Category Archives: anime

Sword Art Online is…good?

I’m not actually trying to beat around the bush here. Whether you love or hate SAO, fair enough, whatever, I don’t really care at this point. Besides, plenty of people have already torn it to shreds/prove its amazingness over thousands of times in more ways than I care to know by now.

Regardless of your actual opinion of the concept (which I personally love), there’s no debate that the story itself is a total mess (albeit not the worst).

Before I continue, allow me to first give a brief history on how the series came to be:

Reki Kawahara, a novice author at the time, originally wrote Sword Art Online as a one shot novel to enter ASCII Works’ Dengeki Game Novel Prize in 2002. In the end the novel was too long and he didn’t enter it, however, he did publish it online and even decided to continue it. Six years later, he entered and won the same prize with a different novel (Accel World). Seeing its success online (and also maybe Kawahara’s promise? I don’t know), ASCII Works asked to also publish Sword Art Online and you probably know the rest.

Going back to the title, I would like argue suggest that ‘Sword Art Online’, as in the very first volume of the series, minus the final chapter, (that’s more or less the contents of only episodes 1, 8, 9, 10 and 14 of season 1, for those of you who haven’t read the novels) would actually have been quite good as a standalone, 200-and-something page novel.

If you think I’m simply just picking and choosing the parts I liked the most (which isn’t actually true, by the way) think of it like this: apart from volume 2 (which is just a series of short stories that were added later on, so it doesn’t even count anyway), the rest of the series isn’t even really about Sword Art Online. It’s just about the same people messing around with various VR (and now AR?) games that happen to have an “oh so dark” secret behind them. A bit of a side note, but one of the biggest problems I have with the series is that it’s rather difficult to up the stakes if they’re already death in the very first arc.

sao harem.png

But all these problems disappear if Sword Art Online was only the one volume. Kirito isn’t even a crappy harem protagonist since Sachi, Silica, Lisbeth and Yui all no longer exist and the rest of the series never even happened. The shallow character development? Not a problem, since one shots don’t really need much anyway. It’s not like you’ll ever see the characters again at the end of the novel. It’s not like the author will decide to make the story drag out for 20+ volumes without adding the required development to prevent the protagonist from being a Marty-Stu and the centre of a completely pointless harem…

I don’t know what I was trying to achieve here, but maybe I’m just angry that (admittedly only partially) because of SAO’s success, a genuinely interesting concept has become overused to the point that multiple novel competitions ( including ones run by Kadokawa and Kodansha) have banned anything to do with a teenage protagonist and/or alternate video game type/ fantasy worlds. Despite this, we are left with only very few works that execute it well and are interesting to read and even fewer that I personally like. As overused as it is, an entire series of tropes has essentially been binned just because there is too much actual crap within the category for the genuinely good stuff to be found.

Oh well, at least we have the masterpiece that is SAO Abridged.


Now I finally have plenty of  free time, I want to catch up on the anime I’ve missed over the last year. What should I watch first?

Review: “FREE ANIME DVD” (GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!)

Just a heads up that this is a 15 rated horror film and I included information that may or may not be classified as spoilers.

Over the years, I’ve developed a habit of picking up whatever freebies I’m offered, usually resulting in the accumulation of various leaflets with discount codes, extra carrier bags and energy tablets(?) every time I go to London Comic Con. This year was no exception, and so my attention was drawn to the “free anime DVDs” being handed out near the entrance.

At first glance, I thought it would most likely be a like an anime version of Sharknado, or something.

Discarding the parody aspect, I wasn’t entirely wrong…

 

Are you ready for the invasion? A devastation, disgusting “Death Stench” is spreading across Japan, creating deadly mutant fish as it covers the land!

The country is being invaded by ferocious fish with sharp metal legs, hell-bent on death and destruction! Amidst the carnage, Kaori embarks on a desperate quest to find her missing boyfriend before he is lost to the mayhem that is sweeping the land. Facing four-legged killer sharks, machine driven squid and the myriad dangers of Tokyo, now an urban war zone, Kaori must find the truth behind these mechanical monsters and face an evil greater than she could ever have imagined.

Based on the popular manga from the master of macabre, Junji Ito (Tomie, Uzumaki), Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack! is a bizarre thrill-ride that has to be seen to be believed.

So, as the back of the DVD says, these killer fish with legs that smell of rotting human flesh take over Japan but our main character is trying to find out if her fiancé is ok, amongst all the chaos.

Sounds average.

 

 

gyo 6

The animation isn’t terrible, but it appears to have been made at about 20 frames per second, or something stupid (most likely in an attempt to cut costs). Despite this, the 3D animation is surprisingly okay. Sure it’s obvious and it doesn’t mesh very well with 2D, it’s not obtrusive in the overall viewing experience. But really, Ufotable animated this? I would expected better from the studio behind the cutscenes for Tales of Xillia, Zestria and Berseria (as well as the anime for the latter two). The character design seems to make up for the animation, making everything and everyone seem more mature and realistic, despite the giant sharks flying around the streets.

The music is okay but it’s the generic kind of stuff you’d expect from a horror film.

However, I quite like the directing. There are just little things here and there that made me go “that’s cool”. For example, the choice to visually show the smell is especially effective when it appears for the first time, along side the appearance of the first walking fish. Not 10/10 but definitely, notable.

Unfortunately, this is where my praise for the film ends.

I don’t know what kind of story the manga had but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to get away with something this…meh for more than a couple chapters.

 

Our main character has two generic friends and a generic fiancé/boyfriend. They literally exist to be infected by the killer fish and eventually die…wait, does that count as a spoiler? Whatever, it’s too obvious anyone to actually care. The photojournalist guy seems like he could have been an interesting character if he had more time to be fleshed out, but I guess that’s asking took much from a 71 minute horror film. The rather boring characters paired with the most bizarre explanation of the disaster (blaming everything on World War 2 experiments got old a long time ago) just amounts to a very bland, cliché story. The only original part is probably the fish themselves. But the vague explanations form them really isn’t good enough. They should have just kept it a mystery.

gyo 2.png

And then, there’s the writing. It’s not unbearably cheesy or anything, but there are quite a few scenes where responses feel poorly timed or out of place. I know there isn’t much time in this film but the photojournalist’s backstory is given less than 10 seconds of slightly out of place expository dialogue. If you’re going to do that, you may as well not bother including it, especially since it adds NOTHING to the near-nonexistent story. They probably only included it so that the audience would become emotionally invested in him, making his end more tragic? I don’t know, that’s the only reason I could think of. MC also overreacts a bit too much in a few scenes, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ it’s allowed, I guess.

Ultimately, everything about this film can only be described as average. If you want a random horror movie to waste 71 minutes of your life, go ahead, be my guest. Just don’t expect high quality entertainment.

But does it “have to be seen to be believed”, like the DVD blurb said?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In a nutshell: meh

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack! can be bought on DVD wherever you tend to buy your anime DVDs.

Rockin’ All Night with Aishite Night

Some time around Christmas, while I was browsing TV Tropes, I remember stumbling upon Aishite Night (愛してナイト and it’s sometimes romanised as Aishite Knight, but I can write an entire essay as to why I don’t think it should be).

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 18.59.54.png

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it but, if you happened to grow up in continental Europe during the late 80s and early 90s, you may have heard of it under a name like “Rock’n Roll Kids“, “Lucile, Amour et Rock’n Roll” and “Kiss Me Licia“, among many others. I’m told that it was even popular enough in Italy to get a 145 episode long live-action drama (I feel like I might have to check that out at some point).

The story itself more-or-less follows the story told in the manga of the same name by Kaoru Tada (same mangaka as Itazura no Kiss), although it does differ quite a bit (but not ridiculously).

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 19.26.33.png

Juliano in action

The main character Yakko is a cheerful 18 year old girl in Osaka who helps out at her dad’s okonomiyaki restaurant, while attending evening school classes. A series of encounters with a child called Hashizou and his “woman hating” cat (I’m actually quoting from an episode title) named Julliano leads to Yakko becoming involved with Satomi (a regular at the restaurant) and Gou (Hashizou’s brother), two guys in a rock band called BEEHIVE.

 

Medium length story short, it ends up in a rather messy love triangle.

 

Before I continue, I just have a few things to get out of my system…

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 19.36.38.png

The number of times I’ve seen a scene like this…

Maybe Yakko should actually listen to her dad occasionally whenever he shouts “WATCH OUT FOR CARS AND MEN!”. And while I’m at it, Gou and Satomi should seriously learn the concept of ‘bros before hoes’. You can’t jeopardise your band’s entire existence just because you think your friend is hitting on the girl you like, even though he’s already said he’s not interested. *sigh* I do admit that quite a lot of plot points are born from this, like one of my favourite scenes, when Hashizou apologises for his stomach growling at school because Gou (who at this point has hit rock bottom) was too hungover to wake up in time to cook breakfast. It’s still used way to much for the first half of the series.

 

But Hashizou, I know you’re cute and all but please stop trying to do something to get Gou and Yakko together. It always just ends in some kind of awkward misunderstanding or tension.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 19.02.50.png

Now look what you’ve gone and done!

Speaking of awkward tension, whenever there’s an awkward moment, Yakko just takes off into the sunset. I don’t really have a problem with it, but I just laugh every time it happens.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 18.59.40.pngCliché plot and random thoughts aside, something they definitely have to be praised for is that they bothered to make original songs for the bands in the series. Aishite Night was actually the first anime to ever do such a thing, and it wasn’t just one song, but an entire album’s worth. You might get a bit tired of listening to them singing “FREEWAY! FREEWAY!” and “Burst into flames (FIRE!)” over and over again but, having listened to ‘Guilty Love’ almost on repeat while playing Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, I can safely say that it’s nowhere near unbearable. In fact, I actually really like the songs, so much that I spent nearly three hours looking for the soundtrack ( who knew old anime OST is so damn hard to find).

 

 

Sure, the art and animation is nothing to write home about and the plot itself seems to be an early incarnation of an endless number of clichés and tropes  native to the shoujo genre but there is still a certain charm to it that I couldn’t help but smile at no matter how ridiculous it got (seriously).

3f0cc3d87b2a561097b076e39f3ea921.jpg

Despite its flaws, this show is severely lacking in the attention it deserves. It’s not surprising, considering it’s a shoujo anime from the ’80s but it’s still a shame that it doesn’t get more love.

tumblr_n5kuqhLYrN1re6nxeo1_400.gif

Fun for all the family!

Part of the reason may be something to do with the fact that no one ever bothered to make an English language release of the anime or manga. Even though the original author Kaoru Tada later became extremely well known for her later work, Itazura no Kiss (Mischievous Kiss), which received an anime and many drama adaptations in multiple countries, no one’s even tried to publish the manga in English in recent years. Heck, I tried buying the manga in French but I can’t even find the second volume for less than €90.

You should definitely check out Aishite Night (if you can find it). But enough about obscure retro anime. I’m really in the mood to attempt making some okonomiyaki…

My Obsession With Secondary Ships

This is actually the answer I promised on Day 16 of my 30 Day Anime Challenge where I actually couldn’t tell you my ultimate, one and only,  One True Pairing. Since then I have thought about this at great length and after hundreds of shredded post-it notes and intense arguments with myself, I have finally decided upon a winner…

ban-and-elaine

Ban and Elaine (from The Seven Deadly Sins) have one of the most tragic yet beautiful stories I have ever known. I’m no a fan of tragedy, but I still love this ship more than even the likes of Royai and Shinkane. I don’t know what it is that I love so much about these two, but I do know that without them, I probably wouldn’t have continued watching the Seven Deadly Sins to the end and even be excited about the next season (I still haven’t gotten round to getting up to date with the manga but I’ve heard that something good happens).

But all that thinking also made me come to a (slightly unrelated) conclusion about my OTP preferences…


 

Shirayuki and Zen are probably sweet enough to give you diabetes, but it’s not my main OTP for the series.

I know, shocking.

shirazenFor some reason, I always find myself rooting for those two supporting characters more than the main ones. Especially if you’ve read the most recent chapters of Akagami no Shirayukihime, you’ll know that at this point, there’s no disputing the Kiki x Mitsuhide ship but I’ve been shipping them since before the anime even came out.
mitsuhide-kiki

It isn’t just with Akagami no Shirayukihime but almost anything with secondary ships or where romance isn’t even a man focus of the plot. It’s almost creepy that I care so much more about some characters that don’t get anywhere near as much screen time as the main characters.

Heck, I’m still reading this josei manga about a creepy obsessive monk (seriously mate, just leave her alone) just because I really like the dynamic between two of the heroine’s coworkers in a subplot that gets about one page of development every 10 years.

I don’t know if other people do this but I still think it’s kind of weird…

 

Day 30: Anime I wish never ended

See my full 30 Day Anime Challenge here.

I’ve been waiting for season 2  of Ouran High School Host Club since I first saw it back around Christmas in 2009 (wow, about 7 years now). I know they won’t make it since the manga ended four years ago but I guess that just makes me want it even more…

Day 29: Favourite Anime Ever (so far…)

This is probably an even harder question than my favourite OTP because, for example, I love Psycho-Pass and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun but for completely different reasons and then there’s also the nostalgia I have attached to shows like Prétear and Sailor Moon.

But ultimately, I would have to say that ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) takes the biscuit. The story is great, the cinematography is cool, the ending is 100% satisfying.

Unlike a lot of crime dramas, they actually bothered to give you (rather obvious in hindsight) hints to solve it yourself so, as a crime drama lover myself,  when we found out who the culprit was I was kicking myself for not wanting to suspect them.

But seriously, if you like crime dramas, check it out because it won’t disappoint.

Day 28: Anime I want to see but haven’t yet

See my full 30 Day Anime Challenge here.

Most urgently, I need to watch Yuri!!! On Ice at some point. I mean, how can I pass up men’s figure skating…

garden of words.jpg

I also need to get round to watching The Garden of Words. I don’t really know anything about it but a friend recommended it like over a year ago and the art looks really pretty.