Review: The Devil is a Part-timer (Funimation February!)

I mostly heard of this series after it finished airing. There was a little bit of talk about it during its runtime and stuff, but it wasn’t until after it finished that I began to hear more and more about it. I heard pretty positive things, but I somehow got it into my mind that this show was not that good and not worth my time. One of my closest friends got me to see otherwise.

An Introduction

Aside from Earth, there exists another world (dimension?) filled with angels, demons, along with humans. Its name is Ente Isla. Throughout the history of Ente Isla, the demons have always wanted to conquer the entire world, and they were led by the Lord Satan himself. However, as of late, the demons and Lord Satan have found themselves overwhelmed and surrounded by the resisting angels and humans. Left with few other options, the Lord Satan made his decision: a tactical retreat into another world!

Thus, the Devil himself, along with one of his closest army generals, Alciel, wind up lost and confused in a dark alleyway in Tokyo, Japan. After a short run-in with the police, the two of them found themselves needing to adjust to life here in this strange country. After getting themselves a place to stay, they assume new identities: the Devil renames himself Mao, and Alciel gets the name Shiro. Next, Mao (the Devil) unfolds the next part of his new evil plan: to get a part-time job at a fast food restaurant!

The Devil and Alciel are not alone, though. A “hero” from Ente Isla has followed them through the portal, sworn to protect both Ente Isla and this other world from the Devil and his evil ways. The hero, Emilia, (going under the name Emi in this world) will stop at nothing to reach her goal… as long as it’s made clear that her and the Devil are not dating.

The Plot and Characters

I had this show sold to me as more of a pure, straight up comedy… Something maybe a bit closer to shows like GJ Club or D-Frag!, that take an original concept and just run with the antics. Instead, what we really got was a show with an actual plot, but didn’t take itself seriously with every turn that occurs. It’s up to personal preference how much plot you want in a comedic show (or how much comedy you want in your plot-centric show). I feel this show sits in the middle. There is a coherent (if not deep) plot here, and it’s basically the vehicle that the comedy rides on to keep itself from getting stale.

When it comes to the comedy, I think it’s fairly well done. I won’t say that every joke hits its mark, but I only really saw a rare few of them as “stupid”. There’s a decent share of jokes and moments that were down-right hilarious though. You can never be too sure as to when the show will or won’t throw a joke at you, and I think that part of what makes those jokes so funny: they come at the most unexpected of times. Overall, it felt fairly well-written. Most jokes, though, will just be pretty amusing, making you smile and give the occasional chuckle.

I’m happy the plot doesn’t feel half-hearted. No obvious plot holes present themselves to me, and while there may be an occasional deus-ex-machina-ish moment, it really isn’t that bad. Overall, we could’ve gotten something a whole lot worse, especially since the original idea of the Devil working part-time in a restaurant could lead to something stale really quick (although slice-of-life shows do just fine doing something similar though).

My biggest issues tend to revolve around how the show treats some of its characters, actually. The character Suzuno has a big (but not long) arc near the end of the series, leading up to a big heel-turn (that frankly isn’t that surprising), but she appears too late in the show and things develop with her too fast for it to really feel effective. I wish the show was able to make her development seem more natural. Secondly, there are some villains that are introduced early on, and they get dealt with halfway into the series with a big dramatic battle; after that, the main characters all return to their normal lives until another dramatic battle happens towards the end of the series. For this second battle, one of the villains from the first battle re-appears again, but I had honestly forgotten about him by that point. Honestly, the show could’ve gotten by just fine without him even making a re-appearance there; he didn’t even do much of anything. Lastly, the running joke of Mao and Emi always mistaken to be dating got old on me after a couple times of it happening. It felt clichéd to me and more forced in, or at least unnecessary, later on in the series.

All in all, though, I enjoyed it a lot. Even with these complaints, I walked away from this show with a really positive experience. I don’t think I’ll watch it again until years later on, mainly because it felt like an experience that doesn’t really feel like it warrants a re-watch this quickly, but I’ll definitely show it to friends who haven’t already seen it.

The Atmosphere

The art of this show is really not that bad. However, that being said, it’s not all too amazing either. It kind of sits around “average to good” territory, and personally, I think that’s fine; this show’s focus is on its writing. They don’t need to go 110% on making it look super ultra beautiful. That being said, episode 10 was not all too fun to me to sit through: the animals shown in the episode, along with the lack of establishing shots and an otherwise not-that-special looking attraction park, made this episode stand out to me as one of the least visually-pleasing episodes in this show. Beyond that, though, the show’s visuals shouldn’t scare anyone off.

The animations is also in that “average to good” territory. Again, I think that’s pretty fine. The fight scenes in this show are pretty alright actually; if they were actually bad, it would really detract from my enjoyment of the series.

When it came to the opening and ending songs, I have to say… I wish they were better. The opening sounded like an overly cheerful, peppy, pop song that I just felt didn’t fit with the show; if it were a slice-of-life or romance show, I’d be more okay with it; this show is neither though. The opening animation is alright, I guess; again, I would’ve wanted better. The only two parts I really liked during the opening animation was the scene where Mao changes from the Devil to looking out the window in his apartment, and then a cut to Chiho in her bed.

The ending song reminded me of something out of Non Non Biyori. Non Non Biyori is a wonderful show (just mentioning it here makes me want to rewatch it again), but it’s rather different from what this show is. The ending song isn’t offensive though, and fits more if you see it as something Chiho sings. The ending theme, which is just a pan up on an image of Chiho, is uninspiring though. This anime also had two other ending songs, but I frankly don’t remember them at all.

Funimation did really good on its dub for this show… 95% of the time. I really liked a lot of the voices that got picked: special shout-outs to Anthony Bowling and Alex Moore for voicing Shiro and Suzuno respectively. My biggest complaint is with those rare moments that Chiho had to say anything longer than a sentence; it just sounded bad with the high-pitched voice. There’s a specific scene I’d cite as an example, and I believe it’s in episode 8. Considering everything though, I do like the dub quite a bit.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

The Devil is a Part-Timer is more a show with a semi-serious plot, but with writing that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. The fact that the writing does this makes it really funny, especially in rather opportune moments, and makes this show a really fun experience. This is further helped by a pretty good dub from Funimation. I have complaints and issues with the show, especially with its forgettable opening and ending songs, but it doesn’t stop me from having really enjoyed myself watching it.

Lovers of comedy won’t want to skip over this show. Honestly, lovers of more straight drama or action shows won’t want to skip this over either: you’ll get your drama and action here, and the funny parts are just the icing on the cake. As well, those of you looking for an anime you want to share with your not-anime-obsessed friends have another contender right here.

Rating: Great
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ good dub, comedic writing really takes advantage of its situations for jokes, still has a semi-serious plot too
— opening and ending songs/animations could’ve been so much better, Suzuno’s arc too fast, Chiho doesn’t sound good when saying a long piece of dialogue

Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Funimation February!)

After my chance to watch The Boy and the Beast in a theater near the end of last year, I’ve since had more chances to enjoy more of Mamoru Hosoda’s works. That includes this, Wolf Children and Summer Wars (both of which, I’ll talk about at some point!). I’ve been wanting to watch this film ever since I’ve heard of it, and I’m so glad I finally had the chance.

An Introduction

Makoto Konna lives a pretty alright life. She sleeps in past her alarm, but wakes up and rushes out the door to make it to school just in time. She gets through the school day with (usually) little incident, and then spends the afternoon playing baseball with her best friends, Chiaki and Kousuke.

While biking to a nearby museum to meet up with a relative there, she realizes the brakes on her bike stop working. … Unfortunately, she realizes this while speeding downhill towards a railroad crossing where a train is about to pass by. Unable to stop herself, she (and her bike) flips over the boom gate and into the path of the train.

Any person would expect themselves to die in such a situation… but after Makoto opens her eyes, she finds herself sitting on that hill, next to her bike. She sees the train pass through the crossing uneventfully.

She just leapt back in time a few minutes.

After talking with this relative, she decides to test this ability, and begins to use it to prevent unfortunate things happening in her life. But when has messing with time travel ever not lead to complications?

The Plot and Characters

I am pleasantly surprised by the film’s treatment of Makoto. She wears baggy, boyish clothing, plays baseball with two boys and gets along great with them, and overall, lacks much femininity. If there was a character like this in any TV anime nowadays, I’m fairly certain they could not do this without once calling attention to it. This movie doesn’t though; it treats Makoto, her lifestyle, and her friendships as perfectly normal. I think this is really awesome.

This doesn’t mean Makoto is perfect, though; any good character is flawed, and Makoto’s flaw is the fact that she tends to run from her problems. And now that she has the time leaping ability, this “running” ends up her going back in time to make sure this problem never begins in the first place. While watching this, I was a bit annoyed by her doing this, but this may be because it’s a standard sight nowadays to see anime characters running from their problems. Taking a step back and thinking objectively, though, I can’t exactly fault her for this. It’s not like I haven’t run from my own problems in high school.

However, a good film will usually show a character learning to get over (or accept) their flaws. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time does ultimately show Makoto becoming a bit more confident, but I feel that gets a bit sidetracked in a romance subplot and explaining the time-leaping ability in the latter portion of the film. The romance subplot isn’t bad, and it’s not shoe-horned in, but I could get nit-picky about a few things if I wanted to. But I won’t.

Speaking of the time-leaping ability explanation: as far as time travel explanations go, it’s a pretty alright one. On the surface, it makes a decent amount of sense, and it leaves enough things ambiguous that the film doesn’t get bogged down in its explanations and open itself to more holes in its logic. That being said, there is one notable hole that bothered me, but it revolves around the climax of the film, so I won’t spoil things.

Makoto is the only character here who really gets any development, although one could maybe make an argument for Chiaki. You won’t be getting deep, intense views into the minds of these characters, but I’m not that miffed about that. Chiaki and Kousuke, overall, are kept at their surface level appearances, with a few scenes each expanding on who they are. However, this film does a really good job of portraying these characters as best friends; their interactions really come off as such.

Getting back into a more general look at the film, it’s an entertaining ride. There is a sharp turn between the light, super comedic first half of the film, and the more serious second half, but you know that something had to give at some point anyway. This film does pretty good at managing its pacing too; it really slows down at a number of stages to help you take in the scenes and the world around these characters, and it speeds up a number of times too to help move the plot along and keep the audience from getting bored.

Honestly, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time will hook itself into your emotions. It won’t be the saddest or most dramatic story you’ve ever seen, but has some really great funny moments and gets you attached to Makoto just in time for when the roller coaster takes the dive down into problems town.

The Atmosphere

Although I complained about it in The Boy and the Beast, I liked the decision to not use shading on the characters in this film. The simpler character designs and lack of shading work well with the not-as-realistic (but still beautiful) backgrounds here.

Makoto is expressive and quirky, and really comes across as an individual person through her actions alone. How she was animated is gloriously done throughout the entire film. Not that the other characters aren’t either; I honestly don’t really have anything I can complain about with the animation and art (excepting a single scene that was just a tad less quality than the rest of the movie).

This world is bright and colorful. The greens of the leaves and grass stand out with the blues of the sky and the browns of the rocks and dirt. Even at its more serious and saddening moments, color (or at least bright whites) is everywhere in this film.

Moving to another topic without transition… I feel that we never get a good look at Chiaki’s or Kousuke’s faces. I know this isn’t true, I specifically remember scenes where they are in the foreground. However, I still feel this way – a lot of the first portion of the film had Chiaki and Kousuke in the middle ground or background, and not the foreground. Thus, these characters got established without me really getting a good idea of their faces. It felt awkward and distant, and I think it really kept me from connecting more with Chiaki and Kousuke in the film. … I don’t know if I’m rambling in a nonsensical direction, but that’s how it felt to me.

Another thing that really annoyed me with the presentation is the super tech-y looking, mechanical parts moving dimension or whatever that Makoto travels through when she does her time leaps. It felt so sci-fi-y out of place in a film that (beyond the time travel) isn’t really technology focused. I wish the time leaps more looked like the scene when she acquired the ability, with the sketched drawings that flowed from one thing to another. That was cool looking.

The audio of the film is pretty good. I watched the film in Japanese, so I didn’t get to experience how the English dub was, but I’d bet the dub probably isn’t that bad. Makoto’s voice is perfect for her character; it matches everything about her – Riisa Nike, who voiced Makoto, is a live-action TV drama actor, so her good performance is probably not surprising, but she still deserves mad props. In fact, she even was the main lead again in a 2010 live-action re-adaptation of the original novel this movie was based upon. Takuya Ishida as Chiaki and Yuki Sekido as Makoto’s sister Miyuki are also memorable performances to me.

The background music was very piano-heavy, and I don’t really have much to complain about it. Although I may have enjoyed something with more instruments, this is still pretty good, and it’s fitting. I can’t remember specific examples, to my own discontent, but there were good tracks used in this film.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is an anime movie that you hear about a lot, but may or may not have had the chance to watch it. With Funimation now holding the license, though, now’s as good a time as any to get your hands on it and enjoy the experience.

This film does a great job with Makoto as a character, and her story is a fun and interesting one too; you’ll get laughs out of the film, but like all time travel stories, there’s more serious turns too. It’s not the most dramatic or saddest of stories, but it’s still a pretty good one. If you’re looking for something to entertain you in the span of 90 minutes, this is a choice I’d easily recommend. Frankly, I think this is something any anime fan should see at one point or another.

… Geez, I went through this entire review without a single time-related pun? Well, I guess I should leap back in time and fix that particular issue…

Rating: Great
Recommendation: Put This On Immediately
+++ film’s treatment of Makoto, great visuals, good handling of the pacing (slow scenes are really effective)
— Mechanical-gear filled dimension that appeared during time leaps, Chiaki and Kousuke felt awkwardly distant due to not seeing their faces, logic hole during the climax

Review: Tokyo Ghoul (Funimation February!)

Like I’ve said in my Assassination Classroom review, action shows aren’t something I watch all too particularly often. This doesn’t mean the few-off action shows I watch aren’t fun, but it does mean I’m usually relatively behind on the times when it comes to watching these shows.

Here is yet another prime example: Tokyo Ghoul. The show has risen in popularity since its 2014 release, and despite an ever-growing number of people telling me I really need to give it a shot, Tokyo Ghoul was never at the front of my mind when I asked myself what show I should start next.

Finally, however, this show was pretty much presented in front of me without me even being able to protest. … Well, I guess I could’ve, but Tokyo Ghoul soon showed me I didn’t really have a reason to.

An Introduction

In an alternate universe, near-human beings have appeared and live relatively undetected among us humans, the ghouls. Ghouls live, breath, and enjoy life in almost every single way a human does… there’s just one prime difference: they eat human flesh to survive.

It’s created an uneasy disturbance between humanity and the ghouls. While most common people see ghouls as unfamiliar creatures that “would never eat someone like me”, some of humanity has become riled up enough to create an organization called the CCG, focused on the extermination of ghouls. On the opposite end, a number of ghouls simply wish to just survive, being horribly treated and oppressed by the CCG, although some ghouls have lashed back out in violence – and have even created organized criminal organizations to combat the CCG and to bring general chaos.

It’s in this turbulent world that we meet our main character, Kaneki Ken. Kaneki is a book-loving college guy, but after a fatal accident while on a “date” with a girl named Rize, who turned out to be a ghoul, he wakes up feeling different. An ethically-questionable surgery replaced his failing organs with those of the ghoul Rize. Soon enough, Kaneki discovers himself to be something quite rare: a half-ghoul.

Now awkwardly trying to keep his human side while also finding a way to deal with this new ghoulish sense of hunger, another ghoul named Touka delivers him to Anteiku, a small coffee shop in his neighborhood that doubles as a secret safe-haven for ghouls.

The Plot and Characters

The world of Tokyo Ghoul is a complex one, and I’m personally happy that this show doesn’t shy away from its complexities to only focus on Kaneki, and his plight as a human-turned-(half-)ghoul.

Although Kaneki is certainly the main character of the show, and he gets the majority of the screen time and focus, a decent amount of time is also spent on someone on the flip side of the coin: a 30-something CCG investigator named Amon. It provides a decent amount of insight into both sides of this conflict, and at its best moments, Tokyo Ghoul is able to show that neither side is really in the wrong here. The CCG, afraid of the ghouls and scared of what they could do to humanity, determined the ghouls are an enemy that must be stopped.

However, as the anime spends more time on Kaneki’s side of things, the CCG are more often than not painted in a bad light. The show does a really good job of showing the humanity (in essence and appearance, not in physicality) of these ghouls, showing them to also be caring and feeling, that simply want to live their lives, but are also stuck with necessity to eat human flesh. It really gets you to care for and connect to these characters, and to root for them as they continue to hope they can live without fear and persecution.

It seems inevitable, though, that violence enters into the picture with Tokyo Ghoul; this is an action show, after all. Although a lot of the violence in the first half of the series stems from Kaneki stumbling into various parts of the ghoul world/way of life, we soon see the CCG become the antagonist to the actions of the ghouls, and we finally see Amon (and company) fighting against Kaneki (and company). It leads to an even-bigger enemy appearing at the very end of the series as well.

Although there was one fairly emotional scene when Amon and Kaneki first stood face to face, where Kaneki tried to show he was peaceful… there really isn’t much effort on Kaneki’s side to try to open a line of communication between the two groups. Of course, when both are so enraged on the other side, it’s hard, but I feel Kaneki could’ve gone further.

The final episode of this show, as well, is a really fascinating one, especially for Kaneki. I won’t say much about him in this episode, but needless to say, we really see him begin to come into his own, and actually go through an entire character arc in one episode. The episode does it in an artistic, realistic, and disgusting way that makes you want to look away but yet stay glued to the screen the entire time… and it’s awesome. That being said, though, those looking for a resolution will not find that here at the end of this final episode.

However, you can probably get some sort of idea of what happens after the end of that episode. … And after you develop and believe in that idea, move on to the second season.

The Atmosphere

Tokyo Ghoul, probably unsurprisingly, is a very dark series. Blacks and dark greys are used throughout, and even in the scenes with warmer tones and a calmer atmosphere, the show still felt distant and uninviting with its colors and visuals. I wouldn’t expect it to allow me to get too comfortable, honestly, but it also seemed like it didn’t want me to ever be comfortable at all, while watching it.

The visuals doesn’t leave me with much to complain, but it doesn’t particularly awe me all that much either. It’s not hard to keep track of what’s going on in fights, even if the animation isn’t the most fluid. The slower scenes allow some of the more artistic background visuals to shine at times, though. All in all, though, the quality does stay pretty consistent, and I didn’t really notice any glaring issues.

However, there will be one scene that I’ll probably end up remembering for a good while: in episode 1, after Kaneki returns to his apartment, he tries out a variety of foods, and slowly (and with little dialogue) realizes that he can’t eat human food anymore – he’s a ghoul. The emotions of the scene were shown in Kaneki’s panicked, hurried actions, and his eventual crying at the end, and it was honestly kind of moving.

The character designs are pretty standard for a 2014 anime; it’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not pushing the envelope either – it’s safe. The design of Kureo Mado (Amon’s older/wiser CCG partner) is the only one that really stood out to me; the other standard designs actually became a problem for me. I ended up mixing up or not recognizing a number of the supporting cast simply because they weren’t distinguishable or different enough. On a related note, though, the designs of the quinques (the weapons the CCG use) were pretty cool (I liked them even more for story reasons that I won’t spoil).

The show’s soundtrack ranges from big and grandiose, to quiet and timid, when the scene so needed it to be. Of course, any decently done soundtrack can do so. The reliance upon strings and the occasional electronic instrument or vocal for the action scenes do lead to some pretty cool songs, though. The piano is brought out for the more quieter and somber moments, and it also serves the show fairly well.

Speaking of voice acting, since I watched Tokyo Ghoul first in Japanese, I’m more used to the Japanese voices. The performances of Shu Tsukiyama and Nishiki were my favorite. This is one of those shows where you’ll get attached to either the Japanese or the English side, though. I’ve listened to parts of the series in English, and although the English cast sounds overall fine, it still feels off because I’m so used to them in Japanese. Touka’s performance in English seems pretty decent, but I feel Austin Tindle as Kaneki isn’t the best at monologues.

If I really had to tell you which one to choose, I’d probably tell you to just watch the show in Japanese. The subtitles aren’t that bad to follow, anyway. That being said, whatever one you choose, you’re probably gonna end up not liking the other all that much.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

I really like the story of Tokyo Ghoul; it does a really good job of presenting the life of a ghoul, the troubles they face, the issues they want to save, and the eventual fighting that seems inevitable for them. It seems a bit of a shame that the show couldn’t completely show the CCG as morally grey though; I would’ve liked this show more if it were more dedicated to showing neither side as black or white. Kaneki’s plight is an adventure to watch, though, for sure.

Action fans will probably have already seen this. If action isn’t your main jam, though, it may get a bit more murky for you: the story is interesting and the show does allow you to connect with its characters, but you will also have to put up with a decent amount of gore. Give it a few episodes and see what you think.

Rating: Good
Recommendation: Give It a Shot
+++ really allows to connect to the ghoul characters, the final episode, not straight good guys and bad guys
— could’ve gone further to show CCG as morally gray, Kaneki’s attempts to communicate with CCG could’ve been better, standard (not bad nor super-amazing) presentation

Review: Death Parade (Funimation February!)

Death Billiards was a short film created by Madhouse. It was part of a project for young and upcoming animators to learn under major anime studios. This same project is where Little Witch Academia first started as well, and now both  have had sequel TV series come out. (In fact, both Death Billiards and LWA were both made for the project’s 2013 results.)

Thus, Madhouse (along with NTV and Vap, a Japanese TV station and a DVD producing company) came out with Death Parade in early 2015. I, however, didn’t take the chance to watch it until a year later, in January 2016, and I wish I had earlier…

An Introduction

Knowing where you go after you die has always been one of humanity’s biggest mysteries.

This anime puts forth the idea that when a person dies, their soul is sent down to this special supernatural realm, where beings called arbiters judge them, and decide where they go from there. Any human soul has two possible destinations: reincarnation (being brought back up to the living world – with no memory of your past life), and “the void” (a bottomless pit where souls marked irredeemable are doomed to be constantly falling in forever).

Arbiters decide a soul’s destination by a rather interesting manner: by having them play a game. Souls come down in pairs of two, most commonly, with only some memory of who they were, but absolutely no memory that they themselves had died. These soul pairs find themselves, confused and lost, in a mysterious bar, where the arbiter acts as bartender. The arbiter strong-hands the two into playing a game; as they play the game, their memories begin to return to them, and they begin to show their true nature – who they really are as a person. Things tend to turn really emotional as the visiting souls realize they are dead and what is really going on here. Once the arbiter sees enough of the souls’ true selves, he (or she) can make the judgement, and decide where each of these souls will go.

The anime mainly focuses on one particular bar with one particular arbiter: Decim, of the bar Quindecim (and his name is pronounced like “De-keem”). He’s a relatively quiet and polite person, standing up straight and sticking to his role and his rules, and never beating around the bush. His boss, a girl named Nona, assigns to him an assistant, who we’ll call “the black-haired woman”. Strong, fierce, and full of emotion and ideas, the black-haired woman has no memories of who she is, nor even what her name is.

All in all, this starts off the ride of an interesting and unexpected adventure, and Decim, unknowingly, is at the center of the stage.

The Plot and Characters

As the black-haired woman becomes Decim’s assistant, she offers her critiques and thoughts on the situations in later episodes, sometimes even directly intervening with the other characters to keep them from going too far.

When it’s all boiled down, this anime is all about the question of “is this the right way to be doing these judgements?” All of the protagonist characters here, whether you see it on the surface or not, are trying to figure out their own answer to that question. For Decim and the black-haired woman, she helps him by exposing him to new, different trains of thoughts and expanding his views on how things can be done.

While Death Parade does provide some sort of answer to that central question, the final episode seemed a bit more focused on finishing the black-haired woman’s character arc, more than accomplishing anything else. It still felt dramatic though, and wasn’t unsatisfying, but I do wish they there was a bit more about the arbiter business side of things. The character who’s been built up to be the antagonist of the series, honestly, seemed like he was gibbed, not really getting much time to shine. Overall, the overarching plot could’ve used a bit more meat to it, but it was not underwhelming.

That all being said though, the storytelling isn’t bad here. For Death Parade, it’s great stories are in the individual episodes. Each episode has a start, middle, and end of its own, and a lot of them feature a game and judgement. We get to meet and react to a number of fascinating characters, and see them break down and show their true colors to Decim and the audience. It’s rather cool.

However, during the big climaxes of a lot of these episodes, the characters talked a bit too vaguely (using metaphors and vague words) for me to really understand what was being said. That is, unless I paused the video and thought through the words, which resulted in these scenes not coming across quite as impactful for me.

Each and every episode always seemed to be over before you’d ever expect it. When you sit down to watch an episode of this, the time just flies right by. It really sucks you in, and it’s hard to resist clicking that “Next Episode” button once you finish one. It’s said to be one of the best things one can say about a show: it leaves you wanting more. Say what you want about anything else in the show, but it’s certainly very entertaining to watch.

The Atmosphere

The visuals for this show are nothing short of impressive. It’s clear that Madhouse had put the most effort into the 1st episode, trying to sell people on the show, but even so, the animation and art quality throughout the entire show was overall outstanding. There was a lot of fluidity to the motion, and a lot of the special effects, coupled with some pretty cool audio effects at times too, really helped make it really stand out. One of my most favorite things was the billiards table where the billiard balls were actually the planets of the solar system (and the moon), and the sun was the cue ball.

I rather liked the character designs for the visitors because of their clothing; it just really hits home that these people came from the world of the living to me. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I really liked them.

For the characters of this actual realm, they were also good, but not anything really outstanding. That being said, I liked the hair on the black-haired woman, and the cross shape that is in each of the arbiters’ eyes was pretty cool (I do wish they looked a bit more glossy though, but it’s frankly more of a nitpick by this point). I also liked the design for the smiley elevator guy (who’s apparently named Clavis, according to Wikipedia). He doesn’t receive too much attention throughout the show, but he recurs a lot, and I like him.

The show utilized various color schemes for its various settings. Quindecim has a lot of dark purples and blues, which looks cool, but also tends to make it seem a bit more mysterious and creepy, where I may have expected something a tad bit warmer. In stark contrast, the bar of another arbiter, Ginti, who gets shown a few times, tend to rely on bright reds and tans, and it looks cool in a different way, and also seems more inviting. Other places in this realm tend to go with a greenish-blueish thing and occasionally a yellow or orange. Overall, the whole place has this cold, damp, eerie look; I can’t say it’s not befitting, because it kind of is, but there’s still… just something to it I’m not enamored with.

I watched Death Parade in Japanese, and I generally liked everyone’s performance except the voice chosen for the eventual antagonist; he either sounded bland or creepy (in a pervy old man type of way) which I don’t think fit. If he sounded more quirky or something, I would’ve liked that better. My other issue is with Ginti, but really an issue with the character himself. The show’s mythos states that arbiters can’t feel emotion, but yet, Ginti tends to sound (and look) angered or annoyed a lot; that just seems contradictory. This character going against the show’s stated rules stuck in my mind a lot throughout the series.

The other great thing about this anime is its music. The opening song is great, and infectiously easy to get stuck in your head, with a rather cool opening animation to match. The background music for the series was also really great, and rather unique. It fit this series really well and just sounds awesome. I’d love to listen to that music on its own.

I’d gripe over the fact that they play the same 5 or 6 cool tracks over and over again, but frankly, the series is over before the music loses its feeling and edge. The ending song was alright, in comparison; for some episodes, they showed scenes from the visiting souls’ time among the living or other points while the credits played, and I liked that a lot more than the standard ending animation.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

Death Parade does a lot right. It provides an interesting premise, has great animation and music, and provides really cool drama and storytelling. That being said, I’d say the thing that suffered was the overarching plot, sadly. The individual episodes on their own are absolutely wonderful, and you just wanted more after you finished each one. However, the relatively small issues I have with this show keep me from calling it a “masterpiece”.

Honestly, if you haven’t seen this show, do so as soon as you get the chance. I highly doubt anyone will walk away disappointed. This will especially work well with people who really like character-based stories. No matter who you are and what you like though, I think you’ll find something to be entertained with down in Quindecim.

Rating: Great
Recommendation: Put This On Immediately
+++ great animation and music, individual episodes are awesome, black-haired girl
— eventual antagonist doesn’t get his time to shine in overarching plot, Ginti as a character seemed to mess with the show’s own mythos, dramatic scenes sometimes a bit vague

Review: Mushi-shi

I can sit here and say that Mushi-Shi is like a cross between X show and Y show, or two other shows, or something, but I feel that no matter how many comparisons I try to make, none of them will really explain or show what Mushi-Shi actually is. This show can really only be explained by explaining it itself; no comparisons will really help that much.

This show never really caught my interest when it was airing. It seemed okay, maybe a bit intriguing, but not something I wanted to sit down to really look at. However, a few friends of mine saw the show and loved it, and, with a certain amount of pushing, got me to sit down and try it too.

An Introduction

In 1800’s Japan, our main character, Ginko, travels around the country, offering to help people, families, and even entire villages, as they face problems with a certain kind of supernatural being.

These beings are “mushi”, small spirits that are life in its most basic essence. They come in varying shapes and sizes (although most are relatively small), and they tend to keep themselves separate from humanity, but not always. And when the mushi do get involved with humankind, it usually isn’t in the human’s favor. It’s not that mushi are intentionally harmful creatures (most of the time); they simply have supernatural abilities or properties that tend to interfere with a human’s ability to have a normal life when the two come into contact.

Each episode features Ginko traveling to a new location. Ginko is a white-haired, middle-aged man with an eye missing (not that you can usually notice, though) and a proclaimed “mushi master”. He generally tries to be helpful (he’s also relatively forward), but he tends to like his privacy and isolated-ness as well. Ginko doesn’t have a place to call home, and he just continues to travel, with every new place and every new person he meets providing him a chance to interact with a new type of mushi.

Some of the mushi he ends up meeting include mushi that consume sound (quite literally), a living and traveling swamp mushi, and mushi that live within the writings in paper. There’s even one that is basically a physical rainbow. In any case, every new episode features a new mushi to talk about, and a new adventure to be had.

The Plot and Characters

Mushi-shi is very episodic; the events in every individual episode never overlap, and in general, it tends to work in the show’s favor, allowing them to show you a wide variety of situations with a wide variety of mushi. This does mean that the characters we meet in one episode are never seen (or mentioned) ever again though. In some cases, it kind of stinks, because I’d like to see more of these characters, but at the same time, the episodic nature keeps things new and fresh.

However, the show’s episodic storytelling also leads to it being annoyingly inconsistent, from a worldbuilding perspective (which is something I really focus on). There is an archive of tales from mushi masters all over Japan, for example, that’s never mentioned prior or after that episode. And while this series writes off many of the mushi we see as “rare” or “only lives in a specific place”, there are some that you’d expect to be more present in multiple episodes. While the lack of a consistent world doesn’t hinder you from enjoying what Mushi-shi has to offer, it makes it hard to wrap your head around the lore that the show presents to us.

This show has only one recurring character (well, two, but we only see the other character, like, two or three times), and that is Ginko. Ginko tends to be pretty helpful and kind person, but he has a consistently stoic face. He never displays extreme emotion, in one way or another; I suppose his mellow and calm nature tends to make him more helpful in dire situations and keep others grounded, but it’d also be nice to see the guy get a bit agitated or something at times. His backstory is feebly explained in two different episodes, but it didn’t really do too much. All in all, he’s not a bad character, but there’s not really anything to him that really grabs me and attaches me to him. For him being the protagonist we follow around every episode, that is perhaps a tad disappointing.

When it comes to the show’s pacing, it’s pretty slow. And this isn’t really a bad thing. I feel a lot of today’s shows have grown too fast, so it’s nice to see a slower-going one become a bit more popular. The slow pacing is rather relaxing, and it gives you enough time to really ingest the atmosphere and feelings.

That being said, there are definitely episodes where Mushi-shi lost my attention for a short while because things grew too slow. It generally doesn’t fail in grabbing my interest later in the episode though. I could play this on my TV and have Minecraft running on my laptop and enjoy the both just fine.

The Atmosphere

If there’s one thing I really do have to praise Mushi-shi for, it’s its visuals. I watched this show in late 2015, and I thought it had pretty decent visuals. And then I learn that this show actually came out in 2006 (9 years prior!), and I was flabbergasted. This 2006 show’s art and animation directly competes with the art and animation of shows coming out a number of years later! If you had asked me, I would’ve said it came out in 2011 or 2012, not as far back as 2006. That’s just impressive. This show seriously has not aged.

However, despite how impressed I was with the quality of the visuals, I can’t really say the art is “beautiful” (which is a word I’ve heard a number of people use to describe it). I think, however, this more stems down to what I perceive as “beautiful”, which is usually expansive shots and bright, vibrant colors. In comparison, this show used nearly exclusively muted colors, a choice that does fit the more natural, spirit-y tone of this show. It does have some pretty great looking shots, though; It’s certainly pretty good looking, no matter how you put it.

The show’s background music works pretty well for the show. It generally has this more natural, traditional Japanese sound to it, really fitting the feel of the entire show, as well as blending in with the scenes itself. It is pretty good, but I wouldn’t listen to the soundtrack on its own. The opening song is not something you’d generally hear in anime nowadays, and its relaxed tone sounds good, but I don’t necessarily think the song is that memorable. The opening animation is rather short, and simplistic. It is pretty looking, and fits the show.

In fact, returning to the visuals again, I actually like Mushi-shi’s simplistic take on the common aspects of a TV episode: the opening credits/animation, the ending credits, and showing the episode title. The opening animation is nothing more than a bunch of images of nature, and the ending credits is just white text on a black screen while music from the episode continues through. The episode title is displayed in a colored rectangle that appears within the first few minutes of the episode, usually during an establishing shot. Again, I like the simplistic approach they took here, and I think it really helped with the atmosphere. Anything flashy would be unsettling for this series.

I watched this show in English, and here I present my gripes with Ginko again: I don’t necessarily like Funimation’s casting of Travis Willingham as Ginko. I’m not quite sure if it’s this casting that made me like Ginko less, or if there’s something about Ginko that just caused me to be upset about the casting (although I think it’s the former). It’s not like he did Ginko or this show injustice, but I just wish they had chosen someone else to be him. If I were to watch this show again, it’d be in Japanese.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

I think that throughout the writing of this review, I convinced myself to like this show. When I walked away after finishing the last episode, I thought to myself, “well, that was alright, I guess”, but as I write this now, I find myself saying, “Mushi-shi is pretty good”. The relaxed, simplistic tone and atmosphere of this show really helped keep focus on the various adventures and stories we get to experience in each episode. I still can’t help but be amazed by the fact that the show still looks like it’s barely aged since its airing in 2006. My biggest gripe would be the English casting of Ginko, but if that’s the biggest problem here, that’s saying something.

That being said, though, I have a bit of a hard time making a recommendation for Mushi-shi. I certainly wouldn’t say this show isn’t worth your time if you can give it. However, I wouldn’t imagine this show being the most enjoyable to watch by yourself. I’d suggest you get a group of friends together, pull the first episode up, and go from there. Of course, you and your friends will have to be interested in a show that tends to take things at a slow, more natural pace.

Rating: Good

Recommendation: Give It a Shot

+++ relaxed pace and atmosphere, visuals barely look aged, episodic stories keep things fresh

— something about Ginko irks me (perhaps casting), slow pacing may sometimes lose your attention, inconsistent (or complicatedly expansive?) lore

Review: Orange

To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to the anime of Fall 2016, even though there were some really good shows that people are constantly going on about. October was a busy time in my life, and any shows I had put on my list to watch for the final season of 2016, I promptly forgot to even pay attention to, as I had other things to accomplish.

This anime, though, was one from the Summer 2016 season that I didn’t get around to finishing either. Now, finally, I had the chance.

An Introduction

In the city of Matsumoto, away from the urban life of the mega-cities of southeastern Japan, a quiet high school girl named Naho is about to start her second year of high school. Before the school’s entrance exam began, though, Naho received a peculiar letter in the mail. Inside were pages upon pages of writing.

Upon starting to read the letter, Naho realized this letter was actually from herself… 10 years in the future! “I need you to do me a big favor,” the letter says. As Naho begins her first day of school as a second-year, the letter matches exactly what happens to her, even down to the detail of her oversleeping. That day, her class got a new transfer student: a guy named Kakeru Naruse.

Kakeru moved into Matsumoto from Tokyo, and so he’s a bit less familiar with the non-hectic lifestyle here. Instantly, Naho and her friends – Suwa, Takako, Hagita, and Azusa – add Kakeru into their group, and they all get along really well.

“Now, ten years in the future, Kakeru is no longer with us. Please keep a close eye on Kakeru.”

The Plot and Characters

The idea behind the story is an interesting one. Naho does what she can to protect Kakeru and to make sure that he doesn’t die within 10 years, through the guidance of a letter from her future. This letter details the events around her on a day-to-day basis, usually in relation to Kakeru. Each day, the letter usually ends with something that future-Naho regrets, and asks the present-Naho to do or not do. The hope is, with each bit by bit of change, it’ll lead to a future where Kakeru still lives. It’s an interesting concept.

Orange doesn’t do a bad job of giving realistic reactions to this letter, too. Of course, we see Naho be skeptical of the letter, and surprised to see it match up to things around her, and going through a number of steps from there revolving this relationship between her and this letter. Her trouble with how closely and how blindly she should follow this letter, combined with the situation around her that continues to diverge from the path of this letter, feels human and relatable. I give Orange respect for that.

Despite that, the biggest source of my frustration with this show also came from Naho. Pretty early on, we see Naho realize that she’s starting to fall for Kakeru. I can understand her being a shy, timid girl, afraid to speak up when there’s something she wants to say. However, there are times where Kakeru, and others, ask her whether she wants something. Deep down, she does want it, and at times it would take her more effort to say she doesn’t, but yet she denies it anyway. I feel there’s a difference between being characteristically shy, and being shy and “I’m okay as we are” for the sake of padding out the story.

The big focus of Orange is definitely on Naho and Kakeru, their relationship to each other, and how to ensure a future together. Suwa also is pretty instrumental in this as well, and he gets a lot of screen time alongside the main two. However, Azusa, Takako, and Hagita all get sidelined a decent amount in the series. They appear more on screen towards the latter end of the series, but at that point… Naho, Kakeru, and Suwa have already gone through some emotional experiences without them, and it feels a bit like they’re the lesser friends to this smaller, closer group – friends that have been put out of the loop.

I know it’d be kind of hard for a 13-episode anime to make all six of its main cast get a comparably decent amount of time to develop (not impossible, but not the easiest), but I wish that more than just Suwa and the main couple got really developed. To be honest, it seems more like Azusa and Hagita were more meant to be comic reliefs in this series anyway, and they both get some pretty funny lines (usually playing off each other). Takako… I don’t really know much about her. I feel she really didn’t get any time at all to actually become interesting in her own right.

Kakeru is the final piece of the puzzle that is this list of characters. He’s the focus of everyone’s efforts, and the one that, unfortunately, deals with the most hardships. I really feel for the guy at times. The anime does a really good job of really showing him being emotional and showing a human reaction to the difficult things that gets thrown at him in his life. Where lesser shows would’ve handled these issues with disrespect or misinformation, Orange treats the issues as real, and presents them appropriately. He and Suwa are definitely the strongest characters in this series.

Overall, the story shown here was really interesting, and I liked it a lot. It’s character-driven, and I like how the characters (at least 90% of the time) acted and reacted as humans would in situations like these. My difficulties with Naho, though, and some unrealistic things in the latter half of the series keep me from feeling the writers (or original material) really hit this out of the park.

The Atmosphere

The first thing that stood out to me in this series, visuals-wise, was the unusual eye design. By the end of the second episode, I found myself thinking, “Now this is what almond-shaped eyes really look like!” I feel they were going for something more realistic-looking than your standard anime eye design, but it ended up just looking a bit… odd.

This show has proven to be inconsistent with its art and animation throughout its 13-episode run. Although the first number of episodes all looked pretty good, there were notable dips in quality during the latter half. Not even the distinctive eye design was immune, and more “standard” eyes made an appearance. Episode 9 was particularly bad, followed by episode 10, which looked pretty good in comparison (episodes 11 and 12 wavered between the two). It seems this show fell victim to the poor time management curse that besets many an anime production, which is disappointing; this show would’ve been more effective to me, emotions-wise, if it were able to keep its quality.

I liked Orange’s character designs overall, moving on past their eyes. There are many a time where Naho just looks absolutely adorable, and Suwa looks all-around great throughout almost the entire series. Azusa also tends to look quite good throughout as well. The background art definitely looks watercolor-painted, and it’s pretty alright looking. Again, I’ve been spoiled by the absolutely stunning work of Kyoto Animation, but this show’s backgrounds are still pretty nice. I honestly don’t have any complaints about that.

The background music for this show, as you’d expect, has a lot of piano-filled pieces that are meant to be tear-jerkers. If the tracks didn’t sound so generic, they may have been more successful in really getting tears to move. Overall, though, the background music is not necessarily bad, but it’s not going to stand out, beyond you noticing that it simply… exists. That being said, there is a particular track used a bit over halfway into the final episode that I actually rather liked. If more of the soundtrack implemented those instruments, the show would’ve really benefited from it.

One thing I also really liked about Orange is how it did its background characters. To most, this will probably be a rather minuscule detail, but I honestly really liked it. For a lot of the scenes, we can hear conversations of the background characters and they sound like actual genuine conversations between classmates or what-not, rather than something standard or plain. It’s little things like that which really gives this world some life. It’s possible that I really only notice this in Orange because Crunchyroll subtitled these conversations here.

The opening song felt rather appropriate for this anime. It isn’t exactly the type of song I go out looking for, but it felt nice here. The opening animation was only comprised of scenes of nature, and the characters standing around or running. It’s a more cliché-looking opening; it’s inoffensive and simple, and it isn’t the worst thing for a more drama-focused show like this, but I may have liked something a bit more interesting.

The ending song, simply called “Mirai” (Future), is more of a ballad song, which isn’t really a song style that’s up my alley, honestly. The song’s not bad though, but I didn’t really have much desire to listen to it. The ending animation usually involves images of the characters panning on screen, which isn’t the most visually engaging, but it’s okay. Overall, the ending was pretty dull for me, but part of it is certainly my personal preferences.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

Orange is a story about regrets, and going back to change them. Specifically, it’s about the regret over the death of a close friend. The hardships and feelings of the “friend” in this case, Kakeru, is really well done; the female lead, Naho, also proved to be human and relatable at some points… but at many points, she also provided some of my biggest frustrations for the series. This was not helped by the drop in visual quality for the latter episodes.

All in all, though, if I sent a letter back to myself, I wouldn’t tell myself to avoid this show. I did have fun with this show, and although there are certainly some negatives to its characters and presentation, the positives outweighed them in the end. This is a serious, character-driven drama; if that’s your type of thing, you won’t want to have regrets about missing this show. I recommend it.

Rating: Good
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ handling of serious issues is well done, Suwa is awesome, Naho’s reaction to the letter from her future
— visual quality is inconsistent especially towards end, Naho’s shyness causes frustrations, some characters in this friend group get short end of the stick development-wise

No Anime Review Today!

Hey there!

There won’t be an anime review today. Want to spend the day with personal things, especially since New Year’s is coming up tomorrow, and who knows what will be going on then!

I’ll be back next Tuesday with a wrap-up post of my performance in 2016, and then on Friday will be my next review! It’ll probably be of the show Orange. … Or maybe New Game. … Or maybe something else, I dunno!

Also, I think I’ll be trying to do a Funimation February, where it’s all about Funimation-licensed shows! We’ll see if I actually do decide to do that, but that is on the table!

Anyway, until next time, if you haven’t checked out the new translation video I did, take a look! It’s REOL’s latest song, RE:, with English subtitles.

Otherwise, have a happy new year!

Jayke (AnimeBird)

P.S. That image above is from Orange, episode 9. Look at those faces!

Additional Thoughts: Attack on Titan Season 2

Attack on Titan Season 2. It’s happening.

I didn’t really mention “Season 2” at all in my Attack on Titan review. There are a few reasons:

  1. Season 2 obviously hasn’t happened yet (as I write this). I wouldn’t exactly have much to say about something I haven’t seen (unless I wanted to write speculations or what I want to see).
  2. My Attack on Titan review, I felt, was pretty long, and I didn’t want to make it any longer.
  3. If I were to write speculation about it, I feel it would involve spoilers for the first season. And I keep my reviews spoiler-free.
  4. Honestly, you probably already knew it was happening.

So, let’s talk about it a bit now.

Today, the day after I posted my review, Funimation actually translated a Japanese promo video and posted it on their YouTube channel. That’s a weird coincidence… The video clocks in a bit under 2 minutes, so if you have a free moment, go take a look!

The first thing, of course, that will probably grab your attention is that weird-looking giant-eyed Titan (fish-eyed?) walking among the crowd of Titans. I’m not really going to be doing a second-by-second overview of the entire video, but I just wanted to point it out. It’s weird looking, and not even in the same way the Moe Titan was. It’s just… weird.

Anyway, now that I spent a paragraph on that…

From what we can tell with this video, there seems to be more of a focus on Titan-vs-Titan fighting. I’m not surprised, as this seems to be the next logical level, especially after the two last major battles in the first season incorporating a lot of Titan-vs-Titan fighting. There does still seem to be some human-vs-Titan fighting still, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t as prevalent.

It seems the second season may also talk a bit more about the squabbling military factions, about the three walls (which will be rather intriguing, actually), and about Titans themselves. I wonder how much the series will bog itself down from its main staple of high-intensity action.

The visuals seem to be on par with the first season. The coloration seems to be just a tad darker from the first season, but not drastically different. It seems the character outlines aren’t quite as thick this time around though. The background music piece sounds really cool, of course, and still fits right in the style of the first season’s soundtrack (I actually first thought they just reused an OST track from the first season). It’s nice to see a lot of the same staff returning for this second season too.

All in all, I’ll be interested to see what this second season will have in store for us. Of course, not too much can be figured out from a two-minute promo video, but it’s probably safe to say that the show won’t be veering off in an completely weird direction (at least, not at first).

Finally, I should also note that I’ve never read the manga. I honestly very, very rarely even look at the manga for a show. I can’t exactly pin down one specific reason as to why that is, but a big contender is probably the fact that I’d rather spend my time on other things other than just reading.

Switching gears to another topic… April 2017 is 4 years since the first season aired. That’s kind of a long time between two seasons, I feel. I know a notable part of the reason for the long wait is because they wanted the manga to advance further, but I do wonder how this second season will do, sales and viewings-wise, in comparison to the first.

Between the end of the first season and now, we’ve seen a number of other shows, including action shows like Tokyo Ghoul, One Punch Man, and My Hero Academia, more than satisfy fans. I know there is still quite a fanbase for Attack on Titan, and something as big as it was certainly doesn’t have to worry about its name disappearing that quickly; however, I feel it’s more than possible that some people have lost interest in the show since that time.

This being said, there’s also been the show Attack on Titan Junior High, two anime films and two live-action films, and a crapton of manga and light novels, to try to keep the public interested in the show. It’s not like fans have been completely dry of new material while they wait.

But still, I just don’t hear people talking about Attack on Titan so excitedly anymore. When the first season aired, you would hear conversations about it all of the time. People would constantly talk about how cool Mikasa or Armin was, or about Titans themselves, or about Marco’s death (to be honest, I enjoyed the puns that came out of that though). While I still see people in cosplay for the show at conventions, and I see merchandise still moving for it, it’s not as… everywhere now as it was then. The first opening song isn’t being blasted all over the place anymore. Like I said, the excitement seems to have worn off.

Only time will tell how this second season will go, I suppose. I just hope that the show creators haven’t shot themselves in the foot with such a long pause between the first season and now.

I’m curious to hear other peoples’ thoughts about the second season, about what it might contain, and about how much excitement there really still is for this show. If you wish to share, I welcome you to write a comment below. Do give a spoiler warning if you’re going to be talking about something from the manga that we haven’t seen in the first season.

Review: Attack on Titan

Oh, come on, you’ve heard of this show, right? Even some friends who’ve never touched anime before at least knew about this show, if not even watched a few episodes themselves.

That being said… I was late to the party. I actually didn’t watch Attack on Titan in full until the January after the show came out (Jan. 2014). The biggest reason: I was actually going to watch it with a former college roommate, but… that ended up not happening. That’s part of a bigger story that’s too long to put here.

Second biggest reason: I’m lazy.

An Introduction

In an alternate-universe-type dealio, the history of humanity goes in a very different direction. Although at one point they lived around the entire world the same way we do here today, the human race in this universe found themselves being trapped by a bigger menace: the larger, humanoid-looking creatures called Titans. Titans have one purpose, and that only purpose alone, in life: to eat humans. And they’re pretty darn good at it.

Thus, all of humanity… well, what’s left of it, find themselves holed up within a giant, 150-foot-tall circular wall (with two more also-giant walls within it) to separate themselves from the monstrous Titans outside. It is in one of the cities on the outer edge of this wall where we meet our young main character, Eren… and, well, today’s not a good day for him.

After an argument with his parents, an even-more-giant Titan appears, looks over the wall, and then destroys it, letting Titans into the previously-protected city. Mass panic ensues! Caught up in the turmoil, Eren finds his mom under his now-collapsed house, but the small kid is too weak to lift the wreckage. Thus, he can do nothing but watch helplessly as a Titan comes by and eats his own mother.

On this day, humanity has learned a lesson. And on this day, Eren made a decision: all Titans must be killed!

The Plot and Characters

A decent amount of the first few episodes are focused on Eren and his two friends, Mikasa and Armin (I’ll describe them in a bit), joining the military and their training experiences. These episodes, although important for character development and introductions and such, feel a bit like a bore, and drag the show a little bit until we see them become late teenagers and begin to move beyond the training camp location at the end of episode 4. After this, the pace picks up and it becomes genuinely exciting… at least for a little while.

You see, Attack on Titan really is at its best when it’s doing its action sequences, or at least on the verge of action happening. You can almost feel the show relish in creating these large (and varying) battles between humans and Titans, and a lot of the plot twists and turns happen during these action-heavy episodes. Humans fly around with their super-cool omni-directional maneuver gear, and even though you see Titan after Titan be killed (or do the killing), every battle still does well to keep you enthralled.

On the few episodes that aren’t focused on that (such as episodes 1 through 4, and also episodes 14 through 16), that’s where Attack on Titan feels like it slogs down a bit. It’s not that these episodes are actually bad, and they’re still fairly important to the story. It just feels like the show itself is out of its element in these episodes though, and the pacing drags just a tad bit. (To be honest, though, once episode 14 rolls around, you’re already hooked.)

Speaking of plot twists, there’s some pretty big ones. For those of you going through Attack on Titan its first time, the twists and revelations that you’ll learn will really catch you off-guard throughout the whole show.

However, for those of you who are going through your second or so time around, I wouldn’t be surprised if you feel a little bit bored. You already know what the big twists are, and there’s little to no foreshadowing for them (although the show does foreshadow other things)… Not to say Attack on Titan isn’t worth multiple viewings, but it may not be quite as engrossing the second time around.

People like to say that Attack on Titan has a tendency to kill off characters, and so “you shouldn’t get attached to any of them”. To be honest, I don’t personally find that to be true. Most of the characters you meet by episode 4, you still see around on episode 25. That being said, you do see a lot of side characters dying (and sometimes the main characters, or the show, will get really caught up in them dying), but they’re more expendable, from a story-writing perspective.

When it comes to the show’s characters, I wouldn’t say they’re the most rounded. Although there are moments where they talk about things other than Titan killing, those scenes feel a bit more like an obligation to put in there, rather than the show actually trying to flesh out its cast. Like I said, Attack on Titan is best when it’s doing action, and with the cast we’re the most involved with, the Titans are definitely the biggest, if not only, thing on their minds. This doesn’t necessarily ruin the show for me, though, especially since I can’t say there isn’t any character development here, but more on their lives outside of being Titan-killing military soldiers would’ve been nice.

The cast members you’ll see the most include: headstrong Eren, who’s nothing if not a big bundle of passion; Mikasa, the “quiet but deadly” type who focuses almost all of her time on making sure Eren is okay; blonde-kid Armin, who actually grows a bit in his own right; and gruff Jean, who always looks angry and doesn’t hold back, but he is a man of respect.

All in all, Attack on Titan really is a fun show, and although I feel kind of bad for not jumping on the bandwagon and watching the show while it was airing, I am glad I was able to still experience it. Even if the other parts don’t shine quite as well, the amazing action makes this show worth the watch… but given its popularity, I feel it’s likely you’ve already seen it.

The Atmosphere

The look of the characters really stood out to me the first time I watched this series. With a second watch, I realized what it was that made them stick out: they used thick lines for the outlines. I really liked this move, actually; it’s a small change that makes this visual design distinct, and it just… feels right for this show. I don’t know why or how, but it does. Other than that, the character designs are really clean and nice, and relatively not-complex. I honestly really like how the characters are drawn and animated in this show.

Separate from the characters, there are also the Titans. The Titans look properly creepy, fleshy, and weird, but their appearance is most effective only when looking at them from a low camera (from about human eye level). Otherwise, they can sometimes come off as weirdly-shaped babies teetering around. That being said, I only find the design of the Colossal Titan okay; just a personal preference. The Titans with the weird face designs, like the oft-ridiculed “Moe Titan”, can really push you back out of the show, though; it’s funny, I guess, but I more think it feels out of place in this world.

The background designs are pretty good. The giant walls and the designs of the towns immediately give this anime a distinct look in its backgrounds as well. If we move away from those, though, the anime becomes a bit more standard in its look. This show is at its weakest when displaying large grass fields, as the fields just look so uninteresting. Obviously, the focus is on the Titans and characters moving around, but I feel that well-done backgrounds really helps with the visuals overall.

The music for this show, composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, is pretty darn awesome, I must say. There’s the standard orchestral instruments you’ll tend to hear, like the strings and the occasional brass, but the soundtrack also brings out the vocal choir quite a bit for those really dramatic moments. There’s also the more-than-occasional touch of electronic sounds too, which somehow just fits right for the scenes where they’re used. Although this was far from the first show Sawano composed for, I feel this show is what put him on the map for many Western fans.

You simply couldn’t not hear the first opening song for the show, even if you aren’t an action fan, while this show was airing; it was a pretty dang good song though. In comparison, the second opening sounded more like a national anthem, and while I was able to get used to it after a decent while, I still never liked it nearly as much as the first opening. Both ending songs, though, are fantastic in their own right, in my opinion.

I watched the show in Japanese, as there wasn’t even any news as to which company was doing the English dub at the time I watched the show. I would’ve half-expected Funimation to have picked up this show before it aired, but I suppose its popularity took them by surprise too. I feel the Japanese voice cast serviced the show pretty well, as well as Funimation’s English dub (or at least, what I’ve seen of it). You’ll be able to enjoy the show, regardless of the option you choose. However, one more note: in Funimation’s DVDs, the text during the cut-to-commercial frames weren’t translated, unfortunately, although Crunchyroll translated them for its streaming service. It’s disappointing, as there is some rather cool worldbuilding info in that text.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

Attack on Titan was the uber-popular action anime of 2013. There really was no escaping at least hearing about this show. Honestly, though, it’s pretty good; it has some rather interesting plot twists that you wouldn’t see coming (unless this isn’t your first time seeing it), and the action scenes really are super cool. It’s good that the action was as plentiful as it was in this series, too, because this show felt a tad out of its element in the episodes where that wasn’t the focus.

Watching this show is a no-brainer for anyone who like action, and frankly, if you’re an action anime fan, you’ve already seen this show. In fact, most everyone reading this review around the time its published probably already decided if this show was worth their time… I just wanna talk about it a bit though, okay? D: It’ll be interesting, though, to see the landscape 10 years from now, when new anime fans jump on and have never seen this show, and how they will perceive this show. (Honestly, it’ll probably be a similar situation to today’s anime fans’ relationship to Cowboy Bebop, the uber-popular sci-fi/action anime of 1998).

Rating: Great
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ action (this show lives and breathes it), distinct visuals in character designs and background art, soundtrack and ending themes
— show doesn’t perform as well on non-action episodes, characters are all focused on Titans and that’s it, may be a bit more boring during second viewing

Review: Assassination Classroom

I’ll admit, I’m not usually much of an action-show-type person. Like, I don’t dislike action shows; my first ever anime was Fullmetal Alchemist, and I’d say that’s pretty action-heavy. … But I’ve always been more keen towards drama shows or those that just were more about characters and relationships. Probably doesn’t end up surprising why you see me talking about shows like Nagi no Asukara, Tanaka-kun, or Tatami Galaxy.

So when I first heard of this show, I thought it was just going to be another just plain-Jane action show, and didn’t look more into it from that. As the season went on, and I saw friends (and Funimation’s social media) start talking about it, I turned more towards a “maybe I will give this a try someday, it could be something”. That “someday” ended up coming…

An Introduction

Kunugigaoka Junior High School boasts some of the best students in the entire country of Japan. The four classes of their third level, classes 3-A, B, C, and D, have the best grades and enjoy a top-of-the-line education experience. Their motivation: study the best they can to stay out of the dreaded class 3-E. There is nothing worse than ending up in Class E, the End Class. The E class gets stuck in an old, worn down school building, separated from the rest of the school, with bad, if any, school supplies and no resources to help them. They’re the laughing stocks of the rest of the school, and once you end up in the End Class, there’s no getting out for you.

This year is different though. Because the 3-E class of Kunugigaoka has been given a monumental task: to assassinate their teacher. Just days prior, their teacher had successfully blown a giant hole into the moon, and now he threatens to do the exact same to the Earth. … That is, unless this year’s classmates can kill him.

Thus begins the one school year that could mean the end of the world… or the end of Kunugigaoka’s segregated End Class policy.

The Plot and Characters

The difficulty with a show like this – that focuses on an entire class – is that the show tries to make each student (or, at least most of them) a main character, making it hard to become connected to even any of them, especially since it’s hard to keep a track of who’s who. It’s fairly obvious who the actual main character is here, though: Nagisa Shiota. This blue-haired girl… oh wait, I mean, boy, takes up a decent amount of the screen time and conversation, and even gets to go through the major dramatic ending all by himself (which kind of stinks for the remaining characters, honestly).

The only other kids that I can remember off the top of my head are Karma (Nagisa’s old friend, a delinquent who appears to be care-free), Sugino (a baseball whiz who was kicked out of the sport once he ended up in class E), and Terasaka (some tough guy that only made an impact in the latter half of the series). A lot of the names spouted by the various characters become familiar to me (like Isogai, Takebayashi, and Okajima), but I never really end up being able to match a face to a name. It doesn’t particularly keep me from enjoying the show or the hijinks within, but I’ll really only ever be able to know this show as a hijinks show, as I have no bond with any of the characters.

Beyond them, there are the three teachers: Koro Sensei, the alien(-but-yet-born-on-Earth) main teacher that they are set to kill, although every single attempt to assassinate him never seems to work. Karasama is a higher-up of Japan’s Ministry of Defense, who’s tasked to keep a close eye on Koro Sensei and teach the kids to hone their deadly skills. Finally, Irina is a professional assassin that wound up being the class’s English teacher (with a nickname that probably shouldn’t be repeated here).

The show, being a combination of assassins and middle school, switches between the two topics, depending upon the episode. Some episodes, the two get integrated fairly nicely, and part of me would’ve wished this seamless blending was present throughout the entire series. I don’t exactly see “assassination” and “middle school” as two topics that really blend together well, though, so how this show did it is probably one of the best ways it could’ve been done.

Overall, the weird antics and varied situations make this show stand out as relatively unique, and make it a rather enjoyable and fun experience… although I feel that can be said about most good shows. Even so, there are some aspects that make it more noticeable. The weird design and qualities of Koro Sensei (along with the other eccentric characters that appear later on), the various plans the classmates try to execute to assassinate Koro Sensei – with increasing complexity with each one – it makes for a rather entertaining experience. The entire series went with a pretty consistently good pacing too, not too fast nor too slow.

I’m not at a point where I would say “I wish I saw this when it aired”, but I’m happy with this show and what I got out of it. Although I have my issues with its ridiculously large cast and thus the lack of focus on any one particular character, there was a decent amount to enjoy without needing a connection to any of them. I may get to the second season once I have a chance, but I definitely would like to see more of a focus on less characters.

The Atmosphere

The animation and character art of this show is above average for a modern show. To be honest, when it comes to shows made in the past few years, the highly improved visual quality of them have really set the bar high as to what I can really consider exemplary. For this show, the movement and action was really fluid, which is definitely important for this show. It also just felt like there was a certain amount of polish or something behind this show too. To be honest, I don’t think I remember a single episode that actually looked bad. All of them were of a pretty good and consistent quality, which can, in some ways, be considered a feat all into itself.

This all being said, the backgrounds seemed to be about the standard quality for anime nowadays. I’m a huge sucker for beautiful background imagery, and this show unfortunately doesn’t provide that… not that every show has to, though. The backgrounds here are certainly good, especially for what this show needs. The bright colors fit for a good majority of this show, although there was a notable switch to darker colors for the more dramatic ending to the series. The final episode, taking place on a helipad, with all the bright lights though… that felt a bit weird. I feel it probably didn’t have to be so over-the-top.

I really liked the background music for this show though. The electronic-style-filled soundtrack sounded really cool, and a part of me always filled with joy once a background music piece started. There is also the usage of more standard instruments for other portions of the show as well, but the electronic music is what stood out the most for me.

I don’t really have an issue with any of the voices used for this show; all of them sounded fitting enough. Of course, it doesn’t exactly help that I haven’t really been able to distinguish the various characters though. I really liked the voice of Koro Sensei though; big applause to Jun Fukuyuma for his performance. I watched the show in Japanese, so I really have no idea how the English dub is. Knowing Funimation though, it’s probably at least passable.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

Assassination Classroom was an entertaining experience, that rather nicely straddled the line of “assassination” and “classroom”, although the ending certainly leaned more on the former. Having the entire class act as major characters, though, was somewhat detrimental, as not many of them ended out standing out to me, due to the fact that they tried to put all of them under the limelight. Everything about Koro Sensei, his design, his handling by Jun Fukuyuma, everything, was rather enjoyable though.

I’d say this show is probably pretty agreeable to most crowds, whether you’re more of an action type or a drama type. There is obviously more of a lean towards action, as even the big school tests have them fighting monsters that represent math questions in their mind. I’d say there’s enough in this show to keep most anyone entertained, but you can always see how you feel about it after trying a few episodes. A connection with characters may be hard to accomplish though.

Rating: Good
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ Koro Sensei, entertaining antics with the entire class, electronic background music
— too many characters to really focus on one, Nagisa gets the big dramatic ending all to himself, okay background art