Samurai Flamenco

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Punchline

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Yuuta’s class are going on a class trip, when suddenly their bus gets hijacked. A superhero named Strange Juice comes out of nowhere and fights the villains, but suddenly crazy shenanigans with Yuuta ensue and somehow his soul gets separated from his body. He finds himself back in his dorm room as an unseeable ghost and with someone else seemingly using his body, who has used charms to seal him out of his own room. He is explained to by a ghost cat named Chiranosuke, that to get his soul back into his body he has to find a book that’s hidden somewhere in the dorm. And hence he quests invisibly through the dorm looking for the book, uncovering various facts and secrets about everyone else in the dorm in the process. The oldest person in the dorm and the dorm mother in a sense is Rabura, who comes from a long line of spirit mediums, but apparently is terrible at it and spends most her time drinking and complaining about men. There’s also Meika, who is a genius and strong headed girl, but is also a robot. With her genius abilities, she helps out Mikatan, who is secretly the aforementioned superhero Strange Juice. Lastly there is Ito, who is a NEET due to various difficulties she faced at school. Yuuta ends up wandering around looking for the book, and seeing as he’s invisible he manages to see a lot of ‘interesting’ situations involving the other dorm members. Also, there’s another issue in that for some reason, if he gets too excited, it seems that a meteor crashes into the Earth and kills everyone on it. This makes searching for the book quite difficult. Furthermore, the villains encountered in the bus when all of this began don’t seem to be gone either, being tied to some complex plan involving the past of various people at the dorm, the end of the world, and the next phase of human evolution.

***

Punchline is an anime that went in a direction that was very different from what I expected. It starts off completely and utterly bizarre and makes little sense, and though it still ends completely and utterly bizarre it ends up making a lot more sense than I thought it would, and overall it actually has a pretty good plot. The characters and their stories and the development of their relationship is actually all quite interesting, and there were a bunch of twists I didn’t expect, which despite the strange plot structuring still feels like its paced well overall. It has a bittersweet ending though, which I wasn’t a fan of. It seemed to be hinting at going in another direction which I thought was a solid ending, but then went in another that I didn’t like at all, which greatly annoyed me. Still, overall, the plot is solid and the characters are great.

The comedic aspect is also solid, which is certainly very focused in a certain direction most of the time, and absurdist for a lot as well, but overall I greatly enjoyed the humor. The art and animation are good, in a bright and dynamic way. The OP/ED were decent and definitely fitting, and the soundtrack was also decent.

An absurdly comedic anime that ends up having a pretty strong plot and characters.

8/10

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

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Six very close elementary school friends separated when one among them, Menma, fell to her death. They drifted apart and continued their lives, with their relationships left as a mess and the incident continuing to haunt them many years later. Jintan, who was closest to Menma, pretty much becomes a shut in, shunning the outside world and not working at all towards the future. Yukiatsu does incredibly well in school, and is smart and incredibly popular, but is unwilling to let his love for Menma go, especially as it ended on such an ambiguous note, leading to him sometimes having a somewhat demented personality and an apparent dislike for Jintan. Tsuruko stays close to Yukiatsu, and is in love with him, but can’t confess to him because his feeling for Menma would prevent anything from happening, and hence she becomes quite cold. Anaru is in love with Jintan but due to his new state of affairs can’t seem to approach him at all, leading to her going with the flow in finding a new group of friends that are somewhat sketchy, which ultimately results in a personality that ends up acting condescending and rude to Jintan, which greatly discomforts her. Poppo uses various means to travel all around the world, and using their old club house as his new base of operations, filling it with souvenirs and such, but he for various reasons feels somewhat responsible for her death and despite putting on a happy front is quite depressed about it on the inside and is constantly running from it. To put it frankly everyone’s state of mind is a mess, with no true resolution seeming possible. But then out of nowhere, Jintan suddenly seems to have gained the ability to see Menma’s ghost, and she wants him to grant her wish.

***

AnoHana is an anime that has a key supernatural element, but the supernatural element itself isn’t that important, as in it doesn’t matter at all how Menma’s ghost exists or the mechanics surrounding it, but more so in that it does exist and the effect that it has on the relationships of the friends she left behind. Her death ultimately led to a very strange set of characters with incredibly awkward relationships, and her reappearance forces them to come together once more, and strangely enough come to acceptance with her being gone. At it’s core, AnoHana is about moving on, and on that note it does that incredibly well, resulting in something that’s incredibly sad, but beautiful as well.

The story is told by slowly revealing the various characters involved, going back and forth between the past before Menma’s death and the present, to reveal their relationships and what happened on that day, until ultimately there’s a major reveal forcing everyone to truly deal with the issue at hand, bringing things that were buried to the forefront. This part is incredibly messy, or raw for lack of a better word, and then ultimately things get resolved and things end. The structure overall works very well, though in terms of proportion there was too long of a build up, leading to it feeling a bit too rushed at the end. Still, the ending itself was handled tremendously well, and brought out a very strong emotional reaction.

As for the epilogue movie that takes place one year after, a core aspect of the anime was the various characters moving on. All of them are pretty much broken during the first season but at it’s conclusion the expectation was that they would pick up the pieces and move on. Hence actually being given a chance to see them again, with new designs and outlooks on life that are much better than they were helps so much that it’s a crucial aspect and absolutely not to be missed. Now on that note, the movie is a retelling as well, but they do it through various flash backs, which works fine mostly, but the structure felt a bit off towards the end in terms of order. Still, overall it was exactly what it needed to be and a fantastic note to end the series on.

The art and designs were pretty good and the art and animation quality was good as well. The soundtrack was pretty good, as was the OP. The ED was fantastic however, both when it started playing right as it ended, and how it was transitioned to at the end of each episode.

A sad but beautiful anime about coming together and moving on.

9/10