Category Archives: Anime Review

Anime Review: Masamune-kun no Revenge

Masamune-kun no Revenge is the kind of anime that would inevitably come out every season. It is, in essence, a harem, high school life, comedy, light romance show. It is the kind of show that would appeal to younger anime fans, especially those with less experience in knowing the tropes and cliches in the industry.

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Don’t get me wrong. Just because an anime roots itself in a genre that can easily be seen as cliched does not mean it has to be so. My subjective opinions aside, there are definitely some good shows that I’ve seen in the past in this genre that have some unique aspects to them. However, Masamune is definitely not one of them. It does have a premise that has potential. As it turns out, though, the plot is more or less filled with tropes from the standard drama shows, of which plot development depends on. The eye-catching premise of “revenge for childhood rejection” is just another excuse to make the main romantic pairing, without going very deep.

One of the things that this show suffers from is that it tries to adapt the entire source material so far in 12 episodes. While even the source story is not complex, adapting the whole thing in one season turned out to be not so great. The show starts off fine, but rushes through character relationship with other main heroines during the middle, only to abruptly sweep them aside as “side characters” to make way for the main heroine in the end. While this seems to be the standard adaptation practice for harem shows nowadays, it is still very bad for the story.

What else is there to say? If you’ve seen a dozen shows in this genre you can predict how the story is going to go. The artwork is vibrant and character design is quite nice, but there is no “wow” factor to be found in visuals. BGM and theme songs are typical JPOP. If you enjoy it, you would like the music. Obviously, songs vocalized by upstart seiyuus are nowhere near the levels of “professional music”, as you would expect. I would not call the main characters flat, but their depth are quite far from being intricate. In fact, the main girl is the amalgam of two tropes: ojousama and tsundere. The protagonist is just… another male harem lead.

All in all, Masamune-kun no Revenge is an above average harem show, but still deeply entrenched in cliches and tropes of the genre without its own quirks. Most people who enjoyed watching this show would probably not going to remember its title after a while.

My very subjective score: 5.5/10

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Fate/Zero

Today, I present Fate/Zero from the highly acclaimed studio ufotable, produced during 2011-12. Fate/Zero is the prequel of Fate/Stay Night.

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Fate/Zero takes place 10 years prior to the events of Fate/stay night, detailing the events of the 4th Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City. The War of the Holy Grail is a contest in which seven magi summon seven Heroic Spirits to compete in a deadly game with the aim of obtaining the power of the “Holy Grail,” which grants a miracle. After three inconclusive wars for the elusive Holy Grail, the Fourth War commences.[Wikipedia]

Fate/Zero, alongside with Sword Art Online, is among the most hyped anime to watch during 2012. There are a lot of things to like about f/z, since it is notably different from the trend of anime today consisting of teenagers saving the world or managing their harems. Instead, fate/zero offers a cast of older men, most of whom are willing to abandon their morals in order to achieve victory in this deadly tournament. Each person wants to win for a different reason. Even though all of the motives are arguably well-intended, but good fortune rarely accompany good will in fate/zero.

The most enjoyable part about watching fate/zero for me is seeing the clash of ideals among participants of the holy grail war. By participants, I meant both the magi and the servants. The 14 characters experienced different things in life, due to the particularities of their era and social surroundings. Ufotable has done a great job in giving a big part of story-telling to dialogues between characters. These exchanges are intelligent, philosophical, and allow us to peek into the characters’ past, without becoming overly pretentious and hard to follow.

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In terms of production quality, Fate/Zero is top notch. Ironically (or not so), LiSA, Aoi Eir, Luna Haruna also performed in OP ED music for Fate/zero, same as Sword Art Online. However, the addition of Kalafina makes f/z slightly superior than SAO in terms of music.The animation … well, let’s just say that ufotable is amazing in this aspect.

However, fate/zero is not without flaws. This occurs in two levels, in terms of enjoyment and story. Allow me to explain a bit more. Storywise, f/z is amazing up to the ending. While the whole thing did not fall apart, the ending did not lived up to the epicness shown throughout the story. I suppose this is inevitable, since the story has to end in a particular way as the prequel to Fate/Stay Night. As for entertainment, for most people, f/z may present a world that is too dark for people to handle. As soon as you become attached to a character, bad things happen to him/her.

All in all, Fate/Zero deserve its hype during 2012, and presents a complex retelling of the 4th holy grail war. I award fate/zero with a 9.3/10.

RECOMMENDATION

For all viewers looking for a mature story.

For people unsure of whether to watch this, try the first episode and then decide.

For ultimate recommendation try Kara no Kyoukai movie series also produced by ufotable. Also, don’t miss Fate/Stay Night 2014 remake by ufotable that will be aired soon!

 

 


High School of the Dead

Time to talk about everyone’s second favorite ecchi show!

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A mysterious, lethal disease is on the loose worldwide, resulting in a catastrophic death rate of humanity, and the increasing rise of attacks, caused by the living dead. In Japan, several high school students and a school nurse have banded together to escape Fujimi High School shortly after it was attacked by zombies. The group now attempts to figure who or what was responsible for this plague, and in the meantime, attempt to survive the present apocalypse.
The story is initially narrated through the eyes of Takashi Komuro, one of the students who had survived in the initial outbreak. (MAL)

If I am forced to only use two words to sum up this anime, it would be … boobs and zombies. I have to say, what a glorious combination!

If you are watching this show with your brain turned on, you are doing it wrong, because this is not an intelligent show, neither does it try to be one. The only reason that plot exists is so that characters can move around the city swarmed by zombies, showing off exhilarating zombie-smashing action as well as their jelly-filled boobs that modestly hide behind very suggestive clothes. Seriously, that’s all there is to it.

There are totally 6 main characters, consisting of 4 pairs of tits and 2 boys who seek to protect those pairs of tits.  Among the 4 walking pairs of tits, 2 pairs do nothing but annoy the audience, and the other 2 pairs gratify the male audience with some of the most ridiculously hilarious sword-panties-boobs or gun-panties-boobs action, ever. Oh yeah, before I forget, all except for one pair of tits have crush on the male lead, Takashi.

Fortunately, the main male characters in this show is much better done. The male lead Takashi of course is the epitome of manliness. A shout out to his voice actor, who just made his voice that much more manly. Also deserving of mention is the fat gun-geek Hirano, a person who knows the ins-and-outs of fire-arms and go psycho with guns whenever he gets his hands on one. Between the two of them and the sword-wielding pair of tits, there were plenty of entertaining zombie-exterminating action.

saeko busujima

expect this in the entire show

The art is, if you haven’t figure out yet, amazing. The backgrounds are colorful and vivid. The animation is often exaggerated, thereby maximizing the entertainment value. The character designs follow faithfully in those of its manga. The only character design that I didn’t like is the pink-haired girl’s (doesn’t her hairstyle just annoys you?). In terms of fan-service, the art is great!

This show could have been better had the producers done better in the music department. The opening has an awesome first 30 seconds instrumentals, but loses all intensity as soon as the singer opens her mouth. There are 12 endings, one ending each for each episode. I don’t see the point of this except for promoting the singer’s album (indeed all 12 ending songs are from the same artist). In general, this anime could have added more sound tracks in the action part, but the ones that are there are not too shabby.

All in all, High School of the Dead is an anime that is not to be taken seriously. Once you forget paying attention to the story as well as screening out the failures in characters, this show becomes very enjoyable. It has some of the best down-right outrageous boobs-swords-guns action as well as its own fill of love triangle drama, amidst the zombie apocalypse might I add. I award this show with a gracious 6.2/10.

RECOMMENDATION

Again, recommended if you especially enjoy fan-service or sword/guns action.

Not recommended if you are looking for something intelligent in anime. Nevertheless, you are welcome to try this show.


Clannad: After Story

Finally, the time has come for me to write a review on the one and only Clannad: After Story!

Clannad AS

Events in After Story take place immediately after the first season, following Tomoya’s final semester of high school. After declaring his love to Nagisa, they begin to have a close relationship. Their life together will be faced with unexpected challenges, as the truth behind the illusionary world and the city’s legend come to light. (MyAnimeList)

Good anime are remembered for different reasons. Some shows excel in animation and sound; some have memorable characters; still others have well-written and well-executed story that does not leave much inconsistencies; finally, there are some shows of which you get very emotionally attached to.

A question might pop up at this point. Is it possible for one single show to accomplish all of these things? Well, let’s find out, shall we?

The story of Clannad~AS~ is notably different than that of Clannad in that it is no longer restricted to the omnibus format as adapted from the visual novel. The heroine has already been chosen, and the writer does not throw in any break-ups and love triangle routine that is so frequently seen in other romance shows. This is perhaps the truly brilliant aspect of the show. It focuses on what happens after they become a couple, and their life afterward.

It’s hard to comment on the plot of Clannad~AS~, so I will not do so. It is necessary to point out that a side story, of a little girl and a robot in an illusionary world (actually this side story is told in Season 1 as well), is featured along with the main story of Tomoya and Nagisa. The first half of After Story also delves heavily into the pasts of some side characters, nicely adding some touching moments. However, these side stories are not fillers nor distractions from the main stories, they actually exist to build up a major plot device that exist in Clannad, and paramount to constructing the grand conclusion of Clannad. The side story of the mystically illusionary world will come together with the main story and make sense to viewers at the end.

In season two, we see yet more character development in Tomoya and Nagisa, growing stronger together as they support each other … until the story takes a riveting twist that turns Tomoya’s world upside down. Believe it or not. Then, what unfolds is the best, the most emotional, the most touching, and the most inspiring tale of how a person learns to find joy in life despite great misfortunes, in any anime that I have seen. Indeed, the story is emotional and dramatic without ever forcing any drama, and manages to struck us viewers with the metaphorical baseball bat of depression again and again, and again, until we have dried our tears, and finally survived to the ending. (That was more of a subjective description of the emotional impact of this anime, but can you really blame me?)

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The technical aspect of Clannad is something that is easier to talk about. The animation is, in one word, superb. I have rewatched this anime to confirm this, and Kyoto Animation has animated this anime almost flawlessly. The movements of characters reflect those of real life, animated at the same tempo. The expressions of characters during dramatic moments were again, nothing short of amazing. The backgrounds used in episodes were gorgeously drawn. Perhaps the best part of animation goes to those moments at the illusionary world, where the quality matches that of a Disney movie watched in theater.

The sound department is also incredible. The sound tracks are packed with emotions, and only serve to inflame the emotions at the most dramatic points. However, a great drawback is the ending of Clannad: AS, having a drastically different atmosphere than the tone of the anime. Fortunately, the ending does not appear in the most emotional episodes.

Ultimately, After Story creates characters that are very close to humans. Although Tomoya is a fictional character, you can not help but relate to his struggles and admire his valiant efforts at living his life to the full extent. The lessons learned from AS should teach us to become a more positive person, to be strong even in front of hardships in life, and change the way we look at things.

I give Clannad: After Story a rating of 9.9/10, if only as a reminder that perfection is something that is never achieved. However, I would argue that Clannad~After Story~ is as close to masterpiece of “slice of life” anime as you can get, and I would honestly be surprised if another “slice of life” show could change me as a person as much as Clannad did.

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Oh, and don’t forget to bring a box of tissue when you watch the show, because you are going to need it.

RECOMMENDATION

This is a great anime for all anime fans out there, as everyone should be able to related to difficulties faced by main characters in this anime, though not everyone will share the same sentiments as I did. It is something that you can (re)watch anytime, and there are new things to be learnt from this anime each time you rewatch it.

Don’t watch Clannad and Clannad: After Story if you only watch anime to enjoy the fan-service and action, then this review is wasted on you anyways.


Clannad

Ahh, finally … Clannad, one of the most popular anime in Western anime communitiy, was created by Kyoto Animation in 07-08. It is an anime directly adapted from Key, a prominent visual novel production company. Clannad tells a heart-warming story that centers on the theme of family, and would forever remain as one of my favorite anime. This review will only talk about the first season of Clannad.

clannad cover

Okazaki Tomoya is a delinquent who finds life dull and believes he’ll never amount to anything. Along with his friend Sunohara, he skips school and plans to waste his high school days away.

One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a young girl muttering quietly to herself. Without warning she exclaims “Anpan!” (a popular Japanese food), which catches Tomoya’s attention. He soon discovers the girl’s name is Furukawa Nagisa and that she exclaims things she likes in order to motivate herself. Nagisa claims they are now friends, but Tomoya walks away passing the encounter off as nothing.

However, Tomoya notices Nagisa more and more around school. Eventually he befriends her. Tomoya learns Nagisa has been held back a year due to a severe illness and her dream is to revive the school’s drama club. He decides to help her achieve this goal along with the help of four other girls. As Tomoya spends more time with the girls, he learns more about them and their problems. As he attempts to help each girl overcome her respective obstacle, he begins to realize life isn’t as dull as he once thought. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

The story of Clannad can be best categorized as omnibus arc-styled anime in which each main female character has her own arc in which she is the lead, with some characters more focused on than others. Normally, this kind of plot structure is met with negative responses because it is unlikely to construct a good continuous story with it. Nevertheless, Clannad has done a phenomenal job on its story, even with deep roots in its adapted visual novel. This is mainly because Clannad accentuates on friendship and family much more so than the romance aspect, so it allows Tomoya to help all of the heroines with their tragic pasts without condemning the anime to being a harem.

Clannad is an anime that has done an amazing job in the drama department. In each arc, the emotions gradually build up, and never quite let go, entrancing the viewers even after the dramatic catharsis. This is thanks to some well-constructed back stories of our main characters, as well as the genuine relationships that are established during the story. These stories and dramatic moments are easy to relate to, since everyone experienced some difficulties with some kind of human relationship problem at some points of their lives. However, the first season ultimately suffers from its arc-styled constructions. No matter how good the relationship buildup is, it can’t escape the fact that all other characters are relegated as side characters during a particular heroine’s arc. Furthermore, the last episode (23) is almost unnecessary in my opinion, as episode 22 already serves as a perfect closure point for season 1, and episode 23 adds nothing new to the table. Still, despite some of its flaws, Clannad remains one of the only anime in which I cried without any regards of my own masculinity.

As far as delinquents go, Tomoya has got to be the most gentle, kind, warm-hearted, passionate, and determined person, in a realistic way. While Tomoya is well-established, the other main characters are not as well fleshed out, obviously because not all of them are on the screen the whole time like Tomoya is. For this reason, it is a good thing that our main heroine who stays by Tomoya’s side during most of the story, Nagisa, is well-portrayed and experience tremendous character growth, with help of Tomoya. She grows from a shy girl to a determined, strong, and more out-going person. Anyways, the strong development of these two characters are especially important to the second season of Clannad, in Clannad: After Story.

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Animation-wise, Kyoto Animation does not fail to impress. The backgrounds are beautiful, and for the most parts characters’ motions are smooth and natural. The character designs may not be the best thing ever, but at least viewers can immediately distinguish the characters from each other, which is sufficient in my opinion. Besides, even though the characters are done in a moe fashion, the characters don’t behave typical of moe. Indeed, the characters act and talk like real people.

Clannad is as close to perfection in the sound department as you can get for slice of life anime. Indeed, it not only has a amazing opening and ending, but also has incredible soundtracks that can move you on an emotional level. Check out the OP here https://bunny1ov3r.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/top-anime-op-ed-countdown-3/.

Overall, Clannad is a must-see for all anime fan, regardless of whether you like it or not. It is a slice of life show that inspires the audience to look at the positive things in life. It does not fail to deliver a powerful dramatic story, rich of emotions, that reach out to its audience, changing us for the better. I award this anime a rating of 9.1/10.

RECOMMENDATION

Recommended to all drama, romance, slice of life anime fans, or just people looking for a very emotional story.

Not recommended to people who can’t survive a show without fan-service and action.

For ultimate recommendation, watch Kanon(2006), an arc-styled romance drama anime also done by Kyoto Animation.


Ookami to Koushinryou (Spice and Wolf)

Today I will be reviewing the first season of Spice & Wolf, a highly popular and well-received romance-fantasy-adventure anime that was aired back in 2008.

spice and wolf cover

The peddler Kraft Lawrence travels through the world selling all kinds of things. After visiting a village, he discovers a sleeping girl under the pelts in his cart. She has wolf ears and a tail. The wolf girl explains that she has been called a “god”, but now her name is Holo and nothing more. Lawrence teases the girl a little, but after hearing more of her story, he decides to accompany her further north. On their travels the pair of companions have many adventures, often getting into trouble, and the bond between them grows stronger. (MyAnimeList)

Do not be deceived by the cover. S&W is not another generic ecchi fox girl anime. It is an unique and intelligent show that focuses on the interaction between our leads, Holo and Lawrence, and revolves around the subject of economics.

The story can be best described as slow-paced, nonetheless very well-written and well-timed. Audiences are treated to myriad of dialogues revolving around bartering goods, negotiating contracts, exchanging favors, etc. Being an Economics major in college myself, I recognize a lot of valid cases that are smarted adapted into this medieval, church-dominated scenario. As I warned earlier, however, while this is nicely done, this drags down the pacing of the story. Fortunately, a few more dramatic incidents do happen during the couple climaxes of the show, and characters are placed in mortal danger, giving main characters a chance to experience life-and-death situation together and surviving only with their wits.

If you haven’t realized at this point, you must know that the strongest aspect of this anime is characters. For someone as mystical as a “wolf god”, Holo is a very realistic individual who shows a wide spectrum of emotions, the same with Lawrence, the male lead. Both main characters are very mature in that they behave and act like adults. The development of relationship between the two characters are amazing. Through their daily interactions, they flirt, exchange witty words, act as partners, and comfort each other if the other gets hurt.

horo 1

The sound and animation are just as subtle as the show, in a good way. The opening, Tabi no Tochuu, is something that I would put on my top OP countdown. Although I didn’t like the ending at first, it actually fits nicely into the story as I hear it more. The soundtracks consist of mainly classical string pieces, though the kinds that are fast-paced and not so melodic. However, there are points where I feel that there is a lack of background music. The animation is just what you would expect of an peaceful adventure anime. What must be mentioned here is the subtle expressions of the characters, for they are extremely well-done. This aspect further illustrated the MC’s maturity in the tiny details of their actions. If you have to pick some bones, the backgrounds could be more detailed at times and the characters look sometimes distorted from a distance. These are only small problems though.

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So far, I’ve listed nothing but good points of this show. However, at least to me, there is a major flaw in this show: the lack of plot twists. For me, the only thing that can make up for a lack of plot twist is witty dialogues exchanged between charming characters. While the dialogues should be praised for their realism in S&W, they are far from being witty. Then, the lack of plot twist where climaxes don’t happen (half of the show) can sometimes be boring, especially if you gradually get tired of watching them scheming their next way of making a profit. I was only pumped up again when I entered the next climax in the story. Of course, for other people, this may not be a problem at all.

Overall, Spice & Wolf is an intelligent show that tells a wonderful tale of a pair of merchant travelers in the medieval era. It features some nicely done script on how merchants cleverly make profits and also the blossoming romantic relationship between our MCs. I award this Spice & Wolf with an rating of 8.1/10.

RECOMMENDATION

Recommended if you are into business (economics, marketing, finance, etc), or if you want to watch a good (non school setting) romance show.

Not recommended if you can’t survive an anime without action and/or fan-service.

For ultimate recommendation watch Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, also a anime series heavily focused on economics and romance between leads.


Anime Graveyard: Blue Exorcist

You read the title right. This is the “Graveyard Division” of Anime Reviews, dedicated to popular and “well-liked” anime that just fails, to an infinitely more drastic extent compared to how Sword Art Online doesn’t live up to its hype.

Before anything else, I would like to say that my opinion of an adaptation in one medium is not the same as my opinion of that work in adaptations of other mediums. Or simply, the anime for something could be crap but the manga might be very good, and vice versa. Certainly, this happens quite often.

blue exorcist

This world consists of two dimensions joined as one, like a mirror. The first is the world in which the humans live, Assiah. The other is the world of demons, Gehenna. Ordinarily, travel between the two, and indeed any kind of contact between the two, is impossible. However the demons can pass over into this world by possessing anything that exist within it. Satan the god of demons, but there’s one thing that he doesn’t have, and that’s a substance in the human world that is powerful enough to contain him!! For that purpose he created Rin, his son from a human woman, but will his son agree to his plans? Or will he become something else…? An exorcist?(Source: MU)

The premise sounds interesting? you bet! And you know what, the first half of this anime is fine. It mainly follows a monster of the week formula that is either episodic or bi-episodic. The main characters are slowly introduced to us in these adventures. There were some forced drama or stories that does not feel very mature. However, coupled with the stunning action sequence and some resemblances of mystery, it is at least decent. Well, then the anime crashed and burned, with the end result being an irreversible train wreck.

The main problem that was in the second half of the anime is that it tries to bring in the “main plot”. While I am usually an viewer who is more happy with something that is not episodic, I prefer episodic nature over bad plot. It may be the case that this anime should actually be made longer, so the producer wouldn’t have to tweak a forced plot and bring it to a haste finish. I won’t actually pinpoint what’s wrong with the plot in second half, but I suspect most critics would agree with me in this matter.

And guess what, there is one aspect that failed even more spectacularly than the plot department; that is character. The main character, Okumura, fails spectacularly as a shounen MC in an incredibly shounen show. The problem doesn’t stop here. While in most other shows with similar problems side characters are sidelined, in Blue Exorcist side characters completely disappear in the latter half. This defeats the purpose of the long-winded character introductions earlier in the story. Furthermore, after finishing the show, I couldn’t decide who the antagonist(s) was, in a shounen show!

I suppose I should praise this anime at least for its visuals, and sound to a lesser degree. As usual, A-1 Pictures does a great job in animation and designs, although even this drops in quality in later episodes.

Honestly, after seeing Blue Exorcist and Tsuritama (and obviously, Sword Art Online), I categorized A-1 Pictures as a production company that couldn’t adapt good stories if their lives depended on it. This opinion is only changed after watching Shinsekai Yori. Though, this still put them in the “can’t create good characters” category.

Overall, Blue Exorcist fails at everything except for the animation and sound. I give it somewhere around 4.8/10.

RECOMMENDATION

Recommended to fans of Ao no Exorcist manga, though be prepared for the disappointment. Also to critics who like to flame popular and well-liked anime.

Not recommended to anyone else.


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