Category Archives: Anime

GeGeGe no Kitaro (Anime)

Title: GeGeGe no Kitaro

Episodes: 1-13 (Season 1)

Mana doesn’t believe in youkai, or in the rumors of a mailbox that can summon help from one who fights them, until she encounters things too bizarre to be natural. Writing a letter summons Kitaro, a young boy with mysterious abilities, and from there Mana discovers a world she never knew existed.

This is supposed to be a kid’s horror show but I watched it more like an urban fantasy (well, I’m old enough not to find most of this scary). It’s extremely episodic (only one 2-part episode in this batch), which makes it easy to pick up and watch a story or two whenever you have a moment. That’s usually a plus, as this is basically a series of short stories, and if one episode doesn’t quite appeal, something else will usually make up for it.

The only downside is that there isn’t much continuity. The first two episodes introduce someone who appears to be a villain working behind the scenes, but the initial buildup goes cold almost immediately. So there’s not much of a sense of an overarching plot. Even the episode where various explosions level parts of the city feels like it takes place in isolation, as no one even remarks on the damage in future episodes. And a couple of episodes have youkai visible to broader society but nobody has any ongoing reactions to that.

That said, I enjoyed the various vignettes. Each episode tends to introduce a new youkai and has an adventure related to those powers. Some of those are more heartwringing, like poor Shiro, and some are just funny, like the kappa. The series may be for kids, but that doesn’t stop it from touching on adult issues like overwork, corporate bullying, abandonment of elders, and others.

So all in all, this feels like a kid’s series that was designed just as much for adults. The youkai may be traditional but it can be a lot of fun watching how they’ve adapted (or not) to modern technology. I rate this show Recommended.

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My Hero Academia (Anime)

Title: My Hero Academia

Episodes: 39-51 (Season 3 part 1)

Everyone is looking forward to summer, even though it’s not going to be much of a break. The kids of UA are all set to attend a summer training camp and learn even more about becoming heroes. But a villain attack disrupts their getaway, and soon all the pro heroes are scrambling to reverse the damage . . .

This is my favorite arc in the manga, so it was a great deal of fun to see it finally animated. The intensity and emotional highs of this arc haven’t been matched by anything that comes before or after.

One of the things that really impressed me was the worldbuilding. We finally see All Might’s mentor, the previous One For All holder. We see the culmination of a clash that’s clearly been a long time coming between All Might and his ultimate nemesis. The showdown between the two is epic, but also tragic—this is the fight where both of them pass the torch to their students. It’s not only All Might’s best moment, it’s in many ways his final moments as a superhero.

And we see how Izuku’s constant disregard for his own well-being has led to some rather large problems with his mom, who doesn’t like seeing her son continually admitted to the hospital. It’s interesting that this arc is a series of intense encounters, but not all of those are physical altercations between heroes and villains.

There’s also a surprising amount of characterization for Bakugo (everyone’s favorite King of Explodo-Kills). The little rage-ball has gotten noticed by a lot of people, not all of them good. But what happens because of that sets up a ton of great moments for him. I didn’t care for him much until this arc, as he’s too grating. After this, it becomes easier to see he’s probably going to go through a lot of growth if he continues to hold the same goals.

And I love how the story sets up so many parallels. Bakugou’s risking turning into another Endeavor, who, when he finally gets what he always wanted, behaves similarly to Bakugou after he won the tournament.

There’s a ton of stuff packed into these episodes, which will likely be the highlight of the series for a long time to come. If you’ve been following the show at all, this is one arc you won’t want to miss. Highly Recommended.

Overlord II (Anime)

Title: Overlord II
Episodes: 1-13
(Second season of Overlord)

This second season covers novels 4-6 and has two distinct arcs.
The first arc covers the lizardmen villages, which Ainz has decided to wipe out (he needs resources for Nazarick). Cocytus is in charge of this. The lizardmen, only aware a new enemy is threatening their very existence, struggle to band together in the face of this overwhelming foe.

The second arc covers Sebas and Solution on their reconnaissance mission in the capital of the Kingdom. When Sebas intervenes to save a dying girl, he earns the enmity of the Eight Fingers, the criminal underworld. Solution can’t see the point of saving humans, but what Ainz thinks is the real question . . .

I like Overlord because it diverges pretty widely from standard “transported to another world/a game world” tropes. One sign of this is that nearly this entire season doesn’t feature Ainz himself, the supposed main character, and instead dives deep into exploring this new world and some of the lesser-known characters of Nazarick like Sebas. (But don’t worry, Ainz shows up at the very end and has some good scenes.)

The season stumbles a bit at the start, as the first episode made the choice to adapt all of the various intermission chapters which have little immediate relevance to the plot but hint at several things in the wider world. There’s so many characters and ties to the first season it’s a pretty bad starting point. After that, though, the series dives into the thick of things.

I liked the lizardman arc in the books a lot, and the anime captured most of it well. Zaryusu is an outcast among his own people because he travels to the world beyond, but it’s that very experience that makes him recognize the danger they’re in when undead minions show up to harass his people. Desperate to unite the lizardmen tribes to give them a fighting chance, he travels from tribe to tribe, hoping to convince everyone to set aside old wrongs and face this new foe.

The lizardmen are a lot of fun to follow. They have their own body language, a strong tribal culture, and a history of violence against each other. As viewers knowing they’re going up against Nazarick, though, there’s a backdrop of tragedy for the whole thing, as there’s no way the strongest lizardman could even dent one of the guardians, much less Ainz. But Ainz isn’t coming himself, and he’s refused to let Cocytus use any of his good forces, so as odd as it seems, the lizardmen have a chance.

Sebas, on the other hand, operates under different constraints. He’s the sole member of Nazarick with a strong inclination towards good, which rubs up against the callous evil of most of his fellow NPCs. So when he saves Tsuare, he doesn’t want to report it because he’s hoping the whole thing can just stay under the radar. But while Tsuare herself isn’t that important, the brothel she was imprisoned within was illegal, so the Eight Fingers have a vested interest in removing the evidence. And since Sebas defied them, they’d like to take him down too.

I do regret the anime trimmed out a few fights I would’ve liked to see—Sebas’s role in the brothel raid, and the end of the fight with Entoma—but overall this was a lot of fun. Sebas, because he has a conscience, can be caught in ways none of the other denizens of Nazarick can. He recognizes he’s different, too, and can’t help but wonder if this is a curse. But Mr. Perfect Butler is just as overpowered as the rest of Nazarick, and when he finally goes to town on the security division of the Eight Fingers, the results are as hysterical as you might expect. The ten second fight he promises actually does clock in at under 10 seconds. (“It seems I was a tiny bit stronger,” indeed.)

It’s also interesting to see how characters like Brain Unglaus have continued to stick around and grow. He began as a cocky bandit lord that barely escaped from Shalltear with his life (well, that’s more than can be said of the rest of them). In this season we can see how badly that encounter broke him. I love how his old rival Gazef Stronoff (who was the better man in a lot of ways) tries to get him back on his feet. Even the try-hard Climb, who lacks enough talent to be better than “average”, spurs on Brain to move forward. And the last episode throws out a surprise that gives a nod to all the progress he’s managed to make.

Overall this was a solid dose of fun every week, and it’s great they announced a third season is happening so soon. Overlord has its flaws but I really like the different ways it branches out, from having nonhuman characters that are more than just regular people with ears and tails to being willing to shelve its protagonist to go focus on building up equally compelling secondary characters. I rate this show Recommended.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu (Anime)

Title: Katsugeki Touken Ranbu
Episodes: 1-13 (complete)

Members of the Time Retrograde Army are out to disrupt Japan’s history. Standing against them are the famous weapons of Japan given human form. These warriors are sent back in time to preserve history, whatever the cost.

To be honest, the plot for this is a complete joke. The TRA only exists to give the pretty-boy swordsmen some generic zombie enemies to beat up at various points in Japan’s history. There’s some information about a few historical events, and the famous blades involved, but the main draw of the series is to watch nicely-designed characters having awesome-looking fights.

On that front, it succeeds pretty well. The majority of the story follows a newly-formed Second Unit (with a brief detour to the First Unit), and how the team starts to come together. The blades tend to take on some of the personalities of the masters they spent so much time with, which can cause some tension when we have Shinsengumi blades and Imperialist blades on the same team. But the blades are supposed to be beyond whatever old life they had in favor of wiping out the TRA. Unfortunately those emotions can linger and make life harder.

The strongest part of the story happens when three of those blades run across their former master. For one, it’s a mostly happy event—the mission and his desire to protect his master line up. For the other two, it’s not as happy. They know his death is coming, and it won’t be pretty, but preventing it will change the history they’ve been charged to protect.

Visually it’s a pretty series. Character designs for the blades range from traditional Japanese clothing to more modern clothes, which makes it kind of funny nobody in the historical times seems to notice. The action scenes are typically animated well. One of my favorite characters uses a spear. It’s nice to see spear-users get more representation, as their fighting style differs a lot from a sword.

Overall this is mostly something to watch for the eye candy. If you don’t like the designs or the prospect of a disappointing plot, then this is an easy pass. I enjoyed it well enough, but there wasn’t any sense of urgency about finishing it (I started this back when it was first airing, got distracted, and only now finished). I rate this Neutral.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Anime)

Title: The Ancient Magus’ Bride
Episodes: 13-24

Chise is growing used to life with Elias, the inhuman mage who bought her for her unique gifts. But the magical world they inhabit is full of both strangeness and danger, and Chise often stumbles into both.

This is more of an update to my original review, as not much about the overall situation has changed. We get a few more small stories about things Chise gets into, whether by accident or on purpose, and then a longer final arc where almost everyone we’ve met bands together to try to rescue two kidnapped dragons.

One of the big weak points of the series as a whole is that the sense of danger to Chise lessens as time goes on because she manages to get herself nearly killed on a very regular basis. The dragon arc is the only one that left her with some ongoing consequences, and even that kind of feels hard to care because it’s hard to tell the difference between “killing you faster” and stuff that’s already been going on. She never did have long to live, but the show was always vague about exactly how long she would have left, so after a while I stopped caring much about her life being in danger. (Besides, she’s the main character. It’s pretty much a given she’ll survive until the final episode, at least.)

On the plus side, the magical world on display still has a number of really neat things. Whether it’s a fox skin that allows Chise to shapeshift or finally visiting the land of Faerie, almost every episode was still introducing new wrinkles of powers, places, or people. My personal favorite was really just a footnote–Shannon’s husband is a dog-centaur who used to be human but was taken to live in Faerie and ended up that way. Not only do I find nontraditional centaur forms really awesome, the fact that he was formerly human makes it all better. And he’s all puppy-friendly about meeting new people and really upset that she’d spent three whole days away from him. I really hope he comes back at some point because I could totally watch an entire episode following his antics.

The ending feels a bit rushed, as a lot of plot points come up and get dealt with in the last few episodes, and the last episode was just odd. It tried to tie things up while not closing off anything the manga might do in the future, but I’m not sure the final bits of imagery really fit the mood of the two up until that point. They’re going to work through their first real fight like that?

Overall, if you liked the first half, you might as well finish it out. There’s still some really beautiful scenery, and some neat magic, but the latter half of the series isn’t as strong as the first. I rate this show Recommended.

XAM’D (Anime)

Title: XAM’D

Episodes: 1-26 (complete)

Akiyuki lives on Senton Island, a free zone between the warring North and South. When his decision to help a girl leads to a terrorist attack, he ends up infected by a biological agent that turns him into a living weapon. Now he’s effectively exiled from his home, as the military there has a lot of interest in what he’s become. With the help of another girl, Nakiami, Akiyuki is learning to live with his new condition. But will he master it, or will it master him?

This is another random older show I’d never heard of until just recently, and which the reviews were rather negative towards. And once again, I found I enjoyed it for the most part.

I like shapeshifters, so the situation with Akiyuki’s infection was one of the high points for me. In his case, actually shifting (even if it’s only a partial shift like his arm) brings with it a host of consequences, the most dangerous being that the new form is fundamentally unstable and has a tendency to turn to stone if he’s not managing it right. So messing up will kill him, which makes learning how to live with it, at least at first, a matter of learning how NOT to use it unless he absolutely has no choice.

I wish the show had done more to dig into some of the emotional issues with being turned into a weapon, but on the other hand you can tell a lot from his actions. He isn’t at all grateful to be “rescued” at first, since it involved removing him from his home, friends, and family. And getting back isn’t easy, because the military man in charge of the island at best wants to catch him to use as a test subject (and failing that, would be happy to have him killed).

Nakiami isn’t exactly Akiyuki’s love interest, which I liked. She’s mysterious, almost suicidally determined to rescue others, and uniquely competent in dealing with the humanform weapons. Although she’s traveling with a group, it’s also clear something holds her apart. And she’s a mean glider pilot (they called them kayaks in the dub but that always makes me think of boats).

There are a number of other threads that get a lot of attention throughout. I think my favorite was the ongoing really tenuous relationship between Akiyuki’s mom and dad, who are separated but not quite divorced. Akiyuki’s disappearance impacts both of them badly, as no one has any idea if he’s alive or dead, but it’s clear the two of them have enough pride and pain that even this isn’t enough to cause them to unbend more than a little. Both of them seem to regret being apart, and willing to come back together—but not willing to address the things that drove them apart in the first place, which pretty well dooms most of his dad’s attempts at reconciliation.

Another major thread is the friendship between Akiyuki, Haru, and Furuichi. That didn’t go at all the way I expected—some of the problems that were visible early on resolved opposite what I thought they would be, like Haru’s love interest. I like the way the dynamics played out, and how things that could have been little things if they’d all been together, if they’d all grown up normally, became in the end such a disaster.

On a technical level, the animation was pretty good, and I enjoyed seeing all the little details that were actually animated. This is a good-looking show, even when it’s going for more of a body-horror vibe (seriously, go look up the way Akiyuki actually transforms. He’s basically melting into a new shape that you can at best describe as humanoid).

I watched the show in dub, and in general that was a strong performance. There were a few minor characters who only had a handful of lines that sounded weird, but the major characters sounded good.

There were a few things that brought the presentation down a bit, though. I watched the show in dub, so I’m not sure if this is also true for the sub, but there were several points where the background music was loud enough to overwhelm the characters speaking, and I had to turn the volume up to try to pick out what they were saying. (I don’t know that this would matter as much for sub anyway, since I’d have the text.) I also really wasn’t fond of that long poem about enemies that gets repeated three or four times in full. It feels like an overly convoluted way to try to express a few ideas, and could have been done with a much shorter presentation.

The series does dip a bit in the middle when it chooses to shift the focus away from Akiyuki, who is mostly out of commission for several episodes, in favor of developing a lot of the more secondary characters. At this point, I feel it would’ve been stronger to focus more on Nakiami, or some other more action-driven character, instead of spending so much time with the crew of the postal ship. And there are several decisions at the end that baffle me. Why do that with Akiyuki, after everything is over? And then take that long to change your mind?

Despite the snags, though, I did enjoy watching this, and am glad I stumbled across it. I rate this show Recommended.

The Boy and the Beast (Anime)

Title: The Boy and the Beast

Format: Movie

A boy, cast adrift by the death of his mother, runs away, and in the process finds himself in a parallel world populated only by beasts. His humanity is an issue here, but a giant bear-man named Kumatetsu tries to claim him as an apprentice, and gives him the name Kyuta. Unfortunately Kumatetsu is a laughingstock among his own kind. He’s big and strong and skilled, but also lazy and quick-tempered and full of rough edges. Can Kumatetsu prove he’s able to train an apprentice? Can Kyuta survive Kumatetsu’s horrible attempts at training?

I found this because I stumbled across the novel (on clearance, yay) and got curious about seeing the movie because of it. I streamed this on Funimation’s site, so I watched it in dub.

The movie was excellent. Ren (though he doesn’t introduce himself until halfway through the film), nee Kyuta, is a child angry at the world when his mother dies unexpectedly. He hates his relatives and would rather go live with his father, but because his parents divorced, no one wants to give him to his dad. So he runs. He’s argumentative from the get-go, which makes him a really fun companion for Kumatetsu. He doesn’t put up with Kumatetsu’s flaws, but rather calls them out. My favorite example of this is during a fight when he’s asked to encourage his teacher, and the “encouragement” sounds more like, “Hey, you look stupid lying there. Get up, loser.”

But then, that’s the kind of relationship between the two.

Kumatetsu is stubborn about being a master, and being terrible at it only seems to fuel his determination that he won’t fail at something like THIS. Although the story beats may feel familiar, they’re handled so well. Kyuta ends up becoming the master in many ways, and Kumatetsu has to learn to be an apprentice, but there are still many things that Kyuta doesn’t know and needs to learn from Kumatetsu. If, that is, Kumatetsu can adequately explain them. Which is a problem because Kumatetsu never had to learn from anyone, and sucks at explaining even the simplest things.

I really liked the twist halfway through, too. Ren has grown up more or less happily in the world of the beasts, but when he finds his way back to the human world as accidentally as he originally left, he’s now confronted with what it means to be part of both worlds. Which will he choose? Which family should he prioritize—the bear-man who has raised him these past several years, or his biological father? And does it even have to be a choice forsaking one for the other?

This is about family, about different people who gradually become family (despite themselves, really), about the bonds that still hold despite having been estranged. And it’s about the darker side, too—how having a loving family doesn’t prevent problems, or loneliness, or doubts that can overwhelm.

And there’s still a lot of good fights to be had, since Kumatetsu is, after all, in competition for the position of lord of the beasts, and training Kyuta in his skills.

I didn’t get a chance to check out the Japanese, but the English voice actors all brought their A-game. I very much enjoyed the dub. Everyone was cast appropriately, and I especially appreciate that the kids sounded so good. Kyuta spends about half the movie as a nine-year-old, and the other half close to an adult, and his voice reflects that. It still sounds like him, but more mature, and the same was true of the friends he made. That’s a difficult transition to pull off well.

Overall this is absolutely something I will watch again, and try to show to the friends and family who don’t generally watch anime. I rate this Highly Recommended.