Friday, May 26, 2017
The story of the hungry and unlucky party of Knight Laius Thorden, Halfling Lock pick Chilchack, and Elvin mage Marcille who are in a race against time to get to a dragon that has eaten Laius's sister Farlyn before she is digested. Only problem is they have no food or money for food. So Laius comes up with the plan to eat the monsters in the dungeon. Marcille is aghast at eating any of the assorted creepy crawlies that exist in the dungeon on top of sensibly stating that none of them know how to prepare the various monsters. That is until they meet Senshi a Dwarven adventurer who knows how to prepare innumerable monster based delicacies who helps them know how to prepare the various creatures while tagging along with the hopes of getting some of the Dragon Laius and his band hope to slay to save Laius's slowly digesting sister. The amount of humor one finds in the idea of eating monsters taken from a D&D Monster Manuel will depend on not only familiarity with the monsters but also tropes associated with them. Particularly true with the Basilisk and Mandrake these are helpfully explained and the ensuing dishes are delicious to look at which is sad that no such dishes as Mandrake and Basilisk omelets or Roast Basilisk will ever exist in reality. It's odd to find the idea of something like Giant Scorpion and Walking Mushroom Hot Pot made with Slime drawn so tantalizingly but it is a testament to Kui's draftsmanship from glistening slabs of Basilisk Bacon to fresh and crispy deep-fried Mandrake Kakiage with Giant Bat tempura. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. Yet this series is not just a odd cooking Manga it is also a Slayerssque middle brow fantasy yarn with all the snappy repartee one could expect from a close group of adventurers. Making for an interesting hybrid of a series that simply is the most fun I've had reading a Manga in recent memory that also made me hungry. In short this is a series one can savor and just feel relaxed watching Laius and crew slog through the dungeon and discover new unknown Epicurean delights while they try to save his sister. This is a series that makes me hungry thinking about the dishes and how I could make approximations of the dishes in this volume in real life. If one seeks a fun read with a touch of whimsical tweaking of Fantasy tropes look no further it will be a rollicking good time but bitter sweet because you can't reach into the book and eat the monster based cuisine so lovingly drawn therein.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Adapted from the Romantic comedy Manga serialized in Shōnen Jump with the troubled history due to the disintegration of artist Kentaro Yabuki's first marriage. To Love-Ru chronicles the story of Rito Yūki and his unrequited love for shy girl next door Haruna Sairenji and his quickly growing unwanted harem including his unwanted fiancé space alien and crown princess of the planet Deviluke Lala Satalin Deviluke and a number of other girls who are won over by Rito's decent and kind nature which does not stop him from being punished severely for getting caught in accidently perverted situations. In short the first two seasons are pretty much boiler plate Harem Comedy with a blandly nice but indecisive lead and a gaggle of girls for the lead to get caught in shenanigans with. Yet the fan service in the series is so over the top that I honestly couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous it is yet behind all the prat falls and panty shots. It's still a series with a good heart and really improves writing wise in Darkness with a bigger focus on Yami the withdrawn Assassin who grows to feel emotions and value friendship and a darkening tone as well in between the same zany episode premise. While Darkness does crank the fan service up to nearly Pornographic levels comparable to Seiji Matsuyama's infamous Eiken. contrasted with the "Frisker" elements of the series are some really good character writing with Yami's whole arc showing a softening to the taciturn former murder machine that feels subtle for a series that has it's male lead fall into the crotch of or accidently grope one of the female leads. To Love-Ru captures in sense a feel for how series in 2008 looked as opposed to Darkness which wrapped in 2015 with what would become a heavier reliance on CGI giving the series a more washed out look in Darkness and the characters and over all more plasticized look. Actual direction though improves while To Love-Ru is very often shot like a sitcom Darkness has to have an camera eye with focus on action often feeling more like a kungfu movie. In conclusion the series capture both a time capsule for Anime as a medium and the progress of a story that has a very warm heart behind it's seemingly libidinous nature. For a fan of Harem Anime this is a must watch series as it is very much a crystallization of it's best elements with out any of the faults of an cipher like male lead or girls that have no stake in loving the lead except for the reason that he is the main character. As a final note if you watch it on Crunchyroll both seasons of Darkness are censored and the last two episodes are not included. Also the OVA's are not available legally so read a Wiki to fill in the holes in who certain characters are. A classic of it's genre To Love-Ru and To Love Ru-Darkness feel earnest when need to and frisky when the mood strikes it. Never hateful but also a little kinder than you would expect it to be.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Dreamin' Sun: The story of a teenage runaway who ends up living with a group of attractive guys is another earlier work from Ichigo Takano the Mangaka behind Orange. Dreamin' Sun's protagonist Kameko is equal parts mousey every girl content to crush on the seemingly cut from a template of perfect romantic leads in Asahi Tatsugae who is kind and considerate but gives off an aloof gloomy aura at school. While also wondering if her family really cares about her while also forming a relationship with her other tenants the hard drinking Landlord Taiga Fujiwara and Zen Nakajou a classmate that Kameko has what could best be described as a stand offish relationship with. For a first volume it sets the universe of the fictional world makes for an engrossing story that very much has a oddballs thrown togtehr kind of sitcom vibe. While never feeling to forcedly humorous of the characters oddly Zen came off as my favorite of the male characters as while he is very much a male Tsundere he has this goofy little kid personality that makes him funt to see react off of Kameko or his backhanded attempts at being nice. All the characters have interiority and feel like real people without devolving into bland archatypes. While the art is a beautiful almost print club like menagerie of backgrounds and screen tone with busy panel layout. This looks to be another series that has human warmth and feels fulfilling as if a lot of thought went into how this story is structured while never feeling formulaic or cliché. My Monster Secret Volume 6: In a review of an earlier volume I said that this series is more a Gag Manga with romantic elements than a Romantic comedy. This volume does nothing to disprove that a small arc about Asahi being unable to confess his feelings to Youko and Nagisa worrying if confessing her own feelings will ruin the friendship she has with them. It is mostly oddball humor like Asahi's time displaced grand daughter living in a Dragon that she rents for $650 a month or the continued existence of the world resting on Akane being able to eat chocolate. This is what keeps me reading as sweet and as awkward as the main romance is it is the weird admixture of absurd gags and romance that continue to keep the series fresh and the ugly cute artwork helps as well in letting the series give it's own voice. Species Domain Volume 1: Set in a world where folkloric and mythical creatures exist but have none of the mystical abilities associated with their folkloric ancestors. Overall it's a rather chatty series that likes to spend a good portion of it in the inner life of Kazamori an Elf who has no ability to use magic and a standoffish personality that she feels makes her more "Elvin." She quickly forms an almost adversarial relationship with Ohki a science obsessed high school inventor. While also collecting not quite friends from a dwarven girl with a full beard to an Hanei an Icarus (an kind of winged humanoid). IT's oddly interior for a Shōnen Manga but captures a world that is grounded in it's own reality while also having an ethos of friendship being important as well. Wther this will eend up simply being shenanigans with a group of note quite friends or something more I don't know but it is an enjoyable addition to the spate of Monster Girl titles that have been coming out as of late for it's interesting dynamic of a hard psotivist inventor and a girl who is so married to her image of being a magical creature. Makes for an interesting mixture while the page layout is busy without being cluterd and nicely full and emotive charcter design that makes everything from the wind effcts to the feel of a punch at the end of the series.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Alice to Zouroku: The story of a tightly wound old man and the magical little the invades his life this is a series that has alternatively heart warming slice of life moments like Zouroku's granddaughter Sanae cooking for and trying to befriend the skittish Alice. to nicely choreographed action scenes in the first episode to long view flash backs of one of the antagonist's past that helps humanize her. The series is a little rough to look at in places but the overall soft character design and muted pastel color scheme makes up for the conspicuous CGI and backgrounds that don't stop moving in one scene in episode one. In short it's a nice series that while it may have it's dark elements still has a heart and knows when to use drama effectively and when to be cute without being saccharine or anodyne Atom: The Beginning: A prequel to the original Astro Boy this focuses on the hardscrabble college years of Drs. Tenma and Ochanomizu it's enjoyable enough but I have never been a big Tezuka fan (his works and those of Studio Ghibli are two of the biggest holes in my Anime library). And watching the first episode I found myself trying to remember the origin story for Astro and trying to rework it back into this series. While it stands on it's own as an interesting meditation on AI and a look at the early years of two iconic characters from Tezuka's "star System" my lack of familiarity with the parent story keeps me from completely loving this as much as I want to. Still the Mecha design is impressive the classic Tezuka character design mixed with soft pastel colors makes this at leas visually nice to look at even if I'm a little on the fence about fully embracing it Berserk (2017): What can I say the first season of this series was on my worst of the year list and this season does nothing to dissuade me from my continued distain for this grim dark power fantasy almost all of the characterization feels shallow and the new Band of The Hawk simply feels like reskinned versions of the old Band of The Hawk. While visually it is still the same garish mixture of CGI and quasi-traditional animation. The only reason I will keep watching it is simply because I can put it on my end of the season worst of list if not worst of the year list. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations: I have never been a huge Naruto fan I have only seen a handful of the Anime series one of the movies and read a sporadic amount of the Manga. All that being said Boruto chronicling the adventures of Naruto's son Boruto as he tries to become a Ninja and gain his Father's attention. I really enjoyed this it captures what good Shonen Manga and Anime can do taking a character and see them grow. While also having the second generation of Ninja the children of most of the supporting cast from the original and despite having to google a few names it was fun to go on that kind of scavenger hunt and learn. Also it looks all shiny and happy while having a refreshing sense of earnestness to it as well. Armed Girl's Machiavellism: there is not much to say here it is a big dumb action series set in my favorite subgenre of big dumb action series the "battling school" story in which one character has to fight a school full of opponents. In this a juvenile delinquent gets sent to a former girl's school and has to fight the all female student council. Some have seen this as sub textual misogyny but I think that's a stretch. That being said the series is looks like the first season of Battle Vixens and plays like the firs arc of Tenjo Tenge wich makes me like it despite bad character animation. Anonymous Noise: An High school romance about music I really only picked this up because Saori Hayami is voicing the female lead. So far with only one episode not much has happened our heroine Nino is an introspective girl who constantly practices her singing hoping to be reunited with her childhood friend Kanade only to do so and than Nino wows everyone in an live performance. While thinking of her other childhood friend Momo. Honestly this has the makings of really good romance if Momo gets some good character development in the next episode. Kanade is a rare example of a well written male Tsundere as he comes off as flustered and a little snarly but not border line abusive. While the ending performance works Hayami is considered one of the better singers in her generation of Seiyuu and while for the most part she is known for either powerhouse ballads or slick J-Pop. Hayami pulls off an anguished and almost wounded performance of some decent J-Rock that shows that the girl with the voice of a princess can pull off an emotional range that works. This series could end up like PG-13 Nana but that's actually a good thing. Kabukibu!: A series about a group of boys who want to set up a Kubuki club in High School feels like is could either end up being Cheer Boys or Meganbu it's not one of the stronger looking series from Studio Deen and all fels kind of aimless but it's a sight better to look at something cheery and goofy after watching Berserk if nothing else. In short it is slight but feels to at least have a love for the thing the charcters are all expressing an intrest in and makes me care. Which is important Kenka Banchou Otome: Girl Beats Boys: A short Anime about a girl who has to infiltrate a school chockablock with Yankees it's badly animated with background characters being barely animated silhouettes it's again another slight series but considering some of the heaver series I'm watching escapeist entertainment is not all that bad and at only eight minutes it's not that much of a comtment. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt 2nd Season: An continuation of season one of the ONA this continues to have the deeply unpleasant feel of the darker iterations of Mobile Suit Gundam while looking fantastic from an animation standpoint while only so much spit an polish can cover the bleak withered heart of the series. I may joke that it's the series that makes me want to hide all the sharp objects in my house but it honestly captures the moral gray scale of warfare while simply observeing it with no real judgment on either side. A dark moody and haunting depiction of war. Re:Creators: Super meta and clever while at times being funny in a way that only other Otaku would understand it Re:Creators is an exploration of what would happen if fictional characters ended up in reality and by it's first episode it is so far in the front running for best of the season and a slot in my best of the year. Capturing taught action scenes winking references to everything from the Persona game franchise to Light Novels to RPG games. Sakura Quest: A lazy rural series about a girl who tries to find work and gets roped into trying to revitalize a town that has fallen on hard times it looks nice but is so slow and has such one dimensional cast that it all feels kind of meh so it's costing by mostly on visual shine and occasional shenanigans. Sakurada Reset: Overly cerebral this series makes Kana Hanazawa into a lifeless dirge of a character with plot convenient powers and while the writeing does some good things with her inner life it is so ponderously philosophically as to be soporific. Still it feels like it's going places so I'll stick around but so far it is dull with a capital D. Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul: A continuation of Rage of Bahamut Genesis this is all swashbuckling action and epic battle with unattained mysteries and an peppy and likeable female lead in Nina the adventurer a great continuation of the first season with enough callbacks to the first season to make it a special treat for fans of the first season. World Break: Set five hundred years after humanity has been eliminated this is a series that has a mixture of sweetness and impending doom with adorable children being possibly used by the beast people in this post apocalyptic world as human weapons. Along with odd bits of humor like a Troll maid who matter-of-factly admits to wanting to eat the protagonist. To flashbacks to centuries past in the protagonist's past. It has the potential to be a solid fantsy on par with last year's Re:Zero. Tsuki ga Kieri: Sweet understated awkward teenage romance with an Dazi qouteing protagonist and a shy female lead this is a series that captures the feelings of the early teen years while neiter doen playing them or making them overly important. With it's muted color palet and insuler dialogue this feels like good Mari Okada. Laughing Salesman New: An strange monkey's paw like episodic series about people who get their heart's desire but are undone by their own overweening desire for things. With an old looking charcter design mixed with odd colorful scenes it makes for a chilling morality tail spun out of the mind of one of the creators of Doramon Grimoire of Zero: Middle brow fantasy described as "Berserk with furries" by an Anon on 4chan is a sometimes funny sometime somber contemplation of fantastical racism and the excesses of organized religion. While also having a thoughtful relationship between the two main characters solid meat and potatoes middle brow fantasy. Simple and economical in it's characterization shile never looseing it's heart.
Friday, March 31, 2017
My best of The Winter breaks down as Kemono Friends being the best thing I saw this season another series would at this but I will get to that when I get to the worst of list. Kemono Friends was something I dropped five minutes in when it first came out with it's hideous looking CGI but I Picked back up after I saw it was getting something like four to five threads a day on 4chan and started watching it and I came away charmed, comforted, and emotionally invested. Bad Iyashikei and Slice of Life Anime are the emotional and aesthetic equivalent to doing heroin in that it basicly obliterates any enjoyment of the series and reduces your brain to "mush." Kemono Friends never had that effect I cared about Serval and Kaban's adventures wondered what the world they where in really was and over all felt satisfied with everything when it ended. Kemono Friends may not be a profound series but it is emotionally impactful and for me that means something. Honorable Mentions: Interviews With Monster Girls this is both for the over all kindness of the series and that I could actually see this as an honest representation of an alternate universe treatment of "special needs" students. and having been in Special Education through all four years of High School it all felt eerily familiar to me. KonoSuba Season 2: Season one was my pick for best of the year this season only didn't end up best because Kemono Friends ended up being an all around better show due it's to it's "x factor". In short KonoSuba Season 2 is simply a solid continuation of an already great series and I tend to try and reward out of left field series or originality more than continuations of already good continuing properties. The Saga of Tanya The Evil: This seriously could have ended up being some sort fo weird offensive revisionist history but instead it ended up being a bleak look at war and questions about perception versus reality and the place of logic and instinct in life and ethics. It's not something I expected to enjoy as much as I did because I am not a military Otaku I don't hate military things it's just never been a burning interest of mine. The only thing that keeps this from being higher on the list is that Studio Nut had a few production delays and if these had not been in the series this would have been my best of the season. Seiren: Simply put this is the kind of goofy and cute awkward kind of Romance I like and while parts of it feel like a repurposed version of Amagami SS the sort of bumbling awkwardness is what made this so fun for me. Worst of List this is the one where I fall on my proverbial sword also it's only three because I don't like writing about stuff I dislike as it's frankly draining : #1. Scum's Wish: Let me say up front that I actually liked the ending to this series it gave me an ending to a romance Manga and Anime I have been silently clamoring for, for years. That being said the journey to get to that destination is not worth the trip for me. This for me is something that falls into that rare category of outright offensive Anime and Manga I can forgive something for being technically inept. Yet this series had characters that where so lost in their own heads that at one point they felt dissociated from their own bodies and physical actions it honestly boarded on an kind of solipsism. If you are looking for an kind of atypical romance series that does not feel so in love with it's own characters misery I'd recommend Arakawa Under the Bridge as an alternative. #2. Hand Shakers: This is a disaster in every aspect of the word not even the occasionally Jazzy Hip Hop influenced score of Goon Trax could save this CGI abomination from the slag heap. #3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen: Yeah that part of the ending killed it for me this caused the show to suffer what I call "The Identity Crisis Effect" named after the DC Comic that retroactively killed any enjoyment of Silver Age Comics for some fans. This is a term I apply to series that have an ending that retroactively ruin any enjoyment I had of the series. Rakugo may be a technical masterpiece Akira Ishida and Yuu Kobayashi may have turned in some of the best performances of their carriers but ultimately it is all ruined because of one oblique reference the final episode of the second season. If this doesn't bother you or you can like it in spite of this fine but for me it's a solid no you almost had me Rakugo and than you went and pulled that so no just no. Best Seiyuu Male: Akira Ishida despite my problems with the series Akira Ishida turned in a master class of understatement, charm, and world weariness that was a treat to watch each week. Best Seiyuu: This would have gone to Yuu Kobayashi on the strength of her Rakugo performance alone but if episode Eleven of The Saga of Tanya the Evil had not happened and Aoi Yūki had not allowed Tanya's sneering mask of contempt to slip in her line delivery it would have all been Kobayashi's to have undeniably. Yet Yūki won out in showing one of the few truly vulnerable and human moments for the otherwise unflappable Tanya combined with her over all performance which in retrospect had more range in comparison to Kobayashi's which on reflection had one crowning moment of genius after two seasons to work on a character Aoi Yūki had one season to work on a character who was in many ways irredeemably evil and vile. While also having to play on the charm of being a supposedly "innocent" little girl who also has the memories of an older person from an different time period. Aoi Yūki had the harder job and had to make a character who looks like an adorable blue eyed raccoon and make her not only intimidating but worthy of respect and even hard won admiration.