Saturday, October 31, 2015

UQ Holder

Having finished re-reading Negima Magister Magi, one of my favorite risque manga series, I’ve decided to begin reading UQ Holder, the sequel to Negima.

I think the sequel holds up well to its predecessor, though I have to admit, I don’t like UQ Holder as much as Negima. The reason for this is very very very very simple.

I’m a fan of romance. While I can’t deal with straight up romances (a girl I dated awhile back tried making me watch her romance movies and I feel asleep. They were a total snooze fest.), I still enjoy anime/manga/books whatever with heavy romantic themes.

Negima satisfied my need for romance, while maintaining a certain level of badassness. It had an excellent blend of romance, action, comedy and fan service rolled up into a nice package of pleasant to look at artwork.

That being said, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. We’ve gotten some romantic developments in the recent chapters for UQ Holder, and so it looks like I may get some nice romantic scenes to go with my main dish of action-packed and violent goodness.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ladies Versus Butlers

In a long line of dumb anime, Ladies versus Butlers stands at the top as one of the dumbest anime I have ever seen. It was so stupid that, while I watched it, I could slowly feel my brain cells spontaneously combusting from the stupid of it. That being said, I actually had a decent time watching this.

This anime is, quite frankly, plotless. There is literally no real story to this anime. Supposedly, it's about some guy who ends up attending an elite school to learn how to become a butler, but it's really just an excuse for fan service and tits. Yes, tits. I cannot tell you how many times girls would got naked in this anime - one girl even randomly strips for no reason. In public. Stripping in public for no reason! What the hell?! That being said, this anime also knows it's a stupid boob comedy and doesn't try to be anything else. I suppose there is some charm in the fact that, despite how dumb it is, it at least understands its own stupidity and plays up to it. Surprisingly, some of the boob jokes were quite funny, sort of like how fart jokes are funny, despite no one knowing why.

Characters in this anime are all pretty flat. They don't have a whole lot going for them. Each one is basically an archetype, and the main character is bland enough that I think he and Bella Swan would've made a smashing couple. Oddly enough, this anime's greatest strong point is the artwork, which is weird because the art is actually pretty plain. I think its because, in spite of the designs being basic, it's at least different. Of course, it could also have something to do with the boobs, of which there are a lot in this series. While I never bothered counting, I think each episode had, at least, five different scenes where a girl was showing off her chest. Most of the time, that nudity scene was there for no reason other than, well, because, I guess.

Overall, I would say this anime is... not really worth your time unless you're into 2-dimensional tits. No, I am not joking. While I thought some of this anime was funny, I understand that not everyone can enjoy pointless humor and titty jokes. There's also the fact that this anime has a very unfulfilling end. While I expected that, it's still disappointing to see.

Artwork: 6/10
Animation: 5.5/10
Sound: 3/10
Characters: 5/10
Story: 4/10
Personal Enjoyment: 6/10
Total: 4.9/10

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Win a signed copy of A Fox's Tail!

Yeah, I know. I'm doing a lot of advertising posts recently. Sorry about that. I promise, I'll do some good anime, light novel, or manga reviews later to make up for it.

This particular post is simply to inform everybody about a giveaway I'm hosting on Goodreads. If you have a Goodreads account, live in the United States, Canada, or Mexico, then click on the link below and enter the contest for a chance to win a signed copy of A Fox's Tail!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Fox's Tail by Brandon Varnell

A Fox's Tail

by Brandon Varnell

Giveaway ends December 17, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job

Is it just me, or do the Japanese love giving their anime over-the-top, overly long, ridiculous titles. I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job is the story about a young man who went to an academy where people trained to defeat the Dark Lord. Unfortunately, the Dark Lord was defeated before he even graduated and the academy went under. Destitute and in need of money, Raul Chaser reluctantly gets a job working for a magic appliance retail store. Months later, another person also begins working there - the Dark Lord's only daughter, Fino Bloodstone. Can't you just smell the recipe for disaster here?

This is one of those anime that I feel are underrated. Sure, it's not the best. In fact, most of it is downright cliched. However, I think this anime understands that it's a cliche and doesn't pretend to be something else. The humor, while seen in every ecchi anime series, is well-done and over-the-top. The ecchi is, well, ecchi. There's not much that can be said there. This is an anime that has plenty of boobs for young men who want fan service to enjoy. While I'm sometimes sketchy about ecchi, this anime is of the ecchi genre, so pandering to fan service actually works here - unlike some of the other anime I have watched.

The animation is okay. Honestly, I've seen better, but I've seen worse as well. This is a middle-tier anime, where the animations aren't terrible, but not amazing to the point where you're thinking, "wow! The animation is so flawless, and the frame rate is amazing!" I will admit, though, that I do like the artwork. It's sort of standard, but it's still nice. The girls, in particular, are well designed. I suppose that's only natural, since this is an ecchi anime. No one's gonna want to watch an anime about boobs and nude scenes if the female's weren't hotter than sin.

Despite this being an ecchi anime where most of the plot is, um, well, PLOT, this does have a somewhat interesting story. It also makes you wonder. What happens to the people who tried to become a hero but, due to unforeseen circumstances, never got the chance? This story deals with a new, intriguing aspect to heroism and Dark Lord slaying that I haven't seen before. Raul Chaser is a man who dreamed of defeating the Dark Lord and becoming a hero, yet now he's stuck working at a retail store because none of the vaunted, Dark Lord slaying abilities he has are useful in anything but, well, Dark Lord slaying. Now he has to deal with the fact that he's essentially wasted several years of his life learning how to become a hero in a world where heroes aren't needed. To make matters more interesting, one of his co-workers happens to be the daughter of the Dark Lord that he wanted to kill, which adds a new dynamic to the story.

Aside from Raul Chaser, Fino Bloodstone, and Ahri All-A, none of the characters are really touched upon. This isn't as bad as it sounds. Like I said. This is an ecchi anime. Literally. It's genre is ecchi. In an anime where the story is merely an excuse to deliver boob scenes to the audience, character development isn't that important. I was honestly surprised that these three actually received the development they had. Raul and Ahri deal with what it means to live in a world where their skills are no longer needed, and Fino is dealing with the fact that she's a demon, the daughter of the Dark Lord, living in a world that she doesn't understand. While the plot never gets very deep or complex, sticking with mostly comedy and slapstick humor, the way these aspects are pulled off is well-done.

Artwork: 7/10
Animation: 7/10
Sound: 5/10
Characters: 6/10
Story: 6/10
Personal Enjoyment: 9/10
Total: 6.1/10

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Updates, I really don't do enough of these.

Aside from editing book 4 and writing book 11, I have decided to go back and redo book 1. Why? Well, book 1 was written a year before books 2 and 3. If you've read all three books, or even just books 1 and 2, then you should know that book 1 is nowhere near as good as book 2. In fact, it's almost like they were written by completely different people.

For those of you are are concerned, don't be. I don't have any intention of making you re-buy the book. That would be stupid and rude. If you already have the book, you'll be able to re-upload the revised version once it comes out. If you bought a paperback version, don't worry, anyone who buys paperback can get the Kindle version for free. I'm not such a jerk that I'd make you buy a kindle after spending money on the paperback.

Also, and this is just a thought, but I'm thinking of doing two things. I want you guys to give me your thoughts:

  1. I'm considering adding illustrations to book 1, just like I have for all the other books.
  2. I'm thinking of creating a hardback copy and gifting several signed copies to people in a giveaway.
What do you guys think? Does this sound like a good idea?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Generic Harem Anime War

Rather than my usual anime review, this weekend, we're going to be taking a look at the two most generic anime to have come out this Fall. Yes, I am talking about The Asterisk War and Chivalry of a Failed Knight.

Invertia… an unprecedented disaster that struck the world during the 20th century. Because of this disaster, numerous cities around the world were destroyed. However, within the meteor, an unknown element called mana was discovered, which allowed human technology to make rapid strides. This also gave rise to a new species of human born with unique skills – the Star Pulse Generation. The setting for the world’s greatest comprehensive battle spectacle, the Festas, is an academy city above the water surrounded by six academies called Rikka also commonly known as Asterisk.

For Ikki Kurogane, graduating as a Magical Knight is nigh impossible. Among Blazers, he’s considered the worst; he can materialize his soul into a weapon, but his magical power is extremely low. To add insult to injury, an unfortunate encounter with the talented and beautiful Princess Stella Vermillion slashes his already slim odds and alters the course of his life forever.
Now, let us take a look at these two anime and see why, at first glance, they appear almost like carbon copies of each other.

 What makes these two anime the same:

1. Magic high school
2. Magic high school fighting tournament
3. Harem protagonist.
4. pink/magenta-haired tsundere main love interest.
5. Loli childhood friend/loli little sister trope.
6. Anime adapted from light novel series
7. Within 5-minutes of the first episode, the MC meets his main love interest while she's wearing just a bra and panties.
8. Main love interest challenges MC to duel because he saw her changing

Watching these two anime back to back, you'll see that within the first episode, they don't really do much to differentiate themselves from each other. In fact, I almost thought that, aside from the artwork, there were no differences. At least, none that could be discerned right away - both main love interests even have the exact same power over fire. Truth be told, there actually are a few differences, but you don't learn about most of them until episode 2.

What makes these two anime different?

1. Main character's reason for being in school
2. Artwork
3. Main Character
4. Character development on episode 2

There honestly aren't that many differences right now, however, there are some that I felt were noteworthy.

First is the Main Character's reason for being at school. In The Asterisk Wars, Ayato's reason for going to school is to, and I quote, "To find out what he's supposed to do." Really? Freaking seriously? That is the dumbest reason for a plot that I have ever seen! What the heck does that even mean? Unlike The Asterisk Wars, Ikki's reason for going to school is much better: He's a failure with little magical power who wants to become a Magical Knight (later on, we learn that he's trying to emulate his grandfather, who he looks up to). Ikki also has the underdog appeal.

The Asterisk Wars: 0. Chivalry of a Failed Knight: 1

The second most obvious difference is the art and animation. I'll be honest, The Asterisk Wars has Chivalry of a Failed Knight beat here. While I don't dislike the artwork in CFK, I feel like the art in Asterisk Wars is cleaner and the animations are smoother.

The Asterisk Wars: 1. Chivalry of a Failed Knight: 1

Next is the main character. Ikki versus Ayato, and Julius versus Stella. Now, quite frankly, I like Ikki better than Ayato, and the reason is simple. In episode one when Ikki walked in on Stella while she was in her underwear, he decided to strip, too, so she wouldn't be embarrassed. I thought that was awesome. Seriously. Most main protagonists respond the way Ayato did. Not Ikki, though. He's like, "I know how this looks, and I won't make an excuse for seeing you naked, so how about I strip, too!" As far as character personalities go, Ikki has Ayato beat.

What about Julius and Stella? Well, lets take a look at how these episodes end. By the end of episode one in Asterisk Wars, Julius is still a bitchy tsundere with standoffish personality. On the other hand, Stella and Ikki actually become friends. In other words, Julius is more tsun, while Stella is more dere. I feel like, as a main love interest and character, Stella has beaten Julius out. Not only are her reactions cute, but she's also a lot nicer, and we don't have to watch her as she abuses the main protagonist constantly over perceived "faults." Granted, she still has her moments, but those have more to do with embarrassment than, "I'll kill you, pervert!"

The Asterisk Wars: 1. Chivalry of a Failed Knight: 2

And finally, the last one, the character development in episode two. In the second episode of The Asterisk Wars, neither Ayato nor Julius receive much character development. We learn very little about their past. Just about the only thing we do learn is that Ayato apparently has tremendous power but isn't supposed to use it because, and once again, I quote, "He hasn't discovered what he's supposed to do." On the other hand, we learn that Ikki was ignored by his family because he didn't have the magic power or potential of everyone else, and that he tried to run away from home. We also learned that he almost died in a snowstorm, but he was rescued by his grandfather, who encouraged him to work hard. We also discover that Ikki is actually ranked F because his family didn't want him becoming a Knight, so they made the way to determine who got a good education based on their magical power, literally trying to force him out of the academy. Furthermore, in episode one we learn that Stella's reason for coming to the academy is because her country needs a strong Magical Knight, but because people placed her in the stereotype of a genius back home, she wasn't able to get stronger. Ikki and Stella feel much more compatible than Ayato and Julius who, like most tsundere/main lead couples, feels more like the animators are forcing the two together than a natural progression with their relationship.

The Asterisk Wars: 1. Chivalry of a Failed Knight: 3

In short, I feel like Chivalry of a Failed Knight is a much better anime, and although I'll watch both because harem/action anime are what I like the best, I have higher hopes for Chivalry than I do for Asterisk.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Strike the Blood

All powerful vampires who go to high school? Cute sword shaman middle school girls? Yes, Strike the Blood does have that. The story of Akatsuki Koujou, a regular teenager in high school, who just so happens to be the Fourth Primogenitor, the most powerful vampire to have ever existed, and Yukina Himeragi, a magical sword shaman wielding a powerful spear, assigned to watch over him.

I found Strike the Blood volume 1 to be a cute series that is entertaining, but doesn't offer much in the way of originality. It is very stereotypical of its genre, from the overpowered main character who, because he wants to live a normal life, doesn't have full control of his powers, to the cute girl who's assigned to kill him if he proves dangerous. Let's be honest here, if you're going to have someone watch over a super-powered vampire, you're not going to send a 14-year-old middle school girl to do it. You're just not. That's like practically asking the vampire to suck her dry - and my suck her dry, I mean suck her blood, ya pervs.

While I complain about the cute middle schooler being assigned to the high school vampire, I did enjoy the relationship they built. Having watched the anime before reading this, I can say that I feel like the light novel does a better job of conveying how they become friends. In the story, it's quite clear that they develop feelings of camaraderie for each other during volume 1. Their interactions, while lacking the wit and panache of Holo and Lawrence of Spice and Wolf, does have a refreshing feel about it. It's something that I feel like I can see happening in a regular high school - minus the vampire/magical girl aspect. The story itself reads very much like a slice-of-life with some major action going on. Like most light novels, this story has both a standalone plot that becomes solved by the end of the book, and an overarching plot that makes it obvious there will be more volumes on the way.

One of my favorite aspects about this are the monsters. I've seen vampires and werewolves and demons done before. They've been done to death, after all. However, this series takes a slightly different approach. First, everybody knows about the various monsters in this world. Everybody. It's common knowledge. Second, the place where Koujou lives is the Demon District of Itogami City - a man-made island off the coast of Japan. Here, humans and demons live in harmony... well, mostly harmony. There are some people who cause problems, like, hitting on a middle school girl, but most are nice folks. I also quite liked the magic they used. While the magic isn't explained perfectly, I feel like this grants them more leeway because it leaves a sense of mysticism, and besides, the Beast Vassal idea - a creature born of a vampire's pure magic - is pretty cool.

While this wasn't an amazing book, and the writing was a little repetitive, I did enjoy it. This will be one of the series that Yen Press has been translating that I will be following.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Monster Musume

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a fan of harem anime. It's my guilty pleasure. I've watched everything from Tenchi Muyo to To LOVE Ru and Girls Bravo. In all that time, watching all those anime, only a few have ever stood out and made a name for themselves by being more than just a cliched series about "harem protagonist #2" having multiple girls fall for him because "He's nice." Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou is one of those anime, and it's probably the cutest harem anime I've ever seen.

The story itself isn't anything new, though I feel it's done way better than most harem anime. In it, you have Kimihito, a young man living on his own. He has a very stereotypical harem protagonist feel to him, but at the same time, right down to how nice he is and how he only takes action when the plot requires it. I don't really mind that in this, because he's not the focus of the story. The girls are - and they are an eclectic bunch.

The first and most important thing to note about this anime is definitely the character design. None of these girls are human. Not only that, but they actually don't look fully human. Miia is a lamia and so she has the lower half of a snake. Centorea is a centaur and has a horse half. Papi is a harpy. Her arms are more like wings and her legs are clawed bird legs. You've also got a mermaid, a woman with more spider features than human features, and a girl who appears to be made from slime. I'm not sure who decided on making characters not look human, but I have to give them props. Not only was it a gutsy move, but it's paid off in dividend. If nothing else, it makes this anime patently different from every other anime, even the ones that deal with monster females like Rosario+Vampire.

Speaking of the girls, all of these ones are quite the characters. While you won't find any personality that is truly original, the ones these girls have do carry a certain uniqueness about them. I won't deny that I found myself greatly enjoying their antics. Even if you can tell each one was made based on a specific archetype, it's done in such a way that I don't really mind. I think it's because this show knows it's a harem comedy and doesn't try to pretend it's anything else. Too many times an anime will be a harem, but it will act like it isn't. "Oh, no. We're not just any old harem. We've got some really deep and complex plot going on in this anime. By the way, check out how this girl's obnoxiously large boobs bounce in every scene she's in." Unlike anime that try to be one thing but are really just an excuse for the main protagonist to get with every girl on screen, this one is refreshingly straightforward and simple. It is a harem anime, and it's not going to fool you into thinking it's anything but.

As is the case with most harems, the people who watch it will always have a favorite. My favorite is Miia. Miia is a lamia. In ancient Greek mythology, lamia was a Queen of Libya who became a child murdering monster feared for her malevolence. Originally a daughter of Poseidon, she eventually became the mistress of Zeus and was cursed by a jealous Hera. Similar to other female monsters in Greco-Roman myth (such as the empousai and the mormolykei), she is distinguished from them by her description as half-woman and half-serpent. Miia is pretty much the exact opposite of this woman. She's bright, cheerful, open and honest, though she does show some traits from the mythology, such as her voracious sexual appetite - several times Miia will have imagine an ecchi moment where Kimihito does the horizontal mambo with her. It is her honest personality that drew me to her. Plus, snakes are cool.

Much like Miia, all of the monster girls are based on Greek mythology. Centaurs, harpies, mermaids, cyclops, ogres, drakes... I think the only monster girls who aren't steeped in Greek myth are Suu, the resident slime girl and illegal immigrant, and Zombia-chan, whose name makes it quite obvious what she is. I actually thought this rather clever. While Japan has a habit of using other mythologies in their anime, I've not seen it done like this - taking a bunch of monsters from Greece and turning them into beautiful women with the lower half of animals.

One other thing that I feel should be noted about this anime is it's surprising gender compatibility. Harem anime are usually something that guys will watch because, well, it's about a guy getting a harem of beautiful women. Most females find this disrespectful, and while a few have broken this mold before, I don't think it's ever been done quite like this. I've been talking with a friend online, and she told me that she and her friends, some of whom work at a women's center, have been watching Monster Musume and think it's adorable. The mere fact that a group of female would watch this and think, "so cute!" instead of being repulsed, is an impressive feat. While I'm sure some women will still hate this anime because, "harems are degrading to women," I think just as many could actually enjoy this anime if they keep an open mind.

Artwork: 9/10
Animation: 7.5/10
Sound: 7.5/10
Characters: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Personal Enjoyment: 9/10
Total: 8.1/10