2016
07.18

91 Days

KONO NERO DA!

Ah, the Prohibition Era. A wonderful time for many, but only if you’re a creator of course. Where others see blood, some see art. Endless classics have been influenced by this period, from The Untouchables to Baccano. So much violence, betrayal, and chaos all because of some booze. The stories and madness that take place during Prohibition are enough to rival Jacobean drama in their bloodshed and intricacy. Just thinking about it puts that moonshine aroma in your nostrils, almost making you long for those days as if Al Capone were less scary than modern white-collar crime. Yes, all that romance is a paper-thin illusion for an absolutely miserable time in American history, but just one look at some confiscated moonshine can’t help but make one a little teary-eyed.

And that’s how 91 Days knows how to perfectly frame this span of history. After Gangster aired to little applause, I was afraid anime studios wouldn’t know how to make a good mob story. A bit narrow-minded of me to be sure, but that’s always been a topic of interest I thought anime could do well like the space westerns of the mid-90s. I didn’t want to wait until Vento Aureo to get a good mafia anime, but 91 Days’ premiere has managed to quell that worry (along with having another lead named Bruno). It goes down smoothly, with a plot simple yet direct in its execution. While the “Kid who watches his family get killed grows up to get revenge on the killers” story is far from original, I like its execution here. Feels less like a ripoff and more of an allusion, a wink to those well-versed in the genre.

As you can tell, I’m biased because it’s exciting to see the studio behind the Durarara sequels do something interesting. Studio Shuka’s like the Trigger to Brain’s Base. After years of seeing its parent company produce forgettable garbage, you could just kill to see those tired animators quit and do something better in their lives. And I hope 91 Days does just that, preferably unlike how Durarara x2 had multiple animation cuts. I know that’s a shot in the dark, and the chance this will get the sales to warrant decent animation is a gamble, but maybe they can do it. – Bloody Marquis

Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School

We Fear Bears

I don’t know what is happening. I mean, I suppose that’s natural considering that I’m jumping on the second season of an adaptation of a text-heavy visual novel series for the Playstation Vita. But said adaptation also skips the second game of that franchise and has a story completely unrelated to the upcoming third installment. And said season is technically two different shows; a “Future Arc” taking place after the second game and a “Despair Arc” taking place prior to the events of the first game. Once again, the confusion about what the hell Danganronpa even is is natural when entering during the final act of the grand spectacle that this whole thing appears to be. As such, please forgive me for not knowing what the bloody hell is happening in the Future Arc and for being unsure about how to react to the events in the Despair Arc. I mean…giant black-and-white teddy bear stomping through the burning remains of Tokyo on one hand, eccentric high-school hijinks on the other. I’ve got squat.

At its core, I gather that Danganronpa is about high school being the worst place ever and how said worst place ever will ultimately be where you peak, if everyone having “Super High School-Level” in their titles and talking about “despair” all the time is anything to go by. Honestly, so what if some weird bear creature has you and your friends in some weird murder game while the world is going to shit? That’s no reason not to get a good college education. Major in something other than eating doughnuts. Become an actuary. Raise a family and live vicariously through your kids. Or stay single and waste your extra funds on Bandai Wonderswan video games and obscure 20th century novels. Life is full of options. Ya’ll too young to be despairing. But in all seriousness, find a different review of this show. All I really got out of watching an episode of each arc is that half the cast lives on a secret island now and that when you’re playing your electric guitar over a spit, you gotta be like your new waifu and yell about hormones. Mmm. Estrogen. – RacattackForce

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

If only this anime was as artistically capable as Saiki is.

Saiki is one of the more underrated and least read currently-running Jump series over here. It’s not legally available, and there are only scans for the first forty or so chapters out of it’s nearly 200 chapter run. I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve read of Saiki; I relate to his desire to simply be left alone and kept out of other people’s bullshit, and the colorful cast of kooky characters surrounding him make great foils for his reserved personality. I’d always hoped for a Saiki anime to get made, and potentially raise the pedigree and popularity of the series, in hopes of more material being made available in the west. Have I gotten my wish?

Sort of. I mean, what I like about the Saiki manga – it’s exasperated protagonist, ridiculous premise, and self-obsessed characters – are still here. The presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Now, the manga’s artwork isn’t anything to write home about; it’s pretty unpolished and sketchy looking. Saiki is carried by it’s comedy more than it’s art. Still, it would have been nice if J.C. Staff tried making it look a little more polished. Instead, the colors are flat, there’s no shading, the character designs and stiff and the animation is limited. It’s a bare-bones, low-effort production. A Saiki anime didn’t need a whole bunch of bells and whistles, but this is barely better than a motion-comic.

The anime’s saving grace is the performances, which are excellent. Hiroshi Kamiya perfectly captures Saiki’s dispassionate ennui and perpetual irritation, while Daisuke Ono can do no wrong as the innocent and lovable idiot Nendo. Probably my favorite and most surprising performances are those of Saiki’s parents. Mitsuo Iwata sounds so hilariously pathetic as Saiki’s skeevy loser father Kuniharu, and Rikako Aikawa shows great comedic range with his bi-polar mother Kurumi. Even though the visuals are lacking, at least the performances justify Saiki’s foray into animation by genuinely elevating its humor through good timing and voicework.

Saiki isn’t among the better-made anime comedies in recent memory, but it got some laughs out me nonetheless. Like the new Berserk, I’ve been waiting so long for an anime of this that I’ll just take what I can get at this point. It’s better in small doses though, so I’d recommend watching it as shorts rather than the compilation episodes. – LumRanmaYasha

Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet

You will watch Planet Arian every Thursday and you will like it.

Why, Key? Not one show this season, but two?

Anyway, Planetarian is for people who thought Chobits was too subtle. Instead of just being a girl who acts strangely robotic, we have an actual robot for the main character to snark at. Rather than a strangely secluded background, we’re literally in the middle of a machine apocalypse. I have to admit I like that Key’s going straight to the point here. No metaphors or shallow contemplations on high school life. We just have a guy in his mid-twenties living his remaining days in a hellish landscape, and it would be fun if not for the fact this is Key and we’re going to get an entire series about robots with feelings. Even the acolytes of Maeda have to write exactly like him, I suppose.

And that’s the problem since if you already watched one Key show, you’re not going to be surprised or moved by the plot unless you enjoy repeating life. Like that show ReLIFE. If you do like Kanon, Air, Clannad, Angel Beats, Little Busters, Charlotte, Rewrite, that other Kanon show with the chins, and that one Clannad movie you watched so you could tell your otaku friends that you watched an Osamu Dezaki joint, I guess you won’t be disappointed. Key shows are like cupcakes you see at the window, except you eat them three times a day and replace any other food with cupcakes as your main sustenance, forcing your digestive system to adapt to a purely cupcake diet until your body succumbs to critical failure from lacking nutritional variety. What I’m getting that is that watching or playing Key Visual Arts is like eating some bad cupcakes. And bad cupcakes don’t make for good anime. – Bloody Marquis

Qualidea Code

*burp* Yeah, so how about that Turkey coup?

Oh would you look at the time! Another season of anime has started, and that can only mean more Light Novel adaptations! What’s the next piece of brain draining young-adult lit (er, sorry for that redundancy) to be adapted? This time the dart lands on a multi-media project called Qualidea Code.

Qualidea Code follows a typical LN set up, world invaded by mysterious creatures, young people being the hope of the world, a series of magic military schools, complete with an extraneous “points” system that serves no other purpose than produce forced conflict between the characters, and most importantly, a chuuni-“totally not magic” system. Where Qualidea differs from most LN’s, is its use of an ensemble cast, and a relatively even gender-ratio. So far the characters bounce off one another decently, and the cast itself is mostly likable. Unfortunately, this does not include the main POV character, whose name I can not recall so I’ll just refer to him as: Douchey McShit. Douchey spends most of his screen time bitching and complaining about how everything and everyone is beneath him and how he’s the only fighter worth a damn, fortunately he’s called out multiple times for his attitude, and the first episode quickly proves that he won’t be a gary-stu protagonist like so many LN leads. It’s interesting that Doucehy seems to be a send-up of all those Kirito/Tatsuya-style protagonists, and his character development may be him growing out of that, but that fact that the story chose to make him the POV character can turn away some people regardless of future development.

The animation of Qualidea, like the show itself, is decent. I like that A-1 wants to go for some rule of cool action for this show, and it is a decent effort for the most part, but isn’t quite up to snuff with a ufotable or Production IG show. Music, on the other hand, is fantastic, but I expect nothing less from Taku Iwasaki.

At the end of the day, if you want something decently enjoyable and inoffensive LN-shit, then you can certainly do worst than Qualidea Code. While it does follow some typical LN trappings, it sheds some others to make for something watchable.

What the hell is a Qualidea anyway? – Crimson Rynnec

Taboo Tattoo

Nyanners' new video looks great.

Sadly, this is not a romance between members of two rival inner city gangs. Nor the anime adaption of Bum Fights. Or an anime about the children of tattoo artists have a secret incestuous affair. No, this is the a tale of hobos handing out superpowers in back alleys and secret military officers licking up milk like a cat. Goddamn hobos.

Taboo Tattoo is the anime equivalent of a predictable action flick. It hits all the same notes in all the same ways. We follow our hero, Justice (yes, that’s really his name) just wants to fight punks at night, but unfortunately he gets swept into a government conspiracy thanks to his new wicked tat. Yes, as usual the world can’t seem to keep it’s hands of America’s s lascivious weapon experiments. Apparently United States military’s top research facility decided tattoos were the best way to develop super soldiers. Must have been the Myrtle Beach branch. Anyway, MC-kun gets phone jacked by an agent with a chalk fetish who looks, acts, and drinks like an anime high schooler/cat. Yeah, when I drink something really hot, I lick it up with my sexy little tongue. Gotta be kawaii for the fellas, know what’m sayin? At least she’s friends with Joseph Joestar.

The fights are somewhat decent here, but the plot and characters are so well worn they’ve got tire marks on their backs. If you want to see people punch each other in mildly interesting ways, then this is the anime for you. crazy cat lady/10 – ShadowGentlemen

Sergei Twokyvanenko

Optometrists give you special visors for those eyes, buddy.

I don’t want to call Taboo Tattoo a disappointment. That would imply that I even expected something good from this show. The title may bring to mind an urban fantasy with an alternative punk culture aesthetic — Great Britain during the 70s or America’s Pacific Northwest during the 90s, take your pick — but I’d lying if I said I expected anything close to that from this show. That would actually be creative and new, and to ask the Japanese animation industry to give me that on even a semi-regular basis is asking far too much of it. No, Taboo Tattoo isn’t a disappointment. Far more boring and worse anime have come out this season for me to really say that. Rather, Taboo Tattoo is simple mediocrity at its finest. A painfully average show that does nothing interesting with its premise, has nothing notable about any of its characters, and nothing that can even make it stand out visually from the crowd of 100+ anime projects and counting that have been released this year. Oh, you want a plot? Average dude who was trained in martial arts by his grandfather and fights for justice gains powers that he wasn’t meant to have but nonetheless implied to quickly become the strongest of all that have these powers. Also he has a childhood friend who wants to bang him and he takes orders from a woman who looks much younger than she actually is. Yeah. Frankly, I refuse to watch the second episode to find out where this goes, because by the time credits rolled on this, I’ve lost all interest. Wikipedia says the second episode has a bloody coup occur in the fictional Asian country that the United States is about to go to war with, but meh. I don’t care, JC Staff. I’m only writing this because if I don’t, Marquis will send some googly-eyed GGI sexual assault horse at me. What’s next on my list? Danganronpa? Okay, let’s go. – RacattackForce

2016
07.08

Berserk (2016)

COUNT YOUR PIGEONS NOW, NOTHING CAN GO WRONG~

So I was digging ’round the web looking for something to pass the time, when I found an old Playstation 1 game called Berserk: The Phantom Pain Revengeance Part 2: Return Of The Patriotic Revenge-Eater: A Hideo Kojima Game. As a sequel to a cult classic, it’s only natural this series would fall into obscurity. Which in retrospect is mostly deserved. Putting aside the fact that the animation hasn’t aged well at all, this game is a slow, confusing mess. Actual gameplay is practically nonexistent. A large amount of gameplay is spent on this quicktime event where you have to stab a rabbit. And I’m telling you, that took half a week to complete. I get nightmares about that rabbit permanently etched into my mind. Yet I have to play this part in order for this story to set sail. While I don’t have a problem with narrative-focused games per say, the story in here is crap. I realize I’m missing out on a lot of plot from the last game, but I can’t bring myself to care. Guts is the generic “brooding guy with big sword”, clearly taking a bit too much inspiration from the popular and ground-breaking character Dark Souls, while Puck is an annoying copy-and-paste of said popular character’s dashing sidekick Bloodborne. The only character that really stands out is the final boss Andy Griffith. Everything from his motivation to his design (hint: he can get hopping mad). It’s a pivotal moment for all Japanese games when he rapes Costco into insanity, something even casual Berserk The Phantom Pain fans will never forget. Too bad other planned levels like the one where Guts fights Rosie O’Donnell and her army of midgets is cut out. I was looking forward to that. Overall, the creators could really take some pointers from other, more popular and well written series (like Idolmaster). Hopefully you’ll find more enjoyment out of this then I did. Maybe next time, I’ll play the sequel where Guts finally fights Andy Griffith, the Vervoid, Slaine Troyard, Ubbik-Dubbik, and Joseph Conrad. Hope to see you there for that eventual Let’s Play. It’ll be quicker than a boat ride.
Zero Norman Reeduses and his normal fetuses/10 – ShadowGentleman

Food Wars! The Second Plate

Shokugeki no Isobe

Food Wars! is back and looks better than ever! Seriously, the aesthetic polish of the show’s color and visual design is impeccable, leaps and bounds over the first season’s flatter, less lighted presentation. Naturally, that makes the food look even more mouthwatering and delicious. I do not suggest watching this show before mealtime because it’ll leave you drooling all over the floor. The first season improved in it’s presentation as it went along, but I was not expecting J.C. Staff to up their game this much here. Not that the show is particularly well-animated; outside of a few choice scenes, like Alice’s foodgasm, the actual animation is pretty limited and stills are used aplenty. Yet, each frame and visual of the show looks so good, and flashes by with such momentum and enthusiasm, that it’s hard not to get swept up in the fervor and enjoy the show regardless.

That sense of momentum is the other big difference the second season seems to have improved on so far. The first season was more methodically paced, and while that worked out decently enough early on, it really started to drag by the end of the season when the Fall Classic preliminaries began. This season spices things up a bit, jumping right into the meat of the Fall Classic quarter-finals and covering the entirety of Soma and Alice’s shokugeki. While it’s regrettable that some character-building moments and chapters from the manga in the build-up to the match were lost, the trade-off is a thoroughly exciting and fun return for the show that pulls out everything fans love about the series – the fantastic food, the ridiculous reactions, the charming characters, and of course, the unforgettable fanservice, – in one succinct half-hour package. You couldn’t have asked for a better season premiere, especially one that keeps the hype rolling from one episode to another, making for an addicting good time. This season is tailor-made for a binge-watch, that’s for sure.

Based on the previews, it seems like they plan to cover the remainder of the Fall Classic as well as the Stagiare Week arc in just one cour, so the accelerated pace is to be expected. While some might find the pace too fast, I think shonen battle and sports anime benefit from this kind of pacing more often than not. What takes seconds to read on the page could take a minute to convey on screen, so it makes sense to streamline some things in the transition from page to screen, especially when it comes to shonen series whose most appealing trait tends to be their hot-blooded competitive momentum. If this episode is any indication, the season will be delving into one match per episode pacing for the rest of the Fall Classic, which should work out well in keeping things fresh and exciting, especially since these are among the best shokugekis in the entire series. The show doesn’t waste any time catching you up, so newbies should get up to speed by watching the first season or reading the manga before coming into this one. But if you loved the first season of Food Wars! and couldn’t wait for more, rest assured that the second season is a thoroughly satisfying full-course of fun. Bon appetit! – LumRanmaYasha

Masou Gakuen HxH

¿Por qué, Aine-san?

Wow, I can’t believe Hunter X Hunter came back this season. It’s weird too, since they only have a handful of Dark Continent chapters to adapt. Maybe Togashi is helping this season with some of the plot elements. That would be cool. Anyway, let’s begin. Oh, why is Gon molesting Kurapika? That seems odd, even for him. Perhaps Ging has been teaching new tricks. I know some fans have been clamoring to see Kurapika in the nude, but this is ridiculous. Oh, it appears that he is sexually harassing Kurapika for the purpose of stopping these giant Chimera Ants, while forcing him to wear skimpy underwear? And now there appear to be censorship bars, except they are censoring the booby-grabbing shot with a still image of… a booby-grabbing shot. I’m not sure what kind of Nen ability this is, but I am worried. Is this another scheme of Pariston Hill? I do not seem to know.

But onto the actual show, it’s Hundred. Except it’s a Hundred and one. It’s a Hundred and One Titillations. Even for shows of this standard, it’s lewd. It’s baffling. If they want to make porn so much, why don’t they actually make porn? Like there have been some accidental transactions in anime leading to scripts for Big Order, Testament of Sister New Devil, and now this being sent to actual anime studios instead of hentai sweatshops. You are clearly showing the main character in the midst of eating out one of the girls, except lips don’t touch so you get to have your TV broadcast cake and eat it too. I’m sure if you just made a hentai instead, you would get the same amount of blu-ray sales either way. It’s not like these things become the next Osomatsu and break the charts. So what? Do you guys just have some weird integrity going on? You want to make hentai but you don’t also want to actually be known for making hentai so you put it on TV instead? Come on. That’s dirty pool, Production IMS. And you know what? I’m sure you guys would have made a decent hentai, but you decided to turn it into an awful TV show instead. You could have been the next Oni Chichi, but you played yourself. I’m disappointed in you guys. You could have been great. – Bloody Marquis

Orange

"He gonna die." - VlordGTZ, 2016

I kept up with the manga while it was running, so I was already expecting Orange to be one of the best shows of the season on the grounds of the story alone. What I was not expecting was for it to be made into such an immersive and beautiful experience. Seriously, this show looks insanely good; it’s visual polish and expressive character animation could pass for theatrical quality. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were going to make this as an animated movie at first, but then the live-action film came out and they were like, fuck it, let’s cut it up and run it as a show. It’s so weird, because it doesn’t look like anything else director Hiroshi Hamasaki has done. Hamasaki typically loves to use muddy, gray-tinted color palette and harsh shading, but this show is so bright and colorful and beautiful that it’s hard to believe this is done by the same guy who did Steins;Gate.

Adding to the theatrical feel of the film is its ambiance and atmosphere. The music is a mix of classy classical and jazzy jazz, and the sound design really makes the world feel alive, lived-in, and real. The sound effects used for the crowd and forest scenes in particular felt so film-like I almost couldn’t believe my ears. Moreover, the characters and their interactions feel very down to earth and believable. In the manga, some of the series’ shojo-isms and the initial meet-cute between Naho and Kakeru didn’t gel with me, but they way they’re presented here softens the edge of the genre conventions and adds a certain honest charm to the characters and world that makes them more immediately endearing. Moreover, the series is rife with subtle details and directorial choices that blew my mind as a reader of the manga, and I’m sure first-time watchers are going to have a blast re-watching this series when it’s done to pick all them apart. With the way this show looks and feels, it’s confident directing and pacing, and the honest and earnest characterization of it’s world and characters, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the films of Mamoru Hosoda, specifically The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which is funny considering they are both time-travel based stories. In terms of it’s overall audio/visual composition alone, Orange stands leagues above just about everything else in the season, and this year of anime in general.

As for the story? Well, it’s one that’s going to tug you in the feels at some point or another, that’s for sure. Fans of Erased will find similar thematic concepts explored in the series through a more emotionally-driven shojo lens, and they’d probably be the audience I’d most recommend this show to. Orange is about enjoying your life to the fullest in the present, treasuring the friends closest to you, standing by them through thick and thin, and living life without room for regrets. It’s at times heart-breaking and heart-warming, frustrating and energizing, and overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience sure to be made more emotional and immersive thanks to this stellar adaption. With the possible exception of Mob Psycho 100, it’s easily the highlight of the season. Fresh, tangy, and ripe, Orange is a deliciously good time that’s sure to quench your thirst for good anime this season and then some. – LumRanmaYasha

ReLife

Don't worry, he's on the pill.

There’s been a whole lot of shows this year about twenty-somethings revisiting their formative years of their life for self-improvement and emotional fulfillment, huh? We had Erased in winter, and now Orange and ReLife out this season. Unlike the former two, however, ReLife doesn’t have a time-traveling component to it’s premise, at least not right now. Instead protagonist Kaizaki swallows a mysterious pill that’s basically APTX 4869 from Detective Conan, de-aging him ten years so he can attend high school for some secret project. Why high school? Because anime.

Well, actually it’s because Kaizaki is a neet who’s kind of in a rut, and the program he signs up for intends to rehabilitate him and hook him up with a job after studying how he decides to relive his high school days. There’s clearly some ulterior scheme underlying the ReLife program and its enigmatic salesperson Ryo, while Kaizaki is seemingly not the first person to undergo the program, and things don’t seem to have turned out well for his predecessor. The hook of this show is not really those mysteries, though, so much as it’s exploration of looking back at High School life through an adult lens, weighing the rose-tinted perception of the past against the present day reality. Kaizaki is very down to earth, introspective character, and being able to reflect and comment on his high school experience from an adult lens, he’s able to consider things from a more steady, mature perspective. Perhaps the most affecting scene in the first episode is the praise he gives to his homeroom teacher for finding a steady job at such a young age, when he himself still hasn’t figured himself out in life. Ultimately, it’s that difference in perspective and experience that will guide his interactions with his fellow students and the situations that arise, which is probably what the show will focus on based on the large ensemble cast and shenanigans depicted in the opening.

ReLife doesn’t particularly stand out from other stories of it’s ilk, but it’s got heart and humor and is a pleasant watch if nothing else. In a atypical move from Crunchyroll, every episode of the series is being made available to watch at once instead of a weekly simulcast, and while I only watched the first episode for the purposes of the Clusterfuck the buzz for the show as a whole has been pretty positive. If you enjoy charming feel-good slice-of-life stories featuring characters exploring the threshold between childhood and adulthood, ReLife should prove a rewarding experience. – LumRanmaYasha

2016
07.06

That kid has balls. Or rather, he had them.

I tried reading the Days manga a couple years ago, and couldn’t really get into it. I found it to be a pretty run of the mill shonen sports manga with a rather unimpressive sense of pacing and paneling, and few characters I could really get behind. But as they say, execution is everything. Like Haikyuu!, the Days anime takes a mediocre sports manga and uses the medium of animation to make it a more engrossing, engaging experience. The show immediately hooks you by flash-forwarding to the main characters actually playing a soccer game. Here the show pulls out it’s most impressive animation and most exciting action, sure to at least pique your interest in seeing how things turn out, and how the characters will get to this point from were they are now. The music played during the sequence also captures that “inspiring” aspect that shonen sports fans find appealing about the genre, especially in underdog tales like Haikyuu!! and Hajime no Ippo. The OP also does a great job establishing the lengths Tsukushi goes through for the sake of self-improvement, how dedicated he is towards reaching his goal, and the fact that even though he struggles, he has a team behind him that supports him. Basically, everything you need to know about what the series is like and will be about is cleanly established within the first 4 minutes of the episode, making it easy to know if it’s your kind of show or not pretty early on.

More than another sports series, Days most closely resembles Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad in it’s execution. It’s a very show don’t tell style of storytelling with a lot of emphasis on the actions of the character over the words. We don’t need to be explained what the characters’ personalities or motivations are; they’re made clear through subtle clues through what the character does or how they interact with one another. The atmosphere of the series also feels more down to earth like Beck, making the characters feel a bit less like anime characters and more like believable human beings.

But the closest similarity to Beck lies in the characterization and relationship between the lead characters. Not only does Kazama look like a blond doppelganger of Ryusuke, his laid-back personality and deep mellow voice characterize him almost exactly the same, just replacing his love of music for soccer. Like Ryusuke, there’s no clear reason why Kazama befriends Tsukushi, other than he might see a sliver of potential or a kindred spirit in him. The influence he has on him is clear though; he admires his passion and effort in the face of adversity, and it reinvigorates his own drive to become better himself. It’s easy to see why both characters would look up to each other and try to emulate their example, and how that forms the basis for a compelling friendship that will undoubtedly carry the series.

Similarly, Tsukushi reminds me a lot like Beck’s main character Koyuki; a socially awkward kid with not a lot going on in his life, drawn to the mature coolness of an older guy whose love for his hobby rubs off on him and gives him something to be passionate about, a dream to work towards, and friends and a community who share the same interacts. Compared to Koyuki, Tsukushi is a more typically starry-eyed and naïve sort of shonen lead, but there’s still an admirable quality to how passionate he is.

In a sense, Tsukushi is an atypical shonen sports protagonist; he does not have a natural talent for soccer at all. He’s actually pretty bad at it. The running training scene in particular hammers in the vast gap in the level of skill and stamina between him and the rest of the soccer club, and the mountain of time and effort he’ll need to climb in order to become that athletic. But his selling point is his dedication and earnestness. He tries harder than anyone and does not want to let people down, even if it comes at personal cost or injury. He tries and fails, gets injured several times, but he always gets back up, he never complains, only expressing disappointment and regret that he can’t do any better and let people down. He’s quick to take advantage of opportunities to help, and is earnest to a fault. He finds a purpose in soccer that emotionally fills him and makes him feel needed, gives him a goal to pursue in life. Whereas that character could become overbearing and obnoxious if over-emphasized as I found it to be in the manga, the anime executes it with restraint, making him a more sympathetic and endearing characters.

Basically, the show takes the potential of the characters and premise found from the original manga, polishes the rough edges, tightens the focus and streamlines the pacing to emphasize the most important story beats and character moments. I think it’s pretty easy to tell they’re speeding through the source material even if you haven’t read it, just by putting into consideration the passage of time and the dialogue, and how Kazama’s speech at the end about how ashamed he is for them ignoring Tsukushi’s potential is pretty obviously meant to have come after chapters of the two building a relationship and moments of him being ignored and doubted by his teammates and other characters. That being said, the show crafts the narrative of the episode and places the focus on the developing friendship between the two leads so squarely that the episode doesn’t feel stitched together out of multiple different story treads but conveys a fully realized and satisfying emotional arc.

Moreover, the animation is very expressive in the moments it needs to be to sell the story and add personality to the characters. For instance, I really loved the scene where Kazama is mulling over what happened during the practice session at a diner and we see through the window behind him Tsukushi’s friend Sayuri crash parking her bike, frantically getting off, trying to get his attention by hollering at him, eventually giving up running inside the dinner to talk with him inside. That kind of embellishment shows that there is genuine effort being put into making these characters and this world feel real and alive, and provides a great demonstration of visually-focused and proficient storytelling. It adds flavor to Kazama’s monologue by adding another facet of interest going on in the background, while also giving a showing of Sayuri’s character as well. Sure, the scene could’ve been done without it, but it adds so much more character to the scene and the show as a whole.

Choices like that inspire confidence that the Days anime will be a thoughtfully crafted adaption that will not simply regurgitate its source material but take it to the next level using the tools only animation can provide. It may not necessarily bring anything new to the genre, but it establishes itself as a worthwhile entry in it nonetheless. As someone who didn’t care for the original manga, I was pleasantly surprised by how much better the anime adaption was, and am hopeful for the show to continue to improve upon its source material throughout the course of it’s run. If you’ve been hankering to watch a solid shonen sports show in the vein of Haikyuu!!, Days will undoubtedly your pick of the season. – LumRanmaYasha

2016
07.05

Berserk needs no introduction. The manga and original anime from the late 90’s is lauded for it’s intricate fantasy world, multi-faceted characters, gut-wrenchingly gory violence, and a hauntingly tragic Shakespearean narrative. Unfortunately, the original anime left viewers at a loss, ending with a unsettling and emotionally soul-crushing episode that left Guts’ journey far too open-ended and unsatisfying given the events transpired.

A decade and a half later, Studio 4°C finally brought the series back to animation…remaking the same material already covered in the original anime, just with some of the details previously omitted added in. Unfortunately, those films did less justice to it’s source material than the original anime, marred by distractedly poor CGI, aimless fight scenes, and uninspired uses of lighting and color. It was a dishearteningly mediocre adaption that, despite teasing elements from future arcs in the story, squashed most fans’ hopes of getting a new anime that would adapt past the oft-retreaded “Golden Age” arc.

That is until Liden Films snatched the rights to the property from Studio 4C and announced a new tv anime that would finally continue the story of the Black Swordsman.  With Miura himself supervising the production, hope seemed bright for an anime adaption that would faithfully capture the spirit of his original manga. So, has the director of Teekyu given us the definitive anime iteration of Berserk fans have always been clamoring for?

Tell me what, tell me what, tell me what the fuck I'm looking at?

….Do you even need to ask?

Let’s state the obvious here – the CGI animation is by far the biggest problem about this new Berserk. That’s not entirely a surprise;  the CGI was problematic in the movies as well. But whereas the movies were a hybrid of CGI and traditional animation leaning towards the latter, this new anime is mostly CGI and it suffers greatly from it. The character models are often poorly rigged, with character movements and even simple walking animation looking incredibly weightless and unnatural. The environments are muddy and feel unpolished, losing the detail and lived-in feel of Berserk’s world. Crowd scenes boast poorly-hidden duplicated characters, and the monsters all look like something out of a B-grade PS2 game. Not to say the CGI looks dated, but it feels unpolished and unfinished. Most modern video-games look leaps and bounds better than this. Heck, the average Dragon Ball Z and Naruto game looks way better this! Maybe bad CGI could be forgivable the 2-D animation looked any could, but there isn’t really any of it to speak of. At best, there are stills that are traditionally drawn and employed for character close ups. While those do look nice, they are few and far between, and their usage doesn’t really doesn’t help  assuage the impression you’re just watching cut-scenes from a substandard video-game pieced together.

It’s a shame, because if this episode had been presented with better-looking visual design and smoother animation, it could’ve been worth recommending. As bad as the show looks, the meat of Berserk, it’s sobering story of revenge and redemption and it’s dynamic characters, are still here. The first episode does a great job focusing on what makes Guts who he is, and the moral struggle he faces internally as a killer in this survival of the fittest world. He tries to avoid getting close to people, afraid of growing an emotional connection with them that could be ripped away at any moment. Here, a brief meeting with a father and his daughter ends in their deaths by demons drawn to the brand on his neck, and it haunts him. He throws up, disgusted, after having to slice apart the zombified daughter. Even after they’re dead, he tries to save their bodies from being devoured by demons. Though he may laugh their deaths off as their fault for being weak, that callous, uncaring attitude is clearly a front, a coping mechanism to help him persevere through all the tragedy he’s endured. Guts carries the weight of his sins alongside so many others from his past on his back, symbolized by that goliath of steel he calls a sword. The episode closes with an absolutely chilling scene of demons clamoring to rip apart his heart and soul, promising to stalk him to the ends of the earth until the day he dies. If you had no idea what Berserk was about before watching this series, this episode does an amazing job of establishing Guts as a compelling character, through possibly the most sympathetic introduction the character has had in any iteration of the series to date. While the presentation thoroughly disappoints, at least it’s comforting to know that the people behind the show really understand the story and characters.

Look, I’m a big Berserk fan. I’ve wanted an anime adaption that continues past the Golden Age for years. Just seeing some of my favorite characters from the series like Schierke, Serpico, and Farnese finally animated is incredibly gratifying to me. That said, I can’t possibly recommend this show for newcomers just because the narrative itself is sound. An audio/visual medium like anime needs to also excel on both those fronts. While the sound design and music is admittedly very fitting and atmospheric, the show’s visuals and animation are so distracting that they often take you out of the show, making immersion and investment in the story much more difficult, even with a story as strong as Berserk’s. I’ve waited so long for a post-“Golden Age” Berserk anime that I’ll probably keep watching. But if you’ve never read the manga before, or are completely new to the story, then just stick with the manga. Maybe the day will come where Berserk receives a lovingly rendered and stylistically driven anime that perfectly replicates Miura’s highly detailed artwork and brutal action set-pieces in animation like David Productions’ adaption of JoJo Bizarre Adventure. But that’s about as likely as the series ending; it ain’t happening anytime soon. – LumRanmaYasha

2016
07.04

[For this Clusterfuck, I’m planning on cutting them into parts because I think readers would find 10 2000-word articles easier to stomach than 1 20000-word article. So when the word counts go over 2000 words, that will be the time to go to part 2 and so on.]

Bananya

The atheist's nightmare


– Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort

D. Gray-Man Hallow

"They remembered Lavi. 10/10." - VlordGTZ, 2016

What is it with long-defunct anime adaptions getting new seasons all of a sudden? Yes, D. Gray-Man has returned after an eight-year reprieve because apparently not everyone gave up on the series after the manga’s years-long hiatus and nonsensical plot developments. If Food Wars! fans felt their second season premiere was too fast, D. Gray-Man Hallow has the opposite problem. It’s painfully slow. The entire episode is spent expositing one fact – that Allen is the vessel for the Fourteenth’s resurrection – and nothing else, stretched out with unfunny comedy, unnecessary flashbacks, and extraneous scenes with other characters who will be irrelevant in the grand scheme of the arc this season is adapting. Maybe if the episode looked or flowed nicely that stuff wouldn’t feel as tedious, but the animation is bare-bones, even during the fight scene that begins the episode, and the dark color scheme is drab, dull, and unpleasing to the eye. The only point of interest in the entire premiere is the supposed murder of Allen’s mentor, Cross Marien, at the end of the episode, but that hook is pulled early by the next episode preview which reminds you that they’re still planning to cover the completely pointless Phantom Thief arc because the Alma Karma stuff isn’t enough to sustain a whole cour on it’s own. You know, they should’ve kept that whole zombie mini-arc and ran that as the premiere episode instead. Sure, it’s random and time-wasting comedy filler, but it would’ve still been more entertaining than a whole episode of nothing.

If you like D. Gray-Man, then Hallow is an unimpressive but inoffensive return for the series that cleanly picks up where the previous anime left off. If you don’t care about D. Gray-Man, however, then there’s no value to watching this show at all, since it’s exceedingly boring and makes no sense without having seen the previous 100+ episodes. The best I can say about Hallow is that at least it’s storytelling makes sense, unlike the current run of the manga. The Alma Karma arc is also probably the last half-way decent part of the series before it becomes unfathomably incomprehensible, so there’s that. Enjoy it while it lasts. – LumRanmaYasha

The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance

The apple sure fell far from the tree, huh?

I lost interest in the first season of Arslan early on. It was a slowly paced and unimpressively executed adaption of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga and Yoshiki Tanaka’s original novels, marred by some bad CGI and choppy animation. Not a bad show, by any means, but not one I felt compelled to continue watching, especially after hearsay about the show’s downturn in quality in the second half. So I came into this premiere with pretty low expectations, but I was thoroughly surprised. The show has really improved from the first season in terms of pacing and the choreography of it’s close-combat and large-scale battles. Crowd shots still copy and paste the same CGI models over again, but the show does a better job of hiding it through better framing of the camera and swooping, constantly moving camerawork. The momentum of the battle that opens this episode is enthralling, moving from one character and scuffle to the next with a breathless fluidity.

Even better, a lot happens in this episode. There are at least four separate plotlines that develop here, each bringing with it a dramatic change to the status quo of the series and setting up the core conflict of the season’s arc. The characters are very quickly re-established without much exposition or elaboration, and it’s pretty easy to get caught up to speed in what’s going on in the series even if you haven’t watched much of the previous season. With it’s unusually short episode length of eight episodes, this season should benefit from more concise storytelling, and with the visual embellishments displayed there’s a lot to look to like and look forward to here. Even if you haven’t watched or weren’t into the first season, the second season promises to be a smartly-written and self-contained medieval fantasy action story that should prove worthwhile to fans of this sort of genre entertainment. – LumRanmaYasha

Rewrite

Cornfields Forever~

The mid-2000s! A horrible time when men and women thought Air and Clannad were good shows, and you just stood in a corner wondering what the hell everyone was talking about. A paper-thin tearjerker with waifus out the vazoom were the dish of the day, with episode after episode of brain-damaged, terminally ill girls needing their dry, sarcastic harem protagonist to fix them and make things all better. Remember Kotomi. Remember Cud. And oh sweet mother of Mary, remember Ayu. All Valkyries of the Nakige Valhalla, making those tears drop onto your already stained keyboard. Thankfully, we know better. We watch episode after episode of brain-damaged, terminally ill girls needing their henpecked abuse victim of a protagonist to fix them and make things better. Much more progressive for today’s anime taste buds.

But Rewrite takes us back to that hellish time, with fluffy schoolgirl uniforms, red strings of fate, and Sasuke haircuts. All in one double-length episode too just to commemorate the lunacy. Throughout those forty-and-some minutes were girls stuck in trees, girls sitting at trees, girls making bee noises while nearby trees. Just girl after girl, like a beauty competition for those too young for Toddlers & Tiaras, are presented to you with dialogue observing how they’re the main character’s friends instead of using body language or word choice to indicate that to begin with. I grow weary and impatient as our dear Kotaro, except I don’t sleep in a hoodie thank you very much (seriously, why did he sleep in a hoodie, that’s uncomfortable). I see fury, I see sadness, I see France, I see blue-striped underpants. Ooh, a Key show makes a vicious beast, even one not written by the Maker known as Maeda. At last, we face another season of confusion, where visual novel readers tell us this will all make sense in due time yet that time keeps growing like worms from pus. Pray to your Gods, for I swear Rewrite will irreparably taint your MAL catalogs!

Oh and another thing, the director for this show? He did all the Grisaia series too. Happy shitting. – Bloody Marquis

Sweetness and Lightning

A show sure to get you misty-eyed.

You know, for as many “single guy raising a little girl” stories there are in anime and manga, few are actually about an actual dad raising his daughter. In fact, there’s only two that come to mind – the modern manga classic Yotsuba&! and this series, Sweetness and Lightning. Even moreso than Yotsuba&!’s titular protagonist, Tsumugi feels like a believable little girl in the way she talks and expresses herself, and her infectious enthusiasm and excitement about even the most simple of things is too adorable not to find endearing. She is lovingly animated, bouncing across the screen with such liveliness, each movement she makes imbued with the expressive character of a child. Even if you hate kids, it’s hard not to be charmed by the innocent vivacity of this little girl.

But adorable as Tsumugi may be, the heart of the series lies with her single father, Kohei, and his attempts to do right by her as a single father. The show begins with the day of father and daughter beginning in the morning, and this sequence very quickly establishes they have a very loving relationship and he’s a considerate and attentive father. But we also soon learn that it hasn’t been long since his wife passed away, and in a heartbreaking moment, we see his daughter still doesn’t really understand that her mother won’t ever be coming back. It’s easy to root for him as he runs to a nearby restaurant to try and give his daughter a good meal like her mother used to make, and get as teary-eyed as him when he sees how much his daughter enjoys her fresh-cooked rice. Yeah, this is a series that’ll get even the most cynical of curmudgeons in the feels, and is as unapologetically optimistic and positive in it’s outlook as little Tsumugi herself. Which, in an era of increasingly cynical, moody, or grimdark anime, is rather refreshing in it’s own way.

If I had to guess, the title Sweetness and Lightning refers to a couple of things; the dynamic personality of little Tsumugi herself, the experiences of Kohei raising her, and the emotions of the audience watching it. There will be rough times, but rewarding times as well, both heart-warming and tear-jerking. It has one of the stronger emotional hooks for this kind of series, with an endearing central relationship and protagonist that you’ll want to follow even if the show is mostly about feel-good slice-of-life shenanigans. Helps that the show looks and is animated beautifully to boot. Unless you’re burned out on this sub-genre, Sweetness and Lightning is wholly recommended as one of the standout shows of the season. Unless it somehow fucks up and turns into Usagi Drop mid-way through, but that probably won’t happen. Probably. – LumRanmaYasha

Tales of Zestiria the X

Lion after her stay at Nanaki Village

My only prior experience with the Tales series is watching half of someone’s Let’s Play of Tales of Vesperia. What I got from that was a fun but a little meandering game. With that as my only basis for comparisons, Zestiria seems more… brown if you catch my drift? It’s brown and a little grimy in terms of scenery, and even when all the characters dress up in stupid colors, they all have some distinct brownish hue to their outfits. Yuri Lowell’s design looked brighter, and he was wearing mostly black. Maybe the other Tales games out-brown this. I’m not sure. If somebody could tell me how this compares to Xillia or Symphonia or Maradonia, that would be cool.

But that’s not to say this is poorly directed, because this has some of the most stunning animation I’ve seen in anime this year. You can tell someone was lining ufotable’s pockets to create this wonderful scenery and movement. It’s the kind of animation that you would shove into a Berserk fan’s face and watch as they cry because their show will never look as beautiful. Perhaps this will quickly run out and become a severe case of speed lines like what happened with Kabaneri, but right now I’m in awe. Another sign that ufotable’s several steps ahead of most other studios working right now.

Though maybe I was too focused on the animation to look at the subtitles, but I didn’t get much from the plot. I read this is actually an anime-only prologue and the real first episode will follow, so I could excuse it for that. But what did I get? Some professor discovers the Dust from The Golden Compass, and that leads to a little girl wearing collars bringing about destruction and mayhem? And from reading what other people said, the main girl who shows up in this episode doesn’t even do much in the game? Some of the elements sound interesting, but it still raises my concerns this will be another example of anime creators not knowing how to adapt a video game. And I’m wondering why this Tales installment is being adapted in particular. Is Zestiria especially popular in Japan to warrant an adaptation? But like I said, the animation’s neato. I’m sure sakugabooru’s already filled to the brim with clips of this show. – Bloody Marquis