Barakamon – Review – I Love Calligraphy! だいすき!

“投桃报李,千里鹅毛,

                       相逢恨晚,礼尚往来;

先生小姐别生气,明天带你去看戏,

             我坐椅子你坐地,我吃香蕉你吃皮。 ”

-施海梁 上

The title above is a click bait, and plain bullshit, because I hate calligraphy. I don’t care, alright?

Do you know just how irritating it is to a 7 year old kid to write good calligraphy? With a calligraphy brush?? With “proper” technique??! For goodness’ sake I can’t even hold my pen steady at that time! I just can’t appreciate calligraphy,

Hhhnnnnnnnnggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!
Hhhnnnnnnnnggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

I’m sorry. I know, it’s somehow shameful for an Asian like myself to not do proper calligraphy after 8 years of school syllabus featuring Chinese calligraphy, but I don’t care. I have since thrown away my bottle of ink, destroyed my calligraphy brush (Ah, sweet vengeance…) and burned the limitless amounts of calligraphy training books. I sincerely apologize to my teachers who taught me calligraphy, but nope. I don’t care if we Chinese use to write on bamboo stalks or papyrus paper hundreds of year ago.

And 3 – 4 years after smashing my calligraphy brush with a sledgehammer, I will now be reviewing an anime…about calligraphy.

*Rage intensifies*


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Handa Seishuu is an up-and-coming young, talented calligrapher. He is also handsome, charismatic and unfortunately, a complete klutz. His brash attitude and emotions get the better of him one day, when a critic calls his work “conformistic” and “unoriginal”. He punches the critic and as punishment, he gets exiled to a rural island, far away from his home in Tokyo. Now far away from the comforts of his home while being surrounded by new faces: weird, energetic villagers, he must overcome his own flaws while rediscovering his drive for the art of calligraphy.

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Now, in this review, I will have to ditch my usual plot, settings, characters and, animation and sound format, as I feel it will obscure me from properly explaining the pros and cons of Barakamon.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin.


First off, this is a slice of life anime. Slice of life is a phrase used to describe depiction of mundane, everyday lives of characters. What all good slice-of-life anime should have in common would be slow pacing, quirky comedy and most importantly, entertaining settings. However, in recent years, the entertainment value of slice-of-life anime decreases as writers conjure up more and more ridiculous settings in an attempt to keep things fresh, while forgetting the ultimate purpose of entertainment itself in the first place. In fact, some even resort to ecchi, or cute girls, just to keep the sales ratings up. While this phenomena isn’t exactly new in anime, I still find this tactic terribly distasteful nonetheless.

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In that light, Barakamon is in my opinion, the best slice-of-life anime to date. (Tanaka-kun Itsumo Kedaruge being a close second, review here) Why, you ask? Allow me to explain.

1) Entertaining Premise

The majority of Barakamon is set in the rural Gotou islands, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. The islands are inhabited by old-fashioned people who are sheltered from modern society, thus they do not have the same character traits we would come to expect of our characters. The characters are friendly, very lively, unlike our main protagonist, and have an air of innocence around them. For example, towards the end of the first episode, the villagers go over to the main protagonist’s house to help with his settling-in at his house, much to the surprise of Handa himself. These characters live idle and carefree lives, set the tone of the story, and play a part in the anime’s narrative about life and idleness.

Not only are the characters carefree in nature, the accompanying art style and the backdrops are done with mild watercolour colours with smearing effects, giving off a really tranquil and serene vibe. This artstyle is a breath of fresh air, when compared to the bright, contrasting colours in anime today.

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2) Great, Believable Characters

Barakamon is a slice of life anime, therefore unlike shows of other genres, the characters in this anime don’t have interesting backstories or elaborate narration to explain their motives. Normally, these characters would serve as simple plot devices or comedic relief that don’t really feel like real people. However, most of the characters resemble real people, despite some of them having limited screen time. Take for example, one of the non-recurring characters, Yasuba, an old lady who appears just to deliver a few lines of profound insights on life. Despite her limited screen time, her character design and development feels so real as her actions dictate who she is. The show doesn’t only rely on quirky character traits to draw the audience in, but use subtle hints like actions and narration to help develop the character.

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One standout character would be Kotoishi Naru, a 7-year old child who befriends Handa, the main protagonist, in the beginning of the show. She is a child, through and through, therefore she acts like a child. Brash, loud, naughty, everything you would come to expect from a child. Despite her childish nature, she still plays an integral part to the story. She is what I would call the personification of the carefree nature of the Gotou Islands. She barges into people’s lives without second thoughts, is highly energetic and lively, and provides the unpredictability of a child in the story. There is never a dull moment when Naru is around, which is why this 7 year old child is undoubtedly the best character in the anime.

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The main protagonist on the other hand, feels the most unrelatable in the beginning. He is personification of modern society: shut-in, unsociable, selfish and cold. However, as the story progresses, he is able to grow as a character too, eventually becoming the Sensei the rest of the cast know and love. The only problem I would have with this character though is that sometimes his motivations is not understandable, especially towards the end of the show. At times, he says one thing and yet, does the other, and that kind of ruins the show a teeny bit for me.

3) Good Writing and Pacing

While most slice of life anime these days tend to wander off into nothingness, this show didn’t feel like it was meandering. In fact, it had a slight sense of urgency as the show gives us a glimpse into the life of a calligrapher. He lives and breathes calligraphy, and when he is unable to produce a decent work of art, he becomes desperate. In a sense, that tiny detail in the mostly irrelevant plot is able to give the show it’s drive and propel the story forward.

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I also enjoy the one piece of art per episode format. By the end of each episode, Handa produces a piece of calligraphy which summarizes the events and his emotions throughout the episode, which makes the calligraphy part of the show a lot more enjoyable then I thought it would be. However, towards the end of the show, the writers ditch this format in favour of the plot. The last two episodes quickly loses steam as the show becomes something new altogether. I understand this sudden change in pacing is required to move the story forward, but I felt it could have been a lot better if it was tweaked and modified a little.

Conclusion:

All in all, Barakamon is a masterfully done slice-of-life anime with enjoyable settings, entertaining comedy that didn’t always relying on quirky character traits and an eye opener into the world of Japanese calligraphy. And of course, how can I end a review about Barakamon without mentioning the best child character ever: Kotoishi Naru. Seriously, I would say the show is worth watching just because of this 7 year old child. Despite a few minor setbacks in the writing department, Barakamon is still one of the best, if not THE BEST, slice-of-life anime in the world.

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I’m going to give Barakamon a rating of:

8.51 (Great)


I started watching this show because Handa-kun came out this season, but to be honest, I’m don’t see much of Barakamon in this prequel. The comedy feels somewhat forced and I find the lack of interesting characters really saddening. Is it going to be another slice-of-life comedy anime set in high school? ‘Cause I feel like that’s going to be boring.

Anyway, I’m halfway through rewatching Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, so I can finally give a decent explanation as to why I thought it is the most underrated anime of all. Also, this season’s Alderamin in the Sky is also pretty underrated too, though that’s to be expected because of it’s long name and seemingly bland character design.

Anyway, till the next review, cheerio~

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Ben-to – Review – A Nihilistic Atomic Love for Packed Lunch (Gone Sexual)

Disclaimer: If You’re Underaged, It’s Best That You Stay Out Of This

In a land far, far away…

Saitou, the peerless Muscle Detective has discovered the mystical, divine food, known to mere mortal men only as…

bento

 

“BEN-TOU”

But, right now, standing between Saitou and the mystical food, known only as bento, is Orthrus, the fierce two-headed guard dog from Greek mythology and his long time nemesis, The Security Guard Serial Killer!!

“You will never get past me,” said the serial killer. “I have already won!”

“What are you talking abo–”

Suddenly, Saitou felt a chill ran down his spine and his whole body began tingling. His vision began to blur and the sight of his arch-nemesis no longer invoke a feeling of dread but a pleasurable feeling.

“Haha! How do you like this new aphrodisiac of mine?”

“You…treacherous…”

“Hahahaha! Your body betrays you! Behold, the Muscle Detective, trembling before me, ready for some training!”

As his vision fades away, Saitou began dreading the lecherous things the serial killer will do, and fearing for his own sanity, he started to plead: “Please…insert…gently…”

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Oshiroi-san will be proud of this review.

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Summary:

Satou Yoh, (not Saitou) a high school student walked into a supermarket to buy dinner, but somehow after he came to his senses,  he was bloodied, injured and lying on the supermarket floor. He had no ideas as to how he was injured and all he remembered was an unknown kuudere/girl wearing a school uniform looking at him from outside the supermarket. Later the next day, he went back to the same supermarket trying to regain his memories, only to beaten unconscious again. This time, it was revealed to him by a supermarket employee there that he had unknowingly tread upon a battlefield among Wolves for half-priced bentos (boxed meals).

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Wolves, a term used to call people who fight over these half-priced bentos, gather at supermarkets nationwide in Japan to test their wits and hone their skills for the ultimate price: the half-priced bentos. One particular Wolf, known as the Ice Witch is the strongest of them all in the Western territory, and it turns out that the supermarket Satou frequents is the hunting ground for this Wolf. And for some reason, he is recruited into the Half-Pricers Association by the Ice Witch to train as a Wolf himself.

Plot & Settings:

Okay, I want to get this out of the way: The plot is garbage, and delightfully so. Seriously, did you read the summary above? I can spot 3 or 4 cliches right off the bat and I haven’t even gotten to the part where they fight over cold, half-priced packed lunch yet. I mean, seriously, what the heck is going on? The writers know the plot is complete garbage, from the premise to the cliches and nonsensical plot elements, and delightfully emphasizes on it. The best thing about this show is that it doesn’t take itself very seriously, casually inserting bundles of jokes up the show’s alley. *wink*

That said, if you’re in it for the plot, you had better just leave. There is nothing mind-boggling, nothing thought provoking, and sure as hell, nothing interestingly sophisticated. If you’re looking for complexity, I suggest you leave.

FelW6en

The show often attempts to increase the melodrama of the plot to unbelievable levels, then all at once crashes it with its humour (mostly sexual). Running gags, illogical situation and casual inappropriate sexual jokes are run-of-the-mill elements of the show, and alongside the overly melodramatic rubbish plot, it makes for a rather awkward but enjoyable show.

The first half show of the show was quite enjoyable, in fact, as a comedy, it even made me laugh out loud quite a number of times. But, when in the second half of the show, the serious plot elements started to kick in and the show starts taking itself seriously. As a result, the later half of the show becomes rather preachy, annoyingly drawn out and downright ecchi just for the sake of it, making it seem like a very long, awkwardly sexual advertisement for supermarket chains.

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Tch-hhahhahahahhahaha

The action in this show is decent. Some diehard fans say this show’s action is phenomenal, but in my opinion, it is pretty bland. Aside for two breathtaking fight scenes involving the Ice Witch and another Wolf (ves) (keep your eyes peeled for those), the other action sequences were very short and not well-choreographed at all. Most of them were too short and aside from a few close up shots of the characters fighting, nothing really interesting happens at all. The most disappointing one of all is the finale fight sequence, cutting right to the end and just showing us the result of the fight. Come on, man, it finished right before it started!

Characters:

Like the plot and the settings, these characters are also garbage, most of them in a good way, some not so much. Let’s start with the good ones.

First of all, the main characters. Satou, is your typical main character, dumb, dense and a very obvious plot device. No backstory, no sophistication required, just him being dumb would be good, because due to deus ex machina plot elements, everything bad that happens, happens to him. A banana peel? He slips on it. A train ticket? His to lose. A maniacal, even comical security guard with a penchant of inserting 9V batteries into people? Well, I think you get the point. Basically, Satou is the butt of jokes. In a way, he is an integral part of the comedy, and his dumb antics and (sexualized) commentaries are quite funny. However, at the end of the day, he is what he is: a plot device.

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And basically, everyone in this show is a plot device. You have the Ice Witch, a kuudere type character who is awfully strong, but from time to time, displays a weak (read: cute) side to the viewers. Then, you have Shaga, the mischeivous cousin type character who is borderline annoying but actually a thoughtful person. Of course, we have the comic relief characters like the fatso, OshiroiShiraume Ume etc.

Then, you have the supporting cast. They are there for no purpose whatsoever, aside to provide the usual exposition on the past. Then, there’s the twin sisters, Sawagi Kyou and Sawagi Kyou, introduced in the later half of the series. These two, especially the elder one, are incredibly annoying. Their actions do not justify their long ass screentime at all, and the show becomes unbearably annoying when these two are on screen.

Graphics & Soundtrack

The graphics are decent to say the least, it’s not the best but it’s not too bad either. David Productions, known for their work with Inu X Boku SS and JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken, shows a level of consistency throughout this show and some (read: SOME) of their fight scenes were exhilarating. Credit should be given where it’s due, and I think they did a pretty good job at animating this show, at least for a small production studio like theirs.

The soundtrack, for me, was the cherry on the cake for me. It had a wide variety of genres and the most memorable ones were the ones when they complimented the show really well. The soundtrack was, by no means, like Yuki Kajiura or Sawano Hiroyuki, but for a comedy show like this to offer such a ingenious platter of soundtracks is surprising. The hilarious opera soundtracks during comedic scenes complimented the scene really well, and the techno soundtracks that go alongside the fight scenes were gripping too. Now, if only we had more good fight scenes to begin with.

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Conclusion:

I have heard quite a number of people on the Internet saying this is the best show in anime. I beg to differ, as I have seen quite a lot of good and great shows, and this is nowhere near greatness. I must admit, it is pretty good in the beginning, but it was ultimately bogged down by the dredgingly slow later half of the show. However, it is a bite-sized piece of comedy anime that is quite enjoyable and is the kind of show to watch if you are feeling bored.

That said, this show’s humour cannot be appreciated by everyone, and some might find it unappealing. The lack of complexity and coherent plot may tick some off, but overall, this is a pretty decent comedy action anime.

So, after meticulously calculating the points awarded for plot, settings, characters, graphics & soundtracks, and of course, my personal enjoyment, I present you the rating for Ben-To:

7.66 (Decent)


I hope you guys enjoy this review and next week, we will be seeing the end of the masterpiece that is Koutetsujou no Cabaneli, so, you can bet I’ll be praising the heck out of it. Sakamoto desu ga is also on my hit list, although technically we still have to wait for the Blu-Ray for the final episode.

So, thanks for reading, and as always, I will see you in the next one. Ciao~

Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless – Review – Still Waters Run Deep

Sorry about the previous Tanaka-kun is Always Listless review. That was flat-out a troll.

Sorry not sorry.

AND TO THE BATCAVE- I MEAN, THE REVIEW! ->


Tanaka-kun Itsumo Kedaruge

This comedy, slice-of-life anime revolves around the life of Tanaka, a highschool boy known for his incredibly listlessness towards everything. He is in fact, so listless that he proceeds to avoid any possible event in his life that could possibly potentially force to budge from him being lazy. He is everything a lazy bum is, lazy and weak.

Thankfully for him, he has his trusty companion, Ohta, to provide assistance whenever it is needed. This would include situations like when Tanaka falls asleep during lunch break and never wakes up even if the bell rings. Even though he is so lazy, everything turns out smoothly for Tanaka. But, his lazy peaceful highschool life is interrupted when…

Plot:

…nothing happens. Well, technically speaking, something did happen. Tanaka meets new friends along the way, including a potential love interest. Various events that you would come to expect from a high school slice of life comedy happens in the show, like the cultural festival and a fire drill. These events set up for comedic situations where characters interact with one another.

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In a sense, nothing of consequence happens by the end of the show. Tanaka doesn’t change in any way, Ohta and the rest of the supporting characters do not change at all. Which brings me to what I believe is the show’s main appeal.

Settings:

High school may not be the most original setting ever. Over the years, high school in anime has been portrayed as this extraordinary place where miracles happen. Be it meeting a love interest, joining a sports club and entering the finals, or even uncovering the truth behind an age-old myth about the school, high school is the place where things happen.

Tanaka-kun Itsumo Kedaruge strikes a contrasting portrayal of the anime high school by showing us a high school in which nothing really happens. Sure, there are the usual events like the festivals, but in contrast with other shows, nothing really dramatic. By the end of the day, nothing worth mentioning really happens. The writers also took note of this trend and subtly sneaked in a few meta-commentaries on issues like that.

Well, even if you can’t appreciate such things, fret not, because this contrasting setting paves the way for the main draw of the show: very uneventful, yet entertaining situations.

Characters:

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The characters provide the color and the vibrance of the show. If the show’s settings is the canvas, then the characters will be paint. Tanaka will be sky blue, Ohta will provide various shades of green and the rest of the cast introduced later throughout the show will introduce more and more colour in the picture. In the beginning of the show, it may feel kind of dull and uneventful, but gradually, by the end of the 12th episode, you will see the completed painting: a vibrant landscape painting with peaceful skies and lush, colourful meadows.

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Despite this show being a comedy, there are not many moments where you actually laugh out loud. In fact, I don’t think I laughed much throughout this show. However, it is not the humour but the charisma and the laid-back atmosphere of the show that is the main draw for the show. In a way, after every episode, I was left with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart and a smile on my face.

Graphics & Soundtrack

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Visually, this show is not strikingly beautiful in any way. Like the purposefully bland setting, the visuals in the show use very simply colour palettes. In most cases, they use lighter colours, with white serving as the main backdrop. Even the title is simple, the words written in black and blue with a white backdrop. The soundtrack is also very simple, with a few main songs used repeatedly for every episode, most notably the simple, upbeat piano piece. The sound design team cleverly uses timely stops and deharmonized chords to indicate a change in tone, making the tracks sound familiar but not repetitive.

Conclusion:

Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless is a self-conscious, self-referential and relaxing but unorthodox slice-of-life anime. It’s entertainment value in the end, still relies on the viewer’s perspective. While I myself enjoyed this show quite a lot, some viewers may see this as an uneventful and boring show.

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And so, with everything said about this show, I now present you the rating:

8.22 (Near Great)


And now, the end of my reviewing spree. I’m currently finishing up Ben-to, the anime and I’m enjoying it, to my surprise. I think a review is in place, and I’m looking forward to review because reviewing it would prove to be a challenge.

So, till the next one, ciao!

Bungou Stray Dogs (Season One) Review – Much Wow, Such Doge

Written April 30th 2016

Watched 3 out of 12 episodes

Overall Rating: 1

I started watching this show, thinking that this show would have great plot and memorable characters but unfortunately, this show let me down so bad. Reason: This show had nothing to do with dogs at all!!! I can’t believe Japan did this, using dogs’ name so irresponsibly! Time to call PETA.

BTW, this show had nothing to do with dogs, or bungee jumping at all, despite what the title would have you believe. Instead, it features a ragtag group of detectives with superpowers. Aside from a referential main concept that is utterly useless, this show is an unoriginal and uninspiring disappointment! Also, misleading as hell!

louis-armdoge


HOLD YOUR HORSES!

Metaphorically, I mean. Please don’t attempt to milk your horses in any way, they will get upset. We all will.

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Actual review below ->

Bungou Stray Dogs


Atsushi Nakajima was kicked out of the orphanage he resided in, and weeks later, he arrives at the city, searching for shelter and food. Starving and homeless, he decided to resort to crime out of desperation and starvation. However, before he could do rob anyone, he finds a person drifting down the river and Atsushi reluctantly saves him from drowning. It turns out that man, Ozamu Dazai, is a suicidal maniac, and also genius detective working for the Armed Detective Agency, the fabled detective agency comprising of super powered individuals. Unbeknownst to AtsushiDazai and his partner, Doppo Kunikida, are in fact, on a dangerous mission that has more connection to the bewildered Atsushi than he thinks.

Plot:

I recognize phenomenal writing when I see it. To have a good plot, you not only have to be entertaining, but also have consistency and great pacing. The layout of Bungou Stray Dogs is largely similar to the first season of Durarara!! and some other shows, for that matter. The first half of the show would focus on world building and character development, while in the later half of the show, the main plot would start to kick in and the pacing would pick up. I won’t say the writing for the first 12 episodes of this show is flawless, but it did better than Durarara!!

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People have mixed opinions about Durarara!! Some say the first half of the show was great, while the later half couldn’t live up to the promise of the first half. Others say otherwise. I for that matter, thought both halves had their flaws. In the context of this review, in my opinion, Durarara!!‘s first half was plagued by inconsistency and overcrowding. There was just too much happening, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. Bungou had a much better time when it is introducing its characters, and it was ultimately much more engaging due to good pacing.

That one episode aside (Episode 11), the show was consistent throughout and most episodes feature mini cliffhangers that offers enough intrigue to keep you hooked but not enough to overwhelm you.

Settings:

The whole debacle about people with abilities is not exactly very original. In fact, it is a dated set-up dating back to the pre-2000s. What’s new, you may ask? Well, not much. If you were expecting Holmes-esque detective stories, well, don’t hold your breath. While it may have an one or two episodes about actual detective work, it’s still nothing to shout about.

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The central conflict between the Armed Detective Agency and its illegal counterpart, Port Mafia serves as the backdrop for the show and sets up for great action scenes. This backdrop is great and all, but it isn’t the main focus of the show, but it will kick up a notch in the second season. And boy, am I really excited for the second season.

So, what’s intriguing about this show, you may ask? Well, if there is one thing we could learn about entertainment from Hollywood, it’s that you don’t need an entirely original setting to be entertaining. It’s intrigue doesn’t come from the awfully new setting, but it’s great pacing and (wait for it) it’s characters.

Characters: 

Despite what you may be led to believe by naysayers, the character development of this show is actually best part of this show. Let’s talk about the main characters. Atsushi is your typical main character with the cliche backstory we all are familiar with. Out of place MC? Check. No parents and relatives? Check. Naive? Check. Dense? Check. Well, he may not be very original and intriguing, and the show knows it. The writers doesn’t try to shove the character down your throat but instead, he is used to subtly introduce the various characters. The plot is still centered around him though, but he still can hold on on his own.

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What the main character cannot do, the supporting characters compensate. The main duo, Kunikida and Dazai is by far the most entertaining and the most developed characters. Both of them have contrasting personalities and interesting backstories. They both have a lot of potential to be great characters and a lot of mystery surrounds these two. They remind a lot of Izaya and Shizuo, from Durarara!!, and they also remind me of the interesting characters the Durarara!! duo could have become. I really want to see these two from Bungou evolve from their current state into great characters. I have a lot of hope for them.

The rest of the cast have a limited screentime, mostly limited to one episode per character. I won’t complain though, the writers don’t have 50 episodes to work on.

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The main complaint people have with this show is that the characters are comical and very goofy at times. While I don’t mind the goofiness myself, many were “appalled”, at least according to MAL. I think what the writers were going for comedic relief in the form of goofiness, but they failed to achieve the heights they were aiming for. It wasn’t bad though, however, it should be said that that the goofiness can be passed off as a failed attempt at comedy. Still, it is a somewhat integral part of the show but not so much to the extent that it may ruin the show completely. In short, the humour may tick you off but bear with it, and you will be rewarded.

Graphics & Sound Design

Graphically speaking, this show is superb. The animation is superb and the use of bright colors is phenomenal. Overall, it is top notch. Studio Bones are at the helm of animating this show, so it should be to no one’s surprise that this looks so good. The action scenes were especially great, well-choreographed and visually stunning.

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The soundtracks are also very good. It reminded me a lot of Kekkai Sensen‘s jazzy, upbeat soundtrack and serves as an awesome backdrop to the madness unfurling before our eyes. The OP and especially the ED were quite good. Granrodeo’s track, “Trash Candy” was the usual rock number you’d come to expect from them, but the animation sequence were kind of generic, in my opinion. The ED, Luck Life’s “Namae wo Yobu wo” is one of my favourite anime ED of all time. I liked the melancholic feel of the song and swooning melody a lot, and this track alone makes me feel like I wanna buy Luck Life’s EP on the App Store. It is THAT good.

Conclusion:

This show in my opinion, is one of the best shows to come out in Spring 2016. And, no I don’t think Re:Zero is best anime of the season. Sorry. I enjoyed this show quite a lot, despite it’s popularity or rather, lack of. For me, it represents Durarara!!‘s unfulfilled promise of refined storytelling and interesting character development, and combines that with the jazzy, upbeat tone of Kekkai Sensen.

It have good writing, great pacing, promising characters and amazing visuals. It may not be as popular as the ongoing shows like Re:Zero and Boku no Hero Academia, but it could very well surpass them both in terms of storytelling and characters. Well, that would depend on the second season airing this Fall, so how it would fare is anybody’s guess.

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It does have some flaws, here and there, but I still find it to be highly entertaining.

And so, after meticulously calculating the points awarded for story, character development, graphics & soundtracks, as well as my personal enjoyment, I hereby decide to award this show the rating:

8.11 (Promising)


So, there you have it: My first review of this season’s anime. I really liked this show and the promise of a tantalizing character driven story. One can only hope they don’t screw up, but then, who knows?

Tanaka-kun Itsumo Kedaruge finished earlier today, so I may finish watching that last episode and complete my review for it. And next week, I will have finished Koutetsujou no Cabaneli and Sakamoto desu ga so hopefully, will have another review up by next weekend. I still have one episode of Tanaka-kun to watch, so I will see you in the next one. Ciao!

Garo: Guren no Tsuki – Review – A Shell of A Legend?

After watching this show and looking at reviews by others, I began to question my existence on the Internet. Am I a mere reviewer, or am I a critic? For those of you who are asking: “What’s the damn difference?”, here is my answer.

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A reviewer is defined generally as anyone who writes reviews and there are a lot of people out there, writing or giving reviews for almost everything available in the market today. Anyone can be a reviewer, but not all reviewers are critics. A critic is someone who expresses reasoned thoughts to critique something. A critic is someone who analyses the object in mind and reasons with him or herself before releasing his thoughts about the subject at hand.

So? What am I?

You know what, for those of you reading this, I pray, you tell me your thoughts on what you think I am: a mere reviewer or a critic?

Or… you could read the review below.

Garo Guren 1


Summary

Garo: Guren no Tsuki is set in a fictionalized Heian period (794-1185 A.D) Japan. Much of the show’s focus is on the then capital, now Kyoto, where injustice has led to the capital being exposed to the evil spirits that are HorrorsHorrors are otherworldly evil spirits that feed on the dark desires of man and corrupt susceptible souls, turning them into supernatural monsters.

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To fight these monsters, Makai Knights and Makai Alchemists, who derive their powers from their armour and sorcery respectively, do battle against these evil creatures. One such Makai Knight is Raikou, a youngster who dons the famous armour and bears the title “Garou: Golden Knight“. Alongside him are the cheeky Seimei, a Makai Alchemist who is both powerful and pretty, and KintokiRaikou’s trusty child retainer.

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Characters & Settings

This show is interesting not because of its already overused “Good-versus-bad” plotline (More on that later), but because of the characters. A lot of people who were dissing this show to bits with their reviews and comments on various sites, like MAL, said the characters were lousy and one-dimensional. No other explanation was offered, so I would go out on a limb to assume that they couldn’t relate to these characters. And to a certain extent, I would agree.

Most of the supporting characters weren’t given much development and little clue was offered to what their personal motivations were. They had little to no backstories and seem to be underused in every way. Take Michinaga, for example. He is the egoistical, power hungry minister ruling the capital, with no regards for the people living there at all. However, it wasn’t quite stated why he was behaving in such a way, nor was his action justified in anyway at all. In short, no development.

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However, what most people do not know is that this character already has a backstory. The character is a fictionalized version of Fujiwara no Michinaga, the head of the Fujiwara family, who reigned over real life Imperial capital as the minister of the state. Many main characters were also based on real life historical figures. Seimei is the fictionalized version of Abe no Seimei, the widely known onmyou professor, and Kintoki is the mythical child warrior who lived in the wild. Each of them has had their fair share of backstories, and the show expects you to have a little knowledge about the Heian period of Japan.

The first eight episodes or so focuses more on reinventing the historical figures and establishing them in the anime, and for me, that was the most interesting part about the series.

Without the minimal knowledge required about feudal Japan, however, most of the references and wordplay were lost in translation. Personally, I didn’t know about most of the fictional characters’ real life counterparts until I was writing this review. The show was watchable even with most of the references flying over my head, but that was it. The show was merely bearable, due to its lackluster story.

In the end though, the characters were shoved aside to make away for the plot, which is what I mentioned earlier: lackluster.

Plot

When the plot started to kick in after about the tenth episode, I was primed up for something great. Garo: Honoo no Kokuin waited all the way until the eighth episode for the pacing to kick up a notch, so I had no qualms about waiting for a few episodes for the series to show us what it truly had in store. However, after around the twentieth episode, I slowly realized it wasn’t going to be epic or exciting as its predecessor. It was lacking in many places in the storytelling department, and it was too little too late for the most parts.

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For one, it was lacking when it comes to interesting backstories and characters. The story was told from only one perspective, mainly Raikou‘s as the show progresses. His growth as a character was also minimal, and appeared only to progress the plot. The other Makai Knights and Makai Alchemists or rather the lack thereof, makes the story less interesting, as there were fewer perspectives that we could use to view the story from.

The story also degenerates, by the twelfth episode mark into a generic and predictable story, which loses its whole “historical event” vibe because of its obsession to follow the story. It also reuses many of the plot points from its predecessor, which means people who’ve watched Honoo no Kokuin, would be watching almost the exact same story all over again.

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The lack of obstacles or strong enemies also makes this show dull and uninteresting. Since this is an action anime series, not having obstacles for the main protagonist to face could have devastating consequences on its ability to enthrall audiences. Which is a shame because this show is gorgeous when it comes to animating the action sequences.

Oh, yes, before I forget, there are also a lot of plot points. I don’t even want to begin to talk about them, as there are too many. Anyway, moving on!

Animation & Soundtrack

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Did I mention this show is stunning? Studio MAPPA, the show responsible for animating Garo: Guren no Tsuki and its predecessor, was more than capable when it comes to producing graphically stunning shows. However, budget constraints, among many other possible reasons, may have weighed down the show.

The show was plagued by inconsistencies in the hand-drawn department which is apparent in still frames of people. It was bearable in the beginning of the series, but eventually, the drops in quality became too frequent to ignore.

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However, the CG animation used to animate the armor of Makai Knights, suits the intimidating look of the menacing armor design very well and is consistent throughout the series. Now, if only the fight scenes weren’t over in two minutes, the CG animation would have paid off, dammit.

The soundtrack was amazing too, giving off this feudal Japanese vibe by incorporating traditional instruments into modern music. However, the key soundtracks are reused way too much, for my liking and the show could use with more distinct sounding pieces. On the other hand, I loved the two openings and the first ending of the series, which in my opinion, are underrated

Conclusion

Garo: Guren no Tsuki is an ambitious series, starting off strong before fizzling away after way too many misses in the plot department. The historical setting, while most of which may have flew over our heads, still counts for a interesting take on existing Japanese myths and historical events. One part Japanese periodical drama, one part breathtaking CG animation, the other parts an uninspiring mess, Garo: Guren no Tsuki does not live up to expectations of people who loved the first Garo anime.

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After meticulously calculating the points awarded for plot, settings, character development and, animation and soundtracks, while uneventfully cutting down a Horror with my shiny golden armor, I have decided to award Garo: Guren no Tsuki with a rating of:

6.8 (Uninspiring)


Okay, there you have it. Erm… I know it’s only been a day since my last review, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, and it’s surprising to see me cook up a review so quickly. I know, I’m surprised too, but I’m very productive too, if I wanted to. So, yeah, I guess that’s it, for today. I will be back for more, but don’t hold your breath, yeah?

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So, till the next time, cheerio!