Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Chihayafuru 2" Anime Review

***This is a spoiler free review***

Chihayafuru completely blindsided me when I first watched it last year. No matter how I looked at it, it looked like a Josei anime which is usually a turn off for me. After much consideration though I ended up watching it and I never regretted doing so. Now that the second season has completed, I find myself pretty much with the same feelings; pure awesomeness.

Story: 6.5/10
Let’s get the formalities out of the way; this is a sports anime. If you do not like sports anime then I am 98% sure you will not like this anime at all. Chihayafuru follows the main character Chihaya as she tries to become better at the Japanese poetry card game Karuta. In the second season, the show focuses more on the Karuta club at Chihaya’s school as they prepare to compete in the district and regional tournament. Now for the second formality; like I posted in my opening statement this looks like and pretty much is a Josei anime. Josei shows usually shoots for the young to older teen girl audience and a unique characteristic that the Josei genre usually brings is its art style (read more about this in the animation section). So since this show is directed to young Japanese girls, you have to deal with the typical female lead that usually has two or three boys after her affection. This is somewhat true in Chihayafuru but the romance thankfully takes a back seat compared to the other things such as character development and the card game scenes. It also helps that Chihaya is a very strong willed and overall great lead character (more of this in the character section).

The most important thing about grading the story section is how the plot flows. While the two main arcs flow nicely into each other, I feel as if some of the match scenes dragged on a little too much (I call it the Bleach syndrome). That being said, some of the matches actually had me on the edge of my seat. I will not spoil the results but there is a team match where it literally comes down to the last card and I could not believe the result. My overall feelings are if you want a flowing story with tons of character development then stay away from this anime. While it does have the stuff you want in between the tournaments, once they start it is all about the matches. This is a sports anime.

Animation: 9.7/10
If you look at any number of Josei anime you will see that they all pretty much have very light and bright colors and this is no exception for Chihayafuru 2. In the scenes where there is sunlight peering through the windows, there is beautiful and well down lighting. Also the character models (AND THE EYES) are so well done that even the talking scenes are beautiful (OMG THE EYES). Since this a sports anime, you would hope that the action oriented scenes flow well with great quality. I am happy to say that even the most intense matches have great quality and look extremely smooth. I honestly love the animation of this anime; all the characters (even the side ones) look unique and beautiful/handsome. Like or hate the Josei art style, this is one beautiful anime.
 Sound: 9.6/10
Another great asset this anime has is the overall sound design. The music that plays in the background for both the dialogue and match scenes is so spot on. In an intense match you will find that the music caters perfectly to what is going on and I also love how they included so much orchestral arrangements. The voice actors also did an awesome job reprising their roles. The new characters also sounded great as each one meshed quite well with their virtual counterpart. It has been quite some time since I have experienced an anime with such a great acoustic qualities.

Characters: 8/10
I feel that this season did a much better job with the character interactions (since they added new people to the club) but at the same time it detracted from the characters I really like. The screen time for Chihaya and Taichi was more limited since we had to learn about the new members but this is not really a valid complaint since they still had screen time. Chihaya is a very strong female lead with an unfathomable amount of resolve to become better and better and Karuta. She wants to one day play a match against Arata like she did as a child. She is to my limited memory the strongest female anime character I can think of which is great because I am so tired of the weak willed and whiny females we usually get. Taichi in the first season made it quite clear he was crushin’ on Chihaya; I won’t spoil if he was man enough to make a confession this season but the time they had together in the second season was pretty nice. He also grew very much as a player in this season. There is a particular team match where he pretty much was the sole reason the team won. The other characters (boob girl, porky, glasses, and the two new members) really did help bring in some great moments for the team especially in the first tournament. It added a new element since the team now had people they could cycle in instead of always relying on the same people.

Overall: 8.5/10
This show is really, really good. The continuing story of Chihaya and the Karuta club is so enjoyable to watch unfold. If you somehow missed or just decided to skip the first season of Chihayafuru then please do yourself a favor and at least give it a try. While the show covers a sport you have most likely never heard of, the anime does a superb job pulling you in which other great sport anime have done in the past (Capeta, Prince of Tennis, Major, ext).

"Hataraku Maou-sama!" Anime Review

***This is a spoiler free review***

Anime has recently been on a trend of light hearted comedy shows with a heavy emphasis on “moe”. While Hataraku Maou-sama embodies many of these elements, it is surprisingly enjoyable to watch. It also redeems this season by turning this great light novel into a non-mediocre anime (*cough* Date A Live *cough*). 

Story: 7/10
The plot in Hataraku Maou-sama flows surprisingly well from the beginning all the way towards to the ending. The main focus of the show is on the Demon King Sadao who after losing a battle with the humans flees to Earth through a portal. Not wanting the Demon King to get away, The Hero Emi follows the Demon King to the human earth. The first couple episodes really made me interested in the direction the show wanted to go because the plot introduced my favorite type of character; the fish out of water character. When you have a character dropped into a situation with absolutely no understanding of what is going on around him, you (the audience) has the perfect opportunity to learn with the main character. Since everything has to be spelled out for him, you in turn get to learn everything along with him thus making the experience much more fluid. Granted Sadao does get on his feet rather quickly finding a job and a place to live early on, the first episode was very funny as he and his minion Shirou had to deal with the Japanese culture and police. The only issue with the pacing of the show was that the ending was not really an ending at all and that the one sided love that Chiho expresses feels a little forced. The show did not go out of its way to give us a huge, thought provoking experience but it did not cause me to fall asleep watching it.

As I stated in the opening sentence of this review, this show is a comedy. To be more specific this show is a gag comedy meaning that a lot of people will not like the short jab of jokes. Also a lot of the jokes are centered on Japanese common knowledge things such as their healthcare system. There is also a huge emphases on “moe” or super cute girls that you just want to hug the ever living s#!t out of. There is a moderate amount of fan service in the show but it really did not overly distract me from what was going on.

Animation: 8.5/10
The animation for me was pretty excellent. There are some truly awesome quality shots in this anime such as the scene in daylight under the trees in the park in the last episode or the final fight scene in episode twelve. The character models are also very well done and seeing how this is a very “cute girl” anime, the females all have their unique charm. I think it is safe to say that Chiho is now the most adorable anime girl with huge boobs. I just want to give them…err her a big ol’ hug.
Seriously...the most cute thing in the world. AND it has boobs!
Sound: 6/10
The only noteworthy awesome thing about the sound in this anime was the performance of the voice actors. I absolutely loved the voice of each character in the anime regardless if they had a major or minor role. Other than that though I felt like the show’s sound was average. The music choices for the show felt bland and didn’t really help make the show any better.

Characters: 7/10
Emi, Sadao, Lucifer, and Shirou all made this show extremely fun to watch. Their back and forth bantering brought many funny and enjoying moments throughout the show’s first season. We also had our fill of super cute…err female leads! Each of the three main females in the show has varying personalities. Emi is the really cold and ruthless one, Chiho has a really cheerful attitude (and huge boobs), and the other female lead Suzuno I won’t talk about so I do not spoil anything but she turned out to be my favorite. I mean even Emi's friend Rika is just oozing cuteness on an unfathomable level. This show does have a lot of “moe” elements but it is not putting all of its eggs into this basket. The plot flows so well because of the character interactions; the cuteness is just a super sweet add-on.

Overall: 7.1/10
This show was truly a surprise gift (for me at least) in this anime season. After seeing how much high school/slice of life stuff was coming, I thought that this was just going to be another one of those forgettable ones. This show had an interesting premise with the characters and animation to back it up. Even though the sound sort of took a back seat role, this anime really has everything it needs to keep pretty much everyone interested. If fanservice is an issue for you there really is only two or three scenes where they just throw it in your face so it should not be a huge issue.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Date A Live" Anime Review

***This is a spoiler free review***
Continuing on from the recent trend of turning great light novels into subpar anime, Date A Live proves to be a mediocre romantic comedy that fails to bring anything worthwhile to the genre.

 Story: 4.5/10

I’ll admit that the first episodes did draw me in as the idea of someone “wooing” mythical creatures in order to keep them from destroying the world seemed like a fresh idea. The main plot boils down to our main male lead Shido having to “tame” these magical spirits in order to keep their magical outbursts in check. So yeah it turns into a harem since by the end of the season he will have four or so girls wanting his D. This however is not the downfall of the series; I tend to like harems IF they are done well enough. This anime falls very short in my opinion because the cast just doesn’t flow very well with each other. The main female lead Tohka is just a whiny and needy girl that gets mad at Shido for literally everything. It also doesn’t help that the show is extremely predictable and drags towards the final episodes. Overall if you are looking for a thought provoking show this is one you need to steer clear of.
*Something I forgot to add; there is a pretty large amount of fanservice in this anime but I never found it too distracting.*

Animation: 6.7/10

Something the show does seem to pull of reasonably well is the visual presentation. Both the fight and more tame dialogue scenes have good quality which seems to hold throughout the entire season without degrading in quality. Character models in my opinion could have been better but they were “good enough”. Have to admit though that the eyes in this anime were really well done (don’t know why I love eyes so much but yeah it’s the only decent thing Tohka had).

Sound: 5/10

There really isn’t a lot to comment on for the sound of this anime. The soundtrack is generic at best and the voice actors did an “ok” job. Sound is an important thing to try to capitalize on since it is so pivotal to the overall experience of video media. This anime fell short in my opinion but by no means completely failed on the audio presentation.

Characters: 4.5/10

Harems are only successful if you have the characters to back up the ridiculous notion of calling a man (or women) liking multiple partners a sane thing. In Date A Live, Shido is kind of just thrown in to these turn of events and really doesn’t have a saying in his own actions so he gets a pass. The characters he is tasked with “taming” however just make the show boring to watch. As I mentioned earlier, Tohka is an annoying crying female that overreacts to everything. Kotori (Shido’s sister) is your typical generic tsundere who has a small twist to her character towards the end of the series but I didn’t care for her so whatever. The other two spirits in the show Yoshino and Kurumi were also pretty generic and uninteresting. The only thing they brought to the table was that Yoshino was super ultra cute which can only go so far. So what the show boils down to is its wild card character, Origami. Presented as an emotionless tomboy, she provided many unique and funny scenes with Shido. She developed feelings for Shido fairly early on which provided some interesting moments between her and the other spirits. She is the sole character that I ended up liking in this show.

Overall: 5.2/10

It really is a shame what is occurring in the anime industry at the moment. I have now seen three really good light novels (Sword Art Online, Oniichan Dakedo Ai sae Areba Kankeinai, and now Date A Live) become these really average anime when they could have been so much more. Actually in general I have noticed that animation studios are playing it safe with these high school romantic comedies and not taking risks on more farfetched plots. The last really good show that was nothing like anything else I had seen was Fate/Zero back in 2011. While this season of anime has brought a couple good shows (thank god for Chihayafuru 2), we are getting too many of these romcons at once. I hope that the next anime season brings some more daring shows.

Spring 2013 Anime Reviews Coming Soon

So I decided to give up on posting my thoughts on my currently watching anime since job hunting and family have taken up all my time. Until I find work and move into my new living arrangements, I will only be uploading anime reviews since I can work on them over time and not have any real deadline. That being said, the current anime season is about to end so look for some new reviews soon.