution. The animation goes from average to terrible and remains that way through most of the run time. So if you are someone who expects modern anime to have high quality or at least reasonably consistent animation, I’d suggest not even trying this one because you are not going to enjoy it. For those that don’t mind the slightly shoddy visuals, there’s a pretty decent story to be found here.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

The setting works very well in Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary. The Taibai Empire is expanding and wants to conquer the world and does so by brutalising the inhabitants of small villages. It is more or less the expansion of China though don’t expect historical accuracy here. Yin and Ning are two sisters whose lives are destroyed when their village is attacked. Yin is waiting outside the village at the time and escapes mostly unscathed but Ning loses both arms (in what becomes an ongoing trend in this story – seriously, how many sets of arms does she go through?).

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 6 Yin and Ning

With this backdrop we follow Yin and Ning as they join up with the rebels fighting the empire. However, their scenes are interspersed with Zhao (Yin and Ning’s childhood friend) and Cheng, the Empress. We see both sides of this conflict and the personal dramas of these four young people all propelled into a war they didn’t start but are now just kind of destined to get caught up in. It borders on melodramatic at times, but each of the characters is interesting in their own way.

Yin and Ning, despite being close as sisters, are changed by the events in different ways. Yin just wants to keep her sister safe and out of the war but Ning is far more violent and wanting revenge for Zhao’s ‘death’ as well as the loss of her arms. It is probably telling that Ning’s fate isn’t exactly wonderful given her motivation rides from one hatred to the next. Yin on the other-hand suffers ongoing heartache as she tries and fails to keep the war away from her life.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

Zhao’s transition to serving the empire seems really odd at first but ultimately his character begins to make sense as he consistently chooses the path of least resistance. He’s someone who just wants to get a little ahead in the world and find a small piece of strength for himself. But it is his wavering between his various allegiances that ends up costing him.

Lastly, we have Cheng who is torn between being a very young girl who lost her father and being the Empress of a vastly expanded nation. I really liked that Cheng got treated as a human throughout all of this rather than just being the face of the enemy. Her relationship with Zhao is complicated and interesting to watch unfold even if you know early on there is no way it will end well.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

With a cast that all hold their own ground and a setting rich with potential, it is almost a shame that the animation wasn’t up to the challenge. We have sword fights, magic, burning villages, explosive death machines, and impossibly awkward mechas. The story choosing to focus in on the young cast members caught up in events makes things feel more personal and allows there to be some resolution within the thirteen episodes but a lot of the plot is implied or occurs off-screen with plenty more to happen after the end of the final episode, should there ever be a continuation.

As I said at the start, I do recommend this one for people looking for a fantasy or action story though it isn’t without its problems. Still, despite it not being that great, it was a little different and certainly interesting enough week to week.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
avatar
Three great ways you can support 100 Word Anime:

Patreon2

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
DIABOLIK LOVERS OFFICIAL VISUAL FAN BOOK
DIABOLIK LOVERS OFFICIAL VISUAL FAN BOOK

Knight’s & Magic Series Review: It Is Going To Take More Than Duct Tape To Fix This Mess

Overview:

A guy who is apparently a genius programmer (the synopsis told me so) is killed but then is reborn in a fantasy world where he can use his somehow remembered understanding of programming to use magic and build robots. Now he wants to build his dream robot.

Review – Some spoilers:

I was watching a video review of this anime the other day (sorry, cannot remember which blog I was on or I would link) and they said (heavily paraphrased) that they didn’t know why this was even an isekai story as the fact that the guy was originally a programmer in our world literally added nothing to the story. This was something that kind of bothered me while watching the show as well. Other than eating up precious minutes in the first episode where we meet our robot obsessed programmer and then watch him die, there is zero mention of him coming from another world ever again in the anime. He does weird things occasionally and certainly a lot of his ideas are derivative of things he could have seen in his former life but he could just as easily have been a genius ahead of his time. There was no reason to add the extra complication of reincarnation. It added nothing to the story and it wasted set up time on a set up that wasn’t needed.

Knights1b

And basically that explains a lot about what is wrong with Knight’s & Magic. It has a lot of things in it that aren’t necessary and what it doesn’t have is any clear or focused narrative. The premise is super cool. I love that they decided to mix mecha and fantasy. The mix of robots and magic is perfect because for once I’m not rolling my eyes at giant robots being able to move and jump or do anything that they are doing because they are powered and moved by magic so they can do whatever they like. The initial setting in the fantasy world where people are attacked by beasts and the robots are needed to fight them gives a fairly wide range of possible story lines and works well enough even if it is pretty standard, and the weird main character who doesn’t understand the concept of impossible could have been really fun.

This show should have been amazing.

The final battle takes place between a flying robot and a mechanical dragon. How do you manage to make that lame? Well, let Knight’s & Magic teach you.

Knights12b

I guess we all should have been tipped off by the unnecessary apostrophe in the title. That bugged me all season but now that I reflect on the show it kind of matches it perfectly. It has an idea but wants to make it look even cooler than it is so it goes just that one step too far. Genius kid develops robots for his kingdom? We can do better than that. That kid is a reborn programmer from Earth who loved model robots. It adds nothing but it sounds cool.

While I’m being petty I’ll also take aim at the opening song. There’s actually nothing wrong with the opening as it visually works and the song, while fairly generic, is entertaining enough, but for some reason each week (and I’m not sure if they did this from the start or it if came along later on) they felt the need to break the song up with dialogue from the upcoming episode. Kind of jarring and a little spoilery. Right up there with those previews they used to give us for Sailor Moon back in the 90’s and then Serena would tell us to stay right there because they’d show us what happened. Only, we just kind of saw it in the preview so doesn’t that take a lot of the fun out of it?

Knights9b

If I look at this more objectively, my biggest issue with Knight’s & Magic is the story. Or maybe it is the lack of story. A story implies that things are building toward a climax where as this is a series where stuff happens, the characters react, they overcome the challenge (which mostly doesn’t end up even seeming like a challenge) and then in the aftermath of the previous event, something else happens. So there’s a few issues.

Knights7d

The first is the reactionary nature of the characters. Ernesti wants to build his own mecha. Great. That’s a character goal and something to work towards. And he does work toward that goal but he does a lot of stuff that seems superfluous to that goal along the way and seems to take great delight in the destruction of enemies even if they never stood a chance. The other characters however, don’t seem to have any goal. Kid and Ady are hanging with Ernesti. Because they made friends with him when he was young? Because they have zero ambitions or goals of their own? What do these two want? It is never made clear, they just kind of hang around as Ernesti’s entourage for the entire series. Other characters also seem to just get dragged along in Ernesti’s wake and even the villains for the most part have very little in the way of actual motive or vested interest in anything that is actually going on. So no one is driving this plot. Except maybe the narrator who is literally dragging the audience through months and years of development in a matter of a few minutes of perfunctory narration.

Knights5a

The second is the lack of a clear antagonist. Ultimately the series chooses the war with some country whose name I don’t remember (it started with a Z as mandated by all derivative fantasy writers – close second if it started with an X) and we get a bit of a face off between Ernesti and another designer who is also a genius. This had me wondering whether other genius was also reborn in this world and that’s the only way someone shows any signs of intelligent thought (because the side characters sure didn’t) or whether he was this world’s version of a real genius and Ernesti just stomped out the evolution of an entirely different kind of technology for his own amusement. Yet other than one early encounter where technology is stolen from Ernesti by a character who returns later only to be cut down in seconds, there’s no sign of this Kingdom or any kind of political tension until very late in the series. Instead we see Ernesti handle the beasts (which are what we are introduced to in the first episode as the problem), then they disappear as we see Ernesti challenge another development lab, and then we see new robots fighting beasts, then Ernesti meets some not-elves and learns all the secrets of how to build a robot. All that happens before we get any hint of a war looming ahead. I know we need some background but could the show try foreshadowing.

Knights12c

The third issue is how anti-climactic the climax is. Ernesti never loses. In the penultimate battle he is fought to a draw but even then it isn’t like his robot blows up or anything. There isn’t a single moment of actual tension in this series because you know Ernesti will win. Usually very easily. So even though the final battle works hard to make you think there might be some tension, by this point the audience knows how the story goes and you can almost narrate the story for them. It is an aerial battle with a mechanical dragon and I was bored. There’s something very wrong when a show can’t manage to make you worried that maybe the mechanical dragon might actually be an effective weapon against the protagonist.

Knights2c

I’m not actually opposed to happy endings and the main characters having a triumphant return. But I’d like to feel they worked for it and earned it and to be honest this didn’t do it. Likely this is because not one of the main characters is even crippled let alone killed. Only one of them is even in any kind of danger during the entire final battle and other than some strategic blood on his face from unseen wounds, there’s no actual sign of injury. And after the battle, he’s fine. No recovery period. Okay, the robot broke, as did a few others, but not one main character left with any kind of lasting scar from a full on war that they fought on the front lines of? This feeds well into the idea that this is self-insert wish-fulfillment but it does not make for an interesting story.

Knights4c

Basically, I really wanted to like this show. I kept hoping that the next week would do something with the really interesting premise that caught me in episode 1. Unfortunately this show had no interest in developing characters or plot and ultimately was nothing but a disappointment. A good-looking disappointment with some cool mecha designs, but still a disappointment.

I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar