Katanagatari

katanagatari

Shichika Yasuri’s was exiled alongside his father and sister to an island when he was just a young boy. Since then, he has lived on that island, learning Kyotouryuu, a technique that uses the human body as a blade, from his father and eventually succeeding him as the seventh Kyotouryuu head. He is content to live in exile with his sister, until one day a woman named Togame barges in. She’s a strategist on a quest to gather the 12 swords known as the Deviant Blades for the shogunate in order to increase her own standing. To that end she’s sought out the Kyoutarou head, as he’s both powerful enough to do so and should have no desire to keep the swords, which is what led those that she previously worked with, the Maniwa Ninja, to betray her. And to that end, she arrogantly commands him to fall in love with her. And he does, kind of. Living on an island with only two other people, he knows very little about the world, and even less about how to deal with his own emotions. But as he journeys with Togame, he slowly opens up to her, and discovers the feelings truly driving him, making him more than just a sword, for better or for worse.

***

This anime is the tale of a journey. While the ultimate goal is to collect twelve swords, why they’re collecting them isn’t the focus at all for most of the anime, but rather how they go about collecting them and what happens to them while doing so is. This primarily means the focus is in regards to the character and relationship development of the two main characters, and growth definitely does occur in both of them. However, just because a character goes through growth doesn’t necessarily make them a good character, which is a major problem with Shichika. I found Shichika not likable at all. He wasn’t in the beginning because he pretty much lacked character completely, and though that changed in that he definitely has a character and personality by the end, it wasn’t one that I was all that fond of, especially in the context of the overall story. Hence, I was not invested in his journey at all. Regarding Togame, she’s much more likable and she too does go through some growth, but how the end of her character arc went down left me immensely bitter, and thus I have nothing but negative feelings regarding her role in the story as well. As for the their relationship, it was cute at times, but largely felt like it just sort of happened rather than something that was actually developed. So I didn’t feel all that much investment there either. Now on top of that, add in that the people that they were taking the swords from, often by killing them, were interesting and often likable, meaning more so than the protagonists themselves, and in the end I just couldn’t find any reason to be rooting for the protagonists or find any satisfaction in their victories, successes, or growth. This is sort of acknowledged at one point, where even Shichika is shown as feeling regret, but his response to that, that its fine because he’s doing it for Togame, may be fine for himself, but did absolutely nothing for me. Now, while the overarching story isn’t all that important other than the ending, I would like to mention that it isn’t very good, in that it gets overtly convoluted at the end and pushes into an ending that is tremendously unsatisfying. The ultimate point seems to be that in the end there was no point, which I am really not all that fond of.

In general, the humor was decent but it got somewhat repetitive, mainly due to the fact that it generally involved the relationship between Shichika and Togame, which I was getting tired of. The action was pretty solid, and essentially every battle involved a strategy or trick that was pretty well done, so in that regard I think it did a great job. The last episode especially was amazing in that regard. A major problem surrounding that though, is that the show felt so incredibly slow. This is a monthly series with 50 minute episodes, but it really felt like they could have fit it into a standard 25 minute episode. There were a lot of parts that were both dull and seemed entirely pointless, at which point I felt I had to force myself to keep going. But even for the intense emotional moments that they mostly did a great job with and had a lot of impact, they were dragged out to be so long that the impact sort of fizzled out.

The art style is different from other shows but is mostly pretty solid with good animation. There was a random art style change in episode 7 though that I thought wasn’t very good at all. The music was kind of strange but it grew on me by the end, with the music playing during the final battle being worth mentioning as feeling perfect. The OPs were solid in terms of audio and visuals. The ED didn’t have much in terms of visuals, and had a different track for each episode, which were mostly good but not too memorable.

A really slow story about the journey of characters that are hard to get invested in leading up to a disappointing end.

6/10

Advertisements

Prison School

prisonschool

Hachimitsu Private Academy was a girls only boarding school, but with a change in policy unilaterally imposed by the principal, it began allowing in a small number of boys: Kiyoshi is a pretty normal guy, or as normal as high school boys usually are. Gakuto is a guy that is obsessed with Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and seems to have picked up a strategic mind in the process. Andrei is a pretty cheerful fat guy that’s also a hard masochist. Jo is a mysterious guy that cares very deeply for his pet ants. Shingo is a delinquent but otherwise a good guy. These five boys begin attending school, only to discover that the girls do their utmost best to avoid interacting with them under any circumstance. Driven by their frustration, they end up peeking into the girls bath, only to be caught by what is known as the Underground Student Council. The Underground Student Council is a special organization that holds power in the school through force. This council is composed of the President Mari, a girl that can control crows and who hates guys due to her father being a pervert, the Vice-President Meiko, a hard sadist and strong athlete that idolizes the President, and Hana, a shy girl that masks being aggressively violent. They have a special way of dealing with rule breakers like the five boys, putting them in a prison located in the center of school grounds. Hence, the prison school life of the five begins, where the bonds of friendship and brotherhood of the five boys are put to the test as the Underground Student Council does its best to entrap them and get them expelled.

***

Prison School is hard to describe for me, because its something that doesn’t seem like it’ll work well at all but somehow ends up working so well its ridiculous. The story being absolutely crazy with students trapped in a prison in school sounds too crazy to work, but ultimately produces a really good narrative. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, having all sorts of crazy things happening constantly. Most of these are used just for humor, which is pretty standard. But what I feel is unique here is that even though these events are completely nonsensical, they still end up mattering and having an impact on the overall narrative. The end result is a story that has a narrative that is simultaneously both absolutely hilarious but also has a pretty intense to the point that you’re incredibly interested in seeing what happens next. In addition there is a string of crazy plot twists and constant suspense, this is due to their being such a strong cast of characters. The main five are all pretty varied with their own motivations and personalities that results in them not always getting along, but also working really well together when they do. They’re certainly not heroic, but they’re characters that are easy to get invested in. But at the same time, what’s just as important is that the antagonists, the Underground Student Council, are a just as strong, if not stronger, set of characters. They too have varying personalities, and though they’re more united due to being clearly led by the President, they have their own bonds as well. Surprisingly in a way that feels kind of like Stockholme Syndrome I suppose, they too I think are pretty likable and easy to get invested in. But most importantly is the interactions these two factions have with each other, with them being in a very bizarre battle of wits that results in them exploiting the other sides personality quirks and creating a very interesting dynamic between the two groups. The anime also ends at a solid point, where one arc is clearly resolved but another is also set up.

Something that’s also important to mention is that the art was amazing, like absolutely top class in terms of an art style that is both really good to look at, both in terms of being beautiful and being really good at fan service, and incredibly well made with great animation. The OP was really good in terms of visuals and audio and fit the atmosphere of the show perfectly. The ED and soundtrack were also both really solid.

An anime that seems composed of a number of aspects that don’t sound all that amazing, but that come together perfectly to by magnitudes greater than the sum of their parts.

10/10

Seiken no Blacksmith (The Sacred Blacksmith)

The Sacred Blacksmith

Long ago there was a great war where the three nations used their soldiers as sacrifices to summon powerful demons to fight in their stead. After the war this practice was banned, and other precautions were taken to make sure war would not erupt again. One such precaution was the creation of the independent city of Housman at the base of a volcano, that would exist separately from and between the three powers and serve as a point of neutral ground for meetings. Cecily Campbell is the daughter of one of the founders of the city, and part of its Knight Guard. She is someone who is very stubborn in doing her best at saving everyone around her regardless of cost. It ultimately turns out that though their summoning may be forbidden, that demons very much still exist in this world, and are increasingly becoming an issue for Housman. This ends up requiring Cecily to work closely with Luke Ainsworth, an aloof blacksmith who lives at the edge of town with his apprentice Lisa, who has the special skills necessary to create special blades. It also results in her becoming partners to the demon blade Aria, a special type of demon that rather than being a mindless beast can instead change between the forms of a sword and a woman. As she works with and becomes closer to all of them, she discovers the truth about demons, the tremendous burden placed on Luke, and the incredible threat they’re all facing.

***

This manga started off kind of light hearted and amusing with a lot of comedy, and I think it did a good job with that. The characters felt likable enough even if they didn’t have a lot of depth, the comedy was good, and though the plot was still mysterious and not super serious it was interesting enough to keep things moving along. As it went on it got much more serious and melancholy, with it being downright dark at times, and ultimately I don’t think it handled that shift well, nor do I think the parts following it were as good as the parts before. What I’m talking about here isn’t the story itself, but rather how its framed, wherein it just felt a lot drearier. I’m not entirely sure if that was intentional either or just a byproduct of the pacing and this isn’t a very good adaptation of the light novel. The pacing felt really fast paced to the point it felt like it was just flying through story points as fast possible. There wasn’t enough time for a lot of events to sink in enough for there to be an impact. It didn’t dwell on the times after victories at all, quickly moving to the next issue they need to face. So it didn’t feel like we ever really saw them being happy or just developing their relationships in a casual manner, but rather them simply going from crisis to crisis and hence things almost always looking bleak, desperate, or under pressure. As a result, though I was beginning to like them in the beginning, the character growth they had made them grow in a pretty depressing manner, so as it got to the ending it felt like I had less of an attachment to the main characters and their relationship, in that I kind of missed how they were when they started out. The setting and overarching plot were solid and interesting with good world building, though it felt like there were a lot of things they should have done more with. The ending wrapped things up in terms of the overarching story well enough in that it made sense and wrapped everything up, but due to where the web of relationships between characters stood and my investment in that as well as how it seemed to unnecessarily go through too much too fast in the epilogue, while I won’t go as far as saying I disliked the ending, I can’t really say I felt any satisfaction from it. The art was high quality but felt too busy at times and overall rarely felt like it was trying to look eye-catchingly good, and though Cecily, Aria, and Lisa had good character designs beyond that they were mostly pretty dully.

A manga with a solid story and a good beginning in terms of light-hearted storytelling, but that does a significantly worse job in that regard when it shifts to being much more serious.

7/10 

Though the anime has an entirely different set of problems, I think I liked that more, though not by much.

Gokukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in the Darkness)

Brynhildr in the Darkness

Murakami is constantly staring at the stars and wishes to work for NASA one day, with the ultimate goal of finding aliens. The reason he wishes to do so so strongly has to do with his childhood, wherein a girl that he was in love with, Kuroneko, claimed to have seen an alien, but on the way to bringing him to see it, they both had a disastrous fall he was told she didn’t survive. Hence, he is immensely shocked when a girl that looks just like Kuroneko walks into his high school class calling herself Kuroha Neko, but having no memory of him. However, that’s where the insanity begins. Not long after, Murakami ends up getting saved by Kuroha using what appears to be telekinesis. She calls herself a witch, though one that obtained her power through going through surgery at the hands of a group known by a number of names such as Witch’s Castle or Institute V, who would turn countless girls into witches as a part of their experiments and throw them away just as easily. As part of such a group that was marked for disposal was being transported, an event occurred that allowed them to escape. However, the witches have a failure mechanism installed in them, in that if they don’t take a certain medicine once a day, they’ll die a slow painful death, and she has very few of those left. Hence, she simply wished to live like a normal girl for a few days before her end. However, Murakami refuses to accept that, wherein even if she isn’t Kuroneko, he’s still not willing to give up on her. And though he may not have supernatural powers per se, he has an insanely good memory and incredibly quick-thinking skills, which is exactly what they need. He works with Kuroneko and a number of other escaped witches: Kana, a girl with a really sharp tongue that can’t move, but in exchange has the power to foresight regarding deaths occurring around her; Kazumi, a very aggressive girl that can crack any security; Kotori, an air headed but cheerful girl that can swap places with anyone instantly; and eventually Hatsuna, a constantly forward-looking girl that can regenerate herself from essentially any injury. Even with them being hunted, Murakami does his best to help these girls survive while also allowing them to achieve their wish of living happy normal lives, as what the Institute truly wishes to achieve slowly comes to light as being at a grander scale than any of them could imagine.

***

This manga started out amazing but it lost a lot of that by the end. First off, the protagonist is awesome in that he’s strategic minded but not a jerk, kind but not naïve, and reliable but not overpowered. This is a core of a lot of the more intense aspects of the manga, wherein it involves him using his quick wits to come up with ways to get over the challenges they’re facing. This involves using and dealing with a number of different powers, but the most interesting and crucial of these is foresight, which ends up allowing all sorts of crazy plans and situations to happen. There were a lot of fake out moments, both with events shown simply being foresight or illusions, and also characters basically being brought back after death.  This did get got old eventually I admit, but it also added a lot of suspense and kept things moving really fast. This makes the more action and intense portions of the manga really interesting through most of the manga, though the last third or so started getting a bit weaker, and I feel that was heavily due to how it involved foresight less. Character relationships are the other crucial part of the manga, and they too for a good portion of the manga were great. There was a constant fear of death in most of the characters, and hence a push for them to do something with the time they had left, which pushed them to move fast in all matters. Hence, they were immensely happy just doing normal things, and that got conveyed very well and often very amusing. Furthermore, the protagonist being as dense as a rock regarding such matters required them to be very direct, which added even more amusement, and always kept it feeling like things were moving. About two thirds of the way through though, it starts getting a lot messier in weird ways due to things getting overtly complicated between them as a result of added variables, memory loss, etc. which felt badly implemented. The ending doesn’t really help in that regard, in that the ending is incredibly strange in that it has elements of being pretty solid regarding such matters, but the way it’s done makes it feel kind of unsatisfying. As for the overarching plot, it is incredibly interesting for most of the manga with things slowly being revealed and the villains master plan seeming crazy but also grand and something the reader wants to understand. However, the payoff on that was a mess. It’s quite hard to end such long overarching mysterious narratives, and this did not succeed in pulling it off. The final arc where everything was finally explained ended up leaving a lot out, and even worse bringing up a lot of contradictions and random plot devices to keep things moving forward. While I appreciate it when things are overall consistent, I don’t mind too much with there being contradictions or forced ways to get around stuff established a long time ago. However, here it would be pulling out random things and throwing them out randomly from chapter to chapter and it largely made the ending feel arbitrary and not well planned as if the author just decided it was time to end it and forced it along as quickly as possible. This is up until the finale, where he suddenly decided to put on the brakes and have the characters spin their wheels pointlessly for a bit before finally letting things end, though the epilogue was decent enough barring the previously mentioned character relationship issues. The art was pretty solid all the way through.

A manga with a great protagonist, interesting character relationships, and good writing that begins going downhill about 2/3s of the way through and botches the ending in a number of ways.

8/10 

Baka to Boing (Baka & Boing)

bakaandboing

Taichi was a superfan of the idol Kokoro to the degree that it resulted in him being pretty alienated from the rest of society. But Kokoro had inspired him to the degree that he truly believed that she had saved his life, so he didn’t mind. Even if she wasn’t doing very well, he would support her with all his being. One day when he was going to attend a handshake event with her, she fell off the roof right on top of him, sending both of them to the emergency room. Taichi woke back up and seemed to be fine. However, Kokoro was deep in a coma. The thing though, was that even though her body was in a coma, her spirit seemed to have escaped her body, and furthermore Taichi seemed to be the only one that could see her. A shinigami appeared and informed them that Kokoro was not long for this world, and she had come to pick her up. Taichi refused to give up however, and in the end the shinigami relented. In exchange for tying their lives together, Kokoro’s spirit was allowed to stay on Earth for the next six months or so, after which both of them would die together, and the only way for them to truly get over the crisis, was by helping the spirits stuck on Earth by helping them ascend to heaven.

***

This manga was interesting for the first half or so when it was focused on both of them just helping spirits move on. The premise is interesting and though stories for the spirits were a bit too slowly paced, they were interesting enough so I would say it’s a concept pretty well executed. Character and relationship development of the main couple was pretty slow, but it was moving along and I was getting invested in it. The more long-term side characters introduced with these stories were interesting as well. The comedy was also pretty good. About two thirds of the way through it dropped this concept of helping spirits completely in a way that made it feel a lot like everything up to that point was pointless. But the bigger problem is that the new plot line was messy to the point of being bad. The plot completely loses cohesiveness and makes no sense because the rules are pretty much arbitrary. It focuses only on the two main characters, thereby throwing out the good job it had done with side characters so far, but doesn’t particularly do a good job with them either and though their relationship did advance, it didn’t feel like that advancement was substantiated and hence didn’t have that much impact. It goes in a random direction without it being clear what exactly it’s trying to do up until the ending, at which point it provides an incredibly unsatisfying ending that leaves a bitter aftertaste. One thing this manga does have going for it from beginning to end though, is that the art is amazingly good and really nice to look at.

A manga with amazing art with a story that starts out pretty well but falls apart horribly.

7/10 

Shoujo Fujuubun (Imperfect Girl)

imperfectgirl

There was a man that wished to be an author. He could write quickly and he thought he could write well, but for all the manuscripts he sent in, all his efforts amounted to naught. One day when returning home, he saw a peculiar scene. As two girls were walking across the street staring at the game consoles in their hands, a truck rocketed across the street, hitting and killing one of the girl’s instantaneously. But what was most peculiar was that the other girl, while looking shocked, properly closed her game console and put it away before running to the remains of her friend and crying. No one else seems to have noticed that, but he couldn’t help but find that to be the most shocking aspect of the scene. And it seems the girl noticed that he noticed as well. A few days later, upon returning home, he found the girl in his apartment, pointing a knife at him. She essentially kidnapped him, brought him to her home, and shut him in her closet. While obviously pretty miffed, considering he had his phone on him, he wasn’t too scared, but rather as time went on he was more and more curious. What could have resulted in an elementary school girl that acted the way she did, and where were her parents?

***

This manga had a strange but very interesting story that worked very well with the way the story was told. In essence, there are only really two characters in this work, the guy and the girl. These two characters are such a focus of this work, that it doesn’t even give them names. Rather, the work is told pretty much entirely in 1st person from the point of view of the protagonist who refers to himself as I, and who refers to the girl as U. This results in the story having a very interesting feel to it, where the readers are really brought into the mind of the protagonist, and wherein things are very slowly revealed to the reader as they’re revealed to him. As for the two main characters, I thought they were both really interesting, and though neither of them is likable at first, with the protagonist seeming really dumb and the girl seeming downright creepy, their minds gets fleshed out over the course of the manga, with a really interesting dynamic being born between the two, and in the end I was very invested in what would happen to U. It is related to that that I felt somewhat of a disappointment, in that I felt the resolution and ending were somewhat disappointing. They weren’t bad in terms of what actually happened, but rather, it was a matter of framing, wherein as previously stated we only see what happens from the protagonist’s point of view. However, the protagonist isn’t really involved in it at all with the resolution to U, and hence as the reader doesn’t really see what happens to U either. There is a scene at the complete end dealing with the aftermath that sort of tells you, but it only shows you a glimmer, which is nice in its own way, but especially due to how the reader couldn’t see how things were truly resolved before then, I really wish we got to see more of the aftermath which could provide a bit more closure. The art was pretty good and worked well with the atmosphere.

A strange story featuring essentially only two characters with a weird relationship told in an interesting fashion. 

8/10 

Gan☆Kon (My Wife Is Beautiful God)

gankon

Shinta has been having bad luck in confessing to girls, so he prays at a nearby sign. This prayer is answered by Isana, a god of marriage, who says that in exchange for becoming her agent she’ll grant one of his wishes. Shinta wishes for a wife, but Isana misunderstands him as asking her to become his wife, and grants his wish by becoming so. This isn’t what Shinta expected, but he’s fine with it, and fully commits to being in love with Isana. However, as she granted his wish, he now has his agent duties to fulfill, which involves fighting with the agents of other gods with their territory on the line, wherein losing results in annulment of the wish. Furthermore, while he is committed to Isana, he doesn’t even know what she truly looks like, as her girl form is a transformation she conjured up, and her true form is sealed within titanic armor. With both of these in mind, Shinta and Isana begin their married life.

***

This manga had some great concepts but it felt kind of rough. For example, the basic combat system seemed sort of interesting, with powers being based around wishes, and hence in the main characters case his power being based on love, which is cliché but a tried and true concept that works well. The thing though, is that the system never got fleshed out, but rather got replaced by a system centered around emotional damage not too far in, which is also an interesting concept, but as one would expect it was a system very difficult to make work, and I don’t think this work did a good enough job of it as it felt full of contradictions and didn’t really make a lot of sense a lot of the time. And then in the finale, it randomly changed combat systems again to something completely arbitrary, which all around made things feel haphazard. The same applied to the overarching plot, wherein the plot points such as the competition, undoing the seal, or the conflict between clans all came and went from the focus arbitrarily in a way that felt really disorganized and unfocused without any of them really feeling like they got proper arcs, and ultimately only the plot thread of the unsealing felt like it reached a good conclusion, though afterwards it introduced a new and completely random final boss which made the ending feel really random and rushed. The relationship development was also all over the place and though it was definitely a major focus and a good amount of time was spent on it, it didn’t feel all that strong. In the end I didn’t feel there was enough to make me really invested in their relationship. There were some good aspects to it, like love despite appearance, but they never got fully fleshed out and had a few good scenes at best with nothing all that memorable. The same applies to the character development. Both Isana and Tsubaki were kind of Tsunderes, but neither of them was very good at it, and ultimately I didn’t find either of them all that likable. Shinta was a pretty standard hot blooded but kind of perverted hero, that brought a lot of good comedy to the series, and that otherwise came through well in terms of being heroic in a couple scenes, but he overall didn’t seem to have enough impactful moments to make him a good protagonist either. The culmination of all of this in the ending in terms of this also felt pretty random, wherein Tsubaki felt like she didn’t get any sort of resolution, and the addition of the random other character just felt kind of annoying. The art was okay but not especially good.

A manga with some good concepts relating to combat and characters/relationships, but that is too messy to implement them properly.

7/10