Tag Archives: alternate world

The Rising of the Shield Hero (Anime)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero

Episodes: 1-25 (focusing mostly on 13-25)

Naofumi is struggling to get the other three heroes to take him seriously as the Waves continue to strengthen. But the Waves aren’t the only threat—political and religious conflict explodes against him, and he’s stuck defending some of the people he hates most.

The second half of the series highlights some of the best and worst of the story. I really like L’Arc and Therese, who show up right at the end (they were awesome in the books and even better on screen). L’Arc is still basically the only competent male character who gets a significant role in the action. He’s a bit of a prankster, but he knows how to be serious when it counts, and he’s every bit the hero Naofumi is. I very much hope the anime gets another season so we can get the arc where they meet again.

The conflict with the corrupt noble who used to own Raphatalia was changed in some disappointing ways, but overall that arc was still well done, especially with the music. Her backstory was as tragic as expected, but the use of visuals and music really elevated this above the source. I just wish she’d still kicked him out the window.

The middle arc with the Pope, though, is where most of the problems are. This was not great writing in the books, with how much standing around and monologuing at each other is happening in the middle of a fight, but on screen, with the ability to feel time wasting (and a lot of recap animation because characters keep bringing up old events) makes it even more tedious. In this case, being a little less faithful to the source would have been a good idea, as a lot of the needless exposition and bickering could have been cut for a stronger fight.

This was overall still a fun ride, and I do hope they make a second season so they can adapt my favorite arc (Naofumi visiting the world where L’Arc originates). I rate this show Recommended (although possibly watch the Pope’s fight on fast forward).

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Wise Man’s Grandchild (Anime)

Title: Wise Man’s Grandchild

Episodes: 1-12

Shin was someone who died and reincarnated in a world of magic. Picked up by Merlin, a famous wizard, he grows up away from the rest of the world. When he turns 15, his grandfather realizes that he’s been taught nothing BUT magic and fighting from his grandfather and his friends, so they opt to send him to a magical university to learn how to interact with people. Shin is unaware of how much his unconventional magic will change the world.

I was looking forward to this since the samples I read of the light novel were enjoyable, but as a show it’s a mixed bag. Many of the more interesting parts of the story, like the war against the demonoids, and the bits focusing on anyone who isn’t Shin, get truncated in favor of spending more time on the tired cliche elements that do the story no favors (hot springs episode being the worst offender).

The story does have some good elements. Shin uses what he knows of science to visualize process instead of result for his magic, which is what makes his spells so powerful. The story also isn’t afraid to kill off some characters (none of the main cast, though), and the villains in general have decent backstories. Especially Kurt, who looks so much like a typical noble jerk until you see his family and realize there’s more to the story.

That said, it devolves at many points into pandering or just spends too long on things that can be found in dozens of other series, so overall it’s just too much of a mixed bag to really recommend. I liked seeing a few of the fights from the light novel animated, but I think if I ever pick this up it’s probably just going to be the first volume of the light novel (before the plot starts going downhill). I rate this show Neutral.

Isekai Quartet (Anime)

Title: Isekai Quartet

Episodes: 1-12

Four different isekai protagonists and their companions push a mysterious red button and find themselves in another world, where they must attend school. But can these doubly transported misfits get along?

The four series highlighted are: The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Overlord, Konosuba, and Re:Zero.

I’ll say up front comedies aren’t usually my thing, so I only found this mildly amusing outside of a few specific gags (Subaru and Kazuma being carried by their physically stronger female party members being the best). That said, the shorter episode format means the recycled-from-base-series gags tend not to drag on too long, and some of the interactions between series are funny. I need more of Tanya and Demiurge plotting together how to make the rest of the students miserable.

One major weakness is that the series does rely heavily on done-to-death comedy from their original series, like Darkness from Konosuba going on and on about being tormented (she gets several long monologues in this vein). The humor is better when it’s doing something different than re-applying old jokes, even if they are between characters from different series. Another possible downside is that many of the school events are such staples they’re obvious, although this one is mitigated by the crackpots who have to actually do these events.

Overall this is watchable if you haven’t seen all four series, although some of the more subtle jokes will likely only make sense if you know the characters in their regular setting. It was interesting enough to get me to watch Saga of Tanya the Evil, which I appreciated more than this show. I liked it enough to watch weekly, but it lacked more than one or two scenes that I would watch again. I rate this show Neutral.

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.

Shadows (Shadows #1)

Title: Shadows

Author: Sam Blood

Series: Shadows #1

Griffin has spent most of his life trying to forget the non-human friend he had when he was little. Before the accident. Before he lost his mom and his brother turned into a stranger. But a moment of rebellion sends him straight through a portal into another world—a monstrous world where none of the occupants are humans, but they have a mysterious connection to humans. Just what is the relationship between Shadows and humans? Why do so many want to kill over it? And what will become of Griffin, who has inadvertently stepped in the middle of all of this?

This was amazing. First, I just love the concept behind the Shadow world. Every occupant is nonhuman, and they range from familiar mythological creatures like satyrs and phoenixes to more unusual creatures like the half-parrot/half-dragon Cirrus. These all come together in a civilized society very like ours, with some adjustments for things like aerial traffic. And that’s before the story even gets into what, exactly, the Shadows are and why that matters.

I like how this book handles soulmates. Too often it’s a solely romantic relationship, or one free of the most serious problems. Griffin and Cirrus have a soul-deep connection, but it’s one that freaks both of them out, and as much as they both want it at some level, they’re also running from it. Watching their friendship blossom was one of the best parts of the book.

The humor is also extremely good. It felt like every few paragraphs I’d stumble over something else that cracked me up.

“I don’t want to die. And if you died, I’d probably feel like, slightly bad about that too.”

And:

“That was awesome! I thought you were as uncoordinated as I am.”
“Lots of laser force practice. You know, a shooting game back home.”
“You played this with your friends?”
“I was a bit of a loner. I just turned up and shot strangers.”
“This explains so much,” Cirrus says.

I seriously need to reread this and pull all my favorite quotes.

The characters are another strong point. Griffin is an interesting choice of protagonist, because he’s not a hero. He sort of wants to be. He deludes himself into thinking he will be. But in the end, he’s a single person contributing to both sides of a conflict that’s much bigger than himself, and his decisions, good and bad, hurt both sides. In other words, he’s a normal kid in way over his head.

Cirrus, of course, is just awesome. Awkward teenage boy, even if he is a different species. I love his snarky conversations with Griffin, and the way he’s struggling to handle his own heart. He wants his best friend back, but what happened ten years ago impacted more than just Griffin, and now Cirrus is unsure how to approach Griffin.

Hanna is another interesting addition. She’s lust at first sight for Griffin, but even he has to admit she’s got some issues that could seriously complicate their relationship.

“My Mum used to tell me something,” Cirrus says grimly. “She said be careful when trying to put a broken person back together, in case you cut yourself on the pieces.”

Which is why I liked how it worked out in the end.

Overall this was a lot of fun, and I’ve already bought the sequel. Highly Recommended.

(And one more quote, which contains small spoilers)

“Oh, and for the record: high-jacking the laboratory filled with my life’s work and trying to crash it into my place of residence: not appreciated.”

Monster Paradise (Web Novel)

Title: Monster Paradise

Author: Nuclear Warhead Cooked in Wine

Chapters: 989 (Ongoing)

Location: https://www.wuxiaworld.co/Monster-Paradise/

Lin Huang mysteriously one day was given a goldfinger and sent to another world. His abilities allow him to capture monsters into cards. Posing as a monster tamer, he aims to become the strongest.

This has a somewhat rough story, but I quickly got into it and enjoyed it quite a bit. I like the combination of card game mechanics, monster capture/raising, and the gradual power increases of a cultivation novel.

The monsters Lin Huang captures grow and develop as he does. Initially they’re all pretty blank-slate, but as they grow more powerful and intelligent, they start exhibiting more distinct personalities. Some of these lead to a lot of humor, such as one of the sword-fighting monsters developing an obsession with vegetables (and getting very possessive of his snacks).

The worldbuilding varies. The beginning is extremely confusing, and I’m still unclear what a goldfinger is referring to (it seems to be some kind of known card type in a game, but the oblique reference just doesn’t work for me). It’s almost completely irrelevant that Li Huang was pulled from another world, and the story would have worked just as well if he hadn’t been.

I don’t really care about characters other than Li Huang and his ever-expanding collection of monsters. I do like how the antagonists get a reasonable amount of development but so far haven’t stuck around for ages. They get dealt with fairly quickly, or else they get out of the spotlight so the plot isn’t bogged down in the same place for too long.

The story does play around in several different genres. Some of the monsters Li Huang hunts ends up more like a mystery story, as he has to investigate corpses and clues to try to find the killer. Some of them are straight up fights. And some of the progression, like him teaching a class for a semester, are kind of random. I didn’t mind the random bits too much but I can see where it would bother others.

Overall I thought this was still a fairly enjoyable read, and I’m kind of upset now that I’ve caught up and can no longer blow through multiple chapters a day. I rate this story Recommended.

Record of Wortenia War (Web Novel)

Title: Record of Wortenia War

Author: Ryota Hori

Ryouma is a high school student who was summoned to another world. Unfortunately for his summoner, he’s also someone with a well-deserved reputation for terrifying retaliation. After killing his summoner and escaping the castle, Ryouma sets off to make his own life in this new world.

I saw this is coming out officially and got curious enough to check out the web novel. So this review is based on a version of the story that may differ from the official books (which I am planning to get as soon as they’re released).

In general the story is aware enough of the genre tropes to not get too bogged down in them. Ryouma’s reaction to being summoned is a classic example: he takes only a few seconds to orient himself, decide whoever did this is not someone he wants to negotiate with, and kills them all.

On the other hand, this still doesn’t save the story from introducing a pair of sisters who were slaves, who of course immediately swear undying loyalty (and further slavery) to Ryouma. They’re the worst characters by far, with the most forgettable personalities, and the only saving grace is that they have a minor role after their initial introduction.

The heart of the story is Ryouma as he works his way up from a relatively powerless adventurer to a leader. I really liked the deep look at leadership. This mostly happens through examining other existing leaders and Ryouma’s analysis of their decisions.

Lupis, for example, is presented as fundamentally a good person yet a terrible leader. Her propensity to value loyalty the most means she ends up surrounded by people who can only agree with her and can’t see the problems in her strategies. Or even if they can see, dare not say anything, because to disagree is to be a traitor. I loved watching Ryouma initially support her, try to help her develop, and eventually conclude that he can’t help someone who won’t take honest criticism.

Ryouma, in contrast, is all about practicalities. He doesn’t fall into the trap of “the ends justify the means,” but he’s willing to use dirtier means if that’s what the situation calls for. Like using rumors to exaggerate his devilish reputation to reduce causalities, or hiring known bandit groups to raid enemy villages so they’ll pull back some troops. Ryouma’s style of leadership looks more at what motivates people and how he can tap into that to get them moving in the direction he wants. He’d rather enable his subordinates than try to do everything himself, and he’s capable of working with all kinds of people.

There’s also a group of summoned people working nefarious schemes in the background, but so far that’s been a very slow burning plot.

Overall, although there are places where the story stumbles, it’s been a lot of fun to follow. The first book doesn’t give the best idea of what the series will be like going forward, but once he gets dragged into the civil war in the second book, the story really gets going. I rate this book Recommended.