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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

Paprika – A thoughtful afterword

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Paprika is the type of movie most people would watch and go, “…huh?” It seems like a messy and convoluted movie at first glance, with bright colors and scenes that make less and less sense as the story trudges forward. But if one dares to peer into the eye of the storm, what they would find is ultimately – a layered but masterfully crafted story. Continue reading “Paprika – A thoughtful afterword”

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.

Overlord was in released in 2015, and from what I’ve seen, faded into obscurity after the first two to three mediocre episodes. It is a short series with around 13 episodes, and is a light novel adaptation. Anime that adapts from light novels are a tricky thing. The quality for these types of shows can vary from show to show, and the most horrible and poorly adapted ones always seem  to get the most press. It’s probably because of this stigma that Overlord didn’t get the critical reception it deserved.

Another reason why the show wasn’t so well received is probably because it’s another  ‘trapped in a game’ anime that we’ve seen so much off. I’ve seen many people comparing Overlord to Sword Art Online, which is frankly, doing the show a disservice because it implies that the two are similar. I’m not saying that SAO is bad (it has its flaws but it’s a fun romp if I ever saw one) but I’m of the opinion that no two shows are alike. In fact, the only thing Overlord and SAO have in common is the distasteful fan service.

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Don’t be fooled by his face. He can be quite the softy.

Story

Overlord kicks off the show with an interesting spin on the ‘trapped in a game’ story idea. The main character of the show, Lord Momonga, is the guild leader in a game that’s about to be shut down. The first episode opens to a strong sense of loneliness as it’s revealed that out of the forty-one members of the guild, only Lord Momonga is there to spend the last hour in the game before its servers are taken down, forever.

In addition, the episode introduces not only our main character, but several other supporting characters as well, in the form of NPCs (Non-playable characters). As the episode draws to a close a giant timer countdowns to zero, and Lord Momonga, who’d expected himself to be booted out of the game, finds himself in the literal shoes of the undead character he plays.

From there, the story takes several more episodes to establish the world setting and its supporting cast. The world building is decent enough to keep the viewer interested, but there can be quite an info dump at times. Personally, I just ignored the nitty gritty details because there’s far too much to remember. Most of the time, I was more focused on the action and character interaction because that was where the show shined.

Overlord has three arcs, and in my opinion has one of the tightest narratives I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I believe the 13 episode limit helped a lot in this regard. There is a start and end to each arc, and the end of each arc is clearly defined, with each major character in that arc getting a fair amount of development.

This is one of the things I really liked about Overlord, which is the sense of progression as the story slowly unfolds.

The story is mostly light hearted and humorous, but there is some surprisingly violent and mature subjects that it tackles. It’s not in the same vein as shows like Psycho Pass, but there were quite a few moments where I was left speechless by how the story unfolded. The theme of unity is also prevalent in the show, which I found unexpected but welcome.

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Wave that flag boi.

Characters

I think Lord Momonga is a great main character. He’s a nice guy and it shows, but despite this he’s not scared of doing questionable things to further his goal. One of the unique points of this anime is the fact that the main character fits more into the mold of an anti-hero, rather than your typical shining white knight. It’s a breath of fresh air from the generic main character who wants to save everybody. That trope is so worn out that I can embrace a change like this with wide open arms.

Lord Momonga is developed well and he’s so…likeable! I think he’s what made Overlord so fun for me. His actions gives the viewer quite a few laughs, and overall he truly tries to be a great leader for his underlings. The small things he does for them do not go unnoticed, and for that, they love and respect him. It was heartwarming to see Lord Momonga in action. Call me a sap if you want, but I’m glad we finally have a protagonist who isn’t acting so dark and moody all the time.

There are several other characters that get a decent amount of character development, which is surprising, seeing as there’s only 13 episodes. Although the show doesn’t manage to flesh out all the characters – some are still remain one dimensional caricatures even in the last episode – it can be overlooked because they actually fleshed out the important characters in each of the three arcs. It was a good call to focus on the characters that truly mattered to the plot, rather than trying to do it for all the characters and doing a poor job of it.

And that brings me to one of the aspects I hated about the show. The Fanservice.

Albedo, one of the female characters in the show, greatly suffered because of this. Yes, there were times were her personality shone through, but most of the show was just her trying to get into Lord Momonga’s pants and flashing a fair bit of skin to the viewer. Now, I’m fine with fan service if it doesn’t get in the way of the story and character development, but in Overlord, Albedo is reduced to a one dimensional anime waifu with huge knockers. Frankly, it’s makes me angry to even think about it. One word I’d use to describe it is wasted potential.

The very first episode establishes her role in the story. She’s there to look pretty and that’s pretty much it. Albedo gets her chest groped (with permission!) by Lord Momonga in the first episode.

While I know fan service is a staple of anime because of how well it works to attract viewers, it kills any respect the viewer might have had for a character. It can be funny in small doses and there were certain scenes that I found myself chuckling when one character made a boob joke of some sort, but it just grates on my nerves when it’s literally shoved in my face.

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To rewatch or not to rewatch? Hmm.

Overall

All in all, I think Overlord is a fantastic show. In fact, I’m hoping to rewatch it after I finish a couple other shows.

The show is well animated and great to look at, and the action very well done. The opening and ending is superb and fits the show perfectly. The only times I skipped either of them was when I was too impatient to get to watching the episode, which is saying something when you’re binge watching all 13 of them.

The fan service, while grating, was luckily not extreme enough to curb my enjoyment, and I have to give the show props for a few good instances of dirty humor that was actually hilarious.

If you like shows such as SAO, Log Horizon, I have no doubt you’d enjoy this one. If you don’t, heck, just try Overlord anyway.

9/10

I need a season two, stat.

Log Horizon (S1) – Enchanters, Tanks, Assassins

log.pngLog Horizon is an anime where the players of a MMORPG, Elder Tale, find themselves waking up as their in-game avatars. While the summary might have some fans thinking of a certain 2011 anime, it’s better to enter this show without any preconceived notions. This show is extremely well done, and gives the ‘trapped in a game’ storyline its own unique twist.  Continue reading “Log Horizon (S1) – Enchanters, Tanks, Assassins”

Ping Pong The Animation – Searching for a Hero

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Right out of the gate, this anime art and animation style has separated viewers into two camps; those who hate it, and those who put up with it. It goes without saying that the ones who hate it will not watch the show – but, if you’re someone in the second camp, looking for a reason to invest your time into Ping Pong the Animation, I’ll try my best to highlight how gosh darn good this show is. Continue reading “Ping Pong The Animation – Searching for a Hero”

Murder Princess – Soul switching, mindless fun

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I never expected to be pleasantly surprised at the end of six episodes. There is something weirdly enjoyable and interesting about Murder Princess. The anime has a certain vibe that just screams ‘to heck with it’ which the show takes good advantage of as it goes along its merry way.  The strength of this show, I think, is that it knows what it is. I found it easy to take Murder Princess at face value, a fun but flawed romp that lasts spanned for just the perfect amount of episodes. Continue reading “Murder Princess – Soul switching, mindless fun”