Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shokugeki no Soma, Manga

Food Wars!, Vol. 1: Shokugeki no SomaFood Wars!, Vol. 1: Shokugeki no Soma by Yuto Tsukuda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My review as of chapter 149.

This manga is freaking awesome! It's got:

Badass characters!

Epic battles... with food!


Gender equality!

Shokugeki no Soma is over the top, ridiculous, hilarious, and somehow... epic! I love it!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Asterisk Wars

The Asterisk War was a bit disappointing. It's not that this anime was terrible so much as it was unmemorable. Even though I only finished watching it about a week ago, I can't remember the names of any of the characters; what they were like, what they wanted to accomplish, or why they were even in this anime to begin with. I think the biggest problem for me was that another anime had come out with almost the exact same theme - magical high school - but the other anime was better, which made my enjoyment of this anime wan.

The anime starts off stereotypically enough: New boy comes on campus, a napkin flies from a window, boy finds napkin and uses magic to fly up to the window, where he discovers the half-naked tsundere love interest in the process of changing. The beginning of this anime is so similar to Chivalry of a Failed Knight that I'm astonished they were made at the same time. However, where Chivalry distinguishes itself within the first episode, Asterisk pulls a cliche. Yes, the main character decides to do the Blush & Stutter (patent pending), then the half-naked tsundere decides to do the tsun act. From the moment this anime began to the moment it ended, I could predict everything that would happen with at least 75% accuracy. The only reason my accuracy wasn't 100% was because several side characters were introduced, and even then, most of the side characters were completely predictable after their introduction.

What's more, all of the harem members - sorry, I mean, all of the female characters - are so static and boring that I couldn't root for any of them. There was only one character that I liked, and she wasn't introduced until the halfway point. I could pretty much pick out which trope these characters were, too. It's not like the director did anything to distinguish characters in this anime from every other anime of this genre. You've got the tsundere love interest, the kuudere loli who happens to be the harem protagonist's best friend, the himedere, and the flirty blond with hair drills. This is pretty much how I remember these characters, not by their names, but by their tropes. And while I don't normally compare anime in my reviews, I really have to. Compared to Chivalry, where I can remember the names of all the main characters, Asterisk's characters are completely flat and uninteresting.

Following what starts off as a typical high school magical harem, we're given more cliche's in the form of an overpowered main character whose power has been sealed so he doesn't seem so overpowered. Supposedly, his sister sealed his power for... reasons. I don't know what those reasons are, as they are never explained in the anime, but I'm guessing they're plot reasons. His sister must have realized that having an overpowered main character would make for an uninteresting story, and so she decided to seal his powers away. What's his face main protagonist can only use his powers for five minutes before he falls unconscious, which happens to be another overpowered character cliche. Yes, I'm being serious. Every overpowered character falls unconscious at the end of every battle so they don't seem as overpowered, like having them fall unconscious afterwards makes the battle seem like it was oh-so-difficult. It's a standard cliche that's done to death in anime like this.

Now, while there was a lot that disappointed me in this anime, there are some things that I did like. First, the artwork is very colorful and clean. In terms of art style, I think this is fairly top notch. The animation is also smooth. I never saw any real problems aside from the special effects used for spells. Those seemed a bit out of place, and I could tell they were CG, but I can forgive that. Also, while I think the battles in Chivalry were way better, I don't have any complaints about the fight scenes here. With how fluid the animation was, the sword fights in Asterisk were great fun to watch. It was actually the art and animation that kept me watching this. All that being said, this anime wasn't terrible. I think if it had come out before Chivalry of a Failed Knight did, I would have enjoyed it for what it was. Anyone who's into this genre will certainly enjoy watching it, and I hope that anyone who watches it finds it entertaining.

Artwork: 9/10
Animation: 9.5/10
Sound: 10/10
Characters: 4/10
Story: 5/10
Personal Enjoyment: 5/10
Total: 7/10

Friday, December 25, 2015

To Love Ru

Before I begin my review, I feel like I should make something clear: If you do not like nudity, then you will not like this manga. Go back. Turn around. Stop reading this and find something else. That being said, if you're perfectly okay with breasts being displayed in nearly every chapter, perverse scenarios that border on hentai, and ridiculous amounts of fan service, then this manga may be for you.

To Love Ru is about high school student Yuuki Rito, who, after failing to confess to his crush, Sarenji Haruna, goes home and sulks in the bathtub. While he's sulking and lamenting his own pathetic existence, water explodes everywhere and a naked girl appears in his tub. Her name is Lala Satalin Deviluke. Yes, her name is a play on Satan. I don't think this was done with any sort of religious symbolism, but more of a joke on religious mythology. I highly doubt that Saki Hasemi and Kentaro Yabuki worship Satan. I would have stopped reading at chapter 1 if that had been the case. Continuing on, through a series of events that shall not be mentioned because it would take too many words, Lala ends up living with Rito, who unwillingly becomes one of her marriage candidates. It turns out that Lala is actually the daughter of the King of the Galaxy - please notice the caps. The reason that she ended up on earth - and in Rito's bathtub - was because she'd run away from home. Apparently, her father is trying to set her up with marriage candidates, but Lala doesn't really care for her marriage candidates, thus, she decides to marry Rito instead. Yeah, she's basically using him to keep herself from being married off. However, love does eventually blossom within Lala's heart, and she begins to earnestly seek Rito's love and affection, which, more often than not, usually ends with Rito not only embarrassed and humiliated, but beaten to a pulp by whichever female whose breasts he accidentally fell into thanks to Lala's antics.

One thing that I feel like I should make clear before going any further. This story is the epitome of a guilty pleasure. It's like how people read erotica. Most people don't usually read erotica for the plot. They read it for the steamy sex. In that same way, most people don't read To Love Ru for the story, but for the perverse scenarios that the main character finds himself in. Every chapter is filled to the brim with scenes that are odd, erotic, downright unusual, and outright improbable. To Love Ru is like a teenage male's most erotic wet dream, and it plays this fact up. The main female character, Lala, doesn't seem to have any issues with nudity, and she has a bad tendency of walking around the house naked, much to the embarrassment of our resident harem hero, Yuuki Rito. Other situations also occur that would never happen in real life, and considering more than half of these situations are at school, that makes it even more impossible. Seriously, who's ever heard of a school that allows girls to dress in dominatrix costumes and feed people cake with their boobs? Is that even allowed in public? Probably not. Ah, but I'm digressing. The fact is, this isn't a story that most people would read for the plot, and some people might even look at this manga and assume there is no plot to be found.

All that being said, I really did enjoy this manga. Surprised? You probably shouldn't. It's no secret that I'm a fan of this particular genre. That being said, there is a good reason why I hold this manga in higher regard than other manga of its genre: The female cast. Somehow, Saki Hasemi and Kentaro Yabuki have created a erotic harem manga that contains a cast characters that I actually care about.  None of the characters in here are one-dimensional caricatures of stereotypical archetypes that we've seen dozens of times in harem manga. While I can easily recognize which trope each female was derived from, all of the characters here have a personality beyond their trope. Even the side characters get their development and time in the spotlight. The hopes, dreams, and aspirations of these characters matter to me. I find myself rooting for them, and I love watching their antics and seeing all of the completely messed up scenarios they get into. Also, while I knocked on the story before, To Love Ru actually DOES have a story behind it, even if most people don't read it for the story. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't really about Rito Yuuki becoming King of the Galaxy. If anything, To Love Ru is sci-fi mixed with slice of life. The whole "marriage candidate" issue is there, but it's in the background. What this manga really deals with is the interaction between characters and their continued development. A lot of what we see is simply Rito and the girls going about their daily lives, which is always amusing to watch.

Like in every form of media, there are the favorites. Some of us readers even have a tendency to fall in love with fictional characters. If I had to choose my manga crush, then it would have to be Lala Satalin Deviluke. I like how she's different from most leading females of this genre. Usually, in a harem story, the main female is either the best friend, or the tsundere, or the tsundere best friend. Lala is none of those. She's cheerful and bright. She's positive and optimistic. Everything that she does is for the sake of having fun and making friends, and she makes friends with everybody - except for a few people who don't like her, and even then, she is still abnormally friendly to those people, mostly because she's oblivious to their dislike of her. Now, there are a few things about her that I don't like. Lala is notoriously naive. It's more than just how she doesn't understand why nudity is wrong. She doesn't seem to grasp what it really means to be in a relationship. In fact, I'm almost positive that she has no real idea how relationships work. That being said, Lala is also the sweetest girl I've seen in a manga. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body, and I like how supportive she is of her friends. In terms of characters that I like, Lala is my number one, all-time favorite.

The character who I'm the most conflicted about is Rito Yuuki. Out of all the characters present, he is the most one-dimensional. If the girls are vibrant splashes of color that mix together and create rainbows, then Rito is white, a blank slate through which the girls can paint whatever colors they want over him. In other words, he smacks of the Unlucky Everydude. He's also the most accident prone Accidental Pervert that I've ever seen. Period. Despite this flat, one-dimensional-ness, I do think Rito has some good points. For the sake of not spoiling the plot, I won't go into any of those points. Just know that, while falling into the typical tropes of a harem protagonist, he does possess some redeeming qualities.

Now, then, having said all this, it would be remiss of me not take talk about the issue that is prevalent within this series: The objectification of women. Defined as "a woman being viewed primarily as an object of male sexual desire, rather than as a whole person," I feel that there are many people who, upon glancing at this manga, will automatically assume that it objectifies women - and it would be very hard to deny this. The fact is, To Love Ru is rank with fanservice. It's entire plot centers around its fanservice, making any body who reads this manga automatically come under the impression that women are being turned into objects of lust, and honestly, considering how many teenage males likely read this manga and only see the fanservice, I can't blame people for thinking this way. It's hard to view this manga and not assume that it's completely disrespectful towards women. In fact, I won't even deny that there are many parts in this manga that made me downright uncomfortable. However, as I mentioned previously, all of the female cast in this manga are very well-developed. Their personalities are vibrant and easily distinguishable from each other. For the people who can look past the fanservice, they'll find a cast of fully developed characters that have their own personalities, desires, goals, dreams, and ideals. While I don't condone many of the situations in here, I do believe that we should take this fact into account. Objectifying women is turning them into objects of lust and desire. However, while this was certainly done, and those parts made me uncomfortable and almost not want to continue, the strength of To Love Ru's female cast kept me in the running. I wanted to see what these girls would do as the story unfolded.

All of that being said, To Love Ru is a manga that I feel many people won't like. I'm pretty sure that most women who, after reading the first volume of this manga, would turn away in disgust. And I wouldn't blame them for doing so. A manga like this is not something that can be read easily. This is guilty pleasure at its finest - or its worst. I would be embarrassed to read something like this in public. Despite that, I can claim that I really enjoyed reading this series, and I'm going to continue on to read To Love Ru Darkness, the sequel series. At the same time, I'd completely understand if someone else read this series and decided to stop after finishing the first volume.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chivalry of a Failed Knight

Chivalry of a Failed Knight is by far one of my favorite series to have come out in recent times. This is a series that, in spite of its sorta cliche'd storyline, breaks many tropes and actually does a good job of developing characters and further telling an excellent story. While there is at least one anime this season that, storywise, could be considered better, in terms of pure personal enjoyment, this is the best.

The story itself is nothing new. It's about a young man named Ikki Kurogane, who attends a magic school where people battle using blazers, weapons formed from the soul, or something. The magic high school cliche has been quite popular recently, and anyone watching this anime would feel that this story is a stereotypical light novel adaptation. I've even heard snobs who call themselves anime critics claiming that this anime is "light novel trash" because its an adaptation. Of course, most of those people completely ignore the fact that most anime is adapted from something, whether it's a manga or a light novel - and they all have their cliches.

The story begins when Ikki, after doing his daily morning exercise, enters his dorm room to find a half-naked girl changing. Rather than blushing and stuttering out apologies, Ikki does what any good gentleman would do to make a girl feel less uncomfortable: Take of his own clothes so they're even. This is the first of many standard cliche's that are broken in Chivalry of a Failed Knight, and is one of the reasons I love this anime. I love how the main character's not some dweeb who follows standard harem dynamics. Ikki Kurogane is the only protagonist I have ever seen who's done this, and for that reason, he instantly became one of my favorites.

Following Ikki Kurogane, you've got Stella Vermillion, the princess to a small Kingdom who needs strong magical knights to protect themselves. Stella is, to put it bluntly, adorable. She starts off with a typical tsundere feel. However, the more you see of her, the less tsundere she becomes. In fact, rather than a tsundere I'd say she's a normal girl who happens to have some minor tsundere traits. And when she does show off her tsundere side, she's usually more dere than tsun, which is what makes her so adorable. Furthermore, unlike most tsunderes who deny her feelings and become unstable and violent for no reason, Stella doesn't deny anything. I like how she's able to talk about her feelings, rather than simply go, "B-baka! It's not like I want to be with you or anything!" Honestly, the standard tsundere traits get old, which makes her a more than welcome character.

While the story itself is nice, one of my greatest pleasures, and the reason this ranks as my top anime for 2015, was watching the growing relationship between Stella and Ikki. You almost never see a couple in anime who officially become a couple. Most of the time, the couple will dance around each other for the entire season, and when the season ends, you're left scratching your head wondering if they're a couple or just a tsukkomi duo who have a thing for each other. Not so here. In Chivalry, Ikki and Stella are the OTP. I don't even have to ship them! These two ship themselves! This is the only anime to have satisfied my desire for a good romance between the two protagonists so completely.

Everything else about this anime is pretty decent. The artwork is surprisingly nice, though not the best. I actually enjoy the artistic style and liberties taken throughout this anime. The person who made this must have been a woman, too, because their sense of fashion is impressive. I can't see a dude being so attentive to clothing. Furthermore, the animation is well-done. It's not amazing, but it's good enough that I didn't see any errors with the sequences or massive problems, like characters moving outside of their base models. The fight scenes, in particular, were quite stellar, and I enjoyed watching how the battles in this played out.

This anime does have its fan service, but the fan service is very mild and doesn't come around very often. The fan service was also tasteful enough that people who don't like it could probably tolerate it. I actually thought some of the moments were cute, especially since, aside from the first moment where Ikki walks in on Stella while she's changing, almost every single fan service-y moment was instigated by Stella herself - which is just another reason I like Stella so much. Like Ikki with his, "I saw you naked, so I'll let you see me naked," attitude, Stella breaks away from traditional tsundere tropes and becomes more than what her archetype dictates. Overall, this is my favorite anime of the season, and if it ever gets a season two, you can be sure I'll watch it.

Artwork: 9/10
Animation: 9.5/10
Sound: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Story: 10/10
Personal Enjoyment: 10/10
Total: 9.810

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Magical Index Volume 4

A Certain Magical Index volume 4 is probably the weakest of the four volumes that I’ve currently read. Despite that, I do not believe this is a bad story. Indeed, the combination of humor and suspense presented a strangely interesting contrast. I enjoyed reading this volume, even if I don’t think the writing itself was as crisp or the story as good as previous volumes.

Before I get into the bad stuff, why don’t I share what I liked about this volume? Volume 4 starts off with Touma Kamijou going on vacation with his family - only to discover that, one morning, everyone he knows has somehow switched bodies. His mom has turned into Index, his cousin has become Misaka, and Index has turned into his blue-haired friend from school. Everything is messed up.

Angel Fall. That is the name given to the spell which has somehow swapped out people’s bodies, and it is the most unique type of spell I have read about. While the way this spell’s mechanics are described is confusing, I believe the theory behind its conception makes for an enjoyable plot point. It also does a lot for the comedy of this volume, of which there was plenty, such as when Index, her body swapped with the one Touma calls Blue Hair, is seen wearing her one-piece swimsuit while wearing the body of a man. It sounds confusing, but when you read it, it makes sense. The disturbing illustration of a male decked out in a frilly bathing suit also helps.

The story combines a blend of humor, suspense, and action to tell its story. I thought the humor was a nice touch, however, the switch from humor to suspense could be a little jarring occasionally. The shift from one tone to the other wasn’t always smooth. That being said, there were a number of plot twists that I didn’t expect while reading this. Despite having seen the anime, I still found myself surprised at certain points, which I enjoyed because it meant I couldn’t predict everything. On the other hand, certain parts of this story were more tedious to read than they were to watch. The fight scene at the end was a snore fest. I didn’t even care who won, not because I knew what would happen, but because I just didn’t feel anything about the fight.

Another thing I would like to note is that Kiyotaka Haimura is as sloppy as ever. Some of his illustrations were impeccable, and others sucked. I’ve noticed in this volume that Kiyotaka seems to excel at drawing nude females. There are two illustrations in here, one color and the other gray scale, of a naked Kaori Kanzaki. It was really well done. Consequently, all the others vary from just okay to “I want to gouge my eyes with a rusty spork.” Oddly enough, the only other drawing aside from nude Kanzaki that I can say was any good is the one of Blue Hair wearing a frilly one-piece bathing suit meant for little girls. I’m not sure how to feel about that.

Despite the flaws found within this volume, I still enjoyed the story and am looking forward to reading volume 5.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Freezing Manga up to chapter 196

This is a review of the manga from chapter 1 all the way up to it's current chapter of 196.

What is there to say about this manga? I honestly have mixed feelings on it. There are a lot of problems with this manga; continuity issues, plot holes, massive contradictions of previous important plot points in later chapters. Seriously, the number of plot issues that this story has is incredible. Despite only having 196 chapters, this manga has contradicts itself almost as much as Naruto did - and that manga had 700 chapters!

Despite that, I still really like this series. There are several reasons for this, but I'm only going to get into one of them right now. And that reason is badass female protagonists.

Think I'm joking? Yeah. No. This is no joke. Freezing is a manga where every single woman in it can kick a man's ass six ways to Sunday. Actually, if any of these women kicked a man's ass, said ass would be blown into bloody chunks. That's how incredible these women are.

Review will continue as more chapters are released.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Princess Lover

Princess Lover is a harem anime that tries to combine action and politics with standard harem dynamics and comedy. I say tries because it mostly fails. Sure, the art is decent enough, and every female is drawn to perfection, but this anime tried to be too many things at once.

Anyone who's ever watched a harem anime knows that to adequately portray a harem and not have the entire story fall apart, there are several prerequisites that you must have: A strong cast of femalecharacters who, for one reason or another, want to get into the main character's pants; a main protagonist who is bland enough that they can fit into this archetype without coming on too strong and ruining the story; and a plot that carefully balances each girls interaction with the main character so that no female comes out stronger than any other female. In that regard, for the first six episodes of this anime, it was successful. Despite how bland and uninspired the show was at first, I could easily watch it in the same guilty pleasure manner that some people might read erotica novels.

The problem comes after episode six, where the story tries to shift from a harem romantic comedy to a political/thriller... comedy. Yeah, I don't get it either. In either event, the problem with this sort of change halfway through the story is that by only having six episodes dedicated to "romantic comedy shenanigans between protagonist B and his harem," none of the females get developed enough for me to really care about them. I feel like that's kind of a shame, too, as I actually think all of these characters have potential. Charlotte comes across as a slightly naive but devious princess, Sylvia is a strong young woman with a righteous heart and is skilled with a sword, Seika is a successful business woman and fashion designer, and Yu is an extremely kind young woman who's served Teppei's grandfather since she was rescued from an orphanage.

I think if this anime had more episodes, or maybe had been given a second season, it could have been decent. It would never win any awards, and I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't love the harem genre, but it would have at least been okay. As it stands, without the cast of female characters getting the development they need to make people care about them, this anime kind of falls flat. It's even worse because after the story shifts gears from harem comedy to political thriller, it still has the same comedic tone as it did when it was a harem comedy. This means that all of the tension that should have been present during this shift is demolished by the pointless comedy. All in all, this was an anime that could have been okay, but lost its charm halfway through.

Artwork: 8/10
Animation: 6/10
Sound: 5/10
Characters: 6/10
Story: 5/10
Personal Enjoyment: 6/10
Total: 6/10