Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

A magical experience that defies stereotypes.

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The Lowdown:

Show: Puella Magi Madoka Magica (often shortened to PMMM or just Madoka)

Studio(s)/years aired: Shaft/Aniplex, 2011

AniB’s thoughts: Well, well, well… some of you have patiently waited for this review for a while (shout-out to S.G.), and frankly, it’s a pleasure to have written it. Simply put, Madoka is a terrific show, defying the cringy stereotypes of the magical girl genre while delivering an highly favorable impact in only 12 episodes.

To be honest, it was hard to know what one should expect given that it was a blind watch and the genre has never been my usual choice to watch in animation, but experience took over and all the aspects that exists in any good to great animated show- gripping characters, stellar animation quality, and a very interesting story with progression- were all in place, along with some very thought-provoking thematic elements that created an unexpected depth in the storytelling.

It’s also worth adding that it was very pleasing to see a dearth of fanservice in this type of show. The genre lends itself to the stereotype, but instead, the show focused its efforts on its core experience that it delivered- and at the heart of it are some terrific characters. Madoka’s a likable, personable main character, but it is Homura- the mysterious magical girl with the power of time manipulation, and the strange creature known as Kyubey that truly steal the show. Both have very interesting motivations that drive them, and Homura in particular received an outstanding character arc.

It’s evident that Madoka Magica is the magical girl show for people who don’t normally watch these types of shows, simply because it is a great piece of work. It’s true the cast is mostly cute girls, but the themes they grapple with and the decisions they find themselves making in this world are all too real, with a gravity and dramatic tension that is nicely balanced. Based on my viewing, it’s safe to say Madoka is definitely one of the better anime from the East this decade and probably the best of its kind out there.

Now, onto grading:


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, hand drawn but computer-shaded. Madoka pops off the screen, as good anime all tend to do- but its visuals also helps sell the complex and rich narrative it provides as well, along with its intriguing cast and thought-proving themes. Action sequences in particular are unique, using several different styles to indicate the chaos of witches in the show as an example. The animation does a wonderful job drawing the viewer into a compelling world. 5/5 points.

 

Characterization: The show focuses on the titular lead character, Madoka Kaname, and her role to play in the mysterious dealings of Kyubey, a strange alien being responsible for the creation of magical girls. Appearing as a small white, cat-like creature with red eyes and long ears adorned with hoop rings, Kyubey’s appearance and voice only add to the strangeness of this creature…and whose ulterior motives become more evident with the passage of time.

 

Madoka herself is a kind young junior-high girl who despite her musings about magical girls and their activities, is reluctant to become one due to the consequences of how Kyubey creates them- namely through a special, eternally binding contract. However, she is thrust inevitably into the middle of a looming crisis involving a super-powerful witch’s arrival, and the cruel consequences for all parties involved in this mysterious world.

 

Her best friend from school, Sayaka Miki, also finds herself intimately intertwined in the web of intrigue, but is is lured in by the promise of a unbounded wish as part of the magical girl contract with Kyubey. She cares deeply for a friend who suffered a crippling hand injury in an accident, and so Sayaka’s sense of justice is both pure and idealistic.

 

However, the most mysterious magical girl is Homura Akemi, a seemingly cold individual uninterested in the usual rules of being one, and with the highly unusual ability to manipulate time. What her purpose and goals are are shrouded in mystery through the show, but slowly reveal themselves.

There are other magical girls as well, one of which is a bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t seen this show, but the other is Mami Tomoe- who introduces both Madoka and Sayaka to the duties and responsibilities of the role, should they accept Kyubey’s contract.

Madoka is definitely a show that excels with its small cast and does a terrific job developing them in the concise, tight narrative that exists. It’s a treat to watch the development that takes place, and how well the show ties its cast into the overarching plot seamlessly. 4.75/5 points.

 

Story quality: Overarching plotline. Madoka’s story is quite difficult to boil down into a few words, let alone without spoilers, but overall, it’s a tale about the choices people make and their implications, just what exactly does it mean when one says “the greater good”, and the sacrifice involved with it, and a tale about true friendship and even love (in a non-romantic sort of way). It’s a terrific character-driven plot that has intrigue, action, and is hardly what you’d think a show featuring “magical girls” would look and feel like, especially given the narrative weight. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: Like the story, there is much to unpack in the thematic elements of this show. The consequences of all choices, and the idea that there is no such thing as a “free wish” is key, as is the idea that “the decisions you make seal your fate.” Also key is the idea of “what is selflessness vs unselfishness?” and “What is the cost of doing something that can be portrayed as altruistic? What does sacrifice truly mean?” Much is asked in this show, and these answers are given in surprisingly thorough detail for a 13 episode anime. 4.5/5 points.

 

Don’t insult the viewer: In an anime where the temptation is to have loads of fanservice, this really isn’t an issue here at all, and the show gains much for it. Tightly choreographed, briskly paced with action and dramatic tension throughout, it’s a gripping little watch. 5/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 23.75/25 (95%). A case of where expectation pleasantly did not meet reality, Madoka Magica is a heavily thought-provoking watch with a lot more weight to its narrative and cast than one would officially be led to believe. It’s worth a look, even for those not into the magical girl genre as an all-around excellent show.


Like what you see? Enjoy Madoka? Leave a comment!

 

Hunter x Hunter is getting Greed Island in English: Why that’s a big thing

Nearly 15 years after the first animated attempt of Greed Island, the arc gets an dub.

As many of you may know from reading the material on this blog, Hunter x Hunter is a big favorite on here, which earned a highly favorable review, deservedly so, and also has an ongoing series where I’m comparing the 2011 anime to the arcs it shares with the 1999 anime, and a character piece about Killua. However, this article is about the final arc both animes share- Greed Island, and the very significant event happening in the anime right now- that the arc is finally getting a dub, which is unprecedented, and frankly, long overdue between the two anime versions. Here’s a brief look at the history of Greed Island in the Hunter x Hunter franchise (and specifically the anime.)


2001: Yoshihiro Togashi begins publishing the Greed Island arc in fall of 2001 in Shonen Jump.

2002: Nippon releases the first of three OVA sets; this one completes Yorknew City’s arc, which was not finished in the initial run of the show.

2003: The first of two Greed Island OVA’s is released. The manga version of the arc concludes in October of that year.

2004: Nippon Animation releases the final round of their OVA’s, which were Greed Island’s entire arc. This would also be their last outing on the Hunter x Hunter franchise and the definitive ending to the first anime, though it was left open-ended at the end of Nippon’s interpretation for the yet-to be created Chimera Ant arc (which never happened in 1999.)

2011: Hunter x Hunter is rebooted by Madhouse, which is a complete restart on the series with no binding ties to the first production.

2012: The Yorknew and Greed Island arcs air in their entirety (not as OVAs) for the first time. The anime also begins airing the Chimera Ant arc for the first time between either version as well.

2016: Two years after Hunter x Hunter finishes its run in Japan, the English dub begins for the show on Adult Swim’s Toonami block in May. Most of the year is the Hunter Exam and Zoldyck Family arcs.

2017: The anime finishes the Heavens Arena arc and for the first time, airs the final few episodes of Yorknew (that were OVA only in ’99 and Japanese only between both series) into English for the first time, and that brings us to now (at the time of this writing) where Greed Island is underway at last.


So over 13 years after Greed Island first made its animated debut, the arc finally getting an English dub is certainly an exciting prospect as initially stated. It will be interesting to see how key characters and interactions are handled with VA work going forward, and it will continue to serve as a slow-drip re-watch for long-time fans of the series as well. It’s also going to be a pleasure to listen to the ending credit song again- REASON, which is very nice:

(Skip to 0:17).

The biggest reason to be excited however, is that this fantastic series will continue to become more accessible to Western audiences who don’t follow subs. While I’m of the opinion that 2011’s Japanese VA work is actually excellent, a great dub always takes the cake for me if I can find one, and Hunter x Hunter has been no exception; it is well worth a look in English as it goes forward, not only for this arc, but for the four completed arcs already released (and it’s officially surpassed the released material of the 1999 dub) as well as the particular work already put in by the English cast.


Like what you see? Are you a fan of HxH and love this arc? Leave a comment!

 

Preliminary Review: Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) (post season 2)

The long anticipated second season of the show proved to be action packed and a solid continuation of the series.

The Lowdown:

Show: Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)

Studio (NA network)/ years aired: Wit Studio (Adult Swim/Toonami), 2013-

(NOTE: SPOILERS abound ahead, so skip to the grading if you want to avoid them.)

AniB’s analysis: Well, that went fast, didn’t it? After years of anticipation and waiting, the 12 episode second season of Attack on Titan ripped by in a flash, but the frenetic pace and non-stop action gave us an overall worthy continuation and adaptation in the series. I suspect season 3 will feel like the second half of a whole in regards to the current season that just concluded, but the anime still covered a great deal of ground, from the debut of the Beast Titan, to the low-key reveals of Bertoldt and Reiner as the Colossal and Armored Titans respectively, and even the slowly dawning revelations of a Titan’s origins.

It’s hard to find an exact starting point in discussing this frenetically-paced season. A good point to was the leading role Ymir emerged to take in the season, along with the increasingly interesting role of Christa, who in fact was disbarred royalty- her true identity being that of Historia, a bastard child of a royal lineage; the back-room mechanizations of the “priests” inside Wall Rose, and of course Ymir’s tragic, strange and unique backstory. The idea of Titan shifters, first brought to life in Eren and then Annie Leonhart in the form of the Female Titan, took a dominant role here- and Ymir introduced a small 5m form as opposed to the huge Shifters that existed elsewhere in the series. Her backstory was and is tragic- and in turn, her decision-making became much clearer in light of her own past and the future she saw ahead for herself.

Of course, the other huge dynamics at play were the aforementioned reveals of Reiner and Berthold as the Armored and Colossal Titans, respectively, and their own motivations for why they launched the fatal attack at the beginning of the series. This question of what drives them and their actions is pivotal in Season 2, where there’s a certain struggle for identity between the Scouts they’d become in the fight for humanity, or their actual purpose as infiltrators, meant to find “the Founding Titan” (who in fact is revealed to be Eren.) Needless to say, it brings another dynamic to the show…and between them and Ymir, there’s a lot of flashbacks to their training days in the military.

Finally, there’s the return and continuation of the Eren-Mikasa-Armin dynamic, with the latter 2 sworn to protect Eren, and the full circle completion of the events of 5 years ago in one sense, as Hannes gets involved as well. We also get to see Sasha’s (the potato girl’s) backstory and she gets a really neat episode where she rescues a single child from a Titan with nothing but her bare fists and a lot of running; and one other highly important point occurs- the mysterious origin of Titans begins to become devastatingly clear, with highly dramatic implications.

Season 3 promises to be one of high tension with plenty of story points moving forward, from Titan origins, to the continued role of the Beast Titan, and perhaps even the mysterious motives of the priests inside the walls. Finally… Dedicate Your Heart is one amazing opening song. SASAGEYO!


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime, with computer cel shading. Attack On Titan, as you might expect, looks gorgeous… which also makes the various scenes of violence and destruction much more impressive. Character models are nice, and the whole show’s atmosphere is set up largely in part because of the animation, which captures all the little details like sunlight glimmering off Scouts’ capes, or the detailed features of city carnage. 5/5 points.
Characterization: The show’s main three characters are Eren Jaeger, an impulsive, hotly determined young man with the mysterious ability to transform into a Titan, and his two running mates, Mikasa and Armin. Eren himself is best described as passionate, where he throws himself fully into whatever he does and never gives up in a seemingly hopeless situation. He’s not the most talented individual, but his resolve and drive turns him into a top cadet out of his military training class, and in some ways, makes him ideal in possessing his Titan form.

The former (Mikasa) is a girl who was fostered by Eren’s family at a young age and later serves as his protector with few words and highly impressive combat skills. She usually is all buisness in dealing with Titans and other people, but has a warm side to those who she is close to. She is considered a prodigy as a Soldier and finished at the top of the cadets in her training class.

The latter (Armin) is a kind-hearted, but somewhat unsure kid who is also a master tactician and genius. His confidence grows as the first season wears on, and continues into the next season, where he is determined to protect Eren.

The show also features many other important characters, which are worth noting in addition to the ones highlighted in my thoughts: Ervin Smith, the formidable captain of the Scouts, and his right hand man, the skilled Captain Levi, the scientist Scout Zoe Lange, and several fellow trainees of Eren’s training cadet group (who have been shown to play huge roles). Overall, the cast is varied and well done, and recieved more time with development in season 2, which was very good. 4.5/5 points.

 

Story quality: There’s a heavy story-based plot structure with over-arcing elements, which makes sense, not only from a storytelling perspective, but also a director-based one (Tetsuro Araki also did the adaptation of Death Note, another heavily story-based anime.) There are no fillers, and the action stays constant through the series so far, with occasional pauses for more emotional moments and flashbacks. It’s well done so far, but still needs more time to mature into the final result, something that remains true after 2 seasons. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: Probably the most interesting part of the show so far is its deep and intimate exploration of emotions, morality, and practicality. The characters range in their philosophies, some of which are very difficult to grasp as an audience, such as Capt. Ervin Smith’s belief that sacrifice is not a personal affair, but a necessary one for the greater good of winning a war… It’s dark, and resonant, perhaps too dark at several points, but undeniably complex. 4/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: There’s a ton of blood and guts, but the writing is excellent, and the narrative throughout the two seasons assures Titan is not just a mindless, gory mess. There’s emotional gravitas and some really solid character development, which means while there’s a lot of death and destruction, it usually has the proper emotional heft to it. Titan’s also got some amazing openings and solid endings, which is always a big plus. 4.75/5 points.

 

Total Score: 22.75/25 (91%). A dark, chilling action thriller epic, Attack on Titan is a grimly gripping narrative of humanity, morality, and other such implications. It is an experience that should only be for 17 years and older, but for those of age, and willing constitution, the spectacle is immensely gripping and the emotional impact deep. The show will probably air a 3rd season sometime in 2018.


Like what you see? Have thoughts on Attack on Titan? Leave a comment!

Review: Monster

A perfect blend of action, thriller and mystery elements makes one terrific anime.

The Lowdown:

Show: Monster

Studio(US network)/years aired: Madhouse (SyFy), 2004-2005 (USA 2009-2010)

AniB’s thoughts: The name of this show- Monster– doesn’t pop off the page as an overtly exciting concept, but as it turns out, it’s another classic case of excellent execution on a pretty great concept and as a result, is one of the best anime I’ve seen.

Packed into 75 episodes, Monster’s a mid-length experience that truly feels excellent every step of the way, expertly weaving a complex story while seamlessly transitioning from one part of the story to the next; its midpoint “finale” is incredible, only to be one-upped by the stunning conclusion, and the character development is mind-blowingly excellent. There may not be a “perfect anime,” but on many levels Monster is very close. It nails both “psychological thriller” and “mystery” genres flawlessly into one package; runs multiple plotlines parallel to the main one, seemingly disparate at times, but ultimately ties them all together in a very satisfying manner…and if that wasn’t enough, gives us one of the great villains in animation. It’s truly a monster of an experience.

What does this all mean to me beyond gushing effusive praise? It’s proof that you can find a great show if you keep looking under rocks. I was unaware of Monsters existence until occasional guest writer and friend Onamerre discovered the intro theme on a Youtube search, and suggested I watch the show based off his impression of that opening. (Goes to show you openings do in fact, have a key first impression.) It’s a show that’s the best representative of the seinen anime label if you wish to call it that- clearly intended for slightly more mature audience, but hardly edgy or contrived, like some shonens, and it’s been something that I was quite excited to write about for a while based on how much this was both an enjoyable and good experience.

One last note: It was difficult to write this piece and not spoil the whole plot. For those of you who have seen the series, you’ll understand exactly why that is, given the twists and moments of discovery in this show. For those unfamiliar with the show, know that you’re in for a treat best seen without spoilers and an expectation of being ready for anything. Perhaps the reason this show was so terrific was in part because the manga writer also spearheaded the anime- but it’s overall an excellent example of what the best of anime has to offer. Onwards to grading!


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime. The usage of the animation in this series is vital in telling the tale it wishes to convey, and as a result, it’s beautifully and hauntingly scripted. With pleasant character models, detailed settings, and meaningful imagery, Monster’s usage of the art form is sublime. 5/5 points.

 
Characterization: Featuring a diverse cast of characters, the show centers on Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese neurosurgeon, and a boy he rescues from a bullet in the head, Johan Liebert. Tenma is shown to be a rising star in the medical field in Germany (right after reunification) who has his career sidetracked by the surgery-when he decides to save the boy instead of a prominent, but corrupt politician who also needs brain surgery. To make matters worse, the boy disappears shortly afterwards from the hospital, with his attending doctors found dead…pushing into the main events of the show. Overall, Tenma is a kind person and a brilliant neurosurgeon, but his character arc is complex and riddled with difficult decisions and dangerous paths.

 

Additionally, the story features Nina Fourtiner (Anna Liebert), Johan’s sister- who is entangled in the show’s central plot and mystery as she searches for her past and the truth of the mysterious night where her brother was brought into the hospital; Detective Heinrich Lunge, a crack BKA officer and an obsessive workaholic bent on catching criminals no matter how hard or difficult the case, and Ava Heinemann, the one-time fiancee of Tenma,who becomes estranged after the events of the beginning of the show, turning into a bitter alcoholic with many regrets. Finally, there’s Dieter, a young boy who is rescued from the last vestiges of a horrific social experiment…

There’s plenty more that could said about the cast, but in the case of Monster, it would amount to one massive spoiler. Know that there are several other key characters in what proves to be a strong cast, and the character development is top notch- and you’ll be left amazed at the show’s central villain and the twists this show delves into. 5/5 points.

 
Story quality: One massive overarching plot line, with smaller arcs comprising a wholly connected story. Monster’s story is all about its characters and their different, yet similar quests all leading back to each other, tied together by a certain fateful operation.

Unfolding in smaller arcs, the pacing is steady and has no filler so to speak; every episode either focuses on plot or character development or both, and the answers to various questions are fulfilled in interesting and ultimately satisfying ways. 5/5 points.

 
Themes: There’s a heavy focus on various relationships and competing ideas of philosophies on life, and the whole question of one’s own value and the very idea of personhood and humanity. Deep and complex, Monster’s explorations of these ideas can be occasionally disturbing, but on the whole, brilliant and in line with the sort of expectations it sets. 4.5/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: Brilliantly paced and deeply compelling, Monster is a masterpiece in the genre with its writing, with maybe the occasional hard to watch moment….which really adds to the dramatic tension in this case. It’s a show that stays vibrantly packed to the brim with flowing action and plot progression, different locales and a excellent sense of pacing. Finally…the opening theme is perfect for this show- haunting, serious and just terrific.  5/5 points.

 

Total Score: 24.5/25 (98%). Brilliantly adapted and deeply complex, Naomi Urusawa’s Monster is a hidden masterpiece that is relatively unknown outside anime circles. Due to its incomplete airing on the SyFy network, a US station not traditionally known for animation, it has flown under the radar as one of the 2000’s best shows. It’s a must watch for animation fans and a solid recommendation even to others based on its strong mystery, psychological and thriller elements.


Like what you see? Know about Monster? Leave a comment below!

 

First Impressions: My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia)

Hello long-awaiting readers,

It has been a while since I posted something, but I’ve not been simply twiddling my thumbs, and so my star summer anime project has turned out to be finally watching what’s been released so far of My Hero Academia. Consider this a very strong impression, indeed…PLUS ULTRA!

If you’re a fan of anime or have been following anything at all the past year or so, the biggest show outside of the long-awaited Season 2 return of Attack on Titan was this one- My Hero Academia, often referred to by its Japanese name, Boku no Hero Academia, or BnHA for short. The bottom line here is simple from yours truly: it’s becoming the next big shonen to erupt in the popular conscience…and it’s really, really good.

For those who don’t know (like myself before watching), it’s a show about a version of Earth in which superpowers- known as “quirks” in the BnHA universe- manifest and become commonplace, so much so that society itself becomes the stuff of comics, and regular humans with no such abilities dwindle to a mere 20% of the population. In turn, there’s heroes and villains- and becoming a hero has become a highly sought after and revered position in society. For the main character- a quirkless boy named Izuku Midoriya- this is his dream, though his status as a normal kid makes him a big dreamer and fanboy of the actual pros but not much else.

As fate would have it, it all changes with a fated encounter where Midoriya is rescued by his childhood hero, who also happens to be the world’s symbol of peace- All Might….and it takes off from there.

While I normally don’t like summarizing the beginnings of plots at all, these sort of initial impressions are almost difficult to do without them since in my excitement, I’ve caught up to the current run of the show. I’ll also mention that BnHA is being simulcast online via Funimation. But to get to the meat of what really is at stake here: this is a show absolutely worth watching for a number of reasons:

-The characters: Just from watching many shows and writing many reviews, there’s a premium to be placed on character development and a great cast, and this show delivers, big time. Midoriya is a delightful protagonist, and the rest of the main and supporting cast is diverse and interesting, with distinct personalities– a must in a show that features the superhero genre.

-The animation: The studio doing the show is Bones- and if you know anything about them, they’re the folks behind Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (which I gave a glowing review of.) The action sequences are richly detailed and vibrant, the colors pop, and everything is just so lively.

-The soundtrack: There’s some really catchy tunes and appropriate music that enhances this show exponentially. The theme songs in particular are real winners. Here’s a taste.

-Faithful manga adaptation: While I’m not really so much of a stickler about the exact 1:1 accuracy of manga adaptations, this show’s really faithful. It also doesn’t have filler, which is a huge plus in my book.

-Themes: Strong, straightforward themes are given a new lift and weight by the other strong story and character elements…plus, there’s some very real issues that occur aside from the tropes you’d expect in a show of this style.

 

I’ve completely fallen in love so far with My Hero Academia, and while I’m not doing a graded analysis today (given this is an impressions piece), I will give a 2-season preliminary review once the second half of the current season finishes its run. The show’s well worth a look as both a summer treat and for viewing purposes in general, and while I could say much more that is specific to the show, I’d like others to experience it too without spoilers. Find out what it truly means to be a hero and go beyond…


Like what you see here? Love My Hero Academia or has your interest been piqued? Leave a comment!

Guest Review: Fairy Tail (Episodes 1-48)

Hey everyone,

This review features the return of Onamerre to AniB Productions, and this time, he’s compiling his thoughts in an ongoing review of the anime Fairy Tail. Note again that his thoughts are completely and entirely his…and he’s glad to receive useful feedback and insightful comments.


Author’s Note:
I have only watched the first 48 episodes, or what Funimation had deemed to be the first season of the show. There are over 270+ episodes and normally I would skip the filler, however, the show rarely has it up to now, and has quickly started up a new arc immediately after the conclusion of the previous one. I have decided to mark this show as a continual review, meaning once I have time, I will go through season by season and issue my reviews as if it were still being released. I have no problem watching anime with 100 or so more episodes, but over 200? To be watched consecutively? I have to give it a break to avoid being burned out, or else watching the show would feel like a chore. Please make sure to read my conclusion notes at the end for my overall opinion on the show. Now, I just have one question to ask. ARE YOU GUYS READY FOR MORE FAIRY TAIL?!?!?!?! (But seriously, read till the end please. Also, SPOILER WARNING!!!)


Animation: Fairy Tail was like a lot of other shows at the turn of the decade in which they started to experiment with CGI backgrounds and 2D computer aid. This show decided to use the CGI on the effects of the spells being cast. Everything else was hand drawn in a computer, including the backgrounds, and it shows. By that, I mean a lot of the time, the backgrounds don’t look good. Sure, there are times of awe, but only until critical plot events are in play do we see that happen. (That’s the main appeal of the show’s animation.) It’s a series of deep valleys, and breath-taking peaks…When those peaks arrive, the show shines. Conversely, the valleys aren’t super awful, but wow, is it noticeable. 4.0/5.0 points.

Characters: By far and away, the strongest part of the show. Every character, minor or major, has been given their deserved moment in the spotlight relative to their importance to the plot. (I will be avoiding some characters this time as I’ve only seen the first 48 episodes.) So for now, I’m focusing on the core characters of Fairy Tail.
Natsu Dragneel, AKA: Salamander, Fairy Tail’s Dragon Slayer: The star of the show, Natsu is often hot tempered and incredibly impatient. Makes sense as he was raised by a literal dragon named Igneel. He possesses incredible power within him, however, his flaw is that he gets motion sickness too easily. He is EXTREMELY protective of his friends and other members of the Fairy Tail guild. He often decides to deal with a problem by blowing stuff up first, and asking questions later. A fun character to watch, but easily annoying if not written right.

 

Gray Fullbuster, AKA Flasher: Unsurprisingly, the character that is supposed to be the fan service to the female viewers. Possessing dark spikey hair and an extremely toned muscular body, Gray is the guild’s ice mage. To quote the narrator of the show, “he has habit of losing his clothes.” While this would automatically take away points from the DITV (don’t insult the viewer) category, the origin as to why he takes off his clothes is interesting, and still weird. As we learn in the Galuna Island Arc, his town was wiped out by a demon, and he was the sole survivor. He then gets taken under the wing of a very powerful ice wizard. The preparation included stripping down as a way for the body to become numb to the cold to better focus on casting the magic. We see Gray get stronger as the show continues, and a feature I really like about Gray is that he sustains wounds during the Galuna Island Arc, and for the rest of the series, he has a scar over his left eye brow as a result.

 
Lucy Heartfilia: The show’s secondary narrator. She is a celestial wizard, meaning she can summon celestial beings that she has worked out a contract with to help her in battle. She is extremely caring of nearly everyone she meets who’s friendly to her, but furiously full of rage upon being annoyed. It turns out, Lucy is a runaway from her home as she is the heiress to the Heartfilia railway empire, and as such, makes sure that her surname isn’t publicly known. This situation is the catalyst for the Phantom Lord Guild Arc. There is a rather humorous gag involving her home. Every time she enters, there is someone from the guild in her house. It’s actually kinda funny. Her weakness though is that she is SUPER emotionally attached to almost every situation she encounters. But, she does find the strength to overcome most obstacles.

 
Erza Scarlett, AKA: Titania: The mother bear of the show. An extremely strong wizard who guides the other characters with an iron will. What makes her interesting is the vast array of armor she can equip. Unlike how Gray is comfortable wearing nothing, Erza is comfortable in her heavy armor. She doesn’t mind at all who sees her with or without clothes, but, her armor literally and figuratively protects her heart as she endured an awful childhood that made her the wizard she is today. An incredibly powerful wizard who is the odds on favorite to become the next master of the guild.

 
Makarov: The master of the guild. The most powerful wizard of the guild and father figure to everyone in it. Short in stature, but the size of his heart for everyone in the guild makes up for it. He knows that his time at the helm is winding down, but he lives everyday like it was to be his last. He also has the sole power to welcome in and expel members of the guild.
Happy: The adorable kitty cat that was hatched from an egg that Natsu brought back when he was younger. The joy he brought the guild when the egg hatched is how earned his name sake. Often joined at the hip with Natsu, over the course of the series, we see him slowly become closer with Lucy. FIERCLY loyal to the guild and its members, while not currently possessing and strong fighting capabilities, his iron heart makes up for it.
There are others that I will get to, but for now, a well-rounded cast of interesting characters that I cannot wait to encounter and talk about.  5.0/5.0 points.

Story quality: An extremely entrapping world inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien with the adventures one might expect. The show has a strong continuity with little to no filter. Each episode has Happy do the voice over with the name of the episode. Pay very close attention to when the voice over is NOT done by Happy, as that signifies either the end of an Arc, who is at the center of the Arc, or the start of a new Arc. The main arcs in the first season are The Death Flute Arc, Galuna Island (Gray’s origin), Phantom Lord (Lucy’s background), The Tower of Heaven (Erza’s origin), and finally, The Battle of Fairy Tale (Civil War). So far, so good. I’ll just say this, the character twist at the end of the season involving the grandson of Makarov knocked me on my ass. I did not see what happened coming. 4.75/5.0 points.

Themes: The Guild Comes First. Pretty self explanatory here. Every decision made, no matter how small, will affect the guild in the long run. Family. The best theme of the show and my god is it brilliant. All of the humans of the core group, with the exception of Makarov, had a brutal childhood. Natsu’s dragon abandoned him, Gray’s family and early friends were killed, Erza’s parents are believed to have died young too, and Lucy’s father is severely over controlling of her. The beauty here is that, while they have no blooded family left in contact with them, they make their own with their friendship. Makarov is the father, Erza is the mother, Gray is the eldest, Natsu is the middle child, Lucy is the little sister, and Happy is the family cat. They fight, cry, and eat like a family. 4.5/5.0 points.

Don’t Insult The Viewer: There is the common trope of the overly strong female trying to show that she can handle herself, but that gets a slight pass as it is well explained in the show. One aspect I picked up is that the characters are powerful when the plot calls for them to be with common tactic of “The true power within them” coming into play a lot during the show. I also mentioned nudity before. Gray’s use is more of a comedic effect. Most of the time, you do end up rolling your eyes. Rarely do you ever get a decent chuckle. For the others, its tasteful and actually makes sense. 4.0/5.0 points.

 

Final Grade (So far): 22.25/25.0 (89%). This was not what I was expecting here. A very well written show with a great cast of characters that will no doubt get larger and better with more conflicts that will come. One other aspect that I love about this show is the fuckin’ soundtrack! My god in heaven the soundtrack! Quite possibly the best soundtrack for an anime I’ve heard this decade. Celtic orchestral sounds with heavy metal guitar and drums is practically sex for the ears (if you like metal that is). I HIGHLY recommend a watch through and please, for the love of all things holy, check out the soundtrack. Here’s a sample to whet your appetite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Oh1jIa8_xU&list=LLPVA5o2996reCbE8l5V3nZA&index=14 Trust me, it only gets better.


Like Mr. Onamerre’s spicy thoughts on Fairy Tail? Leave a comment!

Review: Kill la Kill

Flashy, frenetic anime can be fun, but ultimately misses the mark by a bit.

The Lowdown:

Show: Kill la Kill

Studio (NA distributor)/ years aired: Gainax (Adult Swim-Toonami), 2013-2014

AniB’s thoughts: I’ve been sitting on doing a review of Kill la Kill for a little while, partially because there’s been other priorities to attend to, but also because I wasn’t sure how to put this eloquently to the people that like the show, or those who haven’t seen it yet, or maybe were patiently waiting for me to get around to it: Kill la Kill is overrated.

Yes, the show features a terrific soundtrack and came from the same people who did Gurren Lagann and once upon a time, Evangelion, and yes, it has the same kind of frenetic action you’d expect from a mecha anime in one that actually isn’t, but for me at least, the dynamics of the show were just… off.

It starts with the premise. I’m perfectly willing to accept “over the top” in anime, but this show in particular makes it part of its very fabric. It’s a potpourri of “high school meets Michael Bay action sequences meets convoluted premise” and while many people have reveled in that regarding Kill la Kill, it just never meshed with me. It didn’t find the same emotional thrust mixed with satisfaction as Gurren Lagann did (and which actually occupied a far grander scope, all things considered)…and then, there was the fanservice.

Oh, the fanservice. I’ve yet to write a treatise on fanservice in animation, but the vast majority of the time (about 95-98% in my rough mental estimation), it’s pointless, adds nothing to the story, cheapens the characters, and gives me a vaguely uncomfortable feeling about what I’m actually viewing. Kill la Kill, for all intensive purposes, is an ecchi anime, of which I suspect precious few will pop up in my review choices, and with good reason- it’s teasing nudity the whole way. I’m not into that. And this is the fundamental difference between something like Kill la Kill and the aforementioned Gurren Lagann, in which there’s one cringy comedic bathhouse episode early in the series along with occasionally playful teasing in the latter, while this entire series makes a point to expose its characters…and the main conflict involves clothing…or a lack thereof.

So does this mean Kill la Kill is a “bad show?” I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it’s not the masterwork some play it up to be, and it certainly has found a legion of anime fans that sing its praises. It also features some pretty amazing fight sequences (especially if you can get past the fan-servicing bit); the characters receive some pretty great development through the show (the central character conflict is actually compelling), and Ryuko Matoi is a strong, solid protagonist. (Cool fact- the character’s English VA plays Gon Freecss in the dub of HxH 2011.) Overall, I’d say one’s reception of Kill la Kill is dependent on one’s tastes. To that end, I’ve attempted to evaluate the show with a balanced hand noting the show’s perceived weaknesses against its strengths.


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime. Good looking anime that accentuated some things best left unseen, though the battles are spectacular. Character models are standard enough, tend to accentuate women’s breasts a bit though, and there are some truly spectacular settings illustrated as well. The use to make the obvious fan service look good however…not so much. 3.5/5 points.

 
Characterization: The series focuses on the story of Ryuko Matoi, a girl searching for the answers of her father’s murder who comes upon the main location of the show, Honnouji Academy.

Armed with a giant scissor blade, Ryuko’s a bit of a rough and tumble character, which come at odds when she discovers her sentient battle outfit, Senketsu (pronounced sen-ketz), transforms her into a very revealing outfit that also grants her great power. Because Senketsu is made 100% out of a special material called “life fiber,” it (rather he) has a life and personality of his own, although only Ryuko can hear him.

While at the academy, Ryuoko stays with and befriends Mako Mankanshoku (and her eccentric family). Bright and airheaded to a t, she often serves as the calming presence to Ryuko’s fierceness and determination, and has a good heart and a stubborn will…She’s also the main source of comic relief through the show, a role she excels at.

Opposing Ryuoko through most of the show is Honnouji’s fierce student body president, the formidable Satsuki Kiryuin. Armed with a will stronger than steel and a blade to match, she rules Honnouji in a way that it is much more a military base than really a school… She is flanked by her “Elite 4” (no, not Pokemon)- Ira Gamagoori, a massive man with a personality to match who serves as head of discipline; Uzu Sanageyama, a one-time street boss turned loyal swordsman; Nonon Jakuzure, the only girl and a friend of Satsuma since they were children, and also a music nut; and Houka Inumuta, her information specialists and tech systems guy.

Also to be noted among an extensive supporting cast is Raygo Kiyuin, the mother of Satsuki and head of the REVOC Corporation, a clothing line that has almost monopolized the whole world… Overall, these are actually pretty good characters for the most part with some strange elements and stereotypical tropes; the supporting cast on the whole is okay. 4/5 points.

 
Story quality: Overarching story. While the tale moves at a great pace (and one particular episode deals with the dreaded recap episode in the best way possible), there are other flaws inherently present. Mostly, this is because the storyline of Kill la Kill might be the most convoluted albeit complicated arc out there… (spoilers:)

Life fibers, the threads that form Senketsu, and give clothes known as Goku Uniforms their power, are in fact apparently a sentient alien parasite that devours its victims and destroys planets. Seriously, I can’t make that up if I tried. Raygo Kiryuin, the big bad, tries to co-opt this scheme of destruction while the subtext of Ryuko vs Satsuki plays out, the two eventually coming to a head… the paramilitary organization is literally a group called Nudist Beach (they eschew clothes…) and most adults in this series seem fairly useless. There is some strong emotion built into the plot as well as some decent plot twists, but overall, the end product is both somewhat entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time. 2.75/5 points.

 
Themes: Family struggles, friends, and some other self-discovery stuff. For Ryuko, it’s about forging her path against the path of someone like Satsuski, and so ideologies clash, literally exposed with bare ambition. Honestly, this show isn’t the strongest on themes, but it’s passable considering everything. 3.25/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: Fanservice. This is the single biggest issue with Kill la Kill, and it’s obvious how intentional that decision was with characters even commenting on it in universe. One one hand, it sorta works because there’s an in-universe explanation, but… if you’re not into nudity (or very skimpy outfits), I’d stay far away (and frankly, i don’t condone it in the slightest). There’s also a fair bit of blood in some scenes, and to that end, you have been warned. 2.5/5 points.

 

Total Score: 16/25 (64%). A bizarre mix of different anime tropes with more than a little fanservice, Kill la Kill is unique…sometimes in the (very) cringeworthy sense, and other times in interesting, unique, and even very funny ways. I wouldn’t personally recommend this to anyone under 18, but depending on your tastes, it is potentially worth a watch.


Like what you see? Have something to say about Kill la Kill? Leave a comment!