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

Demi-chan wa Kataritai – Absolutely adorkable

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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

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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

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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

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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

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – Jesus kun strikes again

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

Overlord – The undead can be badass too!

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I like it when a show surprises me. That feeling when you watch episode after episode of quality stuff is one of the things that define a great series for me, but finding shows like that are more of an exception than the norm.

But…if you do eventually find one, it makes the experience all the more amazing. Continue reading “Overlord – The undead can be badass too!”

Witch Craft Works – Witches with pointy hats

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Witch Craft Works came out sometime in 2014 and most people would’ve forgotten it by now. Funnily enough, I stumbled onto it while I was browsing through MyAnimeList (Abbreviated as MAL) and realised that it had once been on my ‘to watch’ list before I got sidetracked. Since I didn’t really feel like watching anything too plot-heavy, WCW pretty much fit the bill on the type of anime I was looking for.  Continue reading “Witch Craft Works – Witches with pointy hats”