Yuri!!! on Ice - First Impression cum Review

Yuri!!! on Ice Review

Studio : MAPPA
Genre : Sports, Romance(?)
Episodes Aired : 10
Status : Not what I was looking for. And I don't mean the "Yuri" part.

Ever since I watched Chihayafuru, I've developed this bad(?) habit of comparing every sports anime to it. Not only that, my philosophical pursuit has changed the way I see any sport/game/work/activity and people involved in it. To me, it is no longer about being the strongest or the best, having a rival, competition, or winning the cup. It's not about self-aggrandising anymore. I no longer get that rush when two destined rivals face each other, or the guy finally wins and gets to the top. It's boring now. What I love to watch is when that person is playing (the sport, or an instrument or their work, whatever it is) because they thoroughly enjoy doing it, when nothing - the rivals, the fame, the attention, winning or losing matters and they just... play. I'm sorry I don't have a better way of explaining this but it is something I've felt and something I love.

So, when I watch a sports anime (or any show with 'passionate' characters), I try to look for that moment. Now, I know that my view on this is subjective and that everyone sees/feels things differently, but characters playing a sport just to claw their way to the top is not appealing to me. I don't mean their motivations, their desire to win or why they started, it is what they do, think and feel when they are playing that matters to me. I don't enjoy a guy/girl saying "I'm going to show/destroy you", "I'll be the best", "Watch me", or "This one's for you" when they play (at least not all the way to the end of the game/performance), I enjoy when they are just completely immersed in that activity and they reach a point where they just don't care about anything except playing (they love it because they can't help it). I guess a short way of saying it is when their ego gets out of the game.

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Now what does Yuri on Ice have to do with this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yuri on Ice isn't the kind of show which will get you interested into Ice Skating, or show you what it's like to have that burning passion & love for a sport or an activity.
It's about a guy named Yuri Katsuki, a young Japanese figure skater. He ranked last in the World Grand Prix due to his consistently inconsistent performances. And now that he has suffered a humiliating defeat, he comes back home disappointed in himself and maybe 40 pounds heavier, thinking whether he should continue his career as an ice skater. So far so good, right? But here's where things get a bit ridiculous. Enter five time world champion and our protagonist's idol, Victor Nikiforov. After watching a video of a fat Yuri doing his routine, he decided to abandon his skating career and fly down to some unknown village in Japan to be Yuri's coach. And from there, the rest of the show is about their relationship with each other (just with each other and not ice skating, in case you were wondering).

How does this dynamic play out?
Well, to begin with, I don't like Yuri Katsuki's character so far. The main reason being the fact that whenever he is skating, the last thing on his mind is... skating. Not only that, his thoughts almost always have something to do with Victor. He's either thinking about 'seducing' (I mean impressing) him, or about what a terrible person he is according to the world because he "stole" Victor from them. The rest is just your everyday fear of failure (something along the lines of learned helplessness).
As for the coach Victor, I like his character (design and "personality"). I like that he isn't all "serious" and "aggressive" when it comes to his role as a coach, rather he is just sincere. He is aware of his shortcomings and incompetence as a fresh coach and he doesn't act like he knows everything. He gives Yuri space to breathe but he is also there when he needs him. As for all the hugs and kisses and "engagements"... no comment.
The secondary cast, doesn't play that big of a role as you'd expect, especially our protagonist's family. There's the cliche "Rival" guy with the "rival tsundere" syndrome, who is always aggressive and pissed towards everyone and not just the protagonist (for no apparent reason). And all the other skaters that show up, fall into your usual tropes.

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Now, I'd be okay with the tropes, the cliches and the lame gags if they didn't mess up the most important part - the skating. There aren't any eye-candy 'sakuga' moments, nothing moves except the skater, shots often don't show the skater's feet, and the resulting lack of motion is compensated by camera movements and erratic zooming, which is off putting and ruins the beauty of the skater's movements. Even if you let that slide in the name of budget restrictions, no one, I mean not one skater thinks/talks about their feelings towards ice skating when they are on the rink. I know they're trying to show us that the emotional state of the skater has an impact on their performance, but everyone seems like they just want to be done with it, trying their best just to get to the end of their performance without failing jumps (or to one up the guy that performed before them).

And it's not just the characters' nature towards the sport, the sport itself isn't presented in a way which would get you deeply interested in it. It never discusses the jumps - the quads, axles, salchows, lutz etc, or break things down for the audience to understand. One might argue that the characters are at the top of their sport, so there's no need to discuss the basics. And they're right, but at the same time, these characters do fail these jumps, and its a regular occurrence. For example, our star Yuri Katsuki can't land a quad from the start of the show. And even after 6-7 episodes of him continuously missing the same thing, the show never discusses it. It never breaks it down, or discusses the mechanics of the movement, or any of the mental cues or even why it is so hard and what the guy needs to work on. Instead the reason we're given is, "Yuri, you tend to flub your jumps when something is on your mind". So it's not an incredible feat of strength and balance which requires a butt-load of hard work, just don't get your panties in a bunch and you'll be fine. How am I suppose to appreciate that?

Yuri Gif 3

And that's my point. After watching 10 episodes of the show, I don't have an appreciation of or for the sport. Because I have no idea what it takes and the show never takes us there. It shows us how important Victor is to Katsuki, how emotional state affects performance, what the requirements are for competing in World Grand Prix, the scoring system and why Yuri should get drunk more often, but we are never shown the magnitude of the hard work which is required to excel at the sport or why the characters love it. Just don't let things get to you and you'll win. Is it really that easy? (Maybe I'm just too conservative when it comes to sports anime)

Anyways, I don't really hate the show, but I don't like it either. While the Yuri-Victor dynamic is the highlight of the show, the way they butchered everything else evens it out. So, should you watch it? Not if you're interested in ice skating (despite the references/homage to real life skaters). But if you're looking for some bromance, you're in for a treat. I guess. Don't quote me on that.

Occultic;Nine - First Impression

Occultic;Nine - First Impression

Studio : A-1 Pictures
Genre : Sci-Fi, Mystery, Supernatural
Episodes Aired : 8
Status : The plot sure is thick here. Watching.

Let's say you want to present a mystery to your audience. Where do you start? How about the usual - The crime scene?
Bodies, lots of dead bodies, floating on water. What happened? Where did they come from? Let's go back to where it all started. How many people are involved? Let's introduce them all in one episode, connect them to a key point, establish some of their characteristics, give hints about the upcoming events, crack a few lame jokes, throw in giant breasts & a cheeky Shiela for fanservice, a bloody scalp with hair for the creeps and finally a murder to act as a cliffhanger (and there's a Sherlock wannabe too). Overwhelmed yet? If not, then there's the forced fast dialogue.

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Occultic;Nine seems like one of those high-school experiments where you have to perform a controlled reaction by slowly adding the chemicals in several steps, but you're out of time, so you just take a big cauldron and pour every chemical in it at once. They react vigorously, producing lots of colors and odors, and as time passes, the mixture turns gooey and smelly but you keep stirring it anyway thinking that in the end it will all come together to produce the desired result. But sadly, it all ends with the professor smacking you on the head giving you an F. If only you had more time.

If you disregard the bad presentation and the giant tits, then underneath those you'll find a good puzzle. I'll give the show credit for how much content it tries to cram into an episode, just to make the game more fun. There are all sorts of clues thrown in every episode and in the opening ending sequences, foreshadowing a part of the upcoming events. And the overall mystery itself seems to be a big puzzle with lots of connected strings. But sadly the show's approach spoils everything for me.

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The biggest sores are the pacing & the dialogue (and the sudden "creative" camera movements). The show has a lot of dialogues and conversations are carried out at a ridiculously fast pace. Now, this isn't a bad thing usually, it's what a lot of shows do. You see, most of the time when characters talk really fast, it's either when they are overwhelmed (panicked, excited, passionate etc) or they know almost everything about the topic and/or the person they are conversing with (think the usual monogatari banter or when someone's stating a fact or explaining their theory). If done well, it acts as a character trait and adds to their personality. But here in Occultic;Nine, every single character talks fast in almost every situation, whether its your everyday chat in a cafe, or about 256 dead people or finding out that you're *spoilers* and your daddy's a *spoilers*. It's as if they've been holding it in for hours and they really need to go to the bathroom (heck, there are scenes where even the pauses are cut).

In short, a huge amount of exposition/dialogue hits you at an overwhelming pace, which somewhat destroys the character dynamics and the mood of the story.
So, why am I still watching this? You see, despite the painful frustrating headache-inducing dialogue, erratic pacing and overwhelming titties, the show is interesting. And as long as the puzzle is interesting, I'll stay for the answer. I'm glad I didn't go into it with high expectations (because of it's relation to Steins;Gate and the references etc), so I don't hate it as much. I appreciate that they are trying to put so much content from the novel, but they just don't have the runtime to execute it properly and it's doing more harm than good to the show.

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So, should you watch this? It depends on how much you like puzzles (mysteries), and how far will you go to find the answer, because, this show will test your patience. As for me, I'll see it through.

P.S. The last one on the list for this season's first impression parade is Yuri on Ice. Let's see what all the hype is about.

Fune wo Amu - First Impression


Studio : Zexcs
Genre : Drama, Romance, Seinen
Episodes Aired : 5
Status : This might be it. Watching.

“Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way.” ~ Steve Martin

Human beings are complex creatures. We have got big brains filled with ideas, visions, and feelings. And to let those ideas out into the world can be a daunting task. Using words and phrases is one of the ways we can can express ourselves and communicate with others around us. Thanks to the abundance of stimuli in our world, we experience a variety of things everyday. And to express all of those requires a lot of words. And where to find a lot of words and their meanings? A dictionary.
While a dictionary is out of date as soon as it's printed, you can still pick up an old dusty one and it'll still be useful. Ever wonder what goes into making those big bulky stacks of paper?

Based on a novel by Shion Miura, Fune wo Amu (The Great Passage) is a show about Majime Mitsuya, a man of peculiar character, and his co-workers at Genbu Publishing company's Dictionary Editorial Department. In modern times of technology with huge databases of information stored on the internet, finding the meaning of a word is child's play. So, publishing dictionaries isn't good business. Still, despite the hard times, one old man wants to leave behind his greatest work before he retires. A dictionary that will serve as a vessel, to get people across the ocean of words, a ship he calls "The Great Passage".

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Now, this is where our protagonist comes in. You see, Majime is an interesting character (his hobby is observing people getting on escalators). He is a bookworm with a passion for words but he can't quite express himself. It's not that he is shy and lacks courage, he just has poor social skills. Not the kind of qualities you would look for when hiring a Salesman. Despite that, he somehow ended up in the sales department. Thankfully, he gets a lucky break when his encounter with Nishioka gets him landed into the Editorial Department, where he can pursue his passion for words. And so the journey begins.

I've said before that I really like shows that give us a peek into the production aspects of something - a commodity, a show, a game or a part of it, because it almost always involves interesting characters. And this show fits right into that category. It shows us what goes into creating a dictionary - going through years of research, compiling words, searching for new words, getting writers to corroborate, choosing layouts etc., and how every member of the team plays their part in it, what difficulties they face along the way and what subtle changes all this brings in their lives. And that's what we have here - people trying to find where they belong and how they can contribute to the world and maybe leave something behind to be remembered for.
[Personal thought : I feel that these kind of shows are quite important because they show us that work should be something you love and not something abominable and boring that you get paid to do.]

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But don't fret, the show isn't all about work either. There's some romance as well. One that involves a 15 page love letter. It's a little awkward, like you'd expect from someone like Majime, but it's not full of random misunderstandings or other cliches (so far). They even share the same philosophy regarding their work lives. I'm liking where their relationship is headed for now, and I expect it to turn into a pleasant experience. The same is true for the whole show, I am excited to see where this goes and I am going to stick around for every moment.
So, go watch this show if you like the premise.

P.S. The next show is Occultic;Nine. Not much hopes for that one.

Drifters - First Impression

Drifters - First Impression

Studio : Hoods Drifters Studio
Genre : Action, Comedy, Historical, Fantasy, Seinen
Episodes Aired : 6
Status : Not sure if a really clever joke, or just ridiculous. Watching.

A guy got transported into a fantasy world and guess what? He's not a teenager! If that's not reason enough to watch this, I don't what is.
Shimazu Toyohisa is a honed samurai warrior, with a righteous heart and a knack for lopping heads. It was just another casual day in his life, where he was running around the battlefield lopping heads left and right, when he suddenly got transported to a corridor full of doors, with a man sitting behind a desk giving him a look. But before he could do anything, he gets thrown into a door and finds himself in the forest. So, now we're in a fantasy world where elves, dwarves, hobbits, humans, dragons and whatnot exist and our main character has to fight a world war against the evil army of "Ends". But he's not alone in this mess, several other prominent historical figures from different ages (called Drifters) were also thrown into the mix. Heck, why am I even trying to explain this. It's a bloodbath, filled with well animated mindless action, cheesy dialogues and inappropriate comedy.

Created by Kouta Hirano, the same guy who created the Hellsing series, the show's story is very predictable and devoid of any substance for your brain to munch on. But that's okay. It's a nice concept - pitting two characters from different times against each other, but you can only do so much with that premise. I mean, it's already tough trying to put together these characters and still make some sense, expecting substance is just ridiculous. So, the only thing left, is to have your characters throwing sarcastic remarks or have them fight to death. And if you do the fighting part well, hallelujah.

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So far, all the action scenes had superb animation and I love the way they animate the stance of the main character before he proceeds to lop off someone's head (his obsession with heads is a bit weird). There is adequate amount of blood and gore, the huge contours and the color tones suit the whole thing, and the opening and ending themes are nice as well. For a production studio (hoods entertainment) that hasn't made "great" stuff, this is surprisingly well produced.

Now, one thing that makes this show a little hard to watch, is the comedy. I mean it's most the effective way to include those jabs and history jokes, but the timing is sometimes horrible. I can tolerate the sudden change in art-style with the funny faces and all, but when it happens in the middle of a moment where it's completely unnecessary, it's annoying.
Speaking of comedy, you don't need to be a history buff to get most of the humour, a general knowledge of world history is fine, but since a lot of it is centered around the Japanese characters, a brief look at the Japanese history will do you good (I played a game called Samurai Warriors 2 quite a while ago which included the whole Nobunaga Oda and the Honnoji Temple incident so I had a rough idea).

Anyways, if you like well animated action with badass lunatics running around killing each other, then this is for you. I'll be following this for the exact same reasons.

P.S. Next show on the list is Fune wo Amu.

3-Gatsu no Lion - First Impression

3-Gatsu no Lion First Impression

Studio : Shaft
Genre : Drama, Game, Seinen, Slice of Life
Episodes Aired : 5
Status : Another show with "gatsu" in it's name. This isn't gonna end well (for me). Watching.

Ever since Akiyuki Shinbo joined as director in 2005, Shaft has been on a rampage, pushing its avant grade cinematography (and head tilts) to the limits. And now that they've made a name for themselves (and the fact that they're all out of source material on the monogatari series), they have started to calm down. Compared to last year's Owarimonogatari (and the subsequent Kizumonogatari movies this year), they have a Slice of Life entry this fall season by the name of San-gatsu no Lion (or March comes in like a Lion). Based on a well received ongoing manga, the story revolves around Kiriyama Rei, a high schooler and a pro shogi player, living an independent life in a rather empty part of town. Having lived through a mountain of trouble as a child and not-so-good experiences at his foster family, the repressed emotions and lack of "love" (if you will) has made him depressed and lonely inside. The only thing he has left is his career as a shogi player, which, sadly, started with a lie. So, a life (and mental sanity maybe?) built on such a feeble foundation can only last so long. And so it all starts to crumble and he starts going into a downward spiral.
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This scene reminds me so much of Zetsubou Sensei

But fear not, all is not lost yet. Enter the three Kawamoto sisters. Having gone through some rough times themselves, they had one another to lean on, and so they live their modest lives full of happiness and laughter with the occasional sad reminiscing. And thankfully, they drag our protagonist into it, and it acts as a sliver of hope in his life. His interactions with them and the subtle changes they cause in his personality seem to be the main focus of the show.

Now, there are a few things to watch out for, if you're thinking of picking this up.
Number one is the drama, the kind of drama where there are lots of tragic flashbacks and broken, damaged characters. If you find characters wallowing in depression appalling, this might not be your cup of tea. Though I would say that the creators have put a lot of effort in Rei's backstory as it feels "legit" and in-sync with his character.

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Second, is the game of Shogi. They say shogi is like chess, except that it's not (well it is, in essence, a strategy game). Compared to the 16 pieces per player in Chess, Shogi has 20 pieces; there is no queen, and two new pieces - silver general and gold general are in play. Even the board is different (its a 9x9 instead of an 8x8). Point is, if you don't know shogi, parts of the show involving it - like the surprised look on players when the opponent makes an interesting move (shots with the board and the pieces in position), or analogies/metaphors relating to our main characters life, will probably make less to no sense.

Number three is Shaft. Now, I already said that they're trying to calm down, and they are, I mean, 5 episodes without a head tilt (Shinbo must be screaming in frustration, good thing Kenjirou is in charge), but, it's still Shaft. And I've seen some people complain about the artstyle. Thankfully, it all isn't as erratic as the monogatari series and I am fine with it. Heck I love how they keep the contrast when switching perspectives from the depressed MC to the cheerful sisters (love the color palette too, and the opening, though wtf cat monologues).
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If you're thinking Honey and Clover. Same creator. Similar artstyle.

Conclusion. I like where this is going. I like that the main character is "damaged" damaged and not just damaged for plot's sake, his backstory really gets me. And I am interested in how far down he is going to fall before he gets over his past or if the past is going to come back to haunt him, either way, he will face it and that's what I'm looking forward to (I know it translates to 'I wanna watch him suffer' but that's just me). Also, this is Shaft and I have hope that they aren't going to mess this up.

P.S.
Next up for a first impression, in alphabetical order, will be Drifters. I'm trying real hard to be on time this season. Wish me luck.

Summer Season 2016 Review - Part 2

Title Image

So that's what suffering from a painful debilitating disease feels like.
Sorry I'm late, like really really late but since I made part 1, gotta finish what I started. So, here we are with the rest of my picks from the summer season. Honestly, this season wasn't really all that exciting (despite the painful experience). There were a couple of 'good' shows, but unlike last year, there wasn't anything too out of the ordinary. Anyways, here it is.

Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru

Studio : Feel.
Genre : Comedy, Romance, School
Episodes : 12
Status : Finished. Somehow.

Quick, 2D or 3D, which one do you prefer?
If you ask our protagonist here, he would answer 2D in a hearbeat. Highschooler Uchimaki Subaru is a 2D worshipper through and through. His hobbies include watching anime, reading manga and drawing his own waifus. To further cultivate his passion and love for "art", he joins the art club of his school, with one ultimate goal in mind - to draw a perfect waifu.
Enter, Usami Mizuki, embodiment of what the "normal high school girl" in anime should be like - kind, caring and friendly, with a touch of tsundere and a crush on our protagonist. And like any normal girl, she doesn't approve of our protagonist's infatuation with 2D. Which leads to sarcastic remarks and tiny farces between the two. But sadly, the main focus of the dynamic is the romance (mainly Usami's inner conflict, and by conflict I mean the tsundere part of her) and not the comedy routine that they go through, the occurrence of which gets rarer as the show goes on.

At least, that was how I pictured this show. But as the name says, the show is about the art clubroom and the things that the characters do there. Things like characters goofing around, people sleeping, people passing out, budding romances, jealousy, chuunibyou and whatnot. It's about the members of the art club (official and unofficial), and all the events that happen in any other slice of life setup. You know the whole yearlong routine of events like the cultural festival, sports festival, tests, valentines and whatnot (I wish I had a link for the whole compendium). Basically, it's not that different from any other slice of life show out there. If you've seen one, you'll know how things will progress, and all that's left is the question whether or not the comedy (or a character) is amusing. For me, there wasn't anything that interesting. I liked Usami at first but as the show went on, she turned into just another one of those thirsty tsunderes that I don't like watching.

Now, for a show like this, the enjoyment depends upon one's sense of humour, so if you are interested, I'd say give it a shot. I, didn't like it, so I am not recommending it. Well, at least it doesn't look ugly and there are few good puns... and apples.

Mob Psycho 100

Studio : Bones
Genre : Action, Comedy, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Episodes : 12
Status : Did you seriously think I wouldn't watch this? Finished.

A lazy unmotivated egghead with immense power. I think I've seen this before.
Mob Psycho 100 features Kageyama Shigeo aka Mob, a shy anxious grade schooler with low self esteem, an inferiority complex and very strong psychic powers. He goes about his life disjointed because he can't figure out how to deal with the powers that he has. One day, he meets Reigen Arataka, a con artist who claims to be a psychic. And after 'plot' plays out, Reigen ends up as Mob's mentor. And his 'training' involves him exorcising evil spirits around town while Reigen rakes in the cash. Now this goes on for a while until other psychics show up and from there on out its just a big mess.
Basically, you have your 12 year old kid running around town, with a grown up, playing ghostbusters until your usual evil organisation enters the scene and now you're trying to stop world domination. It's like watching a magical girl series except its not a magical girl and there's a little bit of symbolism thrown into the mix. And did I mention the "Psycho" and the "100" part?

Since our main character is a little slow on the uptake and he can't really deal with his emotions or people, he bottles it all up. And thanks to ONE, we have a nice little numerical counter for measuring that, which goes from 0 to 100. So when Mob has had enough, the counter hits 100 and he "snaps". The subsequent outrage is determined by the dominating emotion at the time of the outrage. Basically, the guy loses control and shit goes down.
But there's another side to Mob's personality. He believes that having supernatural powers doesn't make you "special" or "better" than anyone, you're still a normal person. He also doesn't want to hurt another human being with his psychic powers and truly believes that psychic powers are unnecessary, that they aren't required for him to live a normal life. The guy is an anxious dimwitted socially awkward saint.

The point is, the show is full of events and dialogues which point to a greater meaning to this mess (particularly, a moral lesson of sorts). Now, you can happily indulge yourselves into it and love it or you can just totally ignore it. Either way, the show is above average, and you will probably like it. Just try not to think that the animation is ugly and you'll be fine.

Alderamin on the Sky

Studio : Mahouse
Genre : Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Military
Episodes : 13
Status : Watched. Not sure why.

So, another one of those lazy geniuses huh?
Studio "Season Two? What's that?" brings us the origin story of the "lazy invincible" General Ikta Solork, in a light novel adaptation by the name of Alderamin on the Sky. You have your usual medieval era military setup - two empires that are at war with each other. A main character, who detests war, and is accompanied by a red haired woman who bears the mighty family name of "Igsem", a classmate by the name of Matthew, the rifleman Torway Remion, and the medic Haroma Becker. While on their way to the preliminary exams, they encounter a storm, due to which their ship sinks and they find themselves behind enemy lines with their Empire's Princess in their custody. With the help of his remarkable "intelligence" and allies, Ikta Solork gets them out of there without a scratch. Impressed by this extraordinary feat, the Emperor bestows upon them the title of Imperial Knights. And so, "unwillingly", our protagonist gets himself involved with the military affairs of the Empire.
From here on out, the show is about how situations between the two Empires escalate and how our protagonist makes a name for himself through his accomplishments on the battlefield.

To be honest, I'm not completely sold on Alderamin. I mean it does a lot of things right - like how Ikta isn't a total hax, and that the "if you follow this guy, nothing is going to happen to you" strategy doesn't always work, or how the show doesn't make a total mockery out of war and shows us the aspects of controversial decisions and whatnot. It still isn't enough for me. You see, in terms of characters, the show isn't all that great. Take the main character for example. His whole "I'm lazy but when the time comes, I'll come through" routine is nothing new. And besides his dynamic with Yatori (that's the redhead Igsem), there isn't much to build upon. Not to mention, the fact that the guy is lazy and detests war, doesn't agree with the whole "invincible general" act (or maybe that irony is the punchline).
But that's not all, the show throws out a lot of terms for it's world, but it never gets to the worldbuilding part. It shows us that all soldiers have a "spirit" as a partner, but it never tells us anything about those beings. Same goes for the political situation of the empire. We're told that the Kioka Empire is the only enemy but out of nowhere... well you can guess where I'm getting at. And that's the thing with light novel adaptations, A LOT of the info is left out. And as a result of that, the show feels rushed, incomplete and lacking.

So, should you pick this up? Well, if you want to see the lazy clever bastard doing his thing on the battlefield, sure. There's some good action to go with that as well (courtesy of the badass redhead). If you want to see those fantasy wars with guns and swords and cannons with all the bloodbath, then you should check this out. But if you're looking for a story, with character development and everything, then don't bother.

New Game!

Studio : Doga Kobo
Genre : Comedy, Slice of Life
Episodes : 12
Status : Dropped on episode 4. My expectations were too damn high.

"Hey look, an anime about making video games. That sounds interesting..."
Anime that focus on behind the scenes portion of an industry, whether it be the animation, sound, compositing, manga etc, tend to feature characters with a lot of passion, creativity and heart, in an environment that nurtures those qualities by providing adequate challenges. Different character roles are established and we're shown how all those roles contribute to the whole thing (for a simple example, take the mangaka, the assistants and the editor) We see the little subtleties and the tricks of the trade, and that makes us feel that we're a little more intimate with the thing that we love. Now, I love playing video games, and I would love to know what goes into creating those awesome games. So, when I heard about a show that focused on game production, I was really excited. I was expecting to see a lot of cool stuff, the creator's thought process and how they approach the whole "we're gonna make a game" situation, softwares and whatnot. But then I watched the first episode... and there were grown up lolis, one of them in her panties. Now, I don't mind moe and all the other cutesy stuff that comes with it, but I was appalled. Still, I thought it would get better, so I kept on watching. But the moe train never stopped.

New Game is NOT an inside look into the gaming industry, it's more like one of those high school slice of life shows that feature a club. Name it game creation club (or something like that) and you're good to go. The cast is all female, the character designs are noway near the age of the characters and they fight over food.
Thing is, I went into it without checking anything about its source material. So when I found out later that the show is adapted from a 4-koma manga, I realised I was expecting to see a tiger jump at me while it really was just a little kitten hiding in a box (I hope that makes sense). Point is, it was never about the gaming industry, they just wanted to give you a few laughs and giggles and have a relaxing time. And that's what the show tries to deliver with its "misleading" premise and characters.
Now the question is, do you like the cute girls doing cute things premise? If yes, then you might wanna check this out. But don't trust me, I dropped it at the 4th episode.

Orange Anime

Studio : TMS Entertainment
Genre : Drama, Romance, School, Sci-Fi, Shoujo
Episodes : 13
Status : This is why I have lost faith in Shoujo genre. Finished.

What if one day, you wake up and find your future self standing before you with a letter. A letter that contains a list of all the bad decisions you'll make, ones that you will regret later on. Telling you exactly what happened and all the do's and don'ts about that particular situation. What will you do if you received such a letter? You'll probably punch yourself in the face first and ask where the lottery numbers are, but since you'll see that coming (cuz you came from the future), you won't deliver the letter personally. So, you'll mail it. But seriously, what will you do? You already know that if you don't follow the letter, something bad will happen. But if you do follow it, there's this discontent that you're not your own master anymore. Especially when you're in the hormone-induced-rebellious-teenager phase. But then again, who doesn't make bad decisions? So, what's the point?

Orange is a story about a shy, timid highschool girl Naho Takamiya, who, one day receives a letter from her future self saying something along the lines of "listen to me, you're terrible at making decisions, so from now on, do what I tell you or you'll regret it later". Actually she sent herself a detailed account of everything major that was going to happen in highschool involving the death of a boy she had a crush on. Anyways, the letter's purpose is to save that guy from dying, and fall in love with him and have little babies and stuff. Sounds like the kind of stuff a 12 year old girl would fantasize about during a boring history class. But meh, lets go on. So, in order to save that guy from dying, the letter describes certain events that need to be changed. And that's what the show is about. Naho and company, trying their best to prevent Naho's crush from dying.

Doesn't sound too bad, right? Then why did I "lose faith" in the genre?
Let's start with Naho, the saviour. Have you ever been in one of those moments where you're watching a character do something stupid, which they know is stupid, but they do it anyway? The excruciating feeling and the irresistible urge to punch them in the face which magnifies exponentially with every passing moment? That stupid character is Naho, in a nutshell. She knows that her actions determine whether Kakeru lives or dies, but she still remains indecisive, inattentive and runs away from circumstances. And I'm not even going to talk about her "crush" and other characters. Not to mention the "time travel" theory they throw at you.

To me, this whole thing was sloppy, immature and at times, a pain to watch. Even the romance wasn't interesting. So, no, don't watch this.

Saiki Kusou no Psi-nan

Studio : J.C. Staff, Egg Firm
Genre : Comedy, School, Shounen, Supernatural
Episodes : So good, I lost count.
Status : Anime of the Season my friends. It's still airing though.

Just your everyday psychic with god-like powers trying to live a normal life... but something always goes wrong.
Saiki Kusou no Psi-nan is a story about a guy who has incredibly strong supernatural powers since birth. He can teleport, move things with his mind, fly, change gender/species, hypnotise anyone, read people's mind... and any other insane psychic power you can imagine. But unlike most "ordinary" people, he finds these powers to be a pain in the ass. So, he tries his best to hide them and live like a normal person. He always ranks in the middle in whichever competition he participates in, be it the academic tests or sporting events, never tries to get attention, etc. But sadly for him, blending in the crowd is not an easy task. Thanks to the people around him - mom, dad, friends, classmates, strangers, cats etc, he can never find peace. The show is about him trying to deal with all of this.

Since we're talking about a guy with crazy powers, people around him can never be normal. I don't mean everyone else has superpowers, they are just... crazy. The show features a cast that is full of weird stereotypes with the crazy meter cranked up to 11. They range from the idiot gorilla to guy with extreme chuunibyou to the popular princess/angel to a cat who thinks he can subdue any human with its cuteness. Heck, even his parents are weird, especially the dad. Add your usual high school events - tests, sports festival, cultural festival, trips, vacation, new year, christmas etc, and you have one hell of a show. In short, the cast is very unique and their interactions with Saiki are hilarious. And that's all there is to it.
In the end, I'd say this is a must watch for this season. Of course with the usual warning. The one about comedies and sense of humour. You know what I'm talking about.

Tales of Zestiria the X

Studio : ufotable
Genre : Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Episodes : 12
Status : Well, that was a really long promotional video. Finished.

Anime about video games. I've talked about this before on why it's usually a terrible idea to make an anime based on a video game, and it looks like even the mighty ufotable can't make it happen, not even in round 2.
Tales of Zestiria the X is just a 4 hour long promotional video to a game which is the fifteenth instalment in a series of role playing games, a series that started in 1995, 20 years ago. Now, I don't mind the celebration but to think that for a game to last this long, it must have one hell of a story, characters and gameplay. But then again, you know how RPGs are. They can be very demanding and long. So to compress a game whose playtime is around 43 something hours (story only) into 12 20 minute long episodes isn't a great idea to begin with (shut up, I know about the 2nd season). So, how does this disastrous idea play itself out?

The story is a bit too much to explain so I'll give you the short short version. It's your classic good vs evil story. In ancient times, Seraphim and Humans used to live together and everyone was happy, but then man started to do what they do - lie, cheat, get violent and greedy etc. This pissed off the Seraphim and they started living away from the humans. Now, out of all the hate and the malevolence, these evil entities called Hellions were born. Stronger the malevolence, the stronger the Hellion. Their forms range from a simple possession to a dragon, with the final dark lord in command. So, to stop these evil creatures, a Seraph is 'chosen', who can combine with a Seraphim and use their power to get rid of/purify the dark forces. And our story is about one such Seraph by the name of Sorey and the other Seraphim around him.

It's your usual cut-and-dried story where most of the characters are stereotypical. The "I'm nice to a fault" main character is a perfect example. Though I did like the character of Alisha, I still wouldn't give it too much credit. The only thing that was left to hook me up were the eye candy visuals. And ufotable did what they do best - gorgeous visuals and fight scenes. I would have preferred more close quarters combat but I am still okay with what I got. So, if you're here for the visuals, you'll get them. As for the story, characters and whatnot, try the game.
And that is all for this Summer Season review post. And since we're already this late, I'm thinking of picking up a handful of shows from the Fall Season and do a separate first impression for each. So, any suggestions?

Summer Season 2016 Review - Part 1

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Summer, is the season of suffering...[Obligatory Re:Zero joke]
Okay, maybe not. But the heat sure as hell can be annoying. So, to escape from the scorching sun you can either go to the beach and get a tan or if you're like me who lives thousands of kilometres away from the coastline, you can enjoy the comfort of staying at home, lying under the fan, half-naked, with your tongue out like a dog, munching on some ice cream from time to time.

So, while I was busy being sloth reincarnate (okay, that's the last one), I decided to check out the summer anime line-up, and oh my! So many hopes and dreams were right before my eyes, in the form of posters and promotional videos. Mafias, time-travellers, veteran cooks, amateur cooks, divers, exorcists, espers, wannabe kings, wannabe baseball players, otakus; and Handa - Sounds like one hell of a party doesn't it? Let's find out. Starting with Studio Shuka's mafia drama, 91 days.

91 Days

Studio : Shuka
Genre : Drama, Crime
Episodes Watched : 7
Status : Watching

The whole genre of Mafia dramas is something that is alien to anime. It's not that there haven't been any anime which focus on the mafia, it's just that these kind of settings (the serious kind) heavily depend on the character's expressions and the subtle mannerisms of the characters (Now that's just my opinion). How the head of the family, the Don, carries himself, the environment his presence creates and the pressure a subtle change in his expression generates (not to mention the direction); there are things that are best expressed by a human actor playing the role. And while the anime medium is really good at expressing a lot of things, I feel that this is an area where it lacks severely. Still, they gotta start somewhere, right?

So, Studio Shuka brings us 91 Days. A mafia drama setup in the prohibition era, featuring the three families - the Orco, the Vanetti and the Glassasians. The first two are at war with each other while the latter one intervenes to stop the feud. And amongst all the chaos, our main protagonist is out to exact revenge on the Vanettis for killing his family. And the story follows him as he worms his way into the company of Nero Vanetti - the son of Don Vanetti, and cleverly manipulates him to get close to his goal of annihilating the Vanetti family.

Since revenge stories are the norm for mafia dramas, I don't see anything special worth mentioning here. Besides the main character, and the ruthless way he carries out his plans, the other characters haven't left much of an impression. Nero is just getting thrown around all over the place like a ping pong ball, Fango is just crazy for the sake of being crazy, the Dons of both the families seem more like corporate VPs than Dons, protagonist's friend seems like he is just going to be bait later on, and there is no female character for any romance angle (which is a good thing... maybe?). The tone is serious, accompanied by the dull washed out vintage look thanks to the animation, which builds up a nice atmosphere. There are no unnecessary comedy skits or any funny faces. And the characters' wardrobe suit the show and the era it's setup in. But all things considered, it's far from being extraordinary.

Still, the show isn't a bad watch. Sure, if you're expecting a Hollywood level experience, then this would be utterly disappointing. But from an anime only perspective, this is something you should be a able to stomach.

Amaama to Inazuma

Studio : TMS Entertainment
Genre : Comedy, Seinen, Slice of Life
Episodes : 7
Status : Watching

“The soul is healed by being with children.”
This quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky pretty much sums up what this show is about. At least, what it's trying to show us (in my opinion).
After losing his wife, high-school teacher Inuzuka Kouhei is trying his best to bring up his little daughter. With the absence of the mother, "What's for dinner?" is now a dreadful question as daddy doesn't know the first thing about cooking. But as any other brave man, he tries, and fails miserably. So, in the end, packaged meals from the convenience store save the day. But, how long does a child last on those meals before they go from "this" good to "maybe this" good? Fortunately, Kohei meets a high-school student from his school, who invites him and his daughter Tsumugi to her family restaurant. After a moment of hesitation; motivated by the desire to provide his daughter with some good home-cooked meals (and to bond with her), Kohei takes up the offer. But, instead of walking in and ordering, the father-daughter duo ends up in a situation where they have to cook their meals. And from there on out, the duo, with the student Iida Kotori, often get together to enjoy the act of cooking.

Now, while this setting sounds terrific, there is a big hurdle that comes with a child as a protagonist. Depicting children is never easy, you can't project calculated fantasies and mindsets onto them. Not to mention their wacky activities and the amusing things they often say.
For the most part, Amaama to Inazuma has done a splendid job with their child protagonist. Tsumugi is quite the adorable ball of cuteness. And since they got an 11 year old to voice her, she seems even more like a real kid. That being said, the next hard part is to fit her into the cooking activity. "Kitchen and children don't mix", would be one way of putting it (if it makes any sense). I mean, no parent would allow their child in the vicinity of sharp objects, not to mention the flames, boiling liquids splattering everywhere and a multitude of other potential hazards associated with cooking. And even if you do get them in there, what does a child understand about the complexities that go into the art of making delicious food? In the end, you can maybe get her to roll the dough, or do the fillings, or some other mundane task. And there lies the problem. It gets old pretty fast. While all the other activities involving Tsumugi are nothing short of delightful, when it comes to cooking with her father, the show gets boring after episode 4. I'll say it again, everything else is lovely and I immensely enjoy Tsumugi playing out her fantasies, or learning how to make friends or whatnot, but the cooking part is a little underwhelming.

Now, that does not mean that you shouldn't watch this show. Even if you are very sceptical about this kind of setting, I'll still urge you to give this a shot. It's not extraordinary, but it's not everyday that you get to see such an adorable character.

Amanchu!

Studio : J.C. Staff
Genre : Comedy, School, Slice of Life
Episodes : 8
Status : Watching

J.C. Staff, doing a slice of life, about scuba diving, setup in a coast-town. Sounds like a treat, right?
After their superb performance last season (in Flying Witch), J.C. Staff decided to take things to the next level with Amanchu! Created by Kozue Amano (the same guy who created Aria), with Kenichi Kasai (Director of Bakuman, Hachimitsu to Clover, Nodame Cantabile, etc.) and Junichi Satou (Director of Tamayura, Princess Tutu, Aria, etc.) in charge of directing, the studio is pouring a lot of resources into this one (I think so..?). Then, where's the popularity? Why isn't everyone talking about this?

Amanchu! is a story about a girl who moves into a coast town from the city, where she finds one heck of an eccentric oddball as a friend, who drags her around and gets her interested into scuba diving. And so, with the start of their first year of high school, they join the diving club and our main character starts her journey to become a professional scuba diver, so she could go diving with her buddy. It's a simple concept, and it works, in theory.
The first few episodes of the show are little slow and thanks to the rather unusual funny faces of the characters, it takes a while for you to get used to it. On top of that, the oddball Pikari's eccentricity can be little too much. Not only does she do "Whoop!" way too much, her funny face can be straight up creepy sometimes. Thankfully, with the introduction of three more characters later on, the show picks up momentum and starts getting better.

The animation quality of the show is superb, with everything looking nice and bright and pristine. The character designs are something that I prefer (they have the similar tall slender build from Aria). Also, there is no in-your-face fanservice, there are no giant boobies dangling in front you, everything is kept PG as far as I know. And most importantly, it's fun to watch. Even though I wasn't sold after watching the first 3-4 episodes, I'm glad I kept watching because the show grew on me slowly. There are some good moments in the show, some genuinely hilarious situations and in the recent episodes, we also get other characters' point of view and their monologues. Heck, even Pikari isn't so creepy anymore.
So, if you love slice of life, superb production quality and you don't mind a largely female cast, this show is for you.

Arslan Senki

Studio : LIDENFILMS
Genre : Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Historical, Supernatural
Episodes : 8
Status : Done

"I have an army."
"We have a Daryun."
Continuing it's physics defying stunts from last season, Arslan Senki enters into season two with our fabulous "Denka!!" moving forward in his journey and encountering some unexpected circumstances. The story continues with Arslan and company stationed at the Peshawar Fortress, where they are suddenly assaulted by the Turan Kingdom. After preventing that assault, they are barely able to catch their breath before an even bigger problem comes knocking on their door. Once again, Arslan must set out with his brigade and gather an army to take back his kingdom. On the other hand, in the Lusitanian camp, a different kind of trouble is brewing, in the form of inner conflict and a power struggle. Not to mention, our "Silver Mask" Hermes has finally kick-started his own agenda into full gear. Now, where does it all lead to?

While reading the announcement that Arslan Senki was getting another season, I was pretty excited, but after they made it clear that it was only gonna have 8 episodes, those expectations changed drastically. Given where the story ended in season one, mere 8 episodes weren't enough to wrap it up, and it seems like Lidenfilms made the right call here. The main focus isn't on the main story. I don't mean this is just one long OVA, the main story (regarding the status of the Pars Kingdom) does move forward, it's just that Arslan and company "have to" take a detour and fight the pirates in a coast town, which lasts for a majority of those 8 episodes. So, if you were looking for a face-off between Daryun and Hermes or Pars vs Lusitania, you'll be disappointed.

Now, that doesn't mean that these 8 episodes are bad. They do offer something. Arslan seems to be slowly growing out of his naivete and moving towards maturity. On the other hand, we see a side to Hermes which pushes his character outside the "mad dog out for revenge" stereotype (though he's as angry as ever). Also, Etoile is now pushed pretty close to Arslan *eyebrow raise*.
Point is, the show is still interesting, though I think it would be fair to say that it's a downgrade from season one in terms of the content of the story. And to top that, it ends on a cliffhanger, with no guarantee that we'll be seeing a season three. So, if you're looking to get into the Aslan Senki 'series', I'd tell you that this isn't the best time to do that, unless you are dying to see a medieval era war setup.

Fukigen na Mononokean

Studio : Pierrot Plus
Genre : Comedy, Supernatural
Episodes : 9
Status : Watching

Ghosts, youkai, and the supernatural. There are multiple ways of approaching a setting involving them, and anime, mostly tends to be on the lighter side. Often presenting the youkai as an existence that is a part of the huge circle of life. Next, you have a character that can interact with the youkai and already has or grows the feelings of compassion and love towards them. He then goes on to help people who are 'troubled' by those youkai and helps the youkai pass on to the underworld (basically, exorcism, but without any of the scary bits). Our character grows in this process, learning tiny life lessons with every encounter and the show usually goes on like this with an episodic format. Several characters make occasional appearances, or maybe a youkai sticks around till the end as either a mascot or a teacher.
If you are familiar with the above formula, and it is something that you fancy, then Fukigen na Mononokean would be a nice little treat for you. And if you're not. Well, read on(?).

So, on the evening before the start of high-school, our main character Ashiya, encounters a strage white creature on his way home. Thinking that it is a lost stuffed animal, he picks it up, puts it in a plastic bag and ties it to a pole on the side of the road. Just as he was about to leave, the creature comes to life and laches onto his back. And that starts a whole slew of problems for Ashiya. He feels drained, nauseated, dizzy and pained with a pulsing headache. So much so, that he couldn't even make it to the school gates on his first day. This goes on for a week after which he ends up consulting a "Mononokean" who is looking for exorcists. And from here on out, he gets involved into the world of supernatural and gets "hired" by the Mononokean's owner as an assistant.

That's basically your first episode, and from there it's more or less an episodic/youkai of the week scenario. There's no overarching plot as of now (though there are a few interesting facts which point towards one). The relationship between Ashiya and Abeno is interesting, though I must say that not every youkai scenario is likeable. Some of them do come off as boring and uninteresting (maybe it's the cultural gap). What I'm interested in, is the Underworld. I think they presented it in an interesting way (with the artstyle and everything) and I would like to see more of it.
My recommendation for this, is a maybe. I don't hate this show but I won't give it a definitive "good" either. At least not yet. So, I'd say check out a couple episodes to see if it's your thing.

Handa-kun

Studio : Diomedea
Genre : Comedy, Shounen, Slice of Life
Episodes : 9
Status : Watching

Misunderstandings, could be a pain to deal with. Especially when they don't work in your favor. Comedy gags involving misunderstandings are a recurring event in most comedy harem anime. Generally, the extent of those misunderstandings is kept to a minimum. But, what happens when you have a whole show centred around nothing but misunderstandings? How far can you push it before it loses it's flair and you start breaking your characters?
Handa-kun features the high school life of Seishuu Handa, the protagonist of the famous slice of life anime Barakamon. Reading that name, you might be wondering if this is going to have similar themes. But sadly, the protagonists' name is the only thing that's common here. Handa-kun has absolutely nothing to do with Barakamon.

For a moment, let us consider that Barakamon never existed. Now, with that perspective, the show Handa-kun is about a high school student and an aspiring calligrapher Seishuu Handa, who, is vastly misunderstood by everyone at school (except a couple or so people). While Handa might just be your ordinary high school guy with a passion for calligraphy, everyone else believes that he is this great benevolent wise cool "man" who has graced them with his presence (basically they think he's Sakamoto). On the other hand, Handa believes that the whole school hates him and all of their acts of praise/worship look like bullying to him. So, the gag goes like this : Something happens, Handa reacts according to his perspective (that everyone hates him), and then that reaction is misinterpreted by everyone else in a way that ends up putting Handa on a pedestal. And at the end of every gag, usually more and more fanboys/fangirls get added into the Handa fandom. While poor Handa remains lonely and scared.

The thing with the gags in Handa-kun is that they are just your usual hit or miss type. Nothing that will get you rolling over the floor with laughter, but there are some which might get a good chuckle out of you, while the rest will just be "meh" and will leave you feeling sorry for Handa. That's about all there is to it.
So, I'd say you should check out at least 3 or 4 episodes to see if this kind of comedy is your thing. Also, don't be fooled by the weird first segment of the first episode, just skip the whole diomedea handa-force anime stuff at the beginning. Only Gintama can pull off something like that.
And with that, I end part 1 of this Summer Season 2016 First Impression cum Review post here. I wasn't planning on being this late but life just kinda happened and I had to devote my time elsewhere. Not to mention, this time I'm doing a total of 18 shows. That's the most I've ever done for a first impression. Anyways, part 2 is going to cover Alderamin on the Sky, Battery, Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga aru, Mob Psycho 100, New Game and Orange. So, look forward to it. And lastly, thank you for reading this post.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Review

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Review

I have a thing for power fantasies. But it's not just any run-of-the-mill overpowered stuff that I like, I am kind of particular about how it should do it's thing. The very first condition is, the character should be godlike right from the start, I don't want a weak underdog story, I don't want training arcs, I want to see the guy stomp everything right from the start. Number two, the opponents. They, and everyone else, must think that they are the ones with the overwhelming advantage, they have to be a little cocky about it as well. And last but not the least, our main character shouldn't be so humble, like there should be a condescending look in his eyes (or it should just be apparent from his attitude) but he shouldn't be a downright sadist either.

So, last year, after watching Overlord (2015), episodes of One Punch Man and SKT's dominance in the League of Legends 2015 World Championship, I wanted to further satisfy my urge to watch a good stomping. Hence, I embarked on a journey to find an anime which had all the aforementioned prerequisites. And there I stumbled upon 'The Chronicles of Onii-sama', otherwise known as Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei or The IrregularGod at Magic High School. Now, this is what some people might call a guilty pleasure but I didn't feel a shred of guilt watching it, so it was just all pleasure for me (haha). Anyways, let's start.

Mahouka Gif 1

So it all began when Onii-sama said, "Let there be light...novel."
Based on a light novel by Satou Tsutomu, Mahouka Kokou no Rettousai is setup in a world where magic has now become a technology, closely intertwined with science and taught systematically in schools all across the world. Though the more economic uses of this "skill" are yet to be discovered (like using magic to facilitate fusion), magicians now play a crucial role on the front lines of the military and the police (you'll get an infodump on how this world came about during the first few minutes of the show). And so to nurture the various "skillset" of the young budding magicians, various schools are setup across Japan, with a specific purpose to train magicians for combat. These schools have a screening test where they determine several aspects of a magic user's potential. Depending on their score the students are sorted into two groups - course 2 students who may have had a better score on the paper test but they lack the practical skills ; and course 1 students, the topdogs, who excel at both the academic aspects as well as the practical skills.

Our sibling pair, under the aliases of Shiba Tatsuya and Shiba Miyuki, enrols into one such school - The First High School. But Tatsuya (or Onii-sama) gets thrown into course 2 despite having the highest score on the paper test. And the point the anime often tries to make is that it is the system's fault that a godlike being (i.e., the one true Onii-sama) was judged as 'inferior' even though he far outclassed everyone else. Not to mention the discord and the discrimination that arises among the students because of this system. At least that's what it looks like at first. But as the show goes on further into its various arcs, one thing becomes very clear - this is Tatsuya's show. And while it may look like the show is trying to cater to some of the aforementioned issues, when it comes down to it, the show doesn't care at all. Whether it be the characters or the premise, if Onii-sama is involved, they aren't important. A good example of this is the issue of flying magic. The show makes it clear (with a lot of sci-fi info dump) that flying using magic would be a difficult feat. Not only that, Tatsuya himself gives an explanation on why it wouldn't work in theory. But a few moments later, the guy does it!

The point is, if your definition of a good show is concerned with the amount of respect the show has for its side characters and its premise, then this is a terrible show to watch. Not only that, even by your "usual standards" (whatever they are), this show is just average at best. Even after re-watching it three times, I still can't come up with a "plausible excuse" to convince you to watch this. So, why do I like Mahouka? Short answer is - it appeals to something I am very particular about i.e., my idea of a power fantasy. But there's more to it. So please bear with me.

Mahouka Gif 2

The first thing that makes Mahouka so different from your usual shounen (not in a good way, or a bad way, just different) is that it does not follow the Hero's Journey Monomyth. There is no call to adventure, no great mentors for our main character to look up to, no challenges, no temptations, no rivalries, no arch-enemies, no training arcs or a subsequent transformation. In other words, our main character doesn't grow, he remains the same throughout the show. Instead, several aspects of his character and powers are revealed to us as the show goes on.

The second thing is the story. Most shows give the viewer a clue as to where the story might be heading, or at least they have a planned ending point, or have a point. Mahouka doesn't. In the first arc, it's talking about the school's education system, how it's flawed and gives rise to all the "apparent" discrimination, but it all goes out of the window once the second arc kicks in full gear. Same goes for the second and the third arc. What was the show trying to tell us by showing us an inter school competition or a terrorist attack?

If you don't try to read too much into the 'politics' and other different labels, the obvious answer would be - To show us how awesome Shiba Tatsuya is. And that isn't a wrong assumption. Because the more I think about it, the more I am inclined to believe that Mahouka is presented to us in a way similar to how a chronicle about an archetypal King is written. We're introduced to a world - how it came about, it's issues etc., given a lot of explanations about the setting and how magic works, many side characters make their way in, some play the bad guy, some play the good, but in the end, it's all about the King (in this case Shiba Tatsuya) - and how much of a great benevolent divine being he is. The spotlight is always going to end up on him. It is like reading a religious text about a God.

Mahouka Gif 3

Speaking of God, there is this interesting but kind of far-fetched theory regarding the show which relates Shiba Tatsuya to the Indian God Shiva. But it fits pretty well. And it's not just the similarity in their name (or the fact that one of the enemies called him "Maheshvara"). Take Tatsuya's abilities for example. Physical prowess aside, his three innate magic abilities are - Decomposition, Regrowth and Elemental Sight. Decomposition relates to death (or complete destruction) as he can just 'decompose' anything that has form or design - whether it be human beings, magic sequences, or matter itself. And Shiva is a God of destruction (he is called 'The Destroyer'). Not only that, Tatsuya's ultimate form of Decomposition Magic - Material Burst (which converts matter into pure energy), requires a specialized CAD called "The Third Eye". That's one of the features of Shiva the God (both have unimaginable destructive power). And last but not the least, their weapon of choice. While Shiva literally wields a Trident as his weapon, Tatsuya's personal CAD (which looks like a gun) has "Trident" written on it (There's more to that theory but let's stop here).
It is this relation that further cemented my belief that Mahouka isn't like your usual everyday anime with a story and all. It's a chronicle that worships Shiba Tatsuya. Now this is just me hopelessly trying to defend this show but you wouldn't judge a Chronicle the same way you would judge a Novel, would you?

Moving on. Reason no. 3 why Mahouka is so different from your usual Shounen - it's main character, Shiba Tatsuya. Tatsuya is in no way shape or form (maybe that's an exaggeration), a relatable character. And that fits with how a Chronicle depicts a King. A commoner isn't supposed to be able to 'relate' to a King. The point is to tell you how great the King is, doesn't matter how humble or down to Earth he is. You are supposed to be left in awe of his character, his perfection and his greatness.

Mahouka Gif 4

Shiba Tatsuya is near perfect, but according to the show, he isn't flawless either. He has flaws, which, in theory, should make him 'weak', but he makes up for it in ridiculous ways which end up turning the whole thing upside down. For example, he can't use 'normal' Magic like other magicians because he "doesn't have the sufficient processing skills to master a general CAD" (CADs are devices magicians use to 'execute' or 'invoke' magic). He makes up for it by carrying around pre-programmed magic sequences in the form of cartridges for his specialised CAD "Trident". It would be okay if that's all there was it to. But it turns out, he can execute magic sequences from memory! Granted they can't be complex spells, but the ones he can use - Decomposition, Regrowth and Elemental Sight (his three innate magic), pretty much make him invincible and more or less a God. And that takes the show away. An invincible character means no tensions, no risks, no dangers and no chance for the opponents. On top of that, the guy is emotionless (except when it comes to his sister).
So, go in expecting not to see any of the cliché "I must become stronger", "I will have my revenge" or "I will save the world" routine. It's a one sided stomping, through and through, devoid of any real emotions or tension.

While we are on the topic of characters, let us address the 'troublesome' relationship between our protagonist Shiba Tatsuya and his sister Shiba Miyuki. Right from the beginning, Miyuki's actions strongly indicate that she has some 'feelings' for her Onii-sama. Tatsuya on the other hand, doesn't display the same kind of emotions. Later on, we are given the information that the only emotion Tatsuya is capable of experiencing is his brotherly love for his sister. And this being the only emotion, it is quite intense. But the reasons for why Miyuki feels that way, or why Tatsuya became this way were never explored in detail (I had to read the Reminiscence volume to find out).
What I want to point to is that this can get a little uncomfortable at times. And it does come up often, but thankfully not in the same degree to cause discomfort. So, watch out for that.

Mahouka Gif 5

Last but not the least, the world-building and the lengthy explanations associated with it.
There are quite a number of shows out there which like to take their world seriously and give the viewer extensive amounts of information on how things work in that world. That includes the general know-hows like the phenomenon that exist in that world (magic, chakra, nen etc.), certain events that had a serious impact (the second impact, world wars, etc), the people of the world and any special powers present (chi, magic, espers), the standing of the world governments or clans and such. And since most of the shows are aimed at the general public, they don't delve into over complicated exposition. And even if they do, they try their best not to overcomplicate things with ornate academic vocabulary. A good example of that is the HunterxHunter (2011) series.

But Mahouka, doesn't give a damn. The show actively resorts to lengthy explanations about magic full of scientific terminology. And unless you have a hobby or an interest in physics, most of the explanations are going to sound like pretentious gibberish (it is sci-fi though). But if you are able to understand, you will see a very organised world setup in a creative way (supported by Madhouse's animation). How the show transfers the idea of magic from a fantasy to a scientific phenomenon (via the concepts of information/phenomenon writing and psions etc). How it introduces several types of magic, magic sequences, CADs, and how they all function. It's all given a lot of thought, and very creatively put together. And that's what is impressive about this. They could have just resorted to the "because it's magic" excuse, but they didn't. They put a lot effort into it, and I applaud them for that because I thoroughly enjoyed it.
But all this comes at a hefty price. A good chunk of the runtime is exhausted in characters talking about magic or giving explanations on magic. This also effects the pacing of the show. I think this is the reason they couldn't cover the Reminiscence volume which had our main character's past (a very important aspect to the story).

As for the other production aspects, everything is in order thanks to Madhouse. They have done a splendid job at visually depicting magic and keeping it in sync with the explanations given. It's not over the top extraordinary (compared to their other "extraordinary" works), but it fits with the overall tone of the show. The particles, 3d, character designs, cinematography, action scenes - all are handled really well. It complements the futuristic world setting. And all of this is backed up by an amazing electro soundtrack. "Election","Code Break", "Battle 4 & 5" with the first opening "Rising Hope" would be my picks.

Anyways, to sum things up, the absence of a driving force, presence of a perfect character, and complicated exposition (not to mention the suggestive 'incest') put Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei in the "anime not meant for everyone" category. It's a good show, but it also has quite a bit of flaws in it, flaws that can take away a considerable amount of enjoyment if you aren't comfortable with them. So, keep in mind those points before you go in. Personally, I enjoyed the heck out of this series. So much so, that I went ahead and picked up the light novel to get the answers to all the questions I had. Also, there's a movie sequel coming up, and that has me pumped.
That's it for the review. Thank you for reading.
Mahouka Rating

Spring Season 2016 First Impressions - Part 3

Spring Season First Impressions - Part 3

“Procrastination is my sin. It brings me naught but sorrow. I know that I should stop it. In fact, I will--tomorrow.”   ~ Gloria Pitzer

I wonder if it's just me but whenever I sit down and try to write something, I end up spending hours upon hours not writing and doing something else, whether it be watching youtube videos or anime or reading or thinking about stuff. I can never force myself to write. It's weird, and whenever I do try to force myself, I get nothing. Just when writing this final piece, I ended up watching an old British man play with toys on youtube for the past week (Grand Illusions is the channel's name. It's somehow very pleasing to watch an old man with a British accent talk about and play with all kinds of toys... Extraordinary! And Oh My God the comment section!).

Luckily, I made it before the season end. So, here we are at the final part of my Spring Season 2016 First Impressions, and we've saved the best for last. Here we go -

Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta

Studio : Project No.9
Genre : Comedy, Ecchi, Romance, School

How do I explain this...
You see, when I had already compiled the list of all the anime I was going to cover in this Spring Season First Impression post, I still had a spot left. So, my genius brain decided to select the first anime that showed up on my facebook news feed. And voila! here we are. And what a title we have chosen!

Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta or "And you thought there is never a girl online?" is part relatable, part fun and part cringefest (and part memefest, if that makes sense).
So, our protagonist Hideki Nishimura (IGN : Rusian), an avid MMORPG player, one day decides to do the unthinkable unwritten taboo of online gaming - proposing to a female character in game. And as expected, the girl char turns out to be a guy. With a broken heart and shattered pride, Rusian decides to never commit the same sin again. Fast forward two years into the future and now, a girl from his 4 member guild is pestering him to become her husband in game. Powerless against the girl's persistence, he gives in. But little did he know that this girl character would later turn out to be an actual girl - a pretty, nice, socially awkward girl. Not only that, the rest of the club members turn out to be girls too. AND they all go to same school (mother of coincidence right there).

Anyways, the show is about their adventures in-game and in real life as they form their own school club. With the goal of getting the socially awkward Ako to stop confusing games with reality and deal with the not-so-complex(?) problem of how an in-game relationship translates into real life, we get to see a variety of interesting and sometimes cringeworthy situations. The amount of fun you will get from these situations depends on your affinity with the MMORPGs as the characters often use the MMO slang and discuss general situations that you might find in an MMO. As a sort of a rookie MMO player myself, I had fun watching it. But there were times where I was questioning my judgement. So my final recommendation is a maybe. I'd say try a couple episodes to see if it is your thing.

Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Studio : White Fox
Genre : Drama, Fantasy, Thriller

Now here's a take on how being the main character of a video game would feel like. A one difficult video game where you have no powers but everything around you could probably kill you in a matter of seconds (sounds like Dark Souls). But it's not about all the physical damage you take from dying, because you can always respawn at the last checkpoint, it's the memories you shared with the people around you from that point on that get wiped everytime you die (and you have to go through it all over again). You see, video games, from the character's point of view, are nothing more than a torture fest, especially when there's a noob sitting behind the screen.

So, one day, on his way back home from a convenience store, our main character Natsuki Subaru gets transported to a fantasy world, literally, in the blink of an eye. He finds himself standing in the middle of a shopping district with no sign whatsoever of the person who summoned him. While trying to gather information and making snarky remarks on how this was a lame video game setup and why he doesn't have any superpowers, he finds himself in a back alley with a couple of thugs. And after more snarky rpg remarks, he gets his ass handed to him. Enter the silver haired half-elf goody-two-shoes female lead Emilia, who seems to be running after a thief, but stops to save our poor little miserable MC. She is cute, kind hearted, generous, and oblivious when it comes to certain kind of events. Basically your cardboard cut-out of a rich sheltered damsel in distress.

So what makes this show interesting? Well, after our silver haired goddess (from Subaru's perspective), saves him, they decide to look for her stolen insignia together. After spending a whole day chasing leads all over town, they finally stumble upon an old warehouse deep in the city slums, which seems to be a loot house where they can 'negotiate' to get back the stolen insignia. They go in and... BAM! They're dead. And so begins Subaru's tragic journey into this fantasy world where the only power he possesses is to Return by Death to a certain point in time.

The show makes excellent use of the contrast that arises due to this situation by splitting the first episode in two parts. One with a light cheerful tone and the other with the dark tone. And this is expressed very well by the change in animation style as well. It is this shock, that gripped me. And throughout the series, the suspense and the thrill associated with this shock and Subaru's eventual death and reset is what makes the series enjoyable. Poor Subaru enjoys the displeasure of dying in various ways - sliced, stabbed in the gut, poisoned, mauled, decapitated; you name it. And we haven't even started talking about the emotional damage he experiences from having to realise that all the bonds he formed were shattered.

This does a marvellous job at distracting you from the issues that the series has. Instead of going further into it and making the post even longer, I'll tell you this -
This series is amazing, as long as you don't start thinking in a logical and rational way. Because if you do, you will find quite a bit of questionable instances and several of our main characters' motivations and actions will make no sense to you. On top of it, you might also find the excessive amount of lolis to be a bit displeasing (unless that's your thing, then rejoice!). So, try not to analyse everything too much when you start this show, let yourself get carried away in the direction the series is going and you will have a blast watching this fantasy thriller. My recommendation is a yes!

P.S. Don't take that first paragraph too seriously, it was just a random idea. Actually, don't take anything written here too seriously.

Sakamoto Desu ga?

Studio : Studio Deen
Genre : Comedy, School, Seinen

Step out of the way everyone, Swagamoto is here!!
Usui Takumi ain't got shit on this guy!
After getting tired of having fun with all the 72 virgins in swag-heaven, the swag-Jesus Swagamoto decided to descend to Earth to let all the puny swagless humans gawk on his almighty holy swag. The swag-god enrolls himself into the class 1-2 of the Gakubun Prefectural High School, and from day one becomes the most popular kid in school. And we witness the everyday tasks performed by the God of Swag in a way so stylish that no mere human can ever hope to fully comprehend the swag level of these miracles. Forget the ice cold coolness, this is absolute zero level of coolness, a level of coolness so cool that even the subatomic particles stop in awe of all the swag phenomenon that Swagamoto causes.

All the excessive exaggerations aside, this is actually a pretty nice show. But a lot of it depends on whether or not suave humour (or Mary Sue MCs) suits yours fancy. Basically, we have a main character who is charming, confident, elegant, cool and whatever pretty adjectives you can find in the dictionary. And he often finds himself in situations that would be too difficult, if not impossible to get out of, for a normal person. And he gets out of those situations in a very graceful, cool, and probably impossible ways. Granted that not every escape is legendary, there are quite a few times where the subtlety of his actions is amusing. And that's the whole zist of the show, Sakamoto dealing with all kinds of high school anime cliche events and more, in a way that is in no way realistic but ends up being delightful.

My recommendation is a yes, but with a warning. Just like any other comedy show out there, you will only like it if it is compatible with your sense of humour. And if that's not the case... Swagamoto's almighty swiggity swagger will fix it for ye! (I'm sorry. Had to do it.)

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

Studio : Silver Link
Genre : Comedy, School, Slice of Life

“Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.”
Listlessness, laziness, laxness, leisureliness, sluggishness, drowsiness - there's so many words for it, I wonder if those guys really understood the essence of that feeling.
A nice spring breeze when you're sitting outside on the porch, or when lovely rain comes down after the scorching summers and you can smell the earth, or during those slightly cold autumn mornings, or when you're snuggled under the covers during those snowy winter days and it's really warm and comfy inside - we've all had one of those moments where we feel so pleasant, blissful and peaceful that the last thing to do would be to think of doing something. Mind you, this is different than being bored, like how you get during one of those boring lectures in class that you start falling asleep. True listlessness is an art that happens by itself, that requires letting go - like how you "fall" asleep.

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge, as it's english translation says, is all about a guy named Tanaka being listless all the time. He is lathargic when he's at home, he's lathargic at school, he's lethargic when he's eating, writing, studying... the guy just has no will to be active, unless it comes to finding ways to save energy. Then he can come up with rather interesting ideas. Enter, the best friend Ohta, not exactly a polar opposite but he's someone who always takes care of our lazy log Tanaka, in ways which by normal logic, would seem nothing short of 'unusual'. He literally carries him around - across corridors, from class to class, and to even his home when needed. He is the ultimate caretaker Tanaka needs.

The highlight of the show is mostly the lovely bond of friendship between these two and how they deal with the bizarre things that Tanaka's listlessness gets them into. On top of that, several characters make their way in and create a charming environment. This includes the tiny hyperactive Miyano; Echizen or Ecchan, the tsundere-san, who also happens to be a childhood friend of Ohta (there's a bit of a chemistry there that needs some spotlight); Shiraishi, the kind & beautiful popular girl with a quirky secret; and last but not the least - the sisters of our two main characters, one of which needs further exploration.

The show gives you quite a relaxing experience, there's some chuckles and giggles here and there, the voice actors have done an amazing job, the characters are lovely and charming - it's an excellent remedy if you're looking for stress-relief. So, go watch it.
P.S. While I may have praised this show a lot, I would still urge you to take my advice with a grain of salt.


And with that my friends, I wrap up my First Impressions on the Spring Season 2016. Looking at the lineup of the Summer Season, I think we are going to have a blast. There are so many series that are making a return, some really good works are getting an adaptation. I'm really excited to see how it will go. I don't know, maybe I'll do one of those "Anime to look out for in the upcoming season" post. I've never done those before. Should I?
Anyways, thank you for reading.
Also, because I can--
Go Beyond!
PLUS ULTRA!!