Tag Archives: Vivid Strike

Ktulu’s 5th Annual Awards & Shaming Ceremony

All right, Everybody. It’s this time of year again. Time to go over the best and worst of the works I’ve reviewed from February 15th of 2017 right up to last week’s review of Trinity Blood. Now, last year I didn’t do anything based off of the bonus reviews since those only became a thing starting in December. So, there weren’t may to choose from. This year, we’re going to have two simple awards for those based on the best and worst things I’ve done bonus reviews of.

I’ll start with the best and worst in show for the bonus reviews and our list of contestants is as follows: Blackest Night, Civil War, DC vs Marvel, Doctor Who- The First Doctor, Dragon Quest VII, Frosty the Snowman, Gravity Falls, Jem and the Holograms volume one, Justice League- Crisis on Two Earths, Miitopia, Mortal Kombat- Defenders of the Realm, Muppet Fairy Tales, Ohimesama no Himitsu, Secret Wars, Spider-man Unlimited, Tiny Toons- Night Ghoulery

The Worst In Bonus:

Honestly, there were two big contenders for this one. Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm & Civil War. But only one can be the worst and this year that one is Civil War.

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There are two big reasons that Civil War takes the title. The first is that it, ultimately, had a greater impact. Defenders is barely remembered and the franchise certainly isn’t going to try and make anything from it canon. Civil War, in contrast, led directly to a lot of other horrendous things. The One More Day event, the second Ultimate Alliance game being a load of wank, a sequel that was almost certainly also shit and factored into several other bad Marvel decisions. The second is that Civil War is bad in more egregious ways. Defenders is bad in the manner of a lazy cartoon where the premise wasn’t going to work and no one gave a shit. Civil War had a premise with potential but did everything wrong. And some of it in ways that say really bad things about the creative team.

The Best in Bonus:

This one was a lot harder to pick. I’ve reviewed some phenomenal works as part of the bonus reviews this year. Dragon Quest VII. Gravity Falls, Jem, Secret Wars & Ohimesama no Himitsu are all superb works and I have a lot of affection for every single one of them. But, ultimately, the award goes to Ohimesama no Himitsu. Because out of all the minor problems I had with all of these, it had the most minor. It’s damn close to being the perfect romance work.

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Onto the anime awards. The potential contestants are: AD Police, Arion, Ayakashi, Azumanga Daioh, Bakemono no Ko, Bishoujo Yuugekitai Battle Skipper, Chocolate Underground, Dennou Sentai Voogie’s Angel, Devil May Cry, Dragonball- Legend of Shenron, Drifters, Elfen Lied, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Futari wa Precure- Max Heart film 1, Futari wa Precure- Max Heart film 2, Futari wa Precure- Splash Star, gdgd Faeries, Girls und Panzer der film, Green Legend Ran, Gyo, Harmonie, Hunter x Hunter 2011, Idol Project, Iria- Zeiram, Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken- Diamond Wa Kudakenai, Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken- Stardust Crusaders 2, Karas, Kaze Tachinu, Kemono Friends, Kill me Baby, Koe no Katachi, Kowabon, Love Stage, Mob Psycho 100, Mobile Suit Gundam- Iron-Blooded Orphans, Mononoke, Nanbaka, Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki, Osomatsu-san, Palme no Ki, Phantasy Star Online II, Rose of Versailles, Rurouni Kenshin, Sakamichi no Apollon, Shuumatsu no Izetta, Stranger- Mukou Hadan, Street Fighter Alpha, Tales of Eternia, Tales of Zestiria the X, Trinity Blood, Tsuritama, Twilight Q, Vivid Strike, Warau Salesman New, Windaria, Wizardry, Wolf Guy, Youjo Senki

So, there’s our stable of contestants. Let’s move on to the awards.

The Moffat Award for most horrendous writing in a supposedly serious series or OVA. Our previous hall of shamers include such piles of rubbish as Dansi Bunri no Crime Edge, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Madhouse’s X-men & Brain Powerd. This year the big stand outs were Wolf Guy & Elfen Lied. Either one of which deserves recognition but there can be only one “winner” and this year that’s Elfen Lied.

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Not only is there more of Elfen Lied to hate, with about twice the content, but there’s also what the series were going for. Wolf Guy was a dumb action work that was trying to be a dumb action work. Elfen Lied was trying to be psychological, mature & filled with horror. None of which worked because the writing was roughly equivalent to a twelve year old who’s trying way too hard to show how mature they are.

The Simone Award for excellent writing in a mostly serious series or OVA. Our prior winners were Psycho Pass, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS & El Cazador de La Bruja. This year’s tough. I gave out a lot of 8s, but not much above that. The two big contenders end up being Mononoke & Vivid Strike. Ultimately, the Simone Award is going to Mononoke.

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So, why Mononoke? While both these series are very much worthy, I ultimately feel that Mononoke is a little bit more solid. Because setting up new characters with interesting facets to them and a compelling new scenario for every arc is a little more challenging than telling a really good story about two friends reconnecting over martial arts.

The Abrams Award for worst writing in a film. Our previous hall of shame consists of End of Evangelion, Metropolis, Hetalia: Paint it White & Hanare Toride no Yonna. This year I reviewed quite a few films and the worst, by a good margin, was Arion.

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Who would’ve thought that a film ostensibly about mythology that doesn’t understand said mythology, has a confused aesthetic and that thinks a rousing speech is the protagonist complaining that he just killed his father and wants to bone his sister, would turn out to be such an absolute mess? Besides Everybody.

The Miyazaki Award for film writing excellence. Our prior winners were Nausicaa, Kara no Kyoukai 4, Spirited Away & Mononoke Hime. This one was harder to choose. I saw some very solid films this year. But the award ultimately goes to Koe no Katachi.

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This one touches on some very real challenges and actually tells a really strong redemption all while keeping things largely realistic.

The Macfarlane Award for shittiest comedy. Our previous winners were OreImo, Kill la Kill, Sunabouzu & Kashimashi. Now that’s company you want to stand upwind from. This year there was a clear winner and that’s Idol Project.

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Yes, the comedy where random nonsense is used as a substitute for actual jokes and where the under-developed characters aren’t even used for comedic possibilities. All in all, a failure.

The Pratchett Award for best comedic elements. Our prior winners are Bottle Fairy, Doki Doki PreCure, Yuru Yuri San Hai & Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka 2. This year the bell of fortune tolls for Azumanga Daioh.

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This was a tough one because I’ve seen a good number of enjoyable, consistently funny comedies. But, ultimately, Azumanga Daioh is the one that stands above the others.

The Meyer Award for worst romantic elements. Our prior anal leakings of amore were OreImo, Mawaru Penguindrum, Love Hina Again & Dance in the Vampire Bund. This year the series that showcases the worst idea of what love is is Wolf Guy.

Wolf Guy

Yeah, the series where our “romance” consists of our protagonist not letting the woman he supposedly loves abort her rapist’s baby even though giving birth is going to kill her because she’s had her mind destroyed and can’t make that decision. This also takes place in a fucked up world where, apparently, this piece of shit is the best one to make the decision for her.

The Kanemaki Award for strongest romance. Our previous winners were Btooom (for Himiko/ Ryouta), Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanha StrikerS (both for NanoFate) & El Cazador de la Bruja (Ellis/ Nadie). This year was actually really difficult to pick a winner. On one hand, we have the Finé/ Izetta romance from Shuumatsu no Izetta and it’s beautiful. On the other hand, we have the Fuuka/ Rinne relationship from Vivid Strike. Which is also lovely. These two dynamics are kind of similar too, both being about old friends reconnecting as their love blossoms. The big difference is that Finé/ Izetta work together and have to overcome outside obstacles while Fuuka/ Rinne have to overcome those elements which caused a falling out betwixt them. Ultimately, I think one of those does lead to a slightly stronger romantic dynamic and that’s why the award goes to Shuumatsu no Izetta.

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In the end, we just see more moments of these two as a couple while Vivid Strike is more about the hesitation brought on by past events that’s getting in the way of them coming together. Which gives us more time to spend with Finé & Izetta as a pair and more really sweet moments betwixt the two. And that’s why they edge out the competition and emerge as the better couple.

The Anno Award for the shittiest cast of characters. Our former winners were End of Evangelion, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Love Hina Again & Kashimashi. All terribly obnoxious groups of characters with no complexity to be found. This year they’re joined by a series that fits right in, Elfen Lied.

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Yes, a series with annoying, trope characters. Some of whom have tragic back stories that end up contributing nothing.

The Moore Award for strongest cast of characters. Our prior winners have been Sailor Moon, Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin, Death Parade & Sailor Moon S. As a general rule, I prefer to give this one to a series that has well written characters and a good sized cast of them. This year the series that best fits those criteria is Hunter x Hunter 2011.

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This series has a large cast of compelling characters, all of whom possess verisimilitude. In terms of personality, at least. Not so much with their super powers. It also has some of the best written antagonists I’ve ever seen in a shounen action series.

The Bendis Award for the worst major conflict in a series. Our previous piss stains of poor plotting were From Up On Poppy Hill, Sword Art Online, Ice & Sword Art Online II. This was a tough choice because there were several series that legitimately deserved this. But, ultimately, I’m giving the award to AD Police.

AD Police

Yes, the series wherein we learn that all major conflicts are caused by over-sexed women. And we can’t bring ourselves to remotely care about any of it because the writing is shite.

The Claremont Award for the greatest major conflict. Our preceding powerhouses of plotting were Psycho Pass, Shingeki no Kyojin, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha As & Haibane Renmei. This year Vivid Strike will be joining their ranks.

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Vivid Strike’s poignant conflict of a pair of old friends trying to reconnect while also delving into the mistakes that were made on both sides is really engrossing and the added romantic tension between the girls just gives their falling out all the more punch.

The Liefeld Award for worst visuals. Our former ocular atrocities in the series category were Aku no Hana, Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Brothers, Corpse Party: Tortured Souls & Byston Well Monogatari: Garzey no Tsubasa. The film category awards have gone to DBZ: Fusion Reborn & Hanare Toride no Yonna. This year our vomit inducing visuals were found in Elfen Lied & Arion.

Arion should come as no surprise but you might be wondering how Elfen Lied won over series like gdgd Faeries where the artwork looks generally like bad cg. Well, the ultimate reason is that gdgd Faeries has bad artwork, but it’s artwork that doesn’t detract from anything the series is doing. Elfen Lied, in contrast, is trying to incorporate subtle, psychological elements. It fails completely, but it’s trying to. And when you’re trying to incorporate subtle psychological elements, having overblown, ridiculous violence and nudity undermines that aspect. Even if the series hadn’t been really terribly written the visuals would hurt it. And that’s why it’s the worst.

The Urbino Award for vivacious visuals. Our prior comely chieftains were (series) Mushishi & Stand Alone Complex 2nd gig and (film) Nausicaa, Tokyo Godfathers, Spirited Away & Mononoke Hime. This year they’re joined by Kaze Tachinu & Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.

A film that was just okay but with the lovely visual elements of most Ghibli films and a series where the art was stellar.

The Spencer Award for scrub-tier acting. Our previous grade school theatre productions were the English dub of Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ice & Kashimashi. This year it goes to Wolf Guy.

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Like most of the winners, this one had some good actors. It just had good actors who sounded terrible due to writing and direction that demanded dreadful performances.

The Sir Stewart Award for amazing acting. Our preceding pinnacle performances came from Black Rock Shooter (OVA), Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, Glass no Kamen & Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. This was really tough to choose since a lot of the more average series I’ve reviewed have still managed to have good acting. But this year they’re being joined by Hunter x Hunter 2011.

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This series has a lot of excellent performances and it, ultimately, deserves to be recognised for it.

The Perry Award for malodorous music. Our former ear beatings were the English dub of Sailor Moon, Street Fighter II, Mars of Destruction & Kagewani. This year it goes to Arion.

Arion

Yes, the film where the lousy sound mixing damages music that actually did come from a good composer. Even if it is probably was his worst composition work even without the balancing problems.

The Kloss Award for magnificent melodies. Our previous cherished compositions came from Slayers Perfect, K-on the film, Love Live series 2 & Love Live the School Idol film. This year they’re joined by Michiru’s prominent OST work on Shuumatsu no Izetta.

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There were some other strong candidates but none as consistently good, musically, as this. It’s a superb soundtrack, period.

That’s it for this year’s awards. Thank you all for reading my snark-laden reviews another year. I’ve enjoyed all of your comments. You’re a fantastic bunch of readers. Tomorrow I’ll post the Junjou Romantica review. So, there’s that to look forward to.

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Vivid Strike: Reconciliation is Key

The Nanoha franchise is one I’ve talked about a lot. I’ve reviewed the first series, As, StrikerS, Vivid and even the loosely connected Triangle Heart, which has been the only ungood one thus far. This week I’m going to look at Vivid Strike, which is a side story for Vivid. It was produced by Seven Arcs, the same studio behind everything else I’ve looked at except, oddly enough, Vivid itself. Let’s see if it upholds the franchise’s proud traditions of quality and les-yay. That excludes Triangle Heart, obviously.

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Story:

Fuuka Reventon is an orphan with a propensity for trouble. We open with her getting into a fight with a bunch of ne’er do wells. When law enforcement arrives on the scene, she’s forced to flee. She runs right into Einhald Stratos and manages to throw one punch before collapsing from injuries she sustained in her earlier altercation. Einhald sees potential in her and brings her into the Nakajima Gym, offering to coach her in martial arts. Fuuka eventually accepts, hoping to reconnect with her childhood friend, Rinne Berlinetta.

The only real narrative issue I have with this series is that it may abridge things too much. A lot of the stuff they skip over is totally justifiable. We don’t need to see all the tournament fights. Especially when one of our main characters is going against some Rando and they’re obviously going to win because it’s a main character against someone who we’re just now meeting. However, the unfortunate side effect of skipping over all but a few of those is that we don’t get a proper arc for Fuuka and her development as a martial artist. We see her train with the other girls a bit and win a single match before we cut to the climactic fight betwixt her and Rinne. Which really isn’t enough to give her a plausible chance. Instead, we get to be told how far she’s come by other characters. Because that’s just as good as seeing it.

That aspect aside, I do have a lot of praise for the story. The conflict between Fuuka and Rinne is really well handled. It acknowledges the mistakes that are made while also showing us the reasons behind them. The scenes showing Rinne’s back story are actually highly poignant. The narrative being about these old friends and their trying to reconnect also provides a compelling tension to the narrative that was absent from the regular Vivid anime and using martial arts as a vehicle that could potentially make that happen really works to tie it in with the framework we’ve already got. I also do appreciate that the tournament doesn’t go the way you would normally expect from this kind of series. The pacing is fairly well done, in spite of the aforementioned abridging issue. It has rising action, an intense climax and then adequate time to wrap things up from there.

Characters:

The character element has always been a strong suit for this franchise. This instalment is no exception. Fuuka has a strong student-master relationship with Einhald. There are a lot of nive little touches that give us insight into her character. The way she talks to the other girls, frequently using nicknames is one. The way she responds to Rinne when Rinne is talking about the lack of understanding other people have towards her is a big one. The dynamic of her and Rinne is the core of the series and it is actually superb. The flashbacks of them together show us very clearly why they mean a lot to each other and add weight to the reconnection plot. Their early interactions also illustrate both the difficulties of rekindling their connection and the yearning to rekindle it from both of them. Which makes things really interesting. I also do like the way it further develops the Vivid cast.

Art:

the only real art issue I have with this one is that the transformation sequences remain rather sleazy in their usage of fan-service. It does, however, improve on a lot of my issues with Vivid. There’s a lot less general fan-service. There aren’t any overly fan-servicey outfits on display. We don’t see Sister Chantez’s stripper nun outfit, for instance. They manage to fight in their matches and keep their clothing intact because, I guess, Seven Arcs is better about that than A-1. I do generally like the character designs. Although, Fuuka looks a lot like IF from Neptunia. Did IF and Compa have a science baby? Come to think of it, Rinne looks a bit like Lady Blackheart but with Neptune’s eyes. Did Noire and Neptune also have a science baby? Did the infants get left alone with Neptune and accidentally sent to another dimension? She probably responded to the justifiable anger by breaking the fourth wall and joking too. Joking tangents aside, the designs are striking and I do like that Fuuka bases her transformation off of her mentor. It’s another of those little touches that tells us about her. The action sequences are really good. You can really see the force of the impacts and the animation is just highly polished. And all without having anyone’s clothes torn apart. Almost like that was completely unnecessary, A-1.

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Sound:

The performances in this are all great. The strongest come from our main duo voiced by Ogura Yui & Minase Inori. Sakura Ayane, Noto Mamiko & Mizuhashi Kaori also do particularly well. This series probably has the best soundtrack I’ve heard from Yoshikawa Youichirou. You may remember him as the composer for Iria & Green Legend Ran. Iria had good music as well, this just has really good music.

Ho-yay:

As this is the Nanoha franchise, there’s a lot of les-yay. The vast bulk of it in this series is between Fuuka and Rinne. We don’t see much of Vivio and Einhald’s sapphic tension in this one and a lot of our previous couples (Nanoha & Fate, Subaru & Teana, etc.) don’t show up. It’s also heavily implied that Victoria has a thing for Rinne. Harry and Els allude to it during a conversation and Victoria just responds like it’s completely natural. As she should. There’s no shame in her having a crush on Rinne. I don’t think she’s going to win out over Fuuka in that regard, but I’m sure she’ll get over it and find a nice girlfriend of her own eventually. After all, the population in this franchise seems to be ninety percent lesbians. No lack of selection there.

Final Thoughts:

Vivid Strike isn’t just a marked improvement over Vivid. It’s a really great series in its own right. The narrative of old friends trying to connect again after falling out really resonates. The action sequences are awesome. The acting is skilful. The relationship dynamic between our leads is amazing. It is, however, not a perfect series by any means. The transformation sequences are overly focused on titillation and Fuuka’s coming into her own as a martial artist could have been much better handled. Still, I do recommend it for any fans of the franchise. Even those of you who were a bit disappointed with Vivid. Especially since I was as well. My final rating is still going to stand at a very solid 9/10. Next week I’ll take a look at Bishoujo Yuugekitai Battle Skipper.