18if Episode 6: Recapturing the Dream

Review:

For all that this show has been set mainly in the dream world, other than zany colour schemes and character designs, little has given the impression that this is a dream and not just some off-beat fantasy. Episode 6 corrects that with an ending sequence that throws you straight into a dream like feeling and recaptures that sense of infinite possibilities that exist when you are on the edge of waking up from a dream.

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The story this week follows a girl who is bullied and so attempts suicide. We assume she then falls unconscious with Sleeping Beauty Syndrome but as we never see her real world body again she could have actually died and we wouldn’t know. Anyway, she is determined to curse those who allowed her to be bullied and much like the witch from episode 2, her curses are starting to have a real world influence.

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Initially Haruto is disinclined to involve himself assuming that the bullies are more or less getting what they deserve but for reasons never explained he goes along with cat guy to convince the girl. All of this is much the same as every other episode and then they convince her and the world gets all shiny and happy save for the attack from space.

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Yep. We go there. The aliens are attacking. Then we get a dialogue straight out of a dream as Haruto tells her it is fine because they’ll just fend it off in their giant robot. The matter of fact way he says it, the acceptance of the statement, the sudden transition into a cheesy mecha anime, it all just screams dream sequence and it is a lot of fun.

While this episode gets us no closer to any answers about anything, it showcases just what they can do with these episodes to make them enjoyable and interesting on their own. Episode 6 is definitely my favourite so far in this series.


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Grimoire of Zero Series Review: Witches, Mercenaries & War, What More Could You Want?

Overview:

Zero is a witch who wrote a grimoire (magic book) only it has been stolen and now she’s travelling to get it back. She runs into a Beast Mercenary (no name given) and recruits him to guard her until she retrieves the book. As payment, she offers to turn the Mercenary back into a human which would allow him to finally live his dream of living a quiet life and so after some bickering he agrees to the deal, but things aren’t as simple as they seem.

I reviewed Grimoire of Zero week to week so if you are interested in my episode reviews, click here.

Review:

I’ve always kind of felt that the worst thing a series can do is be boring and Grimoire of Zero walks perilously close to boring for a lot of its run time. Even when watching something terrible like Hand Shakers, at least I can sit and make fun of it. With Grimoire of Zero, there really isn’t anything wrong. All the key elements of a good show are sitting right there on the screen. Yet at no point did this show actually ask me to get invested or to care in the slightest about the fate of any of the characters or the events in the story. Admittedly, this was a problem I had with a few shows this spring (Granblue Fantasy being another), where it seems like the story should be really interesting and right in line with my usual preferences, and yet I’ve been unable to actually care about what is going on.

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Despite my general lack of engagement, there are some good points to Grimoire of Zero that deserve to be mentioned. Other than a few scenes in the second half, it is a really pretty anime. The characters, the world, the magic are all just well done and great to look at. Admittedly, there are a few moments in the second half where group shots of the cast have a few of them looking a little rough around the edges and a few moments where you have to wonder which direction they were actually looking or who they were talking to. It isn’t a deal breaker by any means but there’s definitely a downward turn in the overall appearance as the show goes on so it is probably good that it started out so strongly in that department.

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Zero as a character is quite okay. A lot of people really like her, the young confident witch stepping out into the world for the first time with a little bit of sass. I found her more than a little cliché at times and at other times just found her lack of communication skills with regards to Mercenary far too convenient for the plot given just speaking could have solved a lot of issues, but mostly she’s an enjoyable character.

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Mercenary too is quite okay. He has some genuinely good moments, he looks pretty cool in a fight, he’s a little thick but not painfully stupid, and his personality plays well against Zero as the two of them have a competition to see who can be the most ridiculously stubborn while genuinely forming an attachment for one another.

While neither of these characters are sweeping me off my feet, they both serve their purposes well enough and given a stronger storyline probably could have been quite fascinating.

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And that’s where we hit the real snag of the show. It has a cool concept with the missing grimoire and the new system of magic that Zero had created, and even the world itself with the Beastfallen and the witch burnings was inherently interesting, but the story itself just kind of meanders around from one thing to another. There’s no intensity or drive, and while all the issues are more or less connected, it seems more that one plot idea gets thrown under the bus for another one to take the focus for a bit, and you aren’t really given any reason to invest in any particular issue.

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If we add to the unfocused and undriven nature of the narrative the absence of any antagonist to care about it really starts to hurt the enjoyment of the show. For awhile it seemed like they were actually trying to build Thirteen up to take the role of that antagonist. The show really needed something for the group to overcome and he seemed like a great stumbling block. He was powerful, seemed to have a plan that was contrary to what the others wanted, he could direct others so could match numbers with our protagonists, and it all could have worked really well. Then in the second last episode he just decides that if Zero doesn’t actually want the mass disaster he’s been planning he’s done with it.

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Now at that point there is another group rising up, but it is a group that we as the audience don’t much care about. They’ve been mentioned a few times and we’ve even met a few of them, but their motives are incredibly weak and their plan is rubbish. You don’t think for a minute they might succeed so you don’t actually care. Yet the main characters go through the motions of countering them like they are an actual threat. You can see they’d like you to care about what is going on in this sequence but it is all just kind of there. And then they solve that problem, make a few announcements and somehow everything worked out. Hooray.

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Even the fantasy fan in me couldn’t get into this one. While there are some elements to the magic I would have liked to learn more about, the show really isn’t interested in getting too explanatory about that, so while there are some parts of the world that aren’t generic, the overall feel of the world is pretty ordinary. The fight sequences are done well enough, although as another blogger pointed out possibly a magic battle between two high level magic users should involve more than just coloured lights and intense glares. There are some good character moments and scenes and just enough points of interest to keep this rolling a long but ultimately the entire show is pretty forgettable unless you really like those two main characters.

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Before I end this review there is one more point I have to make and I know it isn’t really pertinent to the review but I have to say it. ‘Arrow to the Knee’ jokes should not be appearing in anime in 2017. I’m a big Skyrim fan and I loved these jokes and memes when Skyrim first came out, but that time passed and the joke is not that great that it needs to be revisited. What makes this worse is that the Arrow to the Knee joke is probably the most memorable thing Grimoire of Zero offered me.

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As for a recommendation, basically if you like fantasy you won’t dislike this. You may not get super into it either, but there’s nothing overly broken about it and it does look very good, particularly early in the series. It’s worth checking out and if you connect with those two main characters you may even have a lot of fun with it. Otherwise, it is a show that happened and now I’m moving on.


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18if Episodes 4 + 5: No More Curry, Ever

Review Episode 4:

As you may have picked up while I was watching March Comes in Like a Lion, I’m not a big fan of simple, catchy children’s songs mid-episode (let the shogi cat song disappear from my memory) and this episode of 18if hammers us with a song about curry. Over and over and over again. It was almost enough to make me stop watching the episode except that there is a definite question I have about Haruto that I want an answer to and I don’t want to miss it should they give it to us one random episode so skipping or passing on parts of episodes is definitely out.

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This episode follows same basic formula of previous episodes in that there’s a witch and Haruto ultimately helps her get over her drama so she stops being a witch. Only in this case she wasn’t in a coma. She was just a normal girl who got dumped by her boyfriend. She kept waking up and going to her job. And then at night…

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Well, everyone has some weird hobbies I guess and at least she’s asleep. But what about Haruto? Does he ever wake up in the real world? And why is he so special in dream land? Also, what’s Lily’s deal? I’m really wanting to know what his deal is and the show is persistent in not going there.

Review Episode 5:

Another episode, another witch. This one apparently escaping the burden of being a famous ice skater and somehow losing her love of skating because of all the other things that come with being famous. Too bad her dream leads her right back to the idea that she belongs on the ice.

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Haruto is once again caught up in the witch’s dream, though it is interesting that some witches just seem to be playing out their fantasy while others seem to be actively controlling their dream and effecting people outside of their dream.

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Still, it was Lily’s involvement in this episode that really starts you asking questions about where this is going. Lily keeps showing up and she calls Haruto brother but what is she actually up to? Why exactly did she infiltrate this witch’s dream and help send her back to reality (and why did no one mention to Haruto what reality was waiting for the witch)?

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So many ongoing questions and yet I can’t deny I’m finding each story interesting in their own right even if I don’t really get where this is going.


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18if Episodes 2 + 3: Good Witch, Bad Witch, Whichever…

Review Episode 2:

This episode is kind of an interesting follow up to episode 1. In episode 1, you didn’t know who the people were the witch was playing with or whether there were any real world consequences. Essentially she was just playing house in dream land and there wasn’t really any need on the part of the audience to get invested. This episode makes it clear that at least this witch is having a very real impact on the real world.

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Note, avoid if you are squeamish about death, dismemberment or blood. As none of these put me off in the slightest, I found the story interesting as I found the show’s very heavy handed attempt at establishing moral ambiguity for the central character. It works, but we don’t know enough about him (and is he actually permanently in the dream world or not) to really care about his colourful moral choices and the way he chooses to resolve the crisis.

I liked this. It isn’t great viewing but it kind of fits for popcorn viewing. Hopefully episode 3 can be equally interesting.

Review Episode 3:

This changes things up a bit (most notably the colour scheme) as we enter the dream of a girl who becomes a witch (which seems like it should be a big deal but apparently isn’t in this case) and then Haruto gets his heart broken (though how serious he was in the first place is still undetermined).

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First episode played with split screens and eye jarring colour schemes, the second episode dove us straight into a red and black toned world of gore, and the third takes us to a washed out world of a sick girl before transitioning to a more vibrant colour scheme. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

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It would be lovely to know though why only girls become witches in the dream world, why Haruto is wandering around in dream land, who Lily actually is, and whether there was some overall plot here or if we really are just drifting from dream to dream so Haruto can save all the lonely girls from their nightmares.


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18if Episode 1: Well, I’m Confused

Overview:

After going to sleep like normal, Haruto Tsukishiro wakes up to discover something unbelievable—he’s stuck in dream world! Here, witches plague the dreamscape and are more than dreamy figments—they’re the trapped souls of young women who’ve rejected reality and are afflicted by the “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome.” As he searches for a way out, Haruto will face the witches and their terrifying powers.

– From Crunchyroll

Review:

First episodes don’t need to show the whole hand but sometimes it would be nice if they made it clear what you were going to get. This episode deliberately leaves the viewer lost through a lot of it (unless this show really plans to just have Haruto wake up, find the latest witch and save her each week). Visually it is interesting but it does this weird split screen thing way too often and at times it seems to be actively throwing too much movement and too many colours at the viewer, again to add to the overall disconcerting feeling of the show.

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I’ll admit, I am intrigued with what this show might do in later episodes and if nothing else it kind of has an Alice in Wonderland feel which is kind of nostalgic, but other than a very cool theme song, this first episode isn’t great at making you think that this show is going for anything other than random quirkiness with a paper thin plot.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 10

Review:

Oh, they finally reunited and just to be sure we don’t forget that Zero is supposed to be a sassy young witch almost her very first words to the Mercenary make us wonder why he bothered spending all that time climbing a cliff.

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Firstly, this is clearly a lie given she does need someone to save her or she wouldn’t still be sitting around in a tower. Secondly, Zero does not pull this off very well. Some characters do an excellent job of giving the guy the cold shoulder but in Zero’s case it just kind of comes off as a half-hearted attempt  to make her not seem like a damsel stuck in a tower because that wouldn’t be cool at all.

Obviously, my biggest issue is I just don’t much care about either of these characters so their touching reunion didn’t do much for me.

Still, I did get one moment of genuine happiness while watching this episode.

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There’s something about convoluted insults that just appeals and this one was well deserved given Thirteen is insane and his plan is ridiculous. Pretentious is actually the perfect term for his entire being. I just had to appreciate this moment.

Oh yeah, and Holdem and Albus are in trouble but then some old witch just lets Holdem go. For some reason the Sorcerers of Zero haven’t killed Ablus yet and are taking her with them (no explanation as to why).

This is coming to a close and I’m kind of happy about that. It isn’t unwatchable but I’m not really into it either.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 9

Review:

Grimoire of Zero continues to be an oddity this season. I don’t particularly like it but it isn’t actually bad either so never comes close to being dropped. There was actually a small segment in this episode that made me really sit up and take notice. They were running from the assassins and magic was actually being used in combat and then they devised a plan to bring down magic in the whole kingdom which kind of does end the conflict even if the whole point of magic was to make things easier and you are essentially saying if you don’t use it my way you can’t have it.

But that was only one part of the episode.

The rest of the time we were either having to listen to inane banter between Zero and Thirteen which might serve some purpose if we actually cared about either character (so Zero fans might get something out of it) or we had to put up with the idiotic remains of the Witches of Zero coming up with an idiotic plan that is doomed to failure before it even begins.

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Seriously people, try thinking things through for once.

The end result is that last week the Mercenary and his new sidekick wolf-boy rescued Albus/Sorena’s grandchild and this week after running around a lot, Albus is pretty much a prisoner again, Zero is still locked in her tower, and the only difference is instead of running away, the Mercenary is now running toward her.

Meanwhile, the Grimoire that they were meant to be looking for is still no closer as far as the audience knows given the Wolf said Sorena’s granddaughter had it but that clearly isn’t so.

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Moving on to next week then.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 8

Review:

I don’t know about you, but I found the mercenary’s newfound friendship with the wolf guy very hard to take seriously. I mean, from the opening it was kind of expected, but the wolf’s introduction was pretty dreadful and I can’t imagine why they think we’re going to start liking him now because you give him a shallow backstory  and some half-hearted motivation.

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Anyway, Thirteen is clearly going to be our main antagonist and he’s being all creepy big bad evil. He’s imprisoned Zero, after threatening Albus he’s then attempted to burn him at the stake, he drove off the mercenary but now doesn’t really need to seem to know what he wants to do with the mercenary given hurting him hurts Zero. What we don’t have is any reason to care about Thirteen or any understanding of what he actually thinks all of this dribble is actually going to achieve. Is there a master plan here or are we going to find out his puppy got squished by a witch when he was a boy and then he grew up vowing to get revenge by becoming a witch (sorry, sorcerer) and then manipulating all the humans into burning witches?

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Despite my issues with a lack of caring about what little character motivation there is and the basically contrived nature of the plot so far, this isn’t a bad show to watch. Just don’t think too hard about it or the pretty and shiny comes off.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 5

Review:

So everyone was dead in the village, kind of as expected. Except, you know, that one guy who wasn’t. He stayed alive just long enough to tell them some fairly vague information that wasn’t really helpful. On the bright side I finally remembered the blond kid’s name so that’s a help.

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Turns out the Grimoire is not where they expected it to be, so that is probably going to extend this magic scavenger hunt a little further and it also looks like multiple groups are after it. How long has this book been missing for anyway and why does everyone seem to know about it?

My positive from this episode was we finally got another magic fight.

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For a show about travelling with a sorcerer, other than episode 1 the magic has been fairly unspectacular so this was a nice treat.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 4

Review:

A lot of this episode is just the pleasant lull or the calm before the storm. We make jokes about the mercenary bathing and then have a pleasant montage of the three travelling, with occasional interruptions for actual dialogue, and it is all very sweet. I just kept waiting for something to break through this.

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As they got closer to their destination and the boy started talking about his dreams for the future and the town I suddenly got a very bad feeling about where this was going. Sure enough, tragedy revealed right at the end of the episode. From that point of view, this episode works quite well in building up to this moment and giving it perhaps the most impact of any event so far in this otherwise fairly emotionally flat series. That said, not much actually happens in this episode because it is all build up for the final few moments.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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