Back from 2011 once again for another retro review. The famous PSP/PS2 franchise gets its own anime adaptation and proves to worm its way into this reviewer’s spectrum. A must-see.
ADULTS ONLY. Masako delves into the world of XXX anime thanks to a ‘present’ from Benzaie back in 2011. This present being a hentai; and not a good one. The infamous movie Battle Can Can.
Battle Can Can
Kitty Media/Media Blasters
The Spring 2014 season has had it share of good anime as seen in my top five list, now let’s see what made its way onto the bottom five. This season, like the top five, was a hard one when it came to choosing a list of the five anime I liked the least. Most of the anime I saw were only mediocre or mildly annoying; of course there are some exceptions but the lower half of the list was harder for sure! Like I mentioned in my previous list, I didn’t get to see about ten anime from last season. I will therefore include a small list of the anime I wasn’t sure of when I mentioned them in my preview posts. With that acknowledged, let’s get to the list!
#5 – Mischief of the Gods
I knew exactly what I was getting myself into with this one. A thinly veiled reverse harem anime which is framed like a dating sim filled with pretty boys who just so happen to be gods from different religions and time periods. Not only does it feel as flimsy as a soggy piece of paper but it is also laughably ridiculous! When you first meet the gods, flowers blossom before them and show how pretty they are and clearly states that brains are not required…for the most part. I will give kudos to the writers for doing a little research before creating these characters and retaining certain character traits from history but it doesn’t fully pardon this show from making the list. Its vapid nature is not for me. I know it’s aimed for women but that shouldn’t make a difference. Men and women alike want something with substance…you know substance that doesn’t feel like a wet dishrag.
#4 – Blade and Soul
An example of an unnecessary anime adaptation. Based on a Korean MMO, Blade and Soul tries to envoke the feelings of the game to a Japanese audience which came out not long after the anime started airing. It’s hard to adapt such a massive universe into a linear story; MMOs are meant to be totally non-linear and unique to the player. Instead we got a boring assassin named Alka who got on my nerves with how bland she was. I understand she may have seen some serious stuff growing up but there should still be some personality lingering around, surely! Paired with an unlikeable main cast, overly busty characters and flawed presentation – this show is not worth watching. Play the game. THAT looks cool.
#3 – Dragonar Academy
Oh boy, here’s when the list becomes easier to quantify. Dragonar Academy is this season’s Magical Warfare. How? IT’S UNORIGINAL AS HELL! It’s like any other magic school that we’ve seen before and doesn’t even tell THAT well. It feels so stock you could make a broth with it! Not only that but it takes the awesome might of a dragon and turns them into lumbering horse-like animals who look like they need to go on a diet. The main duo are also tired facsimilies of characters that we have long since grown tired of; the angry diminutive magical girl and the ‘hero’ guy. Yeah. I’ll stick to Record of Lodoss War or Slayers thank you very much! Remember, kids! Blandness kills.
#2 – Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutarou!!
What could make this show end up so high on this list? A lot of things, but the biggest crime is that of being a crushing disappointment. I expected something akin to Wreck-It Ralph in that the angry hulk is a timid soul who simply wants recognition…instead we got a hulk who was mean, uncouth and lewd to everybody for the first few episodes; enough to put off even the most forgiving anime enthusiast. It made me feel so dirty after watching it. How could I find hope in such a thing? It didn’t help that Toei’s recent decline in animation quality for anything not Dragonball or Toriko or anything popular is rather distressing and made itself evident with this production. I was shocked with how such a studio could put out something so shoddy both in animation and writing. I understand that Matsutarou is set in the 1970s where things were less refined than today when it comes to gender equality and etiquette for a country bumpkin like our lead, but kindness is timeless. It feels like an anime adaptation that was twenty years too late. Pass.
#1 – Daimidaler: Prince vs Penguin Empire
Yes. This is the worst. I get that there are two ways you can look at Daimidaler. Firstly, you can look at it as a spoof of all mecha anime and how things can get pretty ridiculous; or there’s the feeling that it’s gone past parody and just become offensive and sickening. I fall in that category. The parody element flew past me and all I saw was something strange, sexist and mean-spirited not to mention be animated so poorly. I was flabbergasted with how poor it was. Studio TNK, the animators of the series, should be disappointed with their ‘work’. The whole notion that a woman’s place is in the cockpit serving the sexual requirements of the male pilot for the good of mankind is enough to drive me to despair. Sick.
MISSING IN ACTION
As before, here are the shows which I didn’t think much of which I never got around to reviewing fully:
Do you agree with my list? Have your own worst? Cast your vote!
So the Spring 2014 season has finished and with it the end of some more series of anime. Some have been good, most have been decent and some have been pretty dire. It’s been a mixed bag and some surprises have cropped up. There were shows which surprised me and others which disappointed. This top five list for the season of Spring 2014 was pretty tough as there were shows which I wanted to put on such as No Game, No Life and Captain Earth but I can only have five and I wanted to be true to my opinion instead of following the consensus. Note that there have been some anime which I didn’t get to see due to a busy convention schedule and as such I shall list the anime which I summarised initially and still think have potential at the end of this post. So let’s spring into action, shall we?
#5 – Baby Steps
I’m not much of a sports person, but when I watched this show for the first time I was curious about tennis. There was something about Eiichiro which I liked; he was a methodical individual who wanted to understand every single detail about tennis and use it in a logical manner to better his game. His drive is not from passion which has been seen many times, but through deduction. It makes the audience get behind Eiichiro and feel for him as he struggles to understand the sport both on and off the court. It’s not the most beautiful anime out there, but it’s still good. Baby Steps has a touch of realism about it and feels like a drama that could be easily made into a live-action film or special with little friction. This was probably one of the bigger surprises of the season in my eye; for that it managed to edge out No Game, No Life for the last spot on the top five. It also confirmed that slice-of-life is my favourite genre of anime.
#4 – If Her Flag Breaks
The biggest surprise from the season goes to If Her Flag Breaks. Why? Well, it made me laugh! Also it’s cute. Usually comedy anime tend to disappoint me and I rarely break out a smirk when I watch something which is meant to be funny which hails from Japan. When I watched Souta beginning to thaw and warm up to his new found friends, it was a touching moment. He had suffered a traumatic ordeal of losing his family and then was bestowed with a power to read people in the form of cutely decorated flags. He uses this power to his advantage and it makes for a cute story about Souta changing the fates of himself and his friends whilst throwing in some dorm room action and cheeky comedy for good measure. There is quite a twist later on in the show which helps the show stay fresher than most would in the second half of a run. All in all, I’d say this was a turn up for the books!
#3 – Chaika: The Coffin Princess
Chaika: The Coffin Princess was a fun ride. It had a certain something about it which made me think that this show is going to be a hit with anime fans everywhere. With the studio which brought to you Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater, Chaika and her crew have the same endearment level as well as ‘cosplayability’ in the form of the leading lady. Its narrative was easy to understand and the magical ecosystem was not a complete mess which requires a masters degree to comprehend. Put simply, magical sniper rifle rules all! With the help of Tohru, Akari and Frederika the quartet feel like a true team and one that has potential to be a lasting squad going into an upcoming second season this autumn. This show has got a lot of heart and that heart will be pumping strong for years to come thanks to a English release by Sentai Filmworks! Woo!
#2 – One Week Friends
You know how I said I like shows with charm and heart? Yep, I think you know where this is going. Prepare the tissues, people! One Week Friends is about a girl who has had suffered severe mental trauma which results in weekly memory loss; she can’t make friends. Literally. She’ll forget them each and every Monday. How sad. One boy though tries to help her overcome her affliction by writing down a diary and slowly but surely it works. Yuki and Kaori are beacons in the world of anime in that nothing sexual is alluded. It’s all about one boy trying to make a friend where before it was impossible to do so. A simple story with a beautiful colour palette is something to behold and cherish. If you ever needed a good example of why anime is so special, this anime is a prime candidate.
#1 – Knights of Sidonia
Oh yeah, you knew this was going to be here. It was no contest. Knights of Sidonia is a landmark anime which marks a turning point in how anime is made. Three-dimensional, cel-shaded models aren’t new to the creative world but it has rarely been used to such an effect than in this show. Tsutomu Nihei’s art style lends itself to the clean lines of the third dimension making the non-mecha moments feel more organic, especially in the latter half of the first season. True, the animation was a little rusty at first but it improved quickly and by the end of the season it was on the mark! Then when you get to the mecha sequences; it’s gorgeous and a spectacle for my spectacles! Nagate Tanikaze’s ascendency to the world of mecha piloting was an awesome ride; the amount of plot points which impressed me were numerous [such as Nagate not being a hothead towards his ‘rival’ Kunato and the whole Izana/Hoshijiro love triangle]. The soundtrack is the icing on the cake with one of the best anime intro themes of recent memory. Its similarity to Attack of Titan should mean that lovers of Eren Jaeger’s adventures would get a kick from Knights of Sidonia but I strongly recommend it over the former. It is, in my opinion, way better. Does it beat my favourite anime of all time, Martian Successor Nadesico? Keep an eye out on my all-time top ten in the coming months. Also, there is a second season and I intend to buy the manga; I’m that stoked about this show!
Missing In Action
Due to my hectic schedule in June and July of this year, it meant that there were some shows which I didn’t get around to seeing after previewing them. There were shows which appealed to me and would suggest checking out despite my lack of review for them. They are as follows:
That’s it for the prime beef of this season! Next time, we check out the off-cuts and tripe in my worst five anime of spring 2014.
What did you guys think? Cast your vote now for your favourite from this season!
Humanity is at peril a lot lately. The Attack on Titan trend of 2013 has sparked a slew of anime adaptations of manga which involve some kind of barrier containing humanity and protecting them from a formidable and horrific enemy which is knocking on their door and about to attack once and for all when we, the audience, join the party. This time we get replica obelisks from 2001: A Space Odyssey protecting Tokyo in this action tale, Black Bullet. Is it something refreshing or just as buggy as the creatures that populate it?
In the year 2021, mankind was stricken by a mutative virus known as Gastrea which causes huge insect creatures to destroy humanity and spread its contamination across the planet. Our main character Rentaro, sees one of these bugs close-up and his life is changed forever as is the entire world. The only thing that can hold back the Gastrea strain are huge towers of a dense black metal called Varanium; these structures contain Tokyo and its district in a relative peace while the menace roams outside occasionally slipping inside and causing trouble; that is where Rentaro and his partner Enju come into play to deal a dose of death to these demons. They are special agents of the Tendo Civil Security Agency and act as a buddy cop team [referred to as Promoters and Initiators]. Together they take out rouge and infected humans with the Gastrea virus and act as the last line of defence if the police can’t handle proceedings. One day though, a masked man named Kagetane and his Initiator daughter Kohina arrive on the scene and throw everything into discord. Only Rentaro and Enju can make any headway against Kagetane and his proclamations that the world is about to be destroyed and that he shall be the catalyst behind it. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Tokyo, hundreds of young girls [or Cursed Children] are left abandoned; infected by the Gastrea virus from birth and gifted with some of its characteristics such as super strength and regenerative abilities. As such, humanity treated them with distrust and banished them to the corners of the barrier. However, the ruler of Tokyo [Seitenshi] has enacted a new law to help break down the social stigma but it is a very hard divide to heal. Rentaro and friends try and bring the two sides together as well as save the world from being entirely overrun by the Gastrea.
Black Bullet is a very confusing beast. It is a decent looking show with some noteworthy plot points and thought-provoking narrative structures but it suffers from moments of boredom and irrelevance. Light novel adaptations run the risk of being full of filler to help pad out an entry in a series and it can be transferred to its anime partner. Black Bullet is an action anime at its core but there’s not as much action as there would normally be. There’s a lot of standing around and talking about what just happened to fill any gaps in the plot that may have arisen; it’s a little broken up and it can distract viewers from its fundamental brief to convey the struggle that humanity has with the Gastrea. To me, it doesn’t FEEL like humanity is at risk; it looks pretty clean to me. It’s not like other apocalyptic anime in that humans still look like humans and society has remained relatively cohesive. The threat level is seemingly low. Granted, there IS a huge race of insect monsters coming down hard to dispel this status quo but the threat is not as present as it should be. That being said, when Black Bullet gets around to the action, it does it rather well. The addition of Kagetane as a non-Gastrea threat is a credible narrative tool in that it adds multiple threats which would happen in a dystopian society; there is very rarely one enemy. It would be natural for multiple foes to arise from the carnage and claim their stake in the world that they claim is rightfully theirs. There are some pretty gruesome scenes which don’t try and sugar-coat the situation and throws itself head on into showing that being infected with a Gastrea virus is not a nice way to go. It does the action part competently at least! Shame it has to rely on anime tropes to get by otherwise.
The Cursed Children I mentioned earlier are the creation of the Gastrea infecting pregnant women and giving birth to infected babies with traits of the Gastrea whose DNA slowly corrodes their host over decades instead of instantly. These Children are all female, which is down to the virus itself supposedly destroying Y chromosomes? It’s not made that clear initially. Sadly my mind can’t escape the fact that the reason they’re girls is to act as moe bait. Rentaro’s partner Enju is an example of this. Acting as Rentaro’s Initiator, she is a useful partner and is a very powerful individual. There’s no debating her place in the story, she is needed…but when the action isn’t happening, she falls prey to lolita tropes. She has a high libido, constantly making advances on Rentaro who thankfully rebuffs her desires but the fact she’s doing this is unsettling for me. This shouldn’t be in this kind of anime and it ruins Enju’s character. That’s all she seems to be there for; to act as eye candy and be the focus of many unfunny sexually driven comedy moments. It doesn’t work for me. What does work though is the fact that the Cursed Children are not forgotten and Rentaro does try and help them; especially with making Enju go to school like a normal girl. His actions are creditable; but I can’t shake off the feeling that the Cursed Children are excuses to have cute mascots fighting to appease a certain demographic.
Is Black Bullet worth your time? I hesitantly say yes. You have to take things with a pinch of salt and realise that there’s a lot left unexplained and that some of the time you will just have to go with the flow and accept that you might find out later in the show or maybe not at all. The Gastrea’s origin isn’t compelling enough for me either; I’m not sure how they came about or why they’re after humans. It seems to me that they are just GENERIC BUG MUTANTS. Nothing special. However I will say that the show does its action well and it’s worth watching for that at least. You just need to be patient as there are long expositions and complex moral dilemmas abound; you can’t switch off with this one!
Black Bullet is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
RATING: CAUTION [It’s a disjointed action show, but it does have its moments.]
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