Category Archives: Anime

Granblue Fantasy s2 (Anime)

Title: Granblue Fantasy season 2
Episodes: 1-12

Gran and his crew of skyfarers are continuing their journey aboard the Grandcypher in search of the lost island of the Astrals. But when the Erste Empire that has been pursuing them suddenly offers a truce, they decide this is one detour they can’t afford to miss. Even though everybody suspects there’s far more to this than what it seems.

Although I feel like this was weaker than the first season, I still enjoy the overall story. This season was more about digging into the various crew’s histories: Katalina and her training to become a knight, and what she abandoned to make this journey; Rackam and a childhood friend he no longer remembers, but who shaped his current life; and (surprisingly enough) even a bit of backstory for one other familiar face.

The based-on-a-game structure is far more evident here, as the Erste Empire and Gran have standoffs that just make no sense based on story logic so far (Noa’s arc in particular has me baffled that they basically let themselves be captured by ordinary soldiers instead of jumping off the balcony). That said, it still functions decently well as just a straight fantasy show, with the occasional nods to extra characters that make a bigger appearance outside the show.

My favorite piece of the story has to be Noa’s arc. Rackam is a middle-aged man who’s finally getting to live out his childhood dream—and when he meets the gentle engineer who inspired him, he learns there’s far more to even his own history than he ever guessed. Noa never spells out the details, but it’s clear that Rackam inspired him just as much as he encouraged Rackam, as the boy is the one person who never gave up on getting the Grandcypher back in the air, and who loves the ship just as much as its creator. (And it’s also sweet that Rackam, who has grown used to finding primal beasts, doesn’t reject Noa after learning he’s not human, but is willing to risk everything to save him.)

Overall, despite feeling more disjointed than the first season, I still liked this a lot. I rate this show Recommended.

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Anime)

Title: Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Anime)

Episodes: 1-12

Mile is hiding a secret: she’s ludicrously overpowered. When she died and was reincarnated in this world, she was offered her choice of anything she wanted. She wanted to be average, for once, to enable her to make friends this time around. But “average” turned out to be the average of all living beings, not all humanity, so her hunt for an average life has all kinds of problems.

The story setup could almost read like a joke about statistics: Mile’s insufficient explanation of “average” gave her everything she didn’t want in her next life. The not-so-funny joke, though, is that Mile’s unending quest for being average ends up with a show that’s basically exactly that.

Honestly if this wasn’t the only thing airing on Mondays I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

I read enough of the web novel to be interested enough in checking it out, but the beginning cuts out the entire first arc, so we begin with Mile having a forgettable encounter with a wince-worthy villain (who insists she just wants to collect children for non-sexual purposes despite acting like a dog in heat), and then jump right to hunter training, followed by their work for the Adventurer’s guild. This isn’t necessarily bad, but nothing about the setup or the characters really stands out.

The show tries to slide in a bunch of visual jokes to boost its lackluster plot, but this only works sometimes. Despite throwing some heavy backstory in for some of the characters, none of them feel like they grew or changed at all. In the last episode everyone’s basically in the same position they were at in the first one.

Some of this could have been mitigated if Mile’s story had been told in a more chronological fashion, as we could see her learning to open up to her first friends, resolving her family issues, and so on like it was in the books. As it is, though, there’s not much here if you aren’t already invested in reading the story. I’m also not fond of how every major character, from the innkeeper to the historian, is also a young girl, but that’s technically in the books too, so whatever. A more varied cast might have helped balance things out more. I rate this show Neutral.

Ascendance of a Bookworm (Anime)

Title: Ascendance of a Bookworm

Episodes: 1-14

Urano loved books more than anything else—so after she died and woke up as Myne, the daughter of poor working class parents in an era where books are a luxury only nobles can afford, she determines to make them herself. But the road to books is a long one, and Myne’s sickly body may not hold out long enough.

This is more of a drama than a fantasy, although magic has a few crucial roles, especially by the end. If you’ve read the books, this is a very good adaptation (though I wish the last negotiation towards the end had gotten more screen time instead of just a one-sentence summary).

Myne may think she’s in it for the books, but the heart of the show is her relationships with the people around her. She’s undeniably a strange one, but with the support of Lutz, a boy next door, and Benno, a merchant fascinated with the potential profit she represents, she introduces revolutionary concepts into her world.

But these are logical and realistic “inventions”: home crafts, recipes, and the like.

And her immediate family is also a real treat. Her dad’s undeniably infatuated with his daughters (and not in a perverted way) and loves his wife. Her mom does her best to be supportive, and her older sister Tuli takes on a lot of the burden of looking out for her little sister. It’s so nice to get a genuinely healthy and supportive family, who loves Myne even though they don’t pretend to understand her.

I still think the best moments are the surprise confrontations. Lutz figures out that Myne knows way too much for a girl of her circumstances, and their conversation about it is one big highlight of the season. It’s such a rarity for stories like this to have people honestly confronting their uneasiness about this familiar stranger.

Overall, if you’ve never read the books this is a great place to dive in (though I would still recommend them to get more of the tiny character building moments that just couldn’t fit in a show this long). It can be a bit slow-paced, especially at first before Myne’s world really opens up, but the lack of action is more than compensated for with the rich character drama. I rate this show Highly Recommended.

Demon Slayer (Anime)

Title: Demon Slayer
Episodes: 1-26

Tanjiro lost his family to a sudden demon attack—all but his sister, who was infected to become a demon herself. Determined to get revenge, and protect his sister, Tanjiro trains hard to become a demon slayer. But the road to mastery is long, and the demons are powerful . . .

It’s so nice to have a protagonist like Tanjiro, whose main personality trait can probably be summed up in “big brother.” He’s kindhearted enough to care for everyone around him, and he never loses sight of the fact that the demons he’s killing were at one time victims themselves to the same curse that infected his sister. But underneath that kindness is a steel determination to save the only family he has left, and he won’t back down from anything that tries to separate him from his sister.

If I have one complaint, it’s that Nezuko, his sister, has a very small role. She’s mostly either asleep or acting cute in a way that makes her feel more like a pet than a person. Hopefully future seasons will flesh her out more.

Inosuke and Zenitsu are two other novices that eventually join Tanjiro on his missions. Although both of them have annoying traits, they also both quickly show deeper backstories, and both of them contribute a lot to the more humorous moments. (Although Zenitsu is at times extremely annoying, as his main schtick is being a wailing  coward whenever he’s awake.)

Ufotable did a wonderful job with the visuals. The fight scenes are sharp, and the special abilities are done in traditional Japanese art style, which makes them look surreal and beautiful. It’s also a real treat to see Tanjiro go from a countryside that looks like a historical drama to the electric lights and trains of the big city. The modern citygoers have no room for “demon slayers”, not even realizing that the demons are walking among them.

Overall this is one of the standouts on nearly every level. The story is compelling, the art is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see where this is going next. (A movie is already announced for the next arc.) I rate this show Highly Recommended.

Dr. Stone (Anime)

Title: Dr. Stone
Episodes: 1-13

Senku was a high school student with a lifelong love of science and a single goal: to go to the moon. Unfortunately, a civilization-ending disaster strikes first, turning everyone in the world to stone. Three thousand years later, Senku breaks free. And from a second stone age, he’s working on restoring all the civilization—and science—he knows and loves.

This is an odd show with some crazy character designs in places, but it’s also a huge amount of fun. Senku is a genius, but he’s the kind of genius who is just so passionate about his favorite subject he wants everyone else to love it too. And because he’s been doing experiments from a young age, it feels natural for him to have the know-how to recreate some of the many things that were lost.

On a personal level, he’s a bit snarky, likes to tease his friends, and holds intense loyalty to them. So he mostly avoids the more annoying sides of being a genius.

The situation with other characters is a little weirder. The beginning of the show sets up a certain group of friends and enemies, but the author seems to have given up on that plotline rather early in favor of moving Senku to a village populated by people he hasn’t known in his pre-statue life.

Overall, even if the more typical elements (a tournament arc, really?) don’t really work for me, the science is always fun, and it’s a bit of a game guessing what Senku will try to create next. I rate this show Recommended.

To the abandoned sacred beasts (Anime)

Title: To the abandoned sacred beasts

Episodes: 1-12

Hank was once the captain of the Incarnates, an experimental squad of humans who can transform into mythological beasts. But once the war ended, the Incarnates find themselves unable to return to normal society. Their bodies have increasingly succumbed to their transformations to the point where many of them can’t revert to human anymore, and worse than that, many of them also lose their minds. So Hank determines to fulfill the last wish of their creator, Elaine, and hunt down all the Incarnates before madness consumes them all.

This was something I wanted to like more than I did. Shapeshifting people with alternate mythological forms? I am SO down for that. But as the title might suggest, this is mostly a series of vignettes that are uniformly tragedies, with a larger plot involving Hank’s hunt for one particular Incarnate that just kind of sucks.

The worst of it for me is that there’s no evidence Schaal is wrong. Schaal is the daughter of one of the Incarnates, who pursues Hank relentlessly once he kills her father. She thinks there’s no need to kill the Incarnates, even if they can’t transform back, and that they can integrate back into life. I think there’s actually strong evidence in the show that she’s correct—Siren, in particular, shows no signs of being unduly influenced by her more bestial form. Although some Incarnates have certainly lost the battle to madness, it seems horribly preemptive to call this inevitable and just slaughter them all whether they are insane or not.

But instead of looking for a way to redeem the Incarnates, both Hank and Schaal have given up on them and go around killing them.

The animation isn’t usually great, but it’s serviceable. I do appreciate that the Incarnates are hand-drawn and not CG. The overall story doesn’t exactly wrap up, but they tried to give it some sense of closure, as Hank and Schaal have both decided what they are going to do with their lives from here out, even though they haven’t reached their goals.

Overall this is an odd little show. It had plenty of moments of pathos, even if Cain was exaggerated evil and basically invincible (daylight doesn’t seem to bother him, and you can’t physically hit him, so I do wonder how Hank intends to kill him). And despite knowing that every little mini-story was going to have a bad ending, it was fun seeing the various Incarnate forms and personalities. I rate this show Neutral.

The Saga of Tanya the Evil (Movie)

Title: The Saga of Tanya the Evil

Format: Movie

Tanya had hoped to get away from war, but as usual she’s been dragged to the front lines. This time, Russia is the primary enemy—but an international unit that gets entangled in the fray suggests the United States may not be far behind. With no other options, Tanya puts her all into staying alive . . .

This feels like an extended next episode of the series. Picking up right where the series left off, it showcases Mary Sue and her new placement in an international unit visiting Moscow to help foster friendly relations in their mutual fight against the Empire. Mary Sue isn’t paying attention to anything other than her own goals for revenge.

It’s an interesting contrast to Tanya, who strives for ultimate professionalism in what she does (though sometimes her emotions do slip through). This war, like the wars before it, creates a perfect storm to draw Tanya in. Between her superior’s shortsightedness, unexpected enemy action, and some manipulation by Being X (though he doesn’t have a direct role like in the series), Tanya is unable to grasp the peaceful life she so desires.

Visually this was stunning. The cloudscapes were gorgeous, and there were several amazing arial dogfights. The flying battles are reason enough for me to buy this. A few shortcuts are evident in some of the more intense fight scenes, but given the sheer dynamic motion of the rest of it I’m more than willing to overlook it.

Overall, this is best watched after seeing the regular anime, but there is enough context for a new viewer to jump right in. The only real downside is that the relatively open nature of the end implies there needs to be another season to continue from where this one leaves off. I rate this movie Recommended (if you enjoyed the series, Highly Recommended).