Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (Dusk Maiden of Amnesia)

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Teiichi goes to Seikyou Academy, which due to various reconstruction and expansions, has become a maze with half of the building being somewhat old and decrepit. While wandering through this portion, having no idea where he is, he ends up going into a room rumored to be haunted, where he discovers a girl named Yuuko. He ends up following her around for a bit, and quickly discovers that no one else can see her, and that she’s actually a ghost that died under the school 60 years ago. However, she doesn’t remember anything about how she died, or why she doesn’t seem to be able to pass on. Hence, she enlists Teiichi, the only other person who can somehow see her it seems, to help her. Hence, with her as President, she starts the Paranormal Investigation club, where they investigate that various ghost stories and such surrounding the school, hoping to find clues about her past. Along the way, they pick up the new members Kirie, a girl with a very strong spiritual sense and competitive spirit, and Momoe, a cheerful energetic girl with a passion for the supernatural. They solve the mysteries surrounding the school, slowly getting closer to the truth regarding Yuuko’s past, but how she died and why she doesn’t remember any of it turn out to be quite complex and unfortunately grim.

***

This anime is a combination of horror and romance that has some really dark moments but I would overall consider pretty happy, even having a decent amount of comedy.  It’s actually kind of strange in a way that it works, but surprisingly it really does and works tremendously well. To some degree it has a structure that’s pretty standard with a club of friends doing random things, but as these things involve ghost stories, those things can get quite dark, especially in regards to Yuuko’s past. However, to some degree, because most everything horrific or dark is already past, it allows it to focus on the moving forward aspect, which prevents things from getting too terrifying or depressing. The overall plot is quite well executed, and while the first half mostly feels like filler, when things escalate, which happens rather quickly, it turns out that everything is connected, which is very well done. At this point, it takes the character development and relationship development that had been happening with Teiichi and Yuuko, and quite well I should add, and brings it to the forefront, using that as the base for ultimately bringing the plot to a tremendously solid conclusion. To some degree, it seems like a cop out in that it built up to something quite well that never happens, but to be frank, I feel that the fake out was so well executed in that it unapologetically just flipped the script that I thought it made what was going to be a decent but bittersweet ending just downright amazing. There is also some character development with Kirie, though I thought it was somewhat lacking, though it was probably for the best to keep the focus on Teiichi and Yuuko. Momoe didn’t really have any character development at all as far as I can remember. But really, the character development in Teiichi and Yuuko and the relationship that arose alongside it was more than enough to sustain the show. I also appreciated the epilogue OVA, as it was actually one of my favorite types, in that it just showed them continuing to live on normally. Plus it was tremendously funny, more so than any episode in the main show I’d say.

The art style was very different from normal, but fit the show really well and hence I consider really good. I also liked the character designs. The animation was also solid, with some shots looking really great. The soundtrack was also really good, and the insert song was used really well. The OP/ED are decent but also fit very well, and the subtle change in the ED I thought was a great touch.

A interesting blend of romance, comedy, and horror that while not that scary still manages to do really well in terms of atmosphere, has some really solid comedy, and a great plot help up by an incredibly good romance.

10/10

Looking forward to watching the anime at some point.

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Magi: Sinbad no Bouken (Magi: Adventure of Sinbad)

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A large tower, known as a dungeon, mysteriously appears between the two warring nations of Reim and Parthevia. The tower is supposed to have a mysterious power deep inside, a power great enough to give it’s holder an advantage in the war. Hence, Pathevia throws thousands of soldiers into it. However, none of them make it out. However, Pathevia continues to pursue this power despite the cost in life, implementing a draft for more soldiers to take on the dungeon. One such draftee is Sinbad. And enter the dungeon he does. However, not with the goal of obtaining the power to give to Pathevia. He’d become disillusioned with Parthevia and it’s constant pursuit of war at the expense of its citizens long ago. Instead, his goal is to change the world to one without war, which requires obtaining an ability powerful enough to create a country.

***

This is a spin-off prequel of Magi focusing on Sinbad’s journey to establish Sindria. This primarily involves him growing in strength as he captures dungeons, and also involves him establishing relationships with various other nations, consequently obtaining his generals. Sinbad is one of the most amazing characters in the Magi series, so seeing a spin off featuring him is pretty amazing. He’s an incredibly smooth character with an incredibly powerful will and the ability to carry it through. Hence, him establishing relations with others is also quite interesting. However, the structure of this series is kind of strange, having sudden time skips and such, which combined with its short length, results in there not being much time for actually showing relationship or character development between Sinbad and his allies on screen, especially as compared to the trio in Magi. Now the rushed pace wasn’t completely a bad thing though, as it helped keep things moving relatively fast. Also, while there was an overarching goal, it wasn’t entirely omnipresent, with most of the stories only feeling semi-related to it. Hence, while the ending did wrap up the current plot threads, it felt like there wasn’t that much progress, though the ending did do a tremendously good job of setting up another season.

Though there was also the issue in that overall as a series it felt lower budget compared to the main series, with lots of repeated footage and though animation quality was about the same, the designs weren’t as good. It also felt like the balance between the serious moments and the laid back comedic moments wasn’t as good. The action was pretty good, though it escalated tremendously quickly and wasn’t explained that well, so I feel like it expected viewing Magi as a pre-requisite. The soundtrack was pretty good. The OP/ED were decent, but not as good as Magi.

A spin-off of Magi featuring Sinbad, which while pretty good and focused on an amazing character, ultimately doesn’t rise above being a simple spin off.

8/10

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

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Sindria is doing quite well in the aftermath of Al-Thamen’s attack, with Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana, and Hakuryuu all content. However, the time comes for all of them to go on their own journeys. Aladdin upon hearing about Magnostadt, the country of magicians, and how it discriminates against non-magicians from Dunya, believes he must go there to prevent a tragedy from occurring, while also feeling it necessary to go to the magician school there to hone his skills as a Magi. Alibaba is still unable to do a full Djinn equip, which Sinbad believes to be due to some irregularities with his magoi, and hence advises him to travel to the coliseum in the Empire of Rein in order to find a way around it. Morgiana decides to return to her homeland, so that she can see it for what it is and return to her friends feeling free of such ties. Hakuryuu and Kougyoku return to the Ren empire, where the politics seem to be getting quite complex, with Hakuryuu having something he must do, no matter how far into depravity he must fall to do so. They go their separate ways, making new friends and allies in the process. However, Al-Thamen hasn’t been sitting still, setting a grand plan into motion, involving the beginnings of a war that could ravage the continent and kill all life, just as it did long ago.

***

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic is a direct successor to the first season of Magi, The Labyrinth of Magic. However, where it ends up is quite a bit different from where the first season began. As the first season approaches it’s end, it seems to be drifting in a new direction, and the second season fully capitalizes on that and I think does a much better job of reaching it’s true potential.

One of they key ways it does that is by kicking everything up a notch. The first place this is tremendously evident in is the combat, which is far better develop than the first season with far more depth to it, and with all characters involved being tremendously more powerful. This results in battles that are a lot more exciting and quite a bit more flashy. Another place is evident is in the overarching plot. In the previous season, while Al-Thamen was shown as trying to create chaos and other issues, it was mostly constrained to single cities and such. However, here the scale is tremendously larger, in that it involves the entire world, with all the major factions of the world being at each others throats with the possibility of war breaking out at any second, and a large amount of political maneuvers of a similar scale being done in the background. Watching the different cultures and ideologies of the different nations along with their respective larger than life characters clashing and ultimately leading to conflict was well developed. Ultimately, everyone on all sides of the war felt well developed with no real good or bad guys so to speak. Each with their own flaws, sometimes major, but all being cool in their own ways, especially Mogamett, who was an awful person in many ways before his redemption, but despite that he was still quite easy to sympathize with. However, speaking of villains, on top of the more complex villain like figures, there is something much larger and important than them, in that Al-Thamen is rooted in something more ancient and powerful than anything that exists on that planet. All of this leads to the character motivations also feeling like they’re operating at a higher level but I still felt I could really get invested in them. I felt how the main cast separated a bit awkward, but once they went on their respective journeys and how they ultimately found their way back to each other was incredibly well done, with everything from the beginning slowly building up to the ending. Having them separate allowed each one to better be developed on their own, and also allowed for things to move quite fast in terms of where they end up by switching perspectives when necessary, which can often be misused and result in the viewer feeling like they’re missing something, but was handled quite well here. Hakuryuu got developed the most I would say, being given quite a bit of more backstory, character development, and set up to take a far larger role in the plot, though his immediate role in this season was somewhat muted. There was some awkwardness with the love triangle with Morgiana and Hakuryuu , though thankfully it was very short lived. Sinbad continued to stand out quite well, being further developed as a manipulator, though one doing so for the good of his country, in a very Machiavellian sort of way. And of course Aladdin and Sinbad and they’re friendship was still amazing. The largest issue I had with the season was it’s pacing, which felt quite slow towards both the beginning and especially the end, wherein the final battle took far too many episodes of futility with it ultimately being resolved in an unrelated way. The ending was still good though, in that it set up the next season tremendously well, though who knows when that’ll happen, and was tremendously satisfying on its own, though a bit convoluted.

The art in this got even better than the previous season, with a great variety in amazing designs, especially character designs, and pretty good animation. The soundtrack was good in the first season as well, but here it stood out quite a bit more, with Al-Thamen and Sinbad’s themes being of especial note. The OPs in the first season were better than the second, though these are still decent, with the 1st ED being decent like the first season, though the second ED was the best ED so far. I also greatly enjoyed the comedy and more lighthearted moments.

A direct continuation that continues down the path of the first with better action, a more intricate plot, and a lot of character development, all combined with great art and atmosphere.

9/10

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

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A number of magical buildings suddenly appeared all over the world. These ‘dungeons’ as they came known to be called, each had a magical artifact linked to Djinn and numerous riches for those that could obtain them. However, most that entered would find only their deaths. However, that didn’t keep people from dreaming of conquering these dungeons. One such dreamer is Alibaba, a poor man who dreams of completing a dungeon, and using it’s riches to buy a country. However, he doesn’t have the will nor the power to enter the dungeon. Hence, he continues his role as a petty servant. But one day, he encounters Aladdin, a mysterious boy that is incredibly powerful. He befriends him, and together they tackle their nearby dungeon, and begin a massive adventure spanning continents.

Things are quite a bit more complicated than they seem though. Aladdin despite being a young boy and knowing nothing of himself or the world, is a Magi, a tremendously powerful mage that have been known to be king makers, and by completing a dungeon with Alibaba he’s chosen him as his king candidate. That puts both of them in line for a direct confrontation with Al-Thamen, a secretive organization that seems dedicated to the sole goal of spreading death, hatred, and destruction, having their own powerful magi supporting them, Judar and with the powerful empire of Kou strongly under their influence. And furthermore, Alibaba also has to deal with a very strong commitment to his own home country, which seems to be being pushed by Al-Thamen onto the path to ruin. However, Alibaba and Aladdin aren’t alone, making numerous friends that support them. Most noticeably, Morgiana, a slave from the dark continent, that is freed by Alibaba, and comes to follow him to repay her debt, and Sinbad, a mysteriously powerful dungeon clearer having cleared a number of dungeons without Magi support, who rules over the country of Sindria with his eight powerful generals. Hence, Alibaba, Aladdin, and those that support them must weave through politics and magic in order to continue their fight towards moving forward.

***

At first look this seemed like a battle anime, but as it went on it turned out that really wasn’t the focus. There’s a good amount of action, but there’s just as much if not more centered around politics, social structures, and the philosophies. It is quite interesting to have a shounen where the villain rather than trying to simply overpower the heroes, comes up with elaborate plots that are intended to push the world towards darkness, with the heroes similarly having to wade through the same matters in in order to stop them. This was by far most present in the Balbadd arc, but continues to be a major aspect throughout. This also allows for a very interesting set of characters, with varying motivations and world views at a high level, but still being able to connect with each other at a low level, hence allowing for very solid character and relationship development when they don’t entirely align or are in complete conflict with one another. I also really liked the romance between Alibaba and Morgiana, which was tremendously subtle, but still felt like it was developing pretty strongly regardless, and hence I considered incredibly well handled. The overarching plot also seems to be quite good, though this season doesn’t seem to get into it too much yet, acting as more of an introduction to the various players and factions before things really start moving. An issue however so far, is that the action itself hasn’t been that great. The combat system for the most part was largely completely random, pulling out random things in random ways and going in completely random directions. This improved significantly towards the end, where it seemed to be trying to create a more solid structure for the battle system, but it still seems pretty rough compared to most other shounen and needs more development, even if it isn’t the primary focus. Another issue is that the pacing felt pretty slow at times, especially towards the beginning, though to be honest I find the pacing of most shounen really slow, which is why I don’t watch the perpetually running ones, but was hoping that since this was more clearly divided into cours it would be better, but it still felt like it had the standard shounen pacing at times. Another tremendous strength however, is the premise, taking a lot from Arabian Nights, which allowed for a lot of great designs, art, and a fantastic soundtrack. The animation was solid, and both OP/EDs were great.

An shounen series with an interesting setting focused on large scale plots, but with somewhat slow pacing and weak combat.

8/10

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry (Chivalry of a Failed Knight)

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Hagun Academy is a prestigious school for Blazers, people who can manifest their souls as powerful weapons, most commonly blades. One such student is Ikki Kurogane, who comes from a line of incredibly talented Blazers, but has very low abilities, being rated an F-rank. This has resulted in him being completely shunned by his family. However, he has continued to work towards his goal of becoming a Mage-Knight, determined to make up for his lack of Blazer abilities through skill and hard work.

He is paired up with Stella Vermillion as his roommate, a princess from a foreign land, and an A-rank Blazer. They get off on the wrong foot, ultimately leading to a duel between the two, where Ikki proves himself and gains Stella’s respect. This sets the stage for the a promise between the two, for both of them to make it to the Finals of the Seven Stars Battle Festival, the largest battle tournament between Blazers in the world. However, before that they both have to first make it to the tournament by winning their school representative selection matches, which is further complicated by the fact that Ikki’s family seems to be focused on stopping him.

***

This anime is somewhat of a generic battle tournament anime like many we’ve seen in the past. However, it is incredibly high quality and also makes a bunch of minor twists in a number of important ways which results in this being quite extraordinary. The two main characters Ikki and Stella are all quite interesting in terms of personalities and backgrounds, even though they may feel like they fall into obvious archetypes. Ikki is especially interesting in terms of having a dream, but having no intrinsic power for that dream, and even having a family dedicated to preventing it, but using hard work and effort to become pretty much overpowered to acheive said dream. Though he isn’t perfect, in that he stumbled sometimes, he is able to pull himself back up, often in response to Stella. Along those lines, while in terms of character development its only decent, there is very strong relationship development between the Ikki and Stella, which is very rare in similar anime, especially this early on, and ultimately adds to things tremendously. A lot of moments that would feel pretty standard end up having a lot more impact because of already having such a strong bond, and the conflicts that arise between them are also more unique than such shows usually have. Hence, that alone holds up the show quite well. Furthermore, the side characters were also quite interesting and while many fall into tropes, based on the roles assigned along with said tropes, the combinations work very well.

In terms of overarching story, so far it hasn’t been anything too original, in that it’s a simple battle tournament, however the stories that accompany each battle with a focus on various characters were quite interesting and very well executed. The pacing with episodes focused on combat, those focused on characters, and those focused on being more laid back was also great and worked very well. Furthermore, despite the story not being anywhere near its conclusion, rather it feels like its barely made it past the opening act, the ending still felt tremendously satisfying, being a prefect place to end a season. Another area where this show excels is that, while tournaments and summoning type powers are very common, the battles here were epic, with the highlights being right up there with the best imo, such as Shizuka vs Touka. The systems and structures surrounding the battles seemed well thought out and developed, and hence the battles flowed great, and had a lot of epic moments. In a lot of light novel adaptions, the battles and systems are often pretty weak, so actually having fantastic battles was a pleasant surprise and tremendously adds to the show.

In terms of atmosphere and design, I also though it was pretty good. There wasn’t really anything that felt over designed, with most characters having simple uniforms, but their weapons and abilities were well designed. The atmosphere changes quite a bit throughout the show, but is overall very on point to what’s occurring. Of special note is near the ending, where the atmosphere goes in a completely different direction from the rest of the show, and the art style changes completely to reflect that, which felt somewhat awkward at first, but in hindsight it worked tremendously well. The animation was decent enough, though not enough to stand out. The soundtrack is decent. The OP/ED were also pretty good.

An anime that seems pretty standard but due to a number of small twists and brilliant execution it comes out to be incredible.

10/10

I really think this does tremendously well in anime form, and would love second season, but as that seems unlikely I will definitely read light novels and really hope the fan translation for them keeps going.

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar (Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions)

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Haruhiro wakes up in a tower. He has no idea about how he got there. Rather, he has no memories at all before waking up in said tower, and neither do any of the many others that also woke up beside him. He discovers that he’s in a world called Grimgar, specifically in it’s frontier. People like him, that mysteriously appear out of nowhere, are given 10 silver and told to join the Reserve Army, where members form small groups called parties and that fights monsters in the area and sell what they drop for money. To begin with this, each member must join a guild and go through training. Haruhiro and various others come together into a party, and determine a party composition. As a part of this Haruhiro becomes a Thief who performs tracking and such, and of the other members, Manato heals them as a Priest, Moguzo serves as a Warrior tank, Ranta serves as a damage dealing Dark Knight, Shihoru serves as a debuffing Mage, and Yume serves as a hunter who’s not very good at archery and hence spends most of the time fighting short range. They aren’t a very strong party, but thanks to the efforts of their leader Manato, they manage to do pretty well for themselves. However, when tragedy strikes, the party is forced to evolve tremendously, involving picking up a new member, the Priest Merry with a tragic past of her own, in order to survive and keep moving forward.

***

This anime like many other recent ones known as Isekais involves people from our world appearing in a fantasy world. However, there are a number of key differences that makes it unique. For one, none of them remember coming from our world, making them a blank slate for integration into the new world. Second, the world is very close to a classic RPG in terms of mechanics despite not being a game and hence also being very different from the standard VRMMO anime. It has what are essentially classes, skills, loot drops, dungeons with multiple floors, etc. However, the third major difference is that despite all this, the world is much more real than most fantasy worlds. What I mean by that, is that the world operates much more like normal, even with the RPG mechanics. Going into battle is difficult if you’re afraid of dying. The enemies are living creatures that also don’t wish to die and will fight to their dying breath to prevent it, resulting in sometimes needing to bloody your hands quite a bit to bring about their death, and fully feeling the impact of being a murderer. However, there’s no option not to do so, because if you don’t, you’ll have no money, and hence to place to sleep or food to eat, and hence it’s a matter of survival. And furthermore death can come at any time, leaving scars that magic can’t heal. All of this sets the stage for the events that occur throughout the series to have a tremendous emotional impact on the cast, and hence a much stronger emotional impact on the viewer.

Now all of this occurs without any major overarching plot. There isn’t much in the ways of a primary goal that the cast is fighting towards such as returning to their world or fighting a demon king. Rather, their goal is to survive and grow. This works incredibly well, in that it gives the characters and story space to be focused on developing each character and the relationships with each other. All of the characters are interesting, and they also mesh incredibly well together to the degree its interesting just watching how they interact with each other doing mundane things, and of course it is even more interesting to watch them deal with major issues. Of especial note is that Haruhiro’s development in becoming the leader, Merry’s development in joining the group and getting over her trauma, and Merry getting closer to Haruhiro were especially well developed and amazing stories.

There was a major issue in terms of story telling however, in that it felt like it was paced far too slowly, especially at the beginning, but to a lesser degree during the second half as well. This is a result of scenes that drag on too long, scenes that felt unnecessary, and just a general plot that seemed to be moving at a crawl sometimes. Now to a degree I acknowledge that that was somewhat important for the sake of creating the atmosphere, however I felt it was taken quite a bit too far to the point that sometimes it just felt dull.

In terms of art, it had a unique style of backgrounds that were very rough, but also pretty. I also really liked the character designs and general style of the world. The animation unfortunately, felt quite a bit lacking a lot of the time. The soundtrack in terms of instrumental tracks was also lacking, and there was also a lot of use of ambient sounds such as rain instead of music which I felt is a fine choice sometimes, but was used far too much. Both of those combined made the production feel low budget. However, I should note that there were a lot of insert songs used that were all great and were used tremendously well. The OP and ED were both decent.

An interesting premise with great characters and development marred by somewhat lacking production values.

8/10

Looks like the Light Novels are being officially translated at a good pace. Awesome!

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte -the maxim-)

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Shinichi Izumi is a somewhat shy but pretty normal high school student. This changes when one day an alien parasite burrows into his hand. His hand begins acting quite strange, but believing that the parasite burrowing into his hand to be a dream, he has no idea whats going on. Eventually, the parasite learns how to control his hand to a much greater degree, having the ability to reform it onto eyes and a mouth at will, which terrifies Shinichi. The parasite, which is later given the name Migi, explains what he can, that he was a being that was aiming to take control of his head, but that he had failed and had taken over his hand instead. Furthermore, he is not the only parasite on Earth, and that the other parasites that had succeeded in their mission had a strong urge to kill humans for reasons he did not know, which would result in the pair of Shinichi and Migi being seen as a threat, and hence they would need to watch out for them. He also explains that his life is tied to Shinichi’s and that his primary goal is to stay alive, and that hes willing to do whatever it takes to do so, regardless of consequences to anyone else, but that outside of that he has no plans on interfering with Sinichi’s life. Resigning himself to his fate, he decides that the best way to proceed is to try to live life as close to normal as possible. However, that proves impossible, with the world of parasites ripping his life apart around him, changing him completely in the process.

***

Kiseijuu, or Parasyte as its often titled in the west, is a story that has quite a lot to it but that manages to bring everything together tremendously well. First off the premise of alien parasites taking over humans to hunt humans is quite interesting. While it may seem strange that the origins of such is never explained, thus leaving their existence and purpose a complete mystery, this actually ends up directing the story in a direction that works very well. Rather than focusing on some major villain to defeat that created the parasites or going on a quest to discover why they came to exist, the characters can do nothing relating to this issue rather than wonder and simply go on about doing what they have to do. The lack of direction for the parasites results in much of the conflicts being more individual level and in a way down to Earth despite this being nothing of the sort. Ultimately, it’s a premise that works incredibly well.

Another key element of notice is that instead of an overarching plot driving the story forward, it is instead the characters that do so. Shinichi grows tremendously throughout the season, with much of his changes being symbolized by his changing hair style, where he matures tremendously and in many ways becoming wiser. Migi too also goes through major growth, though his isn’t as immediately obvious, where he becomes more human in a way. The relationship between them also develops tremendously, going from just short of enemies that have to depend on each other to becoming true friends. However, it’s not just the main characters that are important. The changes in the main characters are often driven by side characters, and in that the side characters are developed quite well and have a tremendous impact on the plot. Reiko is a character that may well have grown just as much as the main characters, going from an obvious villain to someone I was quite sympathetic too, and even found somewhat cool. Kana is a tragic heroine, who I was very fond of and found her scenes gut wrenching. Satomi is a girl that I wasn’t that fond of, but over time I began to appreciate Shinichi’s feeling for her, and hence their relationship development felt like it had value. Uda and Joe were lovable. Kuramori’s story was depressing. Everyone of the multitude of side characters had some impact on the viewer, and hence when the main characters change in response to them, it feels a lot more real for lack of a better way to explain it. Now to some degree the side characters existing so blatantly for the sake of development in the main characters can be somewhat of an issue, especially as the use of character deaths was used quite liberally for this purpose, but overall I felt they were used really well and the story tremendously benefited from them.

Now on top of that, I felt that there were some decent points made around the environment. It starts off feeling forced at first, but as it goes on it ends up going much further than the originally forced aspects and does so more naturally. It sort of makes the point that conservation at the end of the day is for the sake of humans. Earth is not a person. Life formed before humans and will exist after regardless of what humanity does. Furthermore, judging the value of life of other life forms by human standards doesn’t make much sense either. In the end, while all life deserves respect, every individual person and humanity in general need to do what it takes to protect themselves and those around them.

And to wrap it all together, this is all told tremendously well. The action scenes are quite good. There is a good bit of comedy at points. The pacing is well done with foreshadowing, solid unexpected twists, and cliff hangers. The animation is great, the art style is solid, and the soundtrack has great tracks including some unique dubstep style tracks, all of which contribute to a very fitting atmosphere. Furthermore, the OP and ED while tremendously different both fit and play on how the show itself also has a very large range.

A somewhat thought provoking anime with a great premise driven by a fantastic set of characters.

9/10