Category Archives: Anime

Further Thoughts – Yona of the Dawn

I wanted to jot down a few further thoughts on Yona, since I had a chance to review the dub, and I wanted to mention a few things in a bit more depth about the manga.

The dub is serviceable, but most of the characters didn’t feel great in their roles. Gija is a major exception, as his voice actor absolutely nails his bug-related freakouts, but others like Jaeha don’t have any transition between their comedy portions and their regular voices, which made Jaeha sound more monotone than his Japanese voice. Or there are odd moments like Yun using his obviously male voice when talking to Yona during a period when he’s disguising himself as a girl—and none of the other girls figure this out until so much later it feels really stupid. In addition his attempts to sound feminine are still gravelly.

As an added annoyance, this disk is the first anime I’ve watched that didn’t allow me to put subtitles on when I was watching the English, which is how I prefer to view dubs. That allows me to more easily evaluate where the dub changed the script, or catch lines that might be muttered or in the background.

Jeno/Zeno is still my favorite. (Looks like he’s officially Jeno, but it sounds like Zeno in the Japanese, and we already have Jaeha, so I prefer Zeno.) His little “we can totally storm the castle” speech in the last ep is the first big hint that he’s more than he appears—why the massive amount of confidence when he’s previously described himself as basically powerless?

And when the manga finally shows his ability in chapters 99-100, Zeno demonstrates he could probably storm the entire castle by himself. And win.

**MANGA SPOILERS**

I love how Zeno’s backstory is basically: the other three dragons never let him fight because he was weak, and then when they got old and retired, he went out and did everything by himself. He’s unkillable but not invincible, as Shin-Ah demonstrates by tying him up. So despite having massive powers, he doesn’t unbalance the plot because his personality isn’t suited for fighting, and because in order to trigger those powers he’s first got to take deadly levels of injury.

I adore his initial battle, as his ineffectual resistance slowly transforms into complete invincibility. And all his friends are shell-shocked from the moment he first gets stabbed through the heart . . . and he’ll take way more damage than that before he’s done. One of my favorite frames is the panel after he’s been stabbed multiple times, dismembered, and beheaded, and is standing there with ruined clothes but a whole body and taunting the enemy: “What will you do? Unlike you, I have no limits. I can go on fighting for hundreds of years. Come at me. I have all the time in the world.”

And then they find out that he’s not only unkillable, but after a certain point he can’t even take injuries anymore, and they’re now fighting a dragon just as ferocious as Gija and Jaeha combined.

It really is a shame it’s going to take so long to get volumes 17-18 in English.

I like how the dragons are becoming more and more a group of friends. Zeno admits the original four never really meshed that well, as the thread of competitiveness disrupted the sense of being a team. But the current group demonstrates again and again their willingness to support each other, which is perhaps a reflection of Yona being weak where King Hiryuu was strong. Yona can’t pull her own weight in fights the way he did. And Zeno isn’t volunteering to hurt himself as long as the other three canĀ  handle things without his help, but if the situation calls for it, he’ll cheerfully offer to undergo hideous pain because he knows he can take it.

I also like how the manga has generally moved towards longer plot arcs. Su-won turns his attention to the surrounding kingdoms, and Yona for one reason or another is in the middle of things, which means plenty of time to explore the other nations. It raises some interesting questions about Su-won’s ultimate goal, as his short-term aspirations are building up Kouka and reducing his neighbors so they won’t face external threats. He doesn’t seem like he wants to invade, so I do wonder what he’ll get up to once the last neighbor has either submitted or lost a war with him.

At any rate, it’s a shame that the anime doesn’t look likely to go any farther. The plot continues to improve, the characters have a lot of interesting revelations, and the surprises keep on coming.

Yona of the Dawn (anime)

Yona of the Dawn

Episodes 1-24

Yona is a pampered princess with a peace-loving father. She’s in love with her cousin, Su-won—but when Su-won kills her father and usurps the throne, Yona becomes a fugitive, with only a single guard, Hak, to protect her. In order to survive, she’ll need allies. So begins her quest to gather the four legendary dragon warriors.

I was hoping for something similar to the excellent 12 Kingdoms, and in that regard was disappointed. Yona is very solidly a shoujo with a dash of reverse harem, and the show focuses a lot on the string of guys she accumulates and the various semi-romantic hijinks that occur between them. That said, there’s a fair amount of action as well, and even if I didn’t like Yona, the guys tended to be a lot more interesting.

Hak, for all that he isn’t a dragon (officially, at least) can rampage just as well as any of them. He’s also in love with Yona, although his position as her servant won’t allow him to admit it (and Yona is extremely clueless). The dragons themselves are a fun lot. Each of the dragon warriors has a specific power, and generally very different relationships with that power depending on how their villages viewed it. The one major exception in the anime is the Yellow Dragon, mostly because he shows up in just the last episode, but presumably the manga digs into his character more. I like Jaeha’s power the best, and his stubborn insistence not to let dragon-blood-destiny run his life (although he ends up coming anyway, of course). Rounding out the group is Yun, whose competence with everything not fighting makes him a vital support.

(I did read the manga and once we FINALLY get Jeno/Zeno’s backstory and get to see his powers, he easily became my favorite. I like his casual, happy attitude, rumpled appearance, the moments of surprising insight or wisdom that shows he’s not an idiot, the spirit of self-sacrifice that says, “This may be all I can do, but I will do it.” He’s really not a fighter the way the other three are, and his approach to battles horrifies everyone who watches him because of how much he has to suffer to use his abilities, but he never complains, and even volunteers his own suffering to save them pain. And his powers are SO MUCH FUN. Even if, far more than the other three, his could honestly be called a curse.)

Yona, though, is almost unbearable in the beginning. I’m glad the anime beginning included a flash forward, because I don’t think I would’ve stuck around long enough to get there otherwise. Eventually she realizes the depths of her helplessness and determines to get better, but it’s a long journey to even marginal usefulness. She’s almost more of a mascot, whose job is to keep everyone else happy and willing to fight. This is starting to turn around by the end of the anime, and I can only hope the manga grows her up more.

The plot can also suffer from some bizarre moments, particularly early on. Like the snakes that show up out of nowhere, at night, and are chasing Yona and Hak through a forest. Because . . . cold blooded creatures with no legs can run as fast as two humans? Yeah. Although I ended up liking the show, especially once I read the manga and got to see some of the later ways things play out, the beginning is just hard for me to watch.

Overall whether or not you like this is going to depend on how much you like the shoujo aspects of it. It does have a good amount of action, humor, and depth of character, so there is enough to enjoy if the presence of some of the tropes doesn’t ruin it. One of the more surprising aspects, to me, is that the usurper Su-won is actually a remarkably good king—and so much better than Yona’s father that it’s arguable if it would even be a good thing for Yona and the dragons to go against him. Certainly Yona’s not ready to sit on a throne. But neither the anime nor the manga treats that question much. It’s more about Yona being able to survive in a desperate and dangerous world. I rate this series Recommended.

Tokyo Ghoul (anime)

Tokyo Ghoul

Episodes 1-12

WARNING: MATURE CONTENT
– minor amounts of nudity, ghouls eating human flesh (mostly not shown), and an intense torture scene (the main reason to stay away if this will bother you)

Ken Kaneki is an ordinary human in a city where ghouls lurk. Ghouls eat people, and a special task force hunts them down. But it’s all distant from his everyday life—until a date gone bad leaves him no longer quite human himself. And even if he wants to live a quiet life, people from both sides have taken an interest in him . . .

This was far less of a horror story than I initially expected, although by the end it does go quite deeply into some hard things. I doubt I’ll watch the last episode or two again, as sitting through someone being tortured while chained to a chair was bad enough the first time. So I want to reiterate up front that this is NOT a children’s show and the Mature rating is for a reason.

On the more positive side, though, the characters are really strong. Although the whole “must eat people” bit would make it easy to characterize ghouls as monsters, both sides have a lot of gradations. There are members of the CCG (the anti-ghoul force) that have far crossed the line with their obsession to wipe out all ghouls. Similarly, some ghouls don’t see the point of giving humans any dignity, or restraining their own excesses. Ken isn’t the only character caught in between those two sides. He falls in with a group of ghouls who only want to be left alone, and try to exist in ways that minimally impact the general human population.

This comes to a head in tragic scenes like the confrontation in episode 8, where the person giving the speech about ghouls having the same right to live as any ordinary person is telling the one person who can’t be convinced, and the one who might be convinced is fighting someone who can’t figure out how to say the same thing. And it probably wouldn’t be as easy as winning that one man over to the ghoul’s side, but that would have been a start. A start that never happened, and might never happen, which leaves the world stuck in the same struggle it’s always been, where ghouls and humans mischaracterize and kill each other.

Some threads might be better in the manga, as, for instance, Ken’s best human friend, who is a major character early on, disappears from the story for no obvious reason. It would have been interesting seeing the two of them interact more after Ken was turned. However, the heart of the story is Ken and his relationship to the group of oddball ghouls who dare to believe they can coexist quietly with humans, and find ways to take the nourishment they need without becoming monsters.

Oh, and although this can be a dark and serious show, the space after the credits where the preview would normally go tend to be lighthearted side stories told in about 30 seconds, and are well worth watching.

Overall this is nothing like what I expected, and I enjoyed it a lot. I watched it in Japanese because I streamed most of it, so I’m not really sure how the English cast performed. I haven’t read the manga yet so I can’t say how faithful or not it was as an adaptation, but I understand a great deal of manga was condensed into these episodes, which may explain why some characters don’t get as much time as I thought they should. I rate this show Recommended.

(As a side note, regardless of what you think about the second season, episode 13 does make a much better ending than episode 12, as it finishes that fight and gives a better sense of an ending. But the box set will only come with episodes 1-12.)

Mob Psycho 100 (anime)

Title: Mob Psycho 100

Episodes: 1-12

Mob is a middle-school student with incredible psychic powers, but he doesn’t think much of himself or his abilities. He works part time for an exorcism company, but mostly he wants to fit in with the more ordinary world around him. But between ghosts, evil spirits, and other psychics, he’s not going to have an easy time of it.

This is a show that I watched purely based on recommendations, as so many people rated it their favorite of the season. I had originally avoided it because I hated the art style. Having watched it through, I still hate the art style, but I do appreciate the story. It took a few episodes to get invested, since the beginning is mostly setting up the premise, and then it starts digging into a more overarching story.

Mob is one of my favorite character types: quiet, unassuming, and massively powerful. Reigen, his boss, is an obvious con artist taking advantage of Mob (and his customers) . . . although for a con artist he actually puts a decent amount of work into making sure his customers go away happy. I liked how Reigen developed—the advice he gives Mob may be usually for his own benefit, but he (perhaps unintentionally) set Mob on the right path for how to think about his power. This brings Mob into conflict with his peers on several levels, as he’s not interested in using his power for personal gain and especially doesn’t want to use it to hurt anyone.

I think my favorite part was how the show defied expectations. Mob is asked to join the Telepathy Club (of which he would be the only legitimate member, as nobody else in it has psychic powers), to stop the Body Improvement Club from taking over the room (I won’t spoil how he decides). The Body Improvement Club in general was great. They’re a bunch of huge, muscled guys entirely focused on even more physical fitness—but they’re anti-violence and actually quite nice.

Things that didn’t quite work for me were the art and some of the humor. Thankfully the story doesn’t linger on the jokes, so whenever one didn’t work for me, it wasn’t something I had to watch for long.

Overall I liked this more than I expected, although I don’t think I’ll ever be fond of the character designs. If there is another season, I’d be interested to see where the story goes, although it does end well enough not to feel cut off. I rate this show Recommended.

Tales of Zestiria the X

Title: Tales of Zestiria the X

Episodes: 1-13 (00-12)

The world is crumbling under natural and unnatural disasters. During such times, legend says, a Shepherd arises to drive back the darkness. It’s this legend Princess Alisha has risked much to uncover. The young man she finds living alone in a mountain village insists he isn’t the Shepherd, although he also believes the legends—and he’s also able to see the seraphim that dwell in the world alongside humanity.

This is based on the game Tales of Zestiria (with a random two-episode advertisement for the next game, Tales of Berseria), but the anime makes a number of creative alterations to the plot. Most of these changes are good, tightening up the game’s plot and fleshing out the characters more. This is about the first half of Zestiria’s plot, but it manages to end at a good point.

As its own show, it still suffers from a few of the oddities in the game’s plot, most notably villains that pop in and out of the plot (although Lunarre has more relevance in the anime than he ever did in game). However, in general this doesn’t require any knowledge of the game to follow. The biggest flaw is actually the Berseria episodes, because they have no connection to the rest of the plot and feel like a pointless diversion that breaks the flow. I also thought that for all the prologue episode attempts to give more weight to Alisha’s early hardships, it introduces a few things that aren’t explained until way later (if ever…. Symmone shows up but is never introduced, so only game players will even know who she is, as she doesn’t have any role in the anime after this except for one appearance in the last episode).

The artwork is amazing, particularly the landscapes. I was more mixed about the CG, as some things like water looked very good, and others like some of the monsters were rather obvious CG (although still in general a lot better than some of the CG I’m used to seeing in anime).

As a fantasy anime, it’s pretty good (ignoring the Berseria interruption), though it leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger waiting for season 2. As a game adaption it’s excellent. It’s tightening up the story, giving Alisha a bigger role, and adding some much-needed backstory to characters like Zavied and Edna.

Overall if you’re curious about Zestiria, or even if you didn’t care much for the game but wanted to check out the story, give this a try. The show even uses the same voice actors in dub, so there’s no jarring switch. I rate this show Recommended.

Alderamin on the Sky

Title: Alderamin on the Sky

Episodes: 1-13

Ikta Solok may be a military genius, but he prefers to be a lazy womanizer. But an attempt to help an old friend pass an exam brings him to the attention of the princess, who promotes him into the military despite his wishes to the contrary. Now an officer-in-training, he’s beginning to build a reputation as one of the best generals the country has ever seen.

This show took a few episodes to really grab me, but Ikta makes for an unusual protagonist. He’s legitimately smart, and I like that his backstory shows he’s actually been embroiled in military tactics his whole life—he’s not just some random kid outsmarting people who have more experience. But due to his father being a disgraced general, Ikta bears the military no love and is trying to get a job as a librarian (where he’ll be well out of trouble and able to sleep as much as he wants). Unfortunately, he ends up in the military anyway, and that’s where his tactics start to shine. Also, although Ikta quickly builds a reputation for being a genius, his tactics aren’t a magic ticket out of all his problems. Especially when the stakes start to rise, he’s confronted with hard choices that have no good answer.

Yatori Ingsem, Ikta’s childhood friend, couldn’t be more different. She’s driven, dedicated, a fierce warrior from a family deeply rooted in tradition, and very loyal to the Empire. I loved the deep friendship between the two of them. They understand each other at a level no one else can, and are comfortable with each other, but it’s a trusting friendship, not a romance. Yatori is the only reason Ikta hasn’t fled the Empire. Ikta does what he can to support her, hoping he can break her free of the shackles of her loyalty to her family, for her own good.

The other main supporting characters get less time, but that mostly works out since this is a short series (although I can hope they’ll adapt more). Toroway Remeon is, like Yatori, from an old military family, but where hers has focused on swordsmanship, his uses guns. (Ikta just dislikes him for being a pretty boy bound to grab the attention of the girls.) Matthew is also from a military family, but one much less known (and I like that he’s heavyset. It’s rare to find a younger anime character who isn’t 90 lbs soaking wet). And Haroma is the healer, helping to ensure the group survives everything that didn’t go right.

The animation quality can take some shortcuts, particularly during battles, which tend to get explained before and after, but either skip out on the actual fighting or show very little of it. But since the fun is more in the tactics than the execution, that didn’t bother me too badly. I was more irritated that the show ends on a magnificent twist that begs for a second season, which is not likely to happen. I’ll have to see if the manga adaptation or the original light novels are available in English.

Overall this was a lot better than I was expecting. The fantasy world has some interesting wrinkles with the spirits that companion each person (air spirits drive guns, not gunpowder), but the focus stays squarely on the characters. It peers into the uglier realities of war, like fighting unjust battles, and asks a lot of provocative questions about the use and nature of force. On the other hand, Ikta’s religious devotion to science can be somewhat annoying, although it does grant him a willingness to think outside the box. I rate this series Recommended.

God Eater (anime)

Title: God Eater
Episodes: 1-13

The world has been ravaged by the sudden and inexplicable scourge of monsters called Aragami. No ordinary weapon can harm them. But a small class of people who are compatible with the artificial-Aragami weapons called God Arcs can fight. These God Eaters are all that stands between the Aragami and humanity.

I just started playing the second game and thought I’d check out the anime as a shortcut to the plot of the first game. So as an adaptation, I have no clue how accurate this is. As an anime, though, I mostly enjoyed watching it.

The present-day story of Lenka, a new God Eater who is equipped with the next evolution in God Arcs, weaves with the story of the three scientists who originally discovered Oracle cells and the disaster that followed. I liked this technique, as the devastation of the present lends a weight to the past, and the past fills in several questions about the present. Also, it serves as a contrast between two of the three scientists: Johannas as he grows ever more willing to do whatever needs to be done to ensure the survival of humanity, and Paylor who tries to stand on principles of conscience and peace. (Which makes it funnier that Paylor is the one who invented God Arcs . . . for a man of peace, he certainly invents plenty of excellent ways to kill things.)

The animation is movie-quality. I love the desolate cityscapes (and artistic splashes of blood—and there’s a lot of blood). The crumbling buildings, abandoned personal artifacts, moldering fabric, destroyed furniture, and so on paint an almost picturesque urban decay. And Fenrir’s future-level technology is a nice contrast. The God Arcs are interesting weapons in-game, and the anime nicely captures both how unique and how disturbing they can get (ep 13 was overkill, though).

I didn’t care for the overabundance of slow-motion shots early on, or how often people would stare in total shock at the screen. And I roll my eyes at how impractical some of the girls’ outfits are for actually killing monsters (seriously, put on a bra. It makes a world of difference when running/jumping. Not that anime outfits have ever been terribly concerned with practicality).

To be perfectly honest, this probably isn’t something you’re watching for the plot. It works (sometimes better than others) until the last episode, when Lenka’s upgraded God Arc gets so ridiculous that it’s hard to take anything he does seriously. That’s probably why I found the backstory clips more compelling than the present-day, except for the fight scenes. It was still a fairly intense journey, as the ruthless horror of the Aragami keeps getting emphasized through various ways, but the character’s solutions are puzzlingly ineffective. It boils down to “Let someone else do it.” This is another reason I often liked the flashback sequences better than the present day plot. Johannas, Paylor, and Aisha are determined to find an answer and work tirelessly to that end. Even when things go wrong or it looks way beyond them, they continue to do everything they can.

Overall, if the visuals appeal to you and you don’t mind a somewhat weaker plot, this isn’t a bad series to check out. It’s short enough to marathon in a few days, and if it wasn’t priced so highly I’d buy it for my collection as I do quite like the visuals (I’m still considering, but ~$10 an episode is a hard price to swallow when there’s so much else on my to-buy list that’s significantly cheaper). I rate this series Neutral.