Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – Jesus kun strikes again

mahouka.png

Shows like this leave me torn. In a similar vein to Sword Art Online, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – abbreviated as Mahouka – has a protagonist who is near godlike and has plot armor rivalling poorly written self-insert fanfiction.

On one hand, this anime was ridiculous in a way that left me entertained. The overpowered main character, Tatsuya Shiba, is inexplicably fun to watch but unfortunately, any self-respecting critic will be hard pressed not to point out his flaws.

Story

jesus kun.png
Tatsuya and Miyuki

Like most light novel adaptations, the story is difficult to judge as the anime only adapts a certain portion of it and thus only captures some of what it has to offer. The anime ends before the story really starts to take off. Despite this, I think they did a passable job of adapting the story material, though that’s not to say the show is without flaws. I believe Mahouka has adapted eight volumes of its light novel and roughly three arcs in total.

The first twelve episodes that constitute the first arc is easily the best part of this show. This is no argument, as the quality of the episodes afterwards dips tremendously. The last two arcs leave much to be desired due to poor execution and poor pacing. They are still mildly enjoyable but as a whole they make the anime lousier than it would’ve been had they stopped at episode 12.

The basic premise of the show is that in a world reliant on magic and magicians, Tatsuya is one of those with poor magic skills, and that in itself is enough to be ostracized and debased since people talented in magic think themselves superior. His sister, Miyuki, is one of these talented magicians but fortunately, she loves her brother with all her heart and is a good person – this strange combination leads to the pair getting attention, and not the good kind.

What the show does well is slowly introducing its huge roster of characters. It starts with the siblings before expanding, and as the plot unravels, the overarching story begins to come to light.

Another aspect of the anime I liked was how they told us about the inner workings of the society said characters live in, as well as explaining the nitty gritty of magic and how it works. Good world-building is a definite plus for me, but if you’re the type who dislikes being pelted with exposition Mahouka will probably not seem appealing.

Overall, the story is only passable.  Those looking for a deep and intriguing plot will probably end up disappointed. While Mahouka has plenty of world building and some politicking, it’s more action oriented.

Characters

hahaha.png

As I said in the opening paragraph of this review, I actually like Tatsuya. But despite me liking him, I can firmly say that he is a critic’s worse nightmare. If being ‘bland’ is a character trait, than Tatsuya has got it down to a tee. There’s an explanation for him being this way, but other than being an overprotective older brother, he is pretty much a gary stu. Again, this aspect of the show is a plus for me because I enjoy these types of shows and character tropes, but I know more than a few people who hate this sort of thing.

Miyuki Shiba gets her fair share of screen time since she’s nearly always sticking to Tatsuya, but her character – like her brother – is only skin deep.

She’s a badass. Unfortunately, she gets little to no development. She does not change throughout the show and while I can brush it off since this anime has only adapted a mere eight volumes of light novel, but the fact remains that she received no development. She is an overprotective and talented younger sister. That sentence is her character.

Continuing on, the rest of the cast is unfortunately as underdeveloped as the siblings. This leads to ‘heavy’ moments where emotional scenes which are supposed to further the characters, hold little to no sway over those watching. One might say that I’m criticizing the show for something it holds no power over, but it is because I like Mahouka that I’m critical of it.

If the show does get a second season, I hope its flaws get addressed, which would in turn attract more fans.

Conclusion

The second ending is awesome tho.png

Though Mahouka has glaring flaws, it was an entertaining watch and deserves to be given a chance. The show has a great soundtrack and decent animation, it is far from the worse anime I’d ever watched. If you enjoyed SAO then you’d love Mahouka, no doubt about that. However, if you hated SAO and are interested in checking this anime out then I’d suggest that you don’t get your hopes too high or even avoid it completely.

6/10

Onii-Samaaaaa

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale – The ship sails on!

sao ordinal scale.png

Sword Art Online – abbreviated as SAO – is infamous throughout the anime community for being trash. The protagonist is an OP harem master and the female characters are nothing but sacks of jiggling flesh for viewers to gape at and fap to. Despite this being the general consensus among anime veterans, some agree that despite its flaws, it’s a darn entertaining show.

I enjoyed SAO and would go as far as to say it’s one of my favorite anime. I’m not ignorant to the fact that it has (many) flaws, but I like it for what it is.

This show is not meant to be taken seriously and there are reasons for its popularity, one reason being accessibility. The show’s plot and characters are straightforward, making it easy to understand and enjoy.

Many people I know that don’t watch anime have seen SAO and liked it, which is partly why it was as big as it was. It appealed to people who have never watched an anime in their lives.

I think the show’s premise also played a great part in getting attention, because how many people can resist watching a show about getting trapped in a video game? Not many!

And so, after two anime seasons and several games, the movie Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale is the latest addition to this successful franchise.

Story

ar vs vr.png

The story of Ordinal Scale is decent. After the SAO fiasco and the confiscation of NerveGear, a new device called the ‘Augma’ has taken its place as the new hot and upcoming technology. It’s a safer option compared to the NerveGear, it doesn’t have enough power to fry the wearer’s brain, and its multitude of uses made sure it spiked popularity.

While playing the popular AR (Artificial reality) game Ordinal Scale, Kirito and his hare– I mean, friends, discover that SAO survivors are losing their memories of their time spent in the death game after playing Ordinal Scale.

The mix of mystery and action was quite well done in this movie. While I would have loved to see more action, what I got from the movie was entertaining enough. It had a strong start, but the ending was resolved in a slightly campy manner. Still, it was in line with much of what I expected, but I’m glad it gave its viewers a chance to piece together the mystery on hand rather than just giving it to us straight.

The movie also has some genuinely touching moments, it’s impressive considering how much content they managed to fit into a two hour timeframe.

Characters

my ship.png

Kirito received some interesting development. They managed to grab my interest with how they spun Kirito’s preference for the virtual world, as compared to the real one. Even after going through the traumatizing experiences of Sword Art Online, he still likes VRMMORPGS and prefers them to AR games, which is the opposite of how most survivors feel.

I got the feeling that what he didn’t like about the AR technology was that it breached the thin line of ‘virtual’ and ‘reality’. It makes for some good brain food and left me contemplating on the advantages of both AR and VR. Unfortunately, the movie kind of cops out at the end and Kirito solves his problems with the age old technique of ‘Hit it until it works’ but the characterization was good while it lasted.

Another thing I was appreciative of was how the movie explored ‘Survivor’s guilt,’ by showing little tidbits of events that happened in SAO but were not showed in the anime. It was a good move and made me connect with the characters. It’s too bad they never got to finish exploring it since the movie ends in a rather clichéd manner.

Like I said, though the movie had a strong start, its starts to fall into its more shonen tendencies by the end. I wish they’d taken more time to explore how people were emotionally affected by the loss of their memories, and what kind of effects they would experience in the long term.

But, well…I guess we can’t have it all.

Asuna also showed some decent growth in the movie. I’ve always liked her (except in season 2, but let’s not talk about that) for her emotional strength, which is what made her coupling with Kirito interesting. While he’s stronger in a physical sense, she has stronger in matters of the heart. She is sure of herself, and is less likely to suffer internal dilemmas. The movie does something great and takes this strength away from her, so to speak. As such, the stakes rise and give the movie a sense of urgency as both she and Kirito fight to get it back.

Conclusion

aye.png

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale is a must watch for any fan of SAO. Fans of Kirito and Asuna are bound to enjoy it. For those interested in characters like Silica, Lisbeth or Sinon, you’ll be out of luck since they only have minimal screen time, most of it is split between Asuna and Kirito. However, the upside is that we do get to see what they’ve been up to after SAO. It’s a decent movie that won’t take too much of your time.

7/10

My body is ready for season 3

Character Appreciation: Maho Hiyajo

steins gate 0 op.png

I thought I’d start something new for the blog in a segment I’m dubbing ‘Character Appreciation,’ which is basically what it means. Since I’m trying to hit three posts per month I thought it would be a nice addition to have small written pieces on characters I like.

There’ll be a number of major spoilers for Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 0 here so if you’re planning to play either of these games I’d advise you to come back later. If you don’t care about spoilers then read on!

Maho Hiyajo is one of the main characters from the visual novel Steins;Gate 0. In the opening chapter of the story she bumps into Okabe Rintaro at a seminar where she gets mistaken for a grade schooler. After some hilarious back and forth banter, she’s revealed to be older than her appearance suggests and is actually there as an assistant to one of the professors making an appearance at the seminar.

As the game progresses, Okabe discovers that Maho was Makise Kurisu’s friend and colleague under the Institute of Neuroscience at Victor Chondria University.

steins gate 0.png

A defining thread in Steins;Gate 0 is how every major character is inevitably linked to Kurisu. Okabe is understandably distressed considering that he killed her in this timeline, the attempt to save her gone horribly wrong, but try as he might Kurisu’s shadow continues to haunt him.

Maho, like Okabe, is similarly haunted by her now deceased colleague, though in a different way.

I like how the friendly rivalry between Maho and Kurisu was written, and the parallel drawn between it and the supposed relationship of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As you know Maho’s brainchild is Amadeus a complex system that allows a user’s memories to be stored and then ‘grown.’ This is a piss poor explanation and more on the layman side so I apologize. But continuing on, months before Kurisu’s death, her memories were stored in the Amadeus system and has since evolved into its own entity. It is her, and at the same time isn’t.

All throughout the game Maho struggles with her feelings of inferiority and jealousy towards her friend. Before Kurisu arrived at the university Maho had been regarded as a genius and even prided herself as one. But once she realized that she’d never truly been one, she can’t help but feel as if she isn’t Kurisu’s equal.

cruel fate.png

She does a quite a bit of self-reflection throughout the game, constantly reevaluating herself and thinking over their relationship to the point where it bordered on obsessive. But it was because of how frequently she fought to overcome these negative feelings that she became one of my favorite characters. At her core, Maho isn’t a bad person because despite her feelings of jealousy, she never takes it out on Kurisu.

One moment that really stuck with me even after I finished the game was when they struck up a tentative conversation and bonded over the same Mozart song they liked. That song was the catalyst for their friendship, and comes into play later in the game.

I think Maho’s willingness to examine her flaws with a critical eye is another reason why I like and admire her. She was the complete opposite of Okabe in that regard, considering he spent the majority of the game trying to run from reality.

moeka and maho.png

Kiryuu Moeka and Maho’s friendship in Steins;Gate 0 is another thing that came out of left field. Even in the world line the game takes place in, Moeka remains a rounder.

Given how Moeka’s personality is and her general disinterest for anything other than FB, the evolution in their relationship was shocking, with one route ending with Moeka sacrificing herself for Maho. Their friendship pretty much blindsided me because I never thought they had anything in common. It turned out they have good chemistry with one another, which made for a well written and developed relationship that added depth to both characters.

While her obsession with FB still exists, she also finds a friend in Maho. They bonded because of their similar feelings of inferiority and helped each other, not realizing that all they needed was to confide in someone similar. It was especially nice to see Moeka being happy for once. Her life pretty much sucks in every world line and while I know I should hate her for making Okabe’s life hell, it makes me happy to know that she gets to experience some measure of happiness, however fleeting it might be.

Overall, I think Maho is a splendid addition to the roster of characters and I look forward to seeing her again when I replay Steins;Gate 0!