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

Punchline

punchline

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

anohana

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

Grisaia no Rakuen

grisaiaeden

Yuuji Kazami continues his interview with JB for a promotion with CIRS, next going over what happened after he was picked up by his master Asako, how she slowly healed him, and how he eventually ended up following after her, first joining the military, and then taking her place in CIRS. Meanwhile, the girls in Mihama continue reading records that Yuuji had attempted to destroy but Sachi had put back together that detail his life story to them as well.

This ends up incredibly important, because upon leaving JB he’s immediately assigned a mission where he is to take out a terrorist, who turns out to be Heath Oslo, triggering his memories of everything that happened in the past, resulting in a failure to complete the mission, and being taken into custody by CIRS, who plan to use him as a bargaining chip with Oslo. The girls at Mihama learn that this is occurring and set off to save him, though they have little to go on until a mysterious entity calling herself Thanatos calls them and tells them that she has a plan to save him, that would involve all of them.

***

Eden continues Grisaia after Labyrinth, picking up right where Labyrinth left off as well as continuing in terms of themes and story at a larger scale, rather than being similar to the somewhat disjoint plot in Fruit. There are three segments. The first is Yuuji’s flashback. This is action packed and full of character building for Yuuji as well as introducing and developing a number of other characters that become important later on. It’s darker than most of the arcs of Eden, though not as dark as Labyrinth, with a lot more heavily light hearted moments. Next is an arc featuring the girls of Mihama enacting a complex plan with the help of Thanatos to save Yuuji. This has a good amount of character building for the rest of the girls, but more importantly than that, it essentially adds the girls to the world that Yuuji belongs to. There is a disconnect between them and Yuuji in Fruit, where while certainly having a good amount of relationship development between them, there was a bit of an awkward feel due to how little both the girls and the audience knew about Yuuji. With both fully understanding Yuuji’s past and the girls being part of the plot surrounding that, things seem to flow much better and allows the relationships and character development that began in Fruit and the previous arcs of Eden to fully establish. The third part is Yuuji fully confronting his past. This has the most action, and brings things to a fantastic close that ties up most of the overhanging threads to a very satisfying degree. It gives the main character a situation that is very common and heavily cliche at the end of such anime where the romance key component is left unresolved, but it also attempts to establish why that’s justified, and does a reasonable good job at doing so. All in all, despite being slightly shorter than the average one cour anime, it is highly diverse but flows incredibly well, being fast paced but not feeling rushed and bringing things to a great close. It would also like to point out how his sister was amazing, with that hilarous ending being a great point to end at.

The animation and art are still high quality, and I’m calling them as such now definitively. The soundtrack is also fantastic, including one of the best rendition of ants go marching ever. The OP/ED are great. The comedy is on point. The action is fantastic and more intense than before in the series. The specials were funny, with the music at the end being incredibly fitting.

Eden brings all of the elements of the previous Grisaia entries together for a fantastic conclusion.

10/10

Amane was best girl.

Also, I’m definitely planning on going through the visual novels once all of them are out.