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

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

Grisaia no Rakuen

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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.

Grisaia no Meikyuu: Caprice no Mayu 0

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After the events of the previous series, Yuuji suddenly requests to be promoted within CIRS. This leads to a thorough background check by JB, that roughly involves going through the entirety of Yuuji’s life story: his relationship with his older sister and family, how things went terribly wrong, how he ended up being trained to be a monster, and how he was ultimately saved and joined up with CIRS.

***

Rather than its predecessor, this special doesn’t try to cram in the events of an entire VN. Rather, doing so would be impossible considering it’s less than an hour long. Rather, it chooses to focus on only a very specific aspect, and try to do it’s best along those lines. Now it still feels slightly rushed, but in comparison to it’s predecessor it’s much better fleshed out. The feeling is more of being fast paced than skipping or not spending enough time on important elements.

While this is technically a sequel, it’s primarily a flashback of what came before Fruit, and does considerably to help fill in the gaps from Fruit on why Yuuji is the way he is. This is told in a single narrative, rather than being broken up into half told pieces as the majority were in Fruit of Grisaia, which results in Yuuji finally being developed as well as a major character should be.

While the first series was somewhat dark at points, it it was mostly pretty light and had a good amount of comedy. Labyrinth on the other hand has almost no comedic moments and is as dark all the way through as the darkest parts of Fruit. This results in an atmosphere that works much better for the short special that it is, though one that I probably wouldn’t appreciate as much for a longer series. It also has more worthwhile action that I also think was better animated. The art and music are still as great as in the previous series.

An intense and well paced Grisaia entry that fills in a considerable amount of backstory and sets up a sequel incredibly well in a short amount of time.

9/10

Grisaia no Kajitsu

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Yuuji Kazami would describe his job as being someone that removes filth from the world, and in a way that’s true, though the catch to that statement is that he does this as a sniper. Due to various circumstances revolving around his family, he was taken in by a master who taught him various tricks, and he ended up living a very interesting but strange life. However, he very strongly wished to be able to live a normal life, at least for a bit, and was hence given permission to transfer to Mihama Academy.

He realized that this wasn’t exactly what he wanted, as Mihama Academy is a very unique school, but he made due. Before Yuuji, the only students were 5 girls. But what was more interesting, was that each of these five girls had come to the school due to excruciating circumstances that made it difficult for them to live outside of it, among other people. There is a a girl named Michiru, who did her best to act like a Tsundere and make other people laugh, but had a problem with having to deal with another personality inside her. Yumiko is the daughter of the CEO of a major corporation who had originally been abandoned, but after certain events after she became the heiress was being carefully controlled, to the point that she felt she was trapped in a cage. Sachi is a girl who often dresses up as a maid, and who does her best to be a ‘good girl’, which in her mind involves doing absolutely everything asked of her, despite how extreme. There’s also Makina, who seems to act like a marine, being brutish and constantly cursing, but is the daughter of a very powerful politician, but one who cares little for her beyond her value in family politics. And lastly Amane is a girl who acts incredibly cheerful and claims she fell in love with Yuuji at first sight, but faced a tremendous trauma years ago she’s still struggling to get over.

It’s nothing like what he expected a normal school life to be like, but Yuuji deals with all of these girls and their problems head on, and manages to find what he was really wanted anyway.

***

Grisaia no Kajitsu is a moderately good adaption of a VN in that it definitely feels like a VN adaptation in terms of structure, but that doesn’t seem like much of a determent, other than there being a feeling that there is still more to it than is being shown. Some things come across very well. All of the characters are adequately shown as unique with the parts that make them interesting being the key focus of the entire anime. And while the story is structured as separate routes that it goes through one by one, the story overall is greater than the sum of each individual route. However, it never really seems to go into the majority of these routes, rather it just touches upon the vast majority of them very lightly. The parts it chooses to highlight work well, however, there is still a tremendously strong feeling of everything being rushed, with no aspect really feeling like any of the routes were truly fleshed out. On one hand, it may have been better to just focus on one route, though I can understand why that would annoy much of the fan base, as there’s not quite any route that should automatically be chosen for such, as every character and every route is interesting and I’m sure each has their own fanbase. Still, there was a special focus given to Amane’s route, though mostly in terms of the flashback, which I think worked out great as it was the most interesting route by far and was fleshed out very well, and closed the anime off on a high note. I would also like to note that I really liked the tone, in that it has some incredibly dark aspects, rather I would say the majority of the plot is pretty dark if you think about, but it still doesn’t feel too dark, but rather something that fits the plot very well.

The action was a bit lacking for the most part. The comedy was pretty good though. The art style I felt was great and true to the VN. As for the animation and art quality, I wasn’t sure at first whether it was truly high production values or I was being tricked by the movie like aspect ratio and abundance of lens flare and similar effects, and to be honest I’m still not sure, but at the end of the day its the feeling that you get, the effect it has on your enjoyment that matters, and to that end I would give it top marks. The music too was great, both the soundtrack and OP/ED. The specials were quite interesting.

An interesting blend of action and romance with a number of interesting stories that are rushed through, but are still incredibly solid.

8/10

Note that I have no read the VNs yet. I am planning on reading all of them at once after all of them are released.