Tag Archives: magic

Absolute Duo REVIEW


Another day, another show based in a magical academy. Thankfully though this school is geared towards straight-up brawling which makes it a little different and far less nebulous than others have been in recent seasons. Needless to say though, it’s still going to be hard to stand out from the crowd. Can Absolute Duo break through convention and be an absolute success?
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Enter Toru, a brand new student at Kouryou Academy, a place of learning which seems to borrow its architecture from all corners of the world. That’s not the only thing that this show borrows from other sources; most of the plot is from something that most audience members will have seen before. Toru’s quirk is that he is considered an “Irregular” because his soul-based weapon or Blade is a shield whereas the typical Blade is an offensive weapon which varies depending on the user’s soul. This doesn’t mean he is a weakling, he can channel his spirit energy into a powerful not-Falcon Punch. This anomaly attracts the attention to the standard child prodigy from another land with silver hair and innocent outlook on life, Julie Sigtuna. In typical harem anime fashion, these two are placed together as partners at the academy, called Duos. Each Duo fights together against the rest of their class in battles which are scattered throughout the campus. As we go forward into the story though, it’s clear that the origins of the Blades aren’t as clean-cut as they seem. What seem like spiritual weapons are actually psychosomatic tools, meaning if you want to cause actual harm, you channel that thought into your tool and it is imbued with it; not that that the students are told that at first. Shame that this nugget of intrigue is almost lost within the sea of mediocrity.
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Absolute Duo to me seems like a show run by committee who have watched tons of harem anime and know what will sell discs and books. This anime was based on a light novel written by Takumi Hiiragiboshi and the results add to my notion that most light novels these days tend to get shoddy or sub-par adaptations. Hiiragoboshi and the FIVE producers of this adaptation shoehorned as many cliches as physically possible into a twenty minute magical academy formula. You have the stoic leading lady with the supreme skills [Julie], the unusual main character with a tragic past [Toru], the serious one [Tachibana], the one who’s well-endowed and self-deprecating [Hotaka] and the overly peppy teacher [Tsukimi] who wears rabbit ears and has a really forced cutesy voice and patronising demeanour clearly instilled to titillate but thankfully is rebuffed by the rest of her class as weird. That being said, just because this is generic doesn’t mean it’s bad; it just means it fails to inspire. What it does do is produce a show which is of decent quality. The cliches at play are done with a modicum of flair and style. The animation is alright and harks back to Infinite Stratos in look and feel [which makes sense as both shows are animated by the same studio, 8-bit].
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All this predictability is solidified with a short flashforward [like in World Break this season] of Toru and Julie fighting each other, which implies that the intrigue that Julie had for Tory turns from mild curiosity into a desire to destroy or so it seems. I tend to find flashforwards to be major spoilers of shows; sure it leaves you intrigued to find out what happens but if you’re watching this as it airs, then you have to wait for weeks and wade through a sea of average teenage angst and magical drama. That being said, none of the characters are terrible or unlikeable, they’re all good people with a desire to embrace their skills or sheer luck [Only one in a thousand people are compatible with this world’s wonder drug, Luciful, which empowers the host.]. What I don’t like is that the students are being made into soldiers pure and simple, it all seems rather morbid in a way. Not to mention that each student gets one hundred thousand yen a month [roughly eight hundred and fifty dollars] to play with with their ID/credit card because reasons. It all seems rather convenient and forced. It’s hard to say where this will go in the end, but based on first impressions and the show’s first arc, it’s going to be less than great.
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Absolute Duo is a decent show which does enough to pass through most filters as a nonoffensive product. It ticks the boxes in what makes a regular magical harem production without pushing any boundaries but not aggravating the audience with anything glaringly poor or rage-inducing. It’s alright, middle-of-the-road, meh. Whatever you want to label it, it’s not bad. I don’t recommend it because there are better shows out there. If you do choose to watch it though, you’re not going to regret your choice but neither will you remember it after you finish it.

Absolute Duo is available to stream on Funimation.

RATING: CAUTION [Forgettable harem series with some flickers of flair]

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World Break: Aria of Curse For A Holy Swordsman REVIEW


Anime about magic academies have not worked as of late with the exception of shows like Witch Craft Works. Last year’s Magical Warfare or Dragonar Academy screamed ‘poorly constructed and generic magic Harry Potter clone thingy’. It’s safe to say that this type of story is very prone to poor writing and being shovelled full of fanservice. Does World Break: Aria of Curse For A Holy Swordsman break this mould? Well…not quite.

worldbreak_6The story takes place in a world where magical demons terrorise shopping malls near conveniently placed lakes and magical academies exist all over the world to harness the power of the Light and suppress the Dark Arts [check]. Our main character, Moroha, is an average student with a tendency to be way too relaxed about stuff but somehow possesses a hidden power inside his soul [check]. We have a flash forward to denote that character progression DOES happen but we have to sit through three months of angst to get to that point again [check]. Oh, we have girls vying for his affection and pants [CHECK]. Suffice to say, World Break ticks all the boxes of a harem anime with nuanced magical traits [well I say nuanced, more like BLATANT]. Moroha and his friends Satsuki and Shizuno are remnants of his past lives who found themselves reunited. All the students at this academy [#4930] are here because they have memories of their past lives where they had powerful abilities and it’s the school’s job to tap these resources. Naturally Moroha and pals have above average skill [in fact Satsuki and Moroha were once siblings and have a strong affinity which boosts each others’ powers] and so initiates them into the school’s Strikers brigade. It’s all rather convenient but are you REALLY surprised? REALLY?

worldbreak_4World Break ISN’T TERRIBLE. However, it’s furiously generic with tons of things we’ve seen from different magically orientated series which are sadly done better. The fanservice is LITERALLY shoved in our faces a couple of times in the first episode alone when Satsuki and Shizuno spat about their busts and Moroha then throwing out the ‘tactful’ comment that Satsuki is too bony. Nice. It fortunately doesn’t go further than that, the number of awkward falls and gropes are kept at a bearable amount but the vapidness of Satsuki is hard to ignore; but at least she’s good at what she does albeit being arrogant…and annoying. I think what got me more was the questionable voice acting and comedic visuals. There’s one scene where Moroha is comically shaking his head but it looks really odd and it’s accompanied with a bemusing sound byte which made me triple-take. Yeah. Then the Big Bad of the episode’s voice was WEIRD and it didn’t suit his body type which jarred the fight scenes. It all leads to a disappointing first episode.

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What makes Moroha different from most is that he can remember ANOTHER life; back from a different time when he and Shizuno were powerful dark magicians. This connects them as well as he and Satsuki from a future time. It’s this connection with Shizuno which keeps me watching; I like Shizuno. No it’s not because of her frontage; it’s because she’s a more complex character then she is first given credit for. Her family owns the school [her brother is the president] and she was taught dark magic from an early age [an unfair advantage] so she can be a guaranteed leader, she is merely a tool in the family’s master plan. Until Moroha came along she had no freedom or drive and found solace only in dreams; it may sound sappy to some but it moved me. I felt sorry and wanted her and Moroha to buddy up; but her brother tries to stop it by ‘bestowing’ an S rank on Moroha giving him the best pay and prestige in the land…at the cost of his freedom and rights. He would become a weapon, not a person. Yeah, it’s all well and good to be super powerful but when the government treats you like some kind of nuke instead of a human being, what good is that? It’s plot points like the two mentioned just now that gave me faith that this show has potential to be alright; it’s not going to be amazing or even very good, but it could be decent. I have hope.

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The magic elements of the show are pretty cool too! It has a cool calligraphy vibe with a ghostly incantation which evokes strength and eerieness [and for those thinking that standing still chanting whilst monsters are attacking is stupid, don’t worry, the anime has thought of that!] which is a lot more original than examples I’ve seen recently. I really dug the first four minutes of this show but because of the fanservice and harem elements it quickly began to fall down my pecking order. The animation quality is very inconsistent but mostly lands in the good bin. Diomedea did an alright job in the end but there are times where the drawings look oddly proportioned or a breast is oddly triangular [image three]. It mars the quality of the show somewhat but I’ve seen worse shows in my time so it passes sort of.worldbreak_3

World Break is a better iteration of the magical academy harem anime. It’s not the best or even a good example but it’s passable. Despite this being the third lowest anime on my readers’ poll, I rate this higher for the fact that it tries to be clever with its characters. It’s not a powerhouse of plot but it’s something that you could possibly watch if there was nothing else on or you REALLY wanted to watch some magical harem stuff. I’ll stick with this and see if it holds up but I don’t expect greatness.

World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CAUTION [Not great, but it’s a reasonable romp mostly.]

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Majimoji Rurumo REVIEW


There have been far too many harem anime as of late with the same premise that we’ve all seen time and time again with increasing amounts of frustration and futility. Just how realistic are these ideas anyway?! What if we could just strip away all these pretences and get a typical anime story without all the trappings of a normal harem that we’ve come to expect from practically everything from Japan that isn’t piloting a giant robot! Well, with Majimoji Rurumo, we get what is probably the most surprising entry of the summer 2014 lineup; especially when you look at the preview material!

majimoji_6Kato is a typical high school student–just kidding! He’s actually a supremely randy student with a reputation of being the “Great Porno King” amongst the student body; supplying boys with reading material and at the mercy of the female-led Disciplinary Committee. His character is straight out of the eighties and early nineties! One day, after he and his friends from the Mysterious Discovery Club find a demonic book and mess around with it, Kato runs into a magical girl named Rurumo who grants him his ultimate wish that he made with the book – a pair of panties. Not a cute girlfriend [as his friends would’ve done] or fame or anything, just underwear. Rurumo’s underwear no less! What was the price? Death. By BIRDS! It’s like Birdemic all over again! However, it’s here where Kato shows his more good natured side and he gives Rurumo her panties back and breaks the death contract. As a result, Rurumo’s punished for not killing Kato and has to go back to magical training under the student’s supervision. He is given a ticket book full of wishes that the young girl can perform to complete her trianing; one catch though. Once the book is empty, Kato will die. Pretty rough, right? The rest of the story focuses on how Rurumo meshes herself into Kato’s world and regains her magical witch status with plenty of slapstick comedy thrown in.

majimoji_3You’re probably thinking that you know exactly where Majimoji Rurumo will go. Kato will suddenly gain four or five girls vying for his affections around Rurumo and fall into the standard harem anime formula; but it doesn’t. In a way, you can think of the show as being the opposite of those shows or at least a different stance on the subject. Kato, our main character, is a massive pervert who is notorious for being inappropriate with girls going all the way back to elementary school where he was flipping skirts and generally being a jerk. As such, all the girls can’t stand him! No girl from that school is going to suddenly forget all that and fawn over him! In fact there’s the case of one girl, Tanako, who joins the Mysterious Discovery Club after watching Rurumo jealously and challenges her to a magic-off. You think she’s going to then leap on Kato; but she totally doesn’t and falls for Senior [the club’s leader] in a sudden twist. Most impressive! Then there’s Rurumo herself. She casts a spell over everyone to make it look like she is Kato’s little sister, fair enough. Instead of becoming yet another transfer student though, she works in the school cafeteria albeit rather poorly; her gimmick is that she’s good at magic but nothing else! These effective ‘middle fingers’ to the harem genre are surprising and welcome. This anime feels like it came from the early days of the harem movement when it was finding its feet and not nearly as generic as it is now. There’s even a future instance [episode eight] of this anti-harem motif when a character you think will do this does that instead; and the fact she appears this late into proceedings is yet more proof that this show is worth a look.

majimoji_5Speaking of the characters, they are a lot more complex than the art style gives them credit for. You think from first glance that all the cast are one-dimensional and facsimilies of what you’ve seen before many times ; true they are familiar but they are not the same. They’re similar enough for you to get what types they are but different enough that you’re not tuning out of their backstory or exposition. Kota is a perverted juvenile but he has a soft side when he explains to Rurumo that he used to foster stray cats and dogs as a kid and couldn’t stand them being lonely; that’s the mark of an inherently good person. Rurumo is powerful and stoic but she’s not perfect at everything…or anything from the looks of it. Her deadpan reactions are mostly played for laughs and she is clearly the focus of the slapstick comedy that is rife throughout the show. It’s like the writers have decided to use her to poke fun at the magical girl who is absolutely flawless. I like it, it’s a clever use of characters to act as commentary on the state of anime. Then we have Sumiko, the leader of the Disciplinary Committee. At first you hate her guts, especially in episode four! Then you start to realise she is using her forceful nature as a cover for her insecurities about her femininity; nobody thought she was a girl during childhood and the only person who did was Kato. So you start to feel less hateful towards her. All this makes Majimoji Rurumo an impressive hit. Even Rurumo’s cat, Chiro [who can transform into a girl as well!], is a cute addition and an important asset to help keep Rurumo in check; and make sure she doesn’t get run over by cars! All the characters feel like they have a place in the story instead of being shoe-horned in.

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So does Majimoji Rurumo break free from the harem trope? Not quite. There are times when it gets too close to convention [episode seven and the beach party episode] but it manages to avert disaster smartly and prevent conformity from setting in. I like how clever this show is despite being a silly comedy with a simplistic character design and art style. It’s very deceptive, in a good way. You think it’ll be bland but instead it’s layered. I was pleasantly surprised and I reckon this will make my top five anime for this season out of the sheer impressive about-face when it comes to the narrative. We need more shows like this!

Majimoji Rurumo is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [A stunner of a show which is a lot cleverer than its visuals lead you to believe.]

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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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(NSFW) Moe-tan


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So you want to learn English and you like anime? You’d think that Moe-tan would be the perfect solution but it’s not. It’s really not. The only thing it’ll do is make you feel ashamed.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Name
Moe-tan [Methodology of English, The Academic Necessity

Created by
SansaiBooks

Animated by
Studio Astac

Published
2007

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