This will probably be the last post of this year. What a crazy year it's been with the ongoing pandemic, lockdowns, masks, queues to get into shops... Although I think for some who have been given the opportunity to work from home won't be missing the commute and getting up early.
Whatever the case, let's hope it all ends soon.
The Promised Neverland (2019, CloverWorks)
Yakushoku no Neverland
It is the year 2045, The House was an orphanage where children were raised and educated until the age of 12 or until someone adopts them before then. Emma, Ray and Norman were the prodigies amongst them. Everyone seemed happy until one night when one of the children leaves without their favourite stuffed toy, Emma and Norman discover it was no ordinary orphanage. It was a farm run by demons to raise humans a livestock. Shocked by what they discover, Emma and Norman decide to use their talents to find a way to escape but they will have to continue pretending they know nothing before their "Mum". Not only that, they want everyone to escape including the children under six. It wasn't going to be easy.
A show I decided to watch because of the hype and knew nothing about. I saw some people describing it as a horror show but the very first episode was pretty much a big give away with all the happy faces but then, you notice the numbers on their necks and see the strange tests they go through. So the first thought that came to mind was human experiments but then it turns out to be something similar to End of Seraph with more emphasis on the build-up than action fights.
The direction's really good. It's almost as if you're watching the kids walk along the edge of a knife; one false move and they're goners. I haven't come by one episode that didn't make you want to watch the next to find out what happens. It's kind of like Attack on Titan in a way where there's only a tiny, tiny glimpse of hope they must fight for.
So it's more of a thriller because the show doesn't use any jump scares and it's not a question of who is the last to survive. It's the constant tension that keeps you wondering what will happen next. Emma's cheerful personality and bickering between the three good friends lighten up the mood before the next stretch of suspense. So there is actually a bit of comedy in this.
On the other hand it gets to a point where it does feels like everything's going too smoothly, despite trying to figure out who's outsmarting who. You kind of grow numb to the surprises as you get used to the flow of the show and think, "Oh, new twist? Time for a break until the next one."
The use of sound is great at bringing out that suspense, sound effects of creeping footsteps, tinkle of fairy tale-like music just like its title. Art on the other hand isn't so great, lacking detail with its dull colour tones but I guess it goes with the horror atmosphere. There's no gore but it can be quite graphic the very odd time. It's demons and their livestock after all. There's no episode titles unlike most shows interestingly enough. Well, sort off... They don't look like episode titles but dates instead. Then there's also the tiny little gestures that give you hints of who's planning what so you can take part in the guessing.
As with CloverWorks other shows you see a very blatant drop in animation quality but this despite that, if you're into suspense then I definitely recommend this. This is no fairy tale show and it'll keep you watching.
Worth A Watch
Infinite Dendrogram (2020, NAZ)
It's the year 2043. Infinite Dendrogram the long awaited VR online game has just been released, a virtual open world where you can take on whatever role you liked. Every player's actions affected the virtual world. Reiji Mukudori had been anticipating the game for some time and right after signing up as "Ray Starling" he encounters his first quest to rescue the young sister of one of the Royal Guards. It was a high level quest but fortunately for him, his older brother Shu was high level enough to help him out.
Despite being a low level newbie, Ray was determined to save the NPCs known as "Tians" in the game, as death for Tians were permanent and he wasn't going to let a innocent virtual inhabitant die. As he continues his adventure with his newborn rare Maiden-Arms type Embryo partner, "Nemesis", he begins to wonder if he'll still be playing for long when the game feels so emotionally real and so much killing surrounds him.
So another online VR game world show based on a light novel, this one from back in 2015 about 5 years after SAO. It doesn't feel like it's in the same caliber as .hack//Sign, Sword Art Online or Log Horizon because it's filled with cliche characters but at least they're fun to watch. I mean you've got a silly over powered "bear" that's designed with an obvious Doraemon reference. Then you have Nemesis with her non-stop bragging.
It's a cliche cast of characters but it's also not afraid of making fun of its own cliches.
First episode gives you a grand welcome to the VR game which I think would have been great if current MMOs could match. You can also relate to a lot of other things in the show if you're into JRPGs. Lots of talk about stats, buffs, skills etc the kind of chat you'd do when playing RPGs. Action scenes feel very much like a game, not much choreography for the viewer to appreciate the moves, just a bunch of flashy moves. Surprisingly you'd think there'll be a lot of fan service but there's only one short scene.
For the most part, it's pretty much just watching your average JRPG playthrough as an Anime. Silly characters to entertain but no intricate plot or tactics to make it stand out. However, half way through the show gets a bit more interesting as it becomes less game-like, focusing less on boss fights and quests and, more on bigger scale battles and the characters.
While SAO is more about a VR game that traps real world humans inside, this story focuses more on how engrossed real world players can get. To achieve this it even often reminds you Ray is in a game world.
If you don't like JRPGs then you'll probably won't like this and agree with Ray's motto, "It doesn't settle well with me."
Babylon (2019, Revoroot)
Zen Seizaki a public prosecutor had just raided a pharmeutical company. They were suspected of bribing leading universities of faking evidence of its beneficial effects but as they search through the confiscated effects, they discover a page full of dried blood and hair. As he digs deeper he soon discovers many famous political and industrial figures were part of a possible scandal that involves Shin'iki, a new development area with experimental new laws.
When his partner Atsuhiko Fumio is murdered mysteriously too, he is ever more determined to solve the case but it turns out more than he can handle. Kaika Itsuki, the most promising candidate successfully become elected as the mayor for the new developing area and believes suicide is an individual right. By legalising it it would become less of a taboo and people would be more inclined to discuss suicidal thoughts openly. With the aid of a single enchanting woman, Ai Magase, Itsuki manages to cause a sudden spike in suicides suggesting his idea was right. His plan was to exploit Shin'iki to legalise suicides. Now it's up to Seizaki and his few allies to put a stop to their influence while keeping within the boundaries of their own legal system and the conspiracy itself.
A show I hadn't heard anything about but someone on Twitter recommended. Art reminds me of Tsuki ga Kirei with very light flat colour tones. Some of its OST tracks are quite good, mostly piano compositions.
It's quite quickly paced and there's a lot of attention to body language. You can see characters shifting there eyes slightly, strand of hair dropping down etc. It starts off with a bang as it ropes you into Seizaki's epic struggle but after that, it feels like a far-fetched crime drama story with nothing happening. Then it rockets again. It's a show filled with serious characters so there's nothing to laugh at. There's a fair bit of innuendo and sex is talked about openly in a mature way so there's pretty much no fan service either other than the odd scenes that portray Ai as a extremely seductive character. Oh, and it has a yandere. Some scenes are quite disturbing as the show obscures something horrific with something cheery instead.
There are the odd silly moments that sound so bad, it's like a bad joke but still funny. There's the odd out of the blue moments that just don't feel like they fit in like suddenly being over philosophical in the TV series of Evangelion.
I think it's far fetched because they portray Ai as if she has special powers that let her entrance anyone with a few words. We don't even know what those words are. Then on the other hand we have Zen trying to be a detective to track her down completely powerless against such means so I think the appeal is watching if he can prevail against such odds. The drama is pretty much one prosecutor who wants to stay true to his career and dream against the rest of the corrupt society.
It just would have been better as a proper crime drama instead of adding a witch in. It just barely makes the worth a watch list and it's not a happy show that's for sure. It puts quite an interesting perspective on suicide where currently it's considered a sign of weakness. If you don't mind the magical witch element, it's not too bad a show.
Interestingly enough, most of the credit roll is in traditional Kanji with only the character for "country" in both traditional and simplified, 國 > 国.
Bubuki Buranki (2016, Sanzigen)
It's been 10 years since Kaoruko and Azuma were sent down to Earth on their mother, Migiwa Kazuki's Buranki "Oubu" to save them from the awakening Buranki that lingered the skies. However, eight of them had already descended to Earth. As a result she has been labelled as "the witch" that caused the chaos that followed on Earth.
Now Azuma has returned to Japan, seeking a way to return to the island hoping his mother is still there keeping watch over the Buranki from descending to Earth. Along the way he meets a number of Bubuki users who used weapons made from different parts of Oubu's body. As a result of possessing the only active heart, many other Buranki teams from other countries, including the current influencial Entei team of Japan, target them as replacement parts for their own Buranki.
As the team struggle to survive, they soon realise they must work as a team and agree to go to the floating Buranki nest "Treasure Island" together, hoping to seek out the truth behind Bubuki/Buranki.
So an original show by Sanzigen studio. Funnily enough the 10 year gap matches in the story also matches the studio's 10th anniversary the show was produced for. The story's kind of all over the place. Quarter of the way through and I still didn't really know what was going on other than what Bubuki were. A lot of shows keep the mystery going by slowly revealing parts of the full picture but this show is more like it reveals another part of a jigsaw puzzle before finishing the other. It's not until the end of season one before it's clearer and then the second season "Gentle Giants of the Galaxy" picks up pretty well, probably better than the first as you get into the second half and wraps up well too. Nice to see a bit of an epilogue after the epic battle.
It's one of those few shows where the characters are 3D cel-shaded models and they look pretty good. Even the studio is called "3D". Just the odd times they look stiff and look plain possibly to save rendering time. Backgrounds look good and so is the music (apart from S2's theme songs). It features a lot of Good Smile's logos, maybe because they're sponsors or something. Sound effects are top-notch and really make you feel the scale. Its pacing is fast with your cliche set of Anime characters and feels like of like your average action show featuring teenagers with powers. Well, at least they're lively. Plenty of stereotyping in here.
Show is filled with fan service as there's plenty of cleavage shots and there's more girls than males in the cast, steamy bath scenes etc. Dirty talk included of course. And I don't see why they decided to show character flashbacks in the middle of battles. It just breaks the pacing and mood.
If you're looking for a show where all the bad guy characters have those crazed psycho expressions, this is one for you. There's also a character named Episo who I thought was Steins;gate, Okabe's voice actor, Mamoru Miyano because they sounded quite alike it's actually Yoshimasa Hosoya who played Subaru from Robotics;notes, Reiner from Attack on Titan and Kunikuda from Bungo Stray Dogs. One of the Bubuki just reminds of Migi from Parasyte.
That said, it looks good and has silly moments to laugh at so it's still worth a watch. It kind of reminds of Gainax or Trigger's own shows except they had better direction with the story.
Don't miss the extra scenes after the ending although not all episodes have them.
Katanagatari (2010, White Fox)
Tale of the Blade
It's been 20 years since Matsue Yasuri rose to defeat Takahito Hida, the Lord of Oshuu and his rebellious followers at Hida Castle. Since then, the succeeding Shogun had decided to exile the hero and his family to the remote island of Fushou afterwards, fearing his powers of being able to slash his enemies without a blade.
Matsue had now passed away leaving his children behind. Shichika Yusuri (literally 7th head...) continues his father's legacy by continuing to practice the blade-less art "Kotouryuu" and chooses not to leave the island as his older sister Nanami Yusuri (literally 7th beauty...) is too ill to survive the trip back to the main land.
One day, the shogun's strategician Togame arrives at the island informing them he wanted to collect the lone swordsmith Kiki Shikizaki's famous Katanas that were distributed throughout Japan. It is said that amongst them 12 were the rarest and most powerful among them as a result of practicing and producing the sheer number of blades that preceded them. Unfortunately, ninjas and swordsmen who were hired to retrieve the Katanas gave in to the temptation of owning such a powerful and valuable blade so now Togame decides to rely on the former hero instead. As the one to inherit the art of Kotouryuu, Shichika is requested to face those who possess the Katanas and retrieve them before the former rebells collect them and rise again.
However, Shichika had no interest in the outside world but he soon learns Togame was the daughter of the rebel leader who his father had killed. Despite witnessing the massacre she was determined to build up her status for revenge even if it meant asking her enemies for help and for that, he "falls for her." Nanami too agrees as she never wanted to see her younger brother stuck on a lone island. And so, together Togame and Shichika set off on their journey to seek the 12 Deviant Blades.
Watched this because a Japanese (non-Anime fan) I was chatting to recommended it and since I just finished a show I thought why not. Opening reminded me of the time I went to Hida to get to Shirakawa Village.
So based on a light novel series, each episode is longer than your average Anime at 50 minutes so it's more like two episodes rolled into one or, your usual live action drama length. So it might appear to be a 12 episode short series at first but it's more like your common 24 episode show. Maybe that's why it was one episode per month when it aired but funnily enough, it also aired at the same pace our protagonists journeyed at and the light novel series was also 12 volumes. Not only that, the month in each episode matches the month they were aired too such as when it was April, that particular episode was also aired on April too. Pretty cool.
Initially it feels quite boring to the point where I thought, "I might have to just drop this..." Jokes start off quite dull, relying heavily on the "tsukomi" (interrupt with a silly comment) style comedy. Even the silly comic relief character Togame doesn't do much that's worth laughing at. Dialogue's not witty despite being extremely lengthy. Most of the time it's not worth paying attention to because it hardly gives any story either and, feels more like an attempt to build character which it doesn't. There's just nothing in the lines that really makes an impression.
However, it doesn't take long to get better. Just about an episode afterwards there's less talking and more meaningful direction. It's still quite enjoyable watching the two travel around old Japan showing different environments unique to each prefecture. Each swordsman they face are more interesting than the protagonists for much of the show until we start to see Shichika and Togame grow through each new enemy they meet.
Since Shichika has never seen civilisation he's almost as silly as Togame so creates a bit of a strange mix. It's kind of like a woman trying to help an honest, innocent child adapt to the civilised world or maybe it's more like Tarzan... "Himbo trope" apparently. I guess that appeals to a certain demographic. Kind of like keeping a pet who does everything told?
There's quite a lot of shows that feature a woman controlling a strong powerful man who has the innocent mind of a child... I guess the appeal is they're attractive and won't cheat? Then again I guess there's also guys that want to be controlled but whatever rocks your boat, haha.
You've also got Shichika walking around bare chested which is supposedly better than his previous "naked" getup when he actually had a kind of tank top on at least so, I'm guessing this is fan service for the ladies but without the "boys love" element like in Banana Fish.
Music is quite suited to the era and features some nice compositions. Background art is also pretty good that resembled traditional Japanese art but, character art on the other hand is fairly average choosing vector like flat colours so not much detail to admire. Katanas seem to get rendered in much more detail. Quite strange how they choose to make Togame's eye a cross sign whenever her hatred wells up or when she's after something. I thought it was some special power or something...
As it's set in feudal Japan featuring samurais and ninjas you'd think theres some great fight scenes but they don't deliver either. Don't expect the highly dynamic and well choreographed kind from Attack on Titan or Kimetsu Yaiba. There's more chatter than action.
But don't let the simplistic art work and silly character designs fool you. Even though the fights aren't along the same violent gore filled style of Attack on Titan, there's still blood and torture. It also has fan service with hot springs and awkward camera angles too. It starts off quite rare but becomes more blatant; just when the show gets better too.
I guess you could say there's something for everyone in this romcom action show. It may look silly and be a bit chatty at first but it's got mystery and fun moments as our heroes travel around Edo Japan. If you do decide to watch it, notice how the pose between Togame and Shichika changes in the ending theme animation along with the song.
Enjoy the journey.