Nisekoi: (False Love)

nisekoi2

Raku and Chitoge continue pretending to be a couple, though Chitoge seems to have begun to want something different. Kosaki continues wishing to pursue Raku while watching him from afar with Ruri pushing her to be more active, while Marika continues unashamedly acting on her feelings. Seishirou still has trouble acknowledging her own feelings, and Shuu continues to be the joker of the group. In a lot of ways things remain the same, even as they do go from first years to second years. Still, there are some major changes, with Kosaki’s sister becoming a first year at their school and immediately obtaining an incredibly negative impression of Raku. And even if things don’t change tremendously, just by going on about their ordinary lives as before, things can progress nevertheless.

***

Nisekoi: is a sequel to the first season that picks up where the previous season left off and continues essentially in the same manner. There are a couple key differences however. The first would be the addition of a few new characters, mainly Haru. In some ways, she seems to be taking Chitoge’s original place as the one constantly attacking Raku considering Chitoge herself has changed a good amount from her original character, but her personality beyond that is different enough in that she’s a lot more down to Earth that she stands out on her own. Her character introduction and character aren’t all that great but work well enough and overall I think she’s a solid addition to the cast. The rest of the introduced characters are side characters that push the  main characters in various directions, and they do a decent enough job of that, while mostly being solid on their own. Of especial note is Chitoge’s mother, who is crazy awesome and has a crazy awesome theme too. The other main difference, is that while it does pop up a few times, the locket and the past are far less important compared to the previous season. One of the things I really disliked about the first season was that it kept up bringing the past and the locket, building up suspense, and then in the end having all that go absolutely nowhere. This season doesn’t advance anything in that regard either, but it doesn’t focus on it either so it wasn’t an issue at all. Hence, it gets to focus on other things which are far more interesting. It provides background to the heroines irrespective of their connections to the locket and past. This also means that the stories and drama this season does have actually get to have a point and don’t just flounder in the end, so they actually manage to have an impact and it feels like characters personalities come through a lot better. The series is still very lighthearted and full of humor, more so than the first season I would say, but like the first season this season does a pretty good job of this, and with the more serious aspects and story concepts being much better it feels much better paced, and hence overall more enjoyable. Still, it should be noted that while this season doesn’t screw around trying to pretend something is going to happen and then not having anything happen, ultimately the end conclusion of not much happening remains, and while it is amusing and introduces new characters, overall the story doesn’t feel like its been advanced any significant degree.

The art and animation are solid and feel pretty normal by Shaft standards. The OP was great. I still feel there are too many EDs, but I felt they were better than the ones in the first season so there is that at least. The soundtrack wasn’t particularly memorable other than the track that often opens episodes as in the first season, and Chitoge’s mother’s theme. The random side story with magical girls was also random but quite amusing.

A sequel season that is amusing and doesn’t have the issues with the overarching story of the first season, but does so by not focusing on the overarching story much at all.

8/10

Chiisana Majo no Collier (Little Witch’s Collier)

littlewitchescollier

Lulu is a little girl that lives in an old castle in the South of France. However, this isn’t for the sake of luxury, but rather for the sake of her imprisonment. This is because Lulu is a witch. There are many types of witches, and the term is even used for male magic users. They each have a power, though there is tremendous variety in those powers, with Lulu having the power to control others. Because of their powers, throughout WWII they had been hunted down to be used or to be disposed of. After, very few witches remained. An organization had developed to take care of them, and that organization was taking care of Lulu by having a nurse, Nicole, and a director watch over her. However, because of her powers they have to be quite strict with her, forcing her to wear a collier to restrain her magic and also preventing her from ever leaving the castle. This strictness results in bad relations between Lulu and her caretakers, because though they may be doing it for what they believe is her own good, she’s just a little girl who feels alone and imprisoned. However, when another staff member, a teacher named Camillo, is brought in who has a very different philosophy on taking care of Lulu as compared to the previous ones, her everyday life, her relationship with the others, and even her outlook on the world itself begin to change.

***

This manga series was cute and amusing, especially when it was starting out. One area of strength was showing Lulu as cute and innocent, as mischievous, but mainly because she was lonely and didn’t know any better. The other was showing her development and her relationship development with others such as Camillo, Nicole, and Cher, wherein she slowly opens up to them and to a degree matures as well. However, the parts beyond that felt weak. Camillo’s backstory felt underdeveloped and just made things kind of awkward. Ollie’s story similarly fell pretty flat. Fanfan was funny, but didn’t really have much to him. Nicole beyond her relationship with Lulu also didn’t have much real substance to her. And the world building with regards to the past and witch hunts felt kind of tonally off compared to the story of Lulu. It largely felt like the attempts at having more depth than just being the story of a little girl didn’t really work and their failure sort of dragged the work down. I also had an issue with the ending, in that it felt like it didn’t go anywhere. I suppose it went as far as they could go down the path it chose to go down regarding the ending, but that’s a path that there’s clearly not a lot that can be done with without major time skipping or such, so it’s a direction they simply shouldn’t have gone down for the ending. Rather, the end result was that it was quite underwhelming and hence not that satisfying. The art was decent enough in terms of quality but not particularly pleasing to look at in my opinion in terms of style.

A manga that’s solid enough when focusing on a little girl growing up with a hint of magic, but that doesn’t work all that well when it veers away from that, which it does quite a bit.

7/10

Hachi Ichi 8♀1♂

hachiichi

Shinichirou is the grandson of the head of a major corporation, and is expected to take a major role in said corporation eventually. However, he just wants to live a simple life and choose what he does for himself. Finding his wish-washiness unacceptable, his grandfather comes up for a plan to become more responsible and confident. Shinichirou is told to come and live in a mansion at a certain location. Upon arriving, he encounters 8 beauties, and it is shocked to discover they’re his marriage candidates as a part of a plan his grandfather came up with. This group consists of the hardworking and incredibly competent Miyu, the reserved but kind Kaede, the somewhat chubby but jolly Yui, the outgoing and athletic Hana, the clumsy and slightly androphobic Midori, the sensual but insecure Nana, the aggressive but lazy Ai, and the strict but compassionate Rei. They are to live in that mansion for a year, and by the end of that year he must choose one to be his bride. They can do what they want in order to get to know each other, however impure relations are absolute forbidden. In such circumstances, Shinichirou continues living his life and attending high school.

***

This manga is a pretty generic harem rom-com with a premise that is pretty common in the genre. In terms of execution its only okay. First off, let me say that the greatest strength is definitely the art in my opinion, wherein it was all around excellent, with good designs, framing, quality, etc. The author is really really good at drawing frilly clothes and makes good use of that. Certain shots, such as some chapter covers and volume covers were exceptionally great. The story was a mixed bag. The heroines all have interesting personalities, but there are no real character arcs for any of them. They get almost no background and very little development. Shinichiroi does go through some development, in that he starts off lacking confidence and being completely indecisive and ends with some degree of confidence only being mostly indecisive. Still, the relationship development that does happen doesn’t feel particularly earned most of the time. In terms of plot, there isn’t really much beyond the premise, but it does have a lot of small segments of drama. I feel that’s the core of my problems with this manga. Having drama itself is fine, but I feel like this manga was taking itself too seriously. The premise is completely ridiculous, and the people reading this know that and find it an acceptable suspension of disbelief. So this trying to be more grounded in a sense just felt completely pointless and a waste as as a result most of the drama and conflicts just felt annoying. The just daily living slice of life with comedy and such was a lot more amusing and the parts focused around that were genuinely enjoyable, and they do make a significant portion of the manga so it’s not like all of its terrible. But whenever it would throw in conflicts trying to make the manga more serious or give it more depth, such as matters involving Shinichirou’s brothers, those portions just felt like a pain. On top of that, for the most part these serious portions never result in any significant change either, so they felt entirely pointless, but I guess at the same time that prevented them from hindering the enjoyable parts that much. The exception to that is the ending, which I once again, felt like it was taking itself far too seriously. How the path to the ending begins is incredibly abrupt. The entire thing is overtly melodramatic. And in the end, I feel that the direction it was taking the ending in was solid enough to be a good satisfying ending, but it tries to stay too grounded to really commit to it, and it just sort of ends in a way that doesn’t resolve things well enough and leaves things open with a potential of a good but ridiculous ending happening, but also very much leaving things open to a bad ending, so it’s not really satisfying at all. On top of that, in the omake it then veers into explicitly showing said bad ending as a joke, which is a really bad note to end on and just leaves a really bitter aftertaste.

A standard harem series that has great art and is amusing enough when all it tries to be is amusing, but it overall takes itself too seriously especially in regards to the ending.

7/10 

Yandere Kanojo

yanderekanojo

Tanaku Manabu is a high school student that is so normal and dull looking it’s kind of strange. Ryuuzaki Reina is the schools most violent Yankee. However, upon meeting, they immediately fall in love and begin going out, though they do their best to keep it a secret that they are. And under such circumstances, they develop quite an interesting set of relationships. They become close friends with Hijiri, a pretty normal and reliable girl that helps balance out Reina. Tanaka also develops a love-hate rivalry with an arrogant though oddly insecure classmate named Shiratori. And that’s not even getting into the family both of them have, with Reina’s father being a socially awkward teacher and her mother an ex-Yankee that usually acted like a normal housewife but when necessary could easily put any other Yankees to shame. And then there’s the whole mess with Tanaka’s family, who’s sister also goes to his school and works at a café run by a mask maniac, wherein Manabu lives separately from her with his grandfather, but who has incredibly complicated circumstances regarding his relationship with everyone else in his family. Then there are random others such as a ghost and a ghost hunter and an extremely strict principal and extremely perverted student council president. All of this puts Manabu and Reina through quite a number of events, most of them dumb and ridiculous, but due to that what starts as a simple love at first sight relationship develops into something much stronger.

***

Firstly, I should note that though its called Yandere Kanojo, it doesn’t mean traditional yandere (yanguire-dere), but rather yankee-dere. There’s no actual yandere in this series.

Now with that out of the way, I suppose I should start off by saying this series completely surprised me by how much it grew. It starts off as a simple 4koma gag manga with flat characters that aren’t much more than simple tropes and small stories that don’t seem to have much purpose beyond having a punchline after every 4 panels.

However, as it goes on those repeated jokes start adding up, small details that are slowly inserted with the jokes start adding up to flesh out characters pretty well, and the characters start feeling more and more developed as not just characters that are amusing, but characters that are easy to sympathize with and get invested in. It isn’t clear to me exactly when things changed, or rather maybe there wasn’t really any single point where things changed, but ultimately the stories started getting really well developed. It takes the characters that had been developed through the gags, and starts telling really good stories with them, ones that involve complex relationships complete with flashbacks, drama, twists, etc. that all contribute to quite a lot of character and relationship development.

And the thing is, it does that for pretty much everyone, not just the main couple. Characters get introduced and feel incredibly flat and like they’ll never be anything more than that, but they too get well developed back stories and good character development. While this is happening, it often drops the 4koma format, but it also keeps it quite a bit, even for the more serious portions. The end result of that is that it ends up moving quite fast. And that combined with the fact that it keeps the solid humor it’s had from the beginning with running gags that built up over the course of the 17 volumes, and the fact that it deals with so many characters, gives the series really really good pacing.

This is a series that truly vastly improves as it goes on, eventually building up to an ending that while not epic, wraps up quite a bit more than I ever expected such a series would ever need to wrap up and wraps it up really well, and ultimately left me very satisfied with the series. If there’s one complaint I have with the manga though, it’s the art, in that it starts off not very good and ends barely decent. Still, this isn’t a hindrance to the story it’s trying to tell so it’s not too much of a problem. The art actually looks pretty good occasionally during covers and such so I’d assume this was an issue of having to get through so many panels per chapter, which was a strength of the manga so I’d say it was worth it.

Come for the gags, stay for the interesting plot supporting strong character/relationship development. 

9/10 

Nisekoi (False Love)

nisekoi

Raku Ichijou is the son of the head of a Yakuza clan. Chitoge Kirisaki is the daughter of the head of a mafia family. Both of these families seem to be on the verge of all out war, which would be catastrophic for both of them as well as the surrounding town. Hence, the two heads whom were old friends decided that they’d have the Raku and Chitoge pretend to be lovers, and have that serve as the basis of the end of hostilities. And with no other choice, the two begin pretending to be a couple, and the families are at peace once more. However, the issue with that is that Raku and Chitoge’s personalities don’t mesh well at all. Raku sees Chitoge as a gorilla who lacks any feminine aspects and is instead overtly wild and violent, while Chitoge sees Raku as a bean sprout who is totally incompetent and indecisive. Hence, when they’re not forced to pretend, they’re constantly at each others throats. Furthermore, Raku already has a crush on a girl in his class named Onodera who is the type of girl he likes, kind and projecting a soft atmosphere. Furthermore, Chitoge has a body guard named Seishirou Tsugumi that while very competent as a hitman has no understanding of love but keeps getting involved. And eventually a girl named Marika Tachibana also gets involved as it seems her father, a police commissioner, and Raku’s father had decided that the two would be engaged long ago, but Raku’s father had forgotten, and furthermore Marika seems to be fully dedicated to the idea of making it happen, pursuing Raku with incredible vigor. And on top of all that, Raku during his childhood seems to have made an incredibly important promise with a girl, though he can’t remember what the promise was, nor who the girl was that he made the promise to. With all of this craziness swirling around, will Raku and Chitoge be able to maintain their fake relationship, will it fall or pieces, or will it perhaps evolve into something more?

***

This is ultimately a pretty standard harem anime. It’s pretty well written and most of the characters are interesting. However, to be honest, I wasn’t really fond of Chitoge, because even though I usually don’t dislike tsunderes she just felt annoying. She was also the main heroine it felt like, so that ended up dampening my enjoyment of the series somewhat as she was in the focus the most. I was more fond of Marika and Onodera and preferred the parts that focused on them. Still, both of them and the other characters get a decent amount of focus as well, and hence overall I’d have to say that I did enjoy seeing the series progress and the heroines develop. This mostly occurred through small stories that were hilarious at times, which were the best ones, though there were a decent amount of serious moments where things actually moved forward. The thing though, was that things got pretty ridiculous a lot, which is fine for the comedy portions, but it also felt that way for a lot of the serious moments in that there are serious moments that feel somewhat absurd due to how dependent they are on perfect coincidences and conveniently forgotten memories. These moments are usually present at the end of some story that involves a lot of suspense of some major revelation about to occur, but in the end nothing happens, generally in relation to the past and the promise, which just feels dumb at times. So while there certainly is relationship development and things do move forward, the amount of times where it feels like a major step is going to occur but it doesn’t is incredibly annoying and just overall makes the series feel like it’s not going anywhere even though things are happening at a decent pace. I didn’t just not like these parts, I felt they actively made the series worse and were completely unnecessary to the degree that they were present. Though I feel that I made this aspect worse on myself due to sort of marathoning it, and that it may not be as much of an issue if consumed as a slow burn.

The art, art style, and animation are a mixed bag in that, as is generally the case for Shaft, it does a lot of pretty unique and often strange shots in terms of perspective, style, etc. I’m not entirely sure whether that hurt or helped this, but it definitely didn’t help anywhere near as much as in the Monogatari or Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series which were greatly enhanced by Shaft’s uniqueness. The OPs were good. The EDs were mostly good, but it felt like there were too many, with in the Blu-Ray them even adding in extra and changing the order in such a way that felt it was wrong in that it focused on characters in the ED before they were introduced in the series. The soundtrack wasn’t particularly memorable other than the track that often played at the beginning of episodes.

An anime that is amusing enough but has way too many instances where things go nowhere.

7/10

The OVAs were basically just the humor, and the best humor, without pointless plot moments so they were actually the highlight of the series for me. 8/10

Shinmai Maou no Testament Departures (The Testament of Sister New Devil Departures)

shinmaimaoudepartures2

Basara and company are enjoying going back to their normal lives and doing normal things like going to the pool. However, this peace is shattered when they are requested to return to the Hero Village, leaving them questioning how to proceed.

***

This isn’t really a proper story but rather a prologue to the next arc in that it ends with them beginning to journey to towards the village. It focuses on establishing why returning to the village is an issue not just in terms of potential danger, but also in terms of bringing up old traumas for Basara, Yuki, and Kurumi. This is conveyed to the other members of the group, and in doing so it gets everyone on the same footing before departing, which naturally involves some decent relationship development not just between Basara and the rest of the group but also amongst the other group members themselves. This is able to occur because Basara is busy away from the group with a side story centered around Chisato, though one that isn’t made entirely clear where it came from or what the purpose was but it seems to set up things that’ll come up again at some point. Though to some degree it is getting kind of irritating at this point how that seems to be all that Chisato ever gets, in that she’s had a decent amount of scenes but no clear substantial development and only hints and mysterious teases that seem largely pointless. There’s also a fight against Lars, and though the stakes don’t feel that high it’s awesome enough. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before in any of my reviews, but Lars is pretty damn cool. The art and animation were just as good as the second season and of course the critical scenes were still there and strong. The ED was the OP of season 2 which was good enough I suppose though it would have been cool to get something new.

A solid prologue to a new arc that does everything you would expect from it in the context of Shinmai Maou, though ultimately it is just a prologue.

9/10

It’s a bummer that production IMS is gone. I hope the production committee decided to proceed with a season 3 anyway.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

finalfantasyxii

The Archadian Empire continues its path towards dominance by taking over Dalmasca. The lone surviving member of the Dalmascan royal line, Ashe, begins a resistance movement. However, this resistance is hard pressed to make any progress. This begins to change when the resistance wages an attack on the Dalmascan palace. While the attack fails, in the process Ashe comes in contact with a number of interesting people that had snuck into the palace for their own ends. More specifically, she encounters the amateur thief Vaan and the sky pirates Balthier and Fran both of whom were trying to steal the Dusk Shard. This Dusk Shard turns out to be more important than any of them expected, indicating a power great enough to resist the Empire. However, whether such power is something humanity should use is a question that Ashe must struggle with. Hence, Ashe as well as Vaan, Baltheir, and Fran go on a journey to learn more about this power, where it comes from, and how it may be used, on the way being joined by the disgraced but still honorable knight Basch and the Vaan’s childhood friend Panelo. However, they’re not the only ones exploring this power, with the Empire and most prominently it’s prince Vayne intending to use this power to restore the reigns of history to human hands.

***

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a remaster of the international version of the PS2 game Final Fantasy XII. While I have played other Final Fantasy games, this is my first foray into the world of Final Fantasy XII, and hence this review this written from such a perspective.

The story was interesting in that it felt like the opposite of most other Final Fantasy games in that it wasn’t really character focused at all. Rather, the focus was on an overarching plot involving kingdoms, war, politics, strategy, and guiding humanities place in their own history. This overarching plot was pretty well done, with lots of intrigue and interesting twists, as well as in dealing with interesting topics such as revenge, freedom, and power. However, I feel this very much came at the cost of focusing on its main cast of characters. The main characters obviously do still play a role in the plot, but it felt more like they were being carried along by the story rather than the story being carried by them. They’re interesting and have their own character arcs, but they aren’t really given any depth outside of the narrow scope of said character arcs. The group is really a random group of people going on a journey wherein it isn’t really established why they’re all together and doesn’t really establish the bonds between them at all beyond some superficial aspects, so as a group they seem pretty flat. Thus in the end, while I was interested in the overarching plot, I didn’t feel much attachment to the characters themselves, which as a person who generally prefers more character driven stories I found somewhat disappointing.

The combat system was interesting, in that its primarily centered around programming characters with gambits so that the game can play itself with minimal course correction by the player. At that point you can even speed up the game itself to run 2x or 4x normal. This was an interesting concept, and I appreciated how it made going through random mobs quicker and mundane RPG activities like farming or grinding less painful. However, at the same time it felt less involving and hence less impactful, which when it came to more important battles such as boss fights made it much less satisfying in my opinion over a game where the player keeps tighter control. As for the finer details of combat such as abilities themselves, it was pretty well designed in traditional Final Fantasy format.

The growth system I found to be complete garbage. The basic leveling was fine, though I’m not a fan of having party members sitting out obtaining absolutely no experience. Having to buy gambits was incredibly dumb and made it a lot harder to change strategies on the fly in dungeons or the fields, and rather pushed the player to come up with a scheme and stick with it until they returned to towns with shops. The concept of the license board was also immensely annoying. The basic concepts behind how it worked was fine, but having everything tied to it was annoying. In contrast to how its generally done where any armor purchased or picked up can be used immediately with maybe a level requirement and any abilities unlocked in ability structures like the license board can be used immediately, this game requires both obtaining an item and unlocking it in the license board for both equipment and abilities. This results in lots of situations where you can get one but not the other and just in general just greatly dampens the satisfaction of achieving growth.

The world itself was well designed with a lot of non-linearity, both in terms of the world map and individual location maps. Dungeons were paced well and didn’t generally feel like they were dragging on too long. Exploring was also somewhat enjoyable. However, the side content was a complete pain to deal with, and I really didn’t bother with it much past the beginning. I know that people in general aren’t a fan of an RPG holding your hand in regards to such content, but having to find and keep track of everything on your own with no indicators or logs whatsoever is simply too much for me to bother with.

The graphics and animation definitely have not aged well, and the remaster doesn’t address this well enough, wherein unlike the remaster of FFX the character models were not majorly improved, which would have helped tremendously. The character and other designs I found only decent, in that they were interesting at first, but I felt that the world overall didn’t have that much variety to it. The soundtrack was as usual for Final Fantasy, pretty good, though on the lower end of things for a Final Fantasy game.

A Final Fantasy game that does things very differently in a number of ways but doesn’t quiet nail it on most of them.

7/10