Author Archives: ktulu007

About ktulu007

For me, writing is the greatest passion and sharing what I work on is a privilege. I write a lot about LGBT characters because so often the media we see with them is about their sexuality or gender identity or they’re the token LGBT character in a group of straight characters. So, I try to write a fleshed out character who’s part of a story about a fantasy quest or a star ship crew and happens to be LGBT. Comments are always appreciated. Just don't make me get sarcastic. Or do, I like being sarcastic.

Ktulu’s 6th Annual Awards & Shaming Ceremony

Welcome, Everyone, to this year’s rewards. Where we celebrate the best anime I’ve reviewed for the year and take shots at the worst. This year, we’ll be doing something a little different. At the end, after the individual rewards, I’ll be doing a list of the five best and worst overall. Now, as usual we’re covering everything from February 15th 2018 up to this week’s review of Hybrid Child.

We’ll move right into things with the best and worst of our bonus reviews. And no, we won’t be counting the bonus reviews for the top and bottom five. The list of potential candidates is: A Hard Day’s Night, Avengers: United They Stand, The Black Cauldron, Blake’s Seven Series One, C.O.P.S, D.E.B.S, Detroit: Become Human, The Hulk, Maximum Carnage, Pryde of the X-men, The Rescuers, Secret Six: Villains United, Silver Surfer, Star Trek: Next Gen/ X-men Second Contact, Stories of Ibis, The Thing

The Worst in Bonus:

It probably seems like this will be difficult since the lowest score I gave a Bonus review this year was a 3/10, and there were four things to get that score. However, it’s actually easy because there’s one thing that almost got lower and I still feel a “3” was a bit generous for. So, the worst of award goes to Detroit: Become Human. A terrible game with little game play and the worst toss in terms of writing, but it earned a merely bad score solely because its graphics are great.

The Best in Bonus:

This one was much tougher to decide. There were four 9/10 reviews this year and all of them have a lot to recommend them. We have thirteen issues of one of Gail Simone’s best comic runs, possibly John Carpenter’s best film, one of Disney’s best films & a brilliant collection of short stories with a cohesive narrative tying them together. Out of all those works, I ended up deciding to give it to Secret Six: Villains United.

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While any of those four could have gotten it, I think that’s the one that had the biggest burden in terms of making the audience care and something had to be the deciding factor.

And the anime reward candidates are: A-ko the Versus, Aggressive Retsuko, Ajin series 2, Aki no Kanade, Ayane-chan High Kick, Bio Hunter, Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail, Boku no Hero Academia, Citrus, Cowboy Bebop, D-Frag, Dirty Pair Flash, Dragonball: Majinjou no Nemuri Hime, Dragon Half, Dragoon, Elf wo Karu Mono-tachi, Figure 17: Tsubasa & Hikaru, Flying Witch, Fortune Quest, Futari wa Precure Splash Star: Tick Tack Kiki Ippatsu, Galaxy Angel 2, Garo: Honoo no Kokuin, Godzilla: Kaijuu Wakusei, Grand Blue, Hellsing Ultimate, Hybrid Child, Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san, Iron Man, Jinzou Ningen Kikaider, Junjou Romantica, Kakurenbo, Kanamemo, Made in Abyss, Mahoutsukai Sally, Makai Senki Disgaea, Mary to Majo no Hana, Meisou-ou Border, Melty Lancer, New Game, Ninja Batman, Ojamajo Doremi, Overlord II, Panda Kopanda, Pokemon: Mewtwo no Gyakushuu, Puni Puni Poemii, Renkin San-kyuu Magical Pokaan, Sailor Moon SuperS, Slayers: Great, So Ra No Wo To, Tetsuwan Birdy Decode, The Choujo, Tiger & Bunny, Uchuu Kaizoku Mito no Daibouken, Witch Hunter Robin, Xiao Qian, Yousei Hime Ren, Yuru Camp, Yuuki Yuna wa Yuusha de Aru, Yu Yu Hakusho the film

The Moffat Award for worst writing in a series or OVA we’re supposed to take seriously. Prior winners: Dansi Bunri no Crime Edge, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Madhouse’s X-men, Brain Powerd & Elfen Lied. This year they’re joined by Tiger & Bunny.

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With tacky product placements, massive plot holes, terrible characters and an inconsistent world Tiger & Bunny is truly garbage.

The Simone Award for best writing in a serious series or OVA. Former champions were Psycho Pass, Ghost in the Shell SAC, Nanoha StrikerS, El Cazador de la Bruja, & Mononoke. This year it has to go to the year’s one 10/10 series, Cowboy Bebop.

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A classic in the truest sense and well deserving of the Simone award.

The Abrams Award for worst writing in a film. This has gone to End of Evangelion, Metropolis, Hetalia: Paint it white, Hanare Toride no Yonna & Arion. This year the two I kept coming back to were Bio Hunter & Godzilla: Kaijuu Wakusei. But only one can sit at the bottom of literal excrement and this year it’s Bio Hunter.

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Netflix’s Godzilla may have been slow, boring and had a really lame depiction of Godzilla but Bio Hunter is a film dedicated to having as many dumb, nonsensical plot points as it can fit. Which does make for a worse film.

The Miyazaki Award for best writing in a film. This year’s winner will join Nausicaa, Kara no Kyoukai 4, Spirited Away, Mononoke Hime, & Koe no Katachi. This year, it goes to Futari wa Precure Splash Star: Tick Tack Kiki Ippatsu.

Splash Star film

I struggled a bit to decide from this, Aki no Kanade & Slayers Great. This one ultimately gets it because I think it has the strongest pacing and a more engaging conflict out of the three.

The Macfarlane Award for worst comedy. Previous winners were OreImo, Kill la Kill, Sunabouzu, Kashimashi & Idol Project. This year it was hard to decide between Grand Blue & Elf wo Karu Mono-tachi. Both are absolutely terrible but the worst of the worst is Grand Blue.

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Here’s the thing, I rolled my eyes a lot when watching Elf wo Karu Mono-tachi but I got more annoyed when watching Grand Blue and the reason both for that and Grand Blue ultimately getting it is that the characters in this are so unbearably obnoxious.

The Pratchett Award for best comedic sense. The prior winners were Bottle Fairy, Doki Doki PreCure, Yuru Yuri San Hai, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka 2 & Azumanga Daioh. This year, it goes to Galaxy Angel 2.

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This series is just an absurdly good time. It’s hyperactive, zaniness at its finest.

The Meyer Award for worst romantic elements. We’ve given this to OreImo, Mawaru Penguindrum, Love Hina Again, Dance in the Vampire Bund & Wolf Guy. Romance is hard to botch as badly as these series managed but this year, we had one heavily romance-oriented work that did it. And that’s Junjou Romantica.

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Yes, the story where the main couple has a relationship built entirely off of rape. It’s also our first winner that isn’t het, proving that any type of couple can be terrible.

The Kanemaki Award for best romance. Previous winners were Btooom (for Himiko/ Ryouta), Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanha StrikerS (both for NanoFate), El Cazador de la Bruja (Ellis/ Nadie) & Shuumatsu no Izetta (Finé/ Izetta). This year is a bit tough because there aren’t really any amazing romances but we do have more than one solidly good one and the best among them is Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san.

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They don’t have a really complex relationship, but it is pretty damn cute. It’s just an enjoyable, light-hearted romantic dynamic.

The Anno Award for the worst cast of characters. The former crap crews were End of Evangelion, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Love Hina Again, Kashimashi & Elfen Lied. This year the winner is Grand Blue.

Grand Blue

There are very few anime where every character is immediately hateable to this extent. Grand Blue seems to make it a point of pride to have trash characters.

The Moore Award for strongest cast of characters. The previous champions have been Sailor Moon, Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin, Death Parade, Sailor Moon S & Hunter x Hunter 2011. Usually, this award goes to something with a very robust cast that manages to do a spectacular job with writing them all well. Simply because it’s harder to write a cast of a dozen well than it is to write a cast of five. This year, I have to give it to So Ra No Wo To.

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It has a smaller core cast than I’d normally look for, but every side character is really well written. The main cast is amazing and the series gives the “antagonists” sympathetic motivations and makes them very human.

The Bendis Award for worst conflict. The winners thus far have been From Up on Poppy Hill, SAO, Ice, SAO II & AD Police. This year the series that least knows how to keep things remotely compelling is Meisou-Ou Border.

While not among the worst series I’ve watched overall, it has nothing happening in it. The “conflict” is basically two idiots mucking about. Adventure?

The Claremont award for best major conflict. The plots that got this previously were Psycho Pass, Shingeki no Kyojin, Nanoha As, Haibane Renmei & Vivid Strike. This year, it goes to Figure 17.

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What makes this one really stand out in regards to this is that it has multiple conflicts. The whole situation with Tsubasa & Hikaru as heroes is one thing. Their interpersonal situations involve more and they’re all really compelling and they mesh together very neatly. Which is very impressive.

The Liefeld Award for worst visuals. Aku no Hana, Amada: Mario Brothers, Corpse Party, Garzey no Tsubasa & Elfen Lied all won this for the series category. For films, DBZ: Fusion Reborn, Hanare Toride no Yonna & Arion have taken it. This year, the winners are Ajin 2 & Godzilla Kaijuu Wakusei.

Ajin 2 earns its spot for having bad artwork that really hurts what it’s going for. Netflix’s Godzilla earns it by also having CG that looks like crap and also having the worst action sequence involving Godzilla ever animated.

The Urbino Award for amazing artwork. Series winners have been Mushishi, Stand Alone Complex 2nd gig & Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Film winners have been Nausicaa, Tokyo Godfathers, Spirited Away, Mononoke Hime & Kaze Tachinu. This year our winners are Flying Witch & Mary to Majo no Hana.

I won’t lie, the series one was really hard to pick since Cowboy Bebop, Flying Witch and Boku no Hero Academia all have spectacular art and animation that stand out. But, ultimately, if I was going to just look at images from any of them because the series just looks so good, it would be Flying Witch. Mary to Majo no Hana was an easy choice. The backgrounds, characters and everything else in that film just looks great.

The Spencer Award for horrendous mouth noises. Previous winners were Sailor Moon’s English dub, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ice, Kashimashi & Wolf Guy. This year they’re joined by Yousei Hime Ren.

Elf princess Rane

The other two series I really considered giving this too were Grand Blue & Puni Puni Poemii but, while those both had really annoying acting, this one was so badly done it literally gave me a headache to listen to.

The Sir Stewart Award for greatest acting. This one is always difficult to choose but the previous stand outs have been Black Rock Shooter (OVA), Nanoha, Glass no Kamen, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Hunter x Hunter 2011. This year, it’s going to Cowboy Bebop.

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Cowboy Bebop is a series with excellent actors and they’re all fantastic in it. So, while a lot of other anime I’ve reviewed this year have had great acting, it does stand out as the best.

The Perry Award for awful music. Previously, this was granted to English Sailor Moon, Street Fighter II, Mars of Destruction, Kagewani & Arion. This year, it goes to Puni Puni Poemii.

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The soundtrack in this is what happens when a good composer seemingly doesn’t give a shit. And the OST suffers immensely for it.

The Kloss Award for fantastic music. Previous winners were Slayers Perfect, K-on the film, Love Live 2, Love Live the film & Shuumatsu no Izetta. This year I have to give it to So Ra No Wo To.

Sora no woto

Not only does it have a superb OST in general, but the whole motif it has with music is amazingly graceful. Which does help the series stand out from all the others with strong music.

Five Worst of the Year:

We’ve gone over the worst in various categories, now let’s do some rankings. Starting with the least bad and going to the worst. This year, all of this list is going to be populated by 2/10s. And we had six of those, so one is going to be left out.

#5: Godzilla Kaijuu Wakusei

Honestly, I think this one earns a spot because of how incompetent it is as a Godzilla work but it’s not quite as egregiously bad as most of the 2s. So, it gets the highest spot of the five.

#4: Bio Hunter

Bio Hunter is dumb. Really and truly insipid. But there isn’t as much wrong with it as there are with most of the 2s.

#3: Elf-wo Karu Mono-Tachi

I struggled with whether to give this one the two or three spot. But my big issue with this is its fetishy bullshit humour and I had a lot more negative things to say about the series that did get that spot.

#2: Tiger & Bunny

This series can take its tacky product placements, awful homophobic character who shares the name with an amazing game franchise and nonsense plot straight to Tartarus. I really hated it.

#1: Grand Blue

You probably saw this coming. Awful characters, horrendous jokes, random incest. This series is the Prince of Shite for the year.

Five Best of the year:

As usual, let’s end on a positive note. We may have seen some shit this year, but we’ve also seen true greatness. And here are the five at the top. Keep in mind, #5- #2 were all really close and separated by very slight margins.

#5: Yuru Camp

This series is highly endearing, features an adorable chihuahua, nice scenery, fun characters and a lot of les-yay.

#4: Flying Witch

This is a series that just feels good to watch, has a great cast of characters and looks amazing.

#3: So Ra No Wo To

A fantastic series with a phenomenal cast of characters, interesting events & superb music.

#2: Galaxy Angel 2

This one is just uproariously funny for the vast majority of it. It could be nearly a perfect comedy if not for that episode that takes a serious tone.

#1: Cowboy Bebop

Everything about this series is stellar. It’s not just a classic anime but a classic of science fiction. 

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Hybrid Child: Gay Romancing The Androids- Still Better Than Detroit

Hybrid Child was a one-shot romance manga from 2005. It was written by Nakamura Shungiku. That’s right, the same writer as Junjou Romantica, the worst shounen ai romance I’ve ever reviewed. About five years ago, Studio Deen released an OVA based off of it. You might wonder why I’m even giving it a chance, given Nakamura’s other work but let me remind you that even Ikuhara Kunihiko has written bad stories before. And it is Valentine’s week, so let’s keep an open mind and check out some romance. Maybe this one is not rubbish.

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Story:

The basic premise behind Hybrid Child is that the world has sapient android/ human hybrids that grow based on receiving love from their owners. There are three different stories about it within the four episodes of the OVA. The first deal with a young aristocratic boy who finds a discarded hybrid child, takes it home and then they grow up together and fall for one another. The second deals with a man with a difficult past who finds some comfort in the arms of a hybrid child who looks like an eight year old. Gross. The third explores why the hybrid children were created with the tragic tale of some childhood friends and what happened to them as young adults.

My biggest issues with the series are all with the second story line. The idea of having a jaded, damaged person get revitalised by finding a connection with someone more innocent and naive isn’t a ad one in theory. It’s not particularly new, but it’s not a bad basis for a romance plot. However, the execution comes across as downright paedophilic. It’s not even just that Yuzu looks like a child but he acts like one as well. Which just makes the attraction really creepy. One general issue is that the world building isn’t very good. We know why Kuroda created the hybrid children but we don’t know anything about how they’ve change society. They seem to be basically used as maids or butlers but no one really addresses anything about them. At least it’s better than addressing the questions in an egregiously stupid way, like Detroit: Become Human did but it’s still just nothing.

To its credit, the first romance is pretty decent. It’s not anything special but it’s passable for a short story. The third is a bit meh. It’s one of those “these people are combative because they love each other” romances with a tragic twist. And you pretty much know where it’s going after five minutes, but it’s the only one that gets multiple episodes. Like Studio Deen & Nakamura just thought it needed so much effort for the very predictable plot line.

Characters:

Again, my big issue is with the characters in the second story and the way one looks and acts like a child while the other looks at him and thinks “yeah, that’s fuckable.” The first story has the strongest characters and dynamic, which isn’t saying much considering the last is mediocre in those regards but is something. I actually kind of like the dynamic in the first one. Kotarou & Hazuki act more like old and dear friends than master and servant. They also show a willingness to sacrifice for one another, which is a nice touch.

Art:

The artwork is decent enough. A bit standard, but capably done. The thing that bothers me is still Yuzu being designed to look like a small child while having a romantic interest who looks very much like a grown man.

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Sound:

They got some capable actors like Hirakawa Daisuke, Okamoto Nobuhiko, Ono Yuuki & others. The acting is perfectly solid. It may never be counted as among the best, but it certainly works well enough. Anze Hijiri’s soundtrack is pretty good.

Ho-yay:

If you want to see some of that shounen ai action, there are some kissing scenes that are heavily implied to lead to sex and the whole thing is about that romance. So, lots of ho-yay to be had.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. With four episodes to work with, just pick a story. While romance can work episodically, there’s only one story line in this with good potential any way. So, I’d just develop that more.
  2. Address the obvious questions. If you’re going to have a romance bloom between a man and a man android he literally owns, you kind of need to address that ownership. Maybe have him struggle because he doesn’t want to force anything and knows he’s in a position of extreme power. There’s also the question of just how sapient the androids are and how they’ve impacted things.
  3. Better Build up. To use the good part of the OVA as an example, Hazuki kind of collapses out of nowhere and Kotarou takes him to a mechanic. A slower build where we as the audience see hints of trouble for a while before the collapse would strengthen the sense of investment quite a bit.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Hybrid Child is, unlike Junjou Romantica, not garbage. The first story is pretty good. The second is just bad. The third is mundane. Combined, I’d say that averages out to a mediocre experience. A mediocre experience that could have been something more if it had stuck to the one good story line. I’ll give it a 5/10.

Grand Blue:Instantly Hateable

Grand Blue is a Zero-G comedic anime from last year. I can’t speak to the quality of their work in general since I only found thirteen titles listed for them and haven’t seen any of them. It’s based off of a manga by Inoue Kenji. Well, I like a lot of slice of life comedies so this may be relevant to my interests. Let’s take a look.

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Story:

Our protagonist is Kitahara Iori. A young man who moves into his Uncle’s place while attending college. Once there, he’s immediately marked by the diving club, which is made up largely of drunken morons who can’t keep their clothes on. They coerce him into joining, sensing a kindred spirit. The series basically covers Iori’s exploits and club activities.

Let’s start with the massive, gaping issue with the series. It isn’t funny. For the vast majority of it, we just watch these drunken idiots act like drunken idiots. It’s like watching that group you always avoided at University very closely and that’s just annoying. There’s a reason you avoid the intellectual shrimps who just want to party in a loud, obnoxious fashion. Another thing the series seems to find absolutely hilarious is giving the characters stupid looking, exaggerated features. Which kind of contributes to the generally annoying atmosphere. Then we have the humour that centres around Nanaka wanting to sex up her sister. It’s like the worst part of Yuru Yuri, except the rest of the humour is on par with it.

Actually, any time this series touches on the idea of romance it’s horrible in some way. Whether it’s Iori getting caught being pervy towards one of his cousins, the aforementioned sister complex, the group of incels or the bisexual fan-service girl.

Characters:

Another big problem with the series as a whole is that the characters are all horrible. You pretty much hate 95% of them within minutes of them showing up and they don’t even have the defence of being well written characters. They’re very shallow. Unfortunately, they’re shallow in a way that makes them incredibly unbearable.

Now, I’m not saying you need characters who are amicable for a comedy to work. The BBC’s Black Adder serves as proof positive that you can have characters who are terrible people in a comedy and make it work really well. But that series has the benefit of clever writing and the writers made the titular character a charming rogue in every series save one. That factor, coupled with the cunning behind his actions does make him both interesting and funny. This series doesn’t have any cleverness or charm to speak of. Which just makes the awful characters a slog to deal with.

Art:

This is the one element where I can give the series some credit. The underwater scenes where we don’t have insipid dialogue, shite facial expressions or any garbage character interactions to deal with can look very nice. If this series were just the seven or eight minutes of underwater scenery, I could enjoy it somewhat.

Of course, it does have issues with really stupid looking facial expressions popping up constantly and the characters randomly taking off their clothes because Inoue apparently finds nudity to be the funniest thing of all time.

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Sound:

While Grand Blue does have some talented voice actors, it’s also one of those series where they aren’t allowed to have good performances. The dialogue is so over-exaggerated and the characters are so devoid of anything resembling complexity that it becomes nearly as annoying to listen to as it is to watch. The music is, at least, only sub-par.

Ho-yay:

We have Nanaka with her romantic feelings towards her own sister. We also have Azusa, who is openly bisexual. The series also loves to make jokes in poor taste about people mistaking Iori for having romantic feelings towards his otaku friend.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Having clever jokes instead of loud, obnoxious unfunny ones.
  2. There is literally no benefit to the nudity, just have your characters keep their clothes on.
  3. Just say no to the incest. At best, it’s cringey and mildly unpleasant. At worst, it’s fecking terrible.

Final Thoughts:

This is easily among the worst comedies I’ve ever seen. It tries to force humour out of being loud and obnoxious but, ultimately, all that does is make it loud and obnoxious. You hate the characters pretty much within minutes of them showing up. The actors are wasted since you could just replace their lines with a crying baby and it would only be mildly more annoying. Ultimately, it’s just an unpleasant, horribly written and devoid of humour work. I’m giving it a 2/10 and it only gets that high of a score because of the nice underwater scenery. If you really find drunken idiots charming, it may be the series for you. Otherwise, I’d suggest staying away from it.

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: Hold on to your Hope

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru is a Studio Gokumi anime from late 2014. Yes, the same studio that brought us the fun A-Channel & that piece of garbage, Crime Edge. So, I don’t know what to expect from this. But it’s the end of hero month and let’s hope we can end it like we began it, on a high note. Because, so far, the only good series we’ve looked at this month has been Boku no Hero Academia.

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Story: 

We open with our titular heroine, Yuuki Yuuna working with members of her middle school’s Hero Club to put on a puppet show. Basically, these four girls get together to help out in other clubs, finding homes for kittens and other public services. Things change when, one day, everything freezes during class and the four find themselves in an altered landscape. It turns out the hero club has a hidden purpose, to defend the barrier created by the Shinju that preserves their world. They become magical girls, fighting whenever they’re called but they quickly learn that there’s a secret behind their powers and it may be too much for them.

My biggest issue with the series, narratively, is that the final climactic turn may be a bit too easy. Basically, the big “antagonist” is too easily dissuaded from what she’s doing. It kind of makes sense in context but it might work a bit better if it took a little more effort. The ending may also be a bit too predictable once things get going. Though I’d be lying if I said I disliked it.

That being said, there are a lot of good things about the series. The events leading up to the big climactic clash are very well handled. There are some strong emotional scenes. Two of which definitely may have elicited some tears from me. The series does a good job of subverting some aspects of magical girl shows while embracing others, including the optimistic outlook. Holding on to hope is a big theme in this series and it works really well. Honestly, I appreciate that it can incorporate some elements that are dark for a magical girl series while still keeping things generally optimistic. There are too many works out there that treat dark content as something you have to go all the way with or just can’t have at all. It’s nice seeing something with a more nuanced take on it. I also appreciate the way the world building is handled. We don’t get a bunch of boring exposition, instead they show us throughout the series what the world they’re living in is like and what the more unusual elements like Shinju, Taisha and Vertexes actually are. Foreshadowing is pretty well handled as well.

Characters:

The cast is mainly composed of five characters. Yuuna, Tougou, Karin, Fuu & Itsuki. On the surface, they’re a pretty archetypal magical girl group. However, every single character goes beyond the typical tropes that they start with. Whether it’s accomplished through their reactions to tragedy, their interactions with one another or their way of pursuing their own dreams. Which makes the cast quite compelling. The character interactions are quite strong as well.

I also do like the way shifting loyalties are handled. There is solid reasoning behind them that makes sense while also revealing information about the characters in question. The only real issue I have is that the vertexes are kind of nothing villains. We know what they’re trying to do and we know the basic reason why but that’s about all they have. To be fair to the series, they do provide an in universe explanation for why that is.

Art:

There are a lot of positive aspects to the art. The vertexes have interesting designs. The heroines are well designed and their magical girl forms are nicely detailed. The supernatural world where they do their fighting looks pretty interesting. The fights themselves are quite well done. They involve actual weapons too. Fuu has a buster sword. Karin uses a pair of katana. Tougou has guns. Which leads to some interesting action sequences.

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Sound:

They got some strong actresses for this series. Terui Haruka, Mimori Suzuko, Nagatsuma Juri, Kurosawa Tomoyo & Uchiyama Yumi are all really good in this. The emotions they convey just come across as so genuine and the way they converse with one another has a good level of verisimilitude to it. The music by Okabe Keiichi & Hoashi Keigo is really good as well.

Ho-yay:

There’s a general undercurrent among most of the girls. The sisters being the obvious exception. It’s clear that they care about each other but it’s equally clear that it’s familial. The most prominent les-yay is between Yuuna and Tougou. They come across as being deep into their first feelings of romantic love. Once Yuuna figures it out they’ll probably start dating.

Areas of Improvement:

I’ll try to go into these without giving too much away.

  1. I’d make that final conversation that leads up to the climactic turn a little more substantial.
  2. Extrapolate on the effects change at the end a bit more.
  3. Have some anger directed at Fuu. Basically, Fuu knows that they could be called on to act as heroes, but doesn’t tell the others. That’s not much of a spoiler since it’s a part of the first episode. But what bothers me a little bit is that everyone else is immediately okay with it. I’d like to see them take some time to get over the feelings of betrayal over that. I think it would make for some interesting character moments.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Yuuki Yuuna was Yuusha has a lot of good elements. It has a lot to recommend its story and its characters. It has great art, great acting and solid music. It could also be improved with more time to flesh things out properly but, for what it is, it’s a great series. In the end, I’ll give it an 8/10. And I do recommend it for those of you who like magical girl series that do things a bit differently.

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider: The Animation- Dull Surprise Everywhere

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider: The Animation is based off of a live action tokusatsu series from the 70s. The anime version came out nearly three decades after the live action. Which might seem weird, but if you think about it, Hollywood does the same thing all the time in terms of mining old properties to make a quick buck off of the fanbase. It usually goes very badly. Let’s see if Radix, the studio behind Divergence Eve & Haibane Renmei, did better.

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Story:

We open with Doctor Komyoji working in his lab in a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkensteen.)  Meanwhile, his children are reading the story of Pinocchio, which I’m sure will not tie into anything that happens whatsoever. And if you buy that, I can sell you some prime subaqueous real estate for low, low prices. An explosion happens when he tries to bring his creation to life. His daughter discovers notes on what he was doing, trying to create a sentient android. Shortly afterwards, his children encounter Jiro, that selfsame android, and their adventures together begin.

My biggest problem with the series is the pacing. Jiro meets the siblings at the end of the first episode and then he takes off by the end of the second but we’re supposed to buy into the idea that they managed to really bond in that short time. They couldn’t have skipped the useless recap episode and just given us one to illustrate that bond before he gets driven off? Why is there even a recap episode in a thirteen episode series? Maybe because this series has a general issue with trite, lazy writing. The romantic sub-plot is another example. We have two characters who barely get to know one another before becoming romantically entangled. But it’s obvious that it’s going to happen because every event unfolds in precisely the most clichéd way possible.

But I can’t be too harsh on the series for that since the live action was made for children and it’s obviously trying not to age things up too much. Although it does go for a more teenage audience and probably should have put a bit more effort into the writing to reflect that.

I will give the series some credit for addressing difficult questions like “what makes a soul?” or “why is it important to feel things like sorrow?” And the series doesn’t address them badly, this isn’t Detroit. There’s an actual degree of competence to it. It still handles them in a kind of simplistic and non-challenging way, but it’s pretty adequate for the target audience.

Characters:

There isn’t much to say about the characters in this. The protagonists are basic archetypes, the antagonists are pretty much evil for the evils with a few exceptions who they try to be sympathetic with, but they execute it in completely obvious, unimaginative ways. At least none of the characters are awful. The one who comes closest is Masaru because he’s the child character who’s there to get into sticky situations and yearn for attention. And that type of character is always annoying when written by the trope.

Art: 

The artwork in this is just very low effort. If I hadn’t looked up basic information beforehand, I would’ve thought the anime was made maybe three years after the live action ended. It looks like an anime from the 70s with stiff movements, awkward facial expressions (with dull surprise being the most common emotion on display), a bunch of slow, panning shots and reused animation to cut down on costs. Did Radix have literally no budget for this or did they think that making it look like an old anime would be appropriate since it’s based off of an old show?

If the series had wanted to pay homage to old anime by using the general art style, I’d be fine with that. I think you could make it look good. Osomatsu-san managed that pretty well. But when you include all the lazy, cost cutting tropes all you do is make it look horrendously outdated. And give the impression that you decided that quality was just too expensive to bother with.

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Sound:

The actors get into the spirit of the series pretty well. They have those somewhat over the top, bombastic performances that are so commonplace in those tokusatsu series like Kamen Rider or Super Sentai. Which I’m completely okay with although maybe Kikaider is more subtle and this aspect really annoyed the fans. I haven’t seen the live action, so I don’t know. They got some pretty strong people for this as well. Like Horie Yui. Kosugi Juurouta & Seki Tomokazu. Wada Kaoru’s music is pretty good. Maybe not as strong as what he did for 3×3 Eyes, but still good.

Ho-yay: 

There is none to be found.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Replace the Recap episode with an episode between the first and second. Like I said, Jiro’s dynamic with the siblings doesn’t work particularly well as is and I think you could greatly improve it by giving us even one episode to build it up.
  2. Remove the romantic sub-plot. Honestly, it adds nothing of value and it’s poorly executed. You might as well just let the characters develop a strong friendship instead of adding pointless romance.
  3. Give the animation some budget. Like I said, having a modern anime with a 70s style can be good. Having one with all the shitty, cost-cutting measures and such included is always going to look bad.

Final Thoughts:

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider is not a bad anime. Yeah, it has some serious problems but, ultimately, they’re problems that don’t make it difficult to watch or annoying. They’re problems that lead to it being bog standard and a bit dull. Which is what we end up getting. A series that’s predictable, not very compelling and just very mediocre. Which is why I give it a 5/10. If you’re a huge fan of live action Sentai shows and the more solo-oriented variety like Kamen Rider you might have a grand time with this in spite of the various issues. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time.

January Bonus Review: Maximum Carnage

Maximum Carnage was a fourteen issue Spider-man event from ’93. It was written by Tom Defalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh & David Michelinie. It’s a rather divisive event with some calling it one of the last good comic events and others calling it the start of the era of trash events. So, I’ll give my thoughts on it as part of hero month.

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Story:

We open with Cletus Kasady being taken for therapy at Ravencroft Asylum. Everyone assumes he’s powerless since the Carnage symbiote was destroyed. What they don’t know is that the symbiote mutated his very blood, allowing him to summon a copy. Which he does, breaking loose and massacring the staff. He runs into another inmate named Shriek, who he breaks out. The pair recruit some other villains and their little “family” goes around New York, while Spidey and several other heroes try to put an end to their killing spree.

My biggest issue with the event is that there are a lot of scenes that seem kind of repetitive. Yeah, I get what they’re going for. They’re trying to show how all of this is wearing at the heroes and how much difficulty they’re having. It just doesn’t have the best execution. The civilian casualties are also kind of weakly handled. Carnage and his group are basically killing a bunch of nameless fodder we have no reason to care about. On one hand, it is better than having them kill off characters we know and love, which is what would happen in a modern event like this. On the other hand, I’d like to see some mourners to give it some more impact and add some humanity to the victims.

There are definitely things I appreciate about the narrative too. I like that we don’t lose any of our heroes for a cheap, shock moment. I also like the general theme of holding onto hope when times are dark and finding the strength to overcome. Particularly when various heroes step forward to bring out the best in humanity when facing a group of violent rioters. That is a powerful scene. The back and forth with Spidey and his wife while they argue because she doesn’t want him to risk himself but he knows he can make a difference is really good. The way they foreshadow major events is solid.

Then there’s the whole element the story is about. Namely: should heroes stoop down to the level of villains in extreme circumstances? It’s important to remember that this was made in the early 90s when the trend of more “extreme” and dark heroes had already started. And this is a story that plays with that trend but also, ultimately, rejects the whole idea of it. Spidey questions the idea of just how far he and his comrades should go throughout the event and consistently argues against taking lethal action. Then he reaches his lowest point and he almost asks his amazing friend, Firestar, to take Carnage’s life. But he pulls back and realises that it’s the wrong approach. As heroes, they have to stand for something greater. Even when facing a mass murdering psychotic like Carnage. And that’s an uplifting epiphany. I like the way the topic gets explored a lot.

Characters:

I’ve already mentioned how well Spidey & MJ’s marital discussions work. Although I haven’t said fuck modern Marvel for retconning that out of existence yet. There are other characters to discuss though. There’s an effort to humanise our villains, in spite of all the murder and mayhem they’re responsible for. Which is a nice touch but it’s one of those cases where the execution is the lazy “they had rotten childhoods” types for both Carnage & Shriek. Doppelganger, Demogoblin and Carrion have the same basic motives they do in the regular comics. One is overly simple-minded, one has a misguided view of being on a holy crusade and the other is the victim of a virus. Which is something.

Our major heroes are Spidey, Venom, The Black Cat, Cloak & Dagger. We also get appearances from Firestar, Deathlok (nice to see Deathlok being used), Morbius, Iron Fist, Nightwatch and Captain America before modern Marvel made him a Nazi. Fuck modern Marvel for that too. The heroes are handled pretty well. The point where Cap makes his appearance is kind of brilliant since he’s kind of used as a beacon of hope and heroism when things are looking bleak but it’s not heavy-handed and he doesn’t just fix everything. I will say, Nightwatch is kind of pointless in this. His entire reason for being around seems to be to participate in two fight sequences and rescue Morbius before escaping. Although it’s still far better than what he was subjected to when modern Marvel decided he needed to be resurrected and turned evil. Fuck modern Marvel.

Art: 

One issue I have with the artwork is that it’s not consistent and some of the artists who worked on it are clearly better than others. Mark Bagley’s work is good. Tom Lyle’s work is good. Sal Buscema’s work is more than a little awkward looking. This guy might get the facial expression right once in every three panels where you can see a face. And that’s generous. It also does have some of the bad 90s art tropes starting to emerge at various points, like everyone being on their toes so the artists don’t have to draw feet properly or scenes being covered with shadows to an absurd degree but there aren’t that many moments like that all things considered.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Some work to humanise the victims. Like I said, I’d show some scenes with mourners. Maybe have that instead of some of the more repetitive scenes.
  2. Cut out Nightwatch and Morbius. Honestly, these two don’t do much in the event and it’s a bit annoying to have scenes where Morbius has to abandon a rescue mission or fuck off for multiple issues because it’s day time.
  3. Develop the humanity of the villains a bit more. I like the idea they were going with, but the execution was mediocre and you know these writers could have done better because they did with so many other elements.

Final Thoughts:

I will say, without any question, I agree more with the people who absolutely love this event than I do with the ones who hate it. It takes emerging trends and it tackles them in a way that’s subversive and clever. Its themes are, largely, well handled. There’s a lot about it that’s just good. It does, however, have its definite flaws. Its moments of lazy writing, 90s art and good ideas they don’t bother developing. So, I wouldn’t put it nearly on par with something like The Secret Wars but I would go so far as to call it good. I’ll give it a 7/10.

Tiger & Bunny: Tacky Product Placements Everywhere

Tiger & Bunny is a hero series from 2011. It was brought to us by Sunrise. I’ve heard it mentioned a lot over the years, but never got around to watching it. But since it’s hero month, it seems like a good time to check it out and form some opinions.

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Story:

Our narrative is set in the future where mutants… I mean “Next” have started popping up. Naturally, this has led to a group of heroes who wear product placements like they think they’re Captain Amazing from Mystery Men and who fight criminals & rescue civilians alike to earn points for a television show. Enter newcomer, Barnaby, a hero with a dark past he’s looking to unravel. He becomes the first hero duo with veteran, Wild Tiger. Unfortunately for both of them, they don’t get along all that well and Barnaby’s past may be creeping up on them.

One of the biggest problems with the series is that it has severe tonal issues. It tries to strike a balance between darker and lighter moments like some of the best comic runs out there including Claremont’s X-men run and the Wolfman/ Pérez Titans run. The problem is that it sucks at it and there are two reasons for that. The first is that it goes two far in both directions. If you look at those comics that shift tone well, they have pretty realistic degrees on both ends. For example, The X-men facing the brood and finding themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation on account of the royal eggs that have been implanted in them but still maintaining hope and doing everything they can versus Shadowcat telling little Illyana a bed time story for an issue. In Tiger & Bunny, the lighter elements cross into Silver Age goofiness. Think Batman and Superman having a slumber party at the fortress of solitude but somehow dumber whereas the darker elements cross into 90s darker and stupider territory. Which means there’s a lot more of a shift between the tones. Tiger & Bunny also fails because it combines the elements. If you look at those good comics, they actually transition from one tone to the other instead of abruptly forcing the tone to change. In this, they’ll have goofy silver age elements, like evil plush toys piloting mechs, side by side with more serious elements like Barnaby trying to get revenge for the loss of his parents and that’s just highly dissonant.

Another issue is with the main villain’s plan. I don’t want to go deep into spoilers, so I’ll keep this somewhat vague. Even though who the villain is going to be becomes really obvious as soon as our heroes have a certain conversation in hospital. In any case, our arch villain gets caught with a tiny contradiction and all he has to do to keep things from escalating is pretend he also doesn’t know what the deal is. Instead he gives a huge villain speech revealing everything and tries to cover things up by messing with someone’s mind. Then he makes things even worse by unnecessarily lying and trying to frame another hero. Even though said hero has had a costume where they can easily be identified just by visually comparing him with one of his old trading cards or videos. To make things even dumber, this guy supposedly wants Next to be treated well and that’s why he’s manipulated the Hero media but when things aren’t looking so good he decides to have androids kill all the heroes that the citizens know and love even though that will clearly interfere with his big plan. I don’t know how it’s possible to be as egregiously stupid as this villain.

Although that does lead me with yet another problem I have with this series. They bring up this idea of their mutants being feared and mistrusted a couple times, but it’s not something we see any real evidence of. There are, maybe, three scenes where someone is a dick towards the Next. Other than that, they’re treated like heroes, people buy their merch, big companies sponsor them to make themselves look good. There’s almost nothing to indicate that things are bad for them. The series also wastes its one opportunity to do something with some impact right at the end by having a cheap cop out. So, the ending is pretty shit. The series also likes to repeat itself way too much, going over plot points to a ludicrous degree. For example, the anti-hero appears and gives a big speech about how “he is doing the true justice” and there are about three conversations after that where our heroes can’t figure out what he’s after. It’s like they think their audience is really, really slow.

Characters:

I’ve already described how bad the antagonist is, so let’s talk about the other major characters. Our big characters are Tiger, Kotetsu, and Barnaby. Kotetsu is a horrible, neglectful father and obnoxious cretin. Barnaby is just boring. Which is kind of the way things go in this series. At best, the heroes are trite and bland. At worst, they’re gross homophobic stereotypes, Hi, Fire Emblem. Sky High is probably the most likeable of them all, even though he’s dumber than a wet cardboard box, because he’s a paragon character with a dog. Blue Rose is an insipid twit with a really annoying crush on a dude more than twice her age. Which might not be so bad if they didn’t bring it up constantly throughout the series.

Dragon Kid and Origami Cyclone are dull. Rock Bison is so boring that even his “best friend” can’t think of any personal information to give about him. Seriously, there’s a scene where Tiger is giving out some information about all the other heroes and he has nothing to say about this guy. There’s also Lunatic, one of those generic anti-hero characters. Although it is worth noting that he wants to be seen as seeking true justice, but he calls himself Lunatic. That would be like Mister Sinister trying to convince ordinary people he’s actually the hero while still calling himself Mister Sinister.

Art: 

The artwork is a bit mixed. Some of the city shots look impressive, but the character designs are kind of mediocre. and the action sequences aren’t very interesting. One thing that’s absolutely horrendous is the product placement. The hero costumes are plastered with logos to the point of it being really tacky. It’s like Sunrise just decided this had no artistic merit whatsoever so they might as well just suck off some fat corporate guys for a bit of extra dosh.

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Sound:

Here’s one aspect where I can give the series some credit, the actors are pretty decent. Maybe not great, but they’re about as good as they can be with characters this insipid. The best is probably Inoue Go, who does pull off the simple-minded paragon character pretty well. The only truly bad performance comes from Tsuda Kenjirou. It’s not really his fault since he’s voicing a super flamboyant gay stereotype, but it is awful to listen to.

Ike Yoshihiro does the sound track and it’s the best part of the series. They may not be the best tunes out there, but they’re quite good and well put together.

Ho-yay:

It comes entirely from our gay stereotype, who has fire powers. Wow, that isn’t the least bit subtle or clever. And I’m sure one person is going to say “didn’t you have a gay character with fire powers in Omicron Squad?” Which is true but I had a lot of gay characters and Anastasia wasn’t a stereotype. So, not really the same at all.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Gives the characters personality beyond tropes. One of the things that makes for a good hero comic is a strong sense of personality from the characters and well developed interpersonal dynamics among them. Plus strong villains instead of total knob heads.
  2. Consistent Tone. If you want something stupid and goofy like the Silver Age, just go for it. If you want something darker and stupider like an early Image comic, go for it. This clearly doesn’t have a strong enough writer to pull off something between, so let’s not fluctuate between those two extremes.
  3. A Consistent World. If you want to be like the X-men and show powered heroes doing their best in a world that hates and fears them, that’s fine. If you want to have a future where everything is built up around a culture of hero worship, that’s also fine. These two things do not work together.

Final Thoughts: 

Tiger & Bunny is a complete mess. It can’t decide which extreme tone it wants and ends up awkwardly and really badly mixing them, its heroes range from boring to obnoxious & offensive. It has plot holes so massive you could fly a 747 through them. The world building is wildly inconsistent. The “twists” are really obvious to the point of being bland. They treat their audience like it’s made up of a bunch of morons. The sponsorships are tacky as hell and it’s just never interesting or entertaining. My final rating is going to be a 2/10. This anime sucks.