Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: magic

Da Capo III Ep. 1

The newspaper club witnesses the return of the eternal cherry blossomInitial impression – shallow and campy (4/10)

Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)

I usually have a favorable opinion when it comes to anime based on visual novels.  Considering that Da Capo has a long history, a big enough following to get a third iteration and this story was not contingent on knowing the franchise’s history, I was willing to forgo my usual rule of not jumping into sequels without first watching the original.  So you can understand my disappointment that as harem anime go, Da Capo III makes Love Hina look sophisticated and well-adjusted.

It’s not bad to the point of being unwatchable, but aside from the rather bland mystery of the blooming magical cherry blossoms, it doesn’t have anything going for it.  In a rather pitiful attempt at work-safe fanservice, the camera constantly pans to the girls’ chests for absolutely no reason.  The main failing is probably that the writers are relying way too much on the expectation that the male audience is going to stick around to look at the girls, but they’re all pretty average, possessing no particular attributes to even fetishize.  It’s a failure on multiple levels to form any kind of desirability.  There’s even an out-of-left-field BL reference.  I can’t imagine why any girls would want to watch this series.  Da Capo III is really just ill-conceived.

Code:Breaker Ep. 1

Initial impression – overly simple (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)

Code:Breaker is one of those anime that’s just trying too hard.  It’s got this gritty, edgy attitude pushing a punishing level of violence that feels out of place with its art style that resembles a series geared towards a younger audience.  It has potential because the story so far is showing good pacing; meshing a little mystery with misdirection.  Then there’s Rei, the male lead who is feeling very much the antihero—believing death to be both just and merciful.

However, the female lead, Sakura, is showing signs of poor characterization between her hot/cold personality that’s both tenacious while at the same time tending to give up too easily.  Misunderstandings about her interest in Rei inevitably can only go in one direction—presumed romance, leading to a comedic relationship—possibly with the heroine exhibiting tsundere traits—that ultimately leads to a real romance.  The stink of cheese isn’t too bad, but it’s strong enough for me to comfortably send Code:Breaker to the recycle bin.

K Ep. 1

Initial impression – fast action, slow story (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)

You can go ahead and accuse me of having a short attention span if you happened to watch more and reach a different conclusion, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts when it comes to series that cannot encapsulate the heart of the story in the first episode.  Yes, K looks really nice—the tall and skinny character designs and pretty boys are reminiscent of Clamp (even though this isn’t a Clamp work).  It’s ok to leave some details up in the air to reveal later, but I need more than K has offered so far in order to get invested.  I don’t like being left hanging to such a degree that I’m confused or simply left in the mood, “So that’s it, huh?”

There’s certainly an interesting mystery as to why the main character Yashiro is being hunted by multiple parties and yet doesn’t seem to know why, but the pie that is K has too much icing and not enough filling.  It really lollygags on plot development in its first episode compensating— unsuccessfully—by filling itself with overly dramatic fights and chases that would make a Final Fantasy fan proud.  And while that may be enough for some, I’ve seen enough of K to let it go here.

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.

Zetsuen no Tempest Ep. 1

Initial impression – revenge served with a side of saving the world

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (English title - Blast of Tempest) (more info)

Some Japanese writing, whether it be JPRGs or anime has a tendency to be lacking in backstory at the start.  But I think Zetsuen no Tempest is one of those stories where it’s ok to not disclose all the details up front.  After all, who in their right mind among the common folk could predict the coming of a supernatural disaster?  I really like the immediacy of the conflict because being forced to pick a side with little knowledge of the core causes of the conflict is a great way to force someone’s hand into making a decision they’re going to regret.

There’s also a great lesson to be learned about dealing with dangerous and determined enemies—isolation may not be the most permanent solution to getting rid of them.  Hakaze’s resourcefulness has a fantasy-esque MacGuyver feel to it that resonates with me on a couple of different, seemingly disconnected levels.  The overall feel has a bit of a Guilty Crown vibe to it, but so far while none of the characters are coming out as likeable just yet, they all have unique and exciting personalities—being neither jerks nor wimps.  But if the setting is still a bit of a mystery after the first episode, the motives of the characters are very clear and most of their goals overlap along the theme of recovering something that was lost.  The way they have all managed to coincide to create a web of comradeship despite how their personalities constantly clash gives moments for some lighthearted chemistry to take off the edge.

If the first episode of a series can leave me in the dark about little details, encapsulate the cast’s overarching motives and make me interested to know what’s going to happen next, then it’s done its job quite well and Zetsuen no Tempest nailed each of those points perfectly.  I also have a part of me that loves characters who meld justice and vengeance into one mouth-wateringly satisfying vendetta.  And since it’s made by Bones, it’s probably going to be pretty good; even if it doesn’t turn out to be a masterpiece, I’m doubtful I’m going to be disappointed.

Hagure Yuusha no Estetica Ep. 1

Initial impression – a good idea that’s not on a solid foundation

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Aesthetics of a Rogue Hero) (more info)

From what I can glean from Hagure Yuusha’s first episode, people are being taken from our world to another dimension where they are put to the task of fighting a war for the denizens of that realm.  Part of this process involves giving normal humans superpowers and naturally some people want to use their new abilities to find their way back home, as Akatsuki Ousawa has successfully accomplished.  Returners like our main character retain their abilities and are put through a training program called Babel to put their powers to use here on Earth.

Again, Hagure Yuusha is one of those anime with an interesting premise, decent writing and generally agreeable characters that messes itself up with unnecessary ecchi.  Akatsuki brings a naked girl back from the other realm in his backpack for as-of-yet undisclosed reasons and he has the ability to remove women’s will to fight by stripping them of their lingerie without removing their rest of their clothes.

Thankfully, I don’t have to pretend to enjoy this series too much in spite of its ecchi because it’s already starting to establish a typical list of character archetypes—the perverted protagonist, confused victim-girl who is posing as his little sister, arrogant student council president.  Cue blank stare as I sarcastically marvel at this list of revolutionary thinking.

If it could have taken itself more seriously and the creators had been more confident about their work, I’d be much more willing to like Hagure Yuusha.  As it currently stands I find myself trapped between a cool story and too much ecchi; disappointed at how many times I’ve had to concede that flaw over the years.

Dog Days 2 Ep. 1

Initial impression – more of the same with more characters

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

Dog Days 2 takes place a few months after season one’s ending.  Now Shinku has returned presumably for the purpose of just having fun playing the tournament-like war games that shape the culture of Flonyard—as opposed to being Biscotti’s last-ditch trump card hero to bring them back from the brink.  He’s also brought two friends along, childhood friend Rebecca and his kind-hearted cousin and fellow rival athlete, Nanami who is quickly adopted by Galette as their own hero.

As in the first season, this is a series that is pretty mediocre all around.  The end of season one wrapped things up so nicely, so I’m dubious that this sequel is necessary. Bringing along Shiku’s friends and adding them to the mix feels lacking imagination and I can almost feel the desperation to find something for everyone to do. Early signs are this series is going to be a mirror image of season one with additional characters added to the mix.  It even continues the unnecessary little habit of having the female characters’ clothes fly off in the middle of battle for no other reason than facepalmingly pitiful fanservice (you don’t even get to see anything approaching risqué).  Really the only reason I’m watching this series is to listen to the skilled voice acting and singing of Yui Horie.

Whether some big crisis is going to befall the land like it did in season one remains to be seen at this early stage, but I wouldn’t put it past this anime to once again centralize on the theme of rivals/enemies putting aside their differences for the sake of saving the day—probably something that’s a bit too standard, childish and cliché for most people’s tastes.

As an annoying afterthought, Working!! 2 started this pattern, but I think it’s worth saying again that adding an ‘ at the end your anime’s title is a terrible way of denoting that it’s a sequel.  Has just using a 2 or the roman numeral II simply gone out of fashion?  What happens if you decide to do a third season?  Is the title going to have ‘’ ?

Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Ep. 1

Initial impression – disturbingly cute and colorful…seriously disturbing (1/10)

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Humanity has Declined) (more info)

As far as I can tell what Jinrui is about, I can see the main heroine is some sort of mediator between normal humans and an offshoot human branch of fairies that came about after some unnamed calamity.  Considering how candy-bright the palette is in this anime, I can’t imagine it was particularly disastrous.  The writing is all over the place with only the most basic information about what’s going on presented and the rest either condescending commentary on how modern life is wasteful to a very misogynistic view of gender roles.  And then there are those fairies who discuss the oncoming extinction of humanity in the same voice of unconstrained joy as they do the prospect of eating sweets.

I’m not sure what this anime is trying to do, but I’m more disturbed by this level of sugary cuteness set to a story that is otherwise about dealing with a very depressing, grim reality.  To say that there’s a mismatch in the tone of the setting design and the plot is an understatement.  Between the images of a skinned, feetless, headless chicken like you’d find in a supermarket running around as if it were still alive to a bread robot that becomes so depressed that it commits suicide by rending itself in half all the while spraying blood everywhere is just too much for me to handle.

I actually got a painful little pit in my stomach once this episode was over that made me feel quite ill.  Jinrui definitely has a unique style, but I don’t want that to get misinterpreted as praise of any kind—I merely want to stress that I cannot recall ever seeing anything of this particular sort of weirdness ever before.  I’ve seen more than enough to frighten me away from this series forever.

Campione! Ep. 1

Initial impression – it has my attention…now it has to hold it

Summer 2012 (?? episodes) (title literal translation from Italian – Champion) (more info)

Campione is the story of Godou Kusanagi, an ordinary boy who gets thrown into a crazy, supernatural situation because of some ancient artifact he’s obtained and is expected to perform his role as the destined hero.  As is usually true of these sorts of anime, the first episode isn’t very easy to follow.  It wavers between realistic logistical problems for the protagonist (such as a young Japanese man in Italy being unable to speak the language), followed by a mildly ecchi scene in which the heroine, Erica Blandelli, gets intoxicated and needs his assistance, to having him suddenly be able to control the power of the gods so that he can protect the land.

But despite how standard this kind setup is, Campione isn’t committing too many missteps.  The art style fits nicely with the European setting and the writing and character design shows potential when Godou has some convincingly improvisational moments in which he must negotiate with beings not accustomed to lowering themselves to being a human’s bodyguard.  I don’t expect Campione to be any kind of masterpiece, but this first episode has caught my interest because I can see the definite beginnings of something that looks like it’s going to go somewhere.

Fate/Zero (review)

Impression – a gilded clod (4/10)

Fall 2011 and spring 2012 (25 episodes)

I think by now I’ve started to solidify my status as the alternative opinion among anime bloggers, but this review of Fate/Zero may be my most controversial so far.  Voicing my opinion at critical times like this is a big part of the reason I started this blog in the first place. I’ve prepared for this by writing at length and in detail the points of contention I have with this series.   Here we go.

Kiritsugu Emiya is a magus who has seen far too much suffering and injustice in the world.  He dreams of being the hero who can rid the world of war and violence and he believes he has found a way to do it.  By entering the Holy Grail War he can pit his skills as a modern assassin against six other magi who are also pursuing the holy relic that can grant the wish of the person who obtains it.  To do this, he must ally himself with a heroic spirit that will fight by his side and share his victory (as must the other participants in this survival game).  With the intention of summoning the spirit of the greatest avatar of justice, King Arthur, Kiritsugu throws his hat into the ring.  But the person who heeds his summons isn’t what he expected.

Inevitably, Fate/Zero has to be compared to Fate/Stay Night since this is a canonical prequel to that story.  And I’m going to be very clear and say that I did not have the same experience with Zero as many other people seem to have had.  The only thing I can see that Zero has going for it is its production values.  Everything else was done much better in Stay Night.

One of my biggest complaints is that the battles are poorly conceived.  Nearly every fight always comes down to some sort of matching of wills pushing towards whoever can level up more, meaning every battle was always a forgone conclusion, possessing nothing dynamic.  Let me compare the action in Fate/Zero to two other recent action series that actually know how to make a fight scene exciting—Shakugan no Shana III and Accel World.  Both of these series understand how to deliver suspense by including strategy that is accomplished either via exploiting weaknesses in the enemy’s plans, or psychological attacks to demoralize the opponent into just giving up.  This kind of intellectual action sequence doesn’t need flashy spectacle to keep your attention because you’re too caught up in the twists of the progression of events to get bored.

There’s two points in this series that solidified for me that the majority of this anime does nothing more than pander to the fans.  The first is in the episode devoted entirely to young Rin that feels completely out of place and ultimately goes absolutely nowhere.  I know Rin is well-liked, but that’s not a good enough reason to just toss her into a filler episode because you know it’ll make people happy.  If you absolutely must do something like that, put it in a bonus episode tucked away on the DVD where it won’t clutter up the main story.

The second point is near the end of the series when Saber chases Rider while riding a motorcycle that she magically enhances to catch up with him.   All I could do during that scene was shake my head and say, “isn’t that something that should have been Rider’s domain?”  There are way too many liberties with what constitutes flavorful powers that needed to be unique to each class.  Otherwise why bother even having them if you’re just going to make the characters’ skills ultimately all up for grabs depending on whatever will tickle the fans?  These beautiful, but empty shenanigans and complete lack of pace that dominate much of the second half could have easily been substituted with watching Saber jump hurtles and taking breaks every once in a while to shoot her sword lasers and miss.

In the absence of Ryuunosuke and Caster, the only two good episodes in Zero are the flashbacks to when Kiritsugu was a child.  Here we are treated to a spectacularly dramatic…or maybe traumatic…procession of unfortunate dilemmas where Kiritsugu must choose between those he loves and respects, or protecting innocent strangers who could never comprehend the danger that he averted or the sacrifice he made to keep them safe.

And as hard as it is to accept (I actually caught myself getting a little choked up) there’s really no room for debate that given the circumstances he made the best decision he possibly could, which serves to only sharpen the pain.  To have Kiritsugu back away from this investment at the final moment, feels completely out of character and devalues everything he had worked for.  Not to mention that you don’t have to watch more than two episodes of Stay Night to see that several key events in the last episode of Zero don’t match.  There’s just no excuse for this kind of oversight from a company that’s in the business of writing stories.  Swiss cheese that’s been blasted with a shotgun has fewer holes in it than Fate/Zero’s conclusion.  Frankly, it’s just disgusting.

To think that Gen Urobachi wrote both the incredible, gritty epic that is Madoka Magica and the teaspoon shallow, sparkling flop that is Fate/Zero is a sad state of affairs. I would never have guessed these two series to have been written by the same person.  I’m going to throw at least some of the blame on Type-Moon for probably restricting his creativity to follow whatever happened in the visual novel this series took its source from.

All things considered, the heavily weighted majority of Fate/Zero is nothing more than a string of uninvested deepities punctuated by some very nice-looking, substanceless spectacle. Unless you’re the kind of person who gets easily distracted by shiny objects, stick with Fate/Stay Night and don’t ruin your experience with this spoiled, vacuous prequel.  Probably the most I’ve ever been disappointed by an anime.

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