Kakumeiki Valvrave

valvrave

Earth and it’s colonies which extend as far as the moon are divided into essentially three groups: ARUS, a republic based on the Western ideals of liberty and justice; Dorssia, an authoritarian government with a strong focus on having a military to stand up to ARUS; and those that are unaligned, primarily JIOR. ARUS and Dorssia are currently in conflict in what isn’t quite a cold war but has not descended into total war quite yet.

Haruto Tokishima is a student at the boarding school Sakimori Academy on a JIOR orbital colony, not caring much for the war, and worrying more about his friends and his childhood friend that he wants to confess to. However, he’s is thrown into the fight when Dorssia invades them, killing many in the process. Haruto, thinking this his closest friend has been killed, ends up jumping into a strange mech, the Valvrave, hoping for revenge, however, the mech turns out to be stranger than he expected, and far more powerful than anything that Dorssia has, leading to him successfully fending them off. However, the mech has strange effects on him. When an invading Dorrsia special operations soldier, L-elf, tries to kill him as he gets off the Valvrave, it turns out that he has changed tremendously, to the point that he may no longer be human. Meanwhile, JIOR falls completely, and a number of political complications with ASUS arise, ultimately resulting in the school cell of the colony separating from the main colony, and declaring its independence as its own nation. Furthermore, L-Elf defects to them as well, with his own goal of bringing about a revolution, and they are forced to accept them into their ranks due to him being a strategic and tactical genius. Hence, under assault from Dorssia, the students of Sakimori Academy plot out their own future.

***

Like Code Geass and Aldnoah, this seems to have the same dynamic of their being two somewhat opposing main characters on opposite sides of a conflict with abilities such as being great mech pilots and tactical geniuses distributed among them. However, it differs in that it abruptly changes to them being on the same side. And then it continues changing abruptly continuously throughout. Its changes direction and tone constantly throughout the series, never really honing in on any point, and just haphazardly touching on random events without any sort of structure or any logical pacing. For example, it seems to go through a tremendous number of anime cliches in quick fire succession at the start, to the point that it isn’t clear whether its being serious or is downright parody. As another example, there are a couple romance subplots with Haruto, but none of them ever reach anything close to a conclusion. It’s completely and utterly ridiculous, as is Haruto’s character in general, and all the characters actually. There’s a very interesting cast of characters in this, many of them falling into tropes, but still having some resemblance of originality, but the issue is that despite that, none of them are likable at all. The only characters I can say I liked even a little are L-Elf and Saki, but even with them I was tremendously disappointed. This may actually be because there is such a large set of characters, to the point that none are focused on enough, and the development of relationships between them follows no rhyme or reason. That combined with what seems like a plot they were trying to forcibly push through, despite it not making any sense at all for characters to behave in such ways results in most characters being inconsistent train wrecks as the show pushes past the first half. Another issue is the constant tone shifts. It has completely abrupt tone shifts that just feel awkward. They don’t make you feel any more strongly about ongoing events, as abrupt tone shifts are usually intended, but rather just make you feel annoyed. And lastly there is the ending. Throughout the anime there are a number of flash forwards, showing the future. One would expect there to be some clarity regarding how they get to that future by the end of the anime. However, there absolutely is none. The ending is a mess that doesn’t clarify anything, leaves almost every subplot unresolved, and somewhat solves some of the main plots through rushed incredibly short segments. It’s not satisfying in the slightest.

Now while the plot, characters, and story of the anime leave a lot to be desired, there are some good things as well. The mech combat is really good, and the Valvraves have pretty good designs. The OPs and EDs are pretty good as well, though the soundtrack is only decent. The art and animation are also solid. The comedy isn’t that great though.

A mech anime that seems to have potential, and certainly has some good moments especially in the first season,  but that eventually falls apart under its own weight.

7/10

The first season was fine other than it left so much unresolved, but the second season completely jumps the shark and is very inconsistent with the first, especially that ending. So to split by season, first is 8/10, second is 6/10.

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Nagi no Asukara

naginoasakura

Hikari is a somewhat hotheaded boy. Manaka is a girl that generally goes along with others around her. Chisaki is a very level headed and mature girl that’s very kind. Kaname is similarly mature boy, though one that’s more distant. The four of them are childhood friends that live under the sea. The legend goes that long ago everyone lived under the sea, however, a group of people moved to the surface, and with time lost their ability to live underwater. Those that remained were known as the sea dwellers, and those that went to the surface came to be known as the surface dwellers. With time these groups came to develop a distrust for each other, and though still interacting on peaceful terms, a gap still remained between them.

The four friends are thrust into this gap when due to various circumstances they are forced to go to school on the surface. There they must face a number of issues ranging from discrimination from other students to Hikari’s sister, Akari, falling in love with a surface dweller. They also encounter a number of people that they grow close to, such as Miuna, the daughter of the man whom Akari falls in love with, or Sayu, Miuna’s best friend. But most importantly may be Tsumugu, the somewhat aloof son of a nearby fisherman, who Manaka seems to fall in love with. As a love polygon already existed in the group of childhood friends, this ends up making things even more complications and causing quite the conflict. However, before this can be properly resolved, an event occurs that tears up all of these relationships, causing all of them to confront each other in new ways, sometimes rebuilding old relationships, and sometimes building entirely new ones.

***

This anime went very different from how I expected it to. It starts out as a story featuring a simple love polygon that begins to get more complex. It also features various themes about getting along with others that are different as such in the background. This is for the most part nothing too unexpected. And that’s certainly not to say that it’s bad, rather it does a pretty good job at this, just there’s nothing surprising about any of it, and there’s a general feeling about where it’s expected to go. It goes nowhere near that however. At about the half way mark, a major event occurs, that forces a time skip essentially, but a pretty complicated one, that ends up changing the relationship dynamics entirely. And with everything reshuffled, that’s where things begin to get really interesting. It makes a lot of love related points that are very different from your standard ones, the strongest and most impactful of which is most likely that love always has value, both love that is eternal and love that changes. While doing this, it shows characters developing in incredibly interesting ways, with relationships that are just as interesting, with a fantasy story in the background that raises the stakes when necessary and leads to incredibly fast development. All of this comes to a solid ending, with a love polygon that ended up quite a bit more complicated than I expected, and that ended quite a bit differently than I thought it would, though it had me guessing to the end. I’m somewhat bitter about it though, as it seems the only character that didn’t find love was my favorite. There are some issues in that it feels somewhat forced and convoluted at times, and there are points that I felt it were moving too slowly, but overall the whole experience for lack of a better word was quite beautiful.

The designs in general are pretty good. How there were two design schemes, those underwater and those above, really added to that though, and combined with the animation results in it overall being quite eye catching. The animation was quite good. The soundtrack was great and OP/EDs were good, with all of this fitting the show very well, though I feel that there wasn’t any specific track that was exceptionally memorable.

A beautiful story of a love polygon that evolves very differently than expecting, resulting in something quite different and impactful.

8/10

Samurai Flamenco

samuraiflamenco

Hazama has always wanted to be a super hero since he was a child. Hence, while working as a model, he’s secretly been going around dressed in costume as Samurai Flamenco to fight crime and aid citizens in need, which considering that crime is low mostly amounts to stopping petty crimes. However, still being a vigilante, he ends up having a run in with the police, specifically officer Gotou, who is skeptical, but eventually comes to support him on his quest, and becomes a close friend. However, things don’t stay peaceful forever, rather things escalate tremendously quickly, and Hazama must prove that he’s worthy of being the hero Samurai Flamenco.

***

This is a show that I just couldn’t figure out. It starts off being about Hazama trying to be a super hero in a normal world that doesn’t need super heroes, but still manages to be a hero successfully because he understands that truly being a hero means an unyielding commitment to justice. But then suddenly there are supernatural elements with monsters straight out of super sentai, but Hazama manages to rise to the occasion and successfully becomes a superhero to defeat the supervillain. But then another villain shows up and Hazama is suddenly on a super squad that he manages to lead to victory once more. But then suddenly there’s a massive political conspiracy framing him and his squad, but he manages to persevere through that as well and clear his name. But then it turns out the true villain was actually aliens, who lead him into an existential crisis, but one that he gets through again through being a hero. And then suddenly he meets god and it gets incredibly meta, after which things finally seem resolved and the world goes back to how it was before, pretty peaceful. But then he suddenly gets a terrorist stalker.

It’s just everything from sentai jam packed into a 22 episode show. It’s actually surprising how much they got in, but the blisteringly fast pace was pretty cool. Still, since its throwing in every cliche and trope possible, sometimes it felt like it was a homage, and sometimes it felt like it was trying to delve into being something beyond just simple homage, more of a deconstruction, and sometimes it simply felt like satire. There was so much going on, and it was incredibly rough and messy, with rapid tone shifts and some major abrupt shifts from solid comedy to super serious melodrama. But the plot was still awesome with a tremendous amount of variety, and the characters and growth were awesome as well. That is until a certain point. There is a point in the anime where I feel the show should have ended, at around when he chooses that he doesn’t want the heroic world to continue. I feel that was a great place to end it, and was sort of surprised that it still had another arc, wondering what they would do. Ultimately, I feel that while the rest of the arcs were super messy, they still aligned themselves with a core spirit that was present throughout the show. However, this last arc felt very off and unsettling more than anything, and ultimately felt like it completely veered off what the rest of the arcs were building, making the ending an unsatisfying train wreck that diminished the value of everything the came before.

The art and animation were decent. The soundtrack was good. The OPs/EDs were decent, with the second OP being especially great, though the second ED with the marionettes was kind of creepy.

A very fast paced and rough anime that seems to be homage, evolution, and satire of super sentai, and is quite good at being so, but completely falls apart towards the end.

 

7/10

Aldnoah.Zero

aldnoahzero

Humanities first trip to the moon involved the discovery of the remnants of a lost ancient civilization, including a gateway to Mars. A longer expedition led to discovering greater ruins of that civilization on Mars, including some sort of ancient technology that bestowed its first finder with the ability to use Aldnoah, a source of endless energy, as well as bestow the ability to bestow the ability to channel Aldnoah upon others. This man uses this power to declare himself emperor of the new empire of Vers, named after the lost civilization, and bestows several ‘Knights’ with Aldnoah to act in his stead. These knights quickly create a powerful civilization on Mars, however, the existence of endless energy does little to combat the fact that very little resources exist on Mars, and though the colony had greatly grown in population, discontent had as well. The emperors sole son fearing a rebellion channels this discontent to hating Earth, which the population buys hook line and sinker, and ultimately he leads an invasion of Earth. While Aldnoah may not help with resources, it is invaluable in terms of military prowess, and at first it seems that Earth’s forces are completely and utterly outmatched, being defeated by powerful mecha’s called Cataphracts piloted by the Knights, that while few in number, are capable of defeating entire armies. However, the overuse of the Moon-Mars gate results in its implosion, taking most of the moon with it, killing the prince and causing major devastation on Earth. The Emperor declares an immediate cease fire, however, Vers’ forces don’t make the long journey back to Mars through space, but rather stay in ‘Castles’ orbiting Earth, waiting.

Fast forwarding to 15 years later, the prince’s daughter, Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia has come to befriend a ‘Terran’, Slaine Troyard, who has told her many wonderful stories about Earth, and she has decided to visit Earth as a good will ambassador. However, during said visit, a terrorist group attacks her motorcade, killing everyone involved, and sending Earth and Vers back into conflict. Compared to last time, Earth is far more prepared, making major steps in military technology and creating their own mass produced cataphracts and requiring the entire population to go through military training to use them in school. However, despite their efforts, the power gap is still incredibly evident. However, one highschooler, Inaho Kaizuka, ends up getting thrown into the conflict, and using his incredible perception and well calculated strategy manages to be a force to be reckoned with all on his own, and in many instance the only one that can truly take Vers head on, especially considering how there’s far more to the war than it seems.

***

Aldnoah Zero is a show that is incredible moment to moment. From the beginning, watching Earth fall was incredibly unsettling. There was an incredible sense of desperation to it that set the tone for the entire series. That led into the set up for Inaho, who is shown as just a kid at first, but it quickly becomes obvious that he is the most overpowered character in the show by far simply on the basis of his intellect (though he eventually gets ever more overpowered later on due to various circumstances). The action is intense and great, and when Inaho finally manages to pull off some ridiculous trick that breaks all expectation and allows him to defeat someone that he should have absolutely no ability to damage at all, it is incredibly exhilarating and satisfying. This is enhanced by the great animation, especially for mechs, and the down right exceptional soundtrack.

However, while the moment to moment story is great, the overall plot is somewhat of a mess. The background and set up are actually great, with the conflict between Earth and Vers, as well as the political themes woven throughout it. However, the plot in terms of dealing with the various characters is completely haphazard. There are a lot of reasons for this, though the most obvious would be that Slaine made less and less sense to me as the story went on, and as he became more and more important the story seemed to get more and more awkward, ultimately coming to an ending that while not horrible, resulted in a web of relations between characters that were incredibly frustrating. Now that’s not to say that I hate the guy, he definitely had a lot of great moments, but in regards to his entire character arc, I just don’t understand him. In regards to many other characters on Vers’ side, I was similarly confused about their motivations. Though I could certainly sympathize with Asseylum and Lemerina, that made how the writers chose to end their stories seem even more weak. There were what I felt were pretty strong romances there that just ground to a complete end as if they didn’t matter at all towards the ending, which was very frustrating. And while I greatly enjoyed Inaho’s character arc as well as many of the side characters, it wasn’t enough to hold up the entire plot. Especially considering the ending, while while not bad, and certainly wrapping up most everything, still left a lot to be desired. So while there is a lot of good in the plot, there are a lot of major problems that you need to put some effort into looking past.

In terms of design, it’s fantastic. There is a strong contrast between Earth and Vers that appears in everything from the character designs to the mech designs, allowing them to do very well in terms of design across a very wide range. The animation being great also helps. The soundtrack as I stated before is also incredible and fitting. The first OP I thought was fantastic, and exactly the right tone to get the viewer hyped for each episode, and the EDs were a perfect send off depending on tone. The OP/ED of the second season were decent, but definitely a step back, though the throwback to the first OP at the end was much appreciated. The tag line is cheesy but cool at the same time.

An anime that looked at in pieces is incredible in almost every aspect, with how it’s all wrapped together, especially including it’s ending, preventing it from being great.

8/10

Plastic Memories

plasticmemories

For lack of a better place to go, Tsukasa ends up working at Sion Artificial Intelligence Corporation. SAI is the only corporation in the world that creates Giftias, androids with artificial souls indistinguishable from normal humans, and hence is incredibly cutting edge and an amazing place to work… for the most part. Tsukasa ends up working for Terminal Service, a much smaller, much more relaxed, and very separated branch from the main company that deals with a certain problem. Giftias all have a common issue that SAI has been unable to solve, in that after 81,920 hours they quickly begin to lose their memories, and eventually end up going berserk. Terminal Service is a division that handles collecting Giftias before their expiration date, and essentially putting them to sleep forever, which is quite a depressing job. This is usually done in pairs, a spotter and a marksman, one human and one Giftia. Tsukasa is immediately paired with a girl named Isla, who is a veteran but somewhat clumsy at her job. However, together they work off each other and make a great team, getting incredibly close to each other in the process. However, Isla is a Giftia, and like every other Giftia, her expiration date too is approaching.

***

What should you do if you have a predetermined life span? Live life to the fullest. That was the point of this anime. It was very clear, and a solid world was created around that point. While there was obviously denial from some of the characters related to this point, it was light, and it was highly emphasized that this point was what truly matters, and hence there wasn’t any major conflict or narrative effort given to going in a different way. And hence it focused solely on honing in on that one point, which was a great decision as it ultimately it did a tremendously good job at it. There is still value to life, even if all that remains at the end is nothing, not even memories. Rather, everything matters more when you know it’s going to end.

These points were thrown out a bit more explicitly than one would expect, arguably too blatantly, but this I think actually helped out, as it gave the viewers a lens to look through focusing in on the key themes immediately, even before the plot really started moving. And in that regard, it starts moving very quickly, not dancing around the key issue of Isla being the obvious main character that this effected. Rather, it foreshadowed her purpose from the beginning and brought it to the forefront relatively quickly, developing the character relationships and plot from there. The relationship between the two was incredibly well done in that both grew tremendously, Isla especially, and in an incredibly way considering her circumstances. It gives the viewer a sense of what should be coming doom, but as it faces it head on with such sincerity, it ends up becoming something more that’s difficult to describe, with the closest explanation I can think of being the theme park metaphor given in the anime.

The anime isn’t completely sad from beginning to end as one would expect of such circumstances, it has a surprisingly large amount of comedy and light hearted moments, and even the ending isn’t purely sad. Despite everything, Isla truly grew to accept things and be happy. It was definitely one of the most emotional endings I’ve ever seen, due to how great the romance between the two key characters was and how solidly it developed them as a normal couple dealing with a difficult situation, and I certainly wouldn’t call it happy enough to considered it bittersweet, but it wasn’t completely sad either, it was something more that I am also having trouble describing.  This concluded with an epilogue that also cements that feeling and the theme of moving on, but refrains from showing key details to also keep the ending featuring Isla as the last keynote viewers remember.

There were some parts that felt out of tone, like the combat, though a bit of variety does help, and there were certainly other interesting characters with their own short plots, but overall it was a very focused plot brought to a priceless conclusion. The OP/ED and OST were great and fitting. Isla’s face varying in the OPs was an incredibly good touch in hindsight. The animation and art were solid.

A sad but beautiful anime about the value of life. 

9/10

Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai

35thplatoon

Anti-magic Academy is a school dedicated to training witch hunters, who eventually go on to join the Inquisition, which is an organization dedicated to stopping magical crimes of all types, ranging from confiscating illegal charms to stopping development of magical weapons of mass destruction. The academy is divided into platoons who perform jobs under the supervision of the academy to gain points which they need to pass.

Of these the infamous 35th Platoon is nicknamed the “Small Fry Platoon” for being incredibly incompetent at their job. It is led by a man named Kusanagi, who is incredibly competent with a sword and is in love with the sword art to the point he refuses to use any other weapon and is aggressive against those that insult it. Unfortunately for him, swords really aren’t that useful when dealing with magic. There is also Saionji, a girl who’s a pretty decent sniper but gets nervous and makes really dumb mistakes very easily. And lastly there’s Suginami, who is an incredibly competent mechanic and scientist, but is somewhat lazy and often makes ridiculous modifications that end up causing issues. As expected of such a group, they are very low in points.

However, that begins to change when Ootori, who is an Inquisitor prodigy chosen by the sacred sentient weapon Relic Eater Vlad, but was demoted and sent back to the academy for killing a witch unnecessarily and was then put into the 35th Platoon. Soon afterwards, Kusanagi is also chosen by a Relic Eater, specifically Lapis. And then the platoon is also chosen to be a pilot for a program where reformed witches can become inquisitors, with the first entrant being a girl named Nikaidou. Hence, the platoon changes tremendously, and due to the backgrounds of their members is put in a number of situations that forces them to strengthen their bonds and adapt to survive, to which they managed to rise to the challenge.

***

The structure of the plot involves going through an arc for each character which involves delving into their background, them growing as characters, and them strengthening their bonds with the rest of the platoon. While there is obviously carry over from arc to arc, they are also very separate from each other and focus almost entirely on the main character in question. This makes the entire show feel like a set up for a main plot to follow afterwards, which leaves something to be desired but is understandable given the episode constraints and that the show was actually paced incredibly well as a set up. Most of the arcs felt somewhat generic. There’s definitely character growth and development, but they went in pretty predictable directions in terms of what would be expected to flesh out the characters, and hence while they were all pretty good for what they were, there wasn’t that much intensity to them. The exception to that is the last arc, where it was a lot more unexpected in how they would handle the resolution , and while ultimately they chose the cheapest option, they did a good job of justifying it, and that doesn’t change how intense the lead up was, and hence it was a fantastic finale to end on.

In terms of art and animation it was solid though not exceptional. The soundtrack was decent. The OP/ED were OK. I would however like to note that the transitions to the OP/ED were handled incredibly well, for episode 7 in particular. The comedy was also pretty amusing and fitting and kept things lighthearted, though not the focus.

A show that sequentially sets up a set of interesting characters to a strong degree, but doesn’t do much beyond that.

8/10

Also, it seems the novel series is finished and the fan translation for the novels is almost done as well. Woohoo! Definitely looking forward to reading it.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider

subetegaf

Genius Shiki Magata has been living essentially as a prisoner on an isolated island for over 15 years after she killed her parents as a young girl, but was given a special punishment on the basis of insanity, and has continued performing research since then. Souhei Saikawa, a very indrawn but genius professor, strongly wishes to meet her, and one of his students, a rich, smart, and energetic but still somewhat cynical girl named Moe Nishinosono who has a crush on him, ends up using her connections to help him get in. However, as soon as they arrive, a murder mystery immediately begins, with them in the middle of it.

***

The Perfect Insider is a mystery anime, but rather than one that’s episodic with maybe some sort of overarching plot, there’s a single mystery from beginning to end that gets developed in great detail, which is rare as far as I know. It goes somewhat slowly at times but overall it worked out very well. Part of the reason for this is that the mystery itself is a very good one with a pretty large number of twists. However, everyone of them gets slowly developed, so none of them seem ridiculous, and for lack of another way of saying it, they all seemed fair. Some of the twists are incredibly intense. Some of them are hilarious, such as the last twist where I laughed harder than Souhei. The other reason it doesn’t get slow is the strong development of the main characters Souhei, Moe, and Magata. Magata is incredible with an incredibly unique outlook that slowly gets developed, alongside a background on what led to it. The relationship between Souhei and Moe is interesting as well due to how different their personalities are, and there’s almost as much of an interest in seeing how that develops as the resolution to the mystery. Hence, while there are a lot of slow moments, due to the strong development of the mystery and relationships between characters throughout, overall it feels paced very well.

In terms of art and animation it was solid and fit the work. The soundtrack was also decent. The OP and ED both had pretty good music, and the OP especially had a really good visual. In terms of voice acting the English portions were pretty terrible and awkward, but overall it was fine.

A single mystery that’s somewhat slow in being unfolded, but one that’s very well developed and involves a very interesting set of characters.

8/10