Tag Archives: anime review

Mizu no Kotoba: Short and Semi-Sweet

Mizu no Kotoba is a nine minute anime from Studio Rikka. That’s right, the Eve no Jikan & Harmonie studio. It was released in 2002, making it the oldest Rikka anime I’ve looked at by over half a decade. It’s also the shortest by a pretty wide margin. Let’s see how it holds up.

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Story:

Our narrative is set in a quaint cafe where a group of patrons are all holding their own conversations. Our main focus is on the young man at the counter and the barista who’s trying to cheer him up after he broke up with his girlfriend.

One thing to note about the story-telling is that the conversations from the people besides our main character all, in some form, foreshadow what he’s going to experience towards the end of the short. Which, I don’t really think is necessary. You could honestly have the cafe be basically barren and show some quick, visual hints and get the same effect.

I will credit the short with capturing a very interesting moment. It does keep your attention from start to finish. Which doesn’t seem like a great feat for something that’s only nine minutes, but I’ve seen other short anime/ anime with very short episodes where there was just nothing compelling. Hi, Chokotan. In some ways, this feels like a very short story that Ibis could tell. It also does a good job of giving you enough of the world to get you interested. This could make an effective lead in to a longer series if it wasn’t just a stand alone thing.

Characters:

The characterisation in this isn’t anything special. Our main protagonist has a basic level of verisimilitude and about as much depth as you could reasonably manage with nine minutes. The waitress comes across as almost a trickster type with her eagerness to help and her guiding our protagonist to a strange area. Until you learn the truth about her, any way.

The rest of the patrons aren’t really worth mentioning. They’re all kind of boring if I’m being honest.

Art:

I’m not completely sold on the art style. This is one of those anime where all the characters have dead looking eyes and the facial expressions are a bit awkward. It doesn’t really look bad. It’s serviceable enough. It’s just a bit of a blah style. And they do get lazy at points and just show text.

The only point where I genuinely like the art is towards the end when things get a bit surreal. Partially because they aren’t showing the people as much and partially because there are some interesting visuals.

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Sound:

The acting is fine. It’s not particularly good or memorable, but it’s better than mediocre. The music is quite nice. It’s not the best out there, but it’s solid enough.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any. Not that I would expect a nine minute short to have hugely developed character dynamics that would allow for strong romance period.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Lose all the side patrons. Honestly, their chatter doesn’t really contribute anything except for some foreshadowing. Which you could get purely from visuals, assuming you think you even need foreshadowing in a nine minute work.
  2. Better character art. While I mean no disrespect towards the animators who worked hard on this, the characters really don’t look good.
  3. A longer surreal sequence. That twenty seconds or so is the most stand out moment of the short and just looks the best.

Final Thoughts:

Mizu no Kotoba is a solid short. It’s well put together and compelling throughout. Honestly, if you have nine minutes where you’re just waiting for something, give it a quick watch. I’m giving it a 7/10.

Kakegurui: Gambled its quality and lost

Kakegurui is a Kawamoto Homura manga that’s been adapted into both anime and live action forms. The first series of the anime came out in 2017 from MAPPA. The same studio that we only forgive for Sakamichi no Apollon because they proved they can do well with Dororo. Let’s see how they did with this one.

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Story:

Our tale takes place in a prestigious school where the children of rich and powerful families are allowed to gamble away their futures. For at this school, gambling is considered justice and all students take on gambles. Our protagonist is transfer student Jabami Yumeko. A girl who joins the school to sate her gambling fetish and wants nothing more than the opportunity to go up against the student council.

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend the premise isn’t completely, irredeemably stupid. Let’s pretend there’s some logic to a school like this being allowed to exist. So, what’s wrong with the story when we allow for that? First off, there’s no real tension to it. Our protagonist doesn’t give a shit what happens to her when she gambles. Which means that when her opponent comes in and asks her to gamble her future, or some such thing, there’s no reason to get invested since she very blatantly isn’t concerned.

A broader issue is that her gambles end kind of predictably. There’s a case in particular where they participate in a “debt erasing” poker game and you know which character is going to lose as soon as the game begin. You also know which character is going to win because it’s clearly set up. It’s also pretty obvious which gambles Jabami isn’t going to lose. To make things worse, it’s obvious which ones she’s going to draw.

The only positive thing I can give the narrative is that it can be kind of interesting to see Jabami figure out how her opponent’s cheating and turn it against them. Or to see her figure out how to beat the odds when they’re stacked against her.

Characters:

The cast in this is quite bad. Jabami’s whole shtick is that she gets caught up in the ecstasy of gambling and behaves in an irrational way that catches her opponents off guard. She probably spends tens of millions of yen on loot boxes every week. And the other characters in this have even less to them than that. They’re pretty much one-note characters who are there to get swept up by Jabami’s psychosis.

Art:

This series thrives on the spectacle of its scenarios. And a part of that involves artwork that’s either overtly sexualised or absolutely hideous. This series loves to have its girls getting really close and cuddling up. As for the really ugly scenes, think of what the Phoenix Wright breakdown scenes would look like if they were considerably more grotesque and bereft of any charm and you have this series’ idea of intense.

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Sound:

The acting in this gravitates towards bombastic over-exaggeration that’s so bad it makes Brian Blessed’s most over the top performance seem subtle. Particularly during those scenes that are supposed to come across as intense. The music is pretty decent. So, that’s the best element to the series.

Ho-yay:

There are two girls, Ikishima & Igarashi, with very blatant romantic interests in other girls. This series also has a fetish for positioning its girls in ship teasing fashions. But don’t get the wrong idea. There aren’t any proper relationships betwixt any of the girls. That would require being able to write semi-decent human interaction.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Even the slightest hint of character depth would be nice.
  2. Put the gambling underground instead of in a school. You could pretty easily rework the premise to have a bunch of children from influential families engaging in illicit gambling in a more clandestine fashion. All you’d lose would be the house pet system, which you could work around.
  3. Draw proper faces. All these scenes with overly pronounced teeth, bugged out eyes and such that are supposed to be intense are just ugly looking.

Final Thoughts:

This one is easily as bad as Sakamichi no Apollon. Granted, the characters aren’t as obnoxious but the bombastic, over the top and downright ugly aesthetic is definitely just as bad in its own way. That’s why I’m giving this a 3/10.

Chrno Crusade: I’m not crying, you’re crying

Chrno Crusade is an early 2000s anime based off of a manga by Moriyama Daisuke. The anime version was handled by the folks at Gonzo. Yes, the Bakuretsu Tenshi, Final Fantasy Unlimited & Trinity Blood studio.

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Story:

We open with representatives of the Magdalene order, a religious order that hunts demons, going into action. These are our main characters, Sister Rosette and her daemonic partner Chrno. We quickly learn that Rosette’s younger brother, Joshua, was taken to a twisted version of Shibuya to play a reaper’s game. I mean, he was kidnapped by a demon named Aion. To search for him, she’s formed a pact with her friend, Chrno. The price being her very life force.

I have to give Moriyama a lot of credit here. The writing is brilliant. It’s one of those series where the premise has potential but only if it’s handled very well. Which it is. The theme of time is a powerful one and it’s handled immaculately. The way the series builds up to big events is superbly done as well. It’s very good at giving escalating hints at what’s coming and of having worthy pay off.

This series is also excellent at mixing some more light-hearted comedic elements with its more serious, dramatic moments. Which is one of those things that most media can’t manage. But this series handles it by making the comedy more subdued and never going too far with its dramatic elements. Even the most serious moments contain a strong spark of hope and even the most comedic moment has some serious undertone playing out. As a consequence, the shifts are a lot more natural.

I can also credit the series with having fantastic world building. It doesn’t just throw back stories and fantastical terms at you. It eases you into them gradually so, when some aspect actually gets explained, you’re able to easily grasp it as part of the world and see where it fits in with the rest. It helps that the visions of heaven, earth and hell in this series are really compelling.

The ending is absolutely perfect. I won’t spoil it, but I will point out that a lesser writer would not have gone with the ending this series has. They would have seen it as too risky or not marketable enough. But it is also the ending that works best with all the build up and events of the series.

This series also deserves some credit in being one of those rare anime that makes me tear up. There are two scenes in particular where I had to dry my eyes. And I don’t cry at that many pieces of media. Especially not after multiple viewings but I re-watched this series for a third time for this review and it still got to me.

Characters:

My minor complaint here is that Chrno Crusade has one of those comedic dirty old man characters. To its credit, there is more to the elder than you would usually get with that type of character. He does have some complexity. But it’s still a tired and kind of shit archetype to work off of.

That gripe aside, the characters in this are excellent. Rosette starts out seeming like one of those more brash, action girl heroines. But as the story progresses she gains more complexity and you learn that a lot of her more reckless behaviours tie into her wanting to live every day to its utmost due to her more limited time.

Every major character is like that. They start with some, simple archetype and elevate it to something unique, complex and interesting. Which also leads to some superb character dynamics and interactions. Chrno and Rosette in particular have a superb bond. The minor characters may not be as perfectly developed and fleshed out, but they have enough complexity to come across as actual people.

I also have to credit the series for its antagonists. The villains, Aion especially, are complex characters with clear and compelling motivations. Aion makes such an excellent villain because he is very blatantly villainous but he’s also got his own twisted reasons behind everything he does and he excels at manipulating others into doing what he needs them to do. He doesn’t come across as the most physically intimidating but he doesn’t need to because his powers of persuasion and manipulation make him a terrifying opponent.

Art:

My minor gripe here is that there are points where Rosette or Satella will have their clothes torn in battle in a fashion that borders on sexualised. To the series’ credit, it never crosses that line but it does come uncomfortably close.

Aside from that, the artwork is very strong. The demon designs are great. The various technical devices the Magdalene order uses have interesting designs. Steeped in religious imagery, obviously, but that just adds to the aesthetic. Gonzo deserves a lot of credit for framing their important scenes very effectively. For instance, there’s a scene towards the end where Rosette is going out and helping people but its framed in such a way that it comes across as very unsettling. And a lot of that comes down to the art since she isn’t moving right and there’s something just a bit off about her face.

The action sequences are fairly strong as well. There’s a lot of creativity behind them and they’re very effectively animated for the tone that the series is going for. The more light-hearted scenes come with more high energy, fun action scenes while the more serious scenes have heavier sequences.

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Sound:

The performances in this are superlative. Ishida Akira, Kawakami Tomoko, Chiba Saeko and Neya Michiko are all excellent. I don’t even care that Neya Michiko’s Deutsch isn’t quite natural. And you can’t fault Inoue Kazuhiko’s performance as Aion. The music is excellent as well. Amazing theme tunes with Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line & Sayonara Solitaire and perfectly fashioned in episode music. Which includes some lovely song performances by Saeko Chiba.

Ho-yay: 

There are moments in Chrno’s shown back story that make it seem like maybe he and Aion were more than friends but it’s not a lot and there’s nothing definitive.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Give the elder a different comedic attribute. Yeah, I admit that I just personally can’t stand the dirty old man trope. But even putting that aside, you could definitely do something more unique here.
  2. Less attire tearing during fights.
  3. Show a little more of Joshua’s fate in the ending. After the effort put in on his behalf, it would be nice to know a bit more about what happens with him.

Final Thoughts:

This series is excellent. In terms of writing, acting and animation it’s really exemplary. I did struggle a bit with whether to give it a 9 or a 10 since I do have two gripes with it that somewhat affected my enjoyment but given how stellar the whole thing is and how minor they are by comparison to everything it does right, I’m going with a rare 10/10.

Slayers Gorgeous: No, I’m not done with this franchise

I’ve talked about JC Staff’s Slayers franchise quite a bit. And by quite a bit, I mean thrice with reviews of The Motion Picture, Great & Return. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a largely comedic fantasy tale about a powerful sorceress who stops rampaging monsters, grabs treasure wherever it glitters and claims victory over her foes. Along with a colourful cast of companions. So, is this film as good as the others we’ve looked at?

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Story:

So, we open with Lina and Naga sitting in a town square, enjoying some tacos, when everyone around them starts panicking and running indoors. They find out why when an armoured girl appears with dragons. Lina fends her and her dragons off only to find out that her father rules the town and they’re fighting over a raise in her allowance. That moment when you realise you suck as a parent. Naturally, both Lina and Naga are brought in on opposite sides for the promise of gold.

The biggest weakness of this film is that it does hit some of the same beats as Great did. That on featured a father and son building golems for opposite lords in a dispute while Lina and Naga took opposite sides. To be fair, the reasons for parent and child fighting were different and the way their dynamic plays out is different, but the basic story lines are pretty similar. Another, more minor gripe is that the imagery accompanying the ending credits has a segment with Lina flipping a coin that’s pretty close to the same as the scene that Great had in its.

The strength this has is that the humour is at a very high level with most of the gags landing very effectively. This film also demonstrates the ability this franchise has to introduce a big threat and have a cool action sequence, but also add in a bunch of comedic elements during the fight that make it tonally fit perfectly. The reveal of the ultimate antagonist is also very cool.

Characters:

In terms of character, the strength of these films has consistently been Lina and Naga’s dynamic. They’re similar and distinct enough that you can both understand why they keep one another company and why they drive each other crazy. I can really buy them as friends. Hell, I’d buy them as lovers of the “old bickering couple variety” if that had been the route they’d taken. And their dynamic really shines in this film at the point where they’re working in combination and you can see them communicate intentions without saying a word.

The side characters also follow the same pattern as the ones in the last film. They aren’t complex, but they’re quirky enough for some good gags and to make them memorable.

Art:

JC Staff has consistently done a great job with the artwork in this franchise. It features some strong visual gags, well designed characters and some really good action sequences. My biggest complaint about the action sequences is that some of the scenes in them are a bit too clichéd. For instance, it has that scene where two opponents run at each other, it pauses for a moment and then you see the result.

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Sound:

Hayashibara Megumi & Kawamura Maria are amazing as ever. The actors for the film exclusive characters give strong performances as well. You can’t really fault Hikami Kyouko, Kamiya Akira, Takiguchi Junpei or anyone else in that regard. The music is pretty great. Hayashibara Megumi’s ending song in this one is Raging Waves, which is fantastic.

Ho-yay:

There’s still none to be had. Yeah, they could make Lina and Naga work as a couple, but there are no hints of that.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Vary the film plots more. I get that every writer has a “thing” but it’s going to get a bit tired if we keep seeing parent/ child squabbles as a central plot element.
  2. Lose the action scene clichés. I’m sorry, they just don’t work all that well.
  3. A different ending gag. I get that they vary it slightly, but it’s close enough to the same thing that it doesn’t work all that well when you’ve seen the film before it.

Final Thoughts:

This is a pretty great film and definitely worthy of the franchise. Ultimately, my complaints with it are more minor nitpicks than serious, enjoyment affecting problems. So, I’m going to give it an 8/10. If this franchise is your thing, you’ll enjoy this film. If it’s not, at least look up the song Raging Waves by Hayashibara Megumi.

Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki:

Angolmois is based off of a historical fiction manga by Takagi Nanahiko. It’s based off of the events of the first Mongolian invasion of Japan from 1274. So, this was back when Kublai Khan was running things. But enough history, the anime adaptation was handled by NAZ. One of those rare anime studios that I haven’t seen anything from. Let’s see how strong of an introduction this is.

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Story:

Our narrative is set on Tsushima Island. We follow a group of Japanese exiles who are being sent for the sole purpose of serving as troops against the incoming Mongolians. They soon find themselves as a small unit trying to stay in hiding and avoid the larger, more powerful Mongolian force.

Now, it makes sense from a narrative perspective to follow a small, guerilla force since it’s pretty well known that Tsushima fell very quickly during the first Mongolian invasion. The problem this has, as a narrative, is that there are literally a million characters and none of them are memorable. The tension in the story hinges on us, as the audience, caring about our small group of plucky survivors but even with a relatively small number, there are just too many characters and there’s never time taken to flesh them out. It doesn’t help that the climax of the story involves a huge ass pull with a certain character being underwater for a good twenty minutes and somehow surviving.

Characters:

Herein lies the big flaw to the series. The huge cast of characters. We’ve got big, shark teeth guy, bullseye head, the short merchant, the barely adolescent scout, the doctor, the grizzled dude, the sleazy one and the main samurai. That’s just the exiles who play major roles too. That’s not even going into the named native islanders, the Toi Barai or the Mongolians.

A more important character in this series might get close to being two dimensional, but the vast majority of these characters are just stock tropes. Which makes it really difficult if not impossible to give a shit when things start going badly and characters start dying.

Even our two major characters, Jinzaburou & Teruhi, aren’t all that interesting. He’s got a vague honourable warrior shtick going and she’s pretty much a highly emotional action girl who’s attracted to him for no adequately explored reason. Will they get together? I really could not care less.

Art:

The art is a bit unusual. Everything has a weird texture to it. It’s like they want to visually marry the idea of an old sepia toned samurai drama to modern animation techniques. So, the colours are a bit muted and the whole series just looks a bit off, visually. And I’m not sure it’s for the best. I’d hesitate to say it looks bad, since there are some nice details and the action scenes generally flow pretty smoothly. I also could not say it looks good.

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Sound:

The acting is decent enough. You won’t get highly skilled, emotionally deep performances. Even though there are some amazing actors like Ishida Akira & Koyasu Takehito. There are also plenty of good actors we’ve heard give strong performances before. But this is one of those cases where the lack of character complexity really hampers the actors’ abilities to give strong performances. The music is fine. It’s not Katayama Shuji’s best, for certain. But it’s okay.

Ho-yay:

There is not any.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Flesh out your characters. This is probably the biggest thing. This premise needed strong characterisation for the tension and investment. And we simply don’t get it.
  2. Humans can not breathe underwater. I get what they were going for with this. They were trying to build the tension by showing a character tossed underwater and then cutting to other stuff while occasionally going back to that character. The problem is that they leave him down there so long his survival comes across as absurd.
  3. Lose the filter. Again, I get what they were going for with this. They wanted the call back to old period dramas. But the series would, quite honestly, look a lot better without it.

Final Thoughts:

Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki isn’t a bad series. It has a premise that could easily work, some of the action sequences are nicely handled and it just doesn’t have anything it does all that badly. Unfortunately, the characters are dull and stock. The muted artwork does not do the series any favours and it’s just not compelling. So, I’m going to give it a 5/10. If you really love historic samurai dramas, you might be able to forgive the nothing characters but I can’t recommend it for most.

Satsuriku no Tenshi: I saved the Worst for Last

This horror anime month has been pretty middling in terms of the series we’ve looked at. We’ve seen some decent anime and some sub-par anime. We haven’t seen anything great but we haven’t seen anything terrible either. Maybe we’ll be able to break up that pattern with a look at Satsuriko no Tenshi, an anime based off of a horror game. Now, your first thought when I mention anime based off of a horror game might be my history with trite rubbish like Galerians or Corpse Party. But at least those two were entertaining in their incompetence. And we have reviewed some good anime based off of games. Maybe this will be one of those.

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Story:

We open with our heroine, young Rachel Gardner, waking in a strange place where she’s chosen as a sacrifice. She quickly discovers that she’s going to have to go up through several floors of serial killers to escape the complex. Wanting to die, she approaches one, Isaac Foster, who agrees to kill her after she helps him escape.

There are two fatal flaws with this narrative. The first is that the story makes very little sense when you think about it to even the slightest degree. First of all, how did the dude who set all this up find all these serial killers and how did he get them to actually agree to all live in this system and work together? Serial killers all have their own shtick. They have certain things they look for in their victims, specific ways they want to murder said victims and they generally don’t work well together. How did he persuade them all to work together with rules about who gets what floor? How does he find “sacrifices” who work for all of them? And how did he manage to build this vast complex to house all these killers with no one noticing? This premise is objectively stupid.

But let’s put that aside for a moment. Let’s pretend that either our brains don’t quite work properly or we’re really willing to stretch suspension of disbelief and let’s talk about the second fatal flaw. Mainly, there’s no possible tension to this scenario. One of our protagonists is openly and unapologetically a mass murderer with no redeeming qualities. There is no compelling reason for us to give the remotest shit what happens to him. Our other protagonist wants to die. You’d think that would be easy in a complex full of serial killers, but she decides it has to be this one guy who does it for very insipid reasons. There’s no reason for us to care about her survival because she doesn’t even care about her own survival. Therefore, any dangerous scenario they find themselves in doesn’t matter.

And it is pretty stupid that she’s in a complex of murderers and can’t figure out how to get herself killed. That would be like going to a university frat party and not being able to figure out how to get laid.

Characters:

The characters in this do not help. Isaac is obnoxiously stupid. Rachel is an insipid nothing character. And the killers they encounter on each floor are just a bunch of stereotypes out off old, cheesy slasher films. Roger Corman’s horror films had more menacing adversaries than these morons. It doesn’t help that the interactions among the characters are really dumb.

Art:

There are moments where you can see how a floor’s design might be a bit creepy, if the execution was very different. That’s about the most positive thing I can say for the artwork. The character designs are pretty stupid looking. Isaac wears bandages all across his face, including over his mouth, but he somehow left enough of a hole that he can talk and open his mouth in spite of the bandages being clearly placed on his lips.

The action sequences aren’t very good either. They’re a bit slow-paced and dull.

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Sound: 

The acting is not as bad as every other element in the series would lead you to believe. You can tell that Okamoto Nobuhiko, Sakurai Takahiro and some others have skill. The problem is that their performances in this range from stilted to not giving a shit. The music is fairly mediocre.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any in this series. The character dynamics are too boring to have romantic tension of any kind, really.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Have one serial killer who puts their victims at the bottom of a trap-riddled complex as their thing. If there was one mastermind and you barely saw them, it would have a much stronger, actually creepy atmosphere. As opposed to a bunch of one note idiots on different floors.
  2. Have a protagonist who has a personality and wants to live. It’s much easier to care about a character with a personality and be invested when they themselves care. Honestly, I’d have ten characters at the start and show them all going through the floors individually. IE, starting with the first floor and then showing the people who survive that going through the next and so on. The audience would always be curious as to which characters would make it through a particular floor.
  3. Have strong character designs. The characters in this are basically built around taking some horror monster/ slasher like a mummy, scarecrow, mad scientist, warden or priest and making them look really stupid. You would do better just having the antagonist be a somewhat sketchy looking person.

Final Thoughts:

Satsuriku no Tenshi is pretty awful. And not in an entertaining way like Corpse Party or Galerians. The narrative has massive holes. The characters are rubbish. The designs are stupid looking. It’s just genuinely terrible. I’m giving it a 2/10.

I hope you all look forward to a very special Halloween bonus review.

Kyuuketsuhime Miyu TV- Not Quite as Good

I’ve talked about the vampiric Princess, Miyu, once before. About seven years ago. Like the OVA, this is from AIC. The same studio that brought us Blue Gender, Night Walker, & Bubblegum Crash to name a few. This series came out almost a decade after the OVA since that was late 80s and this was late 90s. But the important question is, does it maintain the same level of quality?

Story:

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The narrative follows the same basic premise as the OVA. There are supernatural beasts called Shinma that feed off of humans. Fighting against these monsters is the Guardian, Miyu who uses her flames to send stray Shinma back to the darkness. Each episode presents a different encounter with the Shinma.

Honestly, that’s the big weakness of the series. It was fine for the OVA to be somewhat “monster of the week” since it based its dramatic tension on the mysteries behind the scenarios and they were building up to something. This tries to do the same thing, but it doesn’t work nearly as well when everything is stretched out over twenty six episodes and the bulk of them have little or nothing to do with the big finale. It also doesn’t help that the only episodes strongly hinting at the turn for the finale come at the very end, shortly before the event itself.

The mysteries also aren’t as well handled. Yes, they can be interesting and the scenarios can be quite engaging. However, a big part of what made the OVA’s mysteries work was having the outsider’s perspective. This doesn’t provide that. There is no equivalent for Himiko. The closest we get is a single episode that focuses on a young woman trying to hunt down a Shinma that killed her family. Which generally means the episodes that want to push the mystery aspect more will focus on an ordinary human who finds themselves targeted by some kind of Shinma and Miyu will appear largely in the background until the end where she confronts the Shinma.

I will credit the series with being engaging. Even though the episodes are fairly formulaic, there’s enough variation to keep the scenarios interesting. It’s not one of those monster of the week series where nothing interesting happens. Or one of those ones that’s full of pretentious nonsense juxtaposed against stupid shit like mecha pilots using DDR to sync their movements. It does help that there is a strong mystery element to some of the episodes. It also helps that the people being targeted are neither faceless parts of a crowd nor are they guaranteed safety.

Characters:

This is actually a bit improved over the OVA. The OVA gave us largely nothing characters with a few main characters who were worth mentioning. In this one, the side characters being targeted do tend to come across as complex and very human. Which makes the changes they undergo more disturbing and adds some investment to their fate. The major characters are still the most compelling. We even get some strong back stories for Miyu, Larva & the ice-powered Reiha in this one. It is also interesting to see Miyu & Reiha clash ideologically. There are some very strong interactions in this series in general. Which is a big factor in how it remains compelling in spite of following a monster of the week formula.

The weak point is that some of the Shinma are just kind of dull. Some are well developed and have a strong sense of personality, but others are just kind of generic villains.

One odd thing is that Miyu comes across as much more sullen and duty-driven in this one. In the OVA, she came across as more of a trickster figure. I kind of preferred the OVA version, but I can see why AIC considered this more suitable for a main character.

Art:

The art style does, generally, look pretty good. The Shinma have interesting designs. The backgrounds are nicely detailed. The action sequences are where the series falters a bit. One issue is that Miyu doesn’t come across as all that capable. In a lot of her battles, she’ll summon Larva to block attacks and weaken the enemy so she can deal the final blow with her flames. Which kind of creates the impression that she can’t handle things on her own. The battles themselves aren’t all that interesting to watch. There’s strong build up to them, a well done reveal of the Shinma’s true form and then the fights themselves are kind of short and one-sided.

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Sound: 

The acting is well done. They didn’t get the same cast, but this did come nearly a decade later and the people they get do do a good job in their roles. Nagasawa Miki, Miki Shinichiro, Ogata Megumi & Shirakura Asa are all fine actors and their performances are definitely a strong point for the series. The music is very good. Kawai Kenji did a great job.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit in this one. There’s an episode that deals with a doll maker that explicitly involves two women getting into each other. Larva also meets a man from his past who seems interested in him in more than a friendly way. Some of Miyu’s interactions with women also come across as a little gay.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. A stronger over-arcing plot. Yes, episodic anime are fine. But monster of the week series generally only work when they’re made for children. Which, this isn’t. I think it would really benefit from a more complete narrative.
  2. Start hinting at the twist early on. Not obvious things that you’ll easily pick up on, but subtle hints that take on a new meaning in retrospect would work a treat.
  3. More effort in the action sequences. More physical clashing and varied use of powers would go a long way.

Final Thoughts:

I can’t say I enjoyed this as much as I did the OVA. While the episodes are interesting and the characters are well constructed, the weak over-arcing narrative does hurt the series. It’s still decent. If you liked the OVA and can look past the formulaic nature of the series you’ll enjoy it. I’m giving it a 6/10.