Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: Adventure

Alfheim Online (review)

Kirito wakes upFinal impression – what a letdown (3/10)

Fall 2012 (11 episodes) (SAO Review)

After waking up from the gorgeous nightmare of Sword Art Online, Kazuto’s first action is not to attend to his own atrophied body, but to immediately begin to seek out Asuna, his in-game wife who he promised to find after they escaped.  He finds her, but there’s a problem.  Despite clearing the game and majority of players having returned to the real world, Asuna remains trapped in her NerveGear. Filled with the pain of helplessness for being unable to save her, Kazuto attempts to return to his old life displaced by over two years while remaining by her side for support.

But when a friend from Aincrad (the world of SAO) shows him a screenshot of Asuna trapped in a birdcage, he dons his own NerveGear once again and dives into the world of Alfhiem Online to rescue her from the new prison she’s found herself in.  But he has to hurry because within a week, Asuna is going to be ushered into an arranged marriage with one of her father’s business partners.  Read more of this post

Sword Art Online (review)

Kazuto logs in for the first timeFinal impression – only half amazing (8/10)

Summer 2012 (14 episodes)

Kazuto rushed out to be one of the first players for a new form of virtual-reality gaming using a system called the Nervegear.  This device lets a player use his or her brain to play video games with a full immersion experience as if they had been transported to the actual game world itself.  The first game released is the fantasy MMO, Sword Art Online or SAO for short.  Assuming the online identity of Kirito, within hours of starting he and thousands of other players become trapped in SAO’s world of Aincrad by its creator, Akihiko Kayaba. Things get even more serious when it’s revealed that dying in the game means dying in real life too because the Nervegear has a hidden function that fries the brain of anyone whose HP drops to 0.  The only way to escape is for someone to clear the world’s massive, one hundred floor dungeon.  Read more of this post

Rinne no Lagrange (review)

Madoka suplexes the enemy mechaFinal impression – a mecha series without the angst (8/10)

Winter 2012 and Summer 2012 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (English title – Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne)

Madoka may be a boisterously cheerful, overly outgoing and enthusiastic young woman, but at the end of the day she’s just an ordinary high school girl with an odd personality.  So when she’s approached by mysterious, uniformed girl named Lafinty and invited to do her part to help the world, it’s understandable that she didn’t expect to become a mecha pilot.  Being an athlete of all manner of sports and martial arts, Madoka quickly adjusts to her new responsibility as a guardian of the Earth.  But when her older cousin arrives on the scene vehemently against this development, it’s clear that there’s more to the situation than everyone is letting on.  Read more of this post

Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? Ep. 1

The Black Rabbit is caughtInitial impression – rough-edged, but good-hearted heros

Winter 2013 (10 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – The Troublemakers Are Coming From Another World, Right?)

When someone is stuck between a rock and a hard place, it’s good anime logic to call for heroes from other dimensions.  Mondaiji-tachi is still in the early stages, but is showing plenty of the traits associated with a good action / adventure with a worthy cause.  The cast is full of colorful characters with superpowers of suspect origin, but they have enough flexibility to be put to some creative uses.  My biggest complaint about the series so far is the fanservicey design behind the orchestrator of this setup, the Black Rabbit who happens to be a literal bunny girl.  She feels very much like an unnecessary cry for attention from a series that is actually interesting enough in its own right.  Like many series before it, I wish writers would have more confidence in their work to not devalue it with characters like this.  But as she’s the only issue I’m having with this series thus far, I can overlook her and enjoy the battles that may not be keeping me on the edge of my seat, but still have excellent flow.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha Ep. 1

The Demon King is a playful woman?Initial impression – intriguingly fun

Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha…after doing a little research to practice my Japanese, the simplicity of the title has a certain charm to it.  “Maoyuu” as far as I can tell, is a meaningless arrangement of syllables.  However, “Mao” and “Yuu” are the first two hiragana of the next two words in the title, “Maou” and “Yuusha,” which translate to “Demon King” and “Hero.”  So an equivalent translation of the title into English would read something like DeHe Demon King / Hero—a very lighthearted and carefree name for an anime if there ever was one.  It continues this path of keeping things simple because another silly quirk of this series seems to be that our hero and heroine will remain unnamed, instead to be referred to only by their titles, Demon King and Hero.

The hero separates from the party to take on the Demon King aloneBut it’s the story of Maoyuu that might actually be going somewhere really interesting.  Immediately, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha does a quick 180 degree spin after its initial bout of gusto with heroes going off to slay the Demon King and starts talking about the politics of the war currently in progress between humans and demons.  In this exposition, the set pieces are revealed and a clear goal is set so we all know exactly where everyone’s motives lie.  It’s a simple setup and it’s too early to tell if it’s going to be a weird, philosophical, romantic comedy or an ill-conceived, shallow flop that tried way too hard.  If it sounds like I’m rambling, it’s because this first episode has put me into a bit of a tizzy, but I want to reinforce that it hasn’t displeased me.

Given the art style, the playful fantasy theme and the fact that the Hero’s actor is Jun Fukuyama, the voice of Yuuta, it’s no wonder this series reminds me strongly of Chuunibyou.  Based on that, readers who saw my Anime of the Year post will understand that I may subconsciously be giving this series the benefit of the doubt.  But I’m genuinely curious to see where this adventure is headed and hopeful that it’s going to turn out to be an enjoyable journey.

Persona 4: The Animation (review)

The cast of Persona 4: The AnimationFinal impression – play the game first (7/10)

Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (25 episodes)

Yuu Narukami is a city boy, who for various circumstances at home, ends up moving out to the countryside to live with his uncle and little cousin.  But being a naturally suave and likeable guy, he’s quickly able to shake off the aura of being a transfer student and makes some friends.  But when the tiny town of Inaba he finds himself in is rocked by a series of bizarre murders, he gets caught up in a creepy cold case where the victims are seen on a mysterious TV program called the Midnight Channel that airs on foggy nights when you have your TV turned off.  In the face of such unbelievable circumstances, Yuu and his friends become the only ones capable of rescuing the victims by diving into the television and fighting the bloodthirsty monsters that live there using a manifestation of their psyches called Persona.

Yu calls IzanagiWriting an objective review on P4 was difficult for me since I’ve played the game it’s based on.  This isn’t the same as reading the manga that serves as the source material for an anime since both of those media are non-interactive.  Video games on the other hand are and being put in the position of having no influence on the characters’ decisions or the pace of the story was a little unsettling.  I wonder if many other people feel this way about adaptations of video games that aren’t a loose reinterpretation of a concept, but instead a faithful retelling of the same story.

The girls can't cookThat being said, P4: The Animation recreates the events of the game as closely as is possible, with a few changes made that were probably necessary for the transition to TV.  This includes obvious things like completing a side character’s story in a single episode rather than the game’s slower progression that might be spaced out over the course of the entire play time (or even not completed at all if the player neglects that particular social link).  But one thing that always disappointed me about P4: The Animation was the fight scenes.  The game is something of a visual novel built around the framework of a really solid RPG.  That setup should have been a natural cue that the anime ought to be an action / drama.  And while the drama does well, the action is dry and has an air of inevitability to it that never feels the slightest bit suspenseful.

"Welcome to the velvet room."All in all, it makes me sad because, because I loved the game and my hopes were high that the anime would live up to that same level of quality.  If nothing else, the soundtrack for the P4 anime is even more amazing than the game and includes all of the original music in addition to new and expanded tracks with terrifically-written English lyrics that really gets me fired up.  In the end, Persona 4: The Animation is a supplemental anime for fans of the game, but still a very solid series.

Ixion Saga DT Ep. 1

Initial impression – rough and immature (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (full title – Ixion Saga: Dimensional Transfer) (more info)

Clearly Kon has forgotten rule 29—on the internet, all women are men.  Where Aoi Sekai made fun of the console wars, Ixion Saga makes fun of (MMO)RPGs in general.  It does this by accentuating how mismatched min-maxing players’ outfits look and how by all rights nobody should have the time to charge up a finishing move without someone coming in and delivering a knock-out blow.

But beyond that it’s not very clever.  It really has poor taste in the unscrupulous sensibilities of the party’s cross-dressing maid, makes fun of child marriage and main character Kon is just an unlikeable, lecherous wad that portrays a poor image of the gamer stereotype.  If you like this style of writing and story with fantasy elements mixed with modern heroes in an alternate dimension, Hagure Yuusha did a much better job presenting this subject matter last season and I’ll even encourage you to go check it out instead of wasting time with Ixion Saga.

Aoi Sekai no Chuushin de Ep. 1

Initial impression – too obvious (3/10)

Autumn 2012 (?? episodes) (title literal translation – In the Center of the Blue World)  (more info)

There’s really no hope for this anime.  I like to use more sophisticated terms to voice my opinions, but as a parody of the console wars, Aoi Sekai no Chuushin de is just lame.  I don’t even have the patience to conceal the names of the completely transparent empires named after game companies.  Basically, Nintendo (complete with Mario as a major general) is the big bad-guy empire that’s trampling everyone and a young man named Gear—as in Game Gear—is the new hero who is going to save the land.  Unfortunately, because we all know how the console wars really went down, this anime reeks of fanboy pandering to what is ultimately a lost cause.  Unless the hero and the Sega nation fall and Nintendo’s true rivals Sony and Microsoft appear on the scene, it’s just a silly alternate history with some awful writing.

Medaka Box Abnormal Ep. 1

Initial impression – mostly the same, but a little different

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

Picking up exactly where it left off in season one, Medaka Box Abnormal is showing signs of making a big deviation from the storytelling methods it used during its previous iteration.  Where the first season was very episodic and jumped between a terrific variety of colorful characters, the start of Abnormal seems very focused on Medaka to the detriment of the rest of the cast.

Changing things up is not always a bad thing—using previous set pieces as a stepping stone for a new idea can work wonders to put energy into a tired series—but if too much gets mixed up, then can you still call it the continuation of the same story?  The thing is, the first twelve episodes of Medaka Box always kept things fresh enough that I never felt the concept needed to be expanded upon.  It’s kind of like how The World God Only Knows introduced a new major character in its second season when there was still plenty of material to work with using the formula that made it interesting in the first place.  And that’s what I’m fearing will happen to Medaka Box.

This unnecessary change of pace could be distracting and I worry it might devalue the series as a whole.  I’ll continue to watch Medaka Box Abnormal, but I’m going to be biting my lip in apprehension.

Magi Ep. 1

Initial impression – not very sophisticated (5/10)

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (full English title - Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic) (more info)

I’m not the biggest fan of 1001 Arabian Nights.  I’ve even read a fair bit of the book.  I think it’s fine if Magi wants to draw inspiration from this piece of fantasy literature, but the bottom line is that it’s just not my cup of tea.  This is an anime for younger fans who want a different flavor of fantasy and the battlelines between good guys and bad guys defined clearly by the presence or absence of mustaches. The anime itself is not bad, but the overall tone is very childish as well with the main villain being so cartoonishly evil I couldn’t stop shaking my head at the blatant cliché.

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