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Anime Review Round-Up 2018 Part I

Anime

Anime Review Round-Up 2018 Part I

I've decided to make a list of Anime shows and movies I've watched for this year. Used to do episode summaries for my own reference just to remind me what happened but, I thought short reviews would be good too.

They aren't all screened or aired this year. Some are actually quite old but of course, that doesn't mean they're bad. Maybe it'll give you an idea of what to watch if something you haven't watched catches your eye in here.

Made In Abyss (2017, Kinema Citrus)

Don't let the cute character designs fool you. This show has a great world setting and can be very cruel at times. Gorey too. Many people have been attracted to a giant crater known as the "Abyss", seeking mysterious and valuable Relics. However, not many make it to the bottom due to the curses it holds. Depending on how deep someone goes, they can never make it back up. Only the prestigious White Whistles who possess the power of relics manage to make it that far.

Young Riko aspires to become a cave raider so that she can find her missing mother, a famous White Whistle who hasn't returned from the bottom of the Abyss. One day she meets Regu who looks like a robot and with his memories lost, he seeks to learn who he is one day. Together they decide to sneak out and make their descent down.

With only 12 episodes, the pacing is really well-done and it's captivating watching Riko and Regu support one another as they journey down the depths. While a show like Madoka Magica the situation slowly deteriorated for the characters, Made In Abyss doesn't hold back the punches. It's a ruthless show which is a big contrast to its cute character designs. Maybe that's one reason why you really feel bad when something happens.

It doesn't shy away from sexuality too. While most Anime focus on the females, we have Riko being overly curious about Reg's male differences.

As a bit of trivia, the giantess Ozen happens to be the same voice actress as Magaret from Persona 4, Sayaka Ohara. It's a great combination of action and comedy. It was a compelling show to watch and if this was a top selling book I'd probably call it a real page turner.

Made in Abyss

Erased (2016, A-1 Pictures)

Satoru seems like your everyday guy with an average delivery driver job but he has a gift which he's named "Revival". Whenever a fatal accident occurs, he finds himself time leaping just to a few moments before the accident so he could prevent it from happening. It's happened so often he's become used to it.

However, one day he finds his mother murdered at his own apartment and he naturally becomes the prime suspect. Revival triggers but it was a much more powerful leap this time. He found himself back in the body of his 11 year old self, a time when a series of kidnappings occurred. They were all from his class and he believed his mother's death was linked to this incident. As he becomes determined to stop any of the kidnappings from happening and in turn, prevent his mother's death, he becomes attached to one of the first victims.

A lot of dark gloomy music form Yuki Kajiura in this show mostly but, it's a very moving show even though the mystery itself was very predictable. If you're tired of time travel/leap shows or Anime with the same usual high school kids, childhood friends setting then I'm sure this will not disappoint. There are some really emotional moments as you watch Satoru struggle to keep his classmates safe and well.

There's also a live action version that was produced for Netflix but I haven't seen it to comment how good it is.

Erased, BokuMachi

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (2013/2015, Brain's Base/Feel)

Hachiman Hikigaya is a loner who has decided to distant himself from people by being depressing and self-deprecating, particularly girls since the day he was rejected. When his teacher finds his essay about his high school life full of contempt, she decides to send him to the "Service Club" where he meets Yukino Yukinoshita, a top class pupil who runs the club aiming to make society a better place by helping people. However, she too is quite a loner too because of how jealous other girls are of her and how overly outspoken, quick to criticise she is. The two don't get along so the teacher suggests they compete to see who can benefit the club most while hoping they will gradually change to fit into society.

I think the first season had the better background art. The second season does a better job rendering the overall scenes including the characters thanks to the diffused lighting effect they use. Shadows and outlines just look softer like they should be and blend in more naturally. On the other hand, it's got a nice OST selection.

This show is quite dialogue heavy which is kind of expected since it's based on a light novel. Some regard it as as the next entry in the "bitter love comedy" genre that Haganai started. It also matches its title, a fun romance comedy. Apart from Yui who's your typical clueless, clumsy Anime girl, both Hikigaya and Yukinoshita both have an interesting personality that drives the show. One looks like your typical "o-jou-sama" character, a rich wealthy snobby young lady who isn't far from the truth about Yukino except, she criticises everyone to the tiniest detail and no one can fight back. On the other hand, Hiki is a extremely depressing and pessimestic person as I mentioned above but he's actually so proud about it it doesn't bother him at all. Sometimes it actually lets him see things from a perspective that the intelligent Yukino can't.

I thought the wrap-up wasn't that great but I guess it's the way most multi-romance plots go. It's entertaining just watching Yukino and Hiki outwit each other or mercilessly throwing insults around throughout the show. There is some drama and slice-of-life you could probably relate to (particularly in the second season) but it's mostly comedy and yes, romance. There's the odd fan service like your usual swimsuit episode but not enough to ruin the show. Just don't bother with the first OVA which is really just fan service oriented. Ya'hello!

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Xam'd Lost Memories (2008, Bones)

Sentan Island is caught in the middle of a warzone. Akiyuki looks like your everyday student rushing off to school when there is an air raid and the school bus he was on explodes. While trying to help a refugee he helped sneak onto the bus, he finds himself "Xam'd" - when a human is injected with a seed known as "Hiruko" transforming them into a raging creature. Nakiami, a girl who just happened to be in the area from the courier ship "Zanbani" spots him and takes him in, offering to teach him how to control the Hiruko within him. Even though he is given little hope of returning to his human life, he continues to believe he'd be able to return home to the island one day.

It has an interesting setting that kind of looks like your modern day Japan but not quite so at the same time. If you replaced the traditional buildings of Japan that next to modern day structures with ones from a fantasy JRPG then you pretty much got the setting. Artwork looks great, action scenes are good but you'd probably expect that from a big name studio like Bones. It's not an uptight, gloomy action show despite all the conflict and everyone struggling to get through it all. Thanks to the vivid colours, beautifully drawn backgrounds and the odd joke here and there it lightens up when you least expect it.

The show kind of hits you with all sorts of mysteries right from the start and rather than let characters clear things up, you're left to piece together the shreds of info and figure them out yourself. You'd probably be compelled to watch whether Akiyuki's determination bears fruit in the end. No one on board the Zanbani pampers him despite his condition and he is made to earn his stay. You kind of keep keep watching to learn more about the world setting too, why there are factions at war and what the whole "Xam'd" thing is about.

I think the only downside is that it branches out too much towards the end of the show as it tries to cover all the different characters. That said, it's still a good show for the most part.

Out of interest, this is Masayuki Miyaji's debut as an Anime director and he was responsible for the storyboarding of many popular action shows such as Attack on Titan, Kabaneri Fortress of Steel, Durarara x2 Ketsu, Sword Art Online S2.

Xam'd Lost Memories

Worth A Watch

Kokkoku: Moment by Moment (2018, Geno Studio)

Juri has had a tiring day going through a whole line-up of job interviews and decides to let her NEET brother Tsubasa go fetch their nephew for a change. Never did she expect they'd end up being kidnapped. When they receive a call to pay a ransom, her grandfather reveals they have a mysterious stone that allows them to freeze time. Thinking they had the upperhand, they suddenly find themselves attacked by unknown assailants who were immune to the stone's effects and wanted it for themselves.

When I first watched this I thought it had a vibe similar to Gantz. It ran at a steady serious pace with short bursts of drama with a very dark and continuous mysterious atmosphere to it just like when the participants of Gantz was trying to figure out the game or the black ball. It also has about the same amount of gore. Funnily enough the director Yoshimitsu Ouhashi did the storyboarding for that show.

The mystery kind of kept me watching and I think the characters are likeable because despite having powers they each have their own vulnerabilities that make them human. How the situation progresses makes it quite a compelling show to watch in this short series.

On another note, the OP theme song is horrible IMO but the ED "Asayake to Nettaigyo [Sunrise and Tropical Fish]" is pretty good.

Kokkoku

Worth A Watch

Inuyashiki (2017, MAPPA)

Ichiro Inuyashiki is a 58 year old man with an uncaring family. One day he discovers he has a terminal illness and while hiding in the park crying, he is killed by an alien spaceship. Desperate to cover their tracks, the aliens made use of the only equipment they had aboard their ship, reconstructing him into a powerful battle android. After learning what he's become, he decides to use his new body for good to continue feeling human. However, he soon discovers the other young man Hiro Shishigami who also got caught up in the crash, uses the new body for more selfish purposes, terrorising the city to feel the same way.

The show gets off to a very depressing start and doesn't waste any time in showing the dark ugly side of humans. It's also gruesome, filled with gore and there are always just sudden moments of surprises that might make you jump. Kind of like Gantz and indeed, the story is written by the very same person Hiroya Oku. Hell, they even have posters of Gantz in the show even though it's not by the same studio, lol.

I kind of laughed at the panicking aliens part and thought, "What the heck?" It's... kind of like a dark comedy at the same time as it is sci-fi action because of the really silly direction and jokes like this during inappropriate situations. Eventually you do kind of root for Ichiro doing the best he can to make good use of the alien technology which leads to some moving moments despite the silliness and dark humour.

Visually the studio kind of juggles between 3D/2D animation and it shows. It's not completely seamless so it kind of deters from the overall quality of the show.

Not a show you'd want to watch if you don't like dark, gorey shows with an equal sense of dark humour. It is not a happy show with all its senseless slaughter and casual references to terminal illnesses. Or you could just watch it for the silliness.

There is a live action movie too but haven't seen it to comment.

Inuyashiki

Worth A Watch

The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017, Science Saru)

A neatly dressed, polite and optimistic young "Girl with Black Hair" is out drinking at a party but soon finds herself going on an adventure in Pontocho as she moves from place to place during the after party, meeting various people from all walks of life. Meanwhile, her "Senpai (Senior)" who always had a crush on her tries to win her heart but ends up going on a not so great adventure himself as he pursues her. It turns out to be one eventful night for them as everyone they meet finds their lives intertwined by the threads of fate as the girl journeys through the night. Even supernatural spirits.

It's a bunch of silly scenarios put together that's loosely centred around adult life, drinking and socialising. The scenarios feel random but there's also a certain charm about how the lives of the various characters the girl meets are tied together by her little adventure through the night. It kind of turns into a kind of Alice in Wonderland story...

The show is filled with adult jokes and doesn't shy away from showing off pieces of Hokusai's traditional erotic art (censored with flowers). Art style's clean and simple, not your usual Anime show style that's detailed but still fun to watch thanks to the lively characters and comical movements. You can't miss a movie with someone who uses a "friendship punch" for self-defence.

The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl

Worth A Watch

Mary and The Witch's Flower (2017, Studio Ponoc)

Mary is living with her aunt Charlotte in the countryside where there is little to do. Despite her eagerness to help, Mary always messes up so she is mostly left bored with nothing to do. One foggy day she ventures into the woods when she shouldn't have and comes across a pretty glowing flower. When she takes it home she finds herself whisked off to a magical witches academy where she can learn magic. As she spends her time there, she learns it's not as great a place as it seemed.

I first saw an ad for this while I was in HK and had thought it was a Ghibli movie but, it turns out that one of the producers had left Ghibli and formed a new studio, Studio Ponoc. This was their first movie and other than the art style, it reminded me a lot of Ghibli's classics such as Totoro, Laputa, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke and because of this, I quite enjoyed the movie.

It will be interesting to see what Studio Ponoc will come up with in the future. It felt like they've brought the magic back into Ghibli movies.

Mary and The Witch's Flower

Worth A Watch

Little Witch Academia (2017, Trigger)

Rash, clumsy and happy-go-lucky "Akko" is a normal human girl inspired to become a witch after watching a magical performance by the witch, Chariot. By chance she manages to obtain the Shiny Rod from the forbidden forest, the same rod that Chariot had used before disappearing and she suddenly finds herself capable of some powerful magic. Along the way she befriends the mischievous poison mushroom loving Suzy and timid Lotte. Together, they start the new term at the famous Luna Nova Academy for witches as Akko strives to be like Chariot despite magic growing less appealing to the modern day world by the day.

The show which started of as a crowd-funded short film, feels very much like the action comedy you'd expect from Trigger featuring a silly cast of characters. I guess you could say it's a different kind of "magical girl" show. Right from the very first episode you're already laughing away at the antics Akko gets up to that throws her into trouble's way and all the silly comical reactions. You'd probably recognise some familiar styles from the studio too, especially the sparkly stars.

Granted it's not a serious show, I think the only things that stops me from recommending it is the world setting and pacing. Even though it tries to deviate from the common magical fantasy setting with silly ideas such as witches using machinery instead of magic, it's not that exciting to look at.

For the first half it kind of felt like a slice-of-life show (about witches in training of course) and sometimes it felt like I was watching a Nickelodeon cartoon from my childhood days so not quite as entertaining... The main plot does finally pick up traction by the second half of the show and as cheezy as it maybe, the wrap-up was great but the overall pacing and direction just felt too slow. Kind of like that long climb up a roller coaster except this climb was too long and I almost lost interest. Maybe not one of Trigger's better shows.

On another note, Diana really looks like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, lol. And if you do watch this, do look out for "Marks & Sponcers" if you're familiar with British stores. The second ED, "Invisible Wings" is also a great theme song.

Little Witch Academia

Worth A Watch

Girls' Last Tour (2017, White Fox)

In the post-apocalpyse world the cool headed, intelligent Chito and happy-go-lucky Yuuri are left to wander around a desserted city, doing their best to salvage what's left behind to survive.

Animation and art isn't that impressive because it's mostly just rubble and desserted urban areas as you'd expect from a post-apocalypse setting. It's nothing creative either because everything looks like something out of the modern world or older. The show switches quite often between 2D and 3D and it's not very good at doing it because you can tell straight away with the rigid character models.

The show doesn't actually mention anything about why the place is desserted but there is a short scene that shows they were in the middle of a war at some point. Despite the setting it's a very laid-back, relaxed kind of show for the most part. You have your cute characters doing silly things as they wander so the mood brightens up every so often. I think this the only time when you can't associate long faces with sadness. Even though they're supposed to be struggling to survive and never know when someone they meet will be the enemy there's just no sense of desperation at all. No real dangers lurk, just two girls casually joking around as they travel. It's kind of uneventful for the most part to say the least.

It's not laugh-out-loud funny either, just the odd silliness here and there that keeps the show entertaining. It kind of makes you look at your own quality of life as you watch the girls discover the little comforts of daily life that we take for granted such as just the basic needs food and shelter. It's nice to see even when times are supposedly desperate the girls still consider their morales before taking any action. Every episode has one or more themes and before you know it, an episode is over.

It might make you look at the world around you in a new light.

Girls Last Tour

Worth A Watch

A Place Further Than The Universe (2017, Madhouse)

This was an interesting slice-of-life show where a girl named Shirase is determined to go to Antartica to find her missing mother who never returned from the last expedition. Obviously it wasn't going to be easy but with some luck, determination and persevering all the harassment she received at school, she finally manages to secure a place in an expedition. She meets many friends along the way who also want some change in their lives and make the best of their youth.

It's a fun comedy but also a touching show watching the characters interact from their struggle through highschool to the day they complete the expedition. This isn't based on any Manga or light novel, a complete original short series by Madhouse.

The only gripe I had about the show was Japan conveniently leaving out their WWII atrocities as usual. They mention how they were "bullied" during the WWII and had their access to Antarctica restricted to the toughest area only. This might be true as some countries might have taken advantage of their defeat at the time but at the same time, Japan was only given restrictions because of their atrocities invading Asia which they do not mention at all. They only mention their own losses and suffering, conveniently missing out the pretext so that it really looks like they were the victims just like in their modern day history books.

Putting that aside, it's a great show to enjoy.

Place Further Than The Universe

Worth A Watch

Blood Blockade (2017, Bones)

A gateway to the Beyond opened in New York City which meant the city was now known as "Hellsalem" as strange creatures and humans alike started living together. Leonardo travels to this city hoping to find a cure for her sister whose eyesight was taken during the incident while he gained the all seeing "God's Eyes". The ability earns him a place with the special organisation known as Libra who assist in incidents that involve demons the local forces can't handle.

If you watched the first season, this second season doesn't disappoint. Characters are still weird and wacky as ever but we see more of their own backstory this time. That sound effect we hear as we see those cheezy move names appear never gets old. Great combination of comedy and action as before.

Also, the artists must be big fans of Apple since you see both iPhones and Macs in the show.

Kekkai Sensen, Blood Blockade

Worth A Watch

Children of The Whales (2017, J.C. Staff)

This is an interesting show that was almost exclusive to Netflix. Visually it looks great. The style reminds me a lot of Ghibli movies but also of From The New World.

A group of people are stranded on an island known as the "whale" as it travels along the desert. Some are gifted with psychic powers while others are not. As they live their simple peaceful lives on this tiny island they suddenly find themselves under attack by outsiders wearing masks. What surprises them is that they looked alike and also possessed similar powers to themselves. As they let one of the attackers who regain her emotions stay with them, they learn their attackers have lost their emotions. They also learn more about the outside world and the deeper secrets of their own island.

An interesting world setting to say the least. If the above doesn't sound interesting, you can watch it for the artwork at least.

Children of The Whales

Worth A Watch

Re:Creators (2017, Troyca)

Souta is your regular highschool student who enjoys drawing. One day Selesia, a character from one of his favourite shows materialises in the real world and he learns the phenonmena was happening around Japan. Characters from popular works were appearing in the real world - both good and bad. Now they must investigate why and prevent the balance of the world from being broken because of their appearances.

It's an interesting plot, nothing that deep. Fun watching the fictional characters appearing in the real world and being surprised or awed at different things.

Re:Creators

Worth A Watch

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (2017, KyoAni)

Kobayashi comes across a dragon named Touru one day who decides to take human form to serve as her maid to repay her kindness. As they live together, more of Touru's acquintances appear before Kobayashi and her daily life just isn't the same any more.

A fun, wacky comedy from Kyo-Ani, best known for Lucky Star, Haruhi Suzumiya and K-ON. You could kind of call this a slice-of-life comedy as Kobayashi who lives alone ends up with a growing family of dragons.

Kanna is a good little girl - watch it and you'll see what I mean ^^

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

Worth A Watch

KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World (2017, Studio Deen)

Kazuma is a NEET who spends his time playing RPGs all day. One day after a fatal accident he is given the chance to reincarnate as a new person in a fantasy world, promised that he will retain his memories and it will be like the RPGs he usually plays. Fantasy RPG worlds were so dangerous, few choose to start their new life in them so the population was dwindling. Thinking it would be the life of his dreams, Kazuma accepts but ends up taking the cheeky goddess Aqua with him. Together they start their new life and as they get stuck living in the stables, struggling to make a living, he finds out it's not so rosy after all.

This is one of those comedy shows aimed at the male audience mainly with Kazuma surrounded by girls of course although this time, their personalities are not quite your cliche cast of personalities. Instead of a party full of competent skilled heroes, we've got a whole group of clumsy, silly characters. There's Megumin, a self-proclaimed great mage who refuses to cast any other spell apart from the most powerful fire spell but ends up exhausted afterwards. Then there's the crusader Darkness who seems to be full of justice, playing the tank role to protect players but in actual fact, she's actually a masochist. With no one wanting either of them in a party, they end up grouping together with Kazuma and Aqua.

The show's silly twisted "real world" look at fantasy RPGs can be really fun to watch.

KonoSuba

Worth A Watch

Poco's Udon World (2016, Lidenfilms)

Souta is taking a break from his life as a web designer by returning to his rural home. His father was against him moving to the city and had wanted him to take over his udon business. As he returns home, he meets a little boy who seemed to be lost so Souta decides to name him "Poco" and take care of him for the time being.

As Souta and Poco spends time together they become closer and many of Souta's own friends and family take a liking to Poco. Souta is also reminded of his own time spent with his father but soon learns more about why Poco had really appeared before him.

It's a cute show as you watch a kind of foster parent relationship forming with a little supernatural added in. If you need a show to watch with little fan service, this is one of them.

Poco's Udon World

Worth A Watch

Schwarzesmarken (2016, itxl / Lidenfilms)

Irisdinia is believed to be a survivor of an attempted coup d'etat by betraying her own family to the Stasi, the repressive secret police of Eastern Germany who did not take kindly to treason or spies. However, Earth was now under threat from an alien race known as the "BETA" that devours any human they find. Irisdinia was now a hero, captain of the 666th Squadron "Schwarzesmarken", responsible for wiping out Laser Class BETA which were the greatest threat against human forces due to their long range beams.

While out repelling an invasion they come across a distress signal from a lone UN TSF. Katia is rescued and is taken in by the squadron under asylum as they needed someone capable to replace one of their lost members. Watched over by Theodore, Katia reminds him a lot of his sister Lise who he got separated from while trying to flee from the Stasi to the Western border. As Katia continues to secretly search for her convicted lost father despite the risk of being apprehended by the Stasi, Theodore continues to be haunted by his own ordeal with the Stasi but he soon finds himself fighting against more than just the BETA.

This is an OVA that's a prequel to the Muv Luv spin-off "Muv Luv Alternative" that takes place 18 years prior. It gives you a quick crash course on the Alternative universe during the opening first episode but it would probably be best if you you've seen the older prequel, Total Eclipse which gives a better picture of the world setting.

Like Total Eclipse it starts off similarly filled with angst, doom and gloom but doesn't lighten up as the show goes on. You have to pay attention fairly closely to understand what's going on and even then, you'd need a bit of historical background on Germany to know what's what. As usual, the character development keeps the show interesting as you watch them grow through their struggles and there are some intense fights but there are also a few "WTH!?" out-of-the-blue random moments. Fan service and gore are both mild compared to Total Eclipse but there are some brief scenes of sexual exploitation.

Be sure to watch on after the ending credits as there's more to each episode.

Muv Luv Alternative: Schwarzesmarken

Worth A Watch

Muv-Luv Alternative - Total Eclipse (2012, Satellite/itxl)

Humans have made contact with aliens while exploring planet Mars. Now Earth is fighting a losing war against them who they now called the "BETA". The war is going so badly that even new trainees are being sent straight to the battlefield before completing their training. Yui Takamura, daughter of a renown family, is the last survivor from her team. Three years later, still haunted by the cruel demise of her friends she reaches the rank of liutenant and leads a team of test pilots as part of the UN Pacific Force's Project XFJ, an initiative for developing the Japanese Imperial weaponry further so that they can get an edge on their alien enemies. Like Yui, the test pilots are comprised of those who lost their home and loved ones to the BETA. Amongst them is rash American born Yuuya Bridges who isn't proud of his half Japanese roots and so can't see eye-to-eye with the native Yui. Yet somehow, they must set aside their differences.

The show starts gets off to quite a rough start. First two episodes felt like a quick crash course on the plot because the direction felt really rushed. Fight scenes were too quick and you didn't really have any time to warm up to Yui's friends to get a sense of her despair other than the gorey scenes. However, the pacing is much better afterwards. Less rushed fighting scenes and more focus on character development.

Other than the first two episodes, the art and character design is generally good. BETA alien designs don't look that impressive and the 3D models style stand out too much from the rest of the show.

Your cast of characters are your cliche Anime personalities but as usual, the clash between them makes them fun to watch. There's a fair amount of fan service during the first half of the show such as scenes showing girls changing into and wearing tight body suits, abundant shower scenes etc which might put some people off. It gets pretty silly as usual with all the girls falling for the same guy. There's even your cliche stuck on a desert island scenario. It's based on a dating sim so I guess you kind of expect it - it's a prequel set 11 years before the events of Muv Luv Alternative.

That said, the story doesn't get on too badly afterwards as we watch the characters grow through a lot of internal conflict amongst the remaining human population. There's suddenly no more fan service scenes either (well... maybe another episode's worth of your obligatory hot springs). Unfortunately the BETA don't get much focus in the show so they kind of feel like an after thought loosely put together. It doesn't wrap-up that great either and feels more like a teaser to go buy the game or read the light novels.

It's not quite as funny but it does kind of remind me of Full Metal Panic. If you don't mind the heavy fan service aimed at the male audience during the first couple of episodes and some brief gore it's probably worth a watch.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse

Worth A Watch

Garden of Sinners (2007, Ufotable)

Another Type-Moon title that has a similar world setting to Fate/Stay Night and Tsukihime Princess.

A series of brutal murders are taking place. Mikiya hears about the murders from his cousin who leads the investigation and Shiki, one of his highschool classmates ends up being one of the suspects. Concerned what might happen to Shiki, he decides to find out the truth. He refused to believe someone like her would commit such murders.

Some years later, both he and Shiki are working for a paranormal investigation agency. The founder of the agency, Touko was a magus who discovered Shiki had the "Mystic Eyes" ability that allows her to put an end to anything. Not only that, she also has the constant urge to kill. As strange, brutal murders take place once again and Shiki missing alibis, her relationship with Mikiya is tested to the limits while he works to get to the bottom of the mysteries.

I'm not a particular fan of Kalafina but their vocals and Yuki Kajiura's compositions create some really great music in this series of short movies. They're mostly dark and gloomy as you'd expect from a show filled with horrific murders but there are some nice serene tracks. Especially as the series wraps up.

There's a total of 7 short movies so it's not your regular OVA or short series. It's a very gorey show with lots of decapitation. Character designs aren't that great to look at, a bit plain looking at times but the direction is quite intense as you feel the trust being tested between Mikiya and Shiki.

An eighth movie "Future Gospel" was released after the original intended 7 which kind of takes place after the 5th and 7th movie (yes, the ordering is horrible in this series!) and is a big contrast compared to the mostly dark and gloomy rest of the short movies. Don't miss it if the 7th movie's ending wasn't enough of a wrap-up for you.

There is also a single movie called "Gate of Seventh Heaven" which summarises the first 6 movies (in chronological order) but you'll be missing out on a lot of the plot. The recap movie is more like a speed run through the ending scenes of each short movie with the theme songs playing; like a very boring music video, missing out the context and build-up so it doesn't have as much impact as watching the individual movies. If you're hoping for some new scenes there are few and not worth seeing really.

Just go for the original short movie series (as confusing as the ordering might be) and the eighth bonus movie if you decide to watch this.

Garden of Sinners

Worth A Watch

Black Lagoon (2006, Madhouse)

Rokurou Okajima is your everyday office worker except he gets bullied at work. One day he gets kidnapped by a group of mercenaries who call themselves, "Black Lagoon". When his company shows little concern for him and marks him off as dead, he decides enough is enough. He proves his worth to the mercenaries and joins them as "Rock" to start a new live on the island of Roanapur where the wicked live.

This is an action show which mainly focus on the relationship between the blood lusting, hot-headed, merciless Revy who grew up rough and Rock from the more civilised world. They just don't get along.

For most of the show, the action is quite bland as it's mostly Revy being a one person army posing, firing off her guns while the enemies drop like flies and misses with their shots as with most action flicks. The motives to the missions they undertake mostly have little impact to make the episodes interesting too apart from one or two that spread out over multiple episodes. Action gets better then but... also quite silly at the same time. There are the odd times the tougher enemies that rival Revy fall back to your cliche silly Anime characters which is a shame even though the tension picks up a fair bit. That said, there's some twists to balance it back out and the show really picks up once it gets to the OVA that follows after the second season.

The show's got some strong characters, one of the rare shows where the female characters aren't getting screentime for fan service apart from the scanty get-ups.

Without spoiling too much, one mission deal with Nazis so you might want to avoid this if you're sensitive to them.

I kept watching just to see what the newly knit Black Lagoon would end up going through. You could say it's a slice-of-life action show but starring mercenaries. Life for the characters are portrayed as cruel and unforgiving as you'd expect from living on an island filled with the wicked where even church is no sanctuary.

Black Lagoon

Miss

Fireworks, Should We See Them From The Side or Bottom? (2017, Shaft)

Norimichi and his friend Yuusuke are both challenged by the girl they like, Nazuna while on pool cleaning duty. She invites the winner out on a date to the see the fireworks but when things go wrong, Norimichi discovers that the glass orb Nazuna had picked up allows him to travel back in time. He decides to use it to correct the problems he has come across since the day of that challenge at the pool.

This is an Anime movie that's based on a live action movie from back in 1995. The promotional art looked quite interesting for this movie and for the first third of the movie it's quite tranquil. I quite enjoyed the peaceful countryside setting.

You had your usual high school kids messing around, going to school, boys casually talking about boobs and panties setting. It turns out to be another time travel high school romance kind of movie where someone tries to fix things by re-doing events except the scripting is very boring... Until the end anyway which was pretty creative. Most of the movie was very uneventful and you don't really feel like the problems Norimichi goes back in time to resolve are that big a deal from it. Japanese voice acting's bland, the 3D models don't fit it that well.

I suggest watching Hosoda's version of TokiKake (2006) instead. It's better than this in every aspect.

Uchiage Hanabi

Miss

King's Game (2017, Seven)

Nobuaki Kanazawa has just transferred school but he tries desperately to keep his distance from everyone despite how friendly they were. He was the only survivor of something known as the "King's Game" where if someone didn't follow orders, they would die a horrible death instantly. Naturally when all his new classmates started receiving these orders on their phones they didn't believe him... That is until, chaos broke out and a large number of them died the first night. Now it's a game of seeing how far each of them will go for survival.

So the story is loosely based around the "ou-sama" game in Japan which is usually pulling straws to see who has the longest one. Then they can tell someone in the game to do whatever they must. Kind of like the truth or dare game. Show itself is based on a mix of the Manga's first series and the first title in the second series subtitled "終極 [The Finale]".

The first half of this show is mostly flashbacks of Nobuaki's past experience of the King's Game and it's mostly filled with non-stop gorey, gruesome deaths and little plot or character development. It's kind of like watching everyone getting filled with angst as they learn of each other dying and a lot of times, you'll be thinking, "Wha...?" The dares are gruesome and a lot of them is forcing the female students to have sex or some other exploitive situation. It's nothing explicit visually and I guess they at least show a condom being used.

After most of the class has disappeared, that the show kind of gets better as the story focuses more on the remaining few survivors of the present class so you start to sympathise with the characters a bit more. Some people have compared this horror show to Another but, I think Another was better because its mystery side was kept throughout the show instead of focusing on slaughtering or making characters suffer episode after episode.

If you're into sadistic shows and enjoy watching gorey, gruesome deaths or people suffering then you might enjoy this. Otherwise, I'd suggest watching Another instead if you want a better horror mystery show.

King's Game

Miss

Big Order (2015, Asread)

Eiji Hoshimura has been selected to become an Order - someone who can can be granted any wish and in turn gain a power based on what they wish for. Somehow his wish to rule the world ends up bringing about the destruction of the world and also grants him the power to control others. Ten years later, people continue their lives but are full of hatred for Orders after learning of their existence and enjoy seeing them die a horrible death. New Orders continue to appear and as they reveal themselves Eiji manages to control one of the assasins Rin out to avenge her parents who died during the destruction. As Rin continues to find ways to get her revenge on Eiji, Eiji is blackmailed into becoming a puppet "leader" by the rest of the Orders who aim to conquer the world by force.

This show features a sadistic heroine and funnily enough, the Manga this show is based on is by Sakae Esuno who also wrote Future Diary which is also another show with a similar heroine.

If you like sadistic cute girls enjoy causing pain to others you might enjoy this. Using the world full of hate as an excuse, the show doesn't hesitate to go about slaughtering people or using death as a joke. Outside of that, every episode sheds light on each Order who have some silly powers and personalities. So one moment you're watching gruesome deaths, the next you're laughing at silly things. Somtimes the show tries to look smart as if there's some clever scheme going on... Overall the direction doesn't feel very well thought out. Like random ideas thrown in.

There's little to like about this show. No good art work, direction's ridiculously silly, world setting's unoriginal, silly powers. Future Diary was better than this.

Big Order

Miss

Serial Experiments Lain (1998, Pioneer LDC/Triangle Staff)

One day Lain Iwakura's class receives an email presumingly from one of their late classmates, after she had committed suicide. Usually she wouldn't even use the Wired network but suddenly she starts using the network, believing she would receive more messages even though everyone thought it was just a prank. Not long later, she finds herself caught up in a series of strange events. She finds herself being followed, being able to see other humanoid shapes around her and even another person that looks just like her appearing at a club. Before long, she is sent a mod chip known as the "Psyche" that is rumoured to be created by a group known as the "Knights" and allows someone to merge with the virtual world, blurring it with reality and even allow them to affect the real world.

I watched this because of the hype. Even though the show's from the late 90s I still often see it pop up on my Twitter timeline every now and then. Art and animation probably isn't this show's best points because there isn't a lot of detail and for most of the episodes the first few minutes are the same. Eery sound effects on the other hand are really well done and something like the prominent low hum of powerlines throughout the show goes well with the dark gloomy colour choice and atmosphere. It's dark but I wouldn't call it a horror.

The overall pacing feels slow like you're just waiting for something to happen most of the time and when something does, it doesn't seem to have much impact so it's not very good at building up to events. By the time something does happen you just think, "Oh, something happened. Who cares." It's one messy show. One episode even resembles a fan made music video with a collage of scenes from the series.

If you can keep yourself awake for half the series then it's worth a watch when it kind of starts to get interesting but, it shouldn't really have taken that long to develop.

Serial Experiments Lain

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