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Julia's Reviews on All Things Media

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The first is that that Somali resembles a little girl in the same way that in anime cats resemble cats. The cutesy things she says and does are the sorts of things little girls only do in anime, to appeal to a (Probably) childless audience. She has all the rough edges of kids sanded off, with that relentless cheerfulness and lack of really annoying disobedience or messiness. So while not a completely nonsensical character, she just doesn't feel real enough for me to buy the surrogate father-daughter narrative.

The other problem, which to me matters more since it's really more the main plot than Golem trying to learn how fatherhood works, is the really childish way humans are portrayed. Humans are nowhere near as consistently fearful, stupid, or hateful as the anime insists - nowhere in there is any acknowledgement of how curious people can be. The monsters' disregard for humans as another kind of people is kinda handwaved by showing the humans as always attacking first, so to speak.
That's reasonable, and your opinions on it are totally valid. I wonder if maybe I should have mentioned that in my review? Eh, different strokes for different blokes, I suppose. For what it's worth, I hear the devil child in If Its For My Daughter I'd Even Defeat The Demon Lord is much worse in its overly moe portrayal of a child.

Anyway, new review just finished today!...but I'm kinda meh on this one.



I give this new idol anime...a 64/100.

Real time: I've never been a fan of idols, both the Western kind or Japan's versions of them. The same goes for idol-based anime, mostly because many of them tend to be formulaic or of poor quality. There have been some good ones, but I've seen very few of them. Honestly, the only idol anime I can say that I really love is Fancy Lala, and even that's stretching it, as Fancy Lala's focus isn't really on being an idol. I haven't seen either The [email protected] nor Wake Up Girls (I do plan to see the former later on), AKB0048 was fun and ambitious though kind of stupid at times, I've heard great things about Skip Beat and ZombieLand Saga, but again, haven't seen them. I like Aikatsu well enough, though it is a show aimed at children and is much more on the silly, idealistic side of things, and anyone who's talked to me at all knows I'm not touching Love Live with a ten foot pole, the main reason for that being in the spoiler tag below.


I wasn't intending on watching the newest idol anime, 22/7, but reading someone's review of the first episode had me intrigued, because it had a main character who was very cynical and bitter, far from your typical idol anime protagonist, and it had an interesting, if stupid premise. I know nothing of the actual real life idol group 22/7, so the review will solely focus on the anime. To be honest, the first episode did win me over, and I was really hoping this would be good. And it tried. It really tried...but it fell flat on its face. Big time.

So what's the story? It begins with a girl named Miu who finds a mysterious letter in her mail. She and seven other girls are made to gather at a zoo, and a man named Gouda takes them down to an underground facility. There, they find out that they've all been recruited to start an idol group called 22/7, and everything they do is going to be dictated by a magical, sentient wall that spits orders on brass plates. In order to be successful, they have to follow the wall's orders to the letter. Understandably, many of the girls don't know what's going on and are opposed to it, Miu especially, as she's not too keen on the idea of being used to fulfill someone else's whims, wall or no. But then she gets fired from her job, and has no source of income. Reluctantly, she and the other girls return to the facility and decide to become the idol group 22/7, though they still have no idea what the wall even is or why they have to do everything it tells them to do.

Yeah. The idea of a sentient wall dictating an entire idol group is pretty hilarious in how stupid it sounds, and it's inspired many a joke since the anime's premiere. But if you ignore that, the anime promised to be a more cynical, realistic look at the idol business, not unlike Wake Up Girls. And for the first four or so episodes, the anime seemed to hit the ground running. It has smooth, stunning animation, though not without the occasional glaring CGI, great music, Miu is a great, refreshing protagonist who actually had flaws she needed to overcome, and the anime seemed to actually care about characterization rather than making the girls into one note moe archetypes. In all honesty, 22/7 could have really been something great, and it promised to try and stand out from the sea of bad idol anime. So what went wrong? Why the low rating? Well...a lot of things.

First off, for an anime about a group of idol singers, it doesn't really highlight a lot of things that are important to showing the girls becoming idols. We never see them take dance lessons or record songs in a recording booth, other than, like, one single scene and that's it. We rarely, if ever, see them actually putting in effort or learning about the ins and outs of the idol industry, and those things are really important if you want to show these girls growing as both individuals and as a group. Say what you will about Aikatsu, but it at least showed the girls taking the time to practice, train, and go deep into the business practices that make idols what they are. Even Fancy Lala didn't simply gloss over these important details, as it knew they were really important if it wanted to show how the idol industry worked. There's only one scene in episode 3 where the girls are having their first concert and have to deal with bad audio equipment, but it gets resolved right away and leaves no impact whatsoever. For what its worth, the actual soundtrack is good, and the songs are well sung, but I only have one issue with the opening theme: It seems to just cut off at the end, like it didn't have time to really wrap up before the show was set to start.

The second main problem is the series' overall structure. Every episode has two parts to it, with one half taking place in the present, showing the girls' activities, and the other half consisting of flashbacks to the girls' backstories, showing how they got to be where they are. But this can be a double edged sword, and without the right balance, this can really make or break a show, and not only does 22/7 suffer from this, its way of inserting flashbacks in their episodes results in a weird tonal whiplash. For example, episode 6 begins with Reika, as a baby, nearly dying of some unknown illness, with her mother doing so later, and the next scene? Bam! Girls at the beach in their swimsuits! Can you see how jarring that type of transition can be? 22/7 can be at its best when it actually puts effort into tying the girls' pasts to current events (Sakura's episode being one such example), but at its worst when it's unable to find that balance (Again, Reika's episode). Because of the way the episodes are made, the show tends to gloss over things that are important while putting too much focus on things that don't really mean much in the big picture. For example, various episodes imply that Sakura returning to America is going to be important, but nothing ever comes out of it, and that plot thread is never resolved.

If I could use one word to describe 22/7 in a nutshell, it'd be...contradictory. The writing for this show is really inconsistent and it's like the writers don't really know what they want to do with their characters most of the time, Nicole being an example in that early on, she's established as a haughty, bitchy character, but she's occasionally nice to the girls, and just seems to flip-flop between the two personalities without a real reason for being either one. Not even her focus episode sheds any light on why she's so needlessly mean to the other girls. Some characters are better than others, with Miu being the standout example. In my opinion, I feel she's the best character. Both her backstory and personality are down to earth, and she's such a refreshing change from the happy, optimistic idol series mains who want to be idols, though I will admit, her low pitched voice really isn't going to win her any Oscars. But again, as the show loses steam halfway through its run, Miu's original personality seems to disappear until the very end. Ayaka is pretty much a non-entity as a character and her reasons for being an idol are...really stupid and dumb, and poor Reika really got the shaft, because her episode was not only poorly written and endorsed a bad message (Reika doesn't want to wear a skimpy swimsuit for a photo shoot because she doesn't want to be a teenage sex object, which would normally be valid and understandable? Too bad! Get in the bikini, Reika!), but was really sexist. Jun's episode wasn't much better: What do you do when all your idols save for one get sick from food poisoning? Instead of postponing their jobs and waiting a day for everyone to be back to normal, let's completely overwork a 15-year-old girl by having her do a crap ton of jobs, even the ones her idol friends were supposed to do, over the course of an entire day!

Which then leads me to the show's biggest problem: The characters as individuals are fine, though kind of bland, but since we never really get to watch them evolve and grow as a group, any pathos that comes from events such as breaking up doesn't feel earned in spite of the show's attempts to milk as much drama as possible. We never really see them truly come together as a group despite the show's attempts at telling us that they're awesome as a group, because, you know, we never see them doing stuff like dance lessons or recording songs or actually working together. Basically, the show is paying lip service to the idea of developing them as a group. I think the show might have done better had it just focused on Miu and cut down the flashbacks in favor of putting more time into having the girls learn to function as a group, like the show tries to advertise. Finally, we don't learn much about the wall, and even at the end, what the hell it even is is never really resolved, making it yet another plot thread that's been abandoned for the sake of idol flashiness.

It's a shame that 22/7 turned out this way, as I really wanted to like this show. The first three episodes were great, but after that, it loses steam quickly and just ends on a whimper, too caught up in its own hubris to really attempt something meaningful. Then again, this is another commerical for a famous idol group, so I guess it turning out the way it did was inevitable. I mean, I'll still watch this over Love Live (Except episode 6. Screw that episode in the eye), but it's an idol show that tried, and failed, to stand out from an already oversaturated genre, and just didn't deliver.
 
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This review was written on April 23rd, 2018.



I give this action-packed manga...a 70/100.

Wow. It seems like it was only yesterday that I was still in high school, obsessing over this obscure anime/manga that hardly anyone knew about. In 2009, I watched an anime called 07-Ghost, and let me tell you, I was OBSESSED with it. Almost as obsessed with it as I was with Shounen Onmyouji. I even made AMVs for it, and nothing else ever made me try to attempt that before. One of my best friends even got me volume 3 of the manga as a present once, back when Go! Comi still had the license for it. Of course, those three volumes were all that anyone got in the US back then, and unless you read it online, you couldn't read the whole story, since by that time, Go! Comi had shut down, and their licenses were in limbo. I did read it online up until volume 7, but then stopped due to other obligations. Then, several years later, Viz Media rescued the manga, and in 2015, released every single volume. As of this writing, I now own the whole series, and have read it from volume 1 to volume 17. After years of not even touching this manga, and having finally picked it up again, what do I think of it?

Well...I won't lie, the manga does have good qualities, but it's held back by a pretty hefty amount of problems.

At first, the story seems basic. A young boy, Teito Klein, is sent to a special military school thanks to his ability to use a kind of attack energy called Zaiphon, which is very rare for a human. Every day, he has strange dreams that frighten him, but doesn't know why. One day, he overhears someone named Ayanami talking, and suddenly, he realizes why he has those dreams: They're actually memories from long ago, and the man, Ayanami, killed someone he loved and took everything from him. With the help of his friend Mikage, he escapes the Barsburg Empire and finds allies in three bishops of the Barsburg Church: Frau, Castor, and Labrador. In due time, he discovers great secrets about himself, which put him and his friends in danger more often than not, and he is now determined to find the truth behind both his fractured memories, and the history of his homeland, the Raggs Kingdom, as a whole, and doing so may end up destroying the world.

I was introduced to 07-Ghost through the anime first, and I didn't read the manga until a little later. I loved the anime's art style: it was clean, clear, with a lot of bright colors, full of creative shots and camera angles, no distorted faces, etc. On the other hand, the manga's artwork is much more messy. That's not to say the art is bad. Far from it, actually. I think a better word for it would be busy. Lines aren't always clean and straight, there's lots of jagged edges and sharp angles, and sometimes I feel like the artwork could use a lot more polishing. From what I hear, this was the first ever manga made by Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara, so I think a lot of the artwork's problems can be attributed to them still trying to truly polish and find their art style. Thankfully, the drawings slowly get better and better, though it's still rather busy and all over the place at times.

I also think the jagged, messy artwork also contributes to the manga's other problem: the pacing. Everything goes really, REALLY fast in this manga. First, Teito's in the military academy, them boom he's in the church, then an epic fight scene, then he leaves the church, then there's yet another plot twist that changes everything, and so on. There don't seem to be ANY chapters where the characters can just sit down, breathe, and take a break. If you're a big fan of fast paced action manga, then this is definitely for you. On one hand, there's no filler, so the story is always moving forward, always having something happen, and I've heard some people that don't like the anime say it was too slow paced and had too much filler, with nothing else happening. In the manga, there's always something going on, hardly leaving any moments for the readers to get bored, which is always great! On the other hand, 07-Ghost seems to think that it has to keep going at full speed, taking no breaks, which can make the story really hard to follow at times, what with all the crazy, plot twisting revelations that crop up every few chapters or so. It can really made the reader get all discombobulated, because something's ALWAYS going on and there's hardly any breathing room.

For what it's worth, the fast pacing does manage to keep the characters on their toes, and as a result, they're always changing and evolving. At first, they seem like archetypal anime tropes: the impulsive, reckless main character, the good-hearted skirt-chaser, the smart one who wears glasses, the girly man who loves plants, etc. But with the way the story is always moving forward, it forces the characters to confront their demons, face their pasts, and really change to get from point A to point B. Reading further into the manga, the characters are more than just one-dimensional archetypes with one personality trait. Even the villains are given reasonably good character development that shows that they aren't just typical Saturday morning cartoon villains who want to take over the world. In fact, many of their motives are deep and even sympathetic, even though the manga makes it clear that their actions shouldn't be easily forgiven. The characters, while still a little bland sometimes, really shine over the course of the series.

Of course, even the characters aren't spared from getting bogged down by some serious setbacks, the biggest one of them being Teito. Don't get me wrong, he's a decent main character, if still kinda cliche in some ways. But sometimes I feel like the narrative tries way too hard to make him the center of everything. At one point, he's shown to have the Eye of Mikhail, then it's revealed he's the long lost prince of the Raggs Kingdom, and the list goes on! No, seriously, he's revealed to be at least FIVE different things at once, all of which are super important to the storyline. Now, two or three of these reveals are fine, but more than five? I think this, along with the fast pace and heaps of plot twists kind of bog the story down by making it feel bloated by adding in all of these different elements. If the mangakas just cut out some of the excess fat and tried to develop some of the ideas they already had, I think 07-Ghost would be a lot more refined and polished than it is now.

I was originally going to rate this a little lower, but then I read the ending, which was extremely exciting and satisfying in the best ways possible, which made up for most of the series' flaws. I won't lie, 07-Ghost isn't perfect, and I don't like it as much now as I did when I first saw it in high school. But honestly, reading it again, and in its entirety, was like reuniting with an old friend and catching up on lost time. That old friend is still kind of awkward, but still a great old friend regardless. At least, that's how I see the series. If you're a fan of fast paced action, then this is definitely the manga for you. For their first manga, Amemiya and Ichihara did a splendid job, though not without a few bumps on the way, and from what I hear, they're still making manga. Here's hoping they're successful! While not great, 07-Ghost is a moving, ambitious, action-packed epic that will definitely give you an adrenaline rush.

If only someone would license rescue Cantarella and release its final two volumes!
 
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This review was written on March 27th 2020, though it's much shorter than my usual stuff.



I give this cute slice-of-life anime...an 76/100.

Before I start, I'd like to note that according to my My Anime List account, this is the 375th anime I've watched/completed. Man, time sure does go by fast, doesn't it?

Shows about cute girls doing cute things have been done to death at this point, with many of them being rather poor in quality and don't try to really stand out in any way. But in recent years, some studios have actually been making an effort to put out genuinely good CGDCT shows such as A Place Further Than The Universe, Natsuiro Kiseki, Non Non Biyori, Kemono Friends, and Laid Back Camp. Koisuru Asteroid, or Asteroid In Love, is another one of the good ones, though it may not seem that way right off. The show itself is about girls in an astronomy/geology club that got merged, and two of them, Mira and Ao, want to discover an asteroid. Most slice of life anime tend to focus on the school antics rather than try to be more ambitious, and while Asteroid does start off rather cliche, seemingly another run-of-the-mill cute girls anime, after episode 4, it actually does start to be really good.

For one, the animation is fairly nice. The character designs, while a little stereotypically moe, are decent enough, and the movements are fluid and smooth, without any shortcuts, though I do have to wonder why they made Mira's eyes two different colors. I do admit, I really like the eyecatches that show constellations and the various club members being displayed in constellation form. I thought those were really cute and funny. The music is nice as well, though not very memorable. But both the opening and ending theme songs are well sung, easy on the ears, and completely fit the kind of feel the show is going for.

But the characters either make or break a show like this, and if the characters stay the same throughout the show, they run the risk of being static, boring, dull, and stale. Thankfully, after episode 4, Asteroid actually tries to flesh them out and have them break away from their established archetypes. Mira's actually not a ditz who's dumber than a sack of bricks, Ao makes an effort to be less shy and more bold, at one point Inose winds up in a higher position in the club and has to learn how to be a leader, so on and so forth. The status quo actually changes halfway through the series, and the characters are forced to change along with it. The slow pacing helps as well, with the show taking care not to rush its storyline and bring the best out of its characters, especially in the later episodes. Trust me when I say the show gets much better after episode four. That said, not every character was great, as the two newspaper club members were kind of annoying, especially the green haired girl and her annoying high pitched voice.

Now, this show isn't for everyone, and some people are just plain tired of shows about girls having fun, and that's perfectly fine. I personally like several similar shows better than Asteroid that did more with their premises and fleshed out the characters even more (Cases in point, Figure 17 and Place Further Than The Universe). Plus, Suzu's "I'm gonna obsess over every girl I see for funsies" antics got old really fast, and one subplot near the end of the series really baffled me in how easily it was resolved. One character is revealed to be moving, and the girls try to find ways to allow her to stay with the club. The solution they come up with manages to make things easy for anyone, but I question whether that sort of thing would actually be able to happen. I mean, I know my parents would never let me do what one of the characters did here just to be able to stay with her friends. Revealing the character in question is a spoiler, so I won't, but I wanted to point that out, as I found myself unable to let go of my suspension of disbelief for that particular scenario.

So is Koisuru Asteroid one of the best shows ever? Not really. But it's a cute little time killer for when you want to kick back and relax.
 
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I thought it was fine for what it was. It has to be said, this is one of those anime where the girls are only really distinguishable by their hair colour, which is always a bad sign (I always end up suspecting the original mangaka had just come up with five or six variations of cute hair and slapped a couple of quirks on the top: voila, character). The humour isn't really funny and the drama isn't at all dramatic - so it's no A Place Further Than The Universe.

But, I also didn't find it actively annoying, so it was a way to wind down for half an hour
 
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That's a perfectly valid critique. I agree it's no Yorimoi, but unlike most CGDCT shows, Asteroid at least tries to put in a solid effort to try and be good, even if it starts off slow in doing so. That's my two cents, at least.

Anyway, this review was written on August 25th, 2015. Time for reviewing one of my favorite guilty pleasures!



(This is my 270th anime!!!)

I give this ambitious musical anime...a 67/100.

Ever since K-On's success, there have been a huge surge in both slice-of-life anime featuring cute girls doing mundane things and anime where boys or girls try to get into the music scene. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. However, this isn't always a good thing, as there's a lot that can go wrong, such as companies making rip-offs or copies of said show, focusing too much on fanservice and doing what K-On did rather than actually having a decent story, characters, and conflict, or standing out on its own merits. If creators try too hard to copy other works, they won't be appreciated for their own merits, and if a piece of media can't stand on its own merits, then it'll just fade into obscurity. But even shows that stand out and are able to stand on their own merits aren't always good, and sometimes the show that inspired so many rip-offs may not even be that good! Despite its problems, Show By Rock definitely stands out and knows what the heck it wants. Unfortunately, it's being held back by many problems that, if rectified, could have made it so much better, had the creators been given more leeway with it.

A young girl named Cyan (pronounced Shion) Hijirikawa wants to be a rock star and join her school's music club but is too shy to do it. But when she's at home, she gets an app on her phone that suddenly takes her to this magical world called Sound World, particularly one place called Midi City. It's full of half-animal half-human people called Myuumons, and music is par for the course. There are popular bands such as Trichronika, Criticrista, ShingancrimsonZ, and another band she joins called Plasmagica. She receives a sentient heart shaped guitar named Strawberry Heart that tells her she needs to defeat dark monsters that are threatening Midi City. Dark monsters are created when someone's Melodisian Stone is corrupted by negative feelings or outside forces. Cyan joins Plasmagica and gets the chance to fulfill her dream, along with saving Midi City from the dark monsters.

Yeah...as you can tell by the summary, the premise is admittedly very convoluted and cliche. Random kid gets taken to another world by someone or something, is the chosen one and has to defeat evil villain via insert macguffin here, make friends, etc. There's too much to deal with, and it doesn't help that the show is only twelve episodes long. It could have benefited from being a lot longer, like 26 episodes or even 39, for a variety of reasons that I'll get into. Sound World itself doesn't really get expanded upon, nor do we learn all that much about Melodisian Stones, the villain behind the scenes, what made him what he is, why certain people are so important, how and why Midi City is the way it is, etc. I do find it interesting that Sanrio (Yes, this was made by Sanrio, the people behind Hello Kitty. Just go with it) named a city after a midi file. Heck, I remember when midi files were especially popular on places like Neopets, waaay back in like, 2003-2005 or something. However, having an interesting setting doesn't matter if you can't expand upon it or use it to your advantage.

Same goes for the characters. They're not bad, but there's loads and loads of them, and they're all very under developed and bland save for one character, Cyan getting the worst of it, which is actually lampshaded in the final episode. She begins and ends the show being the exact same person. She doesn't do anything, she gets scared, she doesn't do anything by herself, she's shy and insecure, she just gets dragged into things without actively doing anything about it, she's never directly affected by anything that goes on around her...she's just not very interesting as a character. Not only that, she's constantly told that she's the one who absolutely has to defeat the dark monsters, but it's never stated why she of all people has to do it. Others could have very easily been better candidates, and they never state the actual reason why SHE is the one that got picked, which makes the whole chosen one plotline very superficial. Give us a reason, dag nabbit! Sakura from CCS was made to be the cardcaptor because she accidentally released the cards from the Clow Book. Sasami from Sasami Magical Girls Club was born with her powers. Hitomi from Vision of Escaflowne had a pendant from Gaia that she inherited from her grandmother, who received it from a dying man whose son becomes her friend later on. They all start off one way, and end the series having grown and learned from their experiences. Cyan doesn't. Therefore, she's not interesting.

The other characters are no better. True, some of them do get expanded on, but it's all very predictable, and none of their backstories are actively fleshed out save for Chuchu. Retoree is shy, Moa is a cheerful alien who misses her home (and it's quickly forgotten about), Chuchu wants to be the best, etc. I have to admit though, ShingancrimsonZ is the best band in the entire show. The guys in that band are not only hilarious, but charming and are often the comedic relief despite being crazy gothic punk rock bishounen who scream a lot. They're just as bland and underdeveloped as the others, but their antics are funny enough to steal your heart. Criticrista, on the other hand, is the worst of the bunch. We're told that they're best friends who love each other, but we never see them interact much unlike with Plasmagica. It doesn't help that they're all annoyingly cute moe girls with obnoxiously high pitched voices (one of them being voiced by Rina Hidaka, one of my favorite new VAs, and as much as I like her, her work as Rosia really isn't one of her best) who are there to pander to creepy guys, etc. Everyone else is just there for eye candy or doing stuff nobody really cares about. But there are these four animal high schoolers who appear at the end of some episodes who go to school and constantly complain about wanting to go to Midi City, with one of them always saying "Sorrrry!! X is the pits!!" Why are these Myumons here? What purpose do they serve? Nothing! They're never used for anything, so they're just a waste of animation and broadcasting time! The producers should have ditched them and used their budget for, oh, I don't know, actual world building and character exploration? Also, Moa also has an annoying voice actress who tries way to hard most of the time, coming off really shrill in the process.

Animation wise, the show is decent, albeit way too flashy, especially with the way they draw the character's eyes. Too many sparkles and diamonds in them! It's so distracting and completely throws you off. But the character movements are fluid, the character designs are relatively decent, albeit a little too over the top for some (the water band and Criticrista being two such examples), the cosmopolitan look of Midi City is very beautiful and it kinds resembles modern day New York, as the biggest tower in the city kinda looks a lot like the Empire State Building, complete with flashy neon colored lights, etc. Also, the CGI. It is beautiful, and I do not mean that sarcastically. I'm serious. The CGI in this anime is the best I've seen. It's actually fluid, the animators actually put in effort to make it relevant to the story, and since the characters are all rendered into their animal forms during the CGI scenes, they don't fall into uncanny valley territory, and considering how anime CGI is usually REALLY bad a lot of the time, that's saying a lot. I also appreciate that the show likes to parody various animation styles, especially when ShinganCrimsonZ is involved, like having the characters go all buff and beefy a la Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, or giving them girly 70s shoujo faces complete with exaggerated faces and long eye lashes and sparkles a la Rose of Versailles. The way its used for comedy is actually pretty cool.

Since the show's about music, obviously the music has to be the best part of the show, right? Well...yes and no. Pretty much everything by ShinganCrimsonZ, Trichronika, and that other band called Tsurezure is awesome, but all the other songs are mostly just bland, cutesy moe fare that grates on your ears, Criticrista's song obviously being the worst one. The opening and ending songs are no better. It's nice that the show uses a rock and roll music style, since the show is about bands and the music is actually relevant to the story, albeit used in a ridiculous, stupid, and deus ex machina-using way. However, if the songs have cutesy high pitched voices singing them, then all they are is annoying if said voices aren't in tune with the music.

So yeah. Show By Rock isn't great, but it's not bad. Cliched, yes, but not bad. It's pretty fun if you want something good to watch, and the fanservice is pretty mild for the most part. But if you're looking for more serious fare, then give it a miss. Also, ShinganCrimsonZ is awesome. Why couldn't the show be about them?!
 
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This review was originally written on March 11th, 2014. Time for more Pretty Cure!



I give the second Pretty Cure series...an 85/100!

My first Pretty Cure series was Heartcatch Precure. I did see the first episode of the first series, Futari wa Pretty Cure way long ago, but I never went beyond it, partly because of other things, and partly because one mascot's voice was so grating and annoying I just couldn't stand it. But after I finished Heartcatch Precure thanks to a fellow blogger's praising it up the wazoo, I later watched the first 5 episodes of Smile, but I had to put it on hold due to other real life obligations. Then I found Pretty Cure Splash Star on TVTropes and apparently people used to outright hate it back when it aired but now its held with higher regard. Out of curiosity and boredom after watching too much Pokemon and Sword Art Online, I decided to check it out. As of now, it is the second Pretty Cure series I have ever watched all the way through, and my second favorite, for very good reasons. This is a very good series, and it really needs to be seen by American little girls.

Like the first series, it starts off with two girls who are very different from each other: the cheerful and sporty Saki Hyuuga, and the soft-spoken and artistic Mai Mishou. They actually met once when they were younger, but they separated since then, only reuniting once they enter middle school. But their reunion is quite a strange one: two fairies appear from a big tree in the neighborhood, Flappi and Choppi, claiming to be from a place called The Land of Fountains, which had been taken over by the evil organization called Dark Fall. The fairies give Saki and Mai giant cell phones which transform them into the warriors named Pretty Cure, Saki as Cure Bloom, and Mai as Cure Egret (for those wondering, the word egret is a medieval term used to describe white birds, usually herons, with long, graceful plumes during breeding season. Mai's powers are based on the wind and the sky, so it makes sense). Together, they have to defeat Dark Fall and restore the Land of Fountains back to its original state. But they also have to protect their own world, as Dark Fall won't spare it either, especially since they're also trying to find the elusive Fountain of the Sun, the only fountain they haven't destroyed or claimed yet.

The animation...isn't really much to write home about. There is a lot of movement during the fight scenes, which is good considering the hard hitting attacks Pretty Cure is known for requires a lot of movement, but at times the characters look a bit off model, especially during later episodes. But they're minor, so they don't hurt the show entirely. One reason for this may be that Splash Star made a lot less money on its debut than the original series, probably because people were turned off by the character designs and premise looking way too similar to the original Pretty Cure series before it. No one really knows why Toei made Saki and Mai look so similar to Nagisa and Honoka of the original series, and the most common theory is that they were afraid of potential backlash from the audience that liked Nagisa and Honoka, fearing cries of "Replacement Scrappy!" But whatever the reason, that's still no reason to put off this show or dismiss it as a rip-off of the original series. Again, I haven't seen the first series and its sequel, Max Heart, so I can't properly judge it.

The music, while admittedly not as good or dynamic as later seasons, still manages to be really solid. The music manages to capture the mood, atmosphere, and intents of all of its scenes really well, and nothing feels out of place, unlike some anime (Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, anyone?). I particularly liked the music that played when the Pretty Cures, in their new forms, unleash their final attacks on the monsters of the week, and I consider those pieces to be the high point of the entire OST. Also, the opening is extremely dynamic and catchy. It'll never leave your brain! I certainly liked it, and I don't see why American audiences wouldn't like it either.

The Pretty Cure series is very reliant on character development. Some series do it well, and some...don't. Splash Star does it well. While Saki and Mai may look like rip-offs of Nagisa and Honoka, they're actually very different characters. Saki is cheerful, energetic, and friendly, but can be a little reckless and stubborn at times, Mai is sweet, soft spoken, slightly indecisive, and a little shy, but is very insightful. I personally liked seeing them interact and get along and influence each other throughout the series. Most anime tend to just give a character one trait and that's it. You don't see that in Splash Star. The main characters actually have hobbies and interests. Saki likes sports, but she also likes working in her parents' bakery, and she even tries her hand at drawing, even though she isn't very good. Mai likes drawing, but is also interested in astronomy. They have interesting lives! The other characters, like their family members and classmates, also have a strong presence, and don't just show up for one episode and then be gone forever. They all influence the main characters' growth in some way. I will admit though, I didn't like Michiru and Kaoru much. I always thought they were creepy until the very end of the series.

Unfortunately, however, while the main characters are very well developed, I'm sad to say this isn't the case for the villains. While I appreciate them being intimidating and having some personality, in the end they're still typical, cliche, generic, power hungry villains who want to destroy the world for dumb reasons. Plus I felt there were a bit too many of them. I would have liked to see them be fleshed out some more. Yes, I know, it's a kids show, but that's still no excuse to not develop your villains. Sometimes kids like interesting villains who don't want to destroy the world. But one thing that really makes me respect this series is how realistically it handles its character conflicts. In one episode, Kenta spills a drink on Mai's brother's book, and Saki is extremely angry at him. But both of them know it's an accident, actually apologize to each other right after, and try to find a way to fix it. There's no overblown misunderstanding, no melodrama, no shouting "this has nothing to do with you!", etc. God, I've waited so long for a series to actually make characters understand each other's intentions, actually talk to each other, and be proactive in trying to solve them in the most down to earth way possible! I'm so sick and tired of anime making characters act really stupid and refusing to talk to each other for the sake of drama and padding things out for a really long time just for the sake of spicing things up when all it does is drag it down! Thank you, Splash Star!

Splash Star may not be the best series in the franchise (for me, that honor goes to Heartcatch), but it's definitely better than most people claim. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch Suite, because I'm enjoying it immensely! And seriously, why can't shows like this be faithfully dubbed in English for American TV? Little girls would love this kind of stuff!
 
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This review was written on April 3rd, 2020, but just finished today.



I give this cute anime about a witch and her family...an 84/100!

Hey, Ghibli fans out there. Have you ever asked yourself: What would Kiki's Delivery Service be like if it were a TV show instead of a movie? I think I found the answer to that question. Take Kiki's Delivery Service, remove all of the more overt fantasy elements, change the setting to modern Japan, make Kiki into a teenager, and have the whole thing still be sweet, wholesome, and plain nice. I present to you Flying Witch, a short anime based on the manga by Chihiro Ishizuka, the latter of which is still running to this day. I didn't watch this when it first came out, as I was very deep into my anime burnout phase and I couldn't muster up any motivation to watch anything. But seeing as I've finally clawed myself out of it, I decided to give it a try, as some bloggers I follow said it was a great show. I finished it and I can wholeheartedly agree that it really is a sweet treat to watch.

The story centers on a young woman, Makoto Kowata, a witch in training who, alongside her cat familiar Chito, is sent to live with her relatives in the countryside town of Aomori. She just turned 15, and in her world, when a witch turns 15, she is made to leave home to become more independent and spend her time studying witchcraft. She is taken in by her cousins, the Kuramoto family, namely her cousin Kei and his younger sister Chinatsu. Every day is full of fun surprises, from her encounters with an anthropomorphic dog fortune teller desperate to become human again, to all the peculiar magic training she gets from her older sister Akane. For those of you wondering, Flying Witch doesn't have much of a plot, as the show is very firmly rooted in the slice-of-life genre, so you won't find any overt action, drama, complexity, nor conflict here. Every episode focuses on much more mundane things, such as the characters going herb picking in the forest, finding fabric to make witch robes with, or riding on top of a floating whale. So if you're the type of person who prefers blood pumping action, this isn't the show for you.

But what the show lacks in conflict, it makes up for in a lot of ways. For one, the whole tone of the show is very laid-back and down-to-earth, with very little in the way of exaggerated expressions or movements or zany comedy. Events and character interactions play out slowly and organically, like how real people would interact in real life. The pacing is deliberately slow, making you really feel like you're in a quiet countryside town where time seems to move at a more languid pace, and considering the tone the show is going for, it suits the feel of the show perfectly. Nothing is ever rushed or resolved too quickly, and while this may be a point of contention for those who prefer anime that have a faster pace, Flying Witch knows its sole focus is showing the characters in their daily lives and enjoying the things they do and the environment around them.

The animation is fairly good, with the characters having realistic character designs (With some exceptions but even those are relatively muted compared to other anime), detailed backgrounds, and any exaggerated expressions being much more subdued than in most anime. But it also has a lot of understated details that really sell the show's setting, like how Makoto puts her broom in a parking space for bikes, or how Inukai's hamster familiar shivers whenever Chito is nearby. The music is fairly nice as well, with a variety of instruments that fit the feel of a scene when needed. But I didn't like how everyone was highlighted green in the opening theme, and I thought the opening song was kind of obnoxious.

You can't have a good story or setting if you don't have equally good characters to back it up, and for a show like this, the characters can either make it or break it depending on the execution. Thankfully, Flying Witch's characters avoid a lot of the common pitfalls that give the slice-of-life genre a bad name. All of the characters' personalities and quirks are realistic, down to earth, and they behave like real people would, with no exaggerated or forced personality traits or archetypes oh so common in most anime, and the chemistry between all of them is also very well done. The show is filled with sweet moments between various characters that just make you smile, like how Kei and Chinatsu interact, seeing how different Makoto and Akane are as siblings (Yes, the silver haired, tan skinned woman is related to a pale skinned, black haired high school student. Don't ask, because I don't know either), Nao's interactions with Chito, and Anzu (My favorite character) gushing about anthropology with Kenny, a Siamese-ish magic cat who's said to be an anthropology scholar in his world. All throughout the series, we constantly learn new things about them, and the things we do learn about them never feel like the creators pulled them out of their butts, nor do these new traits contradict anything we learned about them before (Looking at you, Ni no Kuni movie!!). Having good characters and equally good chemistry between them makes the show very rewarding to watch, even if they're not the most complex. Really, most slice-of-life shows could really benefit from learning a thing or two from Flying Witch when it comes to characterization and character writing. Even the voice acting feels genuine, though, I won't lie, Chinatsu's Japanese voice can get really grating and shrill at times, to the point of sounding a bit forced.

So if you want to kick back, relax, and watch a slice-of-life anime that's full of heart but not forced or obnoxious as most other slice-of-life anime, then let Flying Witch take you for a low key ride. It's a great remedy for when you're having a bad day.
 
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That's a perfectly valid critique. I agree it's no Yorimoi, but unlike most CGDCT shows, Asteroid at least tries to put in a solid effort to try and be good, even if it starts off slow in doing so. That's my two cents, at least.
I think it was trying to mimic the style of Laid Back Camp, in the slow pace, low drama, light education, but with earth sciences. And likewise I think it would have done better if it hadn't leaned so heavily on stock characters and cut down on the cast. On the other hand, this also meant the anime's less tempted to spice up episodes with lazy fanservice, so it does have an upside.

Compare Flying Witch, which was both my favourite anime for that season and found its way into my permanent favourites.
 
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You like Flying Witch too? Awesome! My parents aren't letting me order stuff online right now because they don't want me getting sick, but the second I'm allowed to do so again, I'm gonna buy the limited edition DVD/Blu-Ray boxset and then watch the dub!
 
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Time for a nostalgia trip!...for me, that is. This review was written on January 4th, 2020.



I give this cute, charming game...a 68/100.

Real time: When I was a kid, I LOVED Hamtaro. I attempted to watch it every chance I got, and I say attempted, because at one point in my childhood, my parents signed me up for some after school program that required me to stay at school for another hour, and new episodes of Hamtaro happened to air at 3:30 every single day around that time, so I missed a good chunk of episodes. I was pissed for a long time about that, even more so when it randomly got cancelled. This was before DVR, so I couldn't record any episodes unless it was on tape, and I didn't know how to do even that. It doesn't help that to this day, other than a few DVDs containing a slew of early episodes, the series, dub or sub, has never gotten a full release here on home video. I did, however, get my hands on every game that came out in the US, with Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite being the first one!...though I have to admit, it's oddly difficult for a game aimed at kids. I got this when I was eight or nine, but never managed to complete it until adulthood. Weird, right? But how well does it hold up as a game? Let's take a look, shall we?

The story's nothing really special. You play as Hamtaro, and Boss wants you to find all the Ham-Hams and bring them back to the clubhouse because he wants to show them all something. That's it. The entire game is about you searching for the Ham-Hams and learning made-up words called Ham-Chat. The game relies heavily on you learning these words and going out of your way to figure out how to learn them. Some of the ways of doing so are easy to figure out, and others...not so much. Don't let the game's cutesy visuals and lackluster gameplay fool you. If you don't know what to do for certain scenarios or know how to solve the various puzzles, learning various Ham-Chat words can be next to impossible. The game threw me for a loop as an eight-year-old discovering the joys of GameBoy games because of this. It does help that the game is rather short, and you can complete it in about six or so hours if you manage to do everything you need to.

Don't expect the characters to be super complex or three dimensional or anything, as this is a game aimed at children. For the most part, the characters and their personalities are true to their counterparts in the anime, with Dexter and Howdy always arguing over Pashmina, Penelope saying Ookwee, Jingle being a philosophical guitar player, so on and so forth. But in the game's universe, there's not a whole lot to them, and when you finish their required storylines and bring them back to the clubhouse, they don't really do anything else after that. Then again, I suppose part of this may be attributed to the GameBoy cartridge's lack of internal storage space, as it can only hold a certain amount of data, so the creators had to make do with what space they could use. Plus, Hamtaro doesn't talk here, so you won't hear him saying much unlike how he was in the show.

One thing I can say in the game's favor is that the graphics are very bright, colorful, and detailed, especially by GameBoy standards. The hamsters, even the NPCs, all have unique, distinct looks, even if many of them are color swaps, the environments are brimming with detail, all seen from the perspective of a hamster, and the sprite animation is completely smooth and seamless. Considering this turned out to be the last GameBoy game put out by Nintendo, it shows that they wanted to end the GameBoy Color era with a bang, and I think in the visual department, they really pulled it off. It helps that the game manages to capture the soothing, light hearted feel of the show, almost as though you're watching an actual episode of the anime. But regardless, it has virtually nonexistent gameplay, and its simple premise and overly difficult puzzles won't have it winning any awards any time soon.

Not one of the best games ever, but it's a nice little time killer, and a good, if flawed end to the GameBoy Color's reign. Now if only someone would license the anime and give it a full release on home video!!
 
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This review was written on April 11th, 2020.



I give this animal-themed magical girl anime...an 80/100!

I have a very sentimental relationship with Tokyo Mew Mew. I remember first watching the English dubbed version, Mew Mew Power, on TV when I was about twelve, and I watched it religiously until it got unceremoniously cancelled. It was also the first anime I ever watched in Japanese with subtitles, and it started my descent into the anime fandom. Tokyo Mew Mew was also the first right-to-left manga I ever bought, and to this day, I still own the old Tokyopop volumes I bought way back when, including the sequel, A La Mode. But weirdly enough, I never got around to finishing the anime. I had attempted to do so many times, but never followed through, whether it be because of other obligations, or because I was watching other, much better anime. But last year, I made an oath to finally, finally finish the entire anime in Japanese, making it a new year's resolution as well. No matter what, I intended to finish the anime in full, no excuses. As of today, I can proudly say that I finally managed to finish the whole show! And it only took me...what, fifteen years to do so? Better late than never!

I already reviewed the manga, but as a refresher, here's the story: Five young girls are given the ability to transform into animal themed magical girls by being injected with the DNA of various endangered animals. Their mission is to fight a group of aliens who want to reclaim Earth for themselves and terrorize it with mutated creatures known as Chimera Anima. But the main girl, Ichigo Momomiya, really isn't too fond of the idea of being a magical superhero, as all she wants to do is go on dates with her new boyfriend, Masaya Aoyama! So yeah, not exactly the most original of premises, and unfortunately, here in America, any and all magical girl anime are automatically deemed rip-offs of Sailor Moon, even though SM isn't the only magical girl series out there.

My review of the manga is rather critical, and my feelings on it still stand. Some people claim that whenever an anime adapts a manga, the source material is always the best one. While that is true in most cases, especially nowadays, there are exceptions to the rule, with many anime opting to offer its own ideas and improve on their manga counterparts. In my humble opinion, Tokyo Mew Mew's anime is also one of these, managing to rectify a lot of the manga's flaws, even though it itself still has some flaws that prevent it from being a masterpiece. For one, the characterization is very much improved from the manga. The latter focused solely on Ichigo, with all the other characters mostly just serving as literal props to make Ichigo stronger, and we never learn what the others are like outside of being a Mew Mew, like their family lives, hobbies, dreams, and so on. The anime has 52 episodes, and it made ample use of its time to give the other girls time in the limelight and a lot more character development, like how Mint has a strained relationship with her brother, Lettuce making plush dolls as a hobby, showing Pudding actually being a reliable sister for her younger siblings, and even on side characters, such as Ichigo's parents. I know people say filler in anime is always bad, but I'm in the camp that firmly believes that filler in and of itself isn't automatically bad, and that it can be either good or bad depending on the writing and execution. Personally, I feel Tokyo Mew Mew made good use of its run time to focus on bringing its cast to life and giving them more depth and development than the manga did, even if they're not the most complex and three-dimensional. So yeah, having more episodes can make a difference.

Another way the anime improved on the manga's flaws is how it tackled themes of animals and environmentalism. The manga tried to make use of its themes to tell its story, but it was often very clumsy in how it did so. Again, the anime improved on this by focusing on them a lot more, putting them to better use. For example, the anime has the characters interacting with various animals and environments, and having the latter play a much bigger role in the larger conflict against the aliens. Nothing like that is ever shown in the manga, as again, it mostly focuses just on Ichigo and her struggles with romance. That said, the anime doesn't always explain a lot of really important plot details, especially near the end of the series, where a bunch of new conflicts and revelations seem to come out of nowhere, with nary a solid explanation in sight. I won't spoil it for you, but for anyone who's seen the entire series, I think you'll know which episodes I'm referring to.

The animation is fairly standard for an early 2000s anime, with bright colors and lots of still frames, and it's not as fluid as other shows I've seen, but it does its job decently. That said, it does tend to fluctuate a lot over the course of the show's run. Sometimes, the characters have simplistic designs, while other times, especially in later episodes, the features on the characters' faces suddenly get hyper detailed for no reason. Normally I like this, but the way it happens here feels jarring and breaks the immersion every now and again. Maybe Pierrot had different animators on different episodes or something. That does happen. Yeah, Studio Pierrot of Naruto fame worked on this show. Hard to believe they'd go from a magical girl anime to a long running series about ninjas, right? There's also the occasional off-model body parts and character designs looking inconsistent and rushed, but those are relatively fewer in number. The soundtrack isn't very memorable, but I'm not gonna lie, it's still better than the overdramatic, tryhard soundtrack the 4Kids version gave it. The opening and ending songs are pretty nice as well, fitting the show to a T. But I should warn you: Pudding's Japanese voice is REALLY high pitched and grating. Like, super high pitched, almost as bad as Ichigo's friend Miwa (Voiced by Tomoko Kaneda, who is the queen of super squeaky high pitched voices. Pudding is played by Hisayo Mochizuki). It really says something when her English 4Kids voice actress manages to make her sound tolerable (Thanks, Kether Donohue. Where is she now anyway?). Ichigo has a similar problem, but still managed to strike some balance between genuine and obnoxiously squeaky. At times.

So is Tokyo Mew Mew the best magical girl anime ever? Not really. I can name several that I like better than it, and I'm not going to let nostalgia blind me to its flaws. But the anime rectifies a lot of the manga's issues and managed to make a fun, enjoyable show for girls that everyone can enjoy. Now if only someone would re-release the anime in the US on home video or give it a new, faithful dub like Sailor Moon and Saint Seiya eventually got. Plus, it seems like Tokyo Mew Mew's heading back into the limelight now. Not only did it get a new spin-off manga by a completely new artist, Mia Ikumi herself is making a new two chapter sequel manga, and TMM is getting a brand new anime. From what I hear, it's going to be a reboot that's completely different from the original anime. Whether it'll be faithful to the manga or not, similarly to Sailor Moon Crystal, I can't say, as there isn't much new information on it yet, other than there's going to be a new voice cast. But I sure am looking forward to it nonetheless! Still, the original anime will always have a place in my heart as the anime that helped pave my way into fandom as a whole.
 
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This review was originally written on June 29th, 2012, but I did alter and tweak some parts of it recently to make it more refined and less overly fangirly. Though thankfully I didn't need to rewrite the whole review this time around, like I did for AnoHana and what I'm currently doing for my upcoming Madoka Magica review.



I give this wonderful anime...a 90/100!

Ah, the idol industry. People sing, dance, and basically get famous. For some reason, the anime industry seems to be making more and more anime on singers, idols, and the music industry. I don't think this is bad. In fact, I think a change is what anime needs since all the ecchi anime NEED TO GO. On a surprisingly related note, have you noticed that a lot of singers are getting movies or TV shows based on them? Like, oh, I dunno: Hannah Montana, Justin Bieber, Soulja Boy, and most recently Katy Perry? Not only that, they aren't really even movies! Just a bunch of concerts thrown into 2-hour movie format made just for the sake of publicity! Well, the anime industry just recently made a 12-episode anime that supposedly promotes the new all-girl idol group Sphere, and all of it's members are cast as the main characters in this anime. You'd think this would just be a bunch of rehashed concert material meant to promote it's music group just to increase their popularity or a really bad fanservice anime with the characters in sexual situations. Though, oddly enough...this isn't the case with Natsuiro Kiseki.

Upon first glance, people thought that Natsuiro Kiseki was about a group of idols, since the producers hardly ever gave out any solid information. Instead, we're given the story of a group of childhood friends who are forced to cope with the fact that one of them is moving away. They discover a rock in a shrine that can grant wishes, and they experiment with it a little...though the results aren't exactly pleasant, and they get a little more than they bargained for. To be honest, I went into this with no expectations, but as I watched more episodes, the show turned out to be way better than I had expected! More times than I expected! This isn't a bunch of concerts in animated form, nor is this an ecchi fest, nor is it moe moe kyun fodder. Natsuiro Kiseki is actually a very touching, somewhat realistic, and heartwarming tale of friends who don't want their friendship to end.

If any of you are thinking this anime was produced by companies like Xebec or Silver Link, then you guessed wrong. Ironically, Sunrise was responsible for the animation, and considering they usually work on a lot of mecha anime, you'd think they'd be the last company to ever produce a supernatural slice of life anime of this tier, or at all for that matter. While their animation is very good, I have to admit, some parts did look rather weird at points. Not only that, while the songs are good, they're still rather generic. The soundtrack is kinda blah as well. I don't remember much of it.

The characters are what make this anime really great, and I mean it. For one, the anime actually cares about characterization and giving them meaningful development rather than just making them into cutesy moe archetypes. It helps that their chemistry is just amazing. The way they interact, the situations they face, and the things that happened around them. Everything about them is just wonderful when they're together. Sooner or later, you'll find yourself saying, "Hey! She's going through exactly what I'm going through!" I know I certainly felt that way with Saki at one point in my life. It helps that because of the premise, a sentient rock granting the characters' wishes in ways that cause them a lot of grief, like turning them invisible or having them literally be stuck together, the girls are forced to grow closer, face issues they've been avoiding, and grow as people.

Unfortunately, the anime DOES have it's hiccups, and they're pretty blatant. It's not a fanservice series, but there are occasional fanservice-y jokes, though they never get dragged out. But the anime's biggest flaw is that it can border on being a little too overacted and dramatic at times. It doesn't always happen, as the show usually has a lot more restraint than other shows, but on occasions when it does want to create drama, the writers wind up having the characters try too hard, leading to quite a bit of unnecessary angst that could have been avoided had the characters talked to each other about their problems. But I've seen series that have done this much worse, so I'm actually willing to give Natsuiro Kiseki a pass on this one.

One anime that a lot of people like in terms of their favorite comedies is Azumanga Daioh. To them it's the kind of series where overtime you really do feel like they're real friends and get moved to tears by graduation and by the normal situations they face. I didn't watch Azumanga Daioh so I never got that reaction. But for me, that reaction belongs to Natsuiro Kiseki here. It may not look like much from the promotional art alone, but trust me. If you really give this show a chance, you'll be surprised at how wonderful it really is, especially if you analyze the problems they face. You'll find that they're surprisingly true to life despite the supernatural elements of this show. I certainly know I related to it on a personal level. If this anime showed up last year, I wouldn't have related to it so much as I do now, but nope! It just had to hit me in the heart, and boy did it ever!

Don't judge it by it's looks. While it is just a means to promote an idol group, Natsuiro Kiseki is a sweet, touching show with well-rounded characters that manages to succeed in standing out from a very oversaturated genre.
 
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Damn, this review took me five years to finish. Well, better late than never I suppose. This review was originally started on March 23rd 2015, though not finished until today.



I give this surprisingly good gem of an OVA...a 87/100!

I'm not into anime about wars or giant robots. But recently I got into Gundam X, and it totally blew my mind, and other people I know absolutely love Gundam 0080: War In The Pocket. Good news: you don't need to be a Gundam fan or know much about the Gundam series in order to really enjoy it. But this one's a real oddity, as this is only six episodes long. But like another six episode anime, FLCL (aka Fooly Cooly), everyone praises it and loves it, hailing it to be one of the best Gundam series ever. And as of now, I agree with them. Besides, nobody said that short series were all bad. In fact, some anime can really benefit from being short if the right staff worked on it.

The story is about Alfred "Al" Izuruha, a young boy living on a neutral space colony during a war. His colony so far is safe from the evils of war, but it's actually home to a secret Federation base that is currently in the process of hosting a secret weapon, a Gundam named Alex. A Zeon team is deployed to destroy the Alex, but Alfred befriends one of its cadets, Bernard "Bernie" Wiseman, a young pilot who was just recently recruited into the ranks. Because Al is so young, he and his friends idealize war through toys, fake badges, video games, etc., and he's going to learn very quickly that war and death aren't fun and games, especially when he makes himself part of Bernie's team to destroy the Alex.

For an anime made in 1989, the animation is surprisingly good. Then again, it was made during an era where people could actually afford to put in as much money into animation as they could to make it look as good as possible. Movement is smooth and fluid, the character designs are all distinct and very detailed, the mechas are all well designed and look really cool, and the anime makes really good use of characters' facial expressions. Nothing important is said, but you can tell the characters have a lot going on in their minds and are still very expressive, making the drama very subtle and understated, which works really well here. It's because of this that the series never delves into cheese or melodrama, a very common pitfall that many mecha shows, Gundam included, tend to fall into, because they tend to let angst completely take over the storytelling when it really shouldn't. The show is much more focused on empathizing small details rather than overblown battle sequences, and everything from the characters to the animation feels genuine, and you never feel like anything happens solely because of the writers' wishes. But I do feel like sometimes the amount of details tend to be a little too much. At one point, Al winds up having three sclera in his eyes, which can look really jarring.

Because of my lack of familiarity with mecha shows and the tropes they tend to use, anything I say about the characters is solely based on what I saw in the show itself, though I have heard that Gundam tends to overuse a lot of tropes and beat dead horses, such as an ambitious rookie character who ignores orders on occasion. Now, six episodes isn't nearly enough to develop a huge cast, but again, the show offers a lot of subtle details about the various characters that show us what they're like rather than shoving it in our faces. Plus, the two central characters, Al and Bernie, along with Chris, Al's next door neighbor, absolutely steal the show and receive all the time they need to shine. Bernie is a young ambitious man who wants to play a more active role in his job, always treated like a rookie by his superiors (Which makes sense, because he is one) but he's still competent and likeable, and any decisions he makes, good or bad, still make sense according to the show's logic and story progression. I hear a lot of people really don't like Al because he's a little kid and feel he should have been cut out of the show, but I personally thought Al was perfectly well written and a realistically portrayed child who was never too bratty, and even when he acted so, his actions still made sense. Furthermore, the show relies heavily on the idea that Al and his classmates see war as a fun game, glorified and commercialized by the public, and making a point to illustrate that, well, it really isn't. Even the side characters, who aren't nearly as fleshed out and well rounded as Al and Bernie are, are nowhere near bad. The fact that War In The Pocket is technically told from the perspective of members of the Principality of Zeon, who are considered the bad guys in Gundam's universe, makes this one of the most morally ambiguous series out there, and it does a stellar job in showing that no side of a war is truly good or bad, and that both sides have decent people just trying to live their lives. War In The Pocket is a character study first and foremost, and seriously, there's a ton of anime that could really stand to learn a thing or two from this.

(Oh, and can I just say how much I absolutely adore Chris? She's an awesome lady, and she deserves more love!)

Honestly, in terms of flaws, I could really only find two, both relating to audio. One, I do feel the soundtrack is rather dated. It's not bad, but some pieces of background music could stand to be a little less poppy at times. The opening and ending songs were nice, but the English grammar in the opening wasn't very good. The second one is more of a nitpick, but I couldn't help but notice it. In episode 3, there's a scene where Al and Bernie are in a space simulation while infiltrating a base, and at one point when Bernie is scolding Al for his stupidity, the scene randomly goes silent for a few seconds, even though Bernie's mouth is shown to be moving. At first I thought this was a massive oversight by the English dubbers, that they may have forgotten to record a line of dialogue, or that maybe the file I saw was bad and I could find a better copy elsewhere. Unfortunately, it was the same in every place I found it, and I eventually found out that, no, that random bout of silence in the episode wasn't an error. It's in the Japanese version as well. I don't know why the creators thought to have that part be silent, but I personally found it really jarring, and it really took me out of the immersion. To understand what I mean, it'd be like, say, watching an English dub of an anime and having random lines be completely silent and undubbed. I know the video game Atelier Ayesha had this problem, and I didn't play that until long after I watched War In The Pocket. That's how jarring it was to me personally. But again, that's more a personal preference than anything.

In case you're wondering, while War In The Pocket is technically considered a distant sequel to the original series that aired in 1979, you don't need to have seen the latter to enjoy the former. Any references to the original Gundam show are mostly just aesthetic in nature, along with name dropping White Base and implying the existence of Newtypes, but that's really it. Also, should you decide to watch War In The Pocket, I should warn you now: It doesn't have a happy ending. I honestly thought the ending was great, further wonderfully illustrating the utter pointlessness of war and remaining true to the show's messages, but I know others who may not agree. Even so, this show is utterly fantastic and I can totally see why fans of Gundam hold this particular OVA in such high regard. If you want to watch a great short anime that cares about its story, characters, and messages, give War In The Pocket a try. I did, and I don't regret it one bit.
 
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So I've been reading a LOT of books lately. A lot. But some of them I don't have a whole lot to say about, so instead of trying to give each one a big review, I'll just write short reviews of them and put them all on one page. How's that?

Here are the ones I've read so far.


Wonderland by Barbara O'Connor
Rating
: 6/10
It's a very cute book that's reasonably well written and does a good job at conveying the character's thoughts. Rose and Mavis were nice characters who were decently developed and I could sympathize with their struggles. But I do think the idea of racing dogs seems kind of weird. Are racing dogs even a thing? I know you can race horses and gamble on them, but dogs? Ehh...I find that idea to be kind of farfetched. I also think the girls trying to get a man to get a dog, even guilt-tripping him to do so, comes off as kind of pushy. They do mean well, but if the guy wants to be alone, then leave him alone. As it is, it's a decent book.


Wish by Barbara O'Connor
Rating
: 7.5/10
Now this one is much better. The story's more grounded than Wonderland's was, the first person writing style works since it's all told from Charlie's point of view, and Charlie herself is an interesting, relatable character. The story really excels in putting you in Charlie's shoes and making her complex and vulnerable without making them into an unlikeable jerk in the process. You understand why she's the way she is and why she doesn't feel as though she can trust any of the new people that come into her life. I do kind of wish her dog and her mother got a bit more screentime, especially since they play very big roles in Charlie's life. Nevertheless, I can definitely recommend this to anyone who's been in Charlie's shoes.


Jean and Johnny by Beverly Cleary
Rating
: 6.5/10
I really liked The Luckiest Girl, so I decided to try Cleary's other romance stories to see if they were good as well. I finished Jean and Johnny, and...I prefer Luckiest Girl over it. Cleary's writing is deceptively simple, but it really gives you a glimpse into the character's thoughts and describes into detail the time period they all live in, making you feel like you're right there with them. But I found the characters to be rather bland and uninteresting, though I do absolutely love the direction the story itself took, especially in the end. I also wish that one character, Homer, had gotten more screentime, especially near the end. Plus, some chapters seemed to drag on, making them a bit of a slog to go through. Eh, it's a cute book, but I'll probably need to be in the right mood if I want to read it again. Still like Luckiest Girl better.


Everything I Know About You by Barbara Dee
Rating
: 8/10
Yay, another good Barbara Dee novel! I liked Halfway Normal, and this new novel is just as good! All of the characters are interesting, Dee's writing has gotten even better since Halfway Normal, the story, while a little all over the place, is genuinely interesting, Tally's a great lead character, and the fact that it tackled anorexia in a serious but still friendly, nuanced manner is something that most books can't boast. I do like Halfway Normal a little better, but that's not to say the book is bad. I also like that in the end, Tally and Ava didn't magically become friends at the end, which is something the authoress herself stated that she did intentionally, as she felt giving the story a concrete resolution seemed to pat for such a serious subject like anorexia. Friendship doesn't make stuff like that magically go away, and I agree with her on that one. A very good book, and I wholly recommend it.


Nutcracked by Susan Adrian
Rating
: 5/10
Ehhh, this one was rather dull. It had a lot of potential, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The story's about a young girl, Georgie, who's excited to be playing the part of Clara in her school's performance of The Nutcracker, but when she plays with the Nutcracker prop, she finds herself magically transported into another world where she's supposed to save the actual Nutcracker...or something. The book didn't do much with the whole "transported into the Nutcracker story" other than have Georgie appear there every now and again, and there's little explanation as to why it's happening to her at all. The story was flimsy, the characters were dull, the prose was overly simplistic, and the conflict seemed forced. Sorry, but I wouldn't recommend this one.


More Than a Princess by E. D. Baker
Rating
: 5/10
Didn't like this one much either, which is a shame, because it has a lot of things that I like. Magical worlds, fairies, strong women who don't sit around and do nothing, you'd think this book would be great. Sadly, it isn't. I liked the concept, and the fairies and the pedrasi were very interesting, but the characters were kind of bland, and I felt Aislin was a little too perfect. The conflict didn't seem to be big enough, and much of it was caused by some random character who isn't introduced until the last third of the story, which seems way too late. I liked the writing well enough and the story itself was okay, but this one had a lot of wasted potential.


The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danzinger
Rating:
5/10
Nothing special. An insecure, overweight girl finds a friend in a new teacher who challenges the school's strict learning curriculum and makes learning fun, but the rest of the school doesn't like her for being different from them and she's taken to court for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The writing's simple and the characters are kinda one-note, especially Marcy's father, who's a misogynistic piece of crap who never does anything except scream and yell at his family for asinine reasons AND stuff that he's at fault for. I found the conflict to be rather forced. Is a teacher not saying the Pledge of Allegiance really that big a deal? This was published in the seventies, which were apparently a hotbed of fiery political chaos back then, but to take a teacher to some court for it? I don't know. That just screams trying to force a conflict to me. Also, Marcy always misses gym because she doesn't want to change clothes in front of people and gets away with it despite flunking. How has the gym teacher not talked to her parents about this yet? Yeah, not a great book. Give this one a miss.
 
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This review was written on April 5th, 2020.



I give this distant sequel to one of my favorite mobile game franchises...a 54/100.

Full truth: I love Show By Rock. The first two seasons of it, at least. The first season, while objectively nothing to write home about in the public eye, I personally thought was fun, funny, dramatic, silly, awesome, and reveled in its sparkly, musical silliness. The second season, I feel, improved on many of the first seasons flaws, though it itself isn't without its problems, and was still just as fun and entertaining. I own both seasons on Blu-Ray and when I heard that a third season starring an entirely new cast of characters was going to air, I was hyped as hell. I really thought I was going to enjoy this one, and having a new cast of characters can actually be refreshing if done right. Sadly, Mashumairesh had a promising start but ultimately failed to reach beyond mediocre.

So instead of focusing on Cyan and her band Plasmagica, the story focuses on an entirely new character, Howan, a girl living in the snowy countryside who wants to make it big. She decides to go out to Midi City for an audition...only for her to loss her form and be unable to do so. But she finds a band performing on the street and they invite her to join them. Touched by their kindness, Howan decides to join them, proposing that they start a band together and see if they can make it big, just like Howan always dreamed. Yeah, tell me you haven't heard this premise before. Unoriginal as hell, though unlike the original show, there's no evil villain out to destroy the world, so any conflict is scaled down. I've heard someone say Show By Rock would be better as a pure slice of life show rather than have a more urgent save-the-world conflict, and I could see where they were coming from, but with the way Mashumairesh was executed, this shows that going that direction may not have been the best idea.

I'll get the positives out of the way first. For one, the animation is quite good. The original show was made by Bones, but Mashumairesh was animated by a different studio, Kinema Citrus, who you may know worked on shows such as Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Made In Abyss, Rising of the Shield Hero, Is The Order a Rabbit, and other shows. While I do feel the character designs are way too ridiculous and over the top for their own good (Himeko's huge hair curls, anyone?), the show still feels true to the feel of the original, and while the CGI chibi models don't have as much shading and depth to them as the first show did, they're still cute and easy on the eyes, and stay away from looking really creepy and uncanny. I'm kind of mixed on the music, though. Some parts of it are good, such as the opening and ending songs. I wasn't a fan of the opening and ending themes for both the original show and the sequel, and the songs used here are much more pleasant to listen to and less obnoxious. That said, some of the songs sung in-universe are kind of odd. The melodies and beats are fine, but some of the lyrics make no sense, especially for some of Dokonjofinger's songs. Many of them have lyrics that feel like they were just slapped together at the last second.

Speaking of Dokonjofinger...I'm not gonna lie, they're pretty much the biggest dark spot on this show, and pretty much encapsulate the show's biggest problem: Its complete lack of interest in giving its characters any meaningful development whatsoever. All of the characters, even the ones we're supposed to care about and root for, are all really bland and dull, with many of them only having one character trait that's shilled to high heaven and that's it. Ruhuyu's whole adding the word lunatic to literally every word she said and shouting it every chance she had got old really fast. No, show, giving your character an annoying quirk and having them do nothing but said quirk all the time does not make a good, endearing character. Nearly every single character has all the emotional depth of a wet paper bag, and not helping matters is that the characters are implied to have interesting backstories, but they're never explored or fleshed out in any way, except with a throwaway line of dialogue here and there that's never followed up on. Tying back to Dokonjofinger, not only are they the absolute worst characters in the show, because they're all annoying as hell and their plight is completely inconsequential to the story, their whole setup is a complete logical disaster (They've done bad things and are about to get expelled from school...but to avoid that, their principal makes them form a band and forces them to compete with other bands. How can any principal expect problem teens to be able to get along as a band and NOT be scared that they'll just use it as a means to cause even more trouble?! And they do exactly that!!) and they get a crap ton of screen time but no meaningful development that'd make the audience care about them. How little does this show care about its characters? Here's an example: In Dokofin's introductory episode, the narrator explains that Joe's hobbies are, I shit you not...giving blood and receiving IV treatment. SHOW, THOSE ARE NOT HOBBIES!! Nor do they add any kind of depth and nuance to a character whatsoever! Out of all of them, Hachin is the absolute worst, because not only is he an annoying brat who always starts fights, even with his own bandmates, for kicks and giggles, he's got an especially grating voice that makes you want to stick needles in your ears. Think Asta from Black Clover but ten times worse.

The characters all stay the same throughout the series, and as a result, nearly every important moment they have near the end of the series not only feels fake, but completely unearned. It's especially bad because the creators wasted their resources on showing the bands having fun and wasting time on pointless activities, like a curling contest of all things, when they could have used that time and their resources to really flesh out their characters and make the audience care about them. Unfortunately, every character is dull and remains the same, with Dokofin's worst qualities never changing at all. Say what you will about the original show and its second season, it at least recognized its flaws from its first season and tried to rectify them in its second season. I mean, it's no sacred masterpiece, but it at least tried and put effort into making you care about the characters, even if its writing could be all over the place at times. Mashumairesh just feels like a shallow imitation that can't stand on its own two feet.

It's a shame, because as flawed as the original Show By Rock is, I still enjoy watching it, and I wanted this show to be good as well. Overall, while Mashumairesh isn't utter crap, I can't recommend this show, even for Show By Rock fans. It went too far with showing silly band shenanigans and lost sight of what made the original show so good. So I'd give this one a miss.
 
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This review was written on April 17th, 2020.



I give this cute book about an autistic girl and her love for baseball...a 85/100!

There's a lot of media genres that I don't really find myself gravitating to. Horror, romance, mecha, etc., and sports is no exception. I never liked watching real sports, and still don't, so reading a book on sports or watching TV shows centered around sports is usually guaranteed to bore the hell out of me. Mostly because many of them expect their audience to already know about the sport in question, never explaining any terminology, therefore alienating any fans who aren't as familiar with various sports, like baseball or soccer. Honestly, the only sport I really care about is archery, and some debate whether one can call that an actual sport. Thankfully, despite how impossible it seemed, I actually did manage to find a book about a girl's interest in baseball that was actually interesting and is accessible to both sports fans and those who aren't as familiar with baseball. Also, it stars an autistic girl and is written by an autistic writer? Ladies and gentleman, Get A Grip, Vivy Cohen! is the book I just described, having discovered it via this article here. I honestly didn't think I'd like it, but I gave it a try, and it's definitely one of the best middle grade debut novels of 2020, and just a plain good book overall.

So the story centers on a young autistic girl named Vivy Cohen. She absolutely loves baseball, particularly throwing knuckeballs. Her dream is to become a professional baseball player, having been cultivated when a famous pitcher, Vincent James Capello, taught her how to throw a knuckeball some years earlier. Unfortunately, her overprotective mother is against the idea, thinking the sport too dangerous and stressful for her, dismissing it as an autistic fixation that she needs to be trained out of, and her therapist agrees. But when she and her brother are playing catch, the coach of a small baseball team notices her, and invites her to join his team. Seeing this as her big chance to do what she's always dreamed, she convinces her parents to let her join the Flying Squirrels. But the road to playing baseball is a bumpy one, and even when she gathers the courage to send letters to VJ Capello, finding a friend she can confide in, life isn't always forgiving towards girls like her.

The novel is written in what's called an epistolary style, where the story and chapters consist of a character writing letters to another, with the recipient responding sometimes. In the right hands, a style like this can work, but other times, it can be an absolute mess. This book manages to strike a relatively decent balance, and since Vivy is the central character, most of the story is told from her point of view, and we see the letters and emails she sends to her idol, VJ. I found the writing style to be okay, understandable enough for kids to understand, but not particularly thought-provoking or engaging, which isn't really a bad thing in this case. But there were some chapters that I felt were too short and didn't really add anything to the story, so cutting them out might have benefitted Get a Grip a bit. Plus, sometimes the emails seem too detailed for a twelve-year-old like Vivy to write. That I can attribute to the book being written by an adult writer, and it's a common problem among writers to not always know how children talk or write things. I'm guilty of that myself, so unless you're a parent or work closely with kids, it's not easy to be able to capture a child's voice realistically.

And speaking of a character's voice, what the book lacks in prose, it very much makes up for with its stunning lead character, Vivy. The authoress mentioned in the post I linked that growing up, she read about strong characters who were outsiders but still depicted as strong, caring, heroic people with a lot of personality and depth, and in response to the oft negative, stereotyped portrayals of autistic characters in media, she wanted to make an autistic character who was like the heroes she loved growing up and depict her autism in a positive light. With Vivy Cohen, I feel she really struck a home run with Vivy Cohen. Vivy is a determined, energetic, caring girl who has a ton of personality and spunk to her. She does make mistakes, sure, but they never define her, and all she wants to do is the very thing that makes her happy, which is play baseball. Her being autistic is never depicted as a problem, and the people in her life who treat it as such, such as her overprotective mother and unsympathetic therapist, aren't treated as being in the right. Not once does she ever do things like talk like a robot with no emotion, or constantly act like a two-year-old throwing tantrums all the time, nor is she depicted as a slob, a burden, or anything of the like. She feels like the kind of kid you'd meet in school. She loves baseball, she gets annoyed by her mother treating her like a precious porcelain doll who'll break at the slightest breeze, she's close with her dad, she doesn't always understand certain things or know her limits, she's smart enough to know when people are treating her like an idiot, and she doesn't want to let anything stop her from living her life. She's a fully realized, three-dimensional kid people can relate to, me included, even if they don't share her interest in baseball (Me being one of them). Seriously, more people need to write autistic characters like Vivy. An autistic person isn't solely their condition, nor does their personality consist solely of stims and meltdowns. Even as a kid, I knew that kind of portrayal of autistics is untrue and downright stupid.

While not as fully fleshed out as Vivy is, the side characters are an interesting bunch as well, save for a select few. Her father, older brother, her friend Alex, and her coach are the best ones of the bunch, as they all support Vivy in their own way and like her for who she is, flaws and all. VJ also gets his fair share of development and backstory, and his friendship with Vivy, a kid he doesn't really have any reason to talk to at all, really makes him shine as a human being. But I think one pet peeve I have with the novel is that it doesn't really address certain characters' actions. For example, Vivy has to deal with her coach's son, a kid named Kyle, who picks on her and bullies her. Vivy tries ignoring him, but his constant verbal abuse makes her doubt herself, and she does stand up to him at the end...but he never faces consequences for his actions. What even was the point of having him in the book? All he does is be mean to Vivy and nothing else. We never learn anything else about him, so he's just there to be a cliche bully character and that's it, and he's completely inconsequential to the story. Similarly, Vivy's mother is...kind of neurotic. It's made clear that she does love Vivy and wants to protect her, but when it comes to baseball, she doesn't want Vivy to get hurt or stressed out in any way, and seems to treat her more like a rare porcelain doll that absolutely needs to be locked in a glass box thinking that the slightest breeze could damage her. She never tries to support Vivy and is always trying to put her in a box and actively discourage her from doing things that make her happy because she thinks her obsession with baseball is just an autistic fixation that needs to be stamped out. There are parts where her worries are understandable, but other times she feels like a helicopter mom who thinks Vivy will break like a twig at the slightest breeze, which in-story is a point of contention for Vivy and the rest of her family. While Vivy's mother does receive some character development near the end, I think it'd work better if the authoress made her realize that being overprotective, constantly treating her like an accident-prone four year old, and not giving Vivy the support she needs isn't helping her daughter thrive. Also, the therapist was just kinda there to be an antagonistic adult (Not a villain per se, but wants Vivy to hide her stims and be more normal) and doesn't do anything else in the story, so she was kind of one-note.

Any conflict the book has is kept fairly down to Earth, with the biggest thing happening being Vivy getting hit with a baseball to the point of going to the hospital, which I think the book handled reasonably well, because stuff like that does have the chance of killing people, especially children. While the book does have a baseball theme going on, it's not the whole story, as it's all about Vivy and her desire to become a professional knuckleballer and dealing with her every day life. Even as someone who's not very well versed in baseball, I really liked this book, and I think others will do, and thankfully, the book is accessible enough to new readers that it won't alienate people who aren't as well versed in baseball as others. For example, I was made to read Shoeless Joe for college, and I absolutely hated it, because all the baseball terminology was thrown at me with little to no explanation, I couldn't understand what was going on most of the time, and I found the story to be rather pretentious. In stark contrast, Vivy Cohen is much more accessible, has a tighter story that doesn't try to be anything it isn't, and has a mostly great cast of characters that you can care about, with a great, non-stereotyped portrayal of an autistic person as an added bonus. I think those things in and of themselves make for a good book that I recommend to anyone who wants something nice to read.

Obviously, if you're not into slice-of-life middle grade books, you're probably not going like this book, whether you're a baseball fan or not, but it's a nice, genuine book with a wonderful lead character that deserves to be read. Vivy Cohen rocks!!
 
Last edited:
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Yet another review I decided to completely rewrite. The original was written on June 22nd, 2011, while this new one was written on January 19th, 2020 though not finished until today.



I give this intense, dark deconstruction of magical girl anime...an 84/100!

In January of 2011, a magical girl anime called Puella Magi Madoka Magica aired on Japanese airwaves, but it was very different from the typical happy, lighthearted, idealistic magical girl anime that many people were used to and familiar with. This anime was a deliberate deconstruction of the genre, analyzing and examining it from a more critical, realistic, even dark angle. Most magical girl anime focused on young girls who encounter cute animals, transform into heroes, and fight evil. Madoka Magica eschewed all of that in favor of a serious take, focusing on the darker aspects of being a magical girl and the consequences that come from it. Surprisingly, it was very well received on both sides of the Pacific for its new take on the genre, though it wasn't the first to really do so. I watched it when it first came out, and I really liked it. Watching it again, I still feel like it holds up decently well. I did originally review this when it first came out, but looking back, my old review was really, REALLY overly gushy and fangirly and crappy, even more so than my old AnoHana review. It's not up to par with my current reviews now, so I think it's time I gave it a proper, more objective analysis.

Madoka Kaname is a normal girl with a normal life, but lately she's been having strange dreams involving a furry white animal and a black haired girl fighting a mysterious monster in a destroyed city. The next day, said black haired girl, Homura Akemi, transfers into her school and seems to have her eye on Madoka. Later, Madoka and her friend Sayaka encounter said furry white animal, Kyubey, along with a friend of his, Mami Tomoe, who happens to be a magical girl. Kyubey wants to make contracts with Madoka and Sayaka so they can become magical girls and fight grotesque beings called Witches, and in exchange, he grants them each one wish. But as the girls learn more about the Witches, magical girls, and what it means to become one, they start to wonder just what is going on. What is Kyubey, and what are his plans? Why does he want Madoka to become a magical girl specifically, and why is Homura intent on keeping Madoka from becoming one?

One thing Madoka fans will tell you about is that the anime can get very experimental with its animation, and at points, they can be gorgeous. Madoka's setting has a very distinct look about it, with glassy, modernized buildings with golden cage-like bars on the walls. During the battle scenes, paper cut-outs and strange, artistic images splash across the screen in vivid, colorful detail, from cotton balls with mustaches on stick figure bodies to a world of candy inhabited by a head-eating monster, giving the world a surreal, almost nightmarish look about it, and it really works. It helps that the animation knows when to be normal and when to be experimental, so any transitions made between segments never feel jarring or out of place. The girls still look cute, though their faces are strangely angular than what I usually see in anime character designs. I don't consider that a point against it though. I don't have much to say about the music as...well, it's Yuki Kajiura. How do you mess her up? I don't think this OST is as good as some of her other works, but it's still a great soundtrack overall.

But you can't have a good story without a good cast of characters to back it up, so how are they? Well...it depends. Everyone has their own feelings and views on the characters. Some say they're a loveable, three-dimensional cast, and others feel they're little more than one-note archetypes that only act as props to move the story forward without any agency of their own. I'm kind of in the middle here. I like them well enough, though they are admittedly not the most developed. I guess this is due to seeing other shows that actually developed its characters and had them evolve, but that's not intended to be a slight against Madoka in any way. But if the characters had been put in more mundane situations, or a more conventional action series, they wouldn't be interesting to follow at all, and the way the story makes use of them is what makes them memorable. One thing I can say in the show's favor in regards to its characters is that every character has their purpose, and they all fulfill their roles perfectly. That doesn't mean they're completely one note, as they make decisions and mistakes and have to deal with them. It helps that the show kept the cast relatively small, and with the anime being only 12 episodes long, it had more wiggle room to let them grow and deal with the situations they find themselves in, rather than trying to make the cast as big as possible and wind up bloating the story in the process (*coughcoughMagiaRecordcoughcough*).

Which leads to what I feel made Madoka Magica so successful. It's not that it's dark, angsty, or edgy or anything like that, it's how everything fits together in the overall narrative. Again, the show is twelve episodes long, but the creators made optimal use of the time they had, and not a single moment or story beat is wasted, ignored, or just forgotten by way of plot convenience. When something happens, the show always addresses it in some way, establishing a strong continuity that requires you to pay attention to details that you may or may not have noticed on the first watch. Every episode adds something to the overall story and its characters, even if it's not apparent right off. The story is always moving forward, with a specific goal in mind, and it never gets sidetracked or go all over the place, something many longer shows often struggle with. Basically, the show strikes a good balance and makes use of all the ingredients it has to make a truly good show that has a set beginning, middle, and end, with no fluff or filler to leave any bumps in its smooth surface.

That said, there's no denying that Madoka Magica changed the landscape of what people expect from magical girl anime. Some say it was for the better, others say for the worse. Many shows attempted to ride off its heels and achieve the same fame, such as Daybreak Illusion, Magical Girl Apocalypse, Magical Girl Raising Project, and Magical Girl Site, with varying degrees of success. Many say that Madoka Magica sullied the magical girl genre by establishing dark and edgy as being the new norm for magical girl series to follow, but based on the evidence I gave, and from seeing the show itself, I don't feel Madoka qualifies as being dark and grim. At least, not as much as people are making it out to be. If I were to use a word to describe Madoka, it would be serious, not grimdark. I don't think the creators of Madoka intended to change the landscape of the genre, or establish girls continually suffering on a regular basis be the new normal for the genre, and considering how the other shows I named didn't achieve the same fame and level of success and Madoka did, it goes to show that the other shows missed what made Madoka work as well as it did. The three shows I mentioned relied too much on being dark, violent, and edgy, with Magical Girl Site in particular being infamous for how dark and violent it can get, and actually fit the descriptions that many people claim that Madoka is. So do I think Madoka Magica is a needlessly violent, grimdark show that think its deep and mature when it isn't and gets off on torturing young girls with endless despair and making them suffer as much as possible in order to solely appeal to otaku men? My answer is no. The problem isn't that Madoka changed the landscape for the magical girl genre. It's more how others miss the mark on trying to emulate its success by putting emphasis on darkness and suffering at the expense of everything else, something even Madoka managed to avoid at points.

If you're looking for a show that actually fits that description, check out Magical Girl Site. You won't find that level of grimdarkness here in Madoka, which I feel does deserve its popularity, if only for just being a good show that's well put together and has its heart in the right place. It may not be for everyone, as it really all comes down to personal taste, but it's a show I won't forget any time soon, even if I like a lot of other shows better than it.

And here's my old, overly fangirly, cringey review from 2011. Be warned, embarrassing fangirliness follows:

I give this anime...a 94/100!

I’ve seen my good share of anime this year, even though some have just started, but in all my soon-to-be 7 years of watching anime (in Japanese, not dubbed in English), I have NEVER come across ANYTHING like Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Latin for Magical Girl Madoka Magica)! In late 2010, when it was getting publicity, it was already getting a lot of hype, mostly due to the staff behind it. Yuki Kajiura (composer for Tsubasa, Garden of Sinners, Pandora Hearts, .Hack//Sign, etc.), Gen Urobuchi (scriptwriter for Phantom), and Ume Aoki (mangaka for Hidamari Sketch who designed the characters for this). Even though it seemed like your typical cutesy magical girl anime, people, like myself, were eagerly wanting to see it…and then the very first episode aired. By the way, MAJOR SPOILERS WILL BE REVEALED IN THIS REVIEW!!! DON’T READ IT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE ENTIRE SERIES!!!

Supposedly the series is about a normal girl named Madoka Kaname, whose life is nice and peaceful but not particularly exciting…and it changes until she meets a new girl named Homura Akemi. So0n, Madoka and her friend Sayaka save a creature named Kyube and Kyube wants to make them into magical girls, heroes that fight witches and collect Grief Seeds. It seems heroic enough, but Homura wants more than anything to prevent Madoka from accepting his contract, as there are major, even life-shattering, drawbacks to being a magical girl, especially since they all have to fight in order to survive a horrifying destiny.

Okay, if there’s one thing about this show I want to gush and gush and lavish praise on like an erupting volcano, it’s the soundtrack. Seriously, this soundtrack is the best musical score I’ve heard since 07-Ghost! I particularly LOVE the musical piece that plays when Mami Tomoe transforms and fights witches with her million rifles. This soundtrack is just sublime and godly! I’m surprised Yuki Kajiura STILL has that musically blessed spark at the tip of her fingers! Now onto the plot! When you see pictures for this show, you might think “Awww! it’s a cute little magical girl anime! Lets fight for love and justice and defeat all the baddies and make our kids happy!” but NO!!! This show is gut-wrenchingly (and awesomely) dark, haunting, mind-shattering, and downright tripped out, and not just because of the tripped out visuals that SHAFT made for the series either! Characters ACTUALLY die in the worst of ways (one character even commits suicide so the person she's killing won't be alone anymore), in this show being a magical girl is perceived as a mercilessly cold business deal than a divine blessing, and the cute pet animal is actually the antagonist, if not a very morally ambiguous one! To humanity, he is evil, but he doesn't even believe he is! This show is a total deconstruction of the seinen-targeted magical girl genre, and boy is it an extra thrilling roller coaster ride to the very end!

Plus, although this anime talks about Madoka turning into a magical girl, this show doesn’t actually show her accept the contract and turn into a magical girl until another…oh, I don’t know, ELEVEN FREAKING EPISODES!!! Yes! Normally when girls are told to be a magical girl, they immediately do so and their friends follow shortly after. But what does this series do? It makes her friends become magical girls before she does, and Madoka doesn’t officially turn into a magical girl until THE FINAL EPISODE!!!…AND FOR A FEW SECONDS AT THAT!!! And another thing! I seriously think this show should be called Puella Magi Homura Magica. Why? Because throughout the entire show, Homura’s been desperately trying to make Madoka NOT make the contract with Kyube because Madoka is Homura’s best friend and she doesn’t want her to go through the hardship of being a magical girl and a witch! And all the hardship doesn’t even end there! The soul gem, the thing that confirm a girl’s being a magical girl, IS THE OBJECTIFIED FORM OF THEIR OWN SOUL!!! If soul gems are taken away from them, they DIE!!! How freaky is that!? Plus the ending was awesome too. I bawled my eyes out TWICE at this show!

And I haven’t even started yammering about the visuals! Especially the way those witches looked! I mean, those things look like something Tim Burton would make if he were on crack! Especially Walpurgisnacht both annoyed and scared me spitless! And the characters! I just couldn’t stop loving the characters! Everyone has their flaws and their different takes and reasons for being a magical girl, and I couldn’t help but love every single millisecond of all their plights. My only gripe with this show was Kyube’s monologues about entropy and human history and all that stuff. I’m not good at understanding complicated stuff (especially stuff about military and politics), so I couldn’t understand a thing he said! And I can’t believe I thought he was cute! Also...this is REALLY random, but does anyone else think that Akiyuki Shinbo, if allowed to do more stuff like this, could be the Japanese equivalent to Tim Burton?

But all in all, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the PERFECT example of the deconstruction of a genre that really needed an extra boost. I really really freaking love this show, but no way is it going to beat my #1! And yeah, this anime is the best anime of the winter 2011 season for me. Fractale was nice because of its interesting setting, Wandering Son was amazing because of its pleasant atmosphere and sweet portrayal of transgender kids, but Madoka Magica took #1 for its awesome story, haunting and dark atmosphere, and tripped out everything! I love it! Are you human? GO WATCH IT!!! It will blow your little mind so much and so many times you'll lose it by the time you finish this show!

Yeah...I think you can see why I decided to write a new review for this show now.
 
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This review was originally written on June 23rd, 2017.



I give this odd but still sweet and charming little game...a 92/100!

If there's one game I worked tirelessly to get my hands on for years, it's this one. I first heard about Child of Light through this review of it on Anime News Network. I liked the review and was initially curious, but since I was going through some rough stuff at the time, I didn't think too much of it. Then one of my favorite internet reviewers, The Cartoon Hero, reviewed the game himself here. That finally spurred me to check out the game for myself. But that would prove to be a challenge. Hoooooo boy, getting this game had to be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.

When I first found out about this game, I didn't have any of the consoles needed to play it except for my desktop computer, and I didn't have a Steam account at the time. I didn't even know Steam existed until later. Then I made an account, put some money into it, and tried to play the demo...which absolutely refused to work. I tried downloading all that Uplay stuff it asked me to, but it just kept piling up and even after I downloaded what I could, the game still refused to play. I eventually got aggravated and deleted the demo out of sheer frustration. Then an online friend bought me the actual game off Steam this past Christmas, and even that didn't play on my computer. I felt so bad when I had to get rid of it (though he got his money back), and yet so frustrated because everybody I knew kept telling me this game was good. Then I looked up the consoles needed to play it, and found out that the ONLY console that didn't require having Uplay to play it was the Wii U. All the ones I could find were all $230-300. After lots of searching, I finally found a cheap Wii U on Ebay, then got a job, saved up more than enough to buy it, set it up, and finally, FINALLY managed to buy it off the Wii U's Virtual Console.

So after going through ALL THAT, I ask the fateful question: Was it all worth it? My answer: HELL YEAH!

On the surface, the premise isn't all that groundbreaking. It's practically based on Sleeping Beauty. Aurora, the daughter of a young Austrian duke, is suddenly found dead in her bed one day after her father remarries. Only she isn't dead. Instead, she's been transported to a strange world called Lemuria, and an evil sorceress and her daughters stole the sun, moon, and stars. With some quirky companions by her side, who also have their own problems to deal with, Aurora journeys through Lemuria in order to find a way to save it, along with getting back home and reuniting with her father. Yeah, we've seen this premise many many times before. But just because the story is nothing new doesn't make it bad. I found it to be a rather interesting and unorthodox take on the traditional Sleeping Beauty tale, and in case you're wondering, Aurora doesn't need a prince to save her. Nothing like that is even remotely here, so you can rest assured on that one.

Another thing Child of Light has going for it is its art style and animation. With beautiful watercolor pastels, gorgeous fairy-tale like backgrounds with fine details in every aspect of the environment, and the amazingly fluid movements, Child of Light looks and acts like a modern fairytale. Not many games really attempt such a style, much less put this much effort into it. Just from the opening scene alone, you can tell the creators put a lot of love into this project, from the stained glass window-like images to the character models. They all just look like they pop out from the screen, like the pictures in a pop-up book. But at the same time, the character designs are still distinct, and every character has their own look and appearance, unlike in most anime where almost everyone has the same facial and eye structure. I don't have much to say about the music other than that its good, too. Every piece of music fits and adds their own atmosphere to every scene its in, from somber and abject to upbeat and cheerful to epic and bombastic during the battle scenes.

The gameplay, while simple, is still pretty good in its own right. Turn order is decided by a gauge, and if you cast a spell, depending on how long the spell takes, you can attack enemies just fine. But sometimes enemies can attack right back as you're casting, sending you further back and interrupting the spell, and then you have to try again. This can be rectified if you have certain items or characters who know a certain spell called Unstoppable, which prevents getting interrupted while casting. I do have to admit, one flaw I found with this game is that you're only able to use two party members during battle. During the game, you can have eight party members total, but only two are allowed in battle. Granted, you can switch them around during battle, but sometimes you can get outnumbered by groups of enemies, the highest number being three, and if you're not careful, you can get defeated and it's game over. Unlike most games where you can switch party members out if they get defeated, Child of Light doesn't have this option, so if your two primary party members die in battle, it's game over, no switching period. Yeah, that can be kinda annoying if you don't know what you're doing.

The characters, I have to admit, are a bit two-dimensional other than a few subtleties here and there, which can be easy for younger players to miss. Now don't get me wrong, I love all the characters, as they all have their own distinct personalities, dreams, interests, and involvement in the story, and they're all decently likeable enough. However, they don't really get fleshed out too much other than through a few conversations the characters have, which are very few and far in-between. I really wanted to know more about Rubella's life living in the sky, or Genovefa's interest in Piscean spells, or Oengus's life before Umbra took over Lemuria. Stuff like that would have really enriched the characters a lot more. But I still like them enough, and Aurora is definitely a great female character in that she breaks the princess mold in many ways. One: she isn't obsessed with guys or princesses. Two: She feels relatable in that she gets scared and sad in the face of danger and when she misses her father, making her feel more human. Three: Even though she's still scared and misses home, she still tries to help Lemuria and those living in it. She's not the damsel in distress, she's the hero this time around. There is, however, one character I couldn't like: Robert the mouse archer. I don't hate him, but I thought he was just kinda bland and shallow. All he really cared about was money, business, and hooking up with a mouse girl, Margaret, who makes it very clear that she absolutely refuses to have anything to do with him, romantically or otherwise, and he can't take the hint. He also has the least fleshed out backstory and character overall, making him the weakest character in terms of characterization. But he's still useful in battle, so he has that going for him.

The game also has some neat lore behind it which isn't explored. There are several sidequests that look into Lemuria's history but we never see much of it other than that. Optional bosses can be very hard to find if you don't know where to look, and these things called Confessions don't really serve much of a purpose, especially the ones by this unseen character named Sophie. Also, the entire script of the game is written in rhyme, which adds to the fairy tale theme, but some of the rhymes can be real groaners. But don't let that stop you from playing the game. There's plenty of good stuff Child of Light has, too...or doesn't have. One: NO MONEY. You don't need to worry about money in this game, because there isn't any! Plus, getting healing items and stat booster potions are pathetically easy, and even then you don't have to use them much since you have healers in your party anyway, so you don't need to suckle on healing potions constantly.

It's a shame not many people know about Child of Light. Even with its flaws, it's still a great game that needs to be played and experienced. It may not have the most original story or the most riveting characters, but that's no reason to kick it to the curb. It's still a lot of fun, the foes are decently challenging enough, the scope of the game is massive and there's a lot to see in every nook and cranny of the screen, the cliche stuff is handled very well for the most part, and the battle system is pretty fun to experiment with. I have to thank Eli Stone aka The Cartoon Hero for finally introducing me to this game. If I hadn't seen his review, I don't think I would have given Child of Light the time of day, and I sure am glad I got to play it. I may have had a hard time just getting what I needed to play this game, but in the end, it was so worth it, and I don't regret it one bit.

Not the best game ever, but it's a cute little fairytale that'll really mesmerize you if you open your eyes to the otherworldly.
 
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This review was just written yesterday.

GLT.png

I give this dark but oddly soothing post-apocalyptic anime...an 87/100!

Moe anime tend to get a bad reputation, and for good reason. Most anime that try to make their characters look and act as cute and childish and innocent as possible tend to place more emphasis on cuteness over things like substance, storytelling, and, y'know, character development. But over the past couple years, that trend seems to be changing, and manga/anime creators seem to be making an effort to write genuinely good moe anime, with such examples being Non Non Biyori, Laid Back Camp, Made In Abyss, and the subject of today's review, Girls' Last Tour. Not gonna lie, I had never even HEARD of Girls Last Tour before late 2017, but a blog I follow was praising the first episode of the anime up the wazoo. Curious, I decided to check the anime out, and while it didn't necessarily blow me away, I found myself really liking it. Seriously, what anime can you think of that has cute moeblob girls exploring a barren, post-apocalyptic world where humanity is pretty much extinct and resources are extremely scarce? Then again, this is Japan, and they've made crazier stuff than this. The premise is pretty simple: Two young women are traveling the world searching for food and shelter, learning a little about everything they come across, from abandoned buildings that were part of a bygone era, to sentient robots taking care of the only living fish in their world. Every day, they keep going, trying to find a little bit of happiness in their ruined land.

What makes Girls Last Tour stand out from most works set after an apocalypse is its use of minimalism. The anime doesn't rely on exposition fairy characters that spoon-feed you details about the world Chito and Yuuri live in in every scene. Instead, the background art and the setting speak for themselves. Giant, decrepit structures dominate the landscape, unstable and probably ready to crumble at the slightest touch. Industrial cities with multiple layers going all the way to the stars lay abandoned for possibly centuries. The anime doesn't tell us anything about the world Chito and Yuuri live in, and by making the girls know nothing about it themselves, it adds to the immersion in that they're just as confused about the state of their world as we are. They don't know how society works, nor anything about the technology save for what Chito has read in books. We get small details peppered across the anime in regards to what might have happened to their world, but nothing too concrete, and I think this approach works here. At this point, humanity is close to extinction, and knowing the answers doesn't change the current reality. The worldbuilding is really neat here, leaving a lot to the imagination, but offering just enough details so that we as an audience can fill in the blanks ourselves.

The animation itself is great, with minimal but fluid movement, and doing a good job at contrasting the girls' cutesy, blobby designs against dark, detailed backgrounds, but there's also great shot composition, editing, and mood setting, too. Dark environments are always cloaked in shadow, and even when the girls are outside, there isn't a whole lot of color, clearly emphasizing just how dead the world around them is. The CGI is pretty good as well, restricted to only machines and occasionally far shots of the girls riding their Kettenkrad, and it makes the effort to integrate decently into the scenery. The music is great too, low key and atmospheric, fitting the show's grounded but upbeat tone, always knowing when to let the score kick in or when to use natural sounds, like rain hitting a hard surface, or the creaking of a broken pipe. I do think the show's opening and ending songs, while well sung, are a bit too perky and upbeat and clash against the show's tone and atmosphere. The insert song at the end of episode 5 is much better about this, thankfully.

Contrary to most anime, the show's cast of characters here is extremely small. There are only five named characters in the show, with Chito and Yuuri having the most screen time, being the main characters and all. They have starkly different personalities, with Yuuri being a dopey big eater but quick to adapt to her new surroundings, while Chito is level-headed and rational but timid and a bit pessimistic. They have different mindsets and approaches to life as a whole, which the show uses to great effect. All throughout the show, we get to follow this duo through their travels and see what makes them tick, their strengths and flaws, and everything that makes them them, so the bond and chemistry they share is believable, with the last episode developing it further into a satisfying payoff. While they do often times ask philosophical questions and ponder and theorize about the world around them, as they know nothing of how their society works due to it being...well, dead, they frequently point out the flaws of certain concepts in short, blunt sentences, with any pretense of deeper meaning tossed out the window because the show regards it as filler and not important to the main narrative, which is Chi and Yuu living day to day and trying to make the most out of their travels.

One would think that a dark moe anime would turn out to be a complete disaster, but in the right hands, it can work quite well, and I think Girls Last Tour pulled it off, even with nothing at stake or any overarching conflict. The show never felt boring or repetitive to me, and the chemistry between the main girls is strong enough to carry the whole show from beginning to end. One person I know described it as being both depressing and comforting at the same time, a rare show that is uniquely charming while keeping its feet firmly on the ground, and I couldn't have said it better myself. The manga recently ended, and I need to finish my review for that one, but if you want to watch a plain nice show and relax, give Girls Last Tour a try. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's the kind of show that deserves more love than it gets.
 
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This review was written on May 5th, 2016, though not finished until today.



I give yet another bland but still endearingly sweet reverse harem series...a 58/100.

I'll be honest, I never knew Bonjour: Sweet Love Patisserie even existed until I went to an anime convention and went to a panel talking about short series, and this happened to be one of the shows they talked about. As soon as the panelist talked about it, I immediately got flashbacks to Yumeiro Patissiere, a shoujo series that's also about a girl going to a confectionery school befriending pretty boys and making sweets, even though it's been years since I've actually seen the series. But I was bored and running out of good anime to watch, and since the episodes are all five minutes long at the most, I thought it'd be a nice little time killer and take me away from reality for a while. Needless to say, it met my expectations. However, from all other standpoints, it is VERY disappointing.

The show's about Sayuri Haruno, a young girl who gets the chance to go to a famous confectionery school, Fleurir, on a scholarship so she can fulfill her dream of becoming a chef. It's nothing like she expects, and she meets many colorful friends and teachers. One of them is Ryou Kouzuki, a hot headed and blunt classmate who also dreams of becoming a chef. Teaching them are teachers like Aoi Mitsuki, a sweet and charming chocolatier who's adored by all the girls in the school, Gilbert Hanafusa, a half-French half-Japanese guy who's cheerful, bouncy, and...who acts like he's in high school, and Yoshinosuke Suzumi, a traditional, stern man who takes pride in making Japanese sweets. The show is very light on plot, and very episodic in nature, so it mostly focuses on Sayuri's interactions with her classmates and teachers, and there isn't really much to comment on. She also has to deal with the headmistress, who has a very strict "absolutely no teacher-student relationships" policy and hammers it over everyone's heads with the subtlety of a wrecking ball, even Sayuri, and she just won't let her hear the end of it.

If you're looking for a nice cooking show with three-dimensional characters who actually develop and evolve, you're in the wrong place, as in spite of its sweet nature, the show is as bland as they come. All of the characters are little more than stock archetypes with little, if any, personality or depth beyond the one quirk that gets shilled to no end. Other characters just act plain stupid at times, with Gilbert acting like a kid even though he's, you know, a friggin' teacher! And don't even get me started on the headmistress who is annoying as fuck. All she ever does is look strict and constantly accuse Sayuri of trying to shack up with one of the three main teachers over really petty reasons. Now, I hate the whole student/teacher romance trope as much as the next guy, especially because in real life that's a huge problem and could get the teacher in question either arrested or fired from their job. Most anime tend to romanticize student/teacher romances, and the show does acknowledge it as a bad thing. But the way the headmistress goes about being hyper vigilant about it doesn't make her come off as someone who's genuinely concerned about her students, but more like a hyper paranoid social justice warrior who actively looks for problems where there aren't any and seems to be looking for any excuse she can to kick Sayuri out of school. She even accuses her of trying to shack up with the teacher in situations where there is clearly NO romantic attraction between them at all! It got old, and it got old fast. Lady, if you're really gonna bully an innocent student just for looking at a teacher in a certain way, maybe you should quit being a principal and join the FBI or something. You'll probably do a better job scaring off criminals. Oh, and you want to know the worst thing about this? The whole thing is played as a running joke. Because playing this stuff for comedy surely isn't offensive, right?! There's also the purple haired bitchy girl who is way too obsessed with Mitsuki, to the point of making an entire half-naked chocolate sculpture of him. Shouldn't she be reported or something, because some of her behavior borders on really inappropriate.

Of course, the show is aware of how problematic its whole set-up is, but it still doesn't hesitate to indulge in the very tropes its trying to criticize, what with having girl characters gush over the teachers, even outright calling them sexy during the beach episode (Which is so not appropriate at all!!), and framing the teachers in bishie sparkles and the female gaze. Then again, otome games and adaptations of such have never really been known for their commentary on real world issues, nor were they intended to be so. Still, the show is clearly trying to have its cake and eat it too, and being indecisive in whether it wants to criticize the whole student/teacher romance implications or romanticize them, or doing both, just doesn't work. All it does is give off mixed messages, like "Don't get into romantic relationships with your teachers" and "Check out these super hot teachers! Don't you just wanna bang'em?" Yeah, I think you can see how wrong this is.

But even without that, the show is just another generic harem about a cipher otome protag who gets into a special school and gets surrounded by hot guys. With the show being about cooking and baking, you'd think it would actually show the characters cooking, preparing ingredients, and all the important things that cooking anime are known for, right? Sadly, even that's brushed off to the side. Instead of showing the characters actually cooking, the anime instead has these over the top, melodramatic shots of the teachers and Ryou spinning around and swinging their tools around like they're performing some special attack that's played out like a transformation scene, all with sparkles and dramatic effects. It's like the anime doesn't want to put in the effort to show them actually cooking or something! The animation in and of itself is fine, if nothing ground breaking, though it's not safe from the occasional weirdly drawn face or stiff movement, and the character designs are a little too over the top and otome-esque for my liking. The soundtrack isn't very memorable either, and the opening and ending songs...they're phoned in and badly sung, which is a shame to say because they're sung by the actors who play the three teachers and Ryou, and their acting is fine! Also, for some reason, there are also these cute round chibi creatures that end "maro" at the end of all their sentences that appear every now and then, and they serve absolutely no purpose other than just being cute and annoying, with episode 15 being the worst offender in how poorly written it is and how it's little more than filler made to shill these cutesy spheres.

Honestly, the only real saving grace this show has is that all of its episodes are five minutes long. That, at the very least, keeps the pacing consistent and the episodic conflicts never drag out longer than they need to, though that still doesn't save it from being dull and boring. Then again, I did find out this anime was made solely to promote a cell phone game, and anime based on cell phone games don't really have the best reputation. This could change, and I have seen some that are genuinely good (Granblue Fantasy and Kemono Friends being two examples), but some can be held back by the flaws of trying to adapt a mobage game into an anime and wind up not being very good (Magia Record). If you want to watch something similar to this but better, I'd recommend Yumeiro Patissiere. It's much longer and has more time to develop its characters, and while it's more of a children's show and still adheres to certain shoujo anime stereotypes, such as having a bitchy rival girl character and a green haired pretty boy who's just there to look pretty, it's far better than Bonjour is by a longshot. I mean, Yumeiro is no masterpiece, but it's a much better take on the reverse harem cooking school show than Bonjour tried to be.

Overall, if you like your saccharine reverse harems, Bonjour: Sweet Love Patisserie is cliche but mostly harmless. Otherwise, give it a miss.
 
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