Why I never finished: Gravity Rush

GR

I really hoped to finish this game. Even writing this now, I can’t help but feel bad. Despite everything good about Gravity Rush – the bad parts eventually became too difficult to ignore and became the deciding factor in forcing me to stop playing.

Like most games I never finish, Gravity Rush is not a bad game. It has something of a cult status due to its charm, and was obviously popular enough to get a sequel. The story it tries to tell is pretty interesting, and the protagonist, named Kat, is bursting with personality.

This game feels experimental, and it shows. The clunky controls, a repetitive and largely uninspired battle system, drags down what could have been a good game and made it mediocre.

Gravity Rush tells its story through a series of chapters. Every chapter begins with events playing out in a comic style panel. This was a really nice touch and I found it quite charming. While cynics may see it as cheap replacement for animated cut scenes, I think this style of presentation suits Gravity Rush to a tee. In addition, character dialogues are witty, and the reliance on character interaction keep things interesting. There was never a dull moment with Kat.

It’s unfortunate that the bad aspects of the game overshadow the good. One example which encapsulates my experience would be this:

I would be flying Kat around the city when she suddenly flies straight into the building. The camera would shift erratically,  forcing me to go through a series of manoeuvres to get her back on track – inducing a headache in the process. This problem also occurs during battle, where the player is expected to tightly manoeuvre around the battlefield. This can get extremely annoying if the enemy constantly dodges, forcing the player to stop upside down in mid-air and try again, hoping the enemy would stay still.

I’m a person who gets motion sickness if the FOV isn’t wide enough, or if the camera moves too fast, so the horrible camera and poor controls were a deal breaker for me. Seeing Kat spin uncontrollably in the air, or attack a constantly moving opponent can make me nauseous enough that it breaks the immersion.

Kat.png
The main character,  Kat

There are also things I love about this game. The main character is one of the more interesting protagonists I’ve come across. Kat is the right combination of funny and sassy, unafraid to deliver her personal brand of biting sarcasm to idiots around her. Despite being a shifter – a term used in the game to describe those with the power to control gravity – I feel Kat is the most relatable even among the entire cast.

While the game’s controls are annoying and makes playing it difficult, one thing Gravity Rush nailed was how the player controlled gravity. What I enjoyed most in the game was having Kat fly over the city, an unforgettable experience bolstered by the ecstatic rush of being free and seeing buildings rush by in a blur.

Kat doesn’t lose health falling from extreme heights, and it merely inconveniences her. The quick travel mechanic in the game was something I rarely used, preferring to fly Kat to her destination instead of taking something as mundane as a train, or airship.

Overall, I might have finished the game if I wasn’t prone to bouts of motion sickness. But as it stands, torturing myself to finish ten more chapters doesn’t seem appealing, especially when I could be playing something else.

Fire Emblem Echoes – A remake fit to knock your socks off

title.png

The revival of the Fire Emblem is one of Nintendo’s greatest accidental achievements. No one anticipated Awakening to be the hit smash of 2012, and even less would have guessed the franchise going mainstream with the release of Fates.

But despite the success of both games, many old-school fans were vocal about disliking new the marriage system. The arguments against it consisted of worries that it was turning Fire Emblem games into ‘waifu simulators.’

In a stroke of genius, Nintendo decided to remake a game that was never released outside Japan. A remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden.

The news of this remake titled Fire Emblem Echoes was met with rabid excitement from both new and old fans. The game would be released to the world with new art and additional content. For the first time, the entire fanbase looked forward to the game’s release.

The great news?  It did not disappoint.

After playing Awakening twice and all three routes offered by Fates, I felt burnt out from Fire Emblem. A change of pace is exactly what I need, and what I’m guessing many players need, to revive our love for the series.

This was partly the reason I was looking forward to the release of Echoes. It was once regarded as the black sheep of the franchise due to its odd gameplay mechanics, which includes allowing players to roam/explore dungeons.

Story

kiddos.png
Alm and Celica

The story follows two children of fate, Celica and Alm. At the start of the game, we learn that Celica is the princess of Zofia. Due to the schemes of a power hungry man bent on ascending the throne she flees the kingdom and with the help of a loyal soldier, is hidden in Ram village. This is where she meets Alm.

They get along splendidly and become as thick as thieves. They also bond over the identical mark on the back of their hands.

Unfortunately, they part ways soon after Celica’s pursuers find them, as she is no longer able to stay in Ram village for fear of getting captured. Celica and Alm promise to meet again, not realizing that their eventual meeting is destined to be far less happy than they hoped.

The game has five chapters, or acts, in total. The player gets to control both Alm and Celica’s armies as they march toward their individual goals, both of which involve different ways of stopping the war between Zofia and Rigel.

Each army has different aims to accomplish and both routes are well-written. Despite the problems of pacing when going back and forth between the two routes, I found that it ultimately suited the game due to the type of story it tries to tell.

Celica.png

It might seem strange for the game to make you play two differing perspectives but it helps a great deal in fleshing out the story. Thus, Echoes delivers a far more intriguing narrative than previous two games. There are people who described the plot as straight forward, but I disagree. The story isn’t complicated but to say it is straightforward would be doing it a disservice. Overall, I loved it, despite the clichéd end boss.

Other than the main story, the player can also choose to do side quests – which comes in the form of helping different characters/villagers you come across. Rewards differ, some giving helpful items or weapons while others allow you to recruit new characters once the quest is fulfilled.

Echoes lacks a marriage system but still has supports between characters. Most of the supports are thoughtfully written, I would say they were more enjoyable or on par with Awakening’s.

My gripe is that not all characters have supports with each other, as the pairings follow that of Fire Emblem Gaiden. It limits the immersion of the army and makes the ‘interactions’ feel more artificial then it should be.

This is only a minor nit-pick but I felt I should point it out for newer fans of the franchise who expect a similar system to previous games.

Characters

alm.png

The overall cast of Echoes was great. They were varied and interesting, some with their own interesting backstories. But the ones who stole the show were Alm, Celica, and Berkut.

Alm evolved from a whiny brat to a level headed leader, while Celica grew into her eventual role of a princess. There were times where their dialogue bordered on being ridiculously cheesy, but other times really brought the best out of them and allowed individual traits to shine through.

One complaint I have about Alm and Celica is that they seem to lean too closely towards anime tropes.

There are times Alm behaved like the classic hero protagonist, who could lead soldiers or people and do no wrong, while being relentlessly optimistic. Likewise, Celica could come off as the damsel in distress despite the fact she could defend herself very well. Her decisions were sometimes mind bogglingly stupid. But the game tries its best to steer away from those tropes and leaves us with a balance of good characterisation and clichéd ones.

The protagonists – Celica and Alm – were everything I hoped them to be. What I did not expect was one of the antagonists to be as interesting. Or perhaps even more than Celica and Alm were.

SAD.png
Berkut and Rinea

Introduced in chapter 3, Berkut steals the show in every scene he appears in. The nephew of Rigel’s Emperor, he is every inch an arrogant noble he portrays himself to be. His mannerisms and traits are cookie cutter, and I bet you’ve seen variations of his type of character in other games or anime.

But instead of just having him be a forgettable obstacle on Alm’s journey, the game chooses to develop him extremely well. There’s more to him than just being ‘the noble who belittles everyone’ and underneath the bravado, Berkut is a fragile, egoistic man with an unquenchable thirst for strength. Like a cracked glass which cannot be filled.

Accompanying him in most scenes is his wife, Rinea. Other than his disdain for commoners, his love for his wife is also plainly seen. In contrast to similar antagonists, he genuinely loves and cares for her. I began to see him not as just the man Alm needs to defeat, but also the man who defends his country and wants to see it prosper. The game does well to remind us that despite his faults, Berkut is human.

Echoes would not be as memorable without Berkut. It would have been good. But not great.

Sound

King Ruldof.png
The Emperor of Rigel

The soundtrack for Echoes is amazing. Every track is memorable and fits the scenes they are played in extremely well. Dungeons sound ominous and creepy, battles are intense and exciting, and rest areas do well to soothe and relax. Even exploring a drab area can feel delightful because of it. 

Another great thing about this game is that almost all dialogue is voiced. In my opinion, the English voice actors knocked it out of the park. The voices for every character felt fitting, and emotional scenes really knock the wind out of you with the heartfelt performances.

Some people might complain that the game lacks the option to switch between Japanese and English voices, but to them I will pose this question: Why do you need it? I would honestly rather play Echoes in English than in Japanese. The voice acting is superb, not a single line ever stuck out to me as being weird or bad. I feel like the definitive way to play this game is with english dub.

Conclusion

title screen win.png

Both newcomers and veterans of Fire Emblem will find something to enjoy in Fire Emblem Echoes. An enjoyable battle system and fantastic narrative will be a real treat for anyone who felt previous Fire Emblem games fell short of their expectations. This game will be a permanent fixture in my 3DS library and I hope it will be in yours.

10/10

Brilliant

Refunct – Soothing? Check. Fun? Check.

title sceeen.png

Refunct is a short platformer that caught my eye during Steam’s Summer Sale. It was originally on my wishlist because of its ‘overwhelmingly positive reviews.’

It’s rare for games to be that well received on Steam, which pushed me to get the game when the price dropped. I picked it up for less than two dollars but even without the sale it had a pretty affordable price of around three dollars and fifty cents.

I didn’t know what to expect other than getting a brief but pleasant experience which many steam users claimed to have had.

Upon loading, I was greeted by a minimalistic looking screen that drew me in with bright colours and a simple art style.

The game runs buttery smooth. Refunct sells itself as a casual open world platformer with no tutorial, no death and relaxing visuals. I’d say the game was interesting, combining the feeling of freedom that comes with an open world game with a playful and calm atmosphere of walking simulators.

Refnct.png

The platforming is fairly easy. There were few times I was stumped when trying to get the collectible items littered around the map, but it was never to the point where I’d consult a walkthrough or quit halfway.

One thing I found really cool was that when I jumped from surface to surface, the places I’d stepped on changed from white to green and had a nice texture that reminded me of carpet grass. It added to the overall atmosphere, and there was a certain childlike joy that came from jumping to a new platform and seeing the ground turn green under your feet.

aye.png

In addition, you are surrounded by water as far as the eye can see. I was also surprised that I could dive in and swim under the platforms. Refunct stays true to the developer’s promise of a seamless and dynamic experience.

There is also a night/day cycle in the game, but I found it to be unnecessary since it didn’t add to my overall experience. Considering it only took half an hour to complete, a day/night cycle felt unneeded.

Overall, you can’t go wrong with this game. If you’re craving for a short but fun platformer and don’t want something ridiculously hard, Refunct is the perfect game to sink your teeth into.

7/10

Time to kick back and relax

PS Vita Ports: Risk Of Rain

Risk Of rain.png

I’m always looking for games to add to my small, but darling library of vita games. It’s a sad fact that Sony has abandoned the handheld console outside of Japan. Despite that, I wouldn’t give up my vita for anything in the world. While it doesn’t have a strong library as say, the 3DS, it still has its share of great games which need to be played.

Another really good thing about the vita is that it has a decent library of indie titles. It’s more expensive than buying them for your PC, but that’s the price of portability.

Risk of rain is one such title that I’ve been going crazy over lately. I bought it when it first came out and didn’t play much of it, only unlocking a handful of what the game had to offer. I started playing it much more regularly this year and have finished the game several times over since then.

load.png

Risk of rain isn’t a very demanding title. It runs great on my computer and fairly smoothly on the vita.

Something I’ve noticed is that the vita version feels significantly smaller, each generated level is easy to find your way around and you stumble along a generous amount of items on the way. It’s not that the game is easier, it just feels like the spawned items could be found with little effort.

During each different playthrough, I also felt it was easy to get more than ten drones within a small timeframe if you had enough coins. It wasn’t as easy for me on the pc version, which had me scouring the maps endlessly for the exact same thing. I guess they had to make concessions for the port since the vita is limited by its hardware.

In terms of content, the PC and vita versions are the mostly same. Same achievements, skills, items, nothing is cut from the original game. The only thing missing that affected me was the option that allowed me to zoom in.

One downside to this port, however, is the occasional frame rate drops. Risk of rain requires the player to hoard whatever items they can get their hands on and with different items come different effects.

welp.png

Some effects are very flashy, which by itself isn’t a big problem. The problem comes when you find yourself surrounded by enemies with large bosses spawning left and right.

The longer you play, the more difficult the game will be. Monsters that spawn after the half hour mark often feel like damage sponges. You can kill one and four more would pop up in their place, each more aggressive and tanky than before.

There were several times the game began stuttering when there were too many enemies on screen. It didn’t have a big effect on me but I found it annoying since it broke the immersion being a badass character slaughtering everything in their path.

There were times where an item’s effect would make the fps drop horribly, though it wouldn’t remain that way for long.

The ‘Happiest mask’ was one such item. I loved this item since it would spawn a ghost for each killed enemy which is a big help when dealing with a swarm of monsters while using a character who doesn’t have Area of Effect damage.

But whenever I killed a large amount of enemies, causing their ghosts to spawn, the game would inevitably lag for several seconds. Enough to make me annoyed but not enough to cause me grief.

Conclusion

I would recommend this port to those who liked the game on PC and want to have it on the go, but if you had to pick between the vita port and the PC version, I would highly recommend the PC one instead since it gives players a better experience overall.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid – A bundle of cuteness worth watching

kbdm.png

As a fan of the Yuri or Shoujo-Ai genre I’m always glad to see new anime with such traits becoming popular. It’s an unfortunate fact that people associate yuri or yaoi with hardcore gay sex, but its series like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid which help assert the fact that not everything in this genre must feature women or men squishing their intimate parts together.

The premise of the anime seems absurd, but it works. Despite the main characters being dragons, I found myself nodding along when they expressed their own nuggets of wisdom – almost everything in this show sans the fantasy elements is oddly relatable.

And also. Dragon. Maids. Nuff’ said.

Story

Tohru fking cute.png

After a night of getting drunk and not remembering what happened, our main character Kobayashi exits her apartment only to come face to face with a green dragon, who then promptly transforms into a maid.

As far as first episodes go, it was a pretty epic beginning, the anime going for the shock factor and mixing it with a good dose of humour.

The dragon, who introduces herself as Tohru, soon starts living at Kobayashi’s house in exchange for being a maid.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is episodic, and we mostly get to see how Tohru acclimates herself to human society, whilst pining after Kobayashi. As the anime goes on, we are introduced to various other characters like the adorable dragon that is Kanna, Fafnir the cursed dragon, an ex-goddess who is referred to as Lucoa, and Elma, Tohru’s self-proclaimed rival due to them being of opposite natures.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is an anime that one would describe as a ‘comfort anime’ where its sole purpose is getting the viewer to relax. This is reflected in the anime’s laidback demeanour, complete with heart-warming and comedic moments peppered throughout.

Most of the story is set in modern day Japan, but there are several episodes dedicated to exploring Tohru’s backstory and the world she came from. It’s interesting to receive hints of a fantasy world just a portal away, and it contributes to the overall world building in the anime.

hap fam.png

There isn’t any overarching story other than the dragons’ eventual return to their own world. Instead, the anime shows us their everyday lives through Tohru and the other dragon’s point of view.

The situations the characters find themselves dealing are not that different to the ones we find ourselves in. There were times I found myself relating to the nuggets of wisdom dished out by the characters, and it’s eerie how Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid hits the nail on the head in regards to society’s problems in general.

It’s kind of ironic that comedies can make fun of or point out hard facts, and though we know what they’re saying is true, we can’t help convince ourselves that it’s not to be taken seriously, because hey – it’s just a show.

It gets depressing the more you think about it, but proves this anime isn’t mindless dribble. It leaves you with things to think about. It engages the audience in some way, going beyond what a normal slice of life series would do.

Characters

OTP 2 point 0.png

Kobayashi and Tohru have great chemistry with each other. Kobayashi is level headed and logical which contrasts with Tohru’s aggressive and more emotional driven behaviour, and its fun to see how they try to get to know each other better. Their relationship inches forward with each new discovery, and in the process, they also learn more about themselves.

I really enjoyed how Kobayashi took most of Tohru’s antics in stride, including some of Tohru’s more affectionate and romantic actions towards her. The anime doesn’t explicitly state that they are a couple but it’s pretty darn clear if you know how to read subtext, and it was nice to see a yuri (or perhaps shoujo ai would be more fitting) series not overly serious or dramatic, while still being realistic.

Kobayashi, Tohru, and Kanna get the most development, with Lucoa and Elma getting the least. Considering the anime only has 13 episodes, I’m glad they decided to focus on those three because I think it wouldn’t have turned out as good.

aw yeah.png
From the left: Fafnir, Elma, Tohru, Kanna and Lucoa

I found Kobayashi to be the most relatable of the cast which isn’t surprising, with her being a human and all. She’s not perfect and has flaws – which she is aware of – but she tries her best to be a good person, something she demonstrates through her actions.

Although she isn’t big on showing affection to the people or dragons she cares about, she does try to do so from time to time, knowing her habit of keeping a distance might be wrongly interpreted.

Tohru can come off as airheaded but is proven to be anything but. Other than having superior physical abilities and grasp of magic, she acclimates to the human world easily. She’s charismatic, friendly, and add in her keenness to learn about humans, Tohru is nothing but interesting. Her antics are usually the source of humour, and are of a light-hearted and cute variety.

Overall, the characters in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid are the most likable bunch I have ever come across and I wouldn’t dare imagine the anime without them.

Animation

cast of cuties.png

Despite it being a slice of life series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has moments where they showcase amazing fight scenes. Those were visually arresting, and coupled with some decent fight choreography, it rivals other action anime I’ve seen.

It’s clear they didn’t cut any corners. Though there were scenes where the animation looked poor, those are sparse and don’t affect the overall quality of the anime. Even casual scenes such as Tohru and Kobayashi going shopping are well animated, with detailed backgrounds that really make the area they live in feel like a living, breathing town.

Overall, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was a treat, both visually and story wise. It’s definitely one of the best comfort anime out there and news of a second season couldn’t have sounded any sweeter. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what the new season has in store.

9/10

Dragon. Maids.

March comes in like a lion – Prepare yourself for this feels train

opens.png

I went into this not expecting much but once again, was surprised by the sheer depth and handling of March comes in like a lion. It brings home the point that anime, as a medium, is extremely versatile, and naysayers who insist it is only for children are thoughtless hacks.

This anime might just be one of the best in 2017. I’m surprised how little it’s been mentioned in the sphere of anime youtubers, and I hope someone talks about it soon because it’s looking criminally underrated.

Story

sad shit man.png

The story follows a 17 year old named Rei Kiriyama, who is living on his own due to certain circumstances. Being one of the youngest Shogi players to go pro, he’s able to support himself while schooling. Despite this, Rei is still burdened by his past, and is also struggling with his personal demons.

The first episode is especially powerful. It shows Rei waking up in a bare apartment filled only with necessities and using subtle imagery, told us about his life without boring exposition. I think the phrase ‘show, don’t tell’ perfectly describes March comes in like a lion.

It doesn’t drown the viewer in information and leaves us to piece together what we learn.

Also, despite the fact that the anime deals with heavy themes such as depression, it handles them with admirable grace, never once shying away from what society thinks is taboo. It presents things truthfully and earnestly, never needing to embellish or exaggerate. And for that, I cannot help but respect March comes in like a lion.

The story largely deals with Rei trying to cope with his current lifestyle, and saviour comes in the form of the Kawamoto sisters.

Like Rei, the three girls deal with their own demons; albeit of a different sort. Drawn to them like a moth to a flame, he can’t help but grow close to them. The first half of the anime is fantastic. Heck, I’d praise it to high heavens if you let me.  The second half is passable, but I can’t blame it for not living up to the perfection that is the first half.

Characters

save dat money.png

I’m amazed at how well-developed the entire cast of characters are. There were times were I found myself thinking, “Is this really an anime?” because each character is so lovingly developed, that it’s hard not to think they’re two dimensional beings on the screen.

A typical and unfortunate trait of anime is boiling down morality into black and white – the hero and the villain, the protagonist vs the antagonist. Several characters in the anime fit the mould of the villain pretty well…until you realize that this is only from Rei’s point of view. They too are flawed, and there isn’t a looming mastermind who’s the main cause of everything bad happening to our protagonist.

Everything in March comes in like a lion cannot be judged with a first impression. As the episodes roll by, the characters evolve in their own way, growing and learning from their experiences, or stagnating as they desperately search for a solution.

As the viewer, I got to see Rei’s journey alongside the Kawamoto sisters. He’s relatable because he’s genuine, and I think he would remind many people of themselves. There were times I found myself uncomfortable – scenes hitting too close to home drawing reactions from me that I never expected.

Animation

holy fuck jesus

March comes in like a lion frequently uses dreamlike imagery to convey Rei, or someone else’s emotional and mental state. One such scene that impressed and terrified me was the opening scene in the first episode where the viewer is immediately greeted by a haunting whirlpool of black and white.

It brings to mind stuff of the supernatural nature, while accurately conveying what the he felt, to me. The anime pulls these kinds of emotional scenes very well and on multiple occasions, even.

Overall I think March comes in like a lion is a must-watch for anyone who calls themselves an anime fan. It knocked all my expectations out of the park, and I’m sure it will do the same for yours.

9/10

Rei = Cinnamon roll

Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter

movie 21.png

Every year, my friend and I go to our local cinema to watch the latest installment of the Detective Conan franchise. We’ve been doing this since 2014, going through the movies whether good or bad.

I entered the cinema with fingers crossed and hoped for the best. After the disaster that was the 20th movie I was cautiously optimistic about this one, and while a small part of me was reluctant to watch it, the squealing fan-girl within me pushed me to give it a chance.

And so fast forward several days later – I can still recall the utter relief that rushed through me when I finished watching The Crimson Love Letter. I left the cinema with an excited smile on my face, mind whirling with thoughts and opinions to prepare for this review. It’s a little depressing to be happy just because the movie didn’t suck, but eh. We’ll just have to wait and see if the movie 22 turns out to be good, so that the spike of dread at each new Detective Conan movie will finally cease.

Story

ho.png

 

The case this time is simple and straightforward, no closed room murder or intricate murder mystery for the viewer to unravel. I think it’s a good thing because instead of getting a complicated mess of a story what we got instead was a simple and solid mystery. The whodunit didn’t become clear to me until they were revealed but more astute watchers might guess who it might be if the manage to piece together the evidence quicker than I could.

The Crimson Love Letter not only gives us a good mystery, it also provides a generous dollop of competitive Karuta – something some anime fans might be familiar with if they watch or read Chihayafuru. Basically, it’s a sport wherein players have to ‘steal’ cards from their opponent’s territory, a one-on-one battle to see who gets the card first. It requires a fast-reflexes and an intimate knowledge of the poems written on the cards, and the first player to get rid of all their cards, win.

A deep understanding of Karuta isn’t necessary but you would enjoy the Karuta battles more if you did, I suppose. The movie does a good job of tying it in with the main plot and character motivations, so I was slightly impressed by that. The inclusion of Heji and Kazuha also served to spice up the regular mystery formula due to the fact Heji’s childhood friend has a role to play in the story as well. Overall, I think the plot was well-paced and kept my interest for the entire runtime.

Characters

lel

Hattori Heji and Tomoya Kazuha stage an epic return in this movie. I really missed them as it’s been quite a while since they appeared in both the manga and the anime, and as I watched Conan and Hattori bicker like old pals I felt indescribably happy at such a familiar scene.

In contrast to Conan’s rational and sometimes cold personality, Hattori’s hot headedness provides a nice change. He spices up boring exposition scenes and makes the regular doom and gloom of searching for the murderer more enjoyable, and his ‘will they or will they not’ relationship with Kazuha makes The Crimson Love Letter more energetic and humorous. There were many scenes throughout the movie where the chemistry between the two childhood friends were downright intense – you can literally see their affection for each other through every action and remark.

This causes the appearance of the movie’s new character, Ooka Momiji, to have a bigger effect, one of the side plots being that she is ‘engaged’ to Heji due to a childhood promise. This was another aspect of The Crimson Letter that I really liked as it gave the movie a lot more personality, rather than going through the usual tired detective mystery and eventual capture of the suspect.

In many ways, the characters here felt more genuine than those in the last few movies.

Animation

childhood promise

Editing was on point for this movie, and the creative use of panels from the manga to convey flashbacks was a very nice touch, and honestly, damn impressive. They really stepped up the game for this movie. The animation was consistent with several standout moments, like one scene where Kazuha and Momiji admire their surroundings from a boat. Overall, I have nothing but praise for the animation.

Conclusion

The Crimson Love Letter may not be a return to form, but it does a fine job of reminding DC fans of why they like it in the first place. A solidly written mystery with entertaining characters and impressive animation, you can’t go wrong with this one. Take it from someone who hated the last movie, The Darkest Nightmare. This movie is definitely worth your time.

8/10

A Love letter to the fans

 

Why you should read: The World God Only Knows

103-2.jpg

Rarely do I finish a manga and feel wholly satisfied. I don’t know if it’s the norm for long running serializations, like for example Katekyo Hitman Reborn, but their eventual endings tend to range from mediocre to downright dissatisfying. This is especially unfortunate because some manga start off strong only to die off with a whimper. The manga I mentioned above, Katekyo, was one such manga.

The past week has seen me binge reading different series, some long and some short. One manga called Wolf guy started off brilliantly but ended in a way that left me annoyed. That annoyance was what led me to reread one of my favorite series – The World God Only Knows.

This manga is so. damn. satisfying. From the storytelling to the execution to the ending, it’s like the universe just knew what I needed. I believe this is my second time reading it but it didn’t matter because I couldn’t recall much of the major plot points, I felt like I was like discovering it for the first time.

Story

hqdefault

The advantage of a being a popular, serialized manga is having the ability to flesh out the story as they see fit. While it might be unfair, a system that punishes its losers as much as it rewards its winners, I can’t help but be grateful for it because it gave us The World God Only Knows.

The story is mostly shown from the POV of our main protagonist, a hardcore enthusiast that specializes in gal games (video games that involve interactions with anime-styled pretty girls) who mistakenly accepts a devil’s contract to find and capture runaway devils. How? By conquering the hearts of the girls these devils hide in.

I wouldn’t blame people for immediately closing their browser after reading that summary. If I didn’t like the harem genre I doubt I’d have even read this manga.

But looks can be deceiving. The World God Only Knows is amazing in that although it uses typical anime tropes and clichés, it puts a fresh spin on it and creates omething special. Here’s a quote by Carlo Santos of Anime News Network on the anime adaptation:

“By most expectations, anything involving ditzy demon girls and gaming-obsessed geekboys and a rotating lineup of high school beauties should have been the stuff of critical derision. Yet the show’s sharp sense of humor, honest emotions, and polished production values prove that working with familiar clichés doesn’t have to result in a clichéd product. With the right prodding and poking, any anime series can indeed become greater than the sum of its parts.”

If the anime can be described as such, I can assure you that manga is twice as amazing. While the story does get slightly convoluted towards the end, I didn’t find it to be that bad overall. The important thing, to me at least, is that it still made sense and tied in to the plot. The mangaka also manages to avoid plot holes and finishes up the story in a spectacularly satisfying manner.

As you can tell already, I’d be sing praises for The World God Only Knows for as long as it takes to get you to read it.

Characters

maxresdefault.jpg

The main character is certainly one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever come across in a sea of uninteresting harem MCs.

Keima Katsuragi, also known as the ‘God Of Conquests’ in gaming circles, is one heck of a guy. Unlike your average harem protagonist, he actually puts in the work to get girls to fall for him. Girls don’t throw themselves at him just because he does something nice. Ignoring the fact he romances girls to exorcise the runaway spirits, it’s actually interesting to see him working his way into their hearts with his own brand of affection.

His personality might not be the best, but he doesn’t do things half-assed. Be it school work or devil hunting Keima puts forth his hundred percent if it’s something he needs to do. His analytic nature comes in handy when dealing with threats, and he’s not afraid to get out of his comfort zone (albeit with prodding) to get what he wants. It’s a nice change of pace to have a main character who isn’t ditzy or indecisive. Under the snark and gal games addiction, Keima is a catch, and the girls know it.

Speaking of. Each girl Keima ‘conquers’ has her own arc, and while some come and go, several have bigger and more important roles that tie in to the later part of the story. Another aspect that I thought was well done is the fact that even after their arcs, the manga doesn’t completely forget about them. One may say it’s because of plot, but I still thought it was a good attention for detail.

In addition, each arc is well-written and of varying lengths; some short and others, long. They explore each girl’s personality, and the ones who tie into the later story receive great development, like Tenri, one of Keima’s childhood friends.

Conclusion 

Even if you dislike the romcom/harem genre, I’d highly recommend to give this manga a try. This is an example of a harem done right.

Youjo Senki – All Hail The Empire!

youjo senki.png

Who knew an anime about a reincarnated salary man could be so interesting? Granted, he reincarnated into a psychopathic loli, but it proved to be a million times more interesting than the generic harem and shonen series that are pumped out by the hundreds each year.

My first impression of Youjo Senki was that it was exactly what it advertised. Gratuitous action, magic, and strategic displays of one upping enemies before pummeling them into dust.

But what I didn’t expect to find was good characterization of the main character, and great storytelling interwoven with various themes like war, morality and religion. Studio NUT’s debut anime has put them on the map.

Story

hahaha.png

The story begins just as the life of a man, ends. As one of Japan’s elite salary men, this man’s life was going great. But everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong, and in the end, he pushed in front of an incoming train.

Just before he dies, the man who would come to be Youjo Senki’s main character meets ‘God’, or in his own words, Being X. After rejecting ‘God’s’ existence, he wakes up as a baby girl being spoon-fed by a nun. And thus, Tanya Degurechaff was born.

Tanya’s journey up the ranks of the military is equal parts hilarious and interesting. Using her past memories, she displays an intelligence that most adults would never have, as well as a brilliant tactical mind which her superiors scramble to make use of. Tanya’s number one goal in this life is the same as the last – to be promoted and live the rest of her days lounging in the sun.

But of course, Being X has other plans in store for her.

Throughout the anime, the story pacing remains consistent (save for that one filler episode) and is worthy of praise. While it may seem cut and dry at first the anime will leave you begging for more after it hits its stride. What propels the story is the ongoing war between Tanya’s country – appropriately named The Empire – with various other countries, and also how the interventions of Being X affect the war as a whole.

There’s a lot of exploration of human nature, how war affects people and warps them into the monsters they were against in the first place. I didn’t expect so much thought to be put into a story about a reincarnated salaryman but am pleasantly surprised that it was written this well. The heavier subjects are handled in way that didn’t seem overbearing or pretentious. Tanya, with her warped personality, is the perfect vehicle for those watching to navigate this chaotic landscape.

Characters

being x.png

I think Tanya is an example of how good development can do right by the character. Even when I know she’s a maniac with the propensity for killing, she still managed to endear herself to me because it’s clear that she has her own code of honor, rules that she lives by. She is very much an anti-hero, perhaps even a villain. Though she is undoubtedly a monster, she’s gained the trust of the people she’d fought with and successfully defended her country from invaders. If she is a monster in someone’s eyes, she is a hero in another’s.

This is an interesting element in Youjo Senki that other anime series lack. In other shows, we’re usually shown just one point of view – which is nearly always the good side – and the clumsy attempts to preach about morality never does get the message across because good and evil has been firmly categorized from the start.

The country Tanya is fighting for cannot be said to be perfect. Anything run by humans will not be. Throughout the show, her country is constantly painted as the evil one – but just like any other decent country, all they want is peace. The problem is how they go about it, which causes misunderstandings and grief. The anime takes its time to firmly touch upon their actions and the mistakes that follow after.

Being X is another interesting character. He can be said to be the antagonist of Youjo Senki as he is hell bent on getting Tanya to bend to his will, unknowing that his actions are actually pushing her further away. This fact ties in to the overall story very well, and there’s plenty of room for dissection and brain storming even after you finish the anime.

The rest of the cast is less developed, but none of them really caught my interest. It felt like they were given screen time just because. But overall, they were likeable and it was cute to watch Tanya act the part of a caring, but stern superior. What an amazing farce, it is.

Animation

best scene.png

There isn’t much room for the animation to flex its proverbial muscles considering we spent most of our time observing Tanya on the battlefield. The magic fights in the show are eye popping, and the anime has a rather nice color palette, which shows well in the more scenic parts such as the bustling streets.

What really makes Youjo senki stand out though, is the shot composition. I’m not exactly an expert on this so I’ll direct you to this video right here. There are spoilers in it, so I recommend you watch only after you’ve finished the anime.  It’s informative and very well explained. Studio NUT’s actions have set high expectations for their next release.

All in all Youjo Senki is not to be missed if you’re a fan of shows which feature a cunning and intelligent lead with the propensity for strategy, like for example, Log Horizon. This anime is one of the few light novel adaptations done right.

8/10

Being X is an asshole

Demi-chan wa Kataritai – Absolutely adorkable

demi chan.png

There are times where all we need is a good anime and a hot drink to unwind after a tough day.

The perfect anime for this would be Demi-chan wa Kataritai – or if you want a name that is less of a mouthful – Interviews with Monster Girls.

At first glance, this anime seems like your typical run of the mill harem, replacing human girls with huge knockers for monster girls. I’m happy to report that Demi-chan wa Kataritai isn’t that sort of show.

It has more in common with Natsume Yuuchinjou in terms of atmosphere and slow pace, and both is the type of show to watch if you’re craving for something domestic and comfy. Overall, it’s just very pleasant and adorable.

Story

demi.png

There isn’t much meat to the story, save for the characters going about their day with random shenanigans shoved in here and there. The story mostly unfolds as the main character – a school teacher named Tetsuo – encounters Demi-humans in the school and forges friendships with them. Though the bond between them is weak at first, they grow closer and more familiar with each other as the show progresses.

What I like is that there isn’t any contrived misunderstandings shoved into the show just to cause drama. This allows for a stress free and innately pleasant experience – sort of like how one would feel when watching a video of kittens frolicking in a meadow. Because of this, characters interactions feel genuine.

I feel like there isn’t much to say here because there isn’t a fixed or overarching story. Still, the anime makes do with what it has, and proves that a lack of story doesn’t equate to bad story telling.

Characters

demi 2.png

The colorful roster of characters is where the anime truly shines.

Tetsuo Takashi – or more fondly remembered as Sensei – seems like your typical main character, though fairly older than traditional harem protagonists. He doesn’t show much personality throughout the first few episodes, besides being described as ‘plain’ or ‘boring’. But as anime went on, more of his personality began to bleed through.

Despite the slow start and general lack of development, I find him quite likable. His personality also fits well with the Demi-humans he interacts with, which is a plus. When compared to the rest of the other characters however, you’ll see that he’s actually the least interesting among them. Also, he reminds me that JSDF soldier from that GATE anime.

Tetsuo also befriends three girls. Hikari, the Vampire. Kyouko, the Dullahan. Yuki, the Snow woman. In doing so, he also manages to attract the affections of his colleague, who is coincidentally, a Succubus. Talk about killing multiple birds with one stone.

Out of all these characters, my favorite character would be Hikari. I don’t normally like the chipper, easily excitable types but she’s too adorkable to resist. Her antics always have me clutching my sides in laughter, be it trying to wheedle favors out of her favourite sensei or teasing her younger sister. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and has the penchant for trouble.

Unfortunately, other than the main cast, I found the side characters to be forgettable. There’s several recurring students that get featured here and there, and while I find the occasional shift of spotlight to be a nice break, I didn’t find them interesting. While I loved the Demi-human’s sense of humor, the side characters usually fail to get even a giggle out of me because the jokes they crack feel forced.

It may just be that I’m not a fan of those types of specific jokes, but I felt it was painful to sit through. Despite my apathy towards them, it’s good that they aren’t relegated to merely being the butt of jokes and do get some minor development, which leads to some interesting and thoughtful situations in later episodes.

Animation

takahashi sensei.png

The animation is decent, nothing especially eye popping. The lack of bombastic colors lends to it a certain slice of life charm present in those kinds of shows, so if that’s the look they were aiming for I’d say they nailed it. There are some standout moments, like the effects of Yuki’s ice powers during one of her episodes, but overall I’d say Demi-chan wa Kataritai is pleasant to look at and is of consistent animation quality.

I didn’t expect to like the show as much as I did. I began with the expectation that it was going to be kind of ‘meh’ but it endeared itself to me enough that I can safely say that I’ll be back to watch it again. A relaxing and charming show which deserves more attention than it gets.

8/10

It’ll be criminal not to have a S2