JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders- Oh my Machismo

I’ve talked about the JoJo franchise before. Kimyou na Bouken was fairly absurd and over the top, but it was also enjoyable and entertaining. In that series, we watched the first of the titular JoJo sacrifice his life to stop the villainous Dio Brando. We also saw his grandson Joseph, also called Jojo, take on a group of ancient warriors. Ending with his confrontation with the strongest of them all, Kars. Let’s take a look at the follow up with JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders series I and see if David Production kept the series going strong.

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Story:

We open with Joutarou, the grandson of Joseph from the last series. He’s being released from prison after being taken in for fighting. Joutarou, however, refuses to leave. He claims to have been possessed by an evil spirit and doesn’t want to lose control and hurt people. His mother, Holly, contacts her father. Joseph goes to Japan and reveals that Joutarou’s evil spirit is actually a power called a Stand. The Joestar family has recently developed these powers coinciding with the return of Dio. After being defeated and decapitated by Jonathan Joestar, he managed to steal Jonathan’s dead body and survive underwater until he was pulled up by a boat. Thanks to his new found connection with the Joestar family, they’ve all developed Stands. Unfortunately, Holly isn’t strong enough to handle hers and it’s killing her. Joseph and Jotaro leave her in the hands of the Speedwagon foundation and, along with some companions, undertake the journey to defeat Dio in order to save Holly’s life.

The biggest issue with the series is just that it can get repetitive. There are several points where the dialogue consists of characters repeating information. The series also uses a very formulaic pattern where the group progresses to a new area, encounters a Stand user who’s working for Dio and they have to develop a strategy to beat them.

That being said, the series still excels at providing over the top, enjoyable action sequences that are, honestly, pretty creative. I also appreciate that there are major stakes for our heroes and they have to race against time. Heroes having to face major odds while racing against time might be nothing new, but it works well for a series like this that gets its appeal from being absurdly, entertainingly over the top.

Characters:

The characters remain pretty archetypical. Joutarou is the bad boy with a good heart. Joseph has gone from the cunning protagonist to the elder mentor figure. Dio is still very much an evil for the evils character. We’ve still got a bunch of characters named after old musical artists like Devo, J Geil & Midler. That being said, I actually like the cast in this. They’re not complex, but they’re entertaining. They actually remind me of a silver age super hero team, in a positive way. JoJo & his amazing friends.

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Art:

The artwork suits the series well. It’s full of machismo. Almost every major male character we see is huge and powerfully muscled. We also get added over the top effects and stopping to pose during fights is still a factor. I do love the action sequences in this though. The series takes this idea of Stands and their mysterious powers and uses them really creatively with a lot of different types, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. Which makes for some really creative battles, including one that’s fought in the world of dreams and one that starts aboard a submarine.

Sound:

The vocal performances continue to be really exaggerated. Ishizuka Unshou in particular has a lot of lines where he just yells exclamations. That being said, the exaggerated delivery does work given the aesthetic that the series has. I also like that the ending theme tune is Walk Like an Egyptian. It really fits both in terms of being kind of ridiculous and in terms of the whole, really fond of classic rock, naming convention. Kanno Yugo’s original music is pretty good. There is a nice soundtrack to this.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any ho-yay in this series.

Final Thoughts:

This series is ridiculous, over the top, full of machismo and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. While not complex, it is an entertaining series with solid action and some really creative fights. If you’re in the mood for something that’s deliberately absurd, consider checking it out. If you want a complex narrative with deep characters, it’s not going to do it for you. For me, my final rating is going to be an 8/10. Maybe I’ll look at the second Stardust Crusaders series at a later point but next week is Komori-san wa Kotowarenai because I was looking for something short to review betwixt this and Brain Powerd and picked it randomly.

Sword Art Online II: In a future where actual murderers are readily released…

Sword Art Online was complete tripe. It took a promising premise but executed it horrendously and populated the narrative with characters who were far less compelling than your average leaf of lettuce. Okay, so in the first series a group of people were forced to stay within the world of an online game with death waiting for them if they died in the game or someone took their head sets off. This was all  accomplished using microwaves. Because in the world of SAO consumer safety is just not a concern and microwave radiation works differently. It’s really stupid that way. Moving on, our boring main cast made it out and our hero interacted with his sister, who was completely in love with him because the writer wanted a love triangle and learned how to write those from Love Hina Again. Our hero then went to a different online game where his generic love interest had gone from an action girl to a damsel in distress who was constantly threatened with rape. With some help, she was rescued and able to leave the game world. Supposedly, this is the good series but after the first one, I really doubt it could be. I mean, maybe if they actually give their characters some distinctive personalities beyond the generic, they eliminate the incestuous bollocks, and they figure out how to write a compelling narrative, it could transform into something decent. Let’s see if that happens.

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Story:

Our adventure begins with our protagonist, Blandon being summoned by the generic authority figure. In an MMO called Gun Gale Online, a player who calls himself Death Gun pointed his weapon at a couple of different players and fired. Afterwards, the players were found dead of heart failure. Has this Death Gun found a way to actually kill people using the newer, safer virtual reality technology? Blandon is almost certain its impossible but he agrees to investigate, just in case and the best way to do that is convert his current account into a GGO account and take part in the stupidly named Bullet of Bullets tournament.

Let’s start with the significant problems with the series. First of all, there will be some minor spoilers here. Just letting you know. Now, let’s talk about the whole GGO thing. During this arc we discover that the player killers from the first series, you know, the ones who banded together to actually murder people during a crisis situation which makes no sense based on actual ways that humans behave. Those guys. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. Yes, that’s right. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. I have to repeat that because it’s almost inconceivably stupid. How did this series take one of the dumbest plot points from the first series and make it even dumber? How is the future, as represented by Sword Art Online, this stupid? Seriously, if the authorities of this world are this utterly inept and huge numbers of people are just waiting for the opportunity to be sociopathic, how has the human species not Darwinised itself in this world? But lets move on because the more I think about that plot point, the more its idiocy hurts. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. Another issue is that, during this arc, we learn that people can sit around in their online games and watch other people play different online games. People don’t have regular PCs any more that they can use for that? You wouldn’t even think that online games would support watching other online games just for basic business reasons of not wanting to do anything to showcase their competitors, but this is the world of SAO where rudimentary logic was lynched.

Next, we have an arc about Blandon and his equally uncompelling friends just playing their fantasy game. It doesn’t have anything as massively egregiously wrong with it as the whole GGO thing. Its biggest problem is just that it’s really damn boring. We have no reason to care about any of these twits and all their accomplishments are in an online game. A general problem with the series as a whole is the “romantic dialogue” between Blandon and Blanda. It is horrendously bad. It’s on the level of Revenge of the Sith.

The final arc is about Blanda, the generic action girl who spent the second arc of the first series as a damsel in distress, joining a small group in order to beat a boss in an online game. There are four major problems with this arc. I’ll get to one of them when I talk about the characters. As for the other three, the first is that the game they’re playing is really poorly designed when it comes right down to it. First off, every floor has a boss that can only be beaten once, ever. Which is going to create a problem with attracting new players. Not only that, but it’s going to cause a lot of players to quit out of frustration. That’s why real MMOs have quests that every player can complete once. Maybe more if they help someone else who activated it. You need that content to keep people invested. Not only that, but this game apparently has a feature where players can physically block access to these bosses from other players. Blanda and her compatriots have to fight through another group of players in order to just gain access to a boss area. First off, why isn’t this against the TOU? In theory, you could have a group of high level trolls just do this for the lols and if it is against the TOU, why don’t Blanda and her group just threaten to tell a moderator to make these guys move and preserve all their HP, MP and healing items for the boss? It’s pretty clear that the group blocking their path thinks that they’re too few in number to win. I don’t think they’d risk moderation. Then we have the second little issue. Blanda and her friends, this supposedly great group of gamers, take a long time to figure out that the incredibly conspicuous glowing jewel on the boss’s chest is a weak point. How do they take a fight and two-thirds of a second to figure that out? Glowing conspicuous weak points are kind of a staple of gaming. The final issue is just that this arc works so hard to be tragic and emotionally manipulative, but tragedy isn’t something you get by using cheap “this is a sad situation that happens in reality” scenarios. In reality, you have actual people who go through this. In a series like this, you have a flat caricature of a person. I’ve been more emotionally invested in Jelly Babies than I was in this “tragic” little story.

Moving on to the positives. I will say, to the first arc’s credit, I do like Death Gun’s secret. After the whole insanely stupid plot element, I fully anticipated it to be something as absurd as using microwaves to kill people. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was actually a pretty good reveal. Even if nothing else about the arc’s writing was.

Characters:

On the positive side, the incestuous sister doesn’t get much screen time and barely pines for her brother. So, that’s a slight improvement. For new characters, we have Sinon. While she suffers from the most poorly written PTSD since Ms Marvel was terrified of touching men, she’s also the closest the series gets to a developed character. Now, let’s talk about the fourth problem from the final story arc. Blanda is really annoying in this series. We find out that she didn’t mind living in the game where you could die for real because she doesn’t get on with her family. Now, you might think her family must be really terrible for that to be the case, but they aren’t. She’s just a whiny trollop. We get to see her interact with her mum. About the worst you can say about the lady is that she’s over-bearing, doesn’t approve of her relationship with the pathetic pile of excrement that passes as a protagonist and punishes her daughter for being late for supper. Here’s the thing, having a character with a strained relationship to their parents is fine. It’s something a lot of people deal with. The problem is that Blanda’s response just comes across as completely whiny and disproportionate. She’d rather be actually risking her life than living in safety as a rich girl and dealing with her over-bearing mum? That aside, the characters are pretty much the same tired archetypes as they were and the bulk of new characters are every bit as trite. Which is why the tragedy really doesn’t work.

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Art:

The artwork is the one area where I can be generally positive to the series. The online worlds are vibrant. They’ve got some interesting monsters, although they do forget that Thor was ginger. The action sequences are genuinely good. And this one doesn’t include fan-service of the girl who’s barely in High school. So, nothing to complain about there. It’s kind of sad that that qualifies as an improvement over the first series, though.

Sound:

They got some good actors for this series. The problem is that they don’t give them material that allows them to demonstrate their skills. Like the first series, we get a lot of listless lines. A lot of exaggerated lines and very few moments where we can hear the actors’ talents. The best performance is probably from Sawashiro Miyuki, since she does get some intense scenes during the first arc. The music is all right. Not good, but it’s okay.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any. Although I’m kind of glad given how terrible the romantic dialogue is in this series.

Final Thoughts:

There we have it. The second series of Sword Art Online. With all of that, is it an improvement over the first? Well, a little. It does have a plot point that actually works. The incest sub-plot that dominated the second half of the first series is barely present here and we don’t spend a bunch of time looking at the breasts and bum of a girl who just started High school. That being said, it’s still bad. The first arc’s plot suffers from a massive bit of idiocy. Not only were these actual murderers released from the game with no charges brought against them but the authorities didn’t even keep track of who they were. I know, I’ve said that four times at this point but it’s just so dumb. The romantic dialogue is atrocious. The characters are dull and Blanda in particular is outright annoying. If you can get past the level to which the future portrayed in this is imbecilic, you don’t care about complex characters and you just want some solid action sequences then you might… might enjoy watching this. Otherwise, I don’t recommend it. My final rating is a 3/10. Next week I’m looking at JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders.

Yet more on the upcoming plans

Okay, I’ve been talking for a while about doing non-anime reviews in December. So far, the things that have come up are the film Space Balls.  The western live action show Arrow. Which is ongoing so I’ll just look at one series for that one, if I do review it. The book, Hyperion. I also know someone who’s  been wanting to hear my thoughts on the Spectacular Spider-man cartoon for a long time. So, I may do a review of that one. 

Although I’m not guaranteeing any of them at this point and I am still taking suggestions for what you lot want to see reviewed. So, leave as many suggestions as you want or even leave a show of support for one of the suggestions I’ve already got. I will say I haven’t read Hyperion or seen Arrow. So, I’ll be going into those blind. I’ve actually watched Space Balls and that particular Spider-man cartoon before. Which is good, since I already have a good idea as to what I’ll say about both of them. 

As for the remaining November reviews, Sword Art Online II‘s review is going to be up this Wednesday and I still plan on watching JoJo Stardust Crusaders to end the month. After those two, the first review request I’ve got is Brain  Powerd, I  don’t  know why they miss-spelled “Powered” in the title. I’ll probably get to that s either the first or second review of December. The first request after that is Rurouni Kenshin. I probably won’t actually get to that this  year since it’s almost a hundred episodes long and I haven’t watched a single  one. I’ll probably get that up in February. March at the latest. I’ll fill the rest of December with reviews of series that have thirteen episodes or less so that I can get started on that. 

So, that’s where things are at this point. To close things off, here’s a picture of my boys. Because  you guys seem to like it when I  end these little updates with dog pictures. 

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Toradora: Had Potential

Toradora is based off of some romantic comedy light novels written by Takemiya Yuyuko. From October ’08 to March ’09, an anime adaptation aired. It was brought to us by J.C. Staff, the same studio behind Shakugan no Shana, Yami no Matsuei & Hachimitsu to Clover. So, this could be terrible, really good or bland, based on that. The anime version’s writer doesn’t help narrow things down either. It was handled by Okada Mari. She’s worked on such anime as Canaan & Kuroshitsuji II. So, let’s take a look and see if this is one of J.C’s better works, or at least entertainingly bad like their work on Garzey no Tsubasa.

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Story:

Ryuuji has romantic feelings for his classmate, Kushieda. Kushieda’s best friend, Taiga, has a crush on Ryuuji’s best friend, Kitamura. A fact that Ryuuji learns when she mistakenly leaves love letter in his bag. Ryuuji and Taiga become friends, planning to help one another in order to make their romantic dreams come true. Next stop, shenanigans.

The biggest flaw with the series is that its relatively unique set up for a rom-com becomes progressively more clichéd and predictable as the series progresses. In fact, a lot of you will be able to guess how the series ends just from applying romantic comedy logic to that short description. It’s a shame because the early stuff can be fairly amusing. The series also has its share of always so “wonderful” jokes about a girl hitting a guy. Although, in all fairness, they aren’t as prevalent in Toradora as they are in certain other series. The main romance is also quite bad with a convoluted love… heptagon… no, hexagon and with several overly melodramatic moments leading up to it.

Moving on to the positives. To reiterate, the early episodes are pretty entertaining and there are some genuinely funny moments in there with clever set ups and good pay offs. Seeing Ryuuji and Taiga try to help one another leads to quite a few good jokes.

Characters:

The characters in this aren’t particularly complex, but they’re perfectly functional for a comedic series and most of the main cast get their share of good comedic moments. Where the series really excels is with the developing friendship between Ryuuji and Taiga early on. Although, the series sets about ruining it in the second half.

Art:

The animation in this is pretty good. Granted, they don’t have to do much with it since most of the series takes place in a rather generic townscape and at a rather generic school, but it has some strong details and the characters do look unique. The series also has some success at using lighting to set the mood at various points. It’s a nice little detail.

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Sound:

They got some good actors for this series. Kugimiya Rie, Majima Junji, Horie Yui, Nojima Hirofumi & Kitamura Eri are all fine actors. I won’t claim that Toradora shows any of them at their absolute best, but there’s enough for them to work with that they can show their skills. The music is pretty mediocre. There’s nothing that really sets it apart from the music of any other romantic comedy.

Ho-yay:

There are points in the story where it definitely seems like Kushieda has feelings beyond friendship for Taiga. But as the series continues and becomes more trite, it becomes apparent that that isn’t the case.

Final Thoughts:

Toradora is a series with a strong start. In the beginning, it has a lot going for it. A legitimately different premise. Some strong comedic scenes. A good dynamic betwixt Ryuuji and Taiga. However, as the series progresses it gradually eliminates all of that. It tosses it away to make things, to be completely frank, boring and generic. Instead of taking some risks, Takemiya decides to play it the safe, dull route we’ve seen in every romantic comedy ever made. As a result, the series squanders its early good will and ends things on a disappointing note. I sill wouldn’t call it a bad series but I would say it ends up being as mediocre as Hachimitsu to Clover. My final rating is a 5/10. If you really like the standard rom-com clichés, you’ll probably like it throughout. If you want something unique in any way you’ll spend the first half of the series thinking “this could work if they don’t decide to bog it down with obvious clichés” and the second half pressing your palm against your face a lot. Next week I’ll look at Sword Art Online II.

Sket Dance: The Good Gintama?

SKET Dance is a slice of life comedy manga written and illustrated by Shinohara Kenta. In 2011, Tatsunoko, the same studio behind Kyatto Ninden Teyandee & C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, started airing an anime adaptation. The anime lasted for nearly eighty episodes and ran for over a year, ending in late 2012.It was introduced to me as like Gintama, but done well. So how true is that and is it worth watching?

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Story:

Kaimei High School has an unusual student organisation. This is the titular SKET Dan, a support club that helps students or other clubs who need them. It has three members, Himeko, Bossun & Switch. The series basically covers their misadventures and the quirky people they encounter. This is one of those series where there’s a general order to the episodes, but where most of them have little connection with one another aside from starring the same cast. So, let’s cover the important aspect, how well the humour works.

The comedy in this is very hit or miss. There are times when it works nicely and others where it just falls flat. Generally speaking, the points where they try something really outlandish are the points where the comedy just fails. Mainly because these moments rely on randomness and characters shouting to be funny. The stuff with their teacher’s bizarre science experiments. The stuff with their other teacher’s obsessions with overly convoluted nonsense. The episode that crosses over with Gintama, and so on. Those are the moments that are just tired and stupid. Whereas the comedy that uses more exaggerated realism tends to work pretty well.

Here’s the thing, a series like Galaxy Angel can get by with overblown absurdity. Not only is the execution better, but the series is never tied with any real semblance of reality, except in that serious episode that was out of place and terrible. But with this series, so much of its humour is tied to realistic situations being slightly exaggerated. Which means that when they do put something in that’s completely absurd, it doesn’t really fit. This series tries to be a cross between the everyday school life comedy and the absurdist zany comedy but it’s only good at the former and its attempts to mesh the two just don’t work particularly well.

Comedy aside, there is a huge flaw with the series as a whole. It sucks at incorporating romance. Every single scene where they try to throw in some high school crush or to force chemistry between two characters, ends up being just banal and poorly done. Its like they took scenes from a shite romantic comedy and just threw them in whenever they wanted to develop their characters but couldn’t think of a good way to do it.

I will give the series credit for having some pretty solid serious scenes. There are quite a few moments where they focus on the characters, without the lousy romance angle, and they show something tragic, dramatic, heart-warming or a blend of the three. And those scenes are largely pretty solid and do their job well. Truth be told, they’re also a big part of why the absurdist elements don’t work. The contrast between a stupid plot where Himeko & Bossun switch bodies and a semi-serious story about Himeko’s tragic past is simply too glaring. In that sense, it is a bit like Gintama, except in Gintama the attempts at drama were out of place with the usual absurdity whereas in Sket Dance the absurd moments are rarer and they come across as out of place while the more dramatic moments work.

Characters:

The cast in this varies quite a bit. The major characters tend to be nicely fleshed out and have some level of depth to them beyond comedic quirks. The secondary and side characters, on the other hand, are their comedic quirks. Usually that’s two things to them, which makes them better than those comedic characters with one joke, but it can still get old and repetitive. There’s also the issue with the character dynamics. Mainly, the aforementioned way the series fails at romance. Those relationships that are supposed to read as having romantic chemistry are either badly done in general or inconsistent, with the romance dynamic being bad but with the characters also having a more friendship-oriented dynamic that works.

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Art:

The artwork is decent enough. There are times during the more absurd scenes where things get hectic and difficult to see. On the positive side, the series does have some good visual gags. But, aside from that, it all looks fine.

Sound:

The acting in this is competent overall but, like most elements of this series, inconsistent. Yoshino Hiroyuki, Sugita Tomokazu & Shiraishi Ryoko all do quite well and demonstrate some nice emotional range but a lot of the side actors only have to do one or two jokes and, consequently, don’t need range. Although, to be fair, the actors still generally do fine and it gives you the chance to hear Gackt do some voice acting. There are a few performances that are annoyingly exaggerated though and times when those actors who are generally fine have their over-acting bombastic moments.

Ho-yay:

Momoka’s dynamic with Himeko frequently comes across as her having a crush on Himeko. It’s probably the best semi-romantic dynamic you get in the series just because it’s actually natural for the characters and never feels contrived or forced. But it’s also pretty clear that they’re not going for a romantic dynamic, but an adoring disciple-master thing. There are some other homo-erotic moments interspersed throughout, but nothing major.

Final Thoughts:

I can see where the comparisons to Gintama come in. And not just because there’s a crossover episode. Both series try to blend absurd comedy with more down to earth comedy and drama. Both also have massive casts of largely boring characters who are mainly there for a few reoccurring japes. I would agree that Sket Dance is better at the whole juggling act than Gintama was. That being said, I wouldn’t say that Sket Dance is particularly successful at it either. If the series had dispensed with the more outlandish elements and not  bothered with teenage romance elements, it might have been really good. However, as it stands, those highly absurd comedic moment are its biggest flaw. They aren’t funny, clever or a good fit. In the end, my rating for Sket Dance is a 6/10. It’s okay, not good. Next week I’ll take a look at Toradora.

91 Days: Joining the Mafia for Revenge

91 days is a series with an interesting premise. It’s a crime drama set during the US prohibition. I’ll let you al know right from the outset, I’m not going to know how historically accurate it is. I am basically familiar with what happened during prohibition. There was an amendment making alcohol illegal, Crime rates surged as it became a criminal commodity. After thirteen years it was repealed with another amendment. I don’t, however, know the specifics. The point is, if the series gets something historical wrong I probably won’t catch it. The anime was handled by Shuka, a studio best known for producing Durarara sequels. Six of the nine series they’ve produced were based on Durarara light novels. Two of the others were 91 days and a recap for 91 days. So, I haven’t looked at anything by them before. The series was written by Kishimoto Taku, the same gentleman who wrote the anime adaptation of Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. Of course, that was an adaptation and this is an original work. Let’s take a look at how he does with this one, shall we?

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Story:

Angelo Lagusa’s life changes completely on one fateful birthday. His parents and brother are murdered by Mafioso that his father has ties to. He manages to escape, takes on a fake name and learns to survive. Seven years later, he receives a letter from someone claiming to be his father’s friend. The letter is unsigned and gives the names of three people. Supposedly, the people who killed his family. With the letter in hand, Angelo returns to the town of Lawless, which is probably entirely fictional, in order to take violent revenge.

The biggest issue with the narrative is with the flashbacks. There are quite a few and they generally don’t contribute anything. They just kind of waste time. The final episode also jumps around quite a bit. Again, it doesn’t really contribute anything to the narrative. You just see an event, then an event that took place prior and then return to the event and then see another that took place before. There’s no narrative reason that the episode shouldn’t have just been in chronological order and it’s the only episode that jumps around that much.

On the positive side, the narrative is really compelling. While the whole revenge narrative is nothing new, 91 Days gives us one that’s well told, overall. It has some strong sources of tension surrounding Mafia work and Angelo’s hidden agenda. It also keeps things interesting by having Angelo come up with complex, clever plans in order to carry out his objectives.

Characters:

This is where the series falters a bit. The main cast does have quite a few interesting characters with developed motivations. However, the supporting characters are largely generic mobsters Angelo himself is kind of the standard hero for revenge narratives as well. About the only thing that sets him apart is his dynamic with Nero, which, in all fairness, is quite interesting.

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Art:

The artwork is nicely done. The backgrounds have nice details, particularly when it comes to cityscapes. The action sequences are solid. The characters are varied. The various objects like guns and vehicles are well drawn & animated.

Sound:

This series has some strong acting. Kondou Takashi and Eguchi Takuya both give strong performances. Tsuda Kenjirou is really good as the complete and utter nutter, Fango. Saito Soma also does really well. The music is nicely done as well. Kaida Shogo did a good job.

Ho-yay:

The dynamic between Angelo and Corteo is a bit suspect. They both seem to value the other over themselves. Whether it’s an incredibly strong friendship or beyond that is debatable.

Final Thoughts:

91 Days isn’t among the best series I’ve ever seen. That being said, it is really good. The narrative is compelling. The major characters are interesting, mostly. The acting and art are both strong. I would recommend it if you’re the type of person who likes revenge narratives or if you’re into historical dramas. My final rating is going to be a solid 8/10. Next week I’ll look at Sket Dance.

Danganronpa 3: Zetsubou-hen,Whatever will happen to these characters no one cares about?

Welcome to the last week of this year’s horror anime month. In order to wrap things up, let’s look at the other instalment of Danganronpa 3, Zetsubou-hen. Is it an improvement over the other half of Danganronpa 3, just as weak or worse? I suppose the only way to find out is to watch and determine for ourselves. So, let’s take a look.

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Story:

Zetsubou-hen opens with Yukizome taking a teacher’s role at Hope’s Peak Academy as part of an investigation into the Academy’s more shady pursuits. She’s assigned to the 77th class and begins her work in earnest, both as a teacher and an investigator. All while events are moving towards the great world-changing event of ultimate despair.

Therein lies the biggest flaw with the series. If you saw the first Danganronpa, you know how it’s going to end. Even if you haven’t, the series itself calls it a tale of hope that ends in despair. Which could work, if they built up some tension in another way. But the series never bothers. About half of it is spent on vaguely slice of life school life with very minor references to Yukizome’s investigation. Then we get a bunch of episodes setting up Junko’s machinations. Most of the series is just build up to a pretty disappointing climax. To make matters worse, if you happen to have watched Mirai-hen first, like I did, then you’ll know the exact plot points to expect. The series also shares Mirai-hen’s weakness of having a lot of bad, over-blown speeches. The only difference is that the ones in Zetsubou-hen are mostly about despair instead of hope.

That being said, I do appreciate what the series was trying to do. When it comes right down to it, it’s trying to humanise the group that Naegi got called a traitor for protecting. It’s trying to get you to connect with and understand them. There’s just one problem with that. Let’s talk about the characters.

Characters:

The Danganronpa series in general isn’t good at providing compelling characters. The first anime got around that by providing good mysteries. The Mirai-hen part of Danganronpa 3 tried to do the same, but ended up spending too much time with strangely absurd action sequences and puerile hope speeches. This series doesn’t even have that to fall back on. We know that Junko’s the villain as soon as she shows up. We see what Hope’s Peak is up to before there’s much investigation into it. We know that things are going to end in despair. So, what we’re left with are shallow archetypical characters who spend the bulk of the series doing nothing interesting.

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Art:

The character designs continue to be a weakness. Although this may be the part of the series that’s least effected by it since a good half of it is about the students just being students. The series does have a strange habit of making the non-important characters just look like blue humanoid blobs. Maybe they didn’t want normal looking people and they didn’t want to bother coming up with stupid looking designs for background characters. I will credit this series for having bloody sequences that are fairly competent. Although they do use bizarre neon colouring for it. Maybe they were on a time slot where they couldn’t show much blood so they worked around it by making the blood not look like blood.

Sound:

This is one area where I have to give every instalment of this franchise credit. They are good at casting. Ogata Megumi, Hanazawa Kana, Toyoguchi Megumi, Takayama Minami & Nakahara Mai are all good in this. In spite of their characters lacking any real complexity. Really, none of the actors do a bad job. They’re all basically competent. The music is also decent enough.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit. Junko’s sister seems to have a thing for her. I have no idea why they included that, but it’s there. The photographer has a girl that she seems to have a thing with. The chef is openly bisexual and it’s revealed that a certain gent is in love with another man. That being said, this stuff barely comes up and is, mostly, not important to the plot.

Final Thoughts:

And that’s Danganronpa 3: Zetsubou-hen. Ultimately, its big failing is that its whole raison d’etre is to get you invested in bland characters. In the interest of doing so, it lacks mystery and has very little that could be charitably called horror. If you’re a big fan of the franchise and you really want to see the events that built up to the grand hyper worst despair-inducing situation, you might find it interesting. Maybe. For myself, I’m going to give it a 3/10. While it is pretty bad, there’s nothing truly terrible about it. Next week I’ll open November with a review of 91 Days. Have a happy Halloween and retain your fabulousity.