Mahoutsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora- *loud yawn*

Mahoutsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora is based off of a manga series by Yamada Norie. Technically, it’s the second part of the series but it’s also the one I was asked to review and it looks like it’s set in the same universe as the first, but unrelated. Hal Film Maker handled the adaptation. You may remember them as the studio behind such anime as Bottle Fairy & Dokuro-chan. Given that one of those was quite good and the other was shite, I don’t know what to anticipate. So, let’s just look and see.

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Story:

We open with our heroine, Suzuki Sora, being accepted into a month long program to become a mage. Because, apparently, magic exists in this world and you can master it in a month. That’s something that immediately bothers me. Being a mage is presented as a great thing that opens up all kinds of doors for you or that can, in and of itself, serve as a comfortable career. But they recruit for it by having a bunch of sixteen year olds study for a month. This world is kind of dumb. From there, we see Sora and her classmates go through the training.

The most pervasive issue with the series is simply that it’s kind of boring. We’re watching a bunch of under-written characters do relatively mundane things. Which you might think is strange when the series involves magic, but we’re looking at requests to “clean up my messy house and find this thing” or “open my safe.” It’s not exactly a dynamic, exciting way to use magic. The closest we get to that is Sora stopping a crashing vehicle in the very beginning. Which is not reflective of how magic is used for the rest of the series.

The romance is also a bit rubbish. You know there’s going to be a romance the moment Sora’s friend talks to her about how she “needs a boyfriend.” You also know who it’s going to be because he’s the “kind of distant” type of dude that makes for a very trite romantic interest. The actual set up for the romance is pretty bad though. It’s pretty much “they’re living together during their training and sometimes they faff about Tokyo together.” But there’s never any chemistry betwixt them nor is there a real sense of development for their relationship.

The closest the series gets to being interesting is having Sora go beyond her clients’ magic requests to try and make their lives better. At those points, the series shows what it could have been. They aren’t great scenes but they’re, at the very least, decent. All two times we see that happen.

Characters:

I already mentioned the characters being under-written, which is a big part of the series itself being boring. Slice of life style series work when the characters are either funny and endearing or really well developed and compelling. This series has characters that are just archetypal. They aren’t interesting nor is the series funny. Which not only makes the series uninteresting but renders the tragic element ineffective.

Art:

The artwork doesn’t help the series. The facial expressions are highly lacking with most scenes giving the characters blank looks. A lot of the art is fairly minimalistic. With details being left out like the animators were on a severe time crunch and could never actually finish an episode properly. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t look bad, just kind of lazy.

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Sound: 

This series got some actors I’ve heard before and have respect for the abilities of. Like Hanazawa Kana, Inoue Marina, Namikawa Daisuke & Takahashi Mikako. The direction in this, however, is not very good. They’re clearly going for slow, deliberate delivery but a lot of the time the result is that the characters sound bored. Rather like I was watching the series. The music is the best element in the series. There’s an ongoing thing with a blonde woman, voiced by the singer Sasao Miku (micc), performing songs. And they’re really good.

Ho-yay:

There’s one part where some random background character I can’t remember the name of says he’s fallen for the male lead. Which might or might not be him joking. It never comes up again so it doesn’t really matter.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Have the program for becoming a mage take longer. You don’t have to show us the whole thing, but a month for that is dumb.
  2. Either lose the romance entirely or properly develop it. I don’t really care which but as is, it’s not interesting or well handled.
  3. Focus more on Sora going beyond to try and help her clients. Like I said, these moments are where the series is most interesting. If you had her trying to help improve clients’ lives as a bigger part of the series, this could have been a decent anime.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, this is not a good series. It’s not interesting. The artwork and animation come across as lazy. The directing results in bland performances and the characters are under-written. That being said, I can’t say the series is bad. Most of my issues come down to it being boring and seemingly lacking any effort into making it anything but trite. So, I’ll give it a 5/10. If the premise of mages training for a month to do minor errands with magic seems interesting to you, go ahead and try it. Overall, I don’t recommend it though. But definitely look up Sasao Miku’s music.

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Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid dragon is a series I’ve heard a lot about but never watched. The anime came out two years ago based off of a manga by the same writer who brought us Komori-san wa Kotowarenai. The adaptation was handled by Kyoto animation who brought us K-on, Nichijou, Hyouka & Koe no Katachi. So, a wide array of quality there. Let’s see how this one holds up.

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Story:

Kobayashi lives alone, doesn’t have many friends to speak of and doesn’t seem to much care for her job. One day, her world opens up when she’s about to leave her flat, only to find a dragon staring at her. The dragon takes on a humanoid form, thanks Kobayashi for coming to her rescue and says she’s taking her up on her offer to live with her as a maid. This confuses Kobayashi as she was very drunk and doesn’t recall any of that. Don’t you wish that the worst thing you’d do in a drunken haze is invite a beautiful girl who adores you into your home? Instead of, say, committing arson. Just hypothetically. Shenanigans ensue as her association with Tooru brings a bunch of strange figures into her life.

The biggest problem with the series is that some of the running gags get old quite quickly. Most notably, the stuff with Quetzalcoatl. Two of her big jokes are that she dresses inappropriately skimpily and her buxom figure creates an awkward situation for young Shouta, the fifth grade boy who thinks she’s a demon as well as his familiar. The first of those might work once or twice, but gets old quickly. The second is always going to be at least a bit uncomfortable and creepy since he’s a pre-pubescent boy and she’s a grown ass woman. At least she doesn’t go as far as the paedophile college student in Kanamemo.

There are a lot of good aspects to the series as well.  Most of the running gags are good about shifting enough to stay entertaining. The whole narrative theme of finding family and letting your chosen family enrich your life is surprisingly well handled. The ending sequence is legitimately excellent. The series is also good about addressing things like the difference in life spans between humans & dragons and using that for some tension in the narrative.

Characters:

As a whole, the characters are enjoyable. Fafnir living the life of a NEET while staying with a fellow nerd leads to some good situations especially when you add in his general disdain of humans. Saikawa and her obvious crush on Kanna that she has no idea how to handle leads to some good moments. Especially with Kanna being a bit more open to showing her affection. The best dynamics are among the whole “Kobayashi family” With Kobayashi and Tooru possessing a strong bond that can be framed in ways that are funny, adorable and heart warming. The pair of them acting as parents to Kanna works really well too.

Even the generally weaker characters like Elma & Quetzalcoatl aka Lucoa get their moments. Elma works well when it comes to her more antagonistic dynamic with Tooru. Similarly, Lucoa is at her best when she’s acting as more of a caring older sister type to Tooru and not creeping on a child.

Art:

*Insert obvious complaint about excessive fan-service here* To be fair, the fan-service isn’t generally that bad. Most of the characters dress in pretty covering ways. The exception being Lucoa. The series also does have a beach episode because of course it does but at least it has some strong jokes. Aside from that, the character design is pretty good. The dragon elements that get kept by the characters in human form are interesting. The dragon forms, when we actually get to see them, are really well drawn. The visual gags also work well.

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Sound:

Kyoto really cast the series well. Naganawa Maria, Kuwahara Yuuki, Tamura Mutsumi, Takada Yuuki, Katou Emiri, Ono Daisuke & Takahashi Minami all do great jobs with their performances. Itou Masumi’s soundtrack is well composed and suits the series well.

Ho-yay:

There is a lot. In addition to Kobayashi & Tooru basically being a couple with an adopted child, especially as the series progresses and they get closer, there’s also all of the stuff betwixt Saikawa & Kanna. Tooru also tries to bring up the time Lucoa got drunk and cavorted with her sister on a few occasions only to have Lucoa get really embarrassed and stop her. Which is accurate to the mythology, to be fair.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Age up Shouta. Having two girls at roughly the same level of development with crushes on one another is cute enough. Having two grown women starting a relationship is also well and good. Having a grown woman act seductively towards a young boy is creepy.
  2. Have Lucoa be unintentionally sexual. If Shouta were older and Lucoa was getting him going purely by accident, that would be a lot funnier than what we actually get.
  3. Work a bit more with switching up the character interactions. I’m thinking of those segments in Yuru Yuri where they put a couple characters who don’t interact much together and use it to expand on those characters and throw in some unique gags for them. This series could benefit from doing something similar. Fafnir, for example, mostly interacts with Tooru and Takiya or with the others as part of a group. It might be interesting to see a segment with just him and Kobayashi.

Final Thoughts:

I can honestly say that there were more things I enjoyed about this series than there were things I disliked and I did generally enjoy my time watching the series. If not for those issues surrounding Lucoa and Shouta I would go so far as to call this a great comedy, maybe even excellent. As is, I’ll give it a 7/10. If you’re looking for a really yuririffic comedic slice of life series, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Bubblegum Crash: A Return to Form

I’ve reviewed two instalments in  this franchise. The first being Bubblegum Crisis and the second being the AD Police spin-off, which was garbage. Now it’s time to look at the sequel that came out from mid to late ’91, Bubblegum Crash. Let’s hope it’s more like Crisis and doesn’t resemble AD.

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Story:

We open with an armoured vehicle full of mech suits committing a robbery. The AD Police are called to the scene, but since the culprit isn’t an over-sexed, creepy woman, they’re useless. The mech suits escape. We soon join the Knight Sabers, Nene, Linna & Priss. Nene wants the three of them to get their suits and do something about the robberies since the AD Police are useless but Linna is making a fortune with stocks and Priss is about to get a record deal and the pair talk about the Sabers like a thing of the past. Sylia soon returns and the fire gets lit under both Priss and Linna. But there’s more to these robberies than meets the eye and the Sabers quickly find themselves embroiled in a major plot.

The biggest story issue with this is that the OVA wastes far too much time with the AD Police. And their contribution is pretty much sitting on their asses and otherwise being ineffectual. Very few of their scenes actually do anything for the narrative. They’re mostly just boring. It feels like the OVA only included them to advertise that shit spin off. Another issue I have is that the climactic reveal of the antagonist could have been foreshadowed and generally handled better. It ends up being a bit weak.

With that out of the way, the narrative does a good job of building things up. The situations the Sabers face are developed well and they have a good amount of tension behind them. The OVA also does a good job of tying all the scenarios together in a way that gives every episode a satisfying conclusion while also seguing into the next. It’s also good at balancing triumph, tragedy & bitter-sweet moments. It’s just, overall, highly entertaining and compelling.

Characters:

The best character moments we get involve the Sabers themselves. Their interactions are very strong and we get a good sense of their personalities. I also appreciate that the antagonist does have a pretty well defined motivation. There are some great side characters as well, notably Adama. The AD Police are the weakest part but even then Leon & Daley are pretty well fleshed out characters. They’re far better in this than they were in that OVA where Leon was the main character. And yes, I do have to keep taking jabs at AD Police.

Art:

The series looks quite good. It’s well animated, the backgrounds are nicely done, the general aesthetic is strong and the action scenes are damn good. The designs remain a very strong element. Seeing the Sabers go into action against various threats is a treat. I will also give this OVA some credit over even Crisis, it has a lot less fan-service.

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Sound:

Hiramatsu Akiko, Sakakibara Yoshiko & Tomizawa Michie all reprise their roles and do fantastically. Oomori Kinuko quit voice acting work to be a full time singer, unless my information on that is wrong & Priss does get a new actress with Tachikawa Ryoko. Tachikawa does a good job, maybe not quite as good but it’s a strong performance. Crash also brings back the amazing soundtrack with some great songs being used during the action sequences.

Ho-yay: 

There isn’t really any. The OVA doesn’t really have romance period. Which is fine because not everything needs to have it.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Take out the bulk of the AD Police scenes. While there are a few that actually serve a purpose, most of them just come across as pointless.
  2. Use some of that extra time to give some more hints about the identity of the big bad. Like I said, the OVA would have benefited from foreshadowing that better.
  3. Use the rest of that time for some more interactions amongst the Sabers. Because the scenes where Nene, Priss, Linna & sometimes Sylia are just spending time together are really good.

Final Thoughts:

Crash is exactly what you would want from a follow up to Crisis. It features strong action, great interactions and an interesting narrative that keeps your attention. If you’re even somewhat a fan of Bubblegum Crisis I would highly recommend checking it out. If you haven’t seen Crisis but the idea of super heroines in robotic suits appeals to you, I would watch that first since this OVA definitely builds off of it. I’ll give Crash an 8/10. Same as Crisis.

Re:Creators- The Idea Had Potential, Not so much the execution

Re:Creators is a 2017 anime from Troyca, a studio I’ve never watched an anime from. Although this and Yagate Kimi ni Naru are going to change that. I don’t know when I’ll actually watch and review that one, but it’s going to happen.

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Story:

The premise of the series gets us off to a good start. Basically, every time a writer crafts a work of fiction, they create a world. Mine are full of rainbows and women doing the majority of important things, clearly. Things take a twist when certain, popular characters start crossing over into our world. Some of them want to watch the world burn, others want to make their creators suffer for giving them dark worlds full of tragedy. It’s up to our main protagonist, Blandon, a bunch of heroic characters and the creators to save the day.

The biggest problem with the series is that it’s all about the themes of creativity and the process of making art but the characters and worlds we see crossing over are all the most generic representations of their genres imaginable, based on what we see. To compound the problem, the twists are also very obvious. And to top it all off, the ultimate climax involves blatant deus ex machina, the ultimate tool of the trash writer. It also doesn’t help that the big threat is a fanfiction OC. It would be like our world being threatened by Coldsteel the Hedgehog but less hilarious.

And this was a premise that had potential. The idea of creations crossing over into our world and confronting their creators is great and could have been used to great effect. Even the further step of having them fight for the future of our own world could have worked really well. If the execution hadn’t been shoddy at every turn.

Characters:

Describing the characters in this is basically describing trite stereotypes. The action girl heroine. The guide character you get in some RPGs but without the personality that the good ones would infuse her with. The loving magical girl who just wants to talk things through. The dark fantasy heroine. The street tough dude. The trickster villain. The grizzled old dude. The mecha pilot, young and optimistic variety. So, a big step up from the super angsty version, at least. Nice to see that this story all about creativity couldn’t be bothered when it came to its own character creation.

The creator characters aren’t any better. Their trite lack of real personality just derives from more slice of life tropes instead of the genre specific ones of the creations.

Art:

Here’s one area where I can give Troyca credit. The artwork looks pretty damn good. The backgrounds are detailed. The action sequences flow well. Some of the designs are very blatantly based off of other, better characters, (all of them may be and I just don’t recognise some of them) but they don’t do them badly.

Sound:

This is another element where I can give the series credit. They got good actors. People like Minase Inori, Komatsu Mikako, Toyosaki Aki, Murakawa Rie & Hikasa Yoko. Are these their best performances? No. One of the general problems with very bland character writing that I’ve encountered time after time is that the acting can’t really stand out much if the characters don’t. But the performances are very capably done.

Sawano Hiroyuki’s soundtrack is nicely done and definitely has the wow factor. Which isn’t surprising. He also did well with Shingeki no Kyojin and decently with Zombie Loan. 

Ho-yay:

There’s quite a bit between the dark fantasy heroine & the magical girl. Because of course the magical girl gets les-yay.

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Areas of Improvement:

  1. Flesh out the characters. It’s all well and good to use a clichéd version as a base. But what separates a good, great or excellent series from a more middling one is that it builds off of that and turns it into something unique. Which this series couldn’t be bothered with.
  2. Don’t use a fanfiction villain. Part of the premise is that the characters operate off of acceptance from the audience. Well, when you have your main antagonist as an over-powered Mary Sue, I have trouble believing the audience would accept her. Especially when she’s fighting against all the bland characters that are hugely popular for inexplicable reasons. Yeah, it might be fun to have Coldsteel or other big fanfiction characters as memes but if something official came out where Coldsteel fought Son Goku, no one would accept Coldsteel winning except Internet trolls.
  3. Give us some compelling conversations between creators and their creations. This idea really gets under-used in this series. We get very brief snippets of creators interacting with their characters but there’s no real depth to those interactions and the various philosophical points that should come up either don’t or are glossed over.

Final Thoughts:

Re:Creators isn’t a bad series. It has strong fundamentals and a promising premise. Unfortunately, its lacklustre execution brings it down significantly. The weakly written characters, poorly fleshed out story, deus ex machina ending and main villain who canonically comes from fanfiction all serve to make a narrative that’s pretty weak. While I’d love to see this premise handled well, I have to give it a 4/10.

March Bonus Review: The Little Mermaid

Before I begin, let me explain what happened last week. I had some PC problems and I basically ended up without a working one from early Tuesday until early Saturday. Which basically translated to me missing all my usual update times. So, this week I’ll put up two anime reviews with the extra probably going up on Saturday. Now, with the elephant properly addressed, let’s move on.

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When I reviewed The Black Cauldron a couple months back, one of the things I noted was that, unlike this film, it’s not one of Disney’s atrocious offerings. Well, I knew I’d have to extrapolate on that eventually. And today, is that day.

Story:

So, we know the basic story. A mermaid falls for a human, trades her voice and possibly her freedom for legs & a cloaca in order to woo him. That’s right, Ursula doesn’t give her a proper human body. That’s canon.

So, what exactly makes this film so bad? Well, let’s start by talking about the motivation problem. Say what you want about Disney’s early heroines like Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora or Maid Marian. Say they’re boring damsels with nothing better to do than wait for their respective Princes to come to their rescue. But, one thing all of them have over Ariel, is that they’re in bad situations through no fault of their own. They get cursed, kidnapped or forced to do nothing but chores by their wicked stepmother.

Ariel, in contrast, lives a charmed life. She’s a princess in a great undersea kingdom. She has family and friends who love her. Her dad even lets her go to Hominid-con with her weird fake legs provided she follows some fair boundaries. But she feels unsatisfied because she wants to go up to dry land and have free reign of thirty percent of the planet instead of seventy. Plus her dad has rules and she’s sixteen so she considers that totally bogus. Basically, she has the same issues as Blanda in the second series of SAO.

The second problem, which ties into the first, is that Ariel directly causes all of her own misfortunes. The first thing we see her do is shirk off an obligation in order to almost get eaten by a shark. After that she decides she’s totally in love with a human she spied on for five minutes and actually interacted with for thirty seconds. And by interacted with, I mean she pulled him ashore so he wouldn’t drown. And in order to chase after that human dick she’s been craving, she basically puts herself in a hugely perilous situation by taking a contract from the sea witch who everyone with multiple brain cells should know isn’t trustworthy. Ursula even gives her an advantage by taking away her voice so her stupid, vapid mouth noises won’t immediately ruin her chances. That’s sporting of her.

Then there’s the third major narrative problem. The romance is shite. Yeah, there’s not much romance for Snow White, Aurora or Cinderella either since they basically marry the boring dudes who rescue them from their lousy situations but at least these guys do something for them. Ariel just sees her boring prince and decides she’s sick of the Mermen at Hominid-con with their fake human bits, she wants a real human dick. You could seriously replace Prince Whatever Who Cares with any decent looking dude and it would all be the same. Princess Vapid would probably still totally fall for them too because this has as much in common with a love story as the Star Trek/ X-men crossover has in common with a psychological horror.

Another thing I have to bring up is messaging. Most media for children is trying to convey some kinds of messages for the audience. Usually, I don’t talk about it because it’s basic stuff like “follow your dreams” or “even if you seem small, you can make a difference if you try.” In this case, I’ll make an exception because any possible message you can take from this film is horrible when you think about it for five seconds. Is the message “When you’re a teenager you know what’s best and your parents need to acknowledge it?” Maybe it’s “If you get yourself in a serious mess, Daddy will bail you out. Don’t worry about it.” Perhaps the message is “That attractive person you’ve never spoken to but you’ve been stalking totally wants you. You just need to get close to them and make it happen.” Or how about “Shady contracts always work out for the person who signs them because if someone’s trying to trick you, they’ll get their comeuppance.”

Characters:

Here’s another major issue with this film. The most likeable character, is the villain. Which shouldn’t happen since Disney villains tend to be very much evil for the evils. Then we notice who she’s up against. Ariel is a useless vapid cunt. Flounder is the obnoxious sidekick character. Although he’s probably delicious with some butter, a little lemon and pepper. Sebastian is the over-indulgent nursemaid. King Triton would be a decent enough character, since he’s just a dad trying to do what’s best for his daughter but they fuck it up at the end where he decides that he’s had enough of her shit and he just lets her go off to make the boring Prince’s life miserable.

Art & Visuals:

I do have to give the film credit in this regard. They did a good job of designing a magical underwater kingdom and a lot of the undersea scenes where they’re just showing the ocean life swimming around look good. The only serious problem with the art is that the final action sequence is pretty anti-climactic.

Acting & Music:

As a whole, the acting is basically competent. Jason Marin’s performance is annoying but that’s also a product of his character being that type. Jodi Benson is also pretty obnoxious to listen to, but that’s not so much her acting as it is the fact that every stupid thing that comes out of Ariel’s mouth makes you want to punch her. I don’t condone beating sixteen year old girls, but if I had to deal with her for an extended period of time I would be sorely tempted.

Some of the music is pretty catchy with the obvious examples being Under the Sea & Part of Your World. That being said, they are not good songs. Part of your World, in particular, has some stupid lyrics. Take this part:

Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters

Bright young women

sick of swimmin’

Ready to stand

First off, you sometimes have to reprimand your child. Even when they’re a teenager because teenagers think they know more than they actually do. Secondly, you are not bright, Ariel. Every single thing you say and do indicates that you would lose a battle of wits to a toothbrush. You’re the type of person you could keep occupied for days by handing a slip of paper with “turn over” written on both sides. Third, these last couple lines make no sense. It would be like me saying I’m sick of walking and ready to hover.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Give Ariel and Prince Whatever a developed relationship. Instead of her falling for him after stalking his ship for five minutes, have them actually sneak out to meet one another as an ongoing thing. You can fix the whole Ursula thing by having Ariel trade her appearance and voice. You can even still make her pretty. You can make the impetus him saying that he has to find a bride within a short frame of time. That gives more motivation behind why Ariel would risk so much for him. And by more, I mean any.
  2. Make Ariel older. Seriously, a lot of Triton’s perfectly reasonable boundaries become less reasonable if she’s, say, nineteen and an actual adult. Which makes for a more interesting, nuanced discussion.
  3. Have Ariel display actual intelligence and gratitude for what she has. That would go a long way in making her not a horrible character.

Final Thoughts:

So, that’s why The Little Mermaid is a rubbish film. It may actually be Disney’s worst big budget animated feature. If it’s not, I either haven’t seen the film that is or I can’t remember it. I’ll give it some credit for the competent acting and for having some nice visuals, but I’m not going to give it a whole lot given how egregiously terrible the writing is. I’m giving it a 2/10.

Overlord III: The Overpowered Needed Allies

I’ve talked about Overlord twice before. The first series was average with some good ideas they weren’t doing anything with. The second series moved up to good by giving some actual tension. Now we’re looking at the third series. Which may or may not be improved. To recap the story thus far, Ainz Ooal Gown was a high level player in an online game. When the game shut down, he somehow found himself in a new world with all the high-powered NPCs he & his friends created. Now he’s trying to navigate that world while also commanding more power than anyone else seems to. Various people are being caught up in his schemes.

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Story:

Continuing from the last series, Nazarick has gained control of the Kingdom’s underworld and taken a bunch of their populace for horrific experiments. In this series we open with the small village Ainz rescued in the first series, Carne, where two great beasts are about to invade. Meanwhile, the Empire has heard about the tomb of Nazarick and is about to send a bunch of mercenaries to explore it. Which will certainly end well for them.

The first big issue with this series is just that most of the plot threads that get some kind of resolution have really obvious resolutions. Take the Carne village part. There’s no tension because we find out, even before any fighting begins, that the Nazarick maid, Lupisregina, is going to e watching out for every village character who’s developed enough for you to potentially give a shit about. Then there are the mercenary workers. It’s obvious when they describe their job that they’re heading for Nazarick. It’s equally obvious that things will not end well for any of them. So, when they try to give you reasons to care it doesn’t work very well since you already see them as fodder.

On some more positive notes, the series does set up some pretty compelling things. Honestly, I get the sense that the fourth series will be more interesting when it builds off of this. I will also say that the whole final arc of this has a lot of strong moments. Which I shan’t spoil until I review series IV and recap it. I will also say that the scenes with the Nazarick crew just taking quiet moments to relax and act like normal friends are pretty great.

Characters:

There’s not much in terms of advancing the characters or in fleshing them out. Pretty much what we get is carried over from the prior series. The main new characters we get are some interchangeable goblins, the fodder & some Empire characters who are mainly notable for the political intrigue they represent rather than for what little they have you can call personalities.

The series tries to do what the second did by basing the tension off of the secondary characters who are actually at risk, but I’ve already been over why it doesn’t work with this one.

Art:

There’s not much to say about the Overlord artwork that I haven’t already, to be honest. The series continues to have strong character designs, action sequences that are quite good in spite of generally being very one-sided & nice backgrounds. It’s also worth noting that this is a series where the CG can stand out but it ends up contributing to make certain monsters look otherworldly. Which works fairly well.

Also, good on Madhouse for managing to have an episode where the characters go to a bath house without making it fan-servicey. That’s not something I can usually credit the studio with.

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Sound: 

The acting continues to be nicely done. Sakurai Takahiro has a somewhat major role in this one and he’s very good at what he does. I look forward to the obligatory scene where his character cross dresses. Hirakawa Daisuke & Ichimichi Mao also do really well. Of course, the major characters continue to be well acted. Katou Masayuki, Hino Satoshi, Hara Yumi, Katou Emiri & the others are all good at what they do.

In general, Katayama Shuji’s soundtrack works nicely for the tone and atmosphere. I’m a bit more mixed on the theme tunes. I don’t think they’re bad but I also don’t really want to listen to them and usually ended up skipping over them.

Ho-yay:

There’s a little bit. Shalltear mentions that she’s only slept with women. We also meet Nazarick’s torturer who’s basically the monster version of Fire Emblem from Tiger & Bunny. I guess whoever created him thought it would be funny if that character type was torturing people in more ways than just by existing.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. The Mission to Nazarick should have been more obfuscated. A part of the problem with giving a shit about the workers as characters is that we immediately know, from the instant they’re introduced, that they’re fodder. So, maybe give us the time spent trying to builds them up before that particular bombshell drops rather than after.
  2. Give the goblins some distinct personalities. Pretty much all that distinguishes these guys is that they look slightly different. But they all basically act the same. Which means we don’t really care when they’re in danger.
  3. Give us a bit more of the Nazarick crew’s interactions. Like I said, that segment may be short but it’s great.

Final Thoughts:

Overally, Overlord III is not as strong as the second series. While it does have its moments, particularly the final arc & the whole Nazarick relaxation interlude, it also suffers a bit from the same issue that plagued the first series. There’s a lack of any real tension. We know that the Carne village situation is going to end well for the characters we even slightly care about. We know what’s going to happen with the workers and we don’t care. I would still say this instalment is stronger than the first series. It’s pretty decent. So, I’ll give it a 6/10.

Yes PreCure 5: Go Go Archetypes

I’ve looked at the PreCure franchise quite a bit. With Futari wa, Max Heart, Splash Star and Doki Doki as well as three different films. This time around, we’re going back to the first PreCure series to feature a team, Yes PreCure 5. This one ran from early ’07 to early ’08. The head writer was Narita Yoshimi, who also did series composition work on Splash Star. So, that’s a pretty good sign. Let’s delve back into the world of PreCure.

Yes Precure 5 2.png

Story:

We open with our main heroine, Yumehara Nozomi, running late for school. Something we’ve never seen in any anime before besides ninety percent of them. On her way there she almost trips but gets caught by a very handsome older man. Being more than a little thick, she thinks of it as a fated encounter. Even when he turns out to be a gay squirrel. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. She’s in the library, presumably for picture books, when she encounters the stranger again. The pair of them are attacked by a Mantis man and she transforms into Cure Dream. The squirrel introduces himself as Coco and tells her that they need to find the four other legendary warriors to wake up his boyfriend who’s sleeping in the Dream Collet & the fifty five pinkies to revive the destroyed Palmier kingdom.

Let’s start with my biggest problem with this series, namely, the attempts at romance. Unlike the other PreCure series we’ve looked at where the straight love interest is either absent or a largely ignored element, this one likes to push the idea that a couple of these fourteen, maybe fifteen year old girls should get together with these grown ass men, one of which is their teacher and both of which are actually squirrels.

So, it’s the worst in the franchise in that regard so far. Say what you will about Soccer boy Senpai from Futari wa or Mai’s elder brother in Splash Star, at least they were close in age to the girls who were interested in them and not in positions of power & the same species. Every single episode where they try to push the romance aspect in this series comes across as more than a bit grotty & really cringey.

There’s also the way the whole pinky thing is handled. It’s very much an element the series brings up when it feels like it. Most of them are caught off screen & they barely do anything. There’s an episode where one gets used to treat an illness and another one acts like a photocopier a few times. I think that’s actually it.

But it’s not all bad. The way the overall theme of hope against despair and the way dreams for the future factor into holding on to your hope is pretty well handled. The ending has some nuance to it and really doesn’t unfold like you’d expect. So, that’s appreciated.

Characters:

The biggest problem with the cast here is that they’re very much a bog standard group. Nozomi is the super optimistic, good-natured, dumb as a brick variety of protagonist. Rin is the athletic one. Urara is the excitable, cheerful young one. Komachi is the calm older sister type & Karen is the smart one. And unlike, say, Doki Doki or Sailor Moon the characters never move beyond the most archetypical writing for those tropes in any significant way. The most interesting character in terms of writing is the main antagonist, Despariah. And that’s only because of what happens with the ending.

I will credit the series with trying to juggle the characters and give them all a decent amount of focus. I’ll also credit it with giving each of the main five their own little arc. Even if those arcs are trite. And the dynamics that aren’t pushing the idea of romance between young girls and adult animals can be fun.

One issue with the writing is that the series doesn’t know what to do with their underling antagonists. To the point where two of them exit the series in a really unsatisfying fashion. At least the others get big, final confrontations against the heroines. These two just kind of get unceremoniously axed.

Art:

The character designs are solid, especially for the villains. It also continues the proud series tradition of having very physical bouts and ending them with the big, magic attacks. The action scenes in general are nicely done. I especially like the horseback duel that Karen fights. The villain designs are quite good. The backgrounds are quite nice and, overall, the art just works well.

Yes Precure 5 1.png

(They angered the Gazebo)

Sound:

The performances are well done. Nagano Ai, Ise Mariya, Maeda Ai, Takeuchi Junko, Sanpei Yuuko and the other various major actors are all good at what they do. Overall, I also did like the music. One issue I do have is that they get rid of their original ending theme tune partially through and just replace it with a remix of Splash Star’s. It’s like the Toei team responsible for making the series decided the tune they had wasn’t good enough and they didn’t have time to write something new, so they just modified something they already had. Granted, the theme tunes in this isn’t as good as the other PreCure series we’ve looked at, but they’re perfectly fine.

Ho-yay:

There’s a lot of it betwixt Coco & Nuts. There are also a few scenes with Komachi & Karen where they come across as more than friends. And there are some scenes where Urara seems to have a bit of a crush on Nozomi. (Notice her, Senpai.) This series does have significantly less ho-yay than the rest of the franchise we’ve looked at, however.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Get rid of the attempts at romance. Seriously, you don’t need romantic elements. In fact, they’re downright detrimental when the main stuff you’re pushing is gross in three different ways.
  2. Give your characters something to set them apart. I get it, this was the first time they had a team and they didn’t really know how to juggle character development for five girls. But give us something that moves them beyond archetypes.
  3. Give the two villains with abrupt departures proper send offs. Again, I know why they handled it the way they did. They wanted to emphasise a particular antagonist’s sadistic side with how he disposes of these two. But I feel like they could have done that and still had the send off. After all, they do with the villain who leaves before these two.

Final Thoughts:

Yes PreCure 5 is not nearly the best the franchise has to offer. Honestly, it’s kind of weak. While it has its enjoyable moments and a few interesting elements, it suffers from bland characterisation, the worst romance elements in the series thus far and some aspects that just aren’t handled in engaging or interesting ways. In the end, the closest series I can compare it to is Max Heart. Like that series, it’s very mediocre. I’ll give it a 5/10. Maybe the follow up to it will redeem it somewhat when I eventually look at that, but given that it’s the series that marked the end of direct sequel series in the franchise, I’m not all that optimistic.