Tag Archives: reviews

Spring 2015 Anime – Your Choice


At last, the new season of anime has begun to settle down into its run. There are almost twenty one new anime up for review this time around and once again, Anifile is here to review them.

After the success of last season’s streamlining format, I shall do the same this season. Like before, you get to choose which shows I cover by either voting for it, or not voting for it. Ten anime will be covered, the top six and bottom four – in order to get a diverse pick of good and not-so-good shows.

As usual, sequel seasons are not eligible for review [including season two of Knights of Sidonia, sadly!] so as to focus on BRAND NEW productions.

Cast your vote and let’s get the reviews underway!

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SHIROBAKO REVIEW


The medium of anime can seem pretty straight forward to the uninitiated as it seems to be less detailed than Western animation [lip flaps being the prime difference], but it really isn’t. More often than not, much more work is required and tighter deadlines exist in the anime production world and SHIROBAKO wishes to unveil the inner workings of the typical small animation studio breaking out into the big time whilst lacing a rites of passage story into the mix too. Can studio P.A. Works redeem itself after the colossal flop that was Glasslip?

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In a school’s animation club, five young girls endeavour to create their own animation; their skills spanning the majority of departments that make up a studio – acting, animating, mixing and writing. Sadly though, time has conspired against them and the group must part ways as graduation looms close for some of them. Their binding love for donuts as a motivator is what keeps them together and is their staple in times of crisis [it regularly crops up later on in the series]. They vow to see each other in the industry and that they will all make it. Fast forward a few years and we meet up with Aoi, bleary-eyed, driving the latest cels for Musashino Animation [the company she works for] in the dead of night. From the get-go, we are thrust from the safe and secure world of the school club into the harshness and exhaustion of the professional circuit. It’s at this point where you the viewer have to make a decision about whether to continue or skip this anime – are you interested in the behind the scenes workings or not? If yes, then you’ll be fully enlightened; if not, then it’s best to leave this anime for something less grounded. There’s no magic or illogical plot devices. It’s all real-life situations and the prospect of adulthood. For those that stay the course, get ready for some endearing narratives.shirobako_3P.A. Works has created a true-to-life reproduction of how an anime is made. If you wanted to see how a Japanese company makes the cartoons you watch, you’ll get the works. Direction, animation, acting, writing; all avenues are explored led by the progression of one of the plucky schoolgirls at the start of our series, Aoi. Aoi is now twenty-two and rising up the ranks in the outfit Musashino Animation. In our first arc, she is in charge of the studio’s fourth episode’s animation admin for their series Exodus. It’s her job to lead it and it’s a big task, especially when fate conspires against her and it’s up to her quick thinking and guidance from her colleagues to get things going in the right direction after many roadblocks and creative flip-flops. Believe me, this kind of stuff happens in the creative circuit. Things change last minute and you have to change them fast. SHIROBAKO is able to present a grounded plot whilst not getting too bogged down in the trappings of animation…most of the time. It IS a pitfall which is bound to happen if you’re going to go deep like the writers have done for this series. This level of detail is fascinating to some, but not to others. Some viewers just want to see Aoi and her friends progress and might not be so keen on the terminology being bandied about; but it IS necessary in order to convey an accurate facsimile. Failure to do so will cause annoyance with enthusiasts and the people in the industry!
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There have been quite a few rites of passage slice-of-life shows this year with Wake Up Girls!, Shounen Hollywood and Locodol being the first examples that spring to mind. The idea of having a group of teenagers become popular and watching that rise is quite compelling a story; but it has become derivative as of late because it has been constrained to the music industry. This time however, it’s focusing on the television industry and even broaching ‘meta’ status. It’s an anime about making an anime. There have been shows littered about the years that talk about the topic, but this is probably the most comprehensive that I have personally seen. It’s also the most authentic and charming. The crew of Musashino are a diverse bunch. Some are eccentric, some are supremely professional and others are just plain odd. Even the boss gets involved [like he’s your favourite uncle], frequently cooking for his employees and buoying morale when times get rough. It makes you aspire to work for such a company; one with a strong sense of family and solidarity, you know everyone there and want them to succeed as a team. That’s what PA Works has succeeded at themselves. Producing a real-life show which is not dull. It’s a return to form after their disastrous summer. They can make pretty scenery AND detailed plots just like they have done before the summer! It’s all rather deep and thought-provoking.
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In the end, SHIROBAKO is an anime with an anorak. If you are into content creation or wish to know about how your favourite anime is made from the ground-up without sugar coating and the hardships behind it, you’ll enjoy it and gain an appreciation for the hard work that goes into it. You’ll also enjoy the personal progression that the characters go through over the weeks. Overall, this is a very well packaged product worthy of the praise it’s garnered.

SHIROBAKO is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [For the hardcore anime fan or media enthusiast mostly but a compelling plot regardless.]

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I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying REVIEW


There are hobbies out there that most couples have where one party cannot comprehend what their partner does or even what they’re talking about. In this case, office worker Kaoru and otaku blogger Hajime live together in ‘matrimony'(?) despite the fact there are far too many instances where Kaoru thinks I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying.

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This series is split into four minute episodes with very fast comedic elements thrown at the screen concerning the lives of Kaoru and Hajime, two newlyweds with differing tastes in entertainment and outlooks on life. Kaoru is a very cynical and ignorant office worker and Hajime is a closeted recluse who relies on the internet and anime for his social activity and fulfilment. Somehow, these two opposites attracted each other [it helps that Hajime is pretty buff!] and the pair got married despite the fact they seem to show little affection towards each other in their day-to-day existence. Each episode throws up a brief story involving either Hajime’s brother[?] coming to visit, Kaoru dealing with her drunken behaviour, Hajime finding a job; all these plots seem dull when condensed like that, but all these stories are laced with madcap comedy and a hint of sweetness which really comes from within.

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Sure, these two may have differing interests, but they have a common characteristic – they’re both lonely individuals. Through their solitude, they found each other and figuratively snuggled together for companionship. Even though Kaoru can barely understand what Hajime does and likes, she’s not depressed or frustrated. She tries to understand and she begins to pick stuff up like a caring spouse should; be interested in their partner. Hajime too does change a little, although it’s more subtle. He becomes more open to real-life pursuits like finding a desk job and even going drinking with his wife. Being social? Never! Well, things change. It leads to a very sweet and touching anime which warms even the coldest heart. I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is a simple story but it crams a lot of plot into very little time, it could be considered to be too short. It would’ve been neat to see this show done like Sabagebu and have three ‘minisodes’ per week each lasting seven minutes. That being said, that might be why it’s the length it is; it leaves people wanting more. It keeps things simple and uncluttered and I respect that decision. I’d rather be waiting in anticipation for the next episode rather than wanting to know when one is going to end.

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Not all of this show is perfect though. There’s the issue of Hajime’s brother Mayotama, who regularly cross-dresses as a girl and acts like one online [there’s even a skit where one of Hajime’s friends finds this out all too well]. The issue isn’t the cross-dressing; people are free to be whoever they feel most comfortable being, but Mayotama’s character as a PERSON is all over the place. I would much rather he wasn’t in the story as he barges in obnoxiously and throws the plot into disarray. Instead keep the narrative focused on Kaoru and Hajime and their routines. That would be much nicer; but I suppose the need to mix things up is why Mayotama is there…doesn’t mean I like him. The animation can be a little iffy at points, but most of the time this is excused due to the show’s brevity and sketchy style; if this were a longer episode the quality would have to be better. Seven Studios have struck a good balance of efficiency and detail for what they’ve got.

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The most touching moments are when Kaoru looks to Hajime and becomes all brooding and maternal; her husband is a big kid [she’s actually two years older than him too] and she’s there to look after him and his impetuous nature. She may not be the most lovable person out there, but she does convey care and empathy in her own unique way which shines through often, usually at the end of each episode. Like she’s learnt some kind of moral. They are figuring each other out and how they’re going to make this marriage thing work out for both of them. Hajime is relatable to most of the Japanese audience; he is what most otaku want to be – a married man and yet still maintaining his blazing passion for all things two dimensional! He is their vessel and perhaps a glowing beacon of aspiration for which to encourage people to find a partner; it’s not impossible, people!

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In all, I adore this show. It’s short, sweet and downright charming. It’s been overlooked by most review sites and it shouldn’t be; just because it’s short doesn’t mean it’s impotent. It’s not about the size, but what you do with what you’ve got and this show does a lot. Some characters could be fettled from the lineup in my opinion, but the overall package is adorable and funny. A lovely little comedy for when you’ve got a spare few minutes. Or mainline the entire series in an hour! You won’t be disappointed.

I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [I adore this little anime. I want more of its charm.]

If you like what you read, please visit my Patreon campaign to help grow Anifile

Parasyte (Kiseijuu)


A fear that is common amongst humanity is the thought of losing said humanity; to feel your soul disappear and your body taken over by an empty organism with no emotion and one directive – to kill and survive. What’s more, it’s not even like you went down in a blaze of glory in a zombie attack; a virus gets you while you sleep. Or more accurately, a parasite. That’s what the famous manga series Parasyte presents before us, now having been given an anime after twenty years. This classic manga will hopefully become a classic anime.

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The above image sums up the dynamic that the main characters, Shinichi and Migi, share. Shinichi is the host and Migi is the parasite. Migi’s name means right in Japanese; an allusion to the fact that Migi has infected Shinichi’s right hand. This symbiosis was not meant to happen though as the virus known now as Migi was, like the rest of his kind, meant to control the brain of their host; not just their limbs. It was down to some quick thinking on Shinichi’s part that managed to save his consciousness, at the cost of his right hand. Alone time will never be the same. Together they keep each other alive through a mutual understanding (Migi, as a virus or more commonly known as a Parasyte, doesn’t understand emotions) that being alive is a lot better than being dead. Migi quickly learns about human history and culture and the pair begin to deal with the task of destroying other Parasytes. The reasoning shifts from ensuring the survival of humanity and self-preservation; it depends on the situation. Either way, the show sets itself up as a rather unorthodox buddy series.

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Let’s make one thing clear here. This show is pretty gruesome; no, REALLY gruesome. Soulless devouring of human flesh and gory transformations are left untouched by the censors [You hear that, Terraformars?] and offered up in glorious high definition. It all adds to the shock factor that Parasyte provides to the viewer. If you are squeamish then this show is not for you; there are no black bars to hide behind here. I think what draws me to this show is its emotive power. There are moments in the show where the usually emotionless Parasites begin to explore the realms of human feelings and their powerful influence. It all contributes to the incredibly strong character roster. All the characters here are fleshed out really well and they feel like real people; even the infected hosts! You comprehend the scenarios at play entirely and have little confusion left over, allowing you to watch the anime with little distraction.

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Migi’s development is most interesting. At first you think he is going to find some kind of way to kill Shinichi, but eventually he realises through logic that the best way to survive is to work together and feed off his blood and nutrients. Along the way, the virus learns about humanity and soon begins to speak fluent Japanese and communicate effectively. At first both he and Shinichi are pure virus and pure human respectively; however, as time goes by, the pair slowly become ‘impure’ as Ryoko [one of the main villains of the story] describes them. They are of no use to her, but perhaps she should fear such a team. Shinichi shows flickers of callousness and Migi is more susceptible to reasoning and quickly understands how human emotions work; that doesn’t mean he has gained emotions, only that he knows what they are. All this character analysis and layering complement the raw action in that the viewer is more emotionally invested and therefore amplifies the ultimate reaction. Speaking of the violence…

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The violence is more than just blood spattering about. We are talking about heads being split open like mouths, throats slit in an instant, multiple stabbings and all sorts of gory and supernatural bloodbaths. None of this is left to our imagination. Hitoshi Iwaaki’s original work is presented to us, warts and all. It’s unsettling to see a human being, or what you think is one, opening itself apart like an orange peel to reveal super-sharp blades that could cut you up before you know it. Not only that, but the killer has no remorse or satisfaction from it; you are a piece of meat whose sole purpose is to be eaten. How scary is that? Your fear is carried through Shinichi in the early episodes as he watches Migi fight enemies off who sense Shinichi’s humanity as an oddity. So it’s not like they can hide; the pair HAVE to fight. Another scary side effect is that Shinichi is slowly losing his humanity and I don’t think he realises he is. That’s unsettling. I’D like to know if I was becoming less human. Parasyte is perfect nightmare fuel for most people. If you are familiar with horror you might be less impacted by the visuals, but you will still be impressed by the level of gory content.

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The timing of this review was deliberate. My previous review was of the heavily censored Terraformars and now we have the wholly UNCENSORED Parasyte. The former was ruined and the latter shows its confidence in itself and how it doesn’t need to rely behind a black curtain to promote future Bluray sales. It gives you the whole package and I thank the Parasyte team immensely. Iwaaki and Madhouse have presented a late eighties manga and seamlessly modernised it for today’s audience. The package is mostly perfect; a right balance of horror, intelligent plot devices, emotional capacity and even a little bit of comedy here and there. My only concern is the placement of music; it may not be bad all the time but some scenes were spoilt when tracks were mismatched with what was going on on-screen. That’s my only fault with this show. This is definitely going in my top three anime list.

Parayste is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [A great blend of violence and narrative development. Never a dull moment.]

If you like what you read, please visit my Patreon campaign to help grow Anifile

Anifile’s Worst 5 Anime of Summer 2014


This season was pretty tough to pick which anime were my favourites, as was picking my worst; well THE worst one wasn’t! The trend of this chart was that of disappointment, anime which failed to live up to my expectations or quickly descended into mediocrity or simply made no sense from the start! Not a lot of rage here just sadness of what might have been. Right, let’s begin!

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#5 – Bladedance of the Elementalers

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FULL REVIEW

You might be wondering why this show is in the worst five list, it wasn’t that bad. I even said so myself! The reason is simply that it was a massive disappointment. Bladedance of the Elementalers had a lot of hype prior to release and seemed really good from what I heard from my friends; but when I came to view it though it was pretty mediocre at best. I think what got me annoyed mostly was the main character, Claire. She was so grating and ungrateful and selfish that she rubbed me up the wrong way. I didn’t want to sit through her exploits which often almost gets her friends killed. Plus the thrusting of her other lolita idol, Est, into our faces when she is first introduced in human form was so awkward that it threw me off balance despite the fact she is kind of cute; I didn’t feel comfortable! If you stick through this and accept the fact you’re not going to break new territory with this anime you can just about get through it in one piece. For me though, it’s something I cannot stomach.

#4 – Silver Will Argevollen

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FULL REVIEW

Argevollen is another case of disappointment for me. I was expecting a giant robot drama and all I got was a derivative of an anime which came out in the seventies. It’s a Gundam 0080 clone, straight up. The warring nations, the military mechs all looking like generic boxes and the sudden appearance of an unearthly mech all of a sudden. Coupled with unengaging characters which mostly follow convention save for the few plot twists which are scattered far and wide over the twenty-four episode run that this series has. There is potential for this anime to develop in its second half during the autumn season but it has failed to hook me in in the here and now. I, quite frankly, would rather watch Gundam because that’s more authentic than this rehash. It didn’t help that the show’s director is one of my favourites [Tatsuo Sato] and that he really dropped the ball with this one. Shame.

#3 – Momo Kyun Sword

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FULL REVIEW

Yep, another disappointment. This one was less of a surprise though. I knew this was going to be the show that was destined for public crucifixion. On the surface, it looks like a shameless fanservice anime with a theme around peaches and PEACHES. The detailing on Momoko’s breasts was hard to ignore and the attention they got condemned the show for most; but if you can look past the bosoms and look at the show as a whole, it’s not so bad. It’s a fun and simple story with some pretty cool powers, transformations and comedy which would fit the bill for a supernatural samurai romp. If Momoko had a normal figure, the fanservice was pushed back and the CAMERAMAN WASN’T INEPT it would be a decent show which you could have a little fun with. Instead, it’s an irritating and saddening anime which failed to be anything other than a cheap excuse to look at two dimensional boobs. I’m being generous here as it had promise. Moving on.

#2 – Rail Wars!

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FULL REVIEW

Oh man, this was a pretty swift about-face for me. When I reviewed this back in July I thought the show was OK, nothing special but decent. Almost three months later and near the end of its run, it’s become a nigh-on train wreck. You try and explain the concept of Rail Wars to people and you’re left clutching at straws. Is it about fighting trains? Is it about rival train operators? No, it’s rail cops. OK. It could be pretty exciting but it’s not! It’s pretty awkward over the course of the show’s run with only flickers of brightness in an otherwise complicated mess of a story about a guy who like trains. Can you really make an anime about that? No! You have to shove him into a situation he’s uncomfortable with and throw in TONS of breast and butt shots to make things even remotely interesting. Then you have the plots; they’re just random and confusing, each more ridiculous than the last. If you want to watch Rail Wars I insist you check out GiggUK’s hilarious parody here. [Strong language]

#1 – Glasslip

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FULL REVIEW

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I hate this show! That should be enough for you but I’ll elaborate a little more. When you first watch this show, you might be a little confused about the amount of vitriol I have towards this production; it looks so beautiful and first-rate. Yes, it LOOKS the business but by the time you get to episode four or five, you will understand what I’m talking about. NOTHING HAPPENS. Oh, unless you count awkward teenage romance and talking about a whole lot of nothing all day long. The characters are all as wooden as the finest mahogany and as one dimensional as cardboard. Our main characters are so dull despite their future powers which are rarely used throughout most of the show – what was the point of bringing them up other than to get the two together? Oh boy. Eventually you start to marvel at the horribly paced writing and revel in the uncomfortable feeling you’re getting deep in your stomach. It’s almost sadistic. I’ll stop here but ONLY watch this if you are OK with getting frustrated.

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There we go! Both our top and bottom anime have been listed and presented to you fine people! What was your worst anime? Cast your vote for the Anifile People’s Choice Award for Summer 2014!