Tag Archives: anime review

Sonic the Hedgehog OVA: Far From The Worst Sonic Related Thing

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion over Sonic’s Hollywood debut and how the trailer makes it look like absolute rubbish, particularly with the horrific design for the character himself. Because that’s how Hollywood does adaptations. They think they can do better and make things more marketable if they just ignore the source they’re adapting from completely. But I digress. In early 1996, The Blue blur got an anime adaptation in the form of a two episode OVA from Studio Pierrot. And I’m going to look at it to provide some background into Sonic adaptations.

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Story:

We open with a shadowy figure in a laboratory. He rants about his Hyper Metal Sonic and how he just needs “his” data to complete him. We cut to Sonic & Tails enjoying the beach when an old owl flies up and sends them to the President who needs them as he is going to attend a furry convention and needs feedback on his suit. Actually, there’s an emergency. They arrive to find Doctor Eggman sitting at the President’s desk with robots holding the president and his daughter hostage. He tells Sonic that his kingdom, Eggmanland, was taken over by a mysterious Black Eggman and his army of robots. Furthermore, they’re abusing his generator in such a way that it may destroy the planet. Sonic says Eggman almost always lies but reluctantly agrees to go in case this is one of those rare exceptions. Thus Sonic and Tails begin their adventure.

I would say that the big story issue is that the whole thing is kind of predictable, but it’s also based off of the old Sonic games and those all had the same plot. So, I’m not sure the predictability can be called a big flaw. What is definitively a flaw is that the plot points don’t always make sense. For example, Metal Sonic knows everything Sonic knows from copying information from his brain. Fair enough. Somehow he also knows things Sonic learns after that fact. How does that work? Are their brains supposed to be connected by wi-fi? Does Sonic’s mind also have apps and Minesweeper?

I will credit the OVA with giving its characters enough sense to make the obvious points. Which should be a given, but frequently doesn’t happen, especially in works meant for children. But here, Sonic brings up Eggman’s dishonesty every time it’s relevant and there’s always a good reason why they have to act any way. So, at least the plot doesn’t revolve around carrying the idiot ball.  The OVA also does have the occasional funny moment. Which makes it pretty watchable.

Characters:

There isn’t much to the characters in this. Sonic can really move, he’s got an attitude. He’s probably the fastest thing alive. Tails is a playful kid who follows Sonic around and pilots a plane. Knuckles is a wandering treasure hunter who considers himself Sonic’s best friend. Eggman wants to conquer everything. They’re all simple, but serviceable enough. But that brings us to the new characters in the OVA. We have a senile old owl and the big joke surrounding him is that he awkwardly mimics the young people. The President is boring. But the real problem character is Sara, the President’s daughter. She throws tantrums, cries and is just generally annoying. All without contributing anything meaningful whatsoever. Yes, she’s one of those characters they could replace with a dog and it would only improve the work.

Art:

The art looks decent enough. Knuckles wearing a cowboy hat for no reason is a bit odd. It’s like the folks at Pierrot were inspired by Fang the sniper. But at least they had the good sense not to ruin Sonic’s iconic design by making him look bizarrely humanoid. A studio would have to be completely and utterly made up of morons to do that. Hi, Paramount.

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Sound:

The actors do pretty well. Particularly Kikuchi Masami & Matsumoto Yasunori. Kanai Mika is probably the worst in terms of performance but that’s more how her character is written than it is a reflection of her skills. The music is really well done with some tracks sounding like they came right from the Megadrive game. Maybe they actually did and I’m just not recalling the exact music from those games at the moment. Either way, it works.

Ho-yay: 

There isn’t any.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Lose Sara. She doesn’t contribute anything to the narrative. Her scenes are just annoying.
  2. Have Metal Sonic learn Sky World’s weakness through means that make sense. He could overhear it by zooming through or he could plant a bug on Sonic when he has the chance. In either case, it would work better than him still being connected to Sonic’s brain through wi-fi.
  3. Develop the Relationships with Sonic, Tails & Knuckles a bit. We get some small sense of how the trio interact and things work between them, but it could pretty easily be strengthened.

Final Thoughts: 

Honestly, I think this OVA is going to turn out to be significantly superior to the upcoming Paramount film. Is it a good OVA? Well, no but it does have a basic understanding of the Sonic characters and it faithfully follows the iconic designs that have kept the blue hedgehog relevant in spite of a long line of Sonic ’06, Secret Rings, Unleashed, Black Knight and other rubbish titles. And it’s not a bad OVA by any means. It has its enjoyable moments, in spite of its glaring flaws. In the end, it’s pretty average. If you were comparing it to a Sonic game, it would be at roughly the level of the first Sonic Adventure. So, my final rating is going to be a 5/10. If you’re a huge Sonic fan, consider checking it out. If you aren’t, you probably won’t get anything out of it.

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Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo: Brain Dead

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo is based off of a light novel and manga by Kamoshida Hajime. In late 2012, early 2013, JC Staff put out an anime based off of it. It’s tough to judge anything in advance based off of that since JC Staff has worked on great anime like Flying Witch & Yami No Matsuei as well as mediocre anime like Toradora and rubbish anime like Puni Puni Poemii & Voogie’s Angel. Only the future will tell where this one falls.

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Story:

Sorata is a student who’s found himself banished to Sakurasou, the dorm where they put all the problem students. He’s there on account of being a crazy cat boy with a living space full of fur & the scent of a half dozen litter boxes. The teacher who runs the dorm, Chihiro, sends him to fetch her cousin, knowing he won’t try anything due to lack of balls. From there, shenanigans ensue.

Let’s start by talking about one of the many major problems that plagues this series. To be specific, the comedy is really ceaselessly obnoxious. A lot of it is based on the characters being loud, over-reactionary and annoying. Some comedies work by giving you a cast that’s enjoyable or with strong comedic quirks that play off of each other well. This one just wants you to suffer for your insolence in assuming that comedies should be funny.

Then we have the romance. Which is horrible. I haven’t seen characters tossed together romantically with this little chemistry since Sword Art Online. The main romance is based around her being completely inept at taking care of herself and him being bland. Then we have the secondary romance based around them being childhood friends. They have less of a chemical reaction than neon with krypton but they’re childhood friends and, therefore, natural romantic interests. Then there are the characters who barely interact before she takes an interest in him for no discernible reason. And he seems outright opposed to it for most of the series, so you know that’ll be healthy and totally work in the long term.

Another big issue I have with the narrative is that the series tries to balance more light-hearted comedy with somewhat more serious romantic drama. I’ve already talked in broad strokes about how both those aspects genuinely fail, but a side issue has to do with consequence. Basically, if you’re going to have some more serious elements you need the characters to have some consequences for their actions. Which never happens in this series. These characters pull some shit that they should not be getting by with in any series that ever tries to be serious. They sneak into the pool, lock their teachers on a roof and disrupt graduation all with everything working out great for them. Not even comedic comeuppance because that might actually be funny and this series is anti-comedy.

Characters:

I’ve gone on record multiple times as saying that comedic characters don’t necessarily have to have depth, so long as they’re funny. In this, the characters have all the shallowness of shitty harem characters and there’s nothing funny about them. If anything, they may be even more annoying to watch than the cast of Grand Blue.

Probably the worst aspect is that informed characteristics are a big part of this series. We’re told that Sakurasou’s residents are talented but we never see evidence to support that. The greeting animation we see from Misaki is pretty shit. The “genius” Mashiro’s manga is basically this anime. Which, first off, is just self-aggrandising and, secondly, this series is shit. So, if this is the best she can do she’s trash. There’s also the “genius” label for her. She’s supposed to be a genius, but she can’t do basic shit like dress herself.

This culminates with the entire house working together on an animation for the school. And the animation isn’t just badly done, but it has a narrative that would never work for High Schoolers. Basically, it does the small children’s media thing of asking the audience to do things in order to participate. You know, like the Care Bears asking them to say they care. And we, as the audience, are supposed to believe this entire High school is so full of idiocy that the student body would be super into this shit designed for an audience ten to eight years younger than them.

Speaking of the “lack of consequences” Playboy sleeps around, has every VD in existence, but the girl he actually likes is never once turned off by it. For that matter, we never see his health suffer from having every Venereal disease.

Art:

The artwork isn’t bad, except when we see wild girl’s garbage animations. It’s just very generic. Complete with bog-standard designs and some failed attempts at visual gags.

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Sound:

The performances aren’t all that bad. They gravitate towards over-exaggeration and can be annoying at times, but they’re one of the lesser evils in the series. The music is mostly pretty bland. If you watch slice of life works, I guarantee you’ve heard much better compositions.

Ho-yay:

There’s barely any to be seen. The series goes to great trouble to give all the characters het love interests. Even if the romance is rubbish. Wild girl does grope the others once or twice. That’s pretty much the extent of it.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Give the characters strong comedic quirks. Them being obnoxious does not make for a strong comedy. Them being funny would.
  2. Skip the romance. Clearly, Kamoshida sucks at writing romance. So, just make it a straight up comedy without the horribly written romantic drama.
  3. Don’t tell us how brilliant the characters are if you can’t back it up. This is a pet peeve of mine in general, media that likes to have certain characters tell you how brilliant another is but that never has them do anything to prove it. I can tell you, emotionally stilted girl does not come across as a genius in any capacity. Neither does Wild girl since the animations we see her do are terrible. Nor does the shut in. But we get to listen to the other characters talk about how superlicious talented they all are. So much so that it becomes an annoying element before the series is a third over.

Final Thoughts:

I hated this anime. I hated every mind-numbingly stupid, obnoxious moment of it. I’ve watched some pretty awful comedies lately, but this is the worst of them. I honestly had trouble getting through it due to how unpleasant it was to watch. And that’s why my rating is going to be a 1/10. It’s fucking horrible.

Bakuretsu Hunters OVA: Back to the Beginning

Way back when I started, before I knew what the hell I was doing, I reviewed a Xebec series called Bakuretsu Hunters. I basically said it was bland, generic fare with great acting and music, weak characters and an over-abundance of fan-service. Well, I’ve come a long way since that review and that series had an OVA. So, we’re looking at that today.

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Story:

Each of the three episodes deals with something different. In the first, our protagonists find themselves at a hot spring where Carrot is determined to have a night visit with anyone except Tira or Chocolate. Meanwhile, a young boy we’ve never seen before but the characters know named Potee is also looking for a visit and Chocolate plans to sneak into Carrot’s room.

The second deals with them hunting a sorcerer who’s turned a town into zombies so he can have a really shit rom-com about a zombie protagonist. That’s right, he wants to make Kore wa Zombie desu ka. That evil bastard. Actually, he just wants the necronomicon to increase his powers. Which is why Big Momma is sending her hunters out to stop him.

The final episode deals with the group going back to their home town to visit a magic tree during a festival. Naturally, Carrot wants to use the romantic legend surrounding the tree to hit on any girl who isn’t Tira or Chocolate.

The first major problem with this is the focus on comedy. In the series proper there was more of a balance between the generic plot and the comedic scenes, which made them somewhat tolerable, but in this the comedy is pervasive and shite. It’s mostly based around Carrot being a crazy pervert who gets whipped by Tira and Chocolate as comeuppance. There are also “jokes” about Gateau and his sister, Eclair, doing macho poses in their undergarments. Because showing off your muscles is a proud Mocha family tradition going back generations. They may or may not be related to the Armstrongs. There’s also the predatory bisexual guy in the second episode who hits on everyone in the group. Why does bad media never have a bisexual character who just acts like a normal person? They’re always over-sexed. Then again, this is Bakuretsu Hunters where that can describe a whole slew of characters.

There’s also the love triangle to talk about. There’s this stupid thing in the franchise where both Tira and Chocolate have things for Carrot, in spite of him having no redeeming qualities, and he chases after every girl he meets except the two of them. That continues in the OVA and it’s still dumb. We also meet Daughter’s boyfriend and the series treats them as this overly mushy, romantic pairing while also having her say literally the least romantic thing possible to him. “Let’s make a child.” Just, yuck. You’d be less gross telling your significant other “I have severe constipation from that cheese pizza” or just reciting the lyrics to Ninja Sex Party’s Romance Novel. 

About the best I can say is that it can be cathartic to see Carrot suffer. It falls short most of the time, but there are a few cases where it works.

Characters:

It’s pretty similar to the main series. Carrot is trash. Gateau, Marron, Chocolate & Tira are boring. The OVA also adds Potee & Jii. They’re awful, like a child and old man Carrot. We also see Carrot’s dad, who is pretty much just like him in the minute and a half we have with him. They also add the predatory bisexual, Millefeuille, Potee’s mum, Salad & Gateau’s sister, Eclair. None of which are interesting in the slightest.

Art:

The biggest issue is still the fan-service and it’s even worse in the OVA. Tira and Chocolate don’t just strip into glorified swimwear in this. Tira goes into bondage gear while Chocolate goes into tiny string straps that only cover her nipples and even then it’s barely. Surely, the most protective outfits to wear when you’re going into battle. There’s also a lot of nudity in the hot springs episode. Aside from that,the backgrounds are fine and the action sequences are functional enough.

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Sound: 

The acting is really strong. Xebec got a lot of people who were way too good for this script including Hayashibara Megumi, Madono Mitsuaki, & Mizutani Yuuko. The music is, by far, the best part of the OVA. The theme tunes for this are legitimately really good. Kawai Kenji deserves credit for the composition. Hayashibara Megumi & Mizutani Yuuko deserve a lot of credit for the performances.

Ho-yay: 

There’s a bit. Unfortunately, it’s all gay jokes. In the night encounters episode, Chocolate accidentally glomps Salad in the dark and Salad seems okay with the situation. There are also some gay jokes about Potee and Jii. Of course, there’s also Millefeuille hitting on Carrot and saying he’s also interested in both Marron & Gateau. Which Gateau seems completely okay with.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Zany humour based off of strong comedic interactions. I think it could work if the characters had strong comedic quirks instead of being largely boring.
  2. Characters who are properly dressed for the weather. Because the fan-servicey outfits are just crass.
  3. Build up your characters. Characters need to have one of two things to work. Depth, or strong comedic quirks that play well off of each other. This franchise has neither. Given that the main series proper was a bit more story driven with attempts at comedic elements throughout, I’d be inclined to say it needs characters with depth who also have quirks that tie into their personalities.

Final Thoughts:

This OVA is pretty bad. It takes everything wrong with the main series and leans heavily into it while ignoring the story elements that had any promise to them. So, I’m giving it a 3/10.

Omoide no Marnie: Ghibli Goodness

I’ve talked about Studio Ghibli’s output a lot. In doing so I’ve covered the good, the mediocre & the Tales from Earthsea. This week, we’re covering their latest film based off of an English children’s novel.

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Story:

Sasaki Anna is dealing with a lot. She suffers from social anxiety, self loathing and asthma. Plus her parents died without leaving her a mansion, butler and the money to study every conceivable martial art. Her adopted mother decides to send her to a more rural area for a while, hoping it will be good for her asthma. Once there, Anna finds herself drawn to an old, abandoned mansion. Strangely, the mansion seems to come alive during high tide and it’s there that Anna meets Marnie, a blonde, blue-eyed girl who makes Anna promise not to mention her to anyone.

The only real issue I have with the narrative is that the climax is a bit abrupt in terms of how it’s resolved. One moment Anna is actually mad at Marnie and in the next she’s completely okay.

There are a lot of positive aspects to the story. The pacing is largely well done. The subtle build up before Marnie shows up, the way Marnie and Anna build their friendship, that’s all great stuff. The whole theme surrounding mental health and Anna’s issues is well handled. You see a gradual improvement spurred on by her interactions with Marnie and it’s pretty heart warming. I’ll also credit them for foreshadowing the twist well. It might be obvious for those of us who are older, but it’s perfect for the target audience.

Characters:

A big part of why the film works so well is that the characters are well written. Anna is highly sympathetic based on what she’s going through but she can also be quite nasty and lash out at others. Marnie is, similarly, a largely sympathetic character but we do get to see her mischievous side and her flaws. Even a character like Toichi who barely speaks has enough of a fleshed out personality to give him a good degree of verisimilitude. The interactions betwixt our leads are very well done and Anna gets some strong dynamics with some other characters as well.

Art:

The artwork and animation are exactly what you’d expect from Ghibli. Well designed characters, fantastic backgrounds, strong details throughout and smooth movements. Ghibli’s dynamic style is still fully intact and I think that’s great.

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Sound:

The performances are quite good. Especially from our leads, Takatsuki Sara & Arimura Kasumi. The soundtrack work was done by Muramatsu Takatsugu, who also worked on music for Mary to Majo no HanaLike with that film, he does a solid job here. The music is well suited to Ghibli’s aesthetic.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any. While Anna & Marnie do forge a strong bond, they come across more like friends who have gotten close to the point of being almost familial. If there were a term for old friends who’ve just met, I’d use that to describe their relationship dynamic.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. A little longer of a climax. I’d give Marnie and Anna more of a conversation at this point. I think it would strengthen the film and make the whole thing ring truer.
  2. Give Anna’s adoptive father something. We know she has an adopted dad since he’s mentioned, but we never really see him. It might be nice to at least have him see her off with his wife or anything.
  3. It would be nice to see more of a reaction from Anna when the final revelation happens.

Final Thoughts: 

Omoide no Marnie is an excellent film. It may not stand with the very best of Ghibli’s output, but it’s pretty close. I’ll give it an enthusiastic 9/10.

Golden Kamuy: Interesting Premise

Golden Kamuy is an anime from just last year. It’s based off a Noda Satoru manga that’s been going since 2014 and the anime was handled by Geno studio. No relation to a certain marionette with a gun arm. So, I don’t know anything about either the writer or studio. Let’s dive right into the series. We’ll just be looking at series one today. I might look at the second another time.

Golden Kamuy.png

Story:

The story is set shortly after the Russo-Japanese war. Our hero, “Immortal” Sugimoto fought in the war as a soldier and always managed to survive in spite of being put into many deadly situations. Since the war ended, he’s panning for gold to try to help an old friend’s widow. He’s listening to a drunken idiot who tells him the story of a bunch of escaped convicts with tattoos leading to a great treasure. At first, he doesn’t believe it but then the drunkard sobers up enough to really regret telling the story and Sugimoto discovers that he is, in fact, one of the tattooed convicts. Sugimoto quickly ends up pairing with a young Ainu hunter named Asirpa in order to find the treasure before the other groups hunting for it do.

The only glaring narrative problem with this series is that it can be overly slow at times. There are a lot of scenes with Asirpa just explaining hunting techniques or outdoors survival information to Sugimoto and they don’t do much for the major narrative. They’re just kind of dragged out, boring segments. You could cut out the bulk of these scenes and really lose nothing. It’s like Noda did a lot of research into the Ainu, how they lived and hunted and really wanted everyone to know.

To the series’ credit, the concept is a strong one. Having two major groups and a small one all looking for the same treasure with their own motivations to do so makes for a good, dynamic conflict. And even if the hunting scenes do go on too long, I do appreciate the details about Ainu life and culture. They give the series a strong grounding. The series also does a decent job of balancing the more serious aspects of the story with some more comedic elements. Although the joke of Asirpa thinking that miso is faeces does get old pretty quickly. The series also does end at a good point. There’s enough intrigue to get you interested in the second series and enough content that you don’t feel cheated.

Characters:

The series does a good job of developing its major characters, Sugimoto & Asirpa. It also does a good job with certain side characters, most notably Tanigaki. I’ll also credit it with fleshing out the differing motivations for wanting the treasure pretty clearly. That being said, a lot of the convicts they encounter are pretty much nothing characters and there are some other side characters who don’t really have anything to them.

Art: 

The artwork is nicely done. It’s got some good details. The backgrounds are well done. The various animals we see are drawn nicely. The action sequences are great. The only real issue I have with it is that it does suffer at times from “shounen design.” Basically, having characters who are supposed to look interesting and unique but look kind of stupid. The big examples are Tsurumi & Ushiyama. I know we’re supposed to find them both somewhat intimidating, but it’s hard to view them that way since they both look goofy.

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Sound:

Kobayashi Chikahiro, Shiraishi Haruka & Nakata Jouji deserve a lot of praise for their performances in this. While all the performances are pretty good, those three are fantastic in their roles. Suehiro Kenichiro’s soundtrack is nicely composed as well.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit where a couple guys fall for a cross dressing man, but that’s about it. And when they find out he is a man one of them really freaks out and the other isn’t too happy when he comes to his senses.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Skip the vast majority of the hunting scenes. We really don’t need to see a long explanation for how to hunt bear or a fox or a rabbit. If we wanted to know that, we’d be watching Huntin’ and Killin’ with Jimbo & Ned. If you need to put in some filler to stall for time, at least have the characters talk about something interesting or use the time to develop some characters. Long explanations about hunting techniques aren’t either.
  2. Let Asirpa realise that Sugimoto is not, in fact, practising coprophagia. The joke works at first but after a while it just gets old and you want it to end.
  3. Rework the designs for Tsurumi & Ushiyama. The idea behind Tsurumi’s design might work if you had his scalp torn open and his skull clearly visible in a more disturbing way rather than making it look like he’s wearing a white plate strapped to his forehead, but Ushiyama’s flashy square in his forehead will never not look stupid.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, Golden Kamuy is a pretty solid series. There might be some things that don’t work very well, but at its core the series has a compelling concept, well written major characters, strong artwork and animation and good performances. Is it among the best anime ever made? No. Is it a good, entertaining series? Yes. My final rating is going to stand at a 7/10.

Fushigi no Kuni no Miyuki-chan: Something Something Bosoms

Fushigi no Kuni no Miyuki-chan is a two episode Madhouse OVA based off of a relatively short, comedic Clamp manga. I have talked about Clamp’s works quite a bit since I’ve also reviewed xxxholic, Blood-C, Cardcaptor Sakura & Magic Knight Rayearth. So far, only one of those has been largely negative. So, that’s not the worst record out there. But let’s see what happens with this one.

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Story:

Our heroine, Miyuki, wakes up one morning after a nightmare we don’t get to see. She notices she’s running late and hurries to school with toast in her mouth. Which is a completely original gag that has never been used in anything else. A scantily clad bunny girl skateboards in front of her, muttering how she is also late. They both fall into a hole, the bunny girl likely regretting her lack of safety pads and a helmet but we don’t see her again. Miyuki gets pulled into the chest of a girl who is also a door and goes into Wonderland where scantily clad women all want a piece of her. Seriously, she has more women pursuing her than Inés, except non-consensually. The second episode is close to the same set up, except she gets pulled through the looking glass.

The biggest problem with the OVA is a very simple one. The comedy is shite. Miyuki basically moves from one awkward situation, where buxom, predatory lesbians try to grope her without her permission, to another and struggles to escape. That’s the entire joke of the entire OVA. Because it’s such a hilarious joke that this high school girl is being assaulted. Because when women do that to other women it magically becomes funny… because shiny umbreon has blue rings.

Even if the joke was conceptually funny instead of being blatantly terrible, it would be so heavily run into the ground that it would be melted from contact with the molten core. There’s a reason a good comedy will find new and unexpected things to do with its running gags because a comedy needs an element of the unexpected to really work. If you know exactly what’s going to happen as soon as the set up starts, the joke probably isn’t going to be funny. So, we face a situation where there’s one joke and it’s not even conceptually funny.

Characters:

There’s no real sense of character in this. Every character Miyuki encounters is pretty much defined by being a predatory lesbian who will freeze to death the moment temperatures drop. Miyuki herself is just boring. No personality. No comedic quirks.

Art:

The artwork isn’t very good. It’s not so much that Clamp likes to give its characters awkwardly elongated limbs as it is the series emphasises skimpy outfits and other fan-service elements over anything that would be good. If we’re going to take a detour through worlds based off of Lewis Carroll’s classic stories, we should have some strange, whimsical scenery and objects to capture our attention but in this version, the scenery and backgrounds are pretty boring & low effort. Clearly, they thought your eyes would be somewhere else but my mum taught me not to stare at noodle-limbed ladies with awkward proportions.

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Sound:

The acting is pretty bad. I don’t blame the cast since Madhouse did get some skilled people including Kouda Mariko. I think it’s more that they have nothing to work with. Miyuki spends her time crying out or being startled. The rest of the characters might get one or two lines. Honda Toshiyuki’s soundtrack is pretty bad. Most of the series uses the same intense comedic music on loop. It might be an innocuous enough track if they played it a few times, but when it gets repeated over and over and over again for close to thirty minutes it makes you want to drop kick a baby.

Ho-yay:

The whole premise is based on predatory lesbians, so there’s a lot of groping.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Make it funny. There’s so much potential for strong, quirky humour using Wonderland & the world through the looking glass as a backdrop. You just have to take advantage of the strangeness of the situation and actually make the characters funny and quirky instead of just molesty.
  2. Vary your music. Because using heavily repeated music to annoy your audience into dropkicking babies is not a good way to solve global overpopulation.
  3. Revamp the shoujo ai aspect. If you want to make a shoujou ai work based off of Alice in Wonderland, I think that’s great and I’m all for it. But making all your characters offensive predatory stereotypes is not the way to do it. You could have Miyuki meet a bunch of really homo-erotic girls with fleshed out personalities and funny character quirks. You could have her meet and travel with one and give the pair a budding romance. You could have her come to terms with her own sexuality after seeing new and wondrous things on her adventure. Any of those would have been much better.

Final Thoughts:

Fushigi no Kuni no Miyuki-chan is complete crap. Horrible humour, artwork that’s only passable at being exploitative, a music loop that gets obnoxious quickly. At least it’s mercifully short. I’m giving it a 2/10.

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.

Mahoutsukai sora.png

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.