Yami Shibai 2: There are still a million more series of this

Yami Shibai is a pretty decently sized horror franchise with nine series and a special. All from ILCA, the studio behind the unimpressive Kowabon. I have reviewed the first series. So, I thought it might be interesting to look at the second for this year’s horror anime month.

Story:

This series follows the same pattern as the first. We open with an old narrator calling on nearby children to join him for the show. Then there’s a horror short for about four minutes and the ending credits.

The biggest issue remains the same. The stories largely don’t have much in terms of subversion. There are maybe two or three where you can’t readily figure out where the episode is going a half a minute in. Which does significantly waken the impact.

That being said, I do appreciate the rapid fire format. I do think it works well for horror and the stories themselves feel like sitting around a campfire and telling ghost stories. Maybe they aren’t the best stories but if you’re in the right mood for it and the ambience is good, it’s an enjoyable time. The pacing is also well executed. ILCA is good at utilising their time well and using build up to make that final moment before the ending credits roll pop.

Characters:

I maintain that the narrator is pointless. I get that they’re going for a “this old man is telling the stories” thing, but all he does is say “step up, this is the story of a college student” or some such thing. He doesn’t provide any useful narration or really add anything. You could literally have the same impact without him.

In general, the characters are fine. They don’t have much depth but they serve their purpose well enough. You can’t reasonably expect much more than that given the very limited time each episode has.

Art:

I have to admit, the children’s paper puppet aesthetic is kind of growing on me. It might not be an ideal look for a horror series, but it does work with the overall idea of the series as a street performance.

Sound:

The acting is decent enough. It’s hard to tell if the actors would be really good if they had more depth to their characters or not, simply because every character is only there for one episode. They kind of sound like they’re doing the bare minimum though. The music is fine, nothing spectacular.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any to be seen.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Stop wasting time with the narrator.
  2. Break away from expectations. Yes, this is a horror series for younger audiences. But if you think younger audiences can’t figure out where you’re going with a formulaic story I would say you’re under-estimating them. I think those youngsters who are a bit sharper and are somewhat familiar with the genre will see the scares coming most of the time.
  3. Give the Actors some stronger direction. Even with the low characterisation, the performances could be stronger.

Final Thoughts:

Like the first instalment in the series, this is okay. If you want some rapid fire horror that isn’t much of a time investment, you may enjoy it. If you want subversion, complex characters or a story with some meat to it, you’ll be better off with something else. I’m giving it a 6/10.

Gibiate: Completely Inept

Gibiate is an original horror series created by the studios Elle & L-a-unch Box. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s probably because they both have very scant outputs. Since it’s horror anime month and this was on my request list, let’s dive in.

Story:

Our narrative is set in the far off distant future of 2030. A mysterious virus is transforming humans into monsters called Gibia and it’s spread through stings. Our main heroine is Kathleen Funada, an older teenager in a small group of scrappy survivors. The situation changes for them somewhat when two people appear in their time from the past. The Sengoku period, to be precise. They join Kathleen and take on the mission of helping escort the group to an old research facility where their scientist will hopefully be able to make a vaccine.

There are a lot of story problems with this series. I’m going to start with a huge one that’s also a spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers. Okay? So, it’s revealed at the tail end of the series that the Gibia virus and the characters travelling from the past are both caused by alien technology. Which is basically the lazy equivalent of “A Wizard did it” in terms of explanations. What makes it especially egregious is that there’s no foreshadowing or build up for the revelation. It comes across as something they pulled out of their asses since the series was almost over rather than something that was planned the entire time.

There are more issues than that. There are a lot of pointless flashbacks that are meant to develop the warriors from the past, but they’re just kind of cliché sequences that don’t relate to the actual main plot. There are also a lot of dumb moments, like Kathleen taking time to play dress up with the travelers, including dying the hair of one, during this crisis situation. Yeah, humanity is in a bad situation and there are literal monsters nearby that could attack at any moment, but you’ve gotta take some time to play dress up.

There are also some sequences that rely on you, the viewer, just not using your brain. Like, there’s a scene where one of the characters is about to be stung for about five minutes while anyone who could help is getting blocked from doing so, only for a new character to show up out of nowhere to save them. How the Gibia didn’t sting that character while they were defenceless for five minutes, I don’t know. Then there’s the way that Garrote wire, swords and spiked clubs are shown to be more effective at dealing with these powerful monsters that fight at close distances, than guns are. Don’t get me wrong, I like swords and other medieval weapons in media but I like them to make sense in the way they’re used. There’s also a moment where the highly trained ninja, warrior monk and everyone else in the group fails to notice a giant lizard monster standing right near them. I’m not a trained warrior and I still notice when a beetle gets into my flat. How do these guys not notice a giant lizard monster? Then we have the samurai, Sensui. There are two moments in the story where he conveniently gets injured with no sign of a scratch on him and can’t help the others at a crucial moment. Hooray for plot contrivances. You also have to love the way that they can always find power for computers, lights and such in this desolate hellscape. I guess some offscreen survivors are running the power plant.

About the best thing I can say for the series is that, at the very least, they aren’t afraid to have some tragedy and let major characters die. Sometimes they do it in stupid ways, but I can somewhat appreciate a horror that isn’t afraid to lose major characters.

Characters:

This is actually a pretty big issue with this series. They introduce a lot of characters, including a second group of survivors for the main group to encounter, and none of them are interesting, complex or endearing in any way. As a consequence, there really isn’t any reason to care when something “tragic” happens and there’s no reason to be invested in their journey. Even the major characters, Kathleen, Sensui, & Kenroku are very bland.

Art:

Do you know those old toys where you get various animal parts and you can combine them in strange ways? Well, the Gibia look like they were created by children playing with those toys. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these things look really stupid and it definitely doesn’t help that the CGI for the Gibia is rubbish. The human character designs aren’t great either. They kind of remind me of early Image comic characters but with more accurate proportions and pupils in their eyes. The action sequences are outright terrible. They tend to be paced awkwardly and involve a lot of very slow hits.

Sound:

The acting is fine. In spite of the problems with the character writing, Kakihara Tetsuya, Fujii Yukiyo, Hazama Michio, Touchi Hiroki, Nanami Hiroki and the others are decent enough. The music from legendary game composer Koshiro Yuzo is actually kind of sub-par. It’s no exaggeration to say that this may have the worst compositions of any of his professional works. This dude worked on Ys, Etrian Odyssey, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Smash Brothers and that 7th Dragon game I reviewed. It’s actually surprising to see him put out compositions like this.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. This series really doesn’t need the second group of survivors. The time they spend with them could be much better used actually developing the main group.
  2. You really need better explanations for your major plot points than “a wizard did it.”
  3. If you want character deaths to matter, you really need characters who are interesting or endearing enough for the audience to care.

Final Thoughts:

This isn’t one of the worst horror anime I’ve ever seen. That’s about as much credit as I can give it, because it is pretty bad. I’m going to give this one a 2/10. Hopefully, the rest of horror anime month will go a bit better. We’ll see.

Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore- Madhouse shat themselves again

Madhouse is a studio with varying levels of quality to their anime. I’ve talked about their work with Marvel in particular before with Blade being the only passable one and both Iron Man & X-men being bad. Well, they also did an Iron Man OVA and that’s what we’re looking at today. Why? Because I’m a comic nerd and even if Madhouse absolutely fucks it again I’ll have plenty to say about it.

Story:

The narrative starts simply enough. Iron Man is planning to launch a satellite that can be used to monitor the entire planet, but totally won’t be used to watch you pleasure yourself, as a crime prevention tool. The launch is attacked by a group of terrorists and War Machine is seemingly killed in an explosion. Though the satellite is launched. The apparent death of his close friend has Tony determined to track down the teenager responsible but Nick Fury doesn’t want him going out on his own because… Metroid Dread is getting released soon. Naturally, Tony doesn’t have time for Nick’s shit and leaves any way.

There are a lot of narrative problems in this OVA. The first big one is that the whole conflict between Tony and SHIELD is very flimsy. It actually reminds me of Civil War when SHIELD decides to arrest Captain America because he says he won’t help them round up his friends. Why do terrible comic writers always force conflicts between heroes by having someone over-react for no reason? It’s like their main plot didn’t have anything to it so they threw in Tony bickering with Nick just to fill time. Seriously, just because Hawkeye and Black Widow started as Iron Man villains that doesn’t mean they need to be pitted against him for no reason.

The antagonist’s plan is also a huge nonsensical mess. We find out in the second half that he needs Iron Man’s satellite for his plan but he tries to stop its launch because… Gail Simone made Catman a respectable character. To make things worse, most of the screen time with this guy is him rambling about either “the evils of technology” or how everyone else is an inferior relic of the pat because his technology makes him superior. Yeah, those two topics totally go together.

There’s also some continuity problems. There’s an injured character who we see with shrapnel literally embedded in his skin and, minutes later, he returns to the fray with no injuries whatsoever. The ending is also kind of shit. I don’t want to delve too deeply into spoiler territory, but there’s an event which should cause one of the major characters to either die or be severely injured but he ends up without a scratch because… Doctor Doom had a secret jetpack belt. The “romance” between Tony and Pepper also bothers me. And it’s not just because the comics rejected a possible romance between them and had her get involved with Happy Hogan. It’s that he’s her boss and the power difference makes it creepy. Even the way they “flirt” with each other is awkward and super uncomfortable. There’s a point where she talks to him like he’s a child and another where he suggests a romantic trip and she asks if it’s “an order.” The whole thing is just very skeevy.

Characters:

The characterisation is really bad. We have Nick Fury deciding to keep Tony a prisoner aboard SHIELD’s helicarrier for no reason. Tony acts like a smug moron. James makes an offhanded joke about Tony being up late drinking. And if you’re not familiar with the comics and don’t know why that’s a dick move I’ll explain. Tony Stark is a recovering alcoholic. James knows this fact and should be more sensitive to the situation than that since Tony is supposed to be his close friend. Hawkeye, the Black Widow and the Punisher are just boring in this. The antagonist is very inconsistently written with shifting motivations that don’t make sense.

Art:

The art is one aspect that I can largely praise. There are some really nice action sequences in this. The characters look good. My only minor issue is that the costumes they have for Nick Fury and Hawkeye suck. Nick Fury traded in his signature blue and white outfit for a black trench coat. Yeah, that’s a more interesting look. Hawkeye has a similar bland downgrade. Instead of the classic purple and blue, he’s sporting a boring black costume with a few red stripes. Now, I’ve said this before when talking about comic adaptations that change the costumes, but it bears repeating. Don’t change a classic costume that looks good for something boring. Just use the iconic costumes.

Sound:

The acting isn’t that bad. Fujiwara Keiji, Tezuka Hideaki, Yasumoto Hiroki, Sawashiro Miyuki and the others do fine. Especially when you factor in how bad the character writing is. The music is whatever. It was done by Takahashi Tetsuya, who also did the music for the other Marvel anime. And all of them have had boring music.

Ho-yay:

There is none.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Get an editor who actually cares to check your continuity and make sure it’s all consistent.
  2. If you’re going to have heroes fight against each other, you actually need a good reason. Not something incredibly flimsy like in this.
  3. Actually read the comics. I have some Iron Man issues from the 70s and 80s that you can borrow to figure out what these characters should be acting like.

Final Thoughts:

This OVA is pretty horrendous. The characterisation is poorly done. The entire plot is a mess. The villain’s motivations are stupid and inconsistent. The writing in general is just a train wreck. If you don’t care about writing and just want to see some cool action scenes, you might enjoy watching it. Otherwise, I can’t recommend it. I’m giving it a 2/10.

Fairy Gone 2: Still needs better characters

I’ve talked about Fairy Gone. It was one of those series that had potential with its concept, but bland execution. Well, it’s time we looked at the second series and see if it improves in that regard.

Story:

We pick up where the last series left off. Marlya’s old friend Veronica wants to take revenge on mass murderer, Ray Dawn. Dorothea is trying to protect him and cleaning up after the attack from the climax of the last series. While all this is going on, another piece of the Black Fairy Tome is found and Dorothea, the terrorist organisation Gui Carlin and the shadowy Eins Order all want to acquire it.

There are a couple issues with the narrative. One is that the head of the Eins Order basically draws attention to himself unnecessarily. Seriously, the man is in a position where he’s going to get the piece of the Black Fairy tome after Dorothea retrieves it but he sends people to get involved and draw a huge amount of attention to him. It’s almost as bad as the antagonist of Tiger & Bunny exposing himself for no reason. Aside from that, the main issue with the series is one of the same we had in the first. The pacing is awkward and it doesn’t elaborate on some of its big plot points properly.

That being said, there are a few notable areas where the writing does improve. First off, the climax is much stronger in this one. The series also continues with its survivor’s guilt theme and starts incorporating this idea of moving away from past tragedies and looking to the future. Which is a theme that goes very well with the first. And the whole concept is still a good one with this group fighting criminals and terrorists using their Personae… I mean Stands…. I mean Faeries.

Characters:

I have the same issue with the characters that I had in the first. Aside from the major characters and the themes of survivor’s guilt & Moving On, there isn’t much depth or intrigue to the protagonists, except for Marlya. Marlya’s back story, her interactions with Veronica and the way she contributes to those themes does elevate her. The rest are just bog standard. Wolfran and Veronica are still the strongest characters in the series and this one does do a good job of fleshing them out more. Veronica & Marlya still have the only interpersonal dynamic that I actually like. And not just because it’s really gay. All the stuff you get about their childhood and them trying to reconnect is actually pretty good. I would even go so far as to say if the rest of the cast had greatly reduced roles and the focus was on those two, this anime would be really good.

Art:

The artwork is still a strong point of the series. The characters look good. The backgrounds are nicely detailed. The designs for the various Personae are well done. The action sequences are very nicely done.

Sound:

I’ll say basically the same thing I said for the first series. The actors give strong performances, in spite of most of them not having much character complexity to work with. The music, though mediocre on its own, is used very well.

Ho-yay:

Marlya and Veronica’s dynamic gets pretty les-yayriffic without becoming blatant enough that it’s basically canon.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. The series legitimately would benefit from dropping most characters to very minor roles and focusing on Veronica and Marlya. And there’s a very simple reason for it. They’re the only characters with a compelling dynamic while most of the other characters are a bit bland in general.
  2. The series could definitely do a better job with the pacing and extrapolating on its plot points.
  3. there’s no reason for the antagonist to draw attention to himself the way he does. And it’s frustrating because it’s an easy fix. Have attention drawn to him by another source and let him catch wind of it. You can still have him clear out by the time Dorothea arrives without looking like an inept dumbass.

Final Thoughts:

I do think the second series is a bit stronger than the first but it also shares a lot of the same problems. Most of the characters are very flat archetypes. The pacing is all over the place. There are some dumb elements where the writers clearly weren’t thinking. But it did improve on some of its characters. The climax is well done. The artwork and acting are both strong and there are some compelling themes. So, I’ll go up to a 6/10.

Kuttsukiboshi: Toxicity

Kuttsukiboshi is a short anime written, directed and animated by Ishikawa Naoya. The episodes were released in 2010 and 2012. Let’s take a look at it.

Story:

Kawakami Kiiko has psychic powers she gained in an accident. The only one who knows is Saitou Aaya, the girl she has a crush on. Fortunately for her, the feelings seem to be reciprocated. Unfortunately, there’s some shit going on in Saitou’s personal life that could threaten what they have.

Let’s start with the story problems in this. The first glaringly noticeable issue is that Kiiko’s psychic powers are a lazy plot device that only really come into play in any significant fashion when there’s some kind of situation that Ishikawa can’t figure out a good solution for and he just resorts to some good old-fashioned lazy writing. The second obvious issue is that the romance in this romance story is pretty rubbish. The whole relationship between the girls is built on contrivances and it quickly devolves into an unhealthy, toxic mess and the issues that make it problematic are never addressed in any kind of meaningful way. Another issue, though less egregious, is that the ending sucks. The whole thing feels rushed, lazy and unsatisfying.

Characters:

There are only three characters worth mentioning. Kiiko, Aaya and Aaya’s older brother. None of them are complex or particularly interesting. But what really ruins the characters in this is that their relationship dynamics are very stilted and just badly executed. It’s almost like the whole thing was written by an alien entity that doesn’t understand human psychology or behaviour. I’m not saying that Ishikawa is definitely a Zognoid, but he’s certainly a bad writer.

Art:

The fact that this was animated by a single person really shows. The artwork and animation quality look like they were done by a sub-par flash animator. The animation is choppy and a bit slow. The artwork is pretty lazy in general. And I’m sure someone is going to say that I should cut Ishikawa some slack under the circumstances but, being an eldritch horror, I don’t do mercy.

Sound:

The acting and music are actually the best part of this OVA. That isn’t to say that Imai Asami & Isshiki Miku are good. Their performances are definitely a bit awkward. That being said, they aren’t nearly as bad as any other element in this work. The music is just mediocre.

Ho-yay:

There is a lot of ho-yay. Lots of kissing scenes and the girls are blatantly having sex. So, if you love yuri scenes, don’t mind ugly art and can tolerate a badly written, toxic romance, you may find some entertainment from that.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Maybe try observing normal human relationships even once before writing them.
  2. Magical realism elements like psychic powers can be fine. The problem is when they aren’t integrated into the story well and when they’re used as a crutch. Which is, unfortunately, the case here.
  3. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with exploring a toxic relationship, there needs to be some awareness. This completely lacks that awareness.

Final Thoughts:

This may not be the worst shoujo ai work I’ve ever reviewed, but it’s definitely down there. Rubbish romance. Terrible characterisation. Poor artwork and just horrendous writing in general. My final rating is going to be a 2/10.

No Guns Life Series 2: Still not good

No Guns Life is a Madhouse anime from 2019. It was pretty unimpressive. The first series was like a bog-standard “edgy” 90s comic. To the point where it could have almost been written and drawn by Rob Liefeld. Except that the artists have a somewhat passable sense of human proportions. This time around, we’re looking at the sequel from mid 2020. Is it better than the first series? Maybe.

Story:

We open with an unexpected attack from the terrorist organisation Spitsbergen. Why they named their terrorist group after a scenic area of Norway that means “Pointed Mountains” I don’t know. In any case, they’re after the data Juuzou acquired at the end of the last series. And, to get it, they capture Chris & Tetsurou. Things become more complicated when Mary’s brother surfaces as part of the group.

This has a lot of the same issues as the first series. It still makes no sense that Juuzou can’t pull his own trigger. The writer did know that humans can reach the backs of our necks, right? And I will reiterate that it’s not an authorisation thing because we have and do see the trigger pulled by teenagers. The series continues to suffer from severe pacing issues with it throwing plot points at you hard and fast. Like they think all of us have uncontrollable ADHD and won’t be able to sit still while they extrapolate on anything or flesh out their plot points. And I can say, as someone with ADHD, we can actually pay attention to plots and appreciate slow, atmospheric moments.

I will give this series credit in one regard over the first, the ending is notably better. This one actually has a major confrontation against a foe who’s been built up for a while. I also do like some of the flashbacks and the insights they give us on the characters. They also do help flesh out the world a little bit.

Characters:

The main characters are slightly improved over the clichés of the first series. Juuzou, Mary and Tetsurou all graduate from bland archetypes to bland archetypes with slight variations. We also get to see a small amount of humanity from Pepper and Seven, though the Berühren organisation is still cartoonishly evil. And has a stupid name.

Art:

The “extreme” 90s aesthetic is back for the cyborgs with the bizarre visual characteristics for the human looking characters that just look out of place. The series does still have some smooth animation and decent action sequences though.

Sound:

The acting is still the strongest element of the series. Numakura Manami, Suwabe Junichi, Yamashita Daiki, Minase Inori and Sanpei Yuuko are all strong actors. The music is still okay, not anything special.

Ho-yay:

Still none to be found.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. The 90s aesthetic for character designs isn’t good. They weren’t good in the 90s and they certainly don’t hold up thirty years later.
  2. Your evil corporation needs some redeeming qualities. Yes, it’s a common cyberpunk trope for there to be a powerful corporation with shady practices and dark designs at the top. But it’s not common for them to be basically the ruthless terrorist organisation COBRA. With all the subtlety and nuance thereof.
  3. Take your time. A story works best when it has slow moments to build atmosphere and when the threads that are introduced get developed. This series has a problem with just throwing a shit tonne of sub-plots at you, barely developing any of them and just rushing through developments. It doesn’t do a good job of building intrigue or investment.

Final Thoughts:

To its credit, No Guns Life 2 is a slight improvement over the first. There are some major characters who have gone a step above being archetypes and the ending is actually somewhat satisfying. That being said, it still shares a lot of the same problem as your standard Image comic and I don’t really recommend it. Unless you’re someone who thinks that the 90s had the best writing and visual aesthetics for comics. My rating is going to be a 5/10.

August Bonus Review: Clue

Back in 1985 Paramount released the film everyone was clambering for, based off of the popular board game Cluedo. It fell short of making a profit in theatres but has become a cult classic in more recent years. We’re talking enough of a cult classic that there’s been talk of making a noticeably inferior remake for a while. I’ve looked at a few cult classics like Event Horizon & The Thing so, this is somewhat in my comfort zone. Let’s see if it’s worthy like The Thing was.

Story:

Our film opens with six people, given the fake names Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White & Ms. Scarlet, all converging on an old manor. They find out that they’re all being blackmailed by Mr. Boddy thanks to his butler, Wadsworth. Before long, Mr. Boddy turns up dead and the group has to figure out who did it, where and with what. All while various staff and visitors keep turning up dead.

The only real issue with the film is that the mystery elements aren’t great. It’s one of those cases where you may guess what happened correctly for one of the three endings, and it sounds good when Wadsworth is explaining everything but you as a member of the audience don’t have many actual clues to work off of so your best guess is going to be just that, a guess.

That being said, I don’t really think the film is trying to be a murder mystery. I think it’s trying to be a dark comedy with a murder mystery backdrop. And, in that regard, it executes it brilliantly. The dialogue is quick and clever. The film is replete with hilarious scenes. The writing team of Lynn and Landis knew which elements of the board game and the murder mystery genre could be mined for comedy and how to do it without being crass or tone deaf. The comedy is easily on par with some of Mel Brooks’ best films and he’s the best comedic director of all time.

Characters:

The strength of the characters comes from their strong interactions and banter. I also appreciate that every single person in the main cast has a motive. Which really makes for the perfect Cardassian mystery. They aren’t a complex or deep group but they make for a brilliant comedic cast.

Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:

The blocking and movements are all excellently done. The sets they use for the Clue Mansion are actually incredible. And you have to respect the dedication they put into making the layout match the game’s board. There are some strong visual gags and a little bit of slapstick that works very well.

Acting & Music:

They could not have possibly gotten a better cast. Tim Curry, Madeline Khan, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Martin Mull, Eileen Brennan & Michael McKean are all absolutely hilarious. They nail their lines and movements. The only improvised line in the film comes from Madeline Khan and it’s exceptionally funny. John Morris’ music is really good.

Final Thoughts:

Clue is an exceptional comedy. Far moreso than it has any right to be given that it’s based on a board game of all things. And I’m not just saying that because I like my comedy a bit dark. The witty repartee is phenomenal. The actors play off of each other very strongly delivering both amazing character interactions and comedic genius. It’s highly quotable and just a delight to watch. In fact, I’m going to rate it at a 10/10. It’s a comedy I will happily recommend to anyone.

Mobile Suit Gundam III- Encounters in Space

I’ve looked at the first two films based off of the original Gundam series. And now we’re on the finale, Encounters in Space. So far, they haven’t been good. They’ve been pretty trite and overly predictable. I’d like to see them end on a high note, but I don’t expect it given what we’ve seen thus far.

Story:

So, when we left off our heroes were leaving Earth in White Base with the Zeon forces in hot pursuit and attacking the Jaburo headquarters behind them. Sayla also had a quick encounter with her missing brother who happens to be Char of the Zeon forces. Holidays will definitely be awkward for their family.

In this film, we open with White Base having returned to space and engaging in battles with Zeon forces there. The conflict is coming to a head and both sides are in an increasingly desperate state. The Zeon have a new super weapon and White Base is the lynch pin in the Federation attack against it.

Let’s start with the biggest issues with the film. The most obvious being that, like the previous films, its way too predictable. Any major character who’s going to die has an obvious death flag. The narrative itself has no unexpected twists. In addition to that, the bad romance writing gets particularly egregious here. There’s a weird love pentagon thing going with Mirai, Bright and two other dudes who weren’t in the prior films and only have minor roles in this one. So, it’s kind of pointless and doesn’t contribute anything except some contrived romance melodrama. Because that’s what we need to add intrigue to this story about intergalactic war. Speaking of pointless nonsense, Amuro’s father shows up in this for no good reason. Amuro just kind of speaks to him briefly, realises he’s suffering from some kind of brain damage and then acts like the whole thing never happened.

You may recall that when I reviewed the first film I mentioned that it tried to make both sides sympathetic but failed because the Zeon are basically portrayed as space Nazis. Well, this film exacerbates that perception by outright comparing Gihren, leader of Zeon’s forces, to Adolf Hitler. So, the comparison is deliberate and they’re still trying to show the Zeon as somewhat sympathetic… Suddenly, it makes a lot of sense that the original creator of Gundam, Tomino Yoshiyuki, also directed, created and scripted both Brain Powerd and Garzey no Tsubasa.

The most interesting element is still Char’s whole arc although it’s kind of a letdown with how it ultimately concludes.

Characters:

The big problem with the characters as a whole is still that they’re duller than a plastic spoon. Amuro is also really getting on my nerves at this point. There’s a part of the film where he encounters someone on the opposing side who says it’s weird that he’s fighting without any actual reason. He doesn’t deny the fact that he has no reason for fighting but still thinks it’s petty that she’s fighting out of a sense of gratitude and loyalty towards someone else. And while watching that exchange all I could think was “at least she has some motivation.” Seriously, this guy just admitted to not having any real reason to fight and he thinks she’s the one being petty in that situation? Fuck off.

Art:

So, we have art and mecha designs that haven’t really aged very well. If I’m being honest, the only mech designs in this I kind of like are Ball and Big Zam and it’s not because they’re good designs. It’s because they’re stupid in a way that kind of makes me laugh. Ball is literally a tiny ball-shaped mech. Big Zam is a massive saucer with no manoeuvrability attached to a pair of huge legs for no apparent reason. Seriously, what purpose do the legs serve? All the weapons seem to be in the saucer section. Is it supposed to be so that it can kick or step on other mechs and call them scum?

Sound:

The acting is fine, even with Amuro’s whininess. Inoue You and Ikeda Shuuichi have the strongest performances. The music is and has been the most consistently quality element in these films.

Ho-yay:

There’s none. No one is Trowaing anyone else’s Quatre.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. You can’t make your antagonists sympathetic while also making a clear comparison to them and Nazis.
  2. Amuro needs stronger motivation. He comes across as someone who’s letting themselves get dragged along into a conflict that they have no strong feelings about.
  3. If you suck at writing romance, just don’t have romance. Trust me, the fans will ship characters they think mesh well regardless and you certainly don’t need romantic drama to add intrigue to a story about an intergalactic war involving mecha. You just need better writing for the intergalactic war involving mecha.

Final Thoughts:

This is not a strong ending. Not only are all the problems with these films still present, but they’re actually accentuated with pointless scenes and a bunch of poorly executed romance. And because of that, I’m not giving this part of the trilogy an average rating. I’m giving it a 3/10.

Heya Camp: Comfortable

Yuru Camp is a fantastic anime with a high degree of cuteness. Heya Camp is a sequel series from 2020. Except the episodes are only three and a half minutes long with about thirty seconds of that being the ending theme tune.

Story:

The basic narrative is that Aoi and Chiaki take Nadeshiko on a stamp rally to various locations in Yamanashi and various shenanigans ensue.

The narrative is basically designed like an episode of the first series I reviewed. It has a lot of endearing, enjoyable moments. It also features some good gags and a lot of cute moments. I also did enjoy the conclusion to the stamp rally. One issue I had is that having an ending theme tune when you only have three and a half minutes to work with is kind of a waste. And that’s especially true when you’re spending a seventh of the time on that theme. If they really wanted to make better use of their time, they should have used it for some cute visual sequences instead of just showing Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko looking up at Fuji with some minor breeze effects.

Characters:

This anime has a great cast of characters with strong interactions and relationship dynamics. The one thing that may be disappointing to fans is that Rin, one of the most important characters from the first series, only has a minor guest appearance in this one. We also don’t see much of Ena. We do get some nice sequences with Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko though. As well as some insight into Aoi and Chiaki’s friendship.

Art:

This anime has gorgeous nature sequences. C-Station does an excellent job with the backgrounds and on adorable dogs. There’s a lot of attention to detail and the characters do also look nice. The only let down is that the visuals for the ending theme tune get boring very quickly.

Sound:

The actresses are really good. Hanamori Yumiri, Toyosaki Aki, Hara Sayuri & Touyama Nao all make their triumphant returns. The music is solid.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t as much in this as there is in the series proper. And it’s not just because the episodes are much shorter. A lot of it comes down to a simple fact. The bulk of the les-yay in the first series came from the dynamic betwixt Rin & Nadeshiko and in this they barely share any screen time. There’s still a bit of les-yay when they do and there’s some between Aoi and Chiaki. So, that’s nice.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Use the ending theme tune wisely. Just add some visual gags or cute moments instead of having a barely animated image.
  2. The episodes could have used a little extra time.
  3. A little more les-yay would’ve been nice.

Final Thoughts:

Heya Camp is an enjoyable little series. Considering the time constraints, they couldn’t have done a much better job with it. It’s well worth watching and doesn’t even take as long as two episodes of a normal length anime. I’ll give it an 8/10.

Film Festival Week: Non Non Biyori: Vacation

Here we are at the close of another year’s film festival. I’ve decided to close things with a look at a film based off of an anime I’ve reviewed, Non Non Biyori. It’s a very solid slice of life and I honestly just wanted to see more of it.

Story:

We open with our girls, Renge, Hotaru, Natsumi & Komari, just hanging out and trying to make the most of their summer vacation before it ends. That’s when they spot Miss Candy Store, Kaede, and Renge’s oldest sister, Kazuho, driving to the department store. The four of them convince the older women to take them along due to Kaede’s soft spot for Renge, picking up Natsumi & Komari’s older brother on the way. While at the store, the older brother wins a raffle and gets four tickets to Okinawa. Naturally, they all go along with Konomi and Hikage.

The narrative is pretty simple and it’s also really well executed. The whole thing is very cute, full of funny moments and just a fantastically executed slice of life. It has strong pacing, a lot of memorable parts and a little side story about Natsumi experiencing her first love with Aoi, the girl who works at the inn.

Characters:

My biggest issue with the characters is with the side character, Konomi. She just doesn’t have much personality nor does she really contribute much to the humour. I have the same issue with her in the series proper. She has that one memorable scene where she and Hotaru talk about things that go over Komari’s head and make her feel childish. Most of the scenes she’s in would be just as good without her. Aside from that, this is a great cast with strong interactions and great comedic chemistry.

Art:

The character designs are good and the animation moves smoothly. Even the ending card is super cute. But where Silver Link really kills it is with the backgrounds and nature scenes. There’s always so much detail and effort behind them. I could pretty much make any nature still from this film my background and it would look really nice. I also appreciate that when you see Renge’s drawings they look like a child’s drawings.

Sound:

All the actors from the series proper do a fantastic job. There are a lot of talented ladies in this cast. The main person who joins them is Shimoji Shino as Aoi. You may also remember her as Beaver from Kemono Friends. The music is really nice too. Very pleasant and soothing.

Ho-yay:

Hotaru’s blatant crush on Komari is still going strong. In addition to that, we have Natsumi and Aoi. They have that dynamic where it very strongly comes across as attraction. Right down to them getting all flustered and blushing a lot. I will say, their dynamic could have worked a bit better if we’d gotten a few more scenes with them.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. They could do something with Konomi’s character.
  2. The ending credits could have shown cute vacation snapshots instead of scenes from the film. Provided a little more impact.
  3. We could have stood to see a little more of Aoi.

Final Thoughts:

I actually enjoyed this film a lot. It’s pretty much everything you want out of a slice of life. It’s endearing, entertaining, and very adorable. It also does feature some of the best nature scenes I’ve seen in an anime. So, I’m going to go so far as to give it a 9/10.