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Given: Pretty Boys Making Music Together

It’s the week of Valentine’s and you all know that means a romance anime review. This year, we have Given a 2019 anime from Lerche. They’re the studio behind the Danganronpa anime adaptations and nothing else I’ve reviewed. It’s based off of an ongoing manga by Kizu Natsuki. Who I’ve never heard of. So, no idea what to expect here.

Given

Story:

Uenoyama Ritsuka is just searching for a spot to nap when he spots a boy, Satou Mafuyu lying down clutching a guitar. Uenoyama notices that the guitar’s in bad shape with rusted strings. He’s berating Satou which leads Satou to the realisation that his guitar’s strings can be fixed. Uenoyama turns out to be weak to sad puppy eyes and not only replaces the strings but, eventually, agrees to teach him how to play. From there, their relationship starts to blossom.

The biggest issue with the narrative is that some of Satou’s quirks stretch suspension of disbelief. Like, this guy doesn’t know that guitar strings can be fixed. I knew that in primary school and I’ve never played an instrument besides the recorder. He also doesn’t know very basic shit about bands like what promotional photos are. It’s like Kizu wanted to explain it to the audience even though literally everyone who’s watched this already knows this information. Then there’s the fact that he can just improvise song lyrics during a performance and have them go with the melody and make sense. Admittedly, I’m not a musician but I’m almost a hundred percent certain that writing lyrics isn’t something you could do on the fly that easily.

Moving on to the positives, the romance between Uenoyama & Satou is pretty well handled. I also appreciate the way they subtly hint at Satou’s previous relationship before actually going into details. The scenes where he’s just walking through various areas with a pained expression are really good because you get a strong sense that he has a painful connection and that it involves his previous boyfriend but they don’t give you the flashbacks until episodes later. It’s a nice way of setting up intrigue. Actually, everything about Satou’s past is nicely handled. I also appreciate the ending. It’s set up to look like there’s going to be some last minute drama but that gets pretty well subverted.

Characters:

The main cast has some nice complexity to them. Uenoyama, Satou, Haruki & Akihiko are all pretty interesting characters. There are some side characters who have enough depth to seem real as well, like Uenoyama’s sister, Yayoi, Hiiragi and Murata. There are some strong interactions among them too. The entire band has an interesting dynamic. The one negative I can really say is that it’s kind of a wasted opportunity to never have Satou’s mum around since all we know about her is she’s away and she was okay with his previous relationship. It could have been interesting to see him interact with family like we do with Uenoyama.

Art:

Lerche deserves a lot of credit. This series looks pretty damn good. The characters, backgrounds, details for instruments and other active objects as well as the lighting during concerts is all strongly done. I’d say this looks the best of all the anime I’ve reviewed from them but it’s up against Danganronpa and its bad case of shounen design so, that shouldn’t be surprising.

Given1

Sound: 

Yano Shougo, Uchida Yuuma, Nakazawa Masatomo & Eguchi Takuya are all strong in this. There aren’t any poor performances. Yano’s singing is pretty amazing too. The music in this is really good just in general. The theme tune just suits the series perfectly.

Ho-yay:

In addition to all the stuff betwixt our main couple, we have Satou’s past romance. Akihiko is also shown to have been involved with a man in the past. It’s weird because he basically says the relationship is over but they’re living together and still seem to have romantic tension. Haruki very blatantly has a crush on Akihiko.  This may be the gayest band I’ve seen in an anime since Bad Luck. Which I’m completely okay with.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Don’t be quite so extreme with Satou’s quirks. Having him not know how to change his strings is one thing, having him not know that they can even be changed is quite another. It would also make more sense to have him have mostly written lyrics but be unsure how to finish them and then have that come out during the performance as opposed to just making them all up on the spot.
  2. Some familial interactions for Satou. I think it would really strengthen his character and add an interesting layer to the story.
  3. Either have Akihiko still be dating Murata or don’t have them living together. It really doesn’t make sense for him to just be living with his ex.

Final Thoughts:

Honestly, this is a really good romance. While it has a few elements that don’t work all that well or could have been done better, the main romantic plot is great. The handling of Satou’s past tragedy is also really well done. And the characters are nicely complex. So, I’m giving it an 8/10.

Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho: It Exists

Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho is a production based off of a series of light novels. The novel were published in eleven volumes from early ’14 to late ’17. It has an ongoing manga adaptation and this anime that aired at close to its end. The anime was brought to us by White Fox, the studio that produced such colossal shite as Goblin Slayer & Katanagatari but also brought us some strong anime like Jormungand and Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka. Let’s hope for the best but anticipate the worst with this one. Which is pretty much my modus operandi.

Zero kara hajimeru mahou no sho

Story:

Our protagonist is a beastfallen mercenary, which basically means someone’s white tiger fursona. One day he’s escaping from a witch when he encounters a young looking witch named Zero. She persuades him to work as her bodyguard while she looks for her stolen grimoire and the compatriot of hers who went out looking for it. His condition is simple, she has to turn him from a fursona to a normal man when it’s over. He also won’t give her his actual name so she refers to him as Youhei.

The big issue with the series is that a lot of the writing is very uneven. Take the meeting between Youhei and Zero. It’s established in the events leading up to this that he’s terrified of witches but he’s won over with very little effort. The same can be said for the resolution for the conflict with Thirteen. Or take Zero’s supposed lack of knowledge when it comes to life outside the caves she grew up in. It’s an element that comes into play whenever the writer decides to bring it up. For instance, she doesn’t know anything about money or commerce but she knows what a sex slave is. What, did she have a teacher in the caves who felt it very important that she know about sex slaves in the event that she wind up in the outside world but felt that understanding the basics of shopping was just useless? Was she taught by Kimura from Azumangah Daioh?

For positives, the pacing is pretty well handled. The series also has some interesting ideas which prevent it from getting boring.

Characters:

The cast isn’t very complex. A part of the issue does come from the uneven writing. So, a character will shift but it won’t feel like natural development, it’ll feel more like they’re changing their position because the plot demands it but they’re still the same character.

The same rather typical character with very little if anything to differentiate them from a list of similar characters. Even their interactions are very under-written with huge shifts in how they’ll act towards each other with little or no reason behind it.

Art: 

The artwork is pretty good. The animation flows smoothly. The action sequences are decently handled. The backgrounds include some nice details. You can also credit the series for having some nice character designs.

The biggest issue is with the expressions. A character like Thirteen won’t change his expression at any point and a lot of times other characters will have awkward expressions given the circumstances. It’s almost like White Fox wanted everyone to look vaguely stern at least half the time because they thought it would make things seem more intense.

Sound:

White Fox got a pretty good cast. Koyasu Takehito, Taichi You, Koyama Tsuyoshi and Hanamori Yumiri all give good performances. Matsuda Akito’s music is pretty much typical fare to the point of being boring.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any to be found.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. More consistent story-telling. If you want to have Zero win over Youhei in spite of his fear of witches, actually put some effort into making it believable. Same with Thirteen’s change of heart.
  2. Move beyond the character archetypes. We’ve seen the hero who acts tough but has a heart of gold. We’ve seen the naive but powerful heroine. Using archetypes as a base is fine but they need to be expanded on and made into something unique to be interesting.
  3. Vary the facial expressions. I know Koyasu is a great actor, but he can’t really give a character emotional depth when the art shows them with the same expression at all times. If you want to set a specific tone, both the actors and artists need to work together.

Final Thoughts:

This one definitely isn’t as bad as the worst we’ve seen from White Fox. It’s certainly not as strong as the best either, however. It’s a mediocre series where the uneven writing and lack of character depth largely waste the potential of the premise. It’s not a series that’s particularly infuriating or horrendous with its worst elements but it’s also not one that’s ever great. It ends up quite middling. I’m giving it a 5/10.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing 3×4=Squee

The Gundam franchise is one I’ve talked about twice. Once with Iron-blooded Orphans & once with the considerably less competent 00. But since it’s the month for great couples, it’s time to look at an older instalment with Wing.

Gundam Wing1

Story:

Our tale takes place in the future where we have established space colonies and a powerful Earth alliance that basically runs the planet. Factions within the colonies feel that they’ve been oppressed by the Alliance’s overwhelming military might and this leads to operation Meteor. Five different colonies all sending their own Gundams and pilots to Earth. The pilots land and fight separately, with a special focus on the OZ organisation.

At its heart, Wing is a story about fighting for peace and asking how far is too far in pursuit of that goal. Overall, it’s a theme that’s well explored and compelling. The weakness of it is that it can come across as a little absurd to have people talking about ending fighting while blowing up enemies in giant robots. There are also some scenes that go a little overboard with the discussion and come across as a bit preachy.

Thematically, it also makes sense to have young Gundam pilots with the whole concept of a new generation giving their all against the old for the sake of peace. In the story, however, it seems a little strange to have all the pilots be teenagers. I believe they could have done a better job of giving an in-universe reason for that. Oh, and the series has two recap episodes which, being generous, is one more than you need. Doesn’t help that they’re back to back.

The pacing is very strongly handled. The narrative is also highly compelling with quite a few threads that come together. The series also has strong world building and an excellent sense of scope.

Characters:

The cast is very well put together. The major characters and important side characters all possess a sense of verisimilitude. The series also excels at fleshing out motivations for all its characters, including the antagonists. The interactions and character dynamics are pretty close to exemplary. Especially between Quatre and Trowa, but I’ll get to that in detail when I talk about ho-yay.

What makes the dynamics work so well is that a lot of the characters have pressing topics of discussion. For example, Quatre and Relena both have a lot of philosophical differences with Dorothy. But Dorothy’s dynamics with each of them are very different in spite of Quatre and Relena having a similar philosophy. She’s a lot more combative with Quatre and comes across as outright amorous towards Relena. It’s that type of detail in character writing that really fleshes out your characters. And it is nice to see some of the pilots interact with family. Quatre with his father and sister, Trowa with his sister.

Art:

The art is definitely dated by today’s standards. For the mid-90s, this looked pretty good and the art does hold up well enough. But you’ll definitely notice a lot of the hallmarks of mid-90s animation. Like repeating frames, crowd scenes where only the focus characters get detailed, & occasionally choppy movements. You know, the type of thing you get when you have those old-fashioned hand drawn series.

In general, Sunrise did do a good job of getting the animation to flow smoothly. Especially during intense action sequences. The Gundam designs are excellent. I especially like Shenlong & Deathscythe. There are some strong backgrounds. Especially when they’re on Earth and out in nature.

Sound:

Midorikawa Hikaru, Seki Toshihiko, Nakahara Shigeru, Orikasa Ai, Ishino Ryuuzou, Koyasu Takehito & Yokoyama Chisa are all superb in this. Really, there aren’t any poor performances. The direction and delivery are just on point.

Otani Kow did an excellent job with the musical composition. He also worked on compositions for Another & Haibane Renmei. So, he has a history of excellence. With this being the earliest example I’ve reviewed.

Ho-yay:

There’s a lot in this series. One of the first things we see Trowa do after meeting Quatre is grab and blow his flute. Take that out of context if you want.

Gundam Wing

Even putting the double entendre aside, these two start out making music together. This series also does a similar thing to Battle Athletes where they psychically convey their feelings from a distance. The difference being we don’t see them kiss even though we know they have because it’s so obvious. Even their image songs: Love is a Shooting Star & Star’s Gaze, go together. It’s like the writers scientifically engineered their dynamic to be as gay as possible without becoming canon but only on a technicality.

And these two just provide the most prominent source of ho-yay. Zechs and Treize also have that kind of dynamic. And Dorothy very blatantly has a crush on Relena.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Only one recap episode, maximum. In general, I would say not to have any, but if you really feel you need one because the series is almost fifty episodes just stick to the one.
  2. An in-universe reason for the pilots to be teenagers. Yes, it works thematically. But that isn’t a blanket excuse for it in-universe. If it were up to me, I’d say they were genetically modified to make them better pilots and the procedure had to be done at a younger age. Hence why they’re teenagers when the operation begins. Now you have a simple explanation.
  3. Less dialogue decrying war. Like I said, the anti-war theme can get preachy at times and I feel that having less dialogue directly addressing it would fix the issue.

Final Thoughts: 

Gundam Wing has some noticeable problems. That can’t be denied. However, it also has a lot of significant strengths. And it certainly, in my mind, is an enjoyable series that’s well worth a view for any mecha fan who cares about more than mindless action. So, I’m giving it a solid 8/10.

Madoka Magica Film 1: And a Cliffhanger

Madoka was one of my early reviews. And it’s a series I still have a great fondness for. That being said, I never watched the films because they seemed like retreads of the series. But it’s been long enough since I last saw it that I might as well delve in. Plus I’m watching something fairly long for the last review of January so I need something shorter.

Madoka film

Story:

Kaname Madoka is an ordinary enough girl. She hangs out with her best friends, Sayaka & Hitomi. She goes to school, has chats with her family and just has a bogstandard normal life. That is until her school gets a new transfer student, Akemi Homura. Homura gives Madoka a vague warning about not changing and, shortly afterwards, Madoka encounters Kyuubey. This strangely creepy looking “cute” character offers contracts to both her and Sayaka. Become magical girls and get a wish granted.

Honestly, this film is a retread for the first two thirds of the Madoka series. There are some differences but the big plot points are the same. Including the stuff with Mami, Kyouko and Sayaka’s arc. The film actually ends when she’s undergoing her second transformation and Kyuubey gives his ominous line about the nature of magical girls.

Honestly, this is a bit of a problem for me. I get that the Madoka series is very dense and getting through the meat of all twelve episodes in one two hour film isn’t plausible. But I also think that the stopping point comes across as far too sequel-baity. It’s one thing to let the audience know there’s more to come. It’s quite another to end on a really sinister note. It also does have the same issue as that Nanoha film where it doesn’t really offer anything new. Although, given how much ground it covers, the second two films pretty much have to. So, that’s good to know. And the story-telling is really strong with subversive elements that are very cleverly handled.

Characters:

This is one of those franchises where the characters are just excellently written. With the major ones having strong back stories that help flesh them out and the supporting characters having enough to them to have verisimilitude. For example, there’s a really strong scene where Madoka just has a heart to heart with her mum and a lesser, but still good scene where Sayaka and Hitomi sit down for a somewhat serious discussion.

I also do appreciate the way the film hints at Homura’s true motivations. I suspect the next film will actually showcase them, but the foreshadowing is really damn good.

Art:

I’m still not fond of the way the human characters are drawn in this franchise. I can appreciate Kyuubey’s creep eyes. I also really like the witch battles. The landscapes they come up with for them are inventive and have a strong sense of the surreal. As do the witches themselves. This franchise is very good at using its art to convey specific moods and when it wants to show you something unsettling or creepy, it does it very well.

Madoka film1

Sound:

You can’t fault the cast. Saito Chiwa, Yuuki Aoi, Nonaka Ai, Kitamura Eri, Mizuhashi Kaori & Katou Emiri are all superb. The music is very atmospheric and powerfully put together. Kajiura Yuki deserves a lot of credit.

Ho-yay:

The early MadoHomu stuff is already pretty damn blatant. I can also tell why so many people are fans of Kyouko with Sayaka, since they do have interactions that could easily lead to that.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Don’t end on that big of a cliffhanger. Will it get people to see the sequel? yes. Is it a classy move? Not remotely.
  2. More detailed character design. This franchise as a whole would benefit from that.
  3. Let us spend a bit more time with Mami. It would make a certain event more impactful.

Final Thoughts:

Is this film worth watching if you’ve already seen the franchise? Not really. It doesn’t offer anything new. Most likely the two sequels do diverge and may or may not be worth getting into. But this is more a retread to establish the important events from the series for people who haven’t seen the series proper or for those who just want to sit down and watch a film trilogy. It’s still a great film with the strengths of the franchise intact. As such, I’ll give it an 8/10.

 

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: The Movie 1st- Not Completely a Retread

It’s no secret at this point that I’m a big fan of the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha franchise, except for Triangle Heart but that barely counts as connected to the rest. And since Nanoha and Fate are one of my favourite anime couples, it seems like an ideal time to look at one of the films. We’ll start with the oddly named Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: The Movie 1st.

Nanoha the movie 1st.png

Story:

The film basically gives an abridged account of the first Nanoha series. As such, I’m not going to worry about giving spoilers since I’ve already reviewed multiple series of Vivid and anyone who’s read my reviews regularly knows basically how the first series ends. But for those of you who don’t and don’t want spoilers, consider that your warning.

We open with Yuuno escaping a jewel seed created monster, turning into his ferret form and being found by our gayby heroine, Takamachi Nanoha. She quickly learns how to transform, beats the monster that was chasing him and decides to hunt for the jewel seeds before their power can hurt anyone. This leads her into conflict with Fate Testarossa, another mage who’s also after the seeds.

Like I said, same story as the first series. About the only big difference is the in depth background scenes of Precia and Fate’s magic teacher, Linith. Linith wasn’t in the original series at all and the events surrounding Precia’s descent weren’t nearly as thoroughly covered.

To be fair, these scenes do add some nice background and they flesh Precia out as a character beyond what the original series did. The main series kind of relies on the knowledge of her situation and brief glimpses into who she was before the accident to demonstrate what happened to make her the way she is. Which does work in its own right, but this does strengthen that.

The worst thing I can say about this film is that it’s kind of unnecessary. If you’ve seen the series, you’ve seen all the big scenes, twists and all the cute, hugely homo-erotic scenes. There are also some scenes that feel rushed in this because it is an abridged account and there’s not nearly as much time to devote to pacing.

Characters:

The major characters are still strongly written. Nanoha, Fate, Arf and Precia especially. Like I stated earlier, Precia actually benefits from having her back story detailed more strongly.  She still comes across as a villainous person who mistreats her daughter when all Fate wants is her love, kindness and acceptance of her future marriage to the Takamachi girl.

A lot of the side characters aren’t so well handled. Nanoha’s family is barely present in this Her friends, Alisa and Suzuka, have a decent sense of character but it’s not nearly as strong as it was in the anime proper but, to be fair, they’re condensing the events of the anime into a two hour film.

Art:

The artwork still looks really good with the same exception as the series proper. The transformation sequences, though we don’t see them a lot of times, are pretty horrendous. I don’t know who the asshole at Seven Arcs was who decided the franchise needed fan-servicey transformation sequences for third grade girls, but they belong on some kind of watch list.

Nanoha the movie 1st1.png

Sound: 

Mizuki Nana, Tamura Yukari, Igarashi Rei, Mizuhashi Kaori & Kuwatani Natsuko are all really strong in their roles. Really, all the performances are well done. The music is excellent as well. There are two ending themes sung by our leads, Mizuki Nana & Tamura Yukari. They’re both superb songs and Tamura’s seems designed as a NanoFate love song with the way it’s used. Rather like Spiritual Garden was in A’s.

Ho-yay:

There’s a lot. For everything they do abridge, they seem determined to keep in as much NanoFate as possible. Which I vehemently approve of.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Rework it a little more so  it doesn’t feel so much like a re-telling. I’m not saying the aesthetic needs to change or that there should be less NanoFate, but since this is supposed to be an alternative version, it would be nice to see some substantial changes. Maybe Precia could be less terrible and get saved in the end. Maybe Fate could openly rebel without being tossed aside first. There are plenty of options.
  2. Lose the fan-servicey aspects to the transformation sequences. They are still decidedly not cool.
  3. Lose a few scenes with side characters who don’t do anything for better pacing. As much as I appreciate all the side characters in the franchise, you clearly need to make some sacrifices to turn a thirteen episode series into a two hour film and I think that stuff is the most expendable.

Final Thoughts:

The big question on my mind is a simple one. Is this film worth watching? Because it does come so close to being an abridged retread of the series proper and the few new scenes don’t add all that much. And I would say, it’s worth watching if you’re a huge Nanoha fan or if you’ve never watched the anime and you’d like an idea of what it’s like before committing to watching it. If you don’t like Nanoha or you’re a more casual fan who liked it fine but isn’t all that interested in re-watching it, you’re probably not the audience for the film. For myself, I’m giving it a 7/10. Because even if it is largely a retread, this story is still entertaining and the characters are still endearing.

500th Anime Review: Sailor Moon Stars

This is it, time for my 500th anime review. That’s right. We aren’t counting the manga, game, live action, comic, book or Western animated reviews. In keeping with the usual pattern, it’s time to look at the next instalment of the Sailor Moon franchise, Sailor Moon Stars. In the name of the moon, I will critique you.

Sailor Stars.png

Story:

We open with things on a pretty high note. Nehellenia’s been defeated. Mamoru’s been accepted into an American University back when that meant something and ChibiUsa is heading back home. Things go south when a strange voice rouses Nehellenia from her sealed status and she returns seeking revenge against Usagi. They defeat the revived Queen and both Mamoru and ChibiUsa go off their separate ways when a new enemy appears. There’s just one thing different, these enemies also appear to be sailor soldiers. Meanwhile, a trio of new soldiers, the Starlights, have made their appearance.

I can honestly say that this series of Sailor Moon is the best written. The way the two plots connect is really well handled. The foreshadowing is clever and, while clear, not shoved into your face or otherwise overdone. The tension between our regular soldiers and the Starlights actually makes a good amount of sense since, as the outer soldiers point out, the enemy is made up of sailor soldiers. Usagi’s stance also makes sense. The Starlights have been fighting alongside them and deserve the benefit of a doubt.

There’s also the climax. The last stretch of episodes in this series is phenomenal. The way it builds up a very bleak mood and really tears at your gut with some of the events that transpire and then follows it up with Usagi finally confronting Galaxia, not in a battle of brute force but one of ideals, is fantastic. It could not have possibly been handled better. This series also features the best comedic elements that the franchise has ever had. There are a lot of really funny sequences. A lot of which involve the inner soldiers interacting with the Starlights while they’re all in their civilian identities. Hell, the episode where they transform in front of each other for the first time is one of, if not the funniest with the way that whole sequence of events is handled. The episode where the inner soldiers are going overboard trying to guard Usagi also has some really hilarious moments.

Characters:

Those people who view Mamoru or ChibiUsa as the best characters will probably be disappointed since they don’t get much in terms of screen time. It didn’t bother me because the character dynamics we get with the inner soldiers, outer soldiers and Starlights is so damn good.

I’m gonna be honest, I like Usagi’s dynamic with Seiya significantly more than her dynamic with Mamoru. And not because Seiya is a girl and I’m a crazed ho-yay fan. Here’s the thing. My problem with the romance with Usagi and Mamoru has always been that it’s very lazy. Why are they together? Because destiny. Will they stay together? Yes, because future daughter implies that it’s destiny. And, ironically, Seiya’s interactions with Usagi that are designed to establish her as a credible romantic rival for Mamoru actually create a more compelling and well developed dynamic between her and Usagi that we’ve ever seen with Usagi and Mamoru.

This series also has some of the best Haruka/ Michiru moments. Pretty much every time these two show up, we get some light flirting and general adorableness. The antagonists get a good amount of personality as well. It does help that their basic back stories are pretty clear once we learn what the Starlights’ story is. Even before that, it’s pretty heavily implied.

Chibi Chibi is interesting. Not because f the soldiers trying to figure out if she’s Usagi or ChibiUsa’s future child. It should be obvious she can’t be ChibiUsa’s since ChibiUsa’s future partner is clearly Hotaru. No, she’s interesting because she can barely speak. So her personality has to pretty much come out through non-verbal means. Which it does. And there are some compelling episodes that focus on showcasing her personality.

Art:

The weaknesses in the art remain the same. There are some overly long transformation sequences and stock footage attacks. There are frames where someone will have a bizarre expression. And it looks a bit dated by today’s standards. In spite of that, there’s a definite charm to the visuals in this series. The monsters have a good look. The character designs as a whole are great. And even if they do get repeated too often, the transformation sequences and stock attacks are pretty nice. The series also does do a good job of positioning its characters in various scenes. A good example would be the enemy soldiers entering their travelling phone booth that’s totally not a police box that can go through time and space. When Crow and Siren enter it together, you can see that they’re close. Conversely, when Crow and Nyanko enter one together, they take very hostile positions.

Sailor Stars1.png

Sound:

The acting remains an excellent element of the series. Fukami Rei, Tomizawa Michie, Hisakawa Aya, Katsuki Masako, Ogata Megumi, Shinohara Emi, Kawashima Chiyoko, Minaguchi Yuko & Mitsuishi Kotono have proven themselves many times in this franchise and they continue to be fabulous. In this series Niiyama Shiho, Tsunoda Narumi & Sakamoto Chika make excellent additions to our lineup of soldiers. What sets them apart is that they have to keep their voices fairly androgynous since the Starlights take on male forms during their stay on Earth.

Although this is the last series so you won’t hear them in the roles again unless you play the yuri dating game where the player controls Princess Kakyuu and can date the Starlights in their true forms. Before you go looking for that, it’s not actually real but sounds like something that could be.

For the antagonists, the performances that really stand out are Horie Mitsuko, Inoue Kikuko & Suzuka Chiharu. All of the actresses are strong but those three do stand out.

This series also features the best music. It’s the first time we’ve heard a different opening theme tune and, not only is it spectacular, but it actually has a very strong, and clever, connection to the big climactic battle. Moonlight Densetsu actually does get played once in the series and it’s very effectively used for impact. The Three Lights’ music is really well put together and sung.

Ho-yay:

There’s quite a bit. First off, there are the scenes with Haruka and Michiru. We also get some stuff betwixt Hotaru and ChibiUsa during the opening Nehellenia arc. And there are multiple girls among the inner soldiers who don’t seem to mind that much when they find out the Three Lights are really women. Plus, every single one of the Three Lights seems to be attracted to other women. There’s also Aluminum Siren and Lead Crow. These two are actually reminiscent of Zoisite and Kunzite from the first series. Their dynamic makes it abundantly clear that they’re more than friends. And the aforementioned dynamic is used to showcase their sympathetic sides. Although, in this series, the writing is more skilled at showing them as sympathetic even outside of their loving relationship.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Princess Kakyuu could have been more of a character. I understand why she couldn’t have been a character in the series proper for very long, but they could have developed her a bit by showing some flashbacks of her with the Starlights or something. As is, she’s kind of an archetypical “good woman.”
  2. Less time with the stock footage. If only there was something substantial they could replace it with. Like the thing I mentioned above.
  3. Include the manga scene where Usagi gets a bit jealous seeing Hotaru and ChibiUsa holding hands and Hotaru tells her to just hold hands with Mamoru then. This is honestly one of the only good scenes from the manga that isn’t in the anime.

Final Thoughts:

I can truthfully say that this series is the Sailor Moon franchise at its very best. Fantastic characterisation, a well-crafted story, excellent acting and music. It’s definitely the perfect way to end the series as a whole. So, in spite of the relatively minor gripes I had with it, I’m giving it a full 10/10.

A massive thank you to all my readers, especially you regulars. 500 anime reviews wouldn’t have been possible without all of you. And since it’s the first review of January, the theme for the month this year is going to be anime that feature some of my favourite couples. So, that’ll be fun.

Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland- A Diversion Into Tepidity

It’s no secret at this point that I enjoyed Code Geass. I reviewed both series about Lelouch’s rebellion and was generally pretty positive. This time we’re looking at a special that was bundled with the home release, Nunnally in Wonderland. Which obviously has to do with Lewis Carroll’s most famous work, Sylvie & Bruno.

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Story:

The narrative is simple enough. Nunnally and Lelouch are sitting together when Nunnally mentions missing hearing him tell stories. So, Lelouch summons the cast of the anime to tell her a variation of Alice in Wonderland with her as the protagonist.

Honestly, the biggest problem with the narrative is that it comes across as very low effort. Take a famous, public domain story, abridge the hell out of it, put in some nods to your series and boom. It doesn’t help that the story they’re using is as over-used as Romeo and Juliet or A Christmas Carol. If they actually had used a lesser known Carroll story, it would have at least felt a bit more unique.

For positives, its basically a passable version of the story. And it is hard to get too critical with something that’s wholly bonus content. Not that that would stop me if they’d done a really bad job.

Characters:

What this special gives us in terms of characterisation is brief snippets of each character’s personality. A lot of them only show up for around thirty seconds. Which means that their personalities don’t really shine nor does it do anything particularly new with anyone. It relies on you already knowing what they’re like. Which is a reasonable expectation given that it’s bundled with the home release.

Art:

The art does generally look good. I’m not the biggest fan of the character designs. I still think they’re overly thin and stretched but the backgrounds do look good and the Wonderland inspiration does shine through. My issue is that there’s virtually no animation to speak of. Most of the special uses still images like it’s trying to be a visual novel. This also has, quite possibly, the worst action sequence of all time when Suzaku fights Gino. I know we’re not supposed to be taking this seriously but it’s not even a funny sequence.

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Sound:

You can’t fault the actors. They deliver good performances. The music is nicely composed as well.

Ho-yay:

This special makes the odd decision of putting Cornelia & Euphemia in married roles. Out of all the possible people, you decided to present sisters as married? I know there’s a portion of the fanbase that’s into that, but it still seems odd.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Put more personality into it. I get that it’s a bonus but you could have some effort.
  2. Actually animate it.
  3. Have fewer characters and longer scenes. I get that you wanted as many Code Geass characters as possible, but you really don’t need them all.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, this just feels a bit pointless and lazy. If you really want to see the cast of this series in an abridged version of Wonderland, I guess this is for you. But I’ve honestly seen so many variations of this story done so much better. For bonus content, it’s better than nothing but not very exciting. I’ll give it a 5/10.