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Anime Review 2019 Round-up III

Anime

Anime Review 2019 Round-up III

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou (2014, JC Staff)

Sorata Kanda is an art student who is caught taking care of a cat in the student dorm. Determined to continue looking after it, he is given the choice of living at Sakurasou instead as punishment, a place infamous for talented but weird art students. Misaki, a shamelessly perverted girl who'd happily take on comical personalities, Jin a playboy who sleeps around with different women everyday, Ryunosuke the prodigy shut-in and Chihiro the sloppy alcoholic, irresponsible teacher who supervises the dorm. It ends up being more than what Sorata could handle and decides his new goal is to escape the crazy place.

However, he was also happy in a way because of it gave his mundane daily repetitive life a change. One day, a new girl appears to stay at the dorm. Just as Sorata thought there was finally someone sane, it turns out the new girl Shiina Mashiro completely lacked common sense and because of that didn't take care of herself too well. Just like how he couldn't leave the white cat he had decided to take in, Sorata soon finds himself looking after the "pet girl". As time goes by, he soon learns that everyone has their own problems - even the talented, happy looking. As he changes his mind about leaving, together they go through the ups and downs of life.

So the premise is similar to Maison Ikkoku with a whole bunch of crazy people living together but without the heavy romance and more silliness. Oh, and your usual high school student setup. I decided to watch this because I really enjoyed AoButa also based on Hajime Kamoshida's light novels. It starts out feeling really random at first but then it becomes a fan service filled comedy mostly as both the mischievous Misaki and innocent "pet girl" Shiina ends up in some erotic situations like flying lingerie, wet clothes etc. It's your familiar Anime girls troupe with your usual cliche scenes except it's not a harem this time round.

Just like AoButa it has its serious side too and you'll probably end up cheering the characters on as you watch them do their best to overcome their problems even when life isn't always so rosy. There are some warm fuzzy moments of friendship as the bonds between the residents of Sakurasou grow as they get to know each other and of course, romance. Instead of a whole bunch of girls fighting for the same guy different characters are paired up. There's a lot of fun and cute interactions and, it really picks up half way through the show when the silliness gets toned down. For the most part, the pacing and direction's great but there are times it feels like the show falls flat on its face.

Art itself isn't that great, very plain looking although the colour scheme it uses stands out and quality picks up when it counts. Sometimes they overuse diffused lighting effects. Theme songs are catchy, especially the ending themes. "Days of Dash" really suit the show. Never noticed Yui Horie playing as Ryunosuke considering the cute feminine characters she usually voices.

If I had to pick between this and AoButa, I think the latter has the better balance. It has a lot less fan service and the silly mysterious cases of Adolecense Syndrome were more captivating. I also preferred the witty dry humour compared to the comical jokes this show has. Still, this show has some great moments and a fun cast of characters even though they have your very cliche Anime type personalities. If you prefer a (mostly) happier romance slice-of-life, comedy show with a lot more silliness in it and don't mind the fan service (including loli ones), you'll probably enjoy this. Just a shame it goes overboard sometimes as if the producers are trying to add some insurance in but, overall a great show full of laughter and tears.

Pet Girl of Sakurasou

GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018, Toei Animation)

Kitaro is a Youkai (supernatural being) that was left abandoned in a grave yard as the last survivor of the Ghost Tribe. After being found and brought up by humans he decides to protect them to repay their kindness, from Youkai that do not take a liking to them.

"Gegege" is a creepy cackling laugh onomatopoeia in case you're wondering.

Toei Animation is no stranger to the series as they've been re-running the show a number of times as far back as the 1960s. This is the 6th remake of the show updated to include the modern world of internet, smartphones and social media. It does this well (even has cursed apps) and character designs have also gotten a revamp along with the theme songs.

Other than that, the most notable change is Neko Musume (AKA Cat Girl) who used to be ridiculed for being ugly but with this series she has been given a pretty "chick" make-over, enough to become the series' poster girl. The trending "moe" has caught up even with this classic series including her tsundere personality. She's become a very "onee-san" character too, someone very dependable. Even the songs have been given a make-over apart from the OP.

The Kidoushu, exorcists who had made an appearance in previous series, makes an appearance with a new original character as Kitaro's nemesis once again; a very "shounen" type character with powers and transformations. On the other hand Kitaro isn't your all powerful, one man army protagonist with lots of cool moves so don't expect intense fights like Dragon Ball or One Piece. He almost always struggles alone and need the help of his friends. The fight's can get a bit boring with Kitaro using the same moves every time.

I grew up watching the 1980s 3rd remake by Fuji TV and I think this series fairly much captures the same charm that got me interested in Youkai from Japanese folklore. Each episode is self-contained.

Some of the character designs including the various Youkai aren't quite as creepy as before because they're rounded to look cuter compared to the rough outlines of the series I watched. A lot of them do silly things such as the evil laugh that most kids show do whereas the older shows had a bit more serious tone to the direction. Take the Tantanbo episode for instance. There was no evil laugh and they would put on a very serious tone as they were confronted by Kitaro showing how much they despised humans. His comrades also met their demise in more gruesome ways. The colour palette choice was also darker and not as colourful whereas here it's much more colourful such as Gegege Forest (although I like the change). This has tamed down episodes such as the ghost train which is often filled with colourful smiling Youkai in this 2018 version. Some episodes are just ridiculously silly like the racoon army but there are good episodes too. There's basically more comedy aimed at the younger audience.

Meanwhile Ittan Momen (AKA "Rollo Cloth", my favorite Youkai) wasn't a pervert and was a much cooler dependable Youkai friend. Sand Witch also has hints of Fujoshi... Quite weird hearing voice actress Mayumi Tanaka (Luffy, One Piece) playing as her while voice actress Masako Nozawa (Goku, Dragon Ball) plays as Kitaro's dad, Eye-Ball. In fact, you'll catch a few references since it's the same studio producing the shows. Talented Miyuki Sawashiro also plays the male role of Kitaro well. Can hardly tell it's a female voicing him.

Other than that the background art is actually pretty good despite being one of those long running shows which usually have to lower the quality due to tight deadline and budget. It's probably also worth noting Kitaro was turned from the cold original "Hakaba no Kitaro" to a "hero of justice" because the original wasn't so popular. This time he's more in between the two versions while missing certain features from previous versions. We're missing the ocarina Kitaro had during the 3rd remake and his "Finger Gun" makes a return except instead of making him detach all his fingers and use them as projectiles like in the first series, they've evolved it similar to Yusuke's "Rei Gun" from Yuu Yuu Hakusho. Another example of making the show more children friendly.

A lot of the scenarios are quite kiddy-ish but at the same time some of the creepiness is still there; the odd episode can be really dark too, particularly the trip to the underworld episodes. I don't think you'll find a show or series that does a better job of introducing you to the world of Japanese folklore Youkai than Gegege no Kitaro. Not even Natsume's Book of Friends which is just loosely based around Youkai but is a great show of its own with heart warming tales than creepy moments and a fun mascot.

The balance between the original version of cold Kitaro and the revised hero version in this particular remake is actually quite good.

The ordering is different from previous series. There's a couple of bigger arcs as a the main plot slowly unfolds such as The Great Youkai War where it's Western vs Eastern Youkai (hommage to Lord of The Rings?) and The Four Warlords. Most of the episodes are self-contained introducing a new Youkai but after the first half of the series they spread out a bit more as Kitaro faces stronger foes. It's no short series at 97 episodes but it's also not as long as other main stream shows like One Piece of course.

On a side note, if you ever visit Japan and don't have the chance to go to Sakaiminato City, hometown of the creator Shigeru Mizuki, you can always visit the Kitaro Tea House in Chofu, Jindai which is closer to Tokyo. Highly recommended.

GeGeGe no Kitaro 2018, 6th Series

Code Geass: Lelouch of The Re;surrection (2019, Sunrise)

It's been 1 year since the death of Lelouch. Countries around the world had formed the Great United Nations but the peace "Zero Requiem" brought was short-lived and were now challenged by the Kingdom of Zilkhistan, who were displeased the peace was preventing them from profiting via their mercenaries. When Nunnally and Suzaku continue visiting troubled nations as a sign of good will they finds themselves captured by the the mercernaries.

Meanwhile, C.C. is travelling around the country with the empty husk of Lelouch in search of a way to fully resurrect him. During her travels she runs into a surprised Kallen, Sayoko and Professor Lloyd who had been dispatched to find Nunnally and Suzaku. When she crosses path with the Zilkhistanians it occurs to her the "Gate of Aramu" will allow her to have full access to the World of C again to help Lelouch. To do that, they will have to infiltrate one of Zilkhistan's former temple which now served as a prison. It wasn't going to be easy as together they must face both old and new foes alike who also possess unknown Geass powers.

It's been over 11 years since R2 and the recap movies just don't do the the TV series justice so if you haven't the two seasons yet I highly recommend watching them first.

For the most part the art looks good but you can see the odd drop in quality as faces lose detail and outlines look rough. The mecha Knightmare fights are really what Sunrise is best at when it comes to action scenes.

This movie is just filled with fan service for Code Geass fans, not just the kind aimed at the male audience. As with the TV series the CLAMP Manga based show is filled with pretty eye-candy characters but at the same time, it also brings back the entire cast of characters as fans should have remembered them. Including some "filler footage" during that 1 year gap too. C.C. continues to be a cunning character who also does some amusing things. It's a happy reunion.

As Lelouch makes a dramatic return you also see his over-exaggerated hand movements and quick thinking to overturn the odds as Zero once again "checkmating" his enemies. It almost trips up when they decide to bring in a very common sci-fi subject into it and you start to think, "So she just going to reset again?" It suddenly feels like you're playing an FPS game like Quake where it's just an arcade frag and respawn game.

However, the movie recovers well after that and I'm sure the wrap-up will bring a smile to many fans. If the ending CLAMP illustrations don't keep your attention then stay for after the credits any way for the extra scene.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection

Worth A Watch

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War (2019, A-1 Pictures)

Student President Miyuki Shirogane comes from an average school and was elected for his current role as a prodigy who excelled through tests. Vice-president Kaguya Shinomiya on the other hand comes from a wealthy family much like the rest of the students who attend Shuchiin Academy. Both have good feelings towards one another but due to their pride, "the first to confess is the loser" is the rule they go by. Miyuki tries his best not to confess and every time he's on the brink of uttering out something that has similar meaning he immediately finds a way to recover, dreaded to hear Kaguya mock him with the words, "Isn't that just adorable." Kaguya on the other hand goes to extremes to make Miyuki confess but needless to say, she is often misunderstood. Caught between the two is secretary Chika Fujiwara, Kaguya's best friend who is also clueless about how the two feel towards each other and often heats things up accidentally.

A show I wasn't intending to watch but saw people saying good things about it on Twitter so thought I'd give it a try, going in without knowing what it's about.

First impression was that it was like Gainax's KareKano, also a romcom featuring two prestigious students putting on a nice public face but isn't so well behaved when not in school. This show is more dialogue heavy and each episode are more like a collection of three shorts that feel like they're based on short 4 panel comics.

Art's simple and there isn't much variation since it's heavily dialogue dependent and mostly never leaves the student president room. As a romcom it doesn't deviate much from your fateful chances of coincidence of meeting and missing, all very cliche but the dialogue is original at least. The "fight" between the couple can be a bit overly chatty, a bit repetitive even as you know how both Miyuki and Kaguya are going to think anyway, Chika becomes the comic relief mostly. You'll probably learn how to say "Isn't that just adorable," by the end of the show. S2 resumes again with a great first episode bringing back the same hilarious comedy from the first. It's probably better than the first season even since I couldn't stop taking screencaps but it also has a very brief serious side to it.

Some people say watch the show just for Chika if anything. I agree. Especially episode 3's ending. It's very close to being a recommended show. A fun different kind of romcom that weighs heavier on the comedy side. Learn to eat ramen the "mini ramen" way. And yes, there is fan service for the guys although very rare in this short series.

But watch it for season 2 too as it gets really good giving some modern day issues a serious look.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War

Worth A Watch

City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes (2019, Sunrise)

Ai Shindo is currently being trailed by unknown assailants. When she goes to the police for help she is turned away and decides to try the highly skilled, urban legend "City Hunter" for help by posting "XYZ" on a hidden bulletin board. She soon discovers City Hunter is real but not quite what she expected. Meanwhile, Kaori meets an old friend Shinji Mikuni who was now the CEO of a top IT company "Dominatech" and shows an interest in her upon reunion. As our City Hunter duel continues to be Ai's body guard they soon learn something much more sinister was about to happen in Shinjuku as the "Warfare Maker" arrives.

Ryo Saeba is back with Kaori with this 30th anniversary movie of the popular action comedy Anime back in the 1990s. I'm quite a fan of the series because it was stylish, had great music and of course pretty "mokkori" character designs. Not your usual harem show full of cliche characters.

I think this movie is a good modern day revamp of the show bringing in the internet and smartphone technology into the world setting. Right from the start fans of the series get a taste of notalgia hearing the classic theme songs although I think it would have been good if they composed more of the soundtracks in the same 1990s style. It was kind of funny to hear Lotus Juice (best known for his music in Atlus' Persona games) saying "mokkori" in the OP.

As far as the story is concerned I think it's too far fetched compared to the TV show turning Shinjuku into a warzone. Other than that, you've got your usual antics from Kaori trying to keep Ryo off the ladies so there's plenty of "mokkori" fan service has before; maybe too frequent sometimes. It's not all aimed at the guys of course. Fans of Ryo also end up with their share of fan service. The whole gang from the show is also back although it feels like it takes place between the end of the original series and the spin-off Angel Heart. Tsukasa Hojo's other popular work also makes a cameo appearance. It's nostalgia all the way and one of the few movies that'll make you sit through the credits.

The only reason I'm not putting this under recommended is the original TV show is better with better scenarios and fight scenes. There's no reason not to watch the original show when it's been remastered for modern day HD TVs. You can think of it as 007 but with a perverted agent doing silly things.

City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes

Worth A Watch

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at The Bound of This World (2019, Feel)

Takuya Arima is a cheeky high school student who enjoyed playing pranks and was well-known for trouble. His father was famous for the local Geotechnics construction project that would involve demolishing the local's historical ancient Mount Sankaku. Strange phenomenas have been frequently occurring and his father had died... Or so he thought. One day, a package containing a relic known as the "Reflector Device" arrives claiming it was from his father and it would allow him to travel between time and parallel worlds. When Takuya rushes out to find his father, he finds himself whisked off to the past. As he learns more about the device he feels his father is still alive somewhere and there are those around him that know more than meets the eye.

I saw this show a number of times on my Twitter timeline and had no idea what it was about other than it was based on an old adult visual novel game from 1996. I'm guessing people were watching this show because Mages and Chiyomaru, best known for Steins;gate, had a part in the more recent 2018 remake. You'll see a few references too and even the OP will probably remind you of their famous title because of the song and direction - in fact, both the Steins;gate OP theme and the OP to this show were composed by Chiyomaru from Mages. Even the font used for episode titles look familiar.

So right off the bat, its visual novel roots show as there is a blatant panty flash right at the start of the very first episode and a scantily clad teacher joking about "standing to attention". You then get introduced to about five other ladies from all ages which is very typical of your harem visual novel game. There's plenty of blatant male oriented fan service. Throw in the overly used time travel and parallel worlds setting and you have to wonder if it's just putting popular ideas together poorly for a quick cash-in.

Players of the original visual novel have nothing but praise for the game but claim the Anime is nothing like its source material. A lot of the science and dark themes have been lost apparently. There seems to be some truth in it as characters are like your cliche harem Anime cast and Takuya acts like a kid with a new toy. Early episodes are literally a joke. If you can keep watching for three episodes at least it does get a bit better with its own fair share of plot twists that might keep you guessing. And believe it or not, there's even a little romance akin to SAO.

Unfortunately, I think they just overdo it with the tragedies at some points and, just as you think the show's getting serious awkward camera angles and Takuya's sexual jokes (a lot of them!) along with your usual accidental groping ruin the direction. "Look! Girl's ill and sweating badly, let's take off her clothes and grope while we're at it!" Oh, there's even livestock that look like young women... It would have been better if they just had episodes or seperate moments to lighten up the mood like Steins;gate does instead of randomly putting them in at the wrong moments.

Its plot might seem like Steins;gate at first (which was made 5 years after this game) centering around parallel worlds and time leaping but it's not completely a "science adventure". Instead of building a story that relies on current real world hypothesises, this show is just loosely tied to common sci-fi ideas. It centres around time leaping and parallel worlds set in the 1990s without smartphones or 24 hour internet - the official site even has a throwback version of their site. Those of you who grew up during the days before fast affordable 24 hour internet might enjoy this show more.

Whereas Steins;gate had one goal, this story is more all over the place and taking a very long time to unwrap its mysteries which gets boring. It also re-uses the time loop as a parallel world too many times as if they're trying out ideas each time to flesh out the show even though there's enough new material to keep your interested.

Bottom line, if you're expecting a science adventure similar Steins;gate just because Mages was involved you'll be disappointed. On the other hand if you enjoy "isekai" other worldly fantasy shows filled with fan service (and some gruesome deaths) you'll probably like this. There also happens to be an adult softcore show based on the game which is a four episode OVA by Pink Pineapple so best not confuse this with that.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at The Bound of This World

Worth A Watch

91 Days (2016, Shuka Productions)

Angelo Lagusa watched his family get killed right before his eyes while playing hide and seek, just managing to escape. After fleeing the scene, he receives a mysterious letter 7 years later listing the killers' names. Going under the name "Avilio Bruno" he reunites with his bro, Corteo and asks for his aid for vegeance. Prohibition meant alcohol trade was forbidden and could only be obtained through illegal means. While trying to make some money selling homebrewn booze Corteo made, the pair meets Nero from the Vanetti Family - one of the killers.

He soon discovers the three main gangs weren't on good terms, especially between the Vanetti and Orco Families. The Orcos wanted Nero dead because stole their smuggled booze. After having a taste of Corteo's concoctions Nero decided they would be better off selling that instead of stealing. As a result Avilio found the perfect opportunity to gain the Vanetti's trust by getting close to Nero which will also let him find the rest of the murderers within the family. He was going to break them down from within and he was going to have to drag his bro Corteo, who has always been relunctant to become involved with the mafia, in with him.

Gangster drama (noire even?) so not much to say other than your usual gang violence, betrayal and conspiracy. The violence can be brutal with blood but there's no gore, only suggested gore. Instead of your usual "shounen" style story the writers were apparently trying something more realistic so characters follow a more serious tone. No fan service, no supernatural powers and no "boys love" either even though it's dominated by male characters. You watch as Avilio manipulates the Vanetti Family but most of the time you can guess what's going to happen. It's not some grand scheme that keeps you guessing although there are the odd times where you're thinking whether Avilio is choosing to join the stronger side or not. The only thing that did keep me guessing was who was the fourth member Avilio was seeking.

Believe it or not there is a bit of comedy in it with some cute moments although there are also the crude joke too. It's got a nice lyric-less theme song, "Rain or Shine". Art isn't too bad. Shuka did come good work blending in the 3D without it standing out like an eye-sore like a lot of Anime shows and the fictional city of Lawless keeps a very good vintage art style similar to Bacanno. As with most Anime the team must have done a lot of research to use as reference. Apparently, "Prohibition" was actually real at the time and was an attempt to stop problems linked to alcohol. Even the old 1930s Shell petrol station looks right which would match up with the Prohibition time frame between 1920 - 1933. And did you know KFC first started business in a one of their petrol stations?

Anyway, the story is told over a 3 month period in the show which is how it got its title. As usual the recap episode 7.5 can be skipped because there isn't any new material in it. It even has the same extra scene as episode 7. Quite a few of the episodes before the recap have extra scenes after the credit roll so don't miss them. Not a bad short series.

91 Days

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