Category Archives: Anime

Saga of Tanya the Evil (Anime)

Title: Saga of Tanya the Evil

Episodes: 1-12

In an alternate world in the middle of its own WWI, a young girl named Tanya is a formidable member of the military. With a harsh standard and a reputation for success in the worst circumstances, she eventually gains the nickname “Devil of the Rhine.” But Tanya is actually the reincarnation of a sociopathic businessman, and her current life is the result of an unintentional wager with a supernatural entity she calls Being X.

There’s a lot about this show that initially put me off. I mean, what kind of military allows a 9-year-old to enroll, even if it is for a magic division? I’m amazed Tanya managed to pass the physical (even mages have equipment to haul around, so presumably there are SOME standards). It feels like pandering. Thankfully the plot never sexualizes Tanya, focusing instead on the disparity between her age and looks, and her sociopathic personality.

I also wasn’t sure what to make of the religious angle to the conflict, although after watching the show I agree with Tanya that whatever she’s arguing with isn’t God, despite the trappings. The whole show is basically a narcissist versus a sociopath—Tanya’s whole life happened because the man he used to be told Being X only poor people in hard life circumstances had faith in God. So he got a one-way ticket to exactly that life. The interesting thing is that Tanya is, in some sense, refusing to budge from her position no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary—but on the other hand, the God Being X is pretending to be is also supposed to be a supporter of free will, which Being X is definitely not.

Visually, it’s a fun series. I really like flying scenes, and it’s also fun seeing the various adapters each country uses to fly. (Full disclosure: flying scenes are why I picked this up at all.) Tanya’s country uses a boot-like apparatus tied to something like a battery pack. Others use pseudo-horses, skiis, etc. It’s interesting to see how this affects their aerial mobility and tactics.

I’m not a history buff so I can’t say how closely this hews to actual events. Tanya is on the basically-Germans side, and it’s pretty easy to identify all the major players because the names weren’t changed all that much.

There were some weird visual bugs in the first episode especially, mostly around Viktoriya’s face, but after that the art stays pretty good. The air battles are the best part, but the series offers a lot of variety in the kinds of missions Tanya and her company are assigned. (The mad scientist whose research she’s validating makes this all the more hazardous.)

Tanya’s personality was another interesting facet. She knows what the rules are and in most cases abides by them scrupulously, but she also knows how to twist the rules around to get what she wants (or say what she wants). So on the one hand, she’s an ideal soldier—and she’s also someone pretty much nobody wants to work with or under. She’s incredibly hard on her troops, but most of the situations she’s exposing them to are a good mirror of what they will run into in the future.

Other than Tanya, though, I found most of the characters forgettable. The most distinct secondary character is an officer who distrusts her and is looking for reasons to discredit her. Some of the members of the opposing armies get more personal detail than any of Tanya’s subordinates or superiors.

Overall if anything about the premise sounds interesting, give it two episodes, as the second episode provides most of the setup that contextualizes the first. The first episode is a misdirection in several parts. I rate this series Recommended.

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That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime (Anime)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime
Episodes: 1-25

Mikami Satoru was an ordinary man, until the day a mugger ends his life and sends his spirit to another world. Reincarnated as a slime monster named Rimuru Tempest, he fumbles his way through meetings with dragons, goblins, ogres, and more in this brand-new world.

So now that the first season is completely over, I thought I’d throw a few thoughts out there.

The first two major arcs are definitely the strongest. The initial exploration of this new world, culminating in meeting Shizu, and the Orc Lord arc were both a lot of fun whether it was anime, manga, or light novel portraying them.

The last two arcs, unfortunately, are a step down in several respects. I never liked the Milim arc much, and cutting down the number of episodes adapting it doesn’t help an already weak plot with Charbydis. The major characters here basically show up, fail to pose a credible threat, and resolve much too fast.

Similarly, the last big arc with Rimuru turning teacher doesn’t have enough focus on the kids who are supposed to be at the center of it all. In both cases, the weaknesses were present in the light novels, but not as strongly because of other interesting content to balance it out. I still hope Rimuru’s journey to the capital gets animated as an OVA, as that had several amusing encounters that the anime completely cut out.

The last two episodes are special episodes. One is a standalone episode about Shizu and a particular demon who will later meet Rimuru, and the last is a recap of the series with Veldora and Ifrit voicing some of the scenes from Veldora’s diary (the short stories at the end of every manga volume). I liked Shizu’s episode better, as it at least provides some new material. Veldora’s diary was a recap coming right on the heels of another episode with a lot of recap (plus they skipped some of the funnier bits of his diary anyway, like how he found manga through Rimuru’s memories and took it as sacred texts).

Overall I still enjoyed my time each week with the show, but I think after the Orc Lord arc the quality does go down a lot. That said, I’m looking forward to season 2, which has already been announced, as it will cover some of my favorite moments in the web novel. (The light novels covering those arcs haven’t come out yet in English.) I rate this series Recommended.

No Game No Life (Anime)

Title: No Game No Life

Episodes: 1-12 (Complete)

Sora and Shiro are sibling gamers, collectively known as Blank for their habit of not putting any username in when possible. They never lose, except to each other. One day a god named Tet summons them both to another world, where everything is run on games. Humanity is at the bottom here. But now that Sora and Shiro have arrived, that’s about to change.

I have mixed feelings on this one. There’s a huge amount of gratuitous fanservice, and a number of the girls getting stripped are very young. Steph, the granddaughter of the previous king of Imanity (humanity), is treated with casual abuse and humiliation, mostly because she’s sincere but naive and not good at games. So there’s a lot to dislike.

The games themselves are better. In a world with magic, even familiar games can have interesting twists. The best one is probably the chess match with living chess pieces, but this doesn’t go at all the way you might expect (well, it’s not exactly a “chess” game by the end). The other highlight was a word game that has the power to materialize or de-materialize the words in play, which leads to some interesting strategies.

There’s also a lot of references to other games or media. I’m sure I didn’t even catch half, but that can make watching it a sort of game in and of itself, as long as you’re sufficiently familiar with the sources to recognize the callouts.

I like the art style too. The colors are more bright and illustration-style, and gives it a unique aesthetic.

The story unfortunately only gets a small way into what’s clearly a larger narrative before cutting off. Sora and Shiro’s ultimate plan—to challenge Tet again to another game—is barely laying the groundwork in the 12 episodes available. Given that the series is older, it’s unlikely that a sequel will show up, so keep in mind the show doesn’t really accomplish much plot-wise due to its length.

Character-wise, Sora and Shiro have enough personality to carry the show. They’re geniuses in different ways, but even the outgoing Sora is a social wreck. I dislike how Sora pervs on pretty much every girl, especially his 11-year-old sister, who he’s constantly trying to take pictures of in the bath. Their codependence, however, is a nicer touch. They can’t interact with people at all outside of games, so they only rely on each other. I also thought the attempt to paint Steph as competent in her chosen field is undercut by the fact that she’s too much of a moron otherwise to make a brilliant ability for diplomacy plausible. Maybe if it was all deskwork.

Overall, I can’t really recommend this, due to the incomplete story arc and the huge amount of fanservice on underaged girls. I might at some point watch the movie, which is supposed to do better in both of those aspects. I rate this Neutral.

Planet With (Anime)

Title: Planet With

Episodes: 1-12 (Complete)

Soya has no memories of his past, but he’s intensely interested in the weird UFOs that have suddenly started appearing in the world. A group of mysterious heroes shows up to fight them—but Soya’s companions, the maid Ginko and the gigantic cat Sensei, have asked him to fight. Fight the heroes, that is. It turns out Soya may be the key to this odd invasion of Earth. But whose side is he fighting for?

This is an odd little show. Despite only being 12 episodes, there’s enough packed in to feel more content-rich than some 26+ episode series I’ve seen (although really, did they HAVE to include a hot springs episode?).

If the amnesia plotline bothers you, at least there are enough twists that it’s not totally standard. Soya is male, for starters, and the dream he’s having in the first episode is a big clue as to why he lost his memory—shock. Soya isn’t from Earth, and neither are his two housemates (well, that’s patently obvious once Sensei shows up, even before he turns into a giant robot). But the details of the alien conspiracies, Soya’s history, and why that matters, get doled out bit by bit.

In particular, the moment when Soya finally broke down and started crying as he expounds on his true feelings was powerful. The show is too short for anything to get excessive time, but I like how the plot humanized everyone. Soya’s grief, anger, and confusion in particular come through loud and clear.

He’s also got an extremely colorful cast of characters surrounding him. Whether it’s Takamagahara of the difficult name, the normal and not-so-normal hopes and dreams of the Grand Paladins who all have their own hangups that the UFOs target in interesting ways, the tangled relationship between cat and dog . . . There’s a lot of humor, but also a lot of good character moments, as people wrestle with ideas about power, responsibility, duty, and forgiveness.

Overall this was an enjoyable ride, and given the extremely short length it’s easy to watch in a session or two. I rate this show Recommended.

Your Name (Movie)

Title: Your Name

Format: Movie

Taki lives in Tokyo, and Mitsuha lives in the country. They’ve never met, but one day they begin waking up in the other’s body. They want to find each other, but it’s difficult when their swaps are their only clue, and the memories fade like a dream . . .

This was an interesting movie. It’s kind of a romance, but the main characters have never actually met. They get to know each other through friends and family, setting, and living each other’s lives. Eventually they start leaving notes for each other to try to keep the other person aware of the important things going on, but they haven’t directly talked.

I liked the twist of why the comet is so central to the story, and what that means for the two of them. And what Taki, especially, tries to do about it.

I watched the movie in English. One surprising touch is that this meant the music RADWIMPS provided ended up playing with English lyrics as well. That helped during some of the dramatic scenes, where the lyrics were just as important as the sweeping melody. The voice actors were also good. I liked how Taki sounds more feminine when Mitsuha is in his body, giving him a vocal tic as well as the physical ones to indicate he’s not who he used to be.

Overall, even though I’m not sure why it got as popular as it did, this is still something I would watch again. The sci-fi angle on this unconventional romance is fun, and the movie is something that can be enjoyed by anime fans and non-fans alike. I rate this Recommended.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Movie)

Title: Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Format: Movie

Mary Smith is living with her great-aunt in the countryside, waiting for her parents, for school, for anything interesting to happen. When she finds a mysterious flower in the forest, she’s drawn into a world of magic greater than anything she could have imagined . . .

This is a cute movie. It is based on a British children’s book, which was noticeable to me. As I haven’t read the original, I don’t know if anything was changed in the adaptation.

The scenery is gorgeous. The backgrounds are all bursting with detail and color, from the English countryside house to the floating island that harbors the witches.

The characters are okay. Peter felt really passive in the later parts of the movie, especially when he’s getting led around without protest (and apparently not under a spell). Mary is the focus of the plot, and she’s better, although she’s still basically a blank slate. She’s a bored child who discovers a world of wonder but she doesn’t seem to have much personality beyond hating her hair.

The one thing that did stand out to me is that the cats do not really behave like cats. They come out from their little hiding hole during a loud storm to watch it, even though they’re clearly frightened, they track each other down, etc. I kept expecting the cat to reveal it was actually a former human, but that didn’t happen.

Also, I really hate “I’m never using magic again” endings like this. Mary seemed to be using her own power by the end, as the flower’s power should have run out by then. Just when she’s getting started, she decides to reject it entirely instead of looking for a better way.

The dub is very good. I watched the movie in English and all the performances were solid.

Overall this is a nice movie but not one I’m particularly wanting to rewatch. I rate this Recommended.

 

Cells at Work (Anime)

Title: Cells At Work
Episodes: 1-13

This is an oddball little show that’s half education, half entertainment. It’s a collection of little adventures inside the body, following various types of cells around, with the main character being a certain klutzy red blood cell (and the white blood cell who ends up as a love interest).

I’m not hugely into biology stuff, but this one caught my attention with the hyperviolent humor. Because there’s something really fun about a show where over half the characters introduced are some form of rampaging killer—and this is known by everyone, and applauded, because it’s just their jobs. There’s a scene late in the show that sums it up perfectly: Red Blood Cell is explaining to another red blood cell “He’s perfectly nice, really!” while White Blood Cell is rampage-murdering a pathogen right in front of them, which is only visible as huge gouts of blood splashing up from below.

I love White Blood Cell.

For that matter, most of the immune system is hilarious. There’s the white blood cell tendency to flip into rampage mode shouting “DIE, GERMS!” or the SWAT-team-like T-Cells or the axe-murderer Macrophage (who also teaches preschool) . . .

Basically cell behavior looks really weird when you transpose it onto humans.

On the downside, because much of the show depends on some rather technical information, it keeps stopping to throw up WALLS of text explaining some biology fact. I think to a large part these were not needed, as the most pertinent bits could have been worked into dialogue or something the characters did.

Overall this is a fun show that offers something a bit different from everything else out there. If you like more science-focused shows, or you just want to see some germs get their just desserts, this is a good one to check out. I rate this show Recommended.