Wednesday, October 19, 2016

2016 Fall Season Anime

This is a list of the anime that I have decided to watch this year.

  1. My Wife is the Student Council President+
  2. Bloodivoures
  3. Kiss Him, Not Me
  4. Lastorage Incited WIXOSS
  5. Flip Flappers
  6. Girlish Number
  7. Natsume Yojin-Cho 5
  8. Keijo
  9. Hibike Euphonium Season 2
  10. Drifters
  11. Izetta the Last Witch

Monday, October 3, 2016

Re:Zero -The Longest Review Ever-

Re:Zero -The Aesthetic Appeal-

2016 has seen a good number of entertaining anime. Shows like ReLIFE, Food Wars The Second Plate, Kiznaiver, Planetarian, Erased, My Hero Academia, Hey! My Name is Sakumoto, And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online, Flying Witch, High School Fleet, Heavy Object, and a number of other anime that I'm not going to name right now. The point is, a lot of really entertaining anime have come out this year. Among those anime is Re:Zero Starting Life in Another World.

Re:Zero is an anime that exploded in popularity almost overnight, and I'm not saying this just because it's my favorite anime of 2016. I remember when I finished watching the first episode, which had been split into two parts, and then going onto facebook the next day and finding a facebook page already created. That in itself wouldn't have been shocking. However, this page already had over 30,000 likes. Since then, that page has expanded and now has around 160,000 likes. There are also two more pages that I follow, one of which has 155,000 likes and the other with around 60,000.

If that wasn't enough, then there's also the fact that this anime has received more votes on Crunchyroll per episode within the first few days than any other series. This anime has been so hyped that I'm pretty sure it's already beaten numerous other popular series in terms of how many fans it's gained within a short time frame.

That's why I'm going to be doing a multi-video series explaining what I believe makes Re:Zero so popular, as well as what I feel makes it such a great anime. Due to my computers inability to produce videos longer than 15 minutes, I plan to focus each video on a specific aspect of the series. There will probably be 4, 5, maybe even as many as 6 videos depending on how many aspects of this anime I decide to talk about.

The first aspect of the series that I want to talk about is the aesthetic appeal. Re:Zero is an anime that boasts some beautiful artwork and what I like to call animated cinematography. Throughout the series we're given numerous large, sweeping shots of cityscapes, landscapes, and various gorgeous locations all rendered in breathtaking detail. I was particularly impressed with the sunset shots, which seemed to be a favorite of this anime. There are many of them.

What I enjoyed about these shots wasn't just how pretty they were, but how they showed us the size of this world. The world of Re:Zero is massive. I remember watching the first episode when Subaru is first sent to this Lugnica. We're given a kind of close up of Natsuki Subaru, and then it pulls back before shifting into a wide view of the capital city of Lugnica. Just looking at how wide and sprawling that cityscape is as it mixes with the viridian of the forest, and then you have that interesting view of the castle in the far distance was incredible. It was scenes like this that made me really think about how utterly massive this world must be.

Another visual appeal of the series was how diverse Lugnica's people are. Throughout the series we're given more than just humans. There's lizardmen, dog people, cat people, and they're not just humans with cat ears. A fare few of them look legitimately like anthropomorphic animals. I even remember seeing one person who looked like an otter in priest robes and an alligator. Even the characters that you only see passing Subaru throughout various scenes gives the series a sense of their being a lot more to this world than the small story about Subaru and his misadventures.

And speaking of Subaru, can I just say that I really like his character design. First, he's got these sort of narrowed eyes and slicked back hair, which are generally associated with thugs in Japan. It actually doesn't necessarily fit the “otaku stereotype” and has often made me wonder if his looks might be part of the reason he became a NEET. I feel like there's a backstory behind his appearance and how people back in his world associated with them.

And, of course, we can't forget the tracksuit. The tracksuit is actually an Otaku stereotype in Japan. I don't know how true it is since I've never been to Japan, but I've read on several blogs that a lot people who fall under the Otaku/NEET/Hikkikomori stereotype wear tracksuits because it's easy to change into and out of, and these types of people generally never leave their house except to buy food. This is actually the reason I like seeing Subaru in the tracksuit. Thanks to how unique this anime is among other isekai anime, seeing this stereotype taken and used in a way that disregards most of what we expect from this genre makes his outfit stand out.

That being said, if we're talking about main characters, then there's no way I can forget the heroine. From the moment Emilia was introduced, I was in love with her character design. Her unique appearance practically screams main heroine in all caps. First, she's the only character with silver hair. Her eyes are purple, but the pupils are green, which is an interesting artistic touch and makes me wonder if this has something to do with her status as a half elf.

Speaking of half elf, Emilia really falls into that archetype with her short, pointed ears. They immediately stood out when I first noticed them, and there's a nice bit of asymmetry going with the added white rose that's asfixed to the right side of her hair, and the butterfly hair clip that's attached to her bangs on the other side. The flower is a lot more prominent, especially because the purple ribbon offsets the white rose, which is compliments her hair.

Following her face, Emilia's introduction has her wearing a white dress with purple accents and some gold thrown in for color. I don't think I need to mention this, but the outfit really flatters her. From the very first glance, the outfit is designed to make her stand out. Furthermore, this isn't the only outfit that we see her in. Because this anime is about Subaru. Emilia isn't always seen since she's usually busy learning how to become a ruler. To make up for her lack of screen time, the director has her change clothes numerous times as a way to make her stand out more. I know some people who will debate this point, but I think it does a good job of that. I can always notice Emilia the moment she's entered a scene, and my eyes tend to track her even when she's not necessarily the subject of the scene.

To top it off, Emilia is almost always seen with Puck, the cute mascot character who is actually likable. Puck is one of those characters who's cuteness as been maximized. He's like that adorable kitty you want to take home with you. In some ways, I might even call him a show stealer. What makes his aesthetic even more appealing is how he can transform into a huge ass monster that's anything but cute.

There are numerous other characters who've been given a design that enhances the visual appeal and makes the anime shine. Rem and Ram are two such characters. They're maids and twin sisters. Now, maids are sort of a staple in Japanese culture. Maids often appear in anime and manga because they symbolize what many Japanese consider to be appealing in women: attractive, subservient, and cute.
Rem and Ram are the characters who I feel were designed to encapsulate the “moe” character archetype.

Unlike most anime, which have threadbare maid designs that are meant to be more sexually appealing, and are often worn on the character with the largest amount of cleavage, the designs on Rem and Ram are a bit more modest. They strike a decent balance between being sexy and being functional. I also like how they're contrasting Red and Blue hair and eyes make them stand out from each other.

I feel like there was no expense spared when producing this anime. I don't even want to think about what kind of budget this series had. Not only was the diverse world and myriad of characters gorgeous to look at from every angle, but the animation feels incredibly fluid from the first frame to the last. While I did notice a few fudge ups with some visual effects, overall, I feel like this anime had some of the best animation I've ever seen.

I think this sort of fluid animation can be seen best in the fight with Elsa. The magical effects actually looked real. When Emilia and Puck were shooting ice spikes at Elsa like fireworks at a festival, they looked like actual spears of ice being hurtled towards a target, and when they struck something, they actually created a freezing effect along the ground. Incidentally, this freezing effect was used to trap Elsa's foot.

My favorite part of this battle was actually when Rienhard appeared. I really loved how they made Elsa jump around and run along the walls. The way the animators blurred and stretched her body to make it look like she was moving at super human speeds was an interesting visual choice, and when we were given a first-person perspective of her crawling along the walls like a spider monkey, it was creepy as fuck.

Outside of the visuals, another key factor that I feel increased the aesthetic appeal of this anime was the music and how the directors used it. I'm not going to talk about the opening and ending themes yet, since I'll probably do those in a separate video. Instead, I'm going to talk about how this anime used music during its scenes to enhance the emotions that the director wanted you to feel.

This anime is filled to the brim with a number of interesting instrumental songs. Going back to the episode where Subaru fights Elsa, the episode starts off with an almost off-time tune that enhances the increases the tension between Emilia, Subaru, Rom, and Felt when they're having a stand off. As the stand off continues, more instruments join the music to thicken that feeling of the scene reaching a potentially fatal conclusion. However, the tension soon fades when Subaru spots the flower on Emilia's clothing, which was given to her by the girl they had rescued together in a previous timeline. The music fades at just the right time. A mere instant after the music dies, Subaru spots Elsa getting ready to attack Emilia.

The best example of how this anime used music was during the more psychologically damaging moments. I feel like the greatest example is in episode 18. Subaru wakes up after barely surviving against the White Wale. The music that's playing is an electric piano, and the tune has a melancholy feel, which contrasts with Ram's casual demeanor. However, this only serves to enhance Subaru's emotional distress, which you can see in his face. At one point, the instruments shift to what I believe is a violin orchestra, though don't quote me on that. At this point, Subaru tells Ram that Rem is dead and wallows in his own helplessness. At that moment, Ram asks Subaru, “Who is Rem.” The abrupt ceasing of music that happens here is almost jarring, and it really gives you this feeling where you can't help but wonder what's going on. This is especially true because the music starts a few seconds after this question, but the tone is different, darker, and it accompanies Subaru's increasingly desperate voice.

Natsuki Subaru -The Hero You Never Asked For-

Natsuki Subaru is the titular character of RE:Zero Starting Life in Another World, and he's one of those character who's very existence has sparked much debate within the anime community. Some people love him, claiming that he's realistic, while others hate him, perhaps for that very same reason.

I don't think there's any denying that Natsuki Subaru is a great character. The fact that he sparks so much debate among fans proves that. But what makes him work as a character that gets so much attention? Why does he, out of all the tracksuit wearing Otaku who've been sent to another world, receive such high praise and loathing in equal amounts?

Taking a look at the very start of the series, we immediately get a feel for what kind of person Subaru is. We watch him as he lazily, slothfully, reads a manga at a convenience store. We watch as his empty eyes flicker across the page and he mumbles to himself. Taking a look at him here, in his natural element, I feel like we have a clear view of Natsuki Subaru and what kind of person he is. What stood out the most to me during this sequence was how empty he seems. It's not the same emptiness as most light novel protagonists, who are no more than blank slates that are used as self-insert characters. He feels more like a soul who simply has nothing going for him, which is the general outlook that most Japanese people have of Otakus.

When Subaru is suddenly transported to another world, he instantly recognizes what happened. Rather than panic, as would be the natural response of most people, Subaru seems excited. This is shown in his cringe worthy dialogue and over the top actions. He's not freaked out in the least. In fact, he seems to think of this as his chance to shine as “the main protagonist.”

I've heard a lot of debate on the subject of Subaru's reaction, or lack there of, as some people have described it. Some people feel like Subaru's reaction was unrealistic because he didn't panic enough. However, I actually think Subaru's reaction is exactly what we should expect from someone like him. While it's not shown, from his general appearance, demeanor, and attitude, it's easy to see that Subaru is the kind of person who stayed at home watching anime and playing video games all day, only going out when he needed to buy something.

In many ways, Subaru is the by-product of the media that he's consumed. What's more, there are numerous isekai anime out there, which I feel lends credence to Subaru's reaction to his new predicament. He's consumed so much of this media where regular Otaku's are sent to another world that not only does he realize what's happened, but he's become disillusioned enough to believe that being sent to another world somehow makes him special, that he's become one of the chosen few, and that he was sent here for a reason, and that this reason is because he's going to be the hero of this world. What makes his actions more believable is how Otaku view themselves.

Everyone wants to be special. However, I feel like Otakus take this to another level. This is why so many anime that pander to Otakus feature tropes like overpowered main characters and harems. They're designed to empower and glorify Otaku culture.

What makes Subaru different is that his existence doesn't glorify Otaku culture. Everything this guy does throughout the series is cringe worthy. Near the beginning, he spouts atrocious and arrogant lines that made me want to slam my face into a wall, because a facepalm wouldn't be enough to deal with the cringiness. In some ways, in many ways, Natsuki Subaru is the exact opposite of a traditional light novel protagonist. Instead of glorifying Otaku culture, he does the opposite by showing all of the worst traits that are often associated with Otaku. It's sort of like staring into a mirror and only seeing the things about yourself that you hate the most.

Despite how cringe-inducing Subaru is, he does have some outstanding qualities, such as his desire and determination to help Emilia during the first arc. Even though his lines still made me facepalm, I really admired his determination and willingness to help, even though it was obvious that he was still afraid of Elsa. The fact that, in the end, he not only succeeded but also saved Emilia's life when Elsa tried to kill her with a surprise attack, has a much greater impact because it's something that I honestly didn't think he could do, unlike most light novel protagonists who only struggle when the plot demands it.

During the next arc, we see more of Subaru and his ridiculously meta dialogue and poorly veiled anime references. By this point, I actually felt like his dialogue was kind of charming. I thought his attempts at wooing Emilia, who doesn't even seem to realize that Subaru is completely crushing on her, were cute. It helps that he and Puck got along great. Puck's added cuteness does an amazing job of softening Subaru's thuggish appearance and terrible lines.

I almost feel like this arc served as a method of buffing Subaru's character up while also slowly breaking him down. In the beginning, Subaru works really hard to be useful and spends a lot of time with Emilia, even convincing her to go on a date with him. Then he dies. He goes to sleep and wakes up the next morning in the bed that he first woke up in, a bed that he hadn't slept in since the beginning of the arc, and the scars on his hands, which he gained from cutting himself while learning to cook, are all gone.

Subaru's emotional paradigm slowly shifts from light hearted to darker. At first he tries to do everything over again, going under the assumption that he can figure out what killed him if he retraces his steps. This doesn't actually help, though. On the fifth day, the day where he was killed last time, Subaru decides to stay up all night and ends up suffering instead of just dying in his sleep. First, he's hit by some kind of strange nausea, which we later learn was caused by a curse. Then, when he leaves his room to seek help, he is brutally attacked and murdered by someone, though he never saw who.

After this, Subaru decides to confront his attacker. This is the point where Subaru breaks. When he's killed and his life resets from his previous “save point”, Subaru decides that he doesn't want to be near anyone. He withdraws into himself and doesn't bother with all of the actions he took previously. He shuts himself away, convincing Beatrice to protect him. As a result of his actions, Rem is killed in his place, which makes Subaru realize that the person who cursed him wasn't Rem or Ram. Of course, at this stage, none of that matters because Subaru already irreversibly screwed up this time line.

Subaru undergoes another shift during this episode. At the end, he kills himself to reset time by willingly leaping off a cliff. I'm not sure if this is stupidity or what, but since he has his Return by Death ability, I can't argue with the results. Subaru returns back to his previous save point and decides that the first thing he needs to do is win the trust of his new companions. We then watch a desperate Subaru as he struggles to earn Rem and Ram's trust. I can practically feel his desperation during this time. The way he ramped up his cringe-y Otakuness in a vain effort to endear himself to them was so well-done. It contrasted with the “thought speaking” that we hear the longer this went on. It wasn't until Emilia, who was already pretty worried when she sees how he's acting, allows him to release all of his pent up frustration and sorrow.

This is the turning point in the arc, because the next few episodes are basically Subaru overcoming all of the obstacles that were presented to him. Thanks to Emilia, he earned Rem's trust, which enables him to find out what had cursed him. Then he earns Rem's affection by saving her in the last arc of this season.

All's well that ends well, right?


In most anime, this would be the point where Subaru becomes the hero that everyone wishes they could be. Instead, Subaru takes a different turn, a more realistic turn. He becomes arrogant. It's no surprise. After facing off against such hardships, overcoming such hurdles, any normal person would become drunk off their own sense of self-importance. In some ways, this arrogance is deserved. However, Subaru shows us the worst and ugliest side of humanity's arrogance during the next arc, and it's here where I feel Re:Zero differentiates itself from other anime of the isekai genre.

This arc introduces a new problem to the anime. We've already learned from Roswaal that Emilia is one of several candidates who are next in line for the throne. Subaru travels with Emilia under the pretense of thanking the people who helped him when he first arrived in Lugnica and having his magic gate, which he damaged during his fight with the Mabeast, healed.

We can see at the beginning how Subaru's arrogance has gotten the better of him when Julius kisses Emilia on the hand and he responds with jealousy. However, it's not until Subaru muscles his way into the meeting where all of the king candidates are that we can see how low he's fallen. This fact is further emphasized when he accepts Julius challenge and gets his ass handed to him, and now comes the clincher. After being beaten by Julius, he is confronted by Emilia. Before this, he had actually made several promises to Emilia: He would not do anything reckless and he would wait at the inn with Rem. When Emilia asks Subaru why he decided to fight Julius, his answer is that he did it all for her, because she saved him and he's repaying her.

The problem here is that Emilia doesn't remember saving him. The timeline in which Emilia rescued Subaru is already gone. The only one who remembers what happened is Subaru. Frustrated, drowning in self-importance and arrogance, Subaru goes off on Emilia, claiming that he's done so much for her, that she should be more grateful, that she should be indebted to him. Emilia agrees that she owes him a lot and decides to end things here.

What we see after this is Subaru going through a downward spiral of denial and despair. Each episode becomes more and more hopeless as the tragedies that he faces escalates. Halfway through this arc, Subaru's mind even breaks and he becomes a vegetable. And just when you thought Subaru could not get any lower, he surprises you by showing us just how scumy he can be. I feel like this arc is showing us how low humans can become when they're back is against the wall. All of Subaru's faults are thrown into his face by the king candidates who he tries to make help him. It isn't until episode 17, when Subaru confronts Emilia after miraculously making it to the Roswaal estate, that he realizes just how little he can do, and it's not until episode 18, when he is killed by Pack after killing Emilia, that he realizes how little everyone else expects out of him.

After being killed by Pack, Subaru is forced to confront all of the things that he ignored: his weakness, his inability to do anything, the fact that no one expected anything from him, and his own self-loating. I feel like this episode represents both the lowest and highest points of Subaru's evolution here. After having failed numerous times to become the main hero that he feels his owed to him in this world, he tries to convince Rem to run away with him. What makes this point so low is because Subaru doesn't love Rem. He loves Emilia. However, he's trying to convince Rem, a girl he doesn't love, to runaway with him as a consolation prize. Rem realizes this, of course, which is why she convinces him not to run away, but I'll get to that when I talk about Rem in another video.

I've mentioned this before, but in a lot of ways, Subaru is the kind of otaku/nerd that many of us don't want to be. Having watched many light novel anime in my time, I wasn't used to seeing a character like Subaru, who isn't the glorified otaku protagonist that's special from episode 1. And as much as I loved seeing Subaru when he actually succeeds when everyone expected him to fail, I loved seeing him when he realized that he was nothing even more. In some ways, I feel like Subaru is less of a protagonist and more like an non playable character from a video game who suddenly became the main protagonist. He oftentimes finds himself in over his head, but he pushes through and succeeds even while he's annoying the crap out of everyone around him with his genre-savvy awareness and self-importance. It's these massive flaws mixed in with the few good traits that shine through that make Subaru one of the best and worst characters that I've ever seen. He is, in many ways, the hero that you never asked for.

Emilia -Silver-haired Half-elf Heroines-

Emilia is the main heroine and love interest of Natsuki Subaru, and I don't think anyone can deny her visual appeal. From her silver hair and purple eyes, to her outstanding dress, Emilia stands out among heroines in terms of how aesthetically pleasing she is. But beneath the surface of her pretty face and pointy ears lies the real reason she's the main heroine of Re:Zero.

True to her role as the main heroine, Emilia embodies many of the traits that a lot of people find appealing. She's kind to everyone she meets, she goes out of her way to help people even when doing so wouldn't benefit her, and she has a forgiving attitude that makes her extremely likable. She's also socially awkward, has trouble expressing her feelings, and is incredibly naive, which makes her really cute. I feel like her very concept was made to epitomize the traits that people consider to be “main heroine” traits. In some ways, I actually feel like Emilia is more of a main character than Subaru, despite how this anime is about Subaru.

I'd like you all to imagine what this world would be like if Subaru never showed up. If no otaku from another world suddenly appeared in Lugnica, what do you think this anime would be about? Chances are it would be about Emilia. The reason is because of the lofty goals, position, and expectations that have been placed on her within the series. We learn from Roswaal in episode 5 that Emilia is one of several candidates for the throne of Lugnica. During the time when Subaru is learning how to be a good servant, we're given occasional glimpses of what Emilia is doing. The times when we see her sitting behind a desk, writing on something or reading something, are placed in here to reveal that she's learning how to become a proper ruler. If Subaru had never entered the picture, I'm positive that this story would have been about Emilia as she tries to ascend the throne.

But while this is certainly a lofty goal worthy of a main character, it's not everything that makes Emilia who she is, or what makes her shine despite getting so little screen time. Throughout the series we're given tiny glimpse of her personality. Whenever she's with Subaru and he's acting goofy, Emilia shows us a socially awkward side of her that, at first glance, seems like nothing more than a cute quirk. It isn't until much later that we learn that her inability to sometimes comprehend others or take their words at face value is because of a much darker reason.

One of the scenes I would like to highlight for you all is just before Subaru dies for the first time after coming to Roswaal's mansion. Subaru is telling Emilia about all the fun things he's been doing, and how he went into the village that day and had to deal with all the kids and a dog biting him. He asks Emilia if she wants to go with him, but Emilia turns her head. She states that “it's not that she doesn't want to go with him, but that she might cause trouble.”

This sort of scene continues throughout this arc. It doesn't seem like much at first. However, we were previously given a hint as to why she's so reticent to travel into the village with Subaru. It's at the end of part 2 episode 1 and the beginning of episode 2. In part 1 of the first episode, Emilia tells Subaru that her name is Satella, so naturally, Subaru calls her that when he catches up to her at the end of part 2. However, the time line from before has vanished, and so Emilia never gave him that name. He's shocked when she gets angry, but then she tells him not to call her by the name of the “jealous witch”. We learn later on that the “witch” is referring to a woman named Satella, who is one of the most feared and hated people in Lugnica's history. In episode 4, when Emilia confronts Subaru, Felt, and Rom, Felt is startled when she learns that Emilia is a half-elf. Her words in that episode point to another fact: Emilia looks exactly like Satella.

If there's one thing that's popular among shounen anime, it's that we love to see our heroes as the “underdog”. There's nothing greater than watching someone who is supposed to be weaker suddenly triumph. There's a reason anime like Naruto, and more recently, My Hero Academy, are so popular. Oddly enough, Emilia embodies this shounen trait more than Subaru does. For her entire life, she's had to live with the hatred that comes from being not only a half elf, but someone who resembles the most hated person in history. When looking at her during the meeting where they introduce the king candidates, we can see that she's the underdog. No one wants her to win. In fact, I'm pretty sure that many of these people would be happier if she dropped dead.

This is what makes her such an appealing main heroine. While Emilia is never given a whole lot of screen time, the bit of screen time that she's given is irreplaceable and does an excellent job of slowly revealing more about her and the hardships she has to face.

I think it's because she's had to constantly deal with the hatred of others that she comes to appreciate Subaru, and it is also what ultimately helped drive a wedge between them. During the last scene of episode 13, when Subaru tries to justify how he broke his promise to her, Emilia tells him that she thought he was going to be different, that he would treat her the same way he treats everyone else. I could almost feel Emilia's heart shattering with those words. When someone has been scorned their whole life, the only thing they want is to be treated the same as everyone else, especially if the circumstances for that scorn are beyond their control. However, it's this moment that reveals something else about Emilia's character.

Throughout this entire moment, I feel like everything Emilia did was for Subaru's sake instead of her own. Subaru kept pushing himself because of her, kept getting injured because of her. In the end, she decided that it would be better if she cut ties with him. If they were no longer associated with each other, then maybe Subaru would stop hurting himself for her sake. Of course, it's not as if Emilia is perfect. I'm sure that a part of her reason for pushing Subaru away was for her own sake. It's not easy seeing someone push themselves so hard for you when you can't understand why. At the same time, I feel like Emilia's kindness is almost at the level of a martyr, which partly caused by the fact that Emilia doesn't believe she deserves to be happy.

These two facts, the fact that Emilia is more concerned about Subaru than herself, and the fact that she doesn't believe she deserves happiness, are expanded upon later on. When Subaru returns to the Roswaal estate and tries to convince Emilia to leave with him, she doesn't understand and therefore won't go with him. Subaru then goes off on a rant. When he finishes, rather than getting upset, Emilia asks “Why are you crying, as if you're in such pain?” This tells me that she realizes Subaru is suffering, even if she doesn't understand why. Rather than just assuming that he was yelling at her, she recognizes that the person he was yelling at was, in reality, himself. That he was telling himself that nothing he did would make a difference. What makes this moment so impactful is how, even though Emilia is stressed from being a kind candidate, she still shows concern for Subaru.

One of the few things I didn't like about this series was how little screen time Emilia received. I would've liked to see more of what she was doing while Subaru was being traumatized and suffering. That said, the few glimpses we're given are enough for me to confirm that she's also been suffering in her own way. During the time where Subaru is gone, Emilia spends her days alone in the mansion or trying to convince the villagers that it's not safe and they should come up to her mansion where they will be protected. The villages scorn and refusal to listen, combined with the fact that Subaru is no longer there to keep her company, leaves Emilia depressed. For those of you who've watched the closing theme song of the second half, you'll see what I'm talking about. During the closing theme, we're shown a cartoonish version of what Emilia's life was like after cutting ties with Subaru. Later on, we're also given flashbacks that show the villagers turning her away when she tries to rescue them.

Of course, there is also the fact that everytime Subaru came to the mansion during episodes 14, 15, and 16, Emilia has been killed by a cult that wants her dead. Even if we didn't see her death, it's easy to realize that she likely suffered a great deal before dying.

The final point I'd like to make in this segment is how Emilia is a badass. We don't see this very often because she only fights twice, once against Elsa and once more when the Witch's Cult attacks, but she's actually pretty freaking strong. Sure, she's got Pack on her side, but Puck actually didn't do much outside of the beginning fights with Elsa, and he only gave Emilia a little bit of aid when she fought against one of Betelguease's fingers.

Whether you like Emilia or not, I don't think there are many people who will deny that she has all the makings of a main character.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Bride is a Mermaid Anime Review!

A lot of romantic comedy anime are often hit and miss. Sometimes they're amazing and sometimes they suck complete donkey balls. My Bride is a Mermaid is a slightly older anime, having been created in the earlier 2000s, about a young man who, through a series of unfortunate events and circumstances, ends up getting hitched to a mermaid—which is kind of obvious, seeing how it's in the title. Fortunately for everyone who is curious, My Bride is a Mermaid happens to be one of the better romantic comedies.

Our story begins when Nagasumi Michishio almost drowns while on vacation. Luckily, he's saved. Unluckily, the person who saved him happens to be a mermaid. To make things even worse, the mermaid who saved him was Sun Seto, daughter to the head of the Seto gang, a mermaid yakuza group. As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a law among mermaids that whenever a human sees them in their true form, the mermaid must die in repentance... or something. That part is never explained, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is that this sticky situation can only be resolved without impending death on either side by one thing, and one thing only: Nagasumi and Sun must get married. Too bad her father, Gozaburo Seto, isn't keen on the idea and will do anything to stop this marriage from happening, including murder.

There are a number of aspects that make this anime better than the average harem romantic comedy. For starters, the series doesn't rely on fan service-y gimmicks and threadbare cliches to tell its story. Instead it relies on outrageous events and preposterous scenarios that could never happen in a million years. Things like a submarine suddenly crashing through the gymnasium floor during class, or an epic battle between a mermaid pop idol are pretty commonplace in this series.

Of course, it's not as if the story is free of tropes. However, the tropes used in this anime are used well. Chimp is the perfect example. He's basically the perverted best friend who's only real purpose is to be, well, perverted and humorous. What makes him funnier than most characters of his type is how he's used. A great example is how Chimp can sometimes randomly turn into a “wise old man” archetype character and start spouting ridiculous lines. It's even better because this character archetype was clearly inspired by none other than Master Roshi from Dragon Ball Z.

Going through the episodes, it's clear that My Bride is a Mermaid doesn't contain much in the way of plot, but since this is a romantic comedy, I don't really think that matters. Every episode focuses on delivering off the wall and outrageous comedy, while exploring and further developing characters and character relationships.

Seeing how Sun and Nagasumi are our main characters, it's pretty obvious that they would be the focal point for most of these episodes. However, there are a number of side and support characters who actually get a time to shine. In fact, part of what makes this series better than most is because it gives its other characters enough screen time to properly develop. Even the “Class Rep,” a girl who is so invisible that we never actually learn her name, has several episodes where we get to see her being placed in the spotlight.

This sort of side character development is never more clear than in episode 24, where Kai Mikawa, Nagasumi's rival for Sun Seto's affection, gets a boil on his butt. During this episode, Chimp overhears the doctors talking about Kai and mistakenly assumes they're saying that Kai has contracted a terminal illness and will die soon. Of course, they were only talking about how Kai was insufferable, but he didn't hear that part. The entire episode then deals with Kai as he's treated like a prince, only to learn that he's apparently terminally ill. Despite knowing that what his real illness is—you know, the boil on his backside—Kai ends up believing he's going to die soon, which may or may not be because the entire world apparently said so. This episode would actually be really touching, except you know that Kai isn't really dying, and so the entire episode is just this huge build up for a massive train wreck.

Saying that, the series isn't all fun in games. While every episode delivers a good deal of comedy, there are also some life lessons to be learned, and we get to watch Nagasumi and Sun undergo numerous hurdles as they further their relationship and develop as characters. In most of the episodes, we get to see how these two interact with each other and with others.

One of the most important reasons I enjoyed this series is actually Sun Seto. In a day and age where I feel like a good portion of anime have become standardized to the point where characters are so bland I could replace any one of them with a character from another anime and the story wouldn't suffer, Sun is a breath of fresh air. She's one of those characters that you can't replace. Her personality is unique and every bit as outrageous as the other characters of this series. This allows her to shine as the main heroine.

Episode 22 epitomizes her individuality. During this episode, Lunar requests that Sun act as her boyfriend because she's rehearsing for a movie. Sun agrees. Not only does Sun agree, but she goes all out. The next morning we get to see exactly what Sun's ideal version of a boyfriend looks like. Poor Nagasumi doesn't quite match up. Perhaps it's not surprising, but Sun's idea of a perfect boyfriend is someone who acts like a yakuza thug. She's even got a beard.

It's not just the episodes like this that make Sun a likable main heroine. Outside of having a sweet and kind personality, Sun has these little quirks that make her feel a bit more real, such as her catchphrase, or the fact that she's a complete airhead, or how she panics whenever Mawari—Nagasumi's childhood friend and someone who's life goal is to become a cop—starts talking about following the rules. Little moments like this allow us to see Sun as her own person and not just Nagasumi's trophy wife, which is something that many harem anime suffer from.

Perhaps the prime example of proper main character development is at the halfway point, episode 13. Lunar, a mermaid pop idol and Sun Seto's self proclaimed rival, has fallen in love with Nagasumi. In this episode, her father decides that Nagasumi has to take responsibility and marry into the family, or he will be killed. He's then kidnapped and taken to the Edomae estate. There, he's strong armed into accepting his marriage to Lunar. The timely arrival of Sun, who confesses her feelings to him, sways Nagasumi to take a stand and state that he won't marry Lunar because he's in love with Sun. This sort of development is not only appreciated, but it's also what makes both Sun and Nagasumi more likable than the standard protagonists that newer anime of the same genre have a tendency to produce.

Another thing that I really like is how they properly reuse a joke in a way that, despite having already been used, remains funny even after using it again. In the first episode, Nagasumi and his parents are dragged to the bottom of the sea, where Gozaburo is waiting for them. After they arrive, Masa, one of the Seto gangs thugs and Gozaburo's right hand man, performs mouth to mouth resuscitation, essentially stealing Nagasumi's first kiss. This joke is revisited several times. In fact, whenever Nagasumi is in Masa's presence, he gets all starry eyed. Adding to the humor is the fact that Nagasumi's mother also gets starry eyed whenever Masa is around. This joke culminates until the last few episodes of the season, where we learn that Masa has lost his memory and is coming close to regaining it. This episode features an “out of the closet” joke, in which Sun mistakenly believes that Nagasumi is in love with Masa—much to her husband to be's horror.

Just as important to the series is how the anime had a satisfying conclusion. I've been let down by a lot of romance anime in my time. The biggest problem with harem romantic comedies is that most of them are always open-ended. They make you scratch your head and wonder why the hell you spent several hours watching these characters get closer to each other when, in the end, the main character didn't choose any of the girls, didn't man up, and the romance never progressed even after everything these characters have been through. My Bride is a Mermaid had a truly satisfying conclusion, and it shows that conclusion in the most spectacular manner possible by having a suddenly transformed Nagasumi in place of his usual character design. If you want a good comedy mixed with romance, then I'd definitely recommend you watch this anime.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Accel World Volume 2 - Light Novel Review!

Accel World - Novel 2: Die rote Sturmprinzessin (Accel World - Novel #2)Accel World - Novel 2: Die rote Sturmprinzessin by Reki Kawahara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, what can I say about Accel World Volume 2. Well, for starters, I do not think volume 2 was as good as the first volume. Don't get me wrong, I still highly enjoyed volume 2, but when you compare the personal issues that Haryuki had to overcome in volume 1, volume 2 presents a lackluster personal crises that I feel was less of a crises and more of a plot device to try and mimic the success of the previous volume.

So, the story starts off like any other. Takamu, Haruyuki's friend who got his ass handed to him by Haruyuki himself in the previous volume, has teamed up with Haru and Kuroyukihime. They've begun to expand the influence of their legion. However, Haru seems to be having trouble. Namely, he can't seem to win a single battle anymore.

What I found unbearable about this was that Haruyuki's only strength is in his ability to win at video games. It is literally the one thing he's good at. Now that this has been taken away, I feel like Haru is less than what he was in volume 1—a sort of one step forward two steps back kind of thing, if you will. However, the problem isn't just that Haruyuki suddenly sucks at video games. It's the reason he's become so bad that I take issue with.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that Haruyuki's issue seems to revolve around his belief that Kuroyukhime will throw him away if he fails. However, this issue was already resolved on volume 1. During the moment where they were about to get run over by a car, Kuroyukihime confessed her love to Haruyuki. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think a girl who confesses her love to someone would throw that person away. This makes the entire personal turmoil Haru feels seem less like a real problem and more like a plot device.

Saying all that, this volume was still a lot of fun to read, and here's why:

There are two factors that make this volume really shine. First was the introduction of a new character: Niko. Niko is a ten year old burst linker and the Red King. Despite being a little girl in real life, her avatar form can transform into a massive fortress that's capable of demolishing entire buildings. She's crass, kinda rude, and has a major attitude—all the things that make her an interesting character.

What really brings this new character into the fold isn't just her introduction and attitude, but what we learn as the story continues. In the beginning, Niko finds out who Haryuki is in Brain Burst, hacks into his family's server, and then pretends to be his cousin... which is pretty damn impressive, if I do say so myself.

After Niko is revealed to be a fake, we learn that her reason for this was because one of her members has the Armor of Catastrophe, which is this supposedly cursed armor that has a lot of history behind it. Toward the end of the volume, we're given some major plot twists that flip everything I thought I knew about Niko onto its head. It was well-done, and it made her personality make more sense. If I had to deal with half the hardships she's dealt with, I'd probably act just like her.

The other aspect about this story that I loved—loved, loved, loved, loved—is how we learn more about Kuroyukihime's past. I said this in my last review of volume 1, which you can find here, but Koyukihime at first comes across as a teenage boy's wet dream. By the end of volume 1, this illusion is shattered and we learn that she's actually just a normal girl with a past that makes her feel a bit like an anti-hero.

In volume 2, we learn even more about that past. We're given an in depth look into her sordid history with the other Six Kings of Pure Color. This adds even more depth to her character and gives us something to empathize with her. She's not just that hot chick who loves Haruyuki for some unknown reason. She has goals and desires and a past that have nothing to do with him. It makes her feel a lot more real.

I also like how she has her own personal issues that she needs to move past. While we don't see everything because the story is told from Haruyuki's perspective, the fact that she has to overcome the regret she feels for her past actions makes her stand out among other light novel female protagonists.

We're not given too much outside of that. Takumu, Haruyuki's friend, has teamed up with him and Kuroyukihime as the third and last member of Nega Nebulus, which is Kuroyukihime's old legion name. This volume has a good deal more action than the previous one, with the entire last third being dedicated solely to a massive battle. Haruyuki is having confidence issues again, which to me, feel like a forced plot device to give him some kind of personal crises, but there isn't much more to the story.

The writing was enjoyable, as always. While I felt like this story wasn't as good as the previous volume, it had nothing to do with the writing, which remains a joy to read. If you wish to read a light novel that is the very epitome of what a light novel should be, you don't have to look any further than this.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Orange - Anime Review!

Every few seasons, an anime will come out that touches you—and I don't mean the tentacle grope kind of touching. It's an anime that touches your heart, that makes you feel a wide array of emotions you generally don't feel, that makes you curse the damn ventilation system, because now you've got this suspicious moisture in your eyes that could have only come from dust particles floating in the air.


Orange is an anime about a group of high school teenagers. It's filled with all the drama, comedy, romance, and things so typical of high school that I almost forgot these characters aren't real. Watching Orange made me remember all of the drama that I went through during high school. Of course, my high school days didn't have any supernatural elements, but whatever.

The first and most important aspect about Orange is that this is one of those anime where all of the characters feel like real people. Naho isn't just a character in an animated series. She feels and acts like I imagine a real girl in high school would act. Everything about her, from her design to her personality, makes me think of the people I knew when I was attending high school. What's more, because of how realistic she is, I found her character to be very sympathetic. From the moment she was introduced, I wanted to root for her, to see her succeed in her goals.

Of course, she isn't the only character. All of the characters feel like real high school teenagers. I have to hand it to the Seiyuus. While Masako Nozawa, the seiyuu for Goku from Dragon Ball Z, recently stated that the quality of voice actors are dropping, I think the people who play the voices of these particular characters did an admirable job. I never once felt like I wasn't listening to a bunch of real teenagers in high school going through life's daily problems. This was especially true during the more emotional scenes. It takes a lot of effort to make your voice sound like you're actually crying. As someone who has tried to fake cry many times to get out of punishments when I was younger, I can tell you this from experience.

I mentioned before that there's a supernatural element involved in here. During the first episode, Naho receives a letter from her future self, which asks her to save Kakeru, the male character who becomes the main love interest and a central point of this anime's plot.

One of the more interesting aspects about this series is the supernatural, time-travel letter itself. I still don't know how future Naho managed to send her past self that letter. To be honest, I don't think we're ever going to learn how it was sent back to the past, even though we get several flash forward scenes of Naho and the other characters ten years in the future. I actually think this is a good thing.

One thing about a lot of anime is that they really like explaining how something came to be, or how a particular power works. In shonen anime, characters will go into this detailed description about how X-technique works by compressing the space-time continuum of this world's inter dimensional whatever, and I really don't fucking care. Like, seriously, I don't always need to know how something works. In fact, sometimes, most of the time, all that exposition does is bog down the story with needless explanations.

Orange gives us an aspect involving time travel, but it doesn't give us anymore than that, allowing the viewers to come up with their own ideas about how the letter came from the future. Of course, it does go into a minor exposition about how time travel creates alternate realities whenever the future is changed, but that actually furthers the plot by presenting a series of conflicts later on.

Perhaps the most heartbreakingly beautiful part of this anime was watching Naho as she tries to help Kakeru, who suffers from depression because of his mother's death. In the future, Kakeru committed suicide because he felt guilty about his mother dying. The letter that her future self sent to Naho was done with the intention of saving Kakeru's life, because future Naho has lived in regret ever since he died.

Dealing with someone who's suffering from depression can be hard. Anyone who's ever had depression or watched as someone they love dealt with depression can tell you this. What makes this particular plot so moving is how accurate they portray someone who's depressed. Kakeru tries to act happy whenever he's with the others, but there are points where he gets moody and seems down. He sometimes snaps at Naho, even when she hasn't done anything wrong and only wants to help, which is another accurate portrayal of people who are depressed.

Outside of the story itself, I was really impressed by the artwork. The character designs differ vastly from most other series. In particular, the attention to detail on their faces made these characters stand out. They all have differently shaped eyes, which are designed to help reflect their personalities. Likewise, the way their mouths are formed could easily denote what kind of person they are.

The greatest example of how these characters personalities are reflected in their appearance can be found in Saku and Azusa. Azusa has wide, bright eyes, a slightly larger mouth than the others, and is almost always seen smiling. This immediately let's viewers know what kind of personality she has. The bright eyes denote her enthusiasm. She's probably a very optimistic person, and the larger mouth, which we usually see smiling, tells us that she A) probably likes to talk more than the others, and B) has a brighter outlook on life.

In contrast, Saku has narrow eyes, which he wears glasses over, and a small mouth that rarely smiles. The narrow eyes denote a more serious character than the others, but since he's with a bunch of rowdy people, this also means he's going to play the straight man more often than not. The smaller mouth also means that he won't talk as much. When he does talk, it'll always sound serious, even if what he's saying is completely ridiculous.

In this day and age, where the artwork in anime has become very standardized, a style like this stands out a lot.

Something interesting that I discover while watching this anime is how I found myself not shipping the OTP. From episode 1 and onward, we're shown that Naho is in love with Kakeru, and that love sometimes seems reciprocated and sometimes it doesn't. However, the longer this series went on, the more I found myself rooting for Suwa.

I feel like Suwa has gotten the short end of the stick in all this. Throughout the entire series, he's done nothing but support Naho's love for Kakeru, even though it's blatantly obvious that he loves her. He's also more supportive of Naho than Kakeru is. He's that friend who constantly hangs in the background, always there to catch Naho when she falls. But because Naho loves Kakeru, nothing happens... which is kind of funny because the future Naho is married to Suwa.

On the whole, the series is touching and deals with emotional issues that some people might find uncomfortable. I think this brings out a unique quality that we don't often see in anime. To anyone who would enjoy a heartfelt romance, drama, and hints of supernatural time travel, I'd recommend this anime to you.

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Game Anime Review!

I think 2016 has been a great year for anime. We've had a number of excellent series come out, including the second season for Shokgeku no Soma and a new season of D. Gray-Man. However, while we've had a lot of good anime, there were still a lot of bad anime. Fortunately for everyone involved, New Game is one of those anime that is actually highly entertaining despite not sounding all that exciting.

So, the premise for this anime is pretty basic. You've got Aoba Suzukaze, who, immediately after graduating from high school gets a job with a video game company. Now, I'm not gonna go into how unrealistic this is, nor am I going to harp on about how someone who doesn't know how to model would never get a job in character modeling. While this is unrealistic, I don't think it necessarily matters, and to me, it doesn't take anything away from the series.

Like most slice of life anime, this show doesn't have any real plot. It's basically giving us the daily life of Aoba as she works at creating a video game with her fellow game developers. For the main cast outside of Aoba, you've got Hifumi Takimoto, Yagami Kou, Ijima Yun, Shinoda Hajime, and Tooyama Rin. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of these characters are girls, and all of them are exceedingly cute.

Each member of the cast seems to represent a different life-style. Hifumi is an excellent character modeler, but she's very shy around people and doesn't like to talk much, though she's apparently super friendly when texting. Ijima is sort of like the loli of the group. Not only is she short and young-looking, but she wears classic lolita clothes and has a tea set that she sometimes breaks out during work hours. Shinoda is the enthusiastic and always moving animator. She strikes me as highly athletic, and Tooyama Rin is the hard working and respectable art director. All of them have a personality that vastly differs from the other, which sometimes leads to comedic missunderstandings.

My favorite character of the series, however, has to be Yagami Kou—and no, it's not just because she likes to wear nothing but a pair of panties while she's sleeping. Yagami is probably the most interesting of the group outside of Aoba, and I would say she's even more interesting than our main character. She's always staying late at the office to get her work done, which makes her seem very dedicated to her profession. She lives, eats, and breaths character design. However, for as hard working as she is, she has some really odd quirks and seems super lazy about things like her appearance. Of course, the biggest of those quirks is that when she sleeps at the office, she doesn't like to wear pants.

Like I was saying before, a lot of the anime is based on these characters interacting with each other and causing some comedic misunderstandings. A great example of this was in episode 5, where Rin and Yagami were working late. The topic of their conversation somehow ended up on how Yagami always sleeps in her underwear. Yagami said that it's a lot more comfortable and that Rin should try it. Rin refuses. However, after Yagami falls asleep, Rin wakes up and decides to see what it's like. Naturally, Yagami wakes up to find Rin without pants on and teases the hell out of her.

This sort of interaction is what makes this anime so worth watching. Yes, there isn't much of a story, but not every anime needs to have a story to be enjoyed. It's the little things, the small details, and the every day interactions, that make it such a fun show to watch.

Something else that I want to discuss is the artwork. Now, I don't usually talk about the art because I honestly don't care very often. Artwork in anime has become pretty generic these days thanks to studios like A-1 pictures, who you'll probably know as the people that produced such anime as Sword Art Online and Asterisk Wars.

The artwork for New Game is incredibly cute. The colors for the characters are all very bright and vibrant, and their eyes are large and have a reflective quality that makes them seem more expressive than most anime characters. This also gives them an innocent appearance, which is used to further highlight the nature of this anime.

The nice use of vibrant colors for the characters and plainer colors for the background serves to emphasize what this anime is about and makes the characters pop out more. There are also times where the world around our characters will disappear to be replaced by sparkles and various colorful backgrounds. This enhances the cuteness to “oh, my god too much fluff!” levels. While that can sometimes detract from a story, in this case, I feel like it merely highlighted what this story was about.

One thing you'll notice as you continue watching this anime is that there are no male characters, and there shouldn't be. First off, this anime isn't a romance. It's just an anime about cute girls doing cute things. Second, part of the charm to this anime are the various yuri moments that happen between our characters.

The perfect example of this is actually the first meeting between Aoba and Yagami. When they stand face to face for the first time, Aoba blushes, the background changes to one of vibrant rainbows, and a heart suddenly pops up between the two. There are numerous moments similar to this one, which helps set the tone and mood of the series.

If there was one failing of this show, it would be episode 6, which is the episode that doesn't involve Aoba working with her colleagues. I understand that the purpose of this episode was to show what everyone's life was like outside of work. However, compared to the other episodes, where I got to enjoy watching all of the cute and funny moments between Aoba and her co-workers, this one didn't have the same level of humor. That said, it does help introduce Nene, Aoba's best friend who becomes a part-time worker as a game tester, so I guess you could say this episode was sort of like an introduction episode.

All that said, the biggest question on everyone's mind—at least, I hope it's the biggest question on everyone's mind—is whether or not New Game is Worth watching. That would be up to you. I personally found this show a joy to watch. If watching an anime that's about cute girls doing cute things is something you like, then this show is definitely for you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Accel World Volume 1 Light Novel Review

Accel World Manga, Vol. 1 (Accel World Manga, #1)Accel World Manga, Vol. 1 by Reki Kawahara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, I have just had my mind blown. I've been reading a lot of light novels recently, from the witty dialogue of Spice&Wolf, the impeccable world building of Log Horizon, the poetic prose of Strike the Blood, and the hilariously stupid yet highly intelligent plot of No Game No Life. However, in all that time, with all those light novels, I have never once finished a volume and said, “This is what a light novel is all about.”

However, today, I am going to tell you this: Accel World is what light novels are all about.

The story starts off with exactly what I want to see in a series like this—our main character. There's no unnecessary exposition, no purple prose. We're immediately introduced to Haruyuki, a seventh grader who's short, fat, and gets bullied a lot.

What struck me about this introduction was how we're shone that Haruyuki is being bullied from nearly the moment he's introduced, turning him into a sympathetic character from page one. Now, being an anime/manga/light novel fan, I've dealt with my fair share of bullying, so I understand where he's coming from. However, he's got it hundreds of times worse than I ever did, which makes me really empathize with him.

After being introduced to Haryuki, we learn more about the world itself. The story is, believe it or not, the sequel to the light novel series Sword Art Online, which every anime fan should know about by this point. It's set several decades after SAO, and the world has changed drastically. The age where gamers wore unwieldy helmets to dive into a fake reality are no longer needed.

Now people have nuerolinkers, which are like microchips that have been implanted into them around the time they're born. This not only allows them direct access to the net whenever they want, but it means almost everything in their daily life revolves around the digital data being constantly fed to him—and of course, the neurolinker also allows people to enter a digital world whenever they want.

I have to give Reki Kawahara some major props here. I was hooked on this story from the moment I started reading it. He really knows how to suck readers in. His story is surprisingly concise, yet it delves into the mind of Haruyuki so well, presenting his trials and tribulations in such a way that I was rooting for him from the moment the volume started.

The digital world, that is to say, the world where people can leave their physical bodies and throw their subconscious into a false reality, is Haruyuki's only solace. During lunch, he secretes himself in a bathroom stall, dives into the virtual world, and spends his entire lunch playing games, so as to avoid the constant bullying he always receives.

During one of his dives, he travels to the game that he normally plays—only to discover that his most recent high score was utterly destroyed. He's shocked. And he's even more shocked when he discovers who it was that defeated his previous score.

Kuroyukihime is the girl that everyone loves. Boys want her and girls want to be her. She's basically the embodiment of a teenage boy fantasy. While she at first comes across as too perfect, it's easy to realize that her seeming perfection is nothing more than the skewed perceptions of Haruyuki, who feels so inferior to her that everything she does seems perfect to him. It's a great example of an unreliable narrator, and it's one of the writing traits that I feel Reki Kawahara does best.

Haruyuki is invited to lunch by Kuroyukihime, who claims that she has something to tell him that will change his life forever. Against his better judgement, he meets her for lunch..

As the story progresses, I've noticed that Haruyuki is exceedingly self-conscious about other people. He dislikes crowds or being the center of attention. When people do pay attention to him, his self-loathing becomes more and more apparent. This is another piece of writing that Reki Kawahara did well in. Haruyuki is a massively flawed character. Not only are his physical traits what most people consider flaws, but the way he so obviously hates himself for those traits is an inherent personality flaw that a lot of teenagers in junior high and high school deal with.

During his lunch with Kuroyukihime, he has a program installed into his neurolinker called “Brain Burst.” It's an interesting program. The basics is that it allows him to do a full-dive. However, rather than leaving the physical world for a fake one, “Brain Burt” takes his subconscious out of his body, places it in a digital recreation of the real world, and speeds up his mind's ability to process information.

There's a lot of technical jargon involved with how the real world is recreated by the view of multiple security cameras. Brain Burst supposedly renders the data from those cameras into polygons that it feeds directly into the brain. This is what allows people who use Brain Burst to see what's happening in the real world at a slowed down speed.

If there's one thing that's apparent to me, it's that a lot of effort has gone into this series. The world building is impressive, and the explanations are thorough, easy to understand, and done in such a way that I don't feel like they're too info-dumpy. All of the characters have this “normal teenager feel,” which I believe is due to the unreliable narration of Haruyuki humanizing them. Even Kuroyukihime, who feels perfect from Haruyuki's perspective, seems human when I read about her.

Another aspect about this series that I thought was entertaining are the battles that are fought during the Brain Burst. We don't see this until the day after the Brain Burst is installed in Haruyuki's neurolinker, but there are a lot of people who have Brain Burst installed, and these people can challenge another Burst Linker to a duel in what I'm going to call the replica world for now. The battle system is reminiscent of old school fighter games like Tekken and King of Fighters. However, rather than controllers, people use their avatar, which is digital body that manifests itself based on a Burst Linker's desires and insecurities.

Without giving away the plot, I can tell you that this is hands down my favorite series currently. While I've enjoyed all the light novels I've read, this one speaks to me in a way that the others simply haven't. Whether it's because of the characters, the setting, the nostalgia I felt for my junior high days, or a mixture of everything, I can tell you that this is one of the best light novels I've read—and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys video games, understands what it means to be bullied, or just wants to a damn fine read.

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