Sabagebu (Survival Game Club!) REVIEW


Whenever you transfer into a new school, it’s a tough experience. Especially when you’ve done it practically a thousand times in your short life. You find it hard to make friends and keep them as you’re travelling around; it’s an emotional and mental challenge in which to survive. You either just ignore the situation and become a social recluse or you choose to buck the system and act like a total jerk because it won’t matter as you’ll probably be transferring again soon; just like the protagonist of Sabagebu. She and the show throw shoujo convention out of the window in a storm of bullets and shrapnel!

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On the surface, Momoka is a sweet and kindly girl who is timid, wishes to make friends and in general wants to be a nice girl; on the surface. Deep inside her psyche though, she is a vengeful and manipulative psycho who only pretends to be nice to make things easier for herself in life. In her mind she is longing to let out her real persona and terrorise the student body; not before she kicks a guy’s ass for trying to grope her on a train. She is assisted by a mysterious gun-wielding girl named Miou, who turns out to be the president of their school’s Survival Game Club. Miou immediately takes an interest in Momoka and manages to persuade her [through some rather underhanded means such as drugging and ironic manipulation] to join the club and let out her inner demons. The rest of the story is quite simple really. Momoka learns how to use guns and discover that she’s really good at shooting people; with BB pellets mind you, although the imagination of the club members fills in the blood for you to add to their mental fantasises. All this is chronicled in three minisodes per episode, about seven minutes each. It’s a short, sharp hit to your gut and leaves you reeling with a fit of the giggles…most of the time.

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From the getgo, Sabagebu wishes to tear the rule book of both shoujo manga and anime. Gone is the sweet transfer student and in its stead is a twisted, evil bully coated with a sweet exterior. You could immediately think that there’s no hope for Momoka based on that initial premise and that you should hate her; but she’s actually a good person once you get to know her circumstances. She’s actually quite smart and knows the stereotypes rife in schools [especially shoujo schools] and chooses to stand up loud and proud and shout “NOPE” to convention. Miou and the Survival Game Club admire this and quickly persuade her to join them in their comedic fascination with armaments peppered with a vivid imagination. Mental blood flows all over the place when the girls choose to practice and the one who is usually dishing it out is the new recruit. The outlet is potentially the best thing for Momoka as it allows her to freely express herself and by the end of the first episode, her true nature is free to torment the girls who had previously bullied her using traditional female drama techniques of psychological warfare. Seeing these bully tactics backfire in the extreme was so satisfying with the added benefit of seeing Momoka and Miou as strong and confident women which was so pleasing to see. They know what’s going on and revel in it. When you meet the other club members Maya, Urura, Kayo and their mascot platypus Platy [who could give Perry the Platypus a run for his money!] it’s clear that these girls are true blue friends whom enjoy sharing their insanely obsessive hobby to the point where they caress their BB guns as if they were lovers.

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What makes me love this show so much is that it is totally self-aware. A narrator [who is also the shopkeep of the local gun shop where the club buys their gear and practices] orates numerous breakings of the fourth wall, fills in any gaps in the plot in a comedically cynical and apathetic manner [By the fourth episode, you can hear the exasperation in his voice when he has to repeat that the blood is in the girls’ minds] and generally comments on the show at large. His presence is yet another gem in the overall package of Sabagebu. Not to say the characters are oblivious to their quirky personalities. They make references about each other all the time as well making the show more of a commentary about the state of shoujo slice of life shows and chooses to blow them out of the sky with a totally unusual premise. Another thing which is so entertaining is that there are tons of nods to Western action and war films and actors such as Chuck Norris, The Matrix and even The Terminator himself. It also answers the question that has plagued anime fans since Girls und Panzer hit the airwaves [and other shows featuring cute girls packing heat]- Can girls with guns be cute AND psychologically stable? REALLY? Sabagebu’s answer is a resounding NO…followed by a bullet to the head. It kind of makes the latter show feel more genuine than the former in that it’s more realistic. These girls are gun nuts; simple as. That’s not me making a sweeping generalisation or anything, they are shameless with how much they love their weapons. All this tied up in short, rapid-fire mini stories which mostly hit their target; of course there will be duds every now and again [there’s a minisode concerning weight gain on Momoka’s part which seems poorly handled, speaking as a guy who dealt with similar weight problems a while back]. Apart from that, this show is a riot.

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Sabagebu is one of those shows that you simply have to see. I was sold after only a minute when I witnessed in admiration Momoka effectively giving the bird to tradition and carving her own path in the narrative. Not only that but it’s more accessible than most anime as most of its tropes and quirks are framed around Hollywood action movies and as such feels familiar to American audiences. I simply adore how the group get to know each other through their mutual desire for cordite [I especially found how Urara warms to Momoka hilarious – spoilers]. All these characters may seem like established models from past shows, but each has a sudden twist which makes all of them feel fresh or at the very least charming. I don’t know whether it’s because I watched the horrible Glasslip yesterday and find anything that isn’t that to be gold, but I genuinely feel good about Sabagebu and will definitely follow this through to the end!

Sabagebu is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [A sure-fire success in deconstructing shoujo stereotypes with some kooky action thrown in.]

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Glasslip REVIEW


Friendship groups are wonderful things. A small circle of pals in your town, or in this case seaside village, whom you can hang out with and have fun with; but things can easily turn sour. Relationships of that ilk are always hanging by a thread and can easily break especially if there are an equal amount of girls and guys in the group. Most of these circles are mature and sensible enough to not allow this to happen; but in Glasslip, it all descends to immature angst and bickering for some really REALLY bizarre reasons.

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Glasslip is set in a small coastal haven in Japan where a group of five teenagers hang out together in a local cafe. There Touko, Yanagi, Yuki, Sachi and Hiro share each other’s stories and have a nice, relaxing time outside of school. They maintain this by imposing a strict no-dating rule [a REALLY strict rule]; if two members choose to date, they have to leave the group. Like love is toxic or something; kind of strange and antisocial do you think? Especially when there’s only five people in the group already. One day though, a boy named Kakeru [whom the group calls David as a reference to Michelangelo’s David] shows up and take an immediate interest in Touko. The gang react oddly to his interest like he’s some kind of serial killer! Anyway, the rest of the story focuses on [or at least tries to focus on] Kakeru’s ability to see snippets of the future which brought him to Touko, whom can also see the future while she’s working at her parents’ glass factory. Kakeru is drawn to her because of this and helps her unlock these visions to their full potential. What are these visions? Well…that’s where Glasslip’s premise begins to shatter.

glasslip_2The whole gimmick of Kakeru and Touko seeing the future is so mishandled that it may as well not be in the story; whatever story is there to begin with. The idea of being able to see the future in little “fragments” as Kakeru describes them leaves the door open for some supernatural dealings to occur or even earth-moving events that can be prevented. How does Touko use this newly found power? To stop Yanagi crying one time. That’s it…oh! There’s that one time she finds out one of her BEST FRIENDS has to be hospitalised and she barely reacts to it; we just cut to the next scene like that revelation never happened. What? Those are the most taxing things her clairvoyance has to tackle, which is stimulated whenever she’s making glass paraphernalia. You’d think it’d be the backbone of the story, but it’s not. Instead we are carried by endless amount of teenage angst and melodrama which could easily be avoided. Not that you’d be able to tell because THE PLOT IS AN ABSOLUTE MESS. Seriously, there is no point to anything. The characters are so one-dimensional that you may as well pretend they’re cardboard puppets. I’m not emotionally invested in them at all because I don’t know them; I don’t know their backstory or their motivations outside of their romantic pursuits. We’re just thrust into the situation at hand; they are friends who live in the same town – enjoy! Then there’s Kakeru. He is a bit of an enigma but he brings nothing to the table. All he seems to do is tear the friends apart just by existing. The motivation behind the group’s animosity towards him when they first meet Kakeru is so vague that I get the feeling they hate “because reasons.” or “because the plot says so.”. I’m trying to think of a reason but I’m drawing blanks; it ultimately makes those friends look like total jerks if they’re so close-minded.

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I can’t think of a recent anime which has got its plot so disastrously wrong. By wrong I mean having no sense of direction. I am aware that shows like Azumanga Daioh or Hidamari Sketch, which are also slice of life shows, are almost as bereft with plot progression but those shows make it clear what they are so the audience isn’t left scratching their heads and getting frustrated. Another anime people liken Glasslip to is Nagi no Asakura in terms of the setting and basic idea of friends hanging out during an emotional upheaval. The former fails to emulate the latter’s prowess. Glasslip infuriates with how slow it is and confused as to what it wants to be and therefore is a jumble of supernatural flickers which are dampened by valueless romantic endeavours that are so strained and drawn out that they bring nothing to the table other than to pad the plot out and bring ‘drama’ to proceedings. They failed spectacularly. I guess that’s why I stuck with the show as long as I did [episode seven]; I hung in there to see if anything would happen and because I was in awe of the spectacular trainwreck laid before me. Something kind of happened in episode six when things get a little violent but it’s died out quickly. That’s when you know something’s up when you get excited over a plot point which is slightly different from what you’d seen for the past twenty minutes per episode. Even the romantic confessions are botched; they feel so clinical and lacking of any true feeling that they sound ridiculous. Honestly! Such a bad story.

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Its only saving grace is the artwork. PA Works [which helmed the animation for this AND Nagi no Asakura actually] pulled out all the stops here and gave a terrible plot some wonderful and majestic backdrops. There were times when I found it hard to distinguish some scenes from real life, they were that skilfully presented that I was left in awe. The forests, the sparkling blue ocean in the distance, the authentic town houses and apartments strewn around the town; everything felt genuine and lovingly replicated in 2D. I could briefly tune out of the story and revel in the seaside setting and breath in the coastal air as if I were there. I felt so immersed…then I got brought back to reality with a thud when some more romantic bungling occurred and any trace of charm was extinguished. I can confidently say that the art design is the only thing going for Glasslip. You could justifiably watch this show on mute and just watch the backgrounds for two hours. Seriously.

glasslip_6Simply put, I care for nothing in Glasslip bar the visuals. I don’t care about the future powers, I don’t care that Yuki and Yanagi have an on-off relationship but neither can get the balls to properly initiate it, I don’t care that Hiro and Sachi have a budding romance between them…ok maybe I care a little, ONLY a little. I especially don’t care for a story which has such unappealing main characters. Touko and Kakeru are so boring. I know nothing about them outside of the things which are presented to us; Kakeru just moved into town and has a mother that travels and Touko’s family are glassblowers. That’s the extent of my knowledge; how am I supposed to work with that? Kakeru especially is unlikeable because he seems to cause trouble by either saying nothing or being slightly petulant. He claims that since he sees the future and knows what will happen, he just lets things happen – what will be, will be. How defeatist. In short – I. DON’T. CARE. Neither should you. This anime will go down in infamy, I swear it will for having one of the worst ‘plots’ in recent memory. Oh wait, it can’t because it hasn’t got a plot. Oh well! Next!!

Glasslip is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CANCEL [If you value your sanity, steer clear of this mess of a plot. Only look at stills; that’s all you need to see.]

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10 Anime Openings from Foreign Lands


Support Anifile’s Patreon campaign to increase its reach and content: http://www.patreon.com/MasakoX

Anime may be Japanese, but some songs from overseas have found their way into some of your favourite shows. Come join Masako as he finds 10 songs from anime past and present which were made outside Japan.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

RULES
– Each song must be sung by a non-Japanese artist.
– Only one song from each show or franchise.
– Has to be from the original Japanese broadcast or DVD release.

SPECIAL THANKS TO MY PATREON BACKERS!
Phyllida, David D, Darren180233, Luis V, Brian E, James H, Dawn S, Alex W, Eric G, Vaati, Jack, Mahan, Brandon B, Griffin, Teitur, Eric W, Matthew D, Aeon, Charles G, Jayro Z, Tim M, Joshua R, Brandon W, Carson C, Benjamin M-D, Lightuke, Alesha F, Alex S, Michael S, Jack D, D’Metrius S, Henry H, Anthony C Poe, Veronica B, Malcolm T, Furst, Alexander and Sean!

Bladedance of the Elementalers REVIEW


Another season, another magical academy anime to analyse. I’ve not had much luck with these types of shows since starting this website; Magical Warfare and Dragonar Academy spring to mind as being series which fail to inspire, interest or even engage remotely. I understand that magic is a pretty exciting narrative tool as you can explain away a lot of plot holes or break free from the laws of physics. However, it shouldn’t mean that you skimp on the actual plot or even bothering with character development for the most part. Does Bladedance of the Elementalers buck this growing trend I see before me? My answer is a resounding “ehhhhhh.”.

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The story is about a guy named Kamito who has been charged by the principal of a spirit princess academy [talk about pretentious] to take part in the world’s traditional Bladedance tournament. A Bladedance tournament is essentially like Pokémon; people [known as elementalers] with monsters [spirits the user has formed a contract with] fight other peoples’ monsters and the winner’s country receives prosperity from the gods until the next tournament. Kamito is an elementaler [through nefarious means though which are explained later] and so he’s enrolled in the school so he can take part; slight problem though, he’s a guy and in this world only women can be elementalers. So he sticks out like a sore thumb. That doesn’t matter though because when Kamito meets the leading lady, Claire, for the first time it’s when she’s naked and having a shower and she reacts in the usual anime way – beating the living tar out of him. Oh anime, you never change. Claire then proceeds to punish him constantly as they make their way to the academy; not before she tries to ‘catch’ another spirit to control. Naturally this backfires and Kamito gets the spirit, which is in the form of a sword and then later a girl [well this IS an anime we’re talking about here!]. Claire is pissed and proclaims that he is now her contracted spirit…right. The rest of the plot is geared around Kamito forming a team of elementalers to fight alongside him for the upcoming tournament all nestled for in the incoming big bad from his past which is about to come back to haunt him.

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Hmmmm, where to start. Well, this show isn’t terrible that’s for sure. I know! I was shocked; especially when I found out that TNK produced the animation. It was fairly decent and somewhat nice to look at. The plot though…oh dear. If you got out a join the dots drawing and then joined all the dots, Bladedance of the Elementalers would appear – it’s that formulaic. You got your magical academy, the wandering prodigy and his troubled past, the hot-headed lead female character, tons of spells and lore to remember which don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, mythical monsters, tons of awkward fanservice [mostly aimed at skirts and legs] and not forgetting a big celebration of some kind which goes south…oh and spirit contracts! Can’t forget those, although sometimes the rules and terms of the contract get muddled up. Sometimes it requires long spiels of dialogue and other times all you need to do is telling the spirit that “You’re mine.” with no sense of accomplishment. The spirit seems to just take it. Huh. When the plot isn’t being generic, it’s muddled; like it doesn’t know what to do and ends up achieving nothing. Another grievance is that Kamito is despised by most of the student body because he’s a guy. I understand in this world the only other male elementaler existed a thousand years ago and was a manic tyrant but Kamito is hardly [or seems not to be] an evil douche. This prejudice is too heavy handed, but then I would say that because I am a man. Looking at it from an objective standpoint, the misandry is understandable but it’s carried out in a brash and overly harsh manner.

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That being said, the show does do some things right. I’m interested in how Kamito’s past will manifest itself; it’s clear it’s not going to beneficial for the main cast. He used to have a contract spirit before his current one [a sword spirit, Est, who also takes human form] named Restia whom he was really close with. However, Restia is evil and her return is not good and he realises that pretty early on. Oooh, conflict of interests. Then there’s the world outside of the academy. There are other dimensions where students can go train without fear of physical injury which are established as alien and surreal in an elegant fashion which was pleasing to see, I just wish it was carried over to the overworld at large. Then there’s Est, Kamito’s new spirit. She is incredibly powerful and chooses to walk among humans instead of being shackled inside a sword all the time. I also like that she can subdue other spirits just by staring them down instead of initiating a drawn out fight. It’s pretty fierce stuff. She is close to Kamito; in fact sometimes being extrasocial with him by stripping down to just leggings in bed because it pleases him. That’s where she falls down in my book. The first time I saw that I was annoyed but not surprised. Of course Est is going to be naked, it makes for awkward fanservice and slapstick comedy involving the other female characters [yay], as well as pandering to the audience who want a cute mascot that isn’t a total witch. Yeah, I said it. Claire, despite her tragic past, is totally unlikeable in my eyes. She uses her whip to subdue Kamito all the time, treat him like a slave and then makes up for it by being nice to him once or twice. She may seem like she’s lonely but some of her interactions with him are so jerky and mean I can’t really empathise with her. She constantly threatens to burn him to cinders and that is a threat which she does act out at any trace of insubordination or ‘perverse’ actions. Finally there’s the fact that she’s a greedy and power-hungry madam who can’t settle for having an already powerful firecat spirit and chooses to grab others not matter the cost to her sanity; no other main character does that! I can’t stand her!

bladedance_5What I also can’t stand is the fanservice which is incredibly awkward and out of place. We have the usual suspects of impromptu breast groping, a cameraman who can’t seem to focus on anything other than ladies’ crotches most of the time, talk about panties which has nothing to do with the scene the characters are in and so on. It feels forced and there to appease the otaku masses. Honestly! Est is the worst case of this; she’s clearly in the body of a little girl and she’s naked and in bed with Kamito because she thinks “he would happier if she were like that.”. What? It’s awkward as hell. The only consolation for me is that you don’t see panties despite the lingering crotch shots; your imagination is left to deduce the rest and that is surprisingly restrained for a production that is willing to show naked girls yet not underwear. Strange.

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Bladedance of the Elementalers is one of those shows which could’ve been good if it chose to take what little bits of originality it has and expand on them instead of relying on tired old clichés and unnecessary tropes which add nothing to the overall plot. If you’re a tenacious viewer and hang in there until the end you might find something good here but for most it’s not worth the stock characters, blinding misandry [hatred of men] which is rife throughout the school and then the disappointingly annoying Claire which ruined the show for me despite the flickers of intrigue. It’s not for me, but I won’t write it off entirely. Try it for yourself and see whether you can stomach it.

Bladedance of the Elementalers is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CAUTION [There’s some potential in there but you have to dig through a lot of derivative content in order to get to it.]

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Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) REVIEW


On the surface, this anime could be seen as callous and shocking. I certainly felt that when I first heard about it and I felt a little uneasy that such a product existed. Terrorism is a very sensitive issue and when a show touches on that nerve, especially alluding to the events of 9/11, then it’s going to spark some controversy. That’s what the anime Terror in Resonance does in its first arc; shock the audience and yet entice them at the same time.

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Also known as Terror in Tokyo in its native Japan, the show brings to life the idea of Tokyo under attack. Not by outsider terrorist cels or madmen; but by teenagers, native Japanese teenagers at that. These aren’t your normal kids though. Nine and Twelve [as they are most often called] are the front of a group called Sphinx who have begun to cause havoc in Tokyo by blowing up key buildings in the capital. Both boys are escapees from some kind of research facility made up of what seems like abandoned children [it’s not quite clear as of episode seven, but it’s enough to go on for now] who have been exposed to certain experiments in a clinical environment. Some of these children got out and have now spent their lives in hiding; with Nine and Twelve choosing to get back at the government-run facility by blowing things up. It must be said though that nobody has died in all the attacks they’ve made thankfully. One day, the pair run into a girl called Lisa on one recon mission at a local school. She’s an outcast from a broken home and has nothing to live for; fate chooses to deal her a helping hand, albeit a somewhat warped one, by thrusting her into the arms of the duo of bombers. However, things get kicked up a notch later in the show which throws a spanner in the works and potentially implicate the pair as mass murderers and the tables turn rather suddenly. It’s a fit of twists and turns!

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Terror in Resonance is not a light-hearted show, not by a long shot. It may have a slightly soft character style with the main protagonists[?] but the issue is something very serious. In fact, it’s quite relevant. Terrorism exists everywhere and every person of every nation is capable of enacting it; not just one country or region. The show makes Japanese nationals the instigators attacking police stations, government buildings and other significant targets intrinsic to security and regional importance. As of episode seven, it’s not quite clear why Nine and Twelve are doing this on such a grand scale, but it is possible to deduce that these guys are not all bad. They don’t wish to kill anybody and go to great lengths to ensure that by making sure their targets are clear of people or in places which are quiet. The pair refer to the Greek myth of Oedipus [the man who was abandoned in the woods who grew up to kill his father and then marry his mother] in their riddles aimed at the Tokyo police and a particular detective, Shibazaki. Shibazaki was an ace detective who got carted off to the archive department many years ago; he has now returned to untangle Sphinx’s riddles and does so with great drama and intensity. He’s very involving and goes above and beyond the average detective. Lisa’s introduction into proceedings acts a means of jeopardy. It throws the duo into disarray and yet also is their best asset in some cases. She shares the same sentiments concerning identity and abandonment but their origins are worlds apart. All in all, the show is a complex beast; every shot in this show has a meaning or conveys some sort of importance either artistically or narratively. However, upon first viewing, I was a little confused about the overall plot. It seemed to me that the art team got the bigger budget and showed it off greatly. I was left feeling confused at points early on, but I chose to stick at it and my patience was rewarded with some more narrative tidbits which tided me over until the next episode. I became intrigued and wanted to know more, I was hooked.

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Things get even more intriguing when you realise who’s part of the anime’s creative team. Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno return once more to head the directorial and musical teams respectively. Watanabe and Kanno worked together on anime classic Cowboy Bebop and in the recent series Kids on the Slope. It is safe to say that these previous works have influenced the resulting piece. The character models remind me of Bebop especially Shibazaki, who looks like a downtrodden Spike Spiegel as well as being introspective and intelligent whilst also being proactive. Not only that, but there’s also the question of whether the main characters are good or bad. Spiegel and co were bounty hunters/vigilantes [not exactly law-abiding citizens]; Nine and Twelve are activists who are knocking on the door of terrorism. In the latter’s case, the debate is a lot clearer. These guys are bad in the traditional sense; but they’re not EVIL. They have been wronged by a government which locked them up and stripped away their humanity; they are naturally going to want answers or to at least vent some of their anger and resentment. There is a plot twist which amps things up for the pair in their crusade, but I won’t spoil it for you; you’ll have to watch it. All I can say about the creative side of this anime is that it’s fantastic. The level of polish and detail is first rate and the acting is superb. It’s clear that this series is going to be a classic in the future, an infamous classic; not because it’s bad but because it’s intricate and unsettling.

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Terror in Resonance is one of those shows which unnerves you. On first impressions, you are baffled and upset when greeted with a show which seems to promote terrorism. That first shot of Twelve giggling whilst hurling a grenade like it were a ball is enough to shock on its own let alone the explosions. Yet as you progress, you are presented with two guys who are just trying to get the truth about why they were experimented on. They don’t want to kill, they just want answers and blowing up government buildings is how they go about things. It’s not mindless violence, it’s cleverly thought out plots with a brooding soundtrack and masterful storyboarding. It’s one of those shows which you have to watch because it’s nothing like its fellow summer anime. It’s different and I like different. I just wonder how well a show about terrorism will go down in America, especially when you watch the beginning of episode two.

Terror in Resonance is available to stream on Funimation’s website.

RATING: CONTINUE [One of the standout series of this season.]

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