Friday, July 31, 2015

Devil Ninja, Chapter 17

Due to the nature of the reviews I received this time, I have decided not to answer single questions, but answer the many issues that have been brought up with each review. These are the major issues that most of my reviewers have brought up, and I believe they deserve some attention.

The Naruto/Rias Divide:

Almost everyone has expressed their opinions on the tension between Naruto and Rias. Some have sided with Naruto, stating that he did the right thing and that Rias was just being a spoiled brat. Others have sided with Rias, claiming that Naruto was being an insensitive jerk and deserves what he got.

To be perfectly honest, neither side of this argument is wrong. Naruto's decision wasn't wholly incorrect. He saw a clear threat to his friends and family and acted to neutralize that threat. He allowed himself to be taken in the hopes of uncovering the motives of the people who wanted to kidnap him. At the same time, the manner in which he did it left a lot to be desired. He could have sent Asia with a message letting Rias know what was happening. He could have sent Asia with a clone to let Rias know what was happening. There were many things he could have done to mitigate his girlfriends worry. Instead, he just left with no word and no warning. What's more, after being kidnapped, he actually had a pretty good time. He made friends, he joked around, he pulled pranks, he got himself another loli... yeah, let's just stop there. My point is, Naruto acted on a threat, which wasn't a bad decision, but he let himself get caught up in the moment and didn't think about Rias or the others. He made a mistake, which is something that all non-Gary Sue characters do. If you dislike his imperfection, then I'd suggest reading a story where Naruto is perfect, can do no wrong, and gets all the bitches. There are plenty of fanfics like that out there.

Rias's anger towards Naruto is justified. She's not being spoiled, and she's not being bratty. Had Naruto just gone off and come back with information about a new threat, Rias would not have been angry at Naruto. She might have expressed anger at first for letting himself be kidnapped, but then she would have hugged him and told him to never leave her again. Instead of coming home with information on a new threat, he comes home with another girl who she's never met - and if that wasn't enough to add fuel to the fire, then she and her peerage were almost killed while he was gone. In short, Naruto left his King (Rias), to fend for herself, and as a result, she and the rest of her peeage nearly died. That is why Rias's anger is justified. Is Rias taking things too far? Yes, but how would you feel if your boyfriend/girlfriend was kidnapped and then suddenly showed up out of the blue with some super cute boy/girl accompanying them? What would you think if you saw that? You'd probably think your significant other had never been in danger, but had instead decided to go off and have fun with that other person. Wouldn't you be angry at your BF/GF if you saw that? If you answer no, then I'm gonna claim you're lying.

Beyond all this, I think everyone here is forgetting something important: NARUTO AND RIAS ARE ONLY TEENAGERS! They aren't adults; they are teenagers playing at adults. Do you people even know what happens when you mix super-powered battles with hormones and romance? You get DRAMA. Yes, drama. Real relationships are never smooth and there are always bumps in the road, so fictional relationships where you have an entirely new dynamic - aka, ridiculous super powers that can kill you at the drop of a hat or, you know, almost kill your love interest - you're going to have even more drama. I get that a lot of you don't like drama, I guess because you're trying to insert yourself in Naruto's place and want everything to go perfectly because that's how you want your relationship to be, but if that's what you are looking for, then you should go somewhere else. I write realistic relationships - where characters aren't perfect, where they have inherent flaws, and those flaws sometimes cause friction and tension. If you dislike that, then I would suggest reading something that you will enjoy, like those Mary Sue Naruto fanfics I was talking about earlier. They're a dime a dozen, so it shouldn't be hard to find one.

Naruto's angst:

A few people have expressed dissatisfaction towards Naruto's behavior, claiming that he's being too angsty and it's out of character and Naruto would never act like - HAVE YOU PEOPLE EVEN READ THE MANGA?! Naruto doesn't angst? What rock have you been living under? What did Naruto do after Sasuke beat him and left for Orochimaru at the Valley of the End? He angsted. What did he do after going four-tails during the Sasuke retrieval mission in Shippuden and accidentally hurting Sakura? He angsted. What about when Jiraiya died? He angsted. Naruto goes through a number of angsty moments in the cannon storyline. Sure, they don't last very long, but the guy can't be chipper 24/7. He just returned home and realized that, while he'd been enjoying himself with Ophis, his girlfriend and her peerage almost got themselves killed. You think that Naruto's not gonna blame himself for not being there to protect them? If so, then you clearly don't know Naruto.

Naruto taking Rias's Anger:

Some people have told me that my Naruto is a pussy and OOC because, apparently, Naruto isn't the type to just let people walk all over him. I mean, sure, okay, he let the entire FREAKING VILLAGE OF KONOHA WALK ALL OVER HIM FOR YEARS, but you know what? I'm sure that was just some non-canonical fluke created by a fanboy who - oh wait. Never mind. That was actually WRITTEN BY KIHIMOTO! You know, the author of Naruto? Those of you who claim that Naruto isn't the type to let himself be trodden on by others have clearly been reading too much fanfiction. Naruto is like the freaking Jesus of manga. Seriously people. This is the guy who accepted the hatred of his village and strove to become someone those same people who hated him could look up to. The guy who, even after having a FREAKING CHIDORI SHOVED THROUGH HIS SHOULDER continued thinking of Sasuke like a brother. The guy who accepted Pein's views, even though the man destroyed half of Konoha. The guy who allowed Sakura to BEAT THE UTTER LIVING SHIT OUT OF HIM WHENEVER SHE WAS ANGRY! Are you telling me that a guy like him, a guy who would put up with that much crap, wouldn't let his girlfriend vent because she's angry? Because he made a mistake? You guys make me want to slam my head against a wall. Ignorance does this no justice. If you think my Naruto is OOC, then you've clearly not been reading the same manga that I have. Naruto is a freaking saint.

Please note, this post is not meant to stir resentment, but debate. If any of you disagree with my opinions, then feel free to express them here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume 2

Volume 2 of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches was every bit as enjoyable for me as the first volume. While volume 1 was a good introduction, I feel like the second volume brought a lot more to the table, as far as character development and introductions are concerned.

Continuing where volume 1 left off, volume 2 starts with Yamada and Shiraishi switching bodies. I guess they wanted to, um, learn more about his power - yes, that must be it. They weren't kissing because they wanted to. They just wanted to learn more about the body swapping ability. Once again, I feel like this is a really interesting concept. While I would never in a million years want to be stuck in a females body (I'm very attached to my male anatomy, thank you very much), I really enjoy seeing all of the zany situations that Yamada finds himself in while being trapped in Shiraishi's body. When you really take the time to think about it, this entire idea of body swapping is completely screwed up, but I think that's what makes it so fun. However, just because there's a lot of humorous situations doesn't mean it's all fun and games. There is a more serious side to this anime, though a good deal of the seriousness is overwhelmed by the comedy. I think what made this volume feel a little more serious were several instances where we get an inside look into some of our characters.

This volume does have a good deal of fanservice. Perhaps it's because this was written/illustrated by a women, but I don't feel like this particular brand of fanservice is terribly done. Quite the opposite, actually. The fanservice itself feels natural. I mean, let's face the facts gentlemen. If you were a guy who could swap bodies with anyone and suddenly switched bodies with a cute girl, what is one of the first things you would do after switching bodies with her? You don't need to answer that. I already know the answer even if you try to deny it. My point in all this is that the brief moments where something fanservic-y happens doesn't feel like a contrived plot device to show us more boobs, which is the problem I have with a lot of fan service manga. I mean, yeah, okay, I love To LOVE-Ru, but at least that manga doesn't deny it's perviness, and plays it up to the point where it's so ridiculous you can't help but laugh. This is one of the few manga in recent years I have read where the fanservice didn't make me cringe because it felt so out of place.

I also like the artwork. I know a lot of people who make mention of the art for Yamada-kun stating that it's alright but nothing special. I have to respectfully disagree. While I have seen better art before, I think the artwork here is actually very nice. It might have have excellent lines, the shading might not be the best, and it might be a little generic, but the character designs, the expressions they make, and even their posture, is all spot on. You can really tell who's who and what their personality is based on how they're drawn. Even when Yamada and Shiraishi switch places, its easy to figure out who they are from the drawings alone. While the artwork might not be incredible, the way the characters stand out based on how they are illustrated is noteworthy and deserving of praise.

Overall, I really enjoyed this volume of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, and am greatly looking forward to reading volume 3.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is probably one of my favorite anime of the previous season. Why? Well, it could be the fanservice. The fanservice they had was actually not as intrusive nor as obnoxious as some of the other anime to have come out recently. They had just enough that it was funny and flowed well with the story, but not enough that it destroyed the story itself. But then again, maybe it was the story that got me to love this anime.

Ryuu Yamada is a punk. He shows up at school late, sleeps in class, and doesn't do his homework. He finds his opposite in Urara Shiraishi, a beautiful girl whose the top student in school and always seen studying. One day when they're both walking up a flight of stairs, Yamada trips and they fall down. When he wakes up, Yamada discovers that he and Shiraishi have switched bodies. I find this basic premise to be incredibly interesting. It's hard to find original themes and ideas in the entertainment industry. However, while I'm sure this idea has been done before, I'll confess that it is the first time I've ever seen a story where a guy and girl swap bodies - and it's definitely the first time I've heard of two people swapping bodies from a kiss.

Aside form having an intriguing premise, I absolutely love the characters in this story. Each of them feel like fully-fleshed out people, the kind you'd see walking down the street. They seem to have their own story to tell, and unlike most anime of this genre, they're not just caricatures of specific archetypes. Ryuu Yamada is a perfect example of this. He looks and acts like a punk, but as the story progresses, you see that he's actually a compassionate and caring person. He always puts others before himself, and does his best to help people even at great personal risk. He also makes a surprisingly good tsukkomi. Of course, my favorite character in all this would definitely have to be Urara Shiraishi. Aside from being downright gorgeously designed, I really enjoy her character. At first glance, she appears to be a kuudere type of girl; quiet, unobtrusive and studious. As the anime progresses you begin to learn more about her, and Shiraishi begins to change. While her original of being quiet remains mostly intact, her development as a person is more than obvious and truly a joy to watch happen.

Like all anime of the harem/romance/comedy variety, this one has its fanservice. Unlike most anime to have come out in recent years, however, the fanservice in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches doesn't make me cringe. It's very light, giving you enough to laugh at and enjoy, but not so much that you feel like you're watching a hentai. It's funny and flows well with the story, but isn't overbearing. In other words, they have just the right amount of fanservice. A part of me wonders if the reason for this is because the writer/illustrator of the manga is actually a woman.

All this being said, if I had to name one reason why I like this anime over others, it would be the kissing. I feel like this anime is trying to make up for the lack of kisses in every other romance anime out there. I've watched a lot of anime with romance and only a few seem to actually have kissing in them. I don't know why this is, but Yamada-kun makes up for it by having several kisses pretty much every episode. I'll admit, the inner romantic in me squealed every time I saw Yamada and Shiraishi kiss. What's more, the ending left me completely fulfilled. This was one of the few romcom anime where I actually watched it all the way through to the end and felt utterly satisfied.

Artwork: 9.5/10
Character Design: 10/10
Character Development: 10/10
Storyline: 9.5/10
Composition: 8.5/10
Animation: 8/10
Total Score: 9.25/10

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, Volume 2

Starting where the first volume left off, volume 2 of Danmachi furthers the series by introducing a new member to the caste of females interested in Bell, and it also f0urther explains the world at large.

I found this volume to be much more engaging than volume 1. This might have been because we didn’t get as much of Bell’s POV as we do in the first volume, but I think another reason might just be that this story felt a lot more straightforward. In it, we have a clear problem that eventually gets solved by Bell. In volume 1, there really wasn’t any problem. It was just a story about Bell Cranel getting more powerful, having several girls fall in love with him, and him being a clueless idiot.

Supporter - a term used to describe someone who supports an adventurer by gathering the crystals and drop items that monsters, that way the adventurer can focus on fighting and not worry about being weighed down. The concept of having someone who supports the adventurer in this way is interesting, and I can’t deny that I enjoyed the supporter character that was introduced.

I wonder, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the writing style has also improved a good deal. Even Bell’s first person POV doesn’t bother me like it used to. The sentences aren’t as choppy and feel much more fluid. I wonder if this is a way of showing Bell Cranel’s growing maturity, or if this is simply the case of the translator improving.

Either way, I felt like this volume was much better than the previous one. The story had a more involved plot, the writing seemed much better, and the characters continued to be engaging all the way to the end.

If there is one thing about this volume that I didn’t like, then it’s Bell Cranel’s continued ignorance towards women. I mean, okay, I get that the “clueless idiot when it comes to romance” is a major trope in Japanese pop culture. I understand. But, there comes a point when the main character’s denseness towards the opposite gender stops being cute and becomes annoying.

Bell Cranel’s denseness is annoying. It’s especially annoying because it is so blatantly obvious that these girls like Bell that even an idiot should get it. Seriously, when multiple women hug you to their chest, there are not many things that this can be mistaken for. The fact that Bell still doesn’t understand why all these women are suddenly acting super affectionate really bugs me. One girl even flat out said that she was falling for him in the previous volume, and he STILL doesn’t get it. How freaking stupid can one person be? That’s not denseness. That’s willfully making a character ignorant for the sake of harem comedy plot. I really hope the author eventually fixes this, because while I like the story as a whole, this issue is one of the biggest turn offs for me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

I found this delightful manga after watching the anime. I thought the anime was cute, adorable even, and so I knew that I had to read the manga next.

Volume 1 of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches follows what I consider the standard character introduction trope of all manga. You are basically introduced to the main characters here. You've got Ryu Yamada, a bad boy with an even badder reputation, and Urara Shiraishi, a beautiful girl who just so happens to be the top student in class. They comprise the two main characters, though you also get to meet Miyamura Taronosuke and Ito Miyabi, along with several other characters, though these two get the most screen time in this volume.

All of the characters in this were very well done so far. Ryu is one of those characters who, despite having an abrasive personality and no subtlety whatsoever, is actually a genuinely caring person. Most people fear him because he's always getting into fights and has something of an attitude problem, but we get to see a more caring side come out within the first chapter. Urara is Ryu's polar opposite in many ways. While Ryu is about as studious as a brick wall, Urara is the top student in school. While Ryu is loud and obnoxious, Urara is quiet and focused. However, while both of them couldn't be more different from each other in personality, they suffer from the same problem.


This seems to be a big theme in many Japanese pop culture - people feeling alone for one reason or another. I've seen it a lot. In this manga, Ryu is alone because people are afraid of him, while Urara is alone because of her grades and beauty. While it's never said outright, I get the feeling that what both of them were seeking is companionship, which they ironically found in each other after falling down a flight of stairs and switching bodies.

Did I forget to mention there's a supernatural element to this? Oops. My bad.

Yes, Ryu and Urara switch bodies after falling down a flight of stairs. Through this phenomenal power, the two form a connection and become friends. While supernatural elements in a high school romantic comedy are done quite often, I truly enjoyed how this manga went about it. It felt much more natural than some of the other manga I've read.

I found this volume to be truly incredible. I'll admit, I think this manga had my inner fanboy come out in ways that haven't happened since I read the first volume of To LOVE-Ru.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Triage X

Mochizuki General Hospital boasts some of the most well-trained (and well-endowed) nurses in town. But though these ladies spend much of their day battling sickness, their after-hours are spent fighting a very different sort of disease…Under the leadership of the hospital chairman, a handful of staff members and local teenagers form a group of mercenary assassins, targeting the “cancers” of society and excising those individuals before their wickedness spreads.
What can I saw about Triage X. Hm, well, the premise was decent. I like the idea of mercenary assassins killing evil individuals in order to protect the world and keep corruption from spreading. Unfortunately, I don't think this anime quite reached its true potential. Why? Because they focused too much on the boobs and not enough on the plot - I mean the story. What at first sounds like an interesting story filled with action and a multi-faceted plot soon becomes an anime that is essentially boobs and violence. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, but when I went into the anime, I was expecting something a little more serious than jiggling breasts. I mean, I kinda knew there would be some fanservice, but not this much. While I'm not sure I would have minded this in another anime, in this one, I feel like the story itself suffered because the animators focused more on making every woman's boobs bounce than they did on making a good story. This anime is basically an urban fantasy version of Queen's Blade, which has been hailed as one of the greatest failures in anime history.

This story had its hand in way too many genres. It's basically a secret society show about high school teenagers and large-breasted women who work at a hospital during the day and secretly assassinate people by night. It tries to be a slice-of-life high school show, a medical drama, an action series, a crime mob series, and worst of all, a bad fanservice series. Now, contrary to my complaints, I do not dislike fanservice. I don't. If the anime does it right, I can enjoy fanservice as much as I do every other genre. I love To LOVE-Ru and its epic boob falls, Highschool DxD is one of my favorite anime, and I thought the fanservice in Cat Planet Cuties was adorable. But this? Triage X's fanservice is just a bunch of women with swollen, misshapen breasticles. Seriously. I don't even think the guy who did the illustrations for this knew what a real pair of breasts look like. Every girl in this anime has tits so large they'd sag. It's disturbing. And the fact that even the high school girls have boobs that big makes it even worse. I love fanservice, but even in a bad fanservice show, I at least expect the illustrations to be gorgeous. These just bothered me.

Now, let's take a look at what this show failed at. First off, the high school aspect of the show. We're basically given nothing about this. We see a few scenes where two of the characters are in high school, but that's about it. It's never developed beyond being there to tell us that the characters are leading a double life. The medical aspect of the show is like a really bad metaphor. The entire idea is that these people are doctors who exercise tumors, and the people they assassinate are the tumors. While that sounds really cool, the idea never went beyond the metaphor phase. The crime aspect could have also been interesting, but I don't even think the people directing this knew how real crime lords and drug cartels acted. Every bad guy was basically just an insane scumbag who committed crimes with all the subtlety of a bull in a China shop. They didn't even try to stay below the radar. They didn't try to be clever. You know that girl in the GIF image with arrows on her nipples? Yeah, that's basically how every criminal is in this story - about as subtle as a jack hammer. It's completely ridiculous.

The problem is none of these themes mesh. It doesn't help that all of the characters are one-dimensional. Perhaps its because the director tried shoving too many genres into a 10 episode series, but none of the aspects work well together, and the character's aren't fleshed out enough to carry the story on its own. Maybe if this story has 24 episodes to develop its characters, it could have been better. But then again, I feel like if this anime had 24 episodes, it would just be 14 more episodes filled with nothing but oversized breasts.

Now then, despite all of my complaints, this anime did do some things right. The animations are sick, like, awesome sick. The animators were really spot on with keeping the animations fluid, and all of the characters stayed on model, so you didn't have any characters who suddenly looked different because they couldn't retain that characters unique design while animating. Considering this anime has a lot going on, that is a very impressive feet. However, aside from the technical aspects of this anime, nothing else about it really stood out as good to me.

Artwork: 4/10
Character Design: 5/10
Character Development: 2/10
Storyline: 3/10
Composition: 5/10
Animation: 8/10
Total Score: 4.5/10

Friday, July 17, 2015

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick up Girls in a Dungeon! Volume 1

In Orario, fearless adventurers band together in search of fame and fortune within the monstrous underground labyrinth known as Dungeon.

But while riches and renown are incentive enough for most, Bell Cranel, would-be hero extraordinaire, has bigger plans.

He wants to pick up girls.

Is it wrong to face the perils of Dungeon alone, in a single-member guild blessed by a failed goddess? Maybe. Is it wrong to dream of playing hero to hapless maidens in Dungeon? Maybe not. After one misguided adventure, Bell quickly discovers that anything can happen in the labyrinth--even chance encounters with beautiful women. The only problem? He's the one who winds up the damsel in distress!

Having watched DanMachi the animated series, I knew that I had to read the light novels. While I thought the series itself wasn't the best anime ever, I still greatly enjoyed it and was positive that the light novel series would be even better.

While I wasn't necessarily disappointed with the first volume of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon, I did feel a little let down. More on that later. Before I start talking about what I didn't like, I think it would be better if I told you about what I did like.

The first thing I like is the story itself. None of what I read here is new. You've got a boy who wants to become a hero but is something of an underdog, a beautiful girl that he falls in love with, and a fantasy world based on an MMORPG type of leveling system. I've seen this in anime and read this in books countless times. However, that doesn't make this any less enjoyable. I had fun reading this, just like I had fun reading every other story with a similar genre.

One areas where I feel the story itself shines the most is its side characters, and by side characters, I mean everyone who's name isn't Bell Cranel. The most notably interesting characters in this story are the female cast, which makes sense, as this is story follows typical harem tropes. The females characters that you meet in this story are all an interesting an eclectic bunch. Their personalities are fully fleshed out and they have their own goals and desires. Aside from their obvious infatuation with the main character, I quite like them. My favorite, by the way, is the Hestia, otherwise known as Loli Big Boobs by her fellow Gods and Goddesses.

Now, despite my back-handed insult to Bell Cranel, the main character of the story, I do not think he is a bad character. As far as harem protagonists go, there are definitely worse. I think what I enjoy most about Bell is his innocence. He's very childlike and innocent, despite his un-innocent desire to have a harem. This makes him more likable than most harem protagonists because he actually has a personality beyond "OH MY GOD, I JUST FELL INTO THIS WOMAN'S BOOBS!" which seems to be the personality most characters of this genre have.

Good story and decent characters aside, I did have some problems with this light novel.

The first was the writing itself. Now, I'll admit that I don't read first person stories very often. I think the only books I've touched that are in first person is Highschool DxD, The Dresden Files, and the Percy Jackson series. That being said, those books, minus perhaps Highschool DxD, were a lot more fluid and smooth than DanMachi. From the moment I started reading this story, I found it difficult to keep going. The writing style is very stilted and awkward, making it more difficult to read. While I'm not grammar nazi, I also think more than half the sentences in this story were fragments, though this could just be my imagination playing tricks on me. Regardless, most of the sentences were very short and choppy, which meant that, throughout the entire story, I felt like my eyes were being put through a cheese grater.

Oddly enough, I think this might have been done on purpose. When I read the parts of this story that went into someone else's POV, the story flowed much more smoothly. I'm almost wondering if the author wrote Bell's POV in this choppy, fragmented manner as a means of letting us get more of a feel for Bell's personality and thought process. Granted, that is merely speculation, but I wouldn't know what to think if the strange and awkward writing was just a mistake that none of the editors noticed.

While the writing style threw me off, I did eventually get used to it. I still can't say I like it, but the story and characters were interesting enough to hold me through the end, and I will be reading the next volume.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

This romantic comedy revolves around an antisocial high school student named Hikigaya Hachiman with a distorted view on life and no friends or girlfriend. When he sees his classmates talking excitedly about living their adolescent lives, he mutters: "They're a bunch of liars." When he is asked about his future dreams, he responds, "Not working." A teacher gets Hachiman to join the "Volunteer Service" club, which happens to have the school's prettiest girl, Yukinoshita Yukino.

Despite it's super long title, this anime is not what I, or anyone else who's watched it, would ever consider your typical romantic comedy. In fact, I would almost consider this anime to be the complete opposite of a rom-com. While it starts out with that somewhat romantic comedy feel (you've got the anti-social main protagonist, the pretty girl ends up being in contact with, and the other pretty girl who joins up for reasons that are entirely her own), the gears of this anime quickly shift, and you're given the main characters harsh views on the world around him. While there are many moments of hilarity, there are just as many moments that will feel like someone just punched you in the face with a healthy dosage of reality.

In this story, you have three main characters. The first is Hikigaya Hachiman. From the moment he is introduced, you get a clear feeling of his character. He's a pessimistic loner who dislikes everyone and has the most negative world views I have ever seen in an anime character. He tends to think a lot, and so you're often given a healthy dosage of his internal monologues, which can be quite funny at times. After him comes the second main character, Yukinoshita Yukino, the prettiest and most intelligent girl in school. Much like Hikigaya, she's a loner. However, unlike Hikigaya, she's not a longer by choice, but because pretty much every girl in school is jealous of her. She's beautiful, smart, rich. She's basically what every girl strives to be, and they despise her for that. Despite this, she has a much more positive outlook on the world than Hikigaya, and their personalities will often clash, leading to hilarious yet witty banter between them. The last main character of the bunch is Yui Yuigahama. Unlike the other two, she is not a loner, and in fact is quite popular. She's bright and cheerful and is, in many ways, sort of like a stereotypical valley girl. Or, you know, what passes for a valley girl in Japan. While at first, she doesn't seem to have much of a role other than being cheerful and somewhat annoying, you eventually begin to realize that Yui is very much the glue keeping this trio together.

I've spoken a lot about the characters, and that is because I feel it is the characters that make this anime stand out so much. This isn't your stereotypical romcom filled with tropes and bothersome cliches. The dialogue between the characters, the growth they undergo as the anime continues, is probably this anime's strongest point in its favor. The characters in here aren't static, they aren't one dimensional archetypes derived from specific tropes. These characters feel real, and their problems feel real. I love watching this anime because I can actually get into the characters, because I actually care about what happens to them. Even many of the side characters are fully-fleshed out and get some good development.

The artwork is another strong point going in this anime's favor. While I have seen better, I have also seen worse. I would have say that, out of all the anime I have seen, SNAFU's artwork definitely places somewhere in the upper tier. The backgrounds are often bright and colorful, and the details are fully fleshed out. You don't have those half-assed drawings where it looks like someone made a few buildings and then decided to call it quits because they got lazy. The character designs are also very well done. Hikigaya's appearance, from his somewhat beady and bored-looking eyes to even his slumped posture and mostly expressionless face help lend credence to his character. He's a lazy, anti-social loner who would rather people ignore his existence than make friends, and you really feel like that's who he is just from his design.

This story does have one aspect against it. The story is sometimes too intelligent. Are you confused? You should be. While I found the intelligence of this anime to be delightful, many of my friends who watched this anime were lost. Why? Because a lot of the times, you have to read between the lines to understand some of the conversations. Sometimes, it's not what's being said that is the most important part about the characters interactions, but what's NOT being said. Unfortunately, not everyone can realize what's not being said, and so some people may feel a little lost, especially during the more serious conversations. That being said, don't despair too much. So long as you pay attention, figuring out what's being said, what's not being said, and reading between the lines to discover what the true meaning of each interaction, isn't as difficult as it seems. However, you do have to really pay attention. This isn't some mindless show where you sit on the couch and go, "Der! Natsu just farted fire! That's funny!" Overall, I feel like this anime was a breath of fresh air from the typical romantic comedies that litter the genre.

Artwork: 8.5/10
Character Design: 9.5/10
Character Development: 10/10
Storyline: 9.5/10
Musical Composition: 6/10
Animation: 8/10
Total Score: 8.85/10

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Spice&Wolf Volume 3

Color me impressed. Just when I thought the Spice&Wolf light novels couldn't get any better, I read this one and found myself blown away. There is a lot that I loved about this particular and not a whole lot that I didn't like.

Volume 3 starts off sometime after volume 2, obviously. Holo and Lawrence are traveling north, presumably to find Holo's hometown of Yoitsu. Right from the very start of this volume, we can already see how close the two of them are. Their banter is friendly yet witty, and Lawrence seems to have matured some, as shown by the ease at which he can return fire when Holo tries getting the better of him. Just after reading through the first few pages, I can feel the bond these two have.

It's not all fun and games, however, and like the past two volumes, this one has its share of danger--though not quite the same time as we've seen in volumes 1 and 2. While the danger in the previous two volumes was much more likely to end in death, bankruptcy, or both, this one is more than likely to have an even more bitter conclusion. The tension I felt as I read this volume was palpable from the moment things started going down hill for our heroes.

I think what I enjoyed the most about this volume was the sheer emotion being put into each scene. I felt like I could practically feel what Lawrence was feeling. His despair was my own. His desperation washed over me like a typhoon. Every time something happened to increase the tension, I felt like a string being drawn until I was ready to snap. This volume may have been a little shorter than the last two, but don't let that fool you. The tension and emotions put into this volume top the previous two by a wide margin.

This volume also had a higher focus on the relationship between Holo and Lawrence. More specifically, it focused on Lawrences feelings for Holo. During this volume, Lawrence was forced to reevaluate his relationship with the Wise Wolf of Yoitsu. We really get a glimpse inside of his mind and see his internal struggle. I also like this volume because we come to understand Lawrence a little better. Despite being experienced in mercantile and matters of economics, he is lacking in just about every other department, especially when it comes to relationships of any kind. This volume showed his flaws better than any of the previous ones, I feel, and it made him seem much more human. Even Holo got her moment to shine, a segment where you could really sympathize with her, which I felt made her seem less Sue-like and revealed the flaws that she has.

Overall, I felt this volume was quite possibly the best of the bunch. It was definitely my all-time favorite.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks

Do you want action? Do you want awesome? Do you want, well, I can't think of anything else, but! If you're looking for an exciting anime that delves into the psyche of someone who dreams of becoming a hero, than look no further. Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works is a remake of the Fate/Stay Night UBW movie made by a company several years back. That movie, by the way? Yeah, it sucked. This anime series? Awesome.

The basic story behind Fate/Stay Night is this: Fuyuki City—a city surrounded by the ocean and the mountains becomes the setting for an age-old ritual. To realize the mythical Holy Grail, which is said to grant any wish from its possessor, seven masters are given seven heroic spirits chosen by the Grail. These heroic spirits or servants are: Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Caster, Assassin, Berserker.

Each master will enter into a contract with their assigned servants and battle the other masters and servants to the death until only one pair remains...

This is the "Holy Grail War."

This story focuses primarily on the heroine Rin Toosaka. After her father's death, Rin enters the Holy Grail War as the sole heir to the prestigious Toosaka Household, with her servant Archer. But, she soon finds out that Shirou Emiya, a boy from her high school has gotten himself involved in the battles and unexpectedly saves him when he is fatally injured.

Before long, Rin sets out to strike down the conspiracies surrounding the Holy Grail War along with Shirou and his summoned servant Saber. And so, the story begins to explore the truth behind Shirou’s powers and the nature behind his unyielding will to become a "hero."

The first thing you should know about this anime is that the animation is beautiful. Seriously, their fight scenes are absolutely glorious, somehow managing to capture the intensity of a high-level battle between Heroic Spirits, the spirits of former heroes told in legend, perfectly. Fast-paced, filled with action, and with unimaginably smooth action sequences, on a purely animated standpoint, Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works takes home the gold medal.

Of course, there is more to this anime beyond its actions scenes, like, you know, a really pretty blond woman who can wield a sword with the best of them. No, seriously. There's this cute little blond woman who fights like a freaking demon. She's amazing. And this actually brings one of this stories strongest points home: kickass female characters. I know a lot of people, women especially, want to see badass females. You don't have to look much further than here. The two main female characters, Saber and Rin Tohsaka, are quite possibly some of the strongest women to have come out of anime in the past five or so years. They may not have the gritty personality of someone like Revy from Black Lagoon, but that certainly doesn't make them any less strong.

The characterizations in this anime are actually quite well-done. While some characters are based off an archetype (Rin Tohsaka is a classic example of a tsundere), they still feel more fleshed out than what you see in a lot of anime these days. They're not just one-dimensional personalities with a "tsun-tsun" and "dere-dere" switch that can be flipped at the drop of a hat. The main character, especially, one Shiro Emiya is actually one of the few male protagonists to come out recently that I really like. Sure, he's got some seriously screwed up priorities, but his incredibly flawed existence makes him all the more likable. Although I really do feel bad for Rin. I mean, having to put up with someone like Emiya must be hard work.

If there was one thing I did not like about this anime, it was this scene. This god-awful piece of crap scene, where Ufotable omitted the fact that Shiro and Rin had sex and instead mucked up the entire magic system in some misguided attempt to make this more kid friendly. Transfer a magic crest?! Seriously?! You might as well turn Shiro Emiya into Shiro Tohsaka since he's pretty much the head of the Tohsaka house now that you've given Rin's magic crest to him. The magic crest is the symbol of a mage family's power, the culmination of generations of research. You don't just "transfer" something like that! All you people needed to do to make this kid friend was a "fade out" and a "fade in" scene. That's it! It would have freaking worked, but no! You had to go and screw yourselves in the butt with a crowbar because, lord forbid, we follow the canon. Guess what geniuses, this anime is based off an eroge! It was going to have sex in it, and if you don't like that, then maybe you shouldn't have bothered producing it!

... Okay, I feel better now. Man, that was liberating.

So, mucking up the magic system to accommodate Ufotable's "no sex" policy aside, this is still a really good anime, and I would recommend it to everyone who wants a good action series with some excellent character development.

Artwork: 9/10
Character design: 9.5/10
Character Development: 9.5/10
Storyline: 10/10
Musical Composition: 8/10
Animation: 10/10
Total Score: 9.333/10