Slayers: Had to Happen Eventually

I’ve talked about The Slayers franchise on several occasions with films and OVAs. Well, the time has come for me to talk about the anime series proper. It aired mid to late ’95 and was brought to us by E&G films. The whole series was based off of a light novel series and proved popular enough that it spawned five anime series along with video games, OVAs and films. Today, I’m looking at the first anime.

Story:

We open with a group of bandits revelling in their ill-gotten gains when a fireball rains down and our heroine, Lina Inverse, makes her appearance. She beats the bandits, helps herself to some of their treasure and goes about her life. Unbeknownst to her, one of the treasures she’s acquired is greatly desired by some powerful people and she, alongside the dimwitted swordsman Gourry, soon finds herself embroiled in a battle that could impact people all over the world.

The only real issue I have with the series is that some of the jokes don’t really hold up well. The homosexual sea dragon being a prime example. The series also does overdo it a bit with the gags about Lina being flat. To be fair to the series, most of its jokes are really funny and work well, but you do get the occasional one like that that just isn’t.

One thing I appreciate about this series is that, in spite of being primarily comedic, it does put a lot of intrigue into its plot lines. You get good hints about what’s happening but they manage to hold back just enough information to keep things interesting. The series is also good at getting just serious enough with its big moments that they’re really compelling without ever taking things too seriously. And the comedy does land pretty well a good ninety percent of the time.

Characters:

A part of what makes this series work so well is that the cast is really well tailored for it. A big part of that is that the characters do have complexity. Lina is greedy, petty and arrogant but she’s also determined, surprisingly moral when it comes right down to it and can be very self sacrificing. Gourry is a moron but he can also be strangely insightful and he’s loyal. Amelia is obsessed with justice and doing what’s right but she’s also naïve, easily fooled and doesn’t always think her actions through. Zelgadis is pragmatic and opportunistic but he’s also a kind and caring person in spite of seeming stoic.

They all have facets that make them wok when the series gets a bit serious but that also work well when exaggerated for comedic effect.

Art:

Overall, this is a great looking series. Especially given the limitations animation had at the time. The character designs are great. The action sequences are superb. The backgrounds are nicely done. About the worst you can say about it is that they do recycle some sequences, most notably with spells and that there are occasionally scenes where someone’s hands or face will look awkward for a moment. And I’m not talking about the ones where it’s clearly being done on purpose for comedic effect.

Sound:

The cast in this is phenomenal. In addition to legends like Hayashibara Megumi and Koyasu Takehito, yo get strong performances from Suzuki Masami, Midorikawa Hikaru, Matsumoto Yasunori & Touma Yumi. The series also has fantastic music, especially with its theme tunes. Tezuka Osamu deserves a lot of credit.

Ho-yay:

There’s not much. We have a gay sea dragon, which is played up as a joke. And that same episode features a male character with a thing for Gourry.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Stop obsessing over Lia’s bust size. For one thing, the series gives her age as fifteen and fixating on a fifteen year old’s chest is just creepy and weird. For another, it’s not really a strong reoccurring gag. The occasional joke about her being sensitive about her size is fine but it doesn’t work at the frequency they use it.
  2. If you’re going to have a joke about a gay character, don’t use their sexuality as the punchline. It’s just not funny.
  3. Cleaning up the art a bit would have worked a treat. I imagine the deadlines were the main reason you occasionally get those awkward art moments but the series could have been improved a bit by taking a little more time with the art.

Final Thoughts:

This anime is pretty fantastic. While it has the occasional joke that doesn’t work or art fail, it also has superb writing, phenomenal characters, a masterful vocal cast, great music and art the genuinely does hold up well. My final rating for Slayers is going to be a 9/10. I promise, the rest of this fantasy anime month will be stuff I haven’t seen and not just me re-watching series I’ve seen before but didn’t review.

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Konohana Kitan: All the Gay Kitsune

Konohana Kitan is a fantasy, slice of life from Lerche based off of a manga. So, the studio behind Danganronpa and Given. The original manga was written by Amano Sakuya, who I’m not familiar with. But it’s fantasy month, so let’s take a look and see what they have to offer.

Story:

Yuzu is a kitsune who was raised by a priestess. In order to help her grow, she’s sent to work as an attendant at Konohanatei, a hot spring inn used by Gods and all manner of beings straight out of folklore. At the inn, she quickly develops a blatantly romantic interest in Satsuki, another of the attendants. The anime follows the pair of them as well as the other girls working at the Inn as they have interesting encounters.

The only real “flaw” of the series is that it is highly episodic. For a lot of the episodes, it doesn’t matter what order you watch them in since what happens won’t really be brought up again. Which is pretty common in slice of life works, but it’s also an aspect that some people will find off-putting. And while the series is mostly pretty funny, it does have a few jokes that are far too obvious and fall a bit flat. Like, it’s kind of obvious what the joke is going to be when the grandparents come to the Inn with their grandchild.

There are a couple elements in this series I really appreciate. The first is the way they use a lot of different folk lore creatures and subvert expectations for them. The cursed doll, Okiku, being the most prominent example. And that does make it consistently interesting to see what kind of creature they’ll encounter next and what the series will do with it. The series is also really good at setting up an aesthetic that’s funny but also kind of calming. It makes for a very relaxing series.

Characters:

There are two things I really like about the characters. I like their les-yay fuelled dynamics. I think they’re nicely set up and handled. I also appreciate the way every character is somewhat archetypical, but has some kind of element that elevates them beyond that archetype and makes them unique. It’s something I’ve talked about many times, starting with an archetype is fine but in general you want to elevate the character beyond that to make them more interesting. Even the minor characters who appear for one episode are more complex than the one note characters some anime I could mention have as major characters. Looking at you, Pokemon.

Art:

I really enjoyed the art in this series. The character designs are nice. The outfits are well done, usually quite cute as well. The backgrounds can be outright gorgeous at times. Especially during the whole sequence where Yuzu and Satsuki visit the shrine. And even though the series is set at a Hot Spring Inn, it never delves into pure fan-service. It keeps its bathing scenes fairly subdued. If I had any criticism of the art, it would be that the series shows the characters in their silly, blob-like forms a bit too often. I get it, it’s a comedic aesthetic, but it would work better in that regard if it was used more conservatively for emphasis.

Sound:

The acting is really well done. Oono Yuuko, Hata Sawako, Kubota Risa, Suwa Ayaka, Numakura Manami, Kakuma Ai and Ogata Megumi all deliver strong performances. There’s honestly no one in the cast who does badly. The music is nicely composed. Full credit to Kikuchi Hajime.

Ho-yay:

There is a lot. Not one of the girls in the main cast comes across as straight. Yuzu and Satsuki clearly have a budding attraction going. Ren and Natsume are very blatantly romantically interested in each other. Satsuki’s sister hits on other girls when she comes to the Inn. So, yeah there’s a lot of les-yay.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Have a bit more structure. I’m not saying the series has to have a strong underlying narrative. But I do think they could do more to reference prior events and establish a definitive order for the episodes instead of having it set up so that it mostly doesn’t matter what order you watch them in.
  2. Be a little more surprising with your big gags. It’s fine to have some quick gags where the joke is kind of obvious, but it doesn’t work that well when you have a long joke with a lot of set up that has a predictable pay off.
  3. Use the simpler, gag art style more sparingly. It just has more of an impact and, because the regular style looks a lot better, that’s also a benefit.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this series quite a bit. It’s charming. The characters are endearing. It’s clever with the way it uses folklore. And the character dynamics are really cute. So, I’m giving it a solid 8/10.

Dirty Pair no Ooshoubu: Nolandia no Nazo- Evil Corporation plays with alien technology

The Dirty Pair is a franchise I’m not super familiar with. I’ve talked about it before, all of once. This time around, I’m looking at an earlier instalment in the franchise. This one is actually older than me, it was released in late 1985. Let’s take another look at this classic franchise.

Story:

We open with a young girl being told to use her power. This quickly results in a plane crash. Shortly after, our heroines are being sent to a planet with only a small habitable area to find a young girl. They find her missing and take to a perilous jungle filled with strange creatures to find her.

The biggest problem with the work is just that the narrative is pretty obvious. You can pretty easily figure out where it’s going once you’ve gotten about eight minutes in. It’s so obvious that they don’t even bother showing you the investigation phase. Yuri and Kei just solve the whole thing off screen and skip to the final chase sequence.

That being said, the part where they’re going through the jungle trying to find Missnie is pretty interesting. I also do like the chase sequence. It’s just kind of a cool sequence. Maybe not as good as the chase sequences of Due South, but it’s still compelling.

Characters:

The characters work fine. The antagonists are just kind of standard evil for the evils types but the protagonists are kind of endearing. I also do like Missnie. Her story could have been a lot better extrapolated upon and wrapped up, but I do think she’s a pretty sympathetic character.

Art:

The art uses that kind of standard style from the 80s. It looks good and it does hold up well but some people may consider it overly dated. I particularly like the strangeness of the jungle and the psychic shenanigans. There are a couple scenes that are overly fan-servicey though.

Sound:

The main actresses, Tonguu Kyouko and Shimazu Saeko, are both good at their roles. Han Keiko and Fujita Toshiko are also quite good. The acting is just competent or better all around. The music is fine. The issue I have with it is that it can be overly repetitive.

Ho-yay:

There’s a little bit. Yuri and Kei don’t really come across as being more than friends but there are a couple scenes that get a little gay.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Better develop and conclude Missnie’s story. Honestly, she gets about five minutes of time with the pair, gets captured and then we see her briefly afterwards. The OVA could have really benefited from giving her more screen time and better wrapping up her arc.
  2. Make the story less obvious. We could have benefited from a story arc that was a bit more surprising and from seeing some investigation.
  3. You don’t need special fan service scenes. Here’s the thing, the girls’ outfits are basically battle swimsuits already. You don’t need to add some extra fan-service scenes on top of that.

Final Thoughts:

Dirty Pair no Ooshoubu: Nolandia no Nazo isn’t a bad anime. It’s not particularly good either. It’s decent enough. As such, I’m giving it the same score I gave Dirty Pair: Flash, a 6/10. We’re going into January and I have decided this year we’ll be having Fantasy month. So, look forward to that.

December Bonus Review #3 Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The original Star Trek was a classic that helped define sci-fi television alongside the likes of Doctor Who and the original Star Wars trilogy. The original series ended in the late 60s and the first film came out around a decade later. Oddly enough, not many people talk about the first Star Trek film. The second film, Wrath of Khan, gets talked about a lot and so do Search For Spock, The Voyage Home, Final Frontier & Undiscovered Country. But this one seems largely forgotten. Let’s find out why.

Story:

We open with a group of Klingons, seen for the first time in their more iconic makeup, confronting what looks to be a cloud of energy and getting nowhere in the process. Star Fleet is made aware of a life form of great power headed for Earth. The Enterprise is sent and Captain James Tiberius Kirk is pulled off of desk duty to command her. He’s joined by Sulu, Chekov, Mr. Scott and Uhura. He also has Doctor Bones McCoy drafted into service. Meanwhile, Spock is on Vulcan when he hears an intelligence in space calling out to him and he catches a ride to the Enterprise to join them in confronting it. Thereby filling out our cast.

The fundamental flaw with this film is the pacing. They spend a long time showing off that they’ve gotten a substantial special effects budget for the first time in the history of the franchise. They drag things out with some scenes that don’t matter and when you get to the action, a lot of sequences are more than twice the length they actually need to be. Which makes it feel like they had a script for an episode they never used and just padded it to be more than twice as long as it was.

Buried beneath all the padding, there are some interesting ideas. The reveal about the entity is nicely done. The idea of the original Enterprise crew getting back together for a new mission is solid. It’s just difficult to get really immersed in it because it feels like all those good ideas are buried under a shit tonne of nothing.

Characters:

I’ll start by saying that I actually do like the original Star Trek and I appreciate the characters it has. So, there’s a certain amount of “oh, it’s great to see them again.” And, in general, the film does do a good job of recapturing what made the characters so memorable and the dynamics that worked so well in the series proper. I also do think the way Captain Decker and Ilia are handled is a bit compelling. It could be really good if they were more developed characters but they actually don’t get that much screen time before major things start happening that change things for them.

That being said, I have a couple major problems with the way the film handles them. First off, Kirk has McCoy drafted, knowing he doesn’t want anything more to do with Star Fleet. Which comes across as a complete dick move and not like something Kirk would actually do to his friend. And the film never really addresses this violation of boundaries besides having a brief conversation betwixt them where Kirk says he needed Bones and the good Doctor just lets it go. It also bothers me that Kirk basically uses the situation to force his way back into command of the Enterprise.

There’s also a bit of awkward dialogue. The Deltan navigator comes aboard and the first thing she mentions is her vow of chastity. Just, out of nowhere. Did she hear that Kirk had a slight problem keeping it in his trousers around attractive alien women and just thought she’d get it out the way?

Cinematography, Visual Effects:

For the late 70s, these are some impressive special effects. And I’m not saying that because it looks far better than the original series. That’s a given when you have a decade of special effects advancements and a proper budget. It legitimately does look really good for the time. The biggest issue with the film in the effects department is actually the wardrobe. This film is a bizarre outlier in that the characters wear uniforms unlike any they’d worn before or after. My guess is that audiences didn’t like the change and that’s why the later original series films all feature those iconic red uniforms.

Acting and Music:

The acting is pretty solid. Nimoy, Shatner, Kelley, Doohan, Nichols, Takei, and Koenig all know their characters really well and have playing them down. Khambatta does a really good job in her role as well and Collins is solid. The biggest issue is that some of the dialogue is a bit wooden. Which is also an issue with the original series, to be fair. And there aren’t that many scenes with wooden acting but there are enough to make it noticeable. Jerry Goldsmith’s music is fantastic.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Instead of having a bunch of slow sequences that don’t really do anything, use the extra time to better develop your characters, their relationships and the situation. Make the scenes feel like they merit a film instead of just being there for padding.
  2. Instead of having Doctor McCoy get drafted at Kirk’s behest, have Kirk meet with him and convince him to come back to duty. It would give you the whole element of the Doctor coming out of retirement without putting it at the expense of Kirk’s characterisation. And it would be a better use of screen time than long, dragged out special effects shots.
  3. Give Decker and Ilia more character development. When you have two characters who have a hinted at pre-existing relationship and then things start spiraling for them, a big part of what makes it work is how well they’re developed at that point. And when things start going awry for these two, it doesn’t have the impact it should because they’ve had maybe five minutes of screen time together at that point.

Final Thoughts:

So, the reason this film doesn’t get talked about that much seems obvious to me. It’s slow to the point of being boring. Is it the worst film in the franchise? No, Abrams took the franchise to levels of rubbish it had never gone before. Even if you just look at the original six films, this isn’t the worst. But the film that is is bad in a way that’s really memorable whereas this one isn’t bad it’s just forgettable. So, I’m giving it a 5/10. If you’re someone who’s getting into the franchise and you want to watch the films, you can honestly skip this one completely and not miss out on anything of value. It’s light on plot and character and heavy on showing off the special effects. Which aren’t nearly as impressive by today’s standards as they were back then.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz

I’ve talked about Gundam Wing. It was a series I enjoyed quite a bit. This time, we’re looking at the film. It came out after the series and serves as a sequel. So, there may be some spoilers for the series proper. Just be aware of that.

Story:

We open with some very simple events happening. Duo and Quatre are set to destroy their Gundams along with Heavy Arms and Wing Zero. But unbeknownst to them, a new threat is rising. Relena is kidnapped, not like anyone but Dorothy cares, and the remnants of Treize’s army are gathering under a new leader, his young daughter.

The biggest issue with the film is that it features a lot of flashbacks to kind of explain some back stories for the pilots that basically explain why they’re reacting to the situation like they are. While it kind of works from a characterisation perspective, it’s also a bit awkward in terms of story-telling. It almost feels like padding, they spend so much time on it.

That being said, I appreciate the way the film handles the theme of vigilance being a necessity for peace. I also do think it’s a logical follow up to have Treize’s followers still active. And the film does maintain a good degree of tension and stay compelling throughout.

Characters:

Most of the characters are the ones we know and love from the series. Also Relena. There are two major antagonists introduced. The first is Treize’s daughter, Mariemaia. The second is Dekim Barton. Honestly, he’s not a very interesting character. He has this vague thing about being involved with the original Operation Meteor because he wants to control the world. Which kind of puts him on the level of a Silver Age comic villain. Mariemaia is a bit better. She’s given some sympathetic traits. My issue with her is that her bond with Relena isn’t all that well developed. Most of it seems to form offscreen.

Art:

The film’s art meshes well with the art of the series. It’s a bit dated, but still looks pretty good and the action sequences are pretty good. The Gundams still look really cool. Wing has some spectacular designs in that regard.

Sound:

Nakahara Shigeru, Orikasa Ai, Midorikawa Hikaru, Koyasu Takehito, Seki Toshihiko, Ishino Ryuuzou, they all give really strong performances. Honestly, everyone in this gives strong performances. Sunrise did a fantastic job with casting and directing. The music is great as well. Otani Kow nailed it pretty handily.

Ho-yay:

There’s not as much as the series proper. Dorothy doesn’t really show her massive crush on Relena. Quatre and Trowa don’t interact all that much. The most homoerotic thing that happens is Zechs saying he couldn’t rest in peace while Treize’s spirit called out to him.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Spend less time with flashback sequences. You’d honestly be better off with shorter sequences, and only the ones that are really relevant to the story. Which are Trowa’s and Heero’s. You could do without the others.
  2. Better illustrate Relena’s relationship with Mariemaia. Them becoming somewhat close is actually important to the plot, but they barely show them interacting. At least give us a brief montage of their time together.
  3. Give Dekim some stronger motivation. As is, he seems to just want to rule the world for the lols. Give us something to explain why grabbing power means so much to him. It would give him a lot more complexity.

Final Thoughts:

This film is pretty solid. It may not be on the level of the series proper, but it makes a fine addition and it does follow up pretty strongly. I’m giving this one a 7/10. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s worth watching. Unless your sole interest in the series is based on the fairly high levels of ho-yay because there’s not that much of that in this film.

December Bonus Review #2: Gargoyles 1-3

Gargoyles was a Disney cartoon that ran from late 1994 to early 1997. It was a popular cartoon and featured both Keith David and the better part of the main cast of Star Trek: Next Gen. It proved to be quite beloved and spawned toys, a video game that only Americans got and a 1995 comic. Which we’ll be looking at the first three issues of.

Story:

We open issue one with Detective Elisa Maza disguised as a construction worker when a robotic suit resembling a gargoyle appears. Fortunately, she’s rescued by Goliath and the pair realise that the robot has to be the work of Commander William T. Xanatos. Which is proven for them when Lexington finds out the construction company that’s having people attacked is owned by Xanatos. For the audience, it’s illustrated when we find out that the attacks are a ploy to find the gargoyles and to get subjects for genetic experiments. We also learn that the robot suit is being piloted by Counselor Demona Troi. In the second issue, Detective Maza’s investigation continues while Brooklyn, Broadway and Lexington are experimenting with tracking devices. The trio is on their way home when they witness a murder at a nightclub. Lexington intervenes, in spite of it being almost daylight and the three end up turning to stone in unsecure spots and being separated.

I don’t really have any big complaints about the writing. It’s like you’re reading an episode of the series that’s been separated into twenty two page segments. The only thing I can say against it is that it relies a bit overmuch on people having read the previous issues and on the idea that people will read the next. Which isn’t something you can always count on with comics. The comic is also definitely made for people who are already fans of the cartoon. If I was reading this without having seen the show, I’d be lost.

I’ll give Martin Pasko credit, he does a good job of capturing the essence of the series in a comic format. He also picks his ending moments well. Each issue gives you some tension going into the next issue. I also do find the overall narrative compelling. I’m definitely going to read the other eight issues of this run because I’m legitimately curious about where it’s going.

Characters:

Overall, Pasko does a good job of writing the characters with their quirks and traits intact. The one thing that’s curious is why Demona would work with Xanatos when she hates humans but, to the comics’ credit, our heroes do bring that up. They even go so far as to suggest that what Xanatos is doing is probably a threat to humankind if she’d go along with it. The only new characters you get in the first three issues are some generic mobsters and a nice old couple who insist on feeding Broadway for some reason. They work for the sake of the comic, but they’re not what you’d call memorable villains/ supporting characters.

Art:

Overall, Amanda Connor did a good job with the art. There is the occasional awkward facial expression or panel where Elisa’s pupils disappear and her eyes are just pure white for no reason but they aren’t exactly prevalent. The shading can also be awkward at times. There are quite a few panels where it looks like they just got lazy and decided to not bother with proper colours, instead opting to just shade it all the same colour. As a whole, the characters are drawn well and the action panels have a good flow. And the human proportions are significantly better than what you got in a lot of 90s comics. Remember, this was the time period where Rob Liefeld’s “art” was inexplicably popular and a lot of good artists were pretending they couldn’t draw to mimic him.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. The issues could do with more satisfying moments. It feels like there’s a bit too much build up and not a lot of big moments in the individual issues.
  2. Cleaner Art. Like I said, there aren’t many awkward panels but there are enough that it’s noticeable.
  3. Go for more colours and less monotone. Having panels where everything is the same colour or shades thereof can work in very specific circumstances but in these comics it’s too frequent and doesn’t seem to serve an actual purpose.

Final Thoughts:

I’m going to give these three issues a solid 7/10. If you’re a fan of the Gargoyles cartoon, I’d say the comic is definitely worth checking out. If you’ve never seen it, I’d suggest watching it first because the comics don’t make much sense without having seen the show.

Bungou Stray Dogs: More than a Little Tacky

Bungou Stray Dogs is an anime from 2016 based off of an ongoing manga from 2012. The anime version was brought to us by Bones. The same studio behind Soul Eater, Boku no Hero Academia, Kekkai Sensen & Mob Psycho 100. So, sometimes I enjoy their work and sometimes I don’t. Only a viewing will determine what the case is here.

Story:

We open with a young man named Nakajima Atsushi who’s starving to death when he happens to go to the rescue of someone he sees drowning in the river. Only to discover that the man was trying to commit suicide. This results in Nakajima being taken to an Agency that solves cases using their supernatural abilities.

There are a couple issues with the narrative. The first is that it gets downright tasteless with the way it uses its characters. Here’s the thing, all of these characters are named for writers from the early 1900s, late 1800s. Which would be fine, but then they have the character named for Osamu Dazai, a man who died fairly young after committing double suicide with his lover, and the series constantly uses him for suicide jokes. This would be a bit tacky under normal circumstances, but when the character is named for someone who actually lost his life to suicide it just elevates it to an exceptionally gross level of tackiness. I also find it bizarre that they give their version of Tanizaki Junichirou a fictional sister to be incestuous with. Yes, the man did have younger sisters in real life, but the character in question isn’t named for any of them.

Putting that aside, the writing just isn’t that compelling. I’ve seen quite a few works about agencies made up of people with super powers in my time. And this one doesn’t really offer anything new in that regard. Besides the extra dose of tastelessness. It doesn’t help that all of the twists are really obvious way before they come into play because the series telegraphs them in really obvious ways.

Characters:

If these characters weren’t named for real people, I’d say they’re a bunch of dull archetypes and leave it at that but because they’re named for real people, I find myself more disturbed by their lack of complexity and, of course, the aforementioned tacky parts than I would be normally.

Art:

The anime does look pretty good. The character designs are pretty normal but the action sequences are really strong and look good. Bones also does a good job with the backgrounds. They’ve got some nice details.

Sound:

The acting is perfectly passable. It’s one of those where they got some good actors like Miyano Mamoru, Hosoya Yoshimasa and Morohoshi Sumire, to name as few but the characterisation doesn’t give them much to work with. The music is fine. Not great, but it works.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t really any.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. If you’re going to name your characters after real people, you need to treat the legacy of those people with some respect. Unless you’re naming them after a nazi or otherwise terrible person. So, don’t be making light of someone’s suicide. It’s just not cricket.
  2. If you’re going to be writing something similar to a lot of other stories out there you need something to set it apart. Generic story-telling and dull archetypical characters aren’t sufficient.
  3. Put some more effort into your characterisation. Archetypes are fine for a starting point, but you need to build off of them and make the characters unique in some way. Especially if you’re going to be naming those characters after real people.

Final Thoughts:

This is, in all honesty, one of the worst anime I’ve seen from Bones. Even without the tackiness, it would be a pretty sub-par work. With it, it’s going to be a 3/10 from me. I can’t really recommend it when there are so many things that take the basic concept and do it better.

December Bonus Review #1 7th Dragon III Code VFD

It’s been a while since I’ve done a game review. This time around we have a series of Sega published RPGs that I’d never heard of before I picked up the third one for the 3DS. This was released late 2015 in Japan and a year later in other regions. Let’s have a look.

Story:

The basic story is that you’re recruited by a Tech company that’s also leading the battle against dragons. To do that, you need to complete the dragon chronicle which involves a lot of travel through time and space to slay dragons at various points. The ultimate goal is to stop the prophesied 7th dragon before it can destroy humanity and halt the spread of dragon’s sickness that’s impacting the world.

I actually like the story telling of this quite a bit. The game is really good at introducing you to likable characters in each era to raise the stakes and the whole idea of going around through time and space fighting dragons in preparation for the confrontation with the ultimate dragon is pretty good. And there’s a really interesting reveal late game.

My only real gripe with the story is that the ending is a bit weak. It tries to do the thing where you control your hero and go on a tour of your headquarters, interacting with people but it sort of falls flat in that the vast majority of strong characters you’re actually invested in don’t seem to make an appearance. Theoretically they’ve all gone back to their own eras, but it’s still a bit of a letdown.

Characters:

The way the game handles your playable characters is kind of interesting. It uses the method of having you create your characters but instead of leaving them blank slates you pick a voice actor for the character and that voice actor provides some personality for them with their voice lines. Which ends up making them a bit less than full-fledged characters but significantly better than blank slates.

The main characters who get strong characterisation and development are the ones you encounter but don’t play as. Which, as I mentioned earlier, is a useful tool for building tension and getting you invested in helping the various eras.

Gameplay:

The battle system is pretty traditional for turn-based JRPGs but the game does throw you a curveball with the class system. There are a lot of classes in this that have unique quirks. For example, the duelist class basically gives you a deck of cards and you use combinations of those cards to summon monsters or set traps. The game only gives you three types of cards, fire, ice and lightning so it’s easy to figure out how things work but it’s also a weird system. Someone at Sega was way into Yu-gi-oh. Another interesting class is the Agent. The quirk there is that your best abilities all require you to “hack” the enemy to work. The big fist fighters are called Godhands and their unique attribute is that they have lower powered attacks that inflict layers of “god depth” to opponents and the best attacks require that they have a certain level of god depth inflicted. There’s also the lance class called the banisher. They get a limited number of bombs that you expend when you use your skills and have to replenish. Not all the classes are like that though. You get some like Samurai, Mage, and Runeknight that are pretty ordinary.

One other quirk of the battle system is that you set up multiple teams, by the end of the game you’ll have three, and you’ll only fight with one team but the other teams will gradually build up a support bar that you can use to buff, heal and otherwise benefit your battle party. Your characters gain SP during battles that you can use to purchase new skills and each one gets an “exhaust” skill which is basically like a limit break in that you build it up throughout battle and can activate it to just do a tonne of damage, or healing if you’ve got a fortuner class character.

One thing I liked the idea of, but wish it mattered more, is that you can take other members of your party or important NPCs on dates at the Skylounge in your base. With your other part members, you get a heart gauge that gradually increases and they’ll speak more intimately with you as it does. Why I say that I wish it mattered more is that I didn’t notice any real benefit of increasing my heart gauge or of taking various important NPCs on dates and it didn’t seem to have any effect on the ending because none of my characters were shown to be romantically with other party members they had full hearts with or anything like that. It seemed to be mainly for characterisation. I will say, I don’t think the sex of your partner is taken into account because my party was all female and they dated all the ladies with all the cute, romance implying dialogue intact. I approve.

The game also gives you a cat cafe where you can spend time for benefits and you can ask various party members to make you a bento at the dormitory which you can use to heal in battle.

My biggest problem with the game was with the difficulty of the final boss. It’s one of those ones that has three forms. I beat the first form easily, I had to grind for quite a while to beat the second form and it was still difficult but then I beat the final form with no trouble whatsoever. We’re talking the fight was over in three turns and it did barely any damage. Which is odd because you’d expect that to be the hard one but the second form was the annoyingly difficult one.

Art:

The game is very anime inspired in terms of its character designs. Though they are somewhat simplified. I like the varied aesthetics of various eras and there are some really cool enemy designs. Especially where the dragons are concerned. There are some really cool looking skills, especially the exhaust ones.

Sound:

They got some really good voice actors for this game. Mizuki Nana, Horie Yui, Hikasa Yoko, Inoue Marina and many others. In total, there are forty voice actors you can choose for your characters. Half male, half female. The soundtrack is really well put together as well. The ending song they play over the credit is really nice in particular.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. I’d like to see your ending change somewhat based on the way you interact with the other characters. It doesn’t need to be a huge difference, but you could do the Fire Emblem thing where you show two characters who had a strong relationship and just say they’re off doing something together.
  2. The final bosses second form is too hard. I shouldn’t have trouble with form two of three and then beat the actual final form easily.
  3. If you’re going to let me wander around headquarters for the ending, at least put some characters I care about there instead of having them all be off in their own eras.

Final Thoughts:

This game wasn’t perfect. It definitely had some things that could have been handled better. That being said, I still really liked it. I liked having classes with odd quirks. I liked that you created your own characters but they were given some sense of personality based on the voices you chose for them. And I liked taking my girls back to headquarters after a difficult area and having them go on dates and make bentos for each other. That is very relevant to my interests. So, I’m glad I played this. Ultimately, I’m giving it an 8/10.

Green Green: Made For Incels

Green Green is an anime based off of an H-game. It aired in 2003 and was handled by Studio Matrix. If you haven’t heard of Matrix, it’s probably because they were a studio responsible for all of four anime and none of them seem to be well regarded. I was asked to review this by someone who said it’s one of the worst anime he’s ever seen. So, let’s dive into it.

Story:

Basically, our story is set in a boy’s school that’s going to spend a month going co-ed as a test run. Our protagonist, Yusuke, finds himself in an especially awkward situation when he gets glomped by a girl he’s never met who claims she’s been looking for him for a long time.

Here’s the core problem with the narrative. We’re meant to believe that Yusuke and Midori were lovers in another life, but their love was forbidden and now it’s carrying some kind of curse. But we’re never given any reason for it being forbidden or any rationale behind the curse whatsoever. Which is weird because that’s the core premise of the series. How shit do you have to be as a writer to not bother fleshing out your core premise to that degree? Seriously, all they have to do is tell us they were from feuding families or one of them was nobility and the other poor. And even doing that much is just beyond them. Another issue is that the romance itself is just poorly written and not well developed.

That being said, the biggest problem with the series is the comedy. The main “humour” for this series stems from Yusuke’s three best friends sexually harassing the girls in egregious and downright vile ways. And when I say that, I mean that peeping is the least of their offences. These guys sneak into the girls’ dorms at night and crawl into bed with girls who are already sleeping. They forcibly strip a girl at one point and they do all sorts of other shit that should easily get them arrested but the series plays it like it’s all just harmless shenanigans and they’re really good guys at heart. Which is just gross and uncomfortable. Only an Incel would find these guys tolerable. You also get such anti-comedy as a man getting raped by a bear and a woman getting molested by monkeys. Because class is for other anime.

Characters:

The characters in this are pretty obnoxious. The women are basically right out of a bad harem work. The main protagonist is meant to be the boring everyman sort, but with the kind of friends you would only have if you were a terrible person. And that brings us to the worst characters, the sexual assault trio. They’re consistently horrible, in your face and annoying. Easily among the worst characters in any comedy ever made. About the only character in this that’s passable is the cactus.

Art:

The character designs are a bit generic. There’s far too much fan-service. The backgrounds are lazy. There are zero good visual gags. Less than zero if you dock points for every bad visual gag.

Sound:

This has some actors I really respect. Ueda Kana and Hamada Kenji are both fine actors with some strong roles behind them, for example. But the acting in this is awful. It’s all very exaggerated. Very annoying. No subtlety, nuance or skill on display. The music is kind of bad, but less bad than any other element of the series.

Ho-yay:

There’s a gay joke involving Yusuke’s horrible friends getting locked into a hot room. There’s also a moment towards the end where a bunch of girls confess romantic feelings to Reika.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. If you want your characters to come across as “lovable scamps” you can’t have them be this irredeemably horrible. Even if you are solely trying to appeal to Incels.
  2. If you want a convoluted romance involving time travel, reincarnation and forbidden, cursed love, you need to explain the situation to the audience. Giving us ten seconds at the start of every episode saying that the leads had a forbidden love just leaves a lot of questions like “why?” or “what happened exactly?” And if you don’t want to provide even a cursory explanation, maybe take another route.
  3. A lot of the tension for a series like this involves attachment to the characters. Which means you shouldn’t have a bunch of rubbish characters with virtually no personality.

Final Thoughts:

Green Green is the worst comedy I’ve seen since I watched Sunabouzu. The attempts at comedy are rubbish. The characters are horrible and obnoxious, the plot is a bunch of nonsense the acting and art are both badly done. It just has nothing to recommend it unless you’re an Incel and you can really relate to being egregiously creepy around women for no good reason. I’m rating this one at a 1/10.

One Punch Man 2: Heavy Punches, Light Humour

One Punch Man is one of those big franchises that I watched and didn’t really see the appeal of. It was fine, but the predictable nature of it and same over-used punchline just didn’t work for me. Let’s see if the second series does anything to improve on that.

Story:

We open with a monster challenging King, the supposed strongest hero, on behalf of something called the Monster Association. King runs away which leads Saitama to discover that he’s actually an otaku fraud. Meanwhile, a bunch of villainous humans are being gathered by the Hero Association to aid them with a prophesied great disaster. Things go to hell when one of them, Garo, declares himself to be on the side of monsters and attacks everyone gathered. From there, the series deals with the threat of the self-proclaimed hero hunter Garo and the monster association.

The biggest issue with the series is that it’s largely build up. By the end, neither of the big two threats have been resolved. And what makes it frustrating is the fact that this series is so predictable. Because of that, you can pretty much figure out what’s going to happen. Here are my predictions for the next series having not seen it nor looked up anything about it: I would guess that the heroes are going to gather to fight the Monster Association. Saitama won’t be included because he’s not S-rank or he’ll run late. They’ll start out doing well, then the heavy hitting monsters will show up. The heroes will start being beaten badly, things will look bleak. Saitama will finally make his appearance, beating all the biggest, baddest monsters with one punch ending with their leader. Garo will escape the monster association in the confusion. King will most likely be given credit.

The predictable nature of the series is also major problem with the comedy. In general, comedy works best when you get a punchline that’s unexpected. But all the jokes in this are kind of obvious. You can pretty much predict the punchline thirty seconds before it happens if not faster.

About the best I can say for the narrative is that there’s nothing it does badly. While it is overly predictable in every regard, there’s nothing that makes you facepalm or otherwise ask if they’re being serious with this, that, or the other development. It’s all very harmless and acceptable.

Characters:

This series continues the big issue with the first. Most of these characters are very dull and not compelling. In the first series, the one bright point I gave the characterisation were the interactions betwixt Genos and Saitama. In this one, I can’t really do that because it’s kind of downplayed. So, there’s nothing interesting in terms of characterisation. The closest you get is Garo. The man who wants to be a monster. His back story is a little interesting, kind of.

Art:

I will maintain that the art is the best part of the series. There are a lot of creative designs. The fight scenes are always well done when they don’t involve Saitama or before he shows up.

Sound:

The acting is still completely passable. Not good, not bad. Basically acceptable. I think the big thing that holds this franchise back in that regard is just the lack of compelling characters. You’ll hear Hayami Saori deliver a few lines and then vaguely remember her character exists but not really care. The music is fine, I guess. I don’t remember it that well.

Ho-yay:

There’s very little. The stereotypically gay character shows up for all of five minutes. So, I guess there’s that for you.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Use surprise to your advantage. Don’t make everything that’s going to happen so obvious.
  2. Instead of having a huge cast of nothing characters, try having a smaller cast of substantial characters.
  3. Put some passion into the work. Maybe it’s just me, but when I watch this series I don’t get the impression that the writer, actors, or composer really care that much.

Final Thoughts:

There’s the second series of One Punch Man. It’s, to be blunt, very boring. The narrative, comedy, characters, acting and music all fall pretty flat. So, I’m giving it a 5/10.