Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Irregular at Magic High School Volume 01 Light Novel Review

The Irregular at Magic High School, Vol. 1: Enrollment Arc, Part IThe Irregular at Magic High School, Vol. 1: Enrollment Arc, Part I by Tsutomu Satou
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The magical high school is perhaps one of the most prolific genres in the light novel community. There are dozens upon dozens of stories that involve a bunch of high school kids going to a school, learning magic, and fighting in magical tournaments. Light novels like Asterisk Wars, Chivalry of a Failed Knight, Infinite Stratos, and so many more literally saturate the light novel landscape.

The Irregular at Magic High School is another one of those magic high school light novels, and I think it's one of the better ones. This story is about Miyuki and Tatsuya, a pair of siblings who are about to attend their first year at the renowned National Magic University Affiliated First Magic High School—dear god, that was a mouth full.

Anyway, the brilliant and magically talented Miyuki enters course 1, which is the course that the more talented students attend. Being a course 1 student gives you some benefits, such as individual tutoring with teachers. Meanwhile, Tatsuya is relegated to course 2.

So, here we immediately have a divide. Course 1 and Course 2 is quite obviously a way to segregate students considered less talented. Course 2 students are basically the bottom of the barrel in terms of ability. They've been dubbed “weeds.”

Now, the reason for this derogatory nickname is because the Course 2 students lack the pendant emblem on their breast, which resembles a flower. Course 1 students, who do have this flower-like emblem, are known as Blooms.

I feel like Weeds and Blooms were placed in this story as a means of showing that, no matter the era, people will always be prejudice. Saying that, I'm kind of appalled by how the Course 1 students treat the Course 2 students. There are supposedly rules governing conduct between the two types of students, yet no one but a few people seem to even care. And where are the adults in all this? It seems as if they've completely disappeared from this story.

Despite being a Course 2 student, we quickly learn that Tatsuya is not a force that you can afford to underestimate. He's apparently a master at martial arts, is being trained by a shinobi, and has a powerful magic that only he can use—though we're not told what that magic is. To top it off, Tatsuya is highly intelligent.

Tatsuya's goal in coming to this institute is to become a magic engineer. Now, here's a bit of interesting information for all of you. The magic found in The Irregular at Magic High School is very scientific. In fact, I'd say it's more of a science than it is magic.

While people can use things like incantations, grimoires, and wands to cast magic, most people don't rely on such methods anymore. Instead they rely on Casting Assistant Devices, or CAD for short. The basic idea is that a CAD incorporates synthetic materials—or artificially manufactured neurons—that convert Psion signals into electronic signals by using the Psion from a magic ritual—or sequence—to produce a collection of electronic magic known as an activation sequence. In laymen terms, it's a device that does all of the work that a regular magic ritual—incantation, wand waving, or whatever—for you. This allows for faster casting time.

The magic system is actually my favorite part about the series so far. It's very complex and, as I mentioned before, it feels more like a science than a magic. The process in how magic is produced using a CAD is detailed to the point that I feel like I could walk up to a science class, explain the concept to them, and they would think I was talking about a legitimate scientific theory and not magical jargon from a book.

However, while the magic system is impressive, the story itself is not. I don't dislike the high school setting, and I'm not bothered by that “magic” theme. Even so, the story feels less like it's telling a story, and more like it's setting up the world to tell us a story.

I'm also kinda iffy on Tatsuya, to be honest. While volume one doesn't give me enough information to create a conclusive theory, I feel like he strays very closely to Mary Sue territory. I suppose only time will tell if that's true.

On the other hand, Miyuki IS a Mary Sue from what we've seen—at least, according to Tatsuya's perspective, his sister is perfect. She's gorgeous, she's intelligent, she's at the top of her class, etc, etc. I don't think I'd be so bothered by this if Satou Tsutomu had been able to show us her beauty instead of telling us her beauty.

Writers always hear about how they should “show” us a story instead of “tell” us a story. While I don't normally focus on this aspect, I can agree that this volume had far more tell than it did show. Miyuki is the perfect example of this. Whenever she's described, Satou Tsutomu always describes her as a “pretty.” Literally. We'll get a sentence that talks about how she's very pretty and makes heads turn. That's all well and good, but it doesn't show us how she's pretty. It doesn't show us how her dark hair glimmers as it catches sunlight, or how her fair complexion is more pure than freshly powdered snow. We're just told that she's pretty and we're supposed to accept that.

I don't blame Yen Press for this particular issue. They've always done an admirable job of translating what the author wrote. This feels more like a problem on the author's part. Saying that, I'm willing to forgive this issue, since it is his first novel, and if I'm being honest, my first novel was mediocre at best.

As I mentioned before, this volume feels more like a set up than it does a complete story. We're given a lot of information, we're introduced to a lot of characters, and quite a few things happen, but the first volume is a story without a resolution. There's no clear problem that Tatsuya needs to solve, no clear stakes, and no clear motive for the main character. What's more, the story ends on a cliff hanger, making it so you have to buy the next volume if you want to hope for a resolution.

While the end is off-putting, and I felt like some of the themes and writing could do with improvements, I did enjoy reading this volume—and I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking to get into Japanese light novels.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Kamisama Hajimemashita - Anime Review

So, recently, I've been getting into some older anime—and when I say older, I don't mean 90s anime. I just mean they're anime I missed a few years ago.

Kamisama Kiss is the story of Nanami Momozono, who, in the English dub is voiced by my favorite VA, Tia Ballard. Nanami's father has just run away from his massive gambling debt, and Nanami has been evicted from their apartment. Alone and without a home, Nanami seems like she's about to give up, but then she finds a man who's stuck in a tree after having been chased there by a dog.

Nanami rescues the man, and the man, after hearing her story, tells her that she can stay at his place and kisses her on the forehead. Little did Nanami know at the time that the place where that man lived was actually a shrine. She also didn't know that him kissing her forehead wasn't just some fatherly-ish act. We soon learn that Nanami has become a land god. The man who kissed her forehead is named Mikage, and he was the previous land god who lived at this shrine.

It's during Nanami's first trip to the shrine that we meet the love interest. Tomoe is a fox yokai who served as Mikage's familiar. He's none too pleased when, instead of Mikage showing up, it's Nanami. When he learns that she is the new land god, he becomes furious, stating that no weak and frail human girl could ever become a land god. He then leaves, claiming he's done being Mikage's pet.

Something that struck me about this anime was that it's very shojo. The beginning part of this series reminds me of how most shojo anime go. You've got the girl who is down on her luck in some manner, and then you have the standoffish male love interest who treats her like crap. This is a typical plotline within the shojo genre.

Fortunately, this story deviates very quickly from what I consider to be standard shojo plots. After Nanami has a run in with a hag yokai, she manages to bind Tomoe as her familiar. Tomoe then undergoes a near miraculous transformation. He cooks, he cleans, he even helps teach Nanami about what her duties are going to be as a land god. Of course, he still has moments where he makes fun of her, but it doesn't have the same harshness that other shojo anime have.

One of the aspects about this anime that I enjoyed the most was its humor. Now, I enjoy laughing. I'd rather be laughing than crying any day. However, few anime manage to truly make me laugh. I might smile on occasion, but only the seriously funny anime can make me bust a gut.

Kamisama Kiss is not an anime that makes me laugh. However, the humor it has does bring a smile to my face. I enjoyed watching the comedic dynamic between Tomoe and Nanami. It's always funny when Tomoe does something kind for Nanami, which makes her think he must really care for her—until she notices the evil eyes he's giving her. The constant jokes are also what I think served to elevate this series above other shojo anime with similar plots.

While Nanami has become a land god and must do her best to learn her duties, she is also a teenage girl, and, being a teenage girl, that means she also must go to school. One thing that's interesting about Nanami is how her peers see her. It seems as if everyone knows about her dead beat dad and that she's poor as dirt.

During her first day back at school after becoming a land god, Nanami meets Kurama... no, I don't mean that Kurama. I mean this Kurama.

Kurama is a popular idol that all the teenage girls adore—sort of like a less disgusting, chuunibyo version of Justin Beiber. He has large, black wings on his back, which he claims are there because he's a fallen angel. In truth, he's actually a crow tengu—a legendary creature that takes the firm of a bird of prey. In the Shinto religion, they are thought to be either a god or a yokai.

He first treats Nanami like crap. Naturally, because all pop idols are douchebags. However, after learning that she's the land god, Kurama tries to get back on her good side so he can eat her powers and become the next land god. We're probably lucky he was thwarted by Tomoe. I mean, if our main heroine had died, we wouldn't have much of an anime, would we?

Later in the series, Kurama ends up falling for Nanami, for the same reason most females end up falling for a harem protagonist. I'd like to say that Kurama helped form a strange love triangle between him, Nanami, and Tomoe, but the truth is that several more men fall for Nanami. I suppose you could say there's a small case of reverse harem in the series. Saying that, the only person who Nanami has eyes for is Tomoe. I really do pity all the other guys in this series. Well, not really, but you know.

I have to say, this anime had both good and bad qualities to it. I enjoyed how it differentiates itself from the shojo genre, and I enjoyed the stylized art. The art has the same feel as anime like Fruits Basket and Kimi ni Todoke. At the same time, the animation was pretty standard. There was nothing really special about it, and I feel like they cut a lot of corners of the animation during its production.

Perhaps my biggest issue is how the series itself is incomplete. The manga series that Kamisama Kiss is based on has been completed, but the anime seems to have ended without finishing. This gives the series an incomplete feel that leaves me wanting. As fun as the anime was, the ending itself was unsatisfying.

I still believe this anime is worth watching, even if you aren't the shojo genre. Its got a decent amount of humor, the romance is sweet, and while I can't relate to Tomoe because I sometimes feel like he's too perfect, Nanami is a very relatable character.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Devil is a Part-Timer Volume 1

はたらく魔王さま! (Hataraku Maou-sama!, #1)はたらく魔王さま! by Satoshi Wagahara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Demons. Heroes. A classic story of good versus evil—well, that's how most of these stories go. The Devil is a Part-timer isn't exactly what I would call your typical tale.

This story is about Sadou Maou, once a demon lord from another world, now a part-time employee at MgRonalds.

Yes, I am perfectly aware that MgRonalds is a not-so-obscure reference to McDonalds. What can do you?

The first thing you need to know to understand this light novel is how a demon lord end up in such a situation. The story goes back to six months, in a world known as Ente Isla. It all happened during the final climactic battle between Emilia the Hero and the Demon Lord—or what would have been the climactic battle had the demon lord not opened a gate to another world and retreated through it.

Thrown into Tokyo, Japan—because, let's face it, everything supernatural that happens only happens in Japan—the demon lord and his most trusted general, Alciel, begin their new life, which is about the crappiest life I've ever heard of.

So, after having their asses handed to them and retreating through the gate to arrive in Japan, Maou and Alciel forge false identities. The demon lord assumes the name Sadaou Maou, which, if you know your Japanese, Maou is a play on the word devil. Alciel becomes Ashiya, and together, the two of them find a really cheap apartment that looks like it might collapse at the slightest provocation.

Here they forge ahead with their new lives while trying to regain their magical energy. Here's an interesting fact. Because gods and demons don't exist on Earth, Maou and Ashiya are unable to regain their magical force. In either event, Ashiya has assumed the role of househusband. Meanwhile, Maou works part-time at MgRonalds. His goal? Become a manager to help him in his conquest of taking over the world... or something like that.

On his way to work one day, Maou comes across a young woman stuck in the rain, and, being the helpful demon lord that he is, he offers the woman his umbrella. Of course, little did he know that this woman was, in fact, his nemesis, Emilia the Hero. Later on, after a good day at work in which he gets to spend time with his cute co-worker, Chiho, who he just calls Chi, Maou is confronted by Emilia, who tries to kill him with a knife.

I suppose it's a good thing that killing in broad daylight is illegal in Japan. Emilia and Maou are caught by the police, who are under the impression that this was some kind of marital dispute. Emilia doesn't seem to take this well, and she lashes out at Maou, who seems to care very little about what happened. The two of them part ways on bad terms, and after that, Emilia, who goes by the name Emi Yusa, begins to stalk Maou everywhere he goes.

You know what I really like about this series? It's how the story deals with mundane, every day life. I know, that sounds really weird, but you have to consider the other factors. First, this is about a demon lord, his henchmen, and the hero who wants to kill him, living an ordinary life in Japan. The mere idea of these three figures living like regular humans is unfathomably ridiculous. Who the hell has ever heard of a demon lord working part time at a fast food restaurant?

Another great aspect of this series is the witty banter. Now, I'm a great fan of witticism. I enjoy stories when they have dialogue that can keep me entertained, and The Devil is a Part-Timer has some of the best dialogue I've read in a light novel. I think it might even be better than Spice and Wolf in terms of comedy if not intelligence.

Outside of the humor, this story manages to adequately convey the feelings and emotional connections of its characters. Of course, some of those connections are outright hatred, such as the bond between Emilia and Maou. It's probably a good thing we've got Chi, the cute high school girl who works at MgRonalds with Maou.

Chi serves as an excellent contrast to Emilia. Both of them are about the same age. However, where Emilia's actions and emotions are in line with those of a young woman who's undergone numerous hardships, Chi is your average 16 year old girl. These two form an interesting juxtaposition, and they make an excellent counterbalance for each other.

While the first half of volume 1 dealt with the struggles of Maou and Ashiya conforming to Japanese society, the second half becomes a lot more action packed. An unknown assailant attacks Emi and Maou. What's more, this unknown assailant can use magic. Who is the mysterious attacker? What does this person want with Maou and Emi? You'll have to read the light novel to find out...

… or you could, you know, watch the anime, which is actually pretty good.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Certain Magical INdex Vol. 7 Review

A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 7A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 7 by Kazuma Kamachi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All right! So, our story starts, not with Touma Kamijou and his unfortunate set of circumstances, but with Stiyl Magnus talking to Laura Stewart. Laura has a task for Stiyl. Apparently, there is someone among the Roman Orthodox Church who is able to decode the Book of the Law. Stiyl is being tasked with finding this person.

Now, here's a little info dump for you. The Book of the Law was written by a man named Edward Alexander, who was hailed as the greatest and worst sorcerer of the twentieth century. The Book of the Law was his most infamous creation. It's said that the Book of the Law would end the reign of crossism if it was ever decoded.

I've got another interesting fact, and this is a spoiler if you haven't already read the series. Alexander Edward also goes by the name of Crowley. Does it sound familiar? It should. If you've watched the anime or read the previous light novels, then you'll know that there is a character named Aleister Crowley. You'll know him as that dude who was floating upside down in a tank.

This is an interesting bit of foreshadowing. We already knew from the previous novels that Aleister was an important member of the science side. However, it looks like before he was stuck in a tube, he was an important figure in the world of magic. As to what this could mean for the series, well, that's anyone's guess.

And now that we know the back story, I bet you're all wondering where Touma Kamijou fits into all this. Well, you see, our hapless main protagonist basically ends up being dragged into this because Stiyl decided to kidnap Index in order to make Touma cooperate with him. Of course, had Stiyl could have just asked Touma and he'd have gladly helped, because that's what main protagonists do, but I guess asking for help was just too hard.

So, the mission is to save a woman named Orsola Aquinas. Strangely enough, Touma has already found Orsola, and he even brought the woman to Stiyl. Sadly, Orsola gets kidnapped by the group who is after her. Known as the Amakusa, the group who kidnaps Orsola is a small group of Japanese crossists. Supposedly, they've kidnapped Orsola because they want her to decode the Book of the Law.

Also, while it's not that important to the overall story right now, the Amakusa was actually once lead by Kaori Kanzaki, who, if you've read the previous books or watched the anime, you'll know is another member of Necessarious and a saint of nearly godlike power.

In order to rescue Orsola, Touma, Stiyl, and Index team up with a group from the Roman Orthodox Church. A lot of strange shenanigans happen before the rescue takes place, including naked loli fanservice.

If there's one thing about this series that I don't like, it's the awkward fanservice. I just... don't understand the appeal of lolis. It's worse in A Certain Magical Index because Index is only 14 years old, and Agnes Sanctus, the leader in charge of saving Orsola, is only, like, 12 or something.

A rescue mission is concocted thanks to Index's knowledge of the Amakusa's magic. Here's a little bit of magical knowledge for you. The Amakusa have an ability known as Miniature Copy Pilgrimage. This is a form of teleportation magic used exclusively by the Amakusa.

The miniature copy is actually a reference to the Great Japanese Coastal Map, which is an atlas filled with all the survey work made by the cartographer, Tadataka Ino. Now, in this atlas, Ino plotted 47 portals.

Now, according to Idol Theory—which has nothing to do with Japanese idols by the way—when an object is created in imitation of another object, the two objects will influence each other. This theory postulates that duplicates retain the properties, attributes, and power of the original object. The greatest example I can think of right now is the Shroud of Martin.

Let's say that someone creates a duplicate of the shroud. According to Idol Theory, that duplicate will hold the same magical properties as the real shroud. However, because it's just a duplicate, the powers and affects are lessened.

You're probably wonder how all this mumbo jumbo relates to the Amakusa. When Ino created the Geat Japanese Coastal Map, he created the 47 portals. These portals were not originally there. However, Ino plotted them on his map, and this made the 47 portals realize themselves unto Japan. It's a form of reversal, essentially taking the Idol Theory and flipping it around.

It's because of these portals that the group is able to find and rescue Orsola. Sadly, we don't learn until after Orsola has already been taken into the custody of the Roman Orthadox Church that the Amakusa are actually the good guys. It turns out the Book of the Law was never in Japan. That was an excuse used by the Roman Orthadox Church to persecute Orsola for being able to decode the Book of the Law.

Outside of the creepy 12 year old nudity, the story wasn't bad. I enjoyed the action. I enjoyed the conflict. I do feel like the story contained a lot of redundant banter, and there was some trouble with the writing containing too much tell and not enough show. That said, there were enough surprising twists, interesting fight scenes, and emotional moments that I can forgive the few problems this volume had. If you're a fan of light novels in general, or even if you're just a fan of the anime, I'd highly recommend getting this volume.

So, that is my review of A Certain Magical Index Volume 7. If you enjoyed this review, please don't forget to give this a thumbs up. Also, be sure to let me know how I'm doing.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Magika Swordsman and Summoner Vol. 2 Manga Review

Magika Swordsman and Summoner Vol. 2Magika Swordsman and Summoner Vol. 2 by Mitsuki Mihara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magika Swordsman and Summoner volume 2 starts immediately where volume 1 left off. We find Kazuki and Mio standing within the student council president's office with an anxious Otonashi Kaguya trying to calm the two down with little success.

In the previous volume, Mio insulted the Hayashizaki school of swordsmanship, which Kazuki didn't take well to. He challenged her to duel, she accepted, and neither one of them is willing to back down. Things only get more hectic when Kanae comes into the room and declares that she approves of the duel.

The duel takes place on a track field. Well, I think it's a track field. It certainly looks like one. In any case, the duel begins and we're immediately given a taste of Mio's power when she fires off a spiral blast, which is like a flame projectile.

Now, can I just pause here for a moment to state that, once again, MonRin has managed to create some visually appealing female characters. While Kazuki looks boring with his bland features and plain face, Mio and the other girls remain as stunning in this volume as they did the first. I believe it has to do with the softness of their figures, which is emphasized by the shading and highlights.

Back to the main story, Mio's attack proves ineffective as Kazuki shows off his speed. He dodges her attacks with ease. We learn from Kanae that the Hayashizaki school of swordsmanship teaches its students how to read the flow of magic, which I guess it what allows him to dodge her attacks. I'm assuming that by reading her magic, he can predict where her attack will strike, or something to that effect.

Desperate, Mio launches one of her more powerful attacks—a massive wall of flame that supposedly consumes Kazuki. I say supposedly because it didn't actually consume him. Kazuki is not only fine, but after her last attack, he goes on to defeat her handily.

Thinking on it, Kazuki seems to be one of those overpowered, Gary Stu protagonists. While I'm not really a fan of the bland and OP type main characters, I do understand that this combination makes it easy for people to insert themselves into the role of main protagonist. That's sort of the point to these character archetypes.

Mio, having lost the match, is asked to take back her insults. However, an in tears Mio refuses to take back her words and instead asks Kazuki why he doesn't remember her.

So, it turns out that before she was adopted into the Amasaki family, Mio had lived in the same orphanage as Kazuki. In fact, she and Kazuki were like brother and sister back then.

I'm kinda surprised Kazuki doesn't remember, but at the same time, not really. I mean, this sort of story is pretty typical of the harem genre. In all honesty, I'm just glad they didn't drag the “you forgot me” trope out any longer.

Later that night, Mio locks herself in her room and Kazuki comes to deliver her food. She refuses to eat, and this causes Kazuki to open the door. Naturally, Mio is naked, and thus Kazuki is given a free peep show. Sadly, I can't show that to you because of Youtube's policies on nudity.

In either event, after they talk some, Kazuki agrees to become Mio's slave. I'm not really sure I get the whole slave thing, but it seems to work, as Mio not only calms down, but the affection ring that Kazuki was given increases to the point where Kazuki can use some of Mio's spells.

Things improve even more the next morning. Mio and Kazuki are acting like a newly wed couple as they cook together, and the other girls of the manor are spying on the pair. This pleasant situation soon has oil and a lit match thrown onto it when Kanae comes marching in.

She tells everyone that the school has decided that Kazuki would be better off in the kengika division and demands that he follow her to his new residence. Kazuki refuses, which prompts Kanae to issue a challenge: If he can defeat her protege using only magic, she'll forget about forcing him into the kengika division.

I guess tournaments are a big thing in this school, since they seem to be happening quite frequently.

Since Kazuki can use Mio's magic, it does mean that he's no longer helpless. However, since he can only use her weakest spells, it's not gonna be enough to help him fight off someone trained by his sister.

In order to increase his affection level with Mio, and thereby increase his power, Kazuki and Mio go on a date.

To be honest, I felt like the date was slightly forced thanks to how Kazuki gains power. That said, I still thought the date between him and Mio was pretty darn cute. I feel like it's because of how they act. Mio's attitude, while not a complete 180 because we saw in volume 1 that she can be pretty adorable when she wants to be, has pretty much gone from merely cute to “oh, my god. I want to take her home and snuggle with her” cute.

Trust me. There's a huge difference.

As the date is winding to a close, Mio asks Kazuki to wait for her and goes off somewhere. During this time, a strange girl appears before him. We learn that this girl is another orphan from the Nanohana orphanage.

Her name is Kana, and even though we're not told why she's suddenly to decided to appear, or reappear, I guess, we're given a small hint with some basic foreshadowing at the very end of this volume.

Now, being a general fan of the harem genre, I can say that I did enjoy the series. I wouldn't give it a full 5-stars because it's not that original, but it does manage to tell us an interesting story while remaining within the confines of it's genre.

The artwork is still fantastic, and the story is still filled with the kind of fanservice that harem fans enjoy. While I'd never recommend this to someone who's not a fan of harems, if you are, I'd highly recommend giving this manga a read.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?

 Hello everybody! I hope you've all been having a fantastic day, because today, I'm going to talk about what is probably one of the cutest anime you'll ever see. A show about MMOs and the girls who play them. A show who's name is so long I do not feel like saying it, but will anyway. Yes, I'm going to talk to about netoge no yome wa onnanoko ja nai to omotta, or And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? God that was a mouthful.

We begin our story with a young woman confessing her love to the man of her dreams, only to get shot down. Don't worry. This is all happening online. Fortunately for us, our young heroine isn't quite ready to give up. When her confession is rejected, she decides to go for broke. (Add video audio). That's right, Ladies and gentlemen, she figures that if he's going to reject her confession, then they should just get married.

I really have to hand it to Project No. 9. When they first created this series, I didn't think it was going to amount to much. My thoughts were along the lines of, “oh, this is just gonna be another Sword Art Online or Log Horizon.” Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike either of those anime, but I didn't think this series was going to contain anything original. I have never been so glad to be wrong. While I wouldn't say And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online? Brings anything new to the table, I feel like there are enough original twists on used tropes that I didn't get bored with the series. In fact, I enjoyed myself far more than I thought I would.

The story follows Hideki Nishimura, an open otaku who spends a lot of time playing the net game, Legendary Age. He, along with three other people, have formed a guild within the game called Alley Cats. His other companions are Schwein, a confident swordsman with a weird catchphrase; Apricot, a mage who spends a lot of money buffing his items and weapons, and also the leader of the Alley Cats; and finally, Ako, his loving in-game waifu.

One day, Apricot decides that they should meet each other IRL. When Nishimura goes to the meeting place, he is shocked to discover that not only are all of the people in his guild women, but they all go to his school. Coincidence? Of course not. The plot devicing is strong in this one.

Despite my joke, I really enjoyed this series. I don't think there was a single episode that I watched where I wasn't smiling. I was greatly impressed by the humor. All of their jokes were not only well timed, but they were also funny. I'm not lying when I say that the humor found in here was probably some of the best I've seen in a while. The only anime that was funnier was KonoSuba, but it would be exceedingly difficult to beat that series when it comes to RPG gamer jokes.

There were two jokes that I found particularly outstanding. The first was when Ako decided to quite school due to a misunderstanding. Hideki goes to her house to talk to her, but he ends up meeting her mom first. He's then given a key to Ako's room. He goes up to Ako's room and they talk for a bit. We hear some bumping noises in the background, followed by Hideki telling Ako that he's coming in. Ako tries to stop him, but he doesn't listen, and then unlocks and opens the door. Ako is practically naked.

Now, walking in on a girl while she's naked is an anime trope that's been done to death. In fact, having this trope is almost like a right of passage for generic harem anime. What made this scene funny was how they subvert the trope by putting an original twist on it. First, the door is locked. In anime, whenever the main character walks in on a girl when she's either changing or taking a shower, the door is always unlocked. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe the girl's just don't think the main character is capable of opening doors, or maybe it's just a poorly disguised plot device to show some censored boobies. Whatever the case may be, I like how the door is locked here, and the main character unlocks it and enters anyway. The second subversion of the trope is Ako's reason for being naked in the first place. She likes to feel free and uninhabited when she's in her own room. What makes this interesting is that there are actually people who are like this. In fact, when I'm at home, I generally don't wear much, and sometimes I don't wear anything.

The last subversion of the trope is when Ako tells Nishimura that she's ready, and he opens the door again, only to discover that, rather than putting her clothes back on, she has taken what little she was wearing off. While this has been done before, what made me laugh was how Ako feels like it's a perfectly normal response because they're married in-game.

The other joke that I liked was the pee joke, and I don't think I need an explanation as to why I found that funny.

While the comedy in this anime is often hilarious, this series is not without its more touching moments. There are many instances where the characters deal with real life issues, and while some of these problems are exaggerated or overemphasized, I think a lot of people, gamers especially, can relate to the quandaries these characters face.

I was particularly interested in Ako's problem. Ako is a person who has trouble separating reality from the video game. In fact, the entire premise for this anime is that Ako is so absorbed by the game world that she assumes what applies in the game also applies in real life. A good example of this is how she thinks Nishimura is her husband IRL. Not only does she think they're married in both reality and the game, but she even calls him by his in-game name of Rusian when they aren't playing, thereby informing everyone that when she looks at Nishimura, she doesn't see Nishimura but Rusian instead.

Outside of Ako and her reality issues, my next favorite character is Akane Segawa. I'll admit that a part of me likes her just because her voice actress is Jad Saxton. I've loved her voice overs since she played Suzuka Dairenji from Tokyo Ravens. However, I also feel like Segawa's character is the strongest personality wise. Unlike the other members of her guild, Segawa is a hardcore gamer who wants to have a reputation in school as a normal high school girl. It's like she wants to deny the part of herself that loves net games, but she can't give them up, which is why she turns down every boy who confesses to her. Having a boyfriend would mean less time to game.

Aside from Akane and Ako, the other four characters to note are Nishimura Hideki, Kyo Goshoin, and the two supporting characters Nanako and Yui. While none of these characters are bad, I felt like they didn't have as strong of a personality as either Akane and Ako. That said, I still had loads of fun watching them. Kyo, who plays Apricot in the game, is the daughter of a wealthy family. She spends crap loads of real money buffing her in-game weapons and armor. She's also the spearhead for the get together, and the one who forms the net game club so they can hang out at school. Meanwhile, Hideki is technically the main character. I say technically because he gets the most screen time, but in truth, Kyo, Ako, and Akane also play pivotal roles in the series.

Aside from the cute story, the anime isn't anything especially spectacular. I do appreciate the artwork, and the animations were good enough that I certainly won't complain. That said, while the artwork was lovely, this series isn't going to win any awards for it's animation. It was just okay, and honestly, I don't think it needs to be anything other than okay. Where this anime really shines isn't with its animation and artwork, but with its characters. For people who enjoy playing video games, and especially online games, it's easy for you to feel a sense of kinship with these characters. Aside from all of them being very likable, they also make me think of myself when I went to high school.

For those of you who love video games, I would highly recommend giving this series a watch. You can watch it in either subtitles or dubbed. While I usually prefer subtitles to dubbing, I honestly prefer the dubs for this anime. I believe the VAs had a really strong showing here, and the jokes made more sense to me dubbed than when I had to read subtitles.