Thursday, February 15, 2018

Love & Lies Volume 4 Review

Nejima and Ririna still on the outs from the events of last volume Nejima tries to focus on helping with the school play while Misaki struggles with her lingering feelings for Nejima while not wanting to hurt Ririna who Misaki considers a friend. While Yusuke tries to get out of the play and deal with his perpetually embarrassing dad only to agree to do it after Nejima encourages him. While several former classmates from Nejima and Misaki's past also make an appearance as well having various connections to the main love triangle. All of the story leading up to the performance of Romeo & Juliet that goes down as a great performance beyond the gender-swapped hook and ending on a mysterious proclamation by one of Misaki's Middle School friends Igarashi. While the strongest volume of this often "touch and go" quality series and having some of the best character development of the volumes from Misaki's heartfelt confession Nejima learning to be reflective even a throwaway joke about Nejima's obsession with Kofun. This new found interest in interiority while making Nejima feel less like a cipher and Misaki like an actual human being. Grinds the entire story's pacing and plot momentum to an almost dead stop in several places while also relying on hackneyed cliches and tropes. The most obvious being the fact that of Romeo and Juliet is an obvious metaphor or symbolic representation of the inherent unfairness of the arranged marriage system in general and Nejima and Misaki's relationship in particular. Although interestingly the first line of the play that is heard in the volume is Romeo's speech when he looks upon the body of Juliet in the tomb. Possible ominous foreshadowing? Possibly but I don't know if a series this bland would have the guts to actually be that dark. While a vast improvement over the first three volumes the turgid pace and stop-start character development make for an agonizing reading experience with the chapters focusing on the preparation feeling soporific in its focus on Nejima trying to encourage Yusuke to not drop out of the play and also have a long discursive conversation on love and it's really only to have any weight, drama, or thoughtfulness undercut by the aforementioned Kofun joke showing that while a joke can be funny its placement can ruin the ethos of a scene or how it is set up. In conclusion, a volume that simply feels like part of a series that is spinning its wheels with hard to have any real investment in the characters no matter how much Musawo-Sensei tries to force us to feel something. Not to mention the odd asides from Nejima's caseworker obliquely referencing his past to Misaki's annoying younger brother who simply is in a hand full of scenes to be the annoying sibling cliche. This does not even any real emotional truth except love is hard and even then it's hard to feel much sympathy as the last hour attempt to develop characters. That three volumes worth of material frittered away for Shonen Romance cliches and wasted opportunities at profundity. Still, I can hope that the series improves as there some whispers of an interesting concept it's just so severely botched in execution that so much of it comes off as tone deaf or sniveling.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Alice & Zoroku Volume Three Review

Set six months after the events of volume two with Sana now living with Zouroku and Sanae and gaining some sort of normalcy while Sana is unable to describe the burgeoning feelings and emotions she describes as "tangles" welling up inside her. While unbeknownst to Sana a new Alice's Dream user will come to affect her life greatly. While also learning the names and personal history of the twins now that the laboratory has been closed. Volume three continues to impress with its subtle characterization and astute understanding of the internal emotional lives of children. This is a rare thing to be found in Manga and the fact that the narrative slows down to stop and explore Sana's emotional interiority. With small little conversations between Sanae and Sana or Sana not knowing how to describe her relationship with the twins or the murky feelings, she feels when seeing them again. Even the twins who are revealed to be named Yonaga Hinagiri and Asahi Hinagiri and have had an abusive childhood prior to entering the research facility and even having trouble individuating from each other at one point. It makes for a side story that does more than tug at the heartstrings it simply gives pause that the two girls are in a sense dealing with a history of victimization as Alice's Dream users. While the introduction of Hatori Shikishima the antagonist of the volume. An emotionally fragile girl who only wants her family to go back to being happy after she fails to get into an elementary school her Mother had hopes of enrolling her in due to Hatori failing the entrance exam. Hatori's Mother turning emotionally distant from her and her parents now being bitter and acrimonious with each other. Told from Hatori's perspective from her tortured prayers to God that her family would be returned to happier days to even her burgeoning powers due to now being a user of Alice's Dream. As well as her choice to use them for her own personal gain. Is understandable and feels authentic and true to how an emotionally fragile child would react if given the proverbial magic wand to fix their problems. If volume two was replete with questions of what does it mean to be human? This volume feels like an extended look at emotional maturation and family. Showing that instead of simply being a Titanomachy of psychics this is a series that uses the psychic and ESP tropes to explore deep emotional truth and questions. This continues to keep the series in a hallowed place along with Generation Witch and Dreamin' Sun in that there has not been a bad volume. No strange tonal shifts no awkward sexualization just a good story that does what good Sci-Fi and Fantasy can be used to great effect. That is exploring deep emotional and sociopolitical themes while not hamhandedly bludgeoning the audience over the head with the message it's trying to convey. For its subtle character writing expressive and emotional art and being unafraid to allow characters to feel underwritten not because they are poorly written or one dimensional but because they are growing in the story. Giving the interactions are organic avoiding feeling like the story is "overly workshopped" or characters are merely pawns for the story's plot machinations.

Takane & Hana Volume One Review

Forced to pretend to be her older sister in an arranged marriage meeting that goes horribly wrong sensable High School girl Hana Nonomura ends up in a not quite relationship with Takane Saibara the arrogant and cynical "son of privilege". Takane is the grandson of the owner of the conglomerate Hana's Father works for. Continuing to try and understand the inscrutable Takane who also tries to woo her with money and expensive gifts while Hana tries to understand Takane on a deeper level who he is beyond the facade and image he projects due to his station in life and class. A series built around strong-willed personalities quickly pace sharp-tongued quips and the overbearing specter of class on a relationship. For a first volume, everything is set in place for Takane & Hana to be a series that is an enjoyable read a sort of Post-Modern Jane Austin comedy of manners. While Takane is very much arrogant and cynical there also seems to be some hints at a troubled past. While Hana is the best character in the volume brassy and brash but also considerate as well. Seeing her play off of Takane's arrogance while also compete with him is an interesting battle of the wills and wits. While not staggeringly original with a well written female lead and occasionally inspired fourth-wall breaking jokes. Future volumes look promising as Takane and Hana have to navigate the social minefield along with the love-hate relationship they have with each other. The first volume sets up the framing narrative well and introduces the cast although it does get repetitive to have the framing narrative told again at the beginning of several chapters. I chalk this more to the volume's genesis in a serialized magazine and it is far from the worst thing for a series to be guilty of. Solid and accessible Shojo that is most of all fun.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Winter 2018 Anime Season First Impressions

Now with the 2018 Winter Anime Season underway, it's now time for me to write up my first impressions on the series I am watching and layout the structures and rules for this feature going forward in the future. First off a new rule is I have to have watched at least a minimum of three episodes of a series in a given season to give the first impression. As I have thought in the past think it is unfair to judge an entire series on the basis of only one episode. So, for this reason, I will not be covering Today's Menu for Emiya Family as I've only seen one episode although if someone wants a kinder and gentler alternative universe version of the Fate/Stay Night universe and is put off by the Lolicon elements in Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya it's something I can recommend. Also, I won't be covering Kaijuu Girls: Ultra Kaijuu Gijinka Keikaku 2nd Season. As that is the second season of a series that premiered in 2016. I don't cover second seasons to keep the coverage of the Anime of the given season on the blog based on what is new this season. As I could as easily end up covering nothing but long-running Shonen series if I felt so inclined if I allowed second seasons to be covered. Of course, since I am covering Basilisk: Ouka Ninpouchou does that not negate the very rule you are trying to enforce? Some might ask. I would say no since Basilisk: Ouka Ninpouchou is a sequel not a direct continuation of an existing series like a split cour or second season. Also, I'll make sure to list what Streaming Service I watched the series on and how many episodes I watched in parenthesis beside the title along with trying to focus on particular members of the staff and cast and Seiyuu. Also, do not expect a summary of the episodes I have watched as I gave a summary of the shows being discussed in this post's plots on my Blog Update and What I Plan To Watch During The Winter 2018 Anime Season post back on Monday, December 18, 2017 Koi wa Ameagari no You ni being an exception since that was an addition at the last minute to the schedule. So this will focus on my impressions on technical merits of enumerated staff and voice talent. Not a synopsis of the first three episodes than my impressions. Now on to the impressions Proper starting with Basilisk: Ouka Ninpouchou (four episodes viewed on Crunchyroll): this series feels less a sequel to Basilisk: Kouga Ninpou Chou and more like an odd spiritual successor to the Hamasaki, Hiroshi Directed Shigurui: Death Frenzy. With its stilted camerawork slow almost ponderous pacing and deliberate focus on unnerving mood and tone over the bloody spectacle of Basilisk: Kouga Ninpou Chou. Along with a focus on the seeming inevitability of death and court intrigue. Helped along with the Series Composition by Oonishi, Shinsuke ( Script for Mayoiga and script for Fractale (episodes 5, 8). Capturing an overly bleak and fatalistic worldview with hints at Shakespearian Tragedy. While Color Design by Nakao, Fusako (Color Design for Skullman and Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas)captures a muted dreary color pallet in a world filled with fog and night raids. This ethos is only helped along by Chief Animation Director Maki, Takao ( Animation Director (episode 5) of Youjo Senki) whose previous work on Youjo Senki is shown in the slow deliberate way battles are carried out with less focus on superpowers and more on a slow mental torture being inflicted on characters. While Sound Director Yokota, Chikako (Sound Director on Love Stage! And Vivid Strike) is able to capture the grit of dirt under a sandal or the "whoosh" of flame. Or the clash of steel against steel or the squishy almost gelatinous sound of flesh being cut with the blade. Director Junji Nishimura (Director of Simoun, Glasslip, True Tears, and Vivid Strike). Meanwhile is at least competently able to position the camera giving that aforementioned stilted feeling a sense of claustrophobia as well. While Hibiki Iga (Voiced by Inori Minase voiced Noel in Sora no Method and Nagisa "Iron Lady" Aizawa in Jitsu wa Watashi wa) is still very much a slow developing character given that very little focus is given on much of the cast. Still one is able to feel Hibiki's apprehension and Minase does her best with such slight characterization. In short, the slow pace feels more akin to the era from which its predecessor came from to the often frenetic pace of current era shows. Thankfully the series is 24 episodes so the slow pace does allow for more development. Still, this is more a series I want to like that I actually do like as four episodes in not much has happened other than shadowy plots. Although I find the new emphasis on psychological interiority of the characters partially due to the fact that most of them are children having to come to terms with their own mortality and the death of their way of life makes for something I hope to see fleshed out later. Feeling deliberate in pace but weak in characterization so far it is workmanlike although the emphasis on the psychological element gives hope for a deeper story in later episodes. Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (three episodes viewed on Crunchyroll): Probably one of the weakest adaptations studio Silver Link has done since No-Rin. Director Oonuma, Shin's (Director of C3 and Anne Happy) talents are wasted on this series while occasional action cuts are clean. With glaring animation errors CGI that has a color pallet that looks like it belongs in Mario N64. Along with Character Design from Takimoto, Shouko ( Character Design for Chaos Dragon). That makes little details like the flow of clothing or Liza's scales look like they are hovering above her shoulders and forearms. Series Composition by Shimoyama, Kento (Series Composition for Bleach and Binbougami ga!)is alternatively too fast and too slow spending far too much time establishing Satou's previous life before being transported to the game reality while rushing through chapters worth of source material in minutes not to mention for the first two episodes Crunchyroll did not translate the skill acquired screens making parts of the story unable to be comprehended. Rie Takahashi as Zena Marientail is wasted on the series giving an excellent performance filled with innocence and nervous charm. Making the fact that Zena us little more than an NPC ham-handedly spouting world building exposition makes it that much more disheartening. while Ichirou "Satou" Suzuki (Voiced by Horie, Shun voiced Jigoku no Gouka in Mayoiga) is little more than a POV character at this point and the most interesting thing about the series is the world. Of course, these where all problems with the source material but are only more glaring in an Anime adaptation given the visual nature of the medium. Ito Junji: Collection (four episodes viewed on Crunchyroll): While some have complained about this being a bad adaptation of Ito's oeuvre Director and Character Designer Tagashira, Shinobu (Director on Diabolik Lovers and Character Design for Amatsuki). Is able to capture the existential dread and unnerving sense of mental and emotional decline in Ito's characters with his langued character design. While Sound Director Hozumi Gouda (Sound Director on Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Le Chevalier D'Eon) does his best to capture the wretching, unstable characters making the world feel even more cramped and claustrophobic. Being an omnibus series no one character is the focus of every episode yet Souichi Tsujii (Voiced by Mitsuya, Yuuji voiced Katsumi Itaneda in C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control and Katsudonman in Sore Ike! Anpanman) stands out as particularly apt introductory character equal parts cruel and darkly comic clown. A workmanlike adaptation that captures the mood and feeling of Ito's work even if at times it has the look of most Studio Deen series which may put some off but helps build up the darkly twisted ethos of the universe with its sickly color pallet. Record of Grancrest War (four episodes viewed on Crunchyroll): An inspiredly hammy fantasy yarn with Series Composition from Mizuno, Ryou (Original Creator of Record of Grancrest War)is brought to being more than simply fun swashbuckling popcorn fare by Director Omata, Shinichi (Episode Director (ep 9) of Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle). Showing that Shinichi can direct action as well as romantic comedy and historical drama and not have it feel awkward. From changing the aspect ratio in a fight scene to give it the feel of a movie to large armies and flurries of arrows. This establishes if nothing else Omata's versatility as a director. Theo Cornaro (Voiced by Kentarou Kumagai voiced Tsubasa Kaneko in Tuski ga Kirei)would be an easy write off as a tiresome retread of Parn from Lodoss War. Theo is not as headstrong and feels more paladin-like. While Siluca Meletes (Voiced by Akari Kito voiced Hiromi Sugita in Erased and Calen in Time Bokan 24)is most definitely not a retread of Deedlit being obstinate and sometimes overly emotional. A great throwback to a series filled with crisp fighting animation and a world that is fully formed but not daunting to the uninitiated. Hakumei to Mikochi (three episodes viewed on Hidive): This is a series that captures attention more for its Background Art by Kusanagi (Background art on Non-Non-Biyori: Vacation) and a world filled with Anthropomorphic Weasal carpenters and Japanese Macqaque soy sauce vendors. Then any real plot progression very much quiet slice of life series comparable to Flying Witch with its touch of magical realism such as Sen (Voiced by Chika Anzai voiced Mutsumi Kawahara in Gi(a)relish Number and Merry in Hai to Gensou no Grimgar)the tiny Necromancer. While Director Andou, Masaomi (Director of Kuzu no Honkai) and his love for cut out panels are on full display. Overall simply a relaxing series filled with interesting bits of local color like how tiny people make coffee or hull rice. Laid-Back Camp (four episodes viewed on Crunchyroll): About the adventures of a group of girls who go on camping excursions the tone of the series very much comparable to previous Series Composition by Tanaka, Jin (Series Composition on Anne Happy). With the fast-paced character playing off the slow-paced character while also having small moments of cute things happening in between character development and slapstick. Rin Shima (Voiced by Nao Touyama voiced Rin Suzunoki in Bakuon !! And Yuugiri in Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited - Hyoubu Kyousuke)very much being slow paced and a tad bit stoical but slowly opening up. Like Hakumei to Mikochi, it's as much about the ethos of the world as the characters, in particular, the majesty of Mt. Fuji is heavily emphasized. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (three episodes viewed on Amazon Prime Video): This was a series I originally was not going to watch due to the fact that I didn't feel like watching another Seinen Romance Anime. This really surprised me partially because it is done at Wit Studio mostly known for having done two seasons of Attack On Titan. Chronicling the story of 17 years old Akira Tachibana who develops romantic feelings for her 45-year-old manager Masami Kondou (voiced by Hirata, Hiroaki voiced Benny in Black Lagoon and Gojou Sha in Saiyuuki). A kind-hearted and gentle man whose mannerisms and personality get him thought of as a dorky wuss. It could have been really easy for this series to turn into wish-fulfillment fantasy for older men but the series treats the whole romantic drama gently and with a self-aware realism to the obvious problems with a relationship with a twenty-eight year age gap, a perceived power imbalance. Along with Kondou being a divorcee and a single Father. Series Composition by Mieno, Hitomi (Series Composition for Frame Arm Girls and Flying Witch)handles all of this with aplomb partially due to the already strong source material and also with a good grasp for character psychology. making for a subtle series with some very beautiful shot composition and an art style comparable to 90s Shojo Manga with large expressionistic backgrounds. Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san (four episodes viewed on Crunchyroll): Equal parts sweet and capturing the passing away of the time of youth. While also subtly showing the blossoming of a young romance. Series Composition by Yokote, Michiko (Series Composition on Genshiken)is able to thread the feelings of fleeting youth and the springtime of youth without having too much tonal whiplash. While Takagi-san (voiced by Takahashi, Rie voiced Ernesti Echevarria in Knights & Magic)has an equal parts flirty girl next door and teasing almost friend with Nishikata (voiced by Yuki Kaji voiced Amata Sora in Aquarion Evol). Nishikata is dense, to say the least. While the dynamic is mostly good-natured ribbing for the most part. Pop Team Epic (Four episodes viewed on Hidive) Probably the single hardest series to write about due to it being both a relatively new staff ranging from Aoki, Jun (Director on Kotatsu Neko (ONA) and Television) who works as director but also storyboards and a number of other jobs as well as other newer creators working on it as well. Combined with a rotating cast of male and female Seiyuu. Along with stop-motion puppetry and parodies of Earth Wind And Fire songs nonsense comedy and a fake Idol Anime. Among other things making this my Anime Of The Season. If only for the amount of effort that went into something that could have been disposable nonsense.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Orange Future Review (Spoilers for Main Series)

The conclusion of the entire series starts off with an alternate future where everything works out the multiverse works and Kakeru lives and marries Naho and Suwa supports them from the wings. While the remainder of the volume is for lack of a better term the "True Ending" of the series casting a story in a veil of regret, sadness, and self-doubt. With the friends now broken apart and simply coping with life Suwa struggling with feeling like he is simply being the "nice guy" to bind up his own wounds while Naho simply polishes her memories of Kakeru until. Finally Naho and a Suwa who has taken his heart in hand and declared his duty to make Naho happy even if he can't ever replace Kakeru he can at least try to make Naho hurt less. making the final volume of a series that had an odd genesis of going from a Shojo Manga magazine to a Seinen Manga magazine than going on hiatus for a year due to the Mangaka's health problems. To earning an Eisner nomination ranking in the YALSA's 2017 Top 10 Graphic Novels for Teens. As well as gaining a TV Anime adaptation Directed by Hamasaki, Hiroshi (Shigurui). As well as a sequel film Orange: Mirai which this Manga is an adaptation of as well as being the ending intended by Ichigo Takano-Sensei. As a conclusion, this is an often emotionally brittle series riddled with an ethos of self-recrimination and guilt in the Suwa Hiroto story arc making it feel dour and sad in a way that the hopeful future story arc does not. Making me think that the more optimistic arc is at the beginning because the second arc is simply too harsh considering how much the original five volumes made the ethos of depression and suicide in Kakeru almost palpable. To see Suwa who is the epitome of self-sacrifice and kindness question his own motives. Makes for a painful read although I have to respect the psychological realism with which he is written. Reminding me at times of the 1988 Anime Film Kimagure Orange Road I Want to Return to That Day a downbeat conclusion to one of the defining Shonen Romance titles of the genre. All thankfully is not gloom and while the ending is one of acceptance of the reality of death and that things sometimes can't change and time doesn't heal all wounds perfectly. There is an emotional closure that at least feels honest and it's hearting in an afterward that Takano-Sensei is at least aware that there is no "quick fix" for the depressed or suicidal. While also removing the multiverse element from the story instead seemingly making it seemingly a bittersweet dream instead of an unexplained reality. And although I didn't have the biggest problem with it the idea left many feeling like it was a cheap Deus Ex Machina. Even hints at a possible relationship between Hagita and Azusa which made me happy if only because it at least confirmed something I wanted to be true. A wonderful conclusion to a great series that feels honest and removes elements of the story that took away from the realism for some.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Juana and the Dragonnewts' Seven Kingdoms Vol. 1 Review

Set in a distant future where humanity has been an extinct species for generations and dragons have gained sentience, culture, and high-level reasoning and emotional lives. A junk scavenger named Nid finds a human girl named Juana knowing not what to do with the girl in a city where Nid is discriminated against because he is a Carnivore in a city mostly populated by Herbivores. Along with fears for Juana's safety. Nid and Juana set out to hopefully discover more about the human girl while also avoiding perils of having such a rare "creature" that others might seek to use, abuse, or own. Juana and the Dragonnewts' Seven Kingdoms' is one of the stranger series I have read feeling at home with such oddball series like Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui or Girls Last Tour by Tsukumizu. A world where discrimination is still rife and barriers to species and language keep real connections from being had between Juana and Nid. Even the audience has a hard time connecting to Juana due to her dialogue all being in monosyllabic Spanish phrases and possibly French and some Portuguese. Still, it's not hard to be charmed by the little girl who wants to travel and her easily persuaded protector. Feeling in places like Kino's Journey with a focus on questions of humanity and even a side story that chronicles what is really important in life and mortality with stark and heartfelt emotion leaving the timeless question of Mark 8:36 ringing in my brain, not something I would have expected but this series is full of surprises in the best way. World building is effortless and flows naturally never feeling like the audience is being talked at about the past. Feeling like a thoughtful look at many issues and themes. This series may be a little hard to follow and sometimes the art does feel muddy due to the gray tone. Yet the narrative moves along well while also introducing side characters from the four-armed Dragonewt seamstress Remi. Who takes an immediate shine to Juana even going so far as to design weather safety gear out of an old space suit that Nid's old teacher the sly merchant Zeddan had in storage. A hearty recommendation for a series that can be at times whimsical, thoughtful, and tense it left me satisfied with the story but also wanting to know desperately what happens in the next volume.

Children Of The Whales Volume 2 Review

Continuing from the end of the first volume the emotionless warriors that have invaded Mud Whale go on a seek and destroy mission. Killing many of the residents of Mud Whale while some put up a valiant fight against the Harlequin masked shock troops. Ultimately it is only a call for withdrawal that seemingly saves Mud Whale from complete annihilation. Only to have the citizens have to not only bury the dead but go on living or resort to extreme measures to gain information out of captured soldiers. While the Committee of Elders makes its plans known in the face of what looks like the unavoidable annihilation of the island and it's residents. This volume is an emotionally pulverizing look at war, death, loss and the despair of losing those close to you and the death of your dreams in short not a "fun" read and still with all that even the chilling crafted scenes of slaughter that brought up The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya. This is not a despondent volume be it Chakuro comforting Lykos or Chakuro getting one last chance to say goodbye to Sami. Giving the series a wide emotional breadth while never really moving beyond an ethos of somber mourning. This volume also introduces Liontari a gleeful sadist that Umeda-Sensei draws with disarmingly innocent looks. Making for a chilling look at the right to kill being given to the obviously mentally unstable. Words come hard to describe this series as words like "bracing", "stark', or gritty while apropos feel too glib. For this series is unafraid to show some truly horrendous crimes against the defenseless. Yet these scenes of the impalement of small children by invading forces. The physical and psychological toll of survivors' guilt all expressed in art that is haunting in its portraits of inhumanity and the woundedness of the cast. This is a series that much like Fire Punch stays with you because it is simply that well executed and bleak. Yet Children Of The Whales is ultimately more hopeful or at least I desire it to be so even if it is not I'm willing to pay the emotional cost as this is a world really unlike any other in Shojo Manga.