Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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