Series Review – Blue Exorcist: Season 1

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures

I’m writing this review in order to properly cover the second season.  Surprisingly, the series I am reviewing today managed to receive a second season just this year, which is about six or so years after the first season ended.  Blue Exorcist is one of the best Shonen series around and the first season set a high standard for future Shonen adaptations.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

Blue Exorcist features the main character, Rin Okumura, being introduced into the world that is filled with supernatural beings.  Raised by a priest, Rin lives a normal life with his twin brother Yukio.  One day, supernatural beings attack his home and Rin learns that his father is actually a member of an organization known as the Exorcists.  He also learns that Rin and Yukio are the sons of Satan.  Rin’s father is killed and Rin awakens his demon power by drawing the demon-slaying sword Kurikara.  After this event, Rin joins the True Cross Academy in order to train as an Exorcist.  Much to his surprise, Rin finds that Yukio is already a veteran exorcist and ends up becoming one of his teachers.

After this initial setup, the series turns largely episodic.  There is an overall plot regarding a demon war, but the series places a focus on small mission conducted by Rin and his classmates.  For the most part, this is really entertaining.  The cast of characters is interesting and actually manage to develop somewhat during the run of this series.  In particular, Rin and Yukio are the most interesting characters.  Rin’s never ending optimism and motivation to be as great an Exorcist as his father, makes his character endearing.  In contrast, Yukio is the more level-headed brother, but possesses a layer of darkness that is not present in Rin.  These two characters are the driving force of the show and make the overall run of episodes interesting.  However, this first season is mostly an introduction to the world of Blue Exorcist and this means that the story doesn’t really have any stakes until the last few episodes, which poses a problem because of the anime-only ending.

Around the middle of the season, the anime begins to deviate from the manga.  This deviation is very apparent because the story quality does dip immensely.  It is still entertaining, but it definitely drags down the show’s overall quality to the point where the second season just ignores the anime-original plot and begins right after the middle of the first season.  This is a move I will talk about more in length when I review the second season.  The manga source material is so much better that I would actually recommend watching until the end of the forest arc, then just moving on to the second season.  Again, the premise and cast creates a wonderfully entertaining story, but the anime-only ending of the first season diminishes the effect immensely.

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Animation and Sound

The presentation for Blue Exorcist is absolutely top notch.  Typically, Shonen shows have a diminished quality due to the large requirement of episodes asked of the studio.  Here, there is no such problem.  Despite having over twenty episodes, the animation quality maintains a good and consistent quality.  The characters possess interesting designs even when wearing school uniforms.  The non-action animation is similarly great due to the excellent use of facial expressions to capture the more comedic moments of the series.  Of course, the main draw is the action animation and it does not disappoint.  Much like with my discussion of the character design, any fight scenes involving Rin or Yukio is a delight to watch.  That does not mean that the rest of the action animation is bad.  Many of the other characters have unique abilities that make for some interestingly choreographed fights, but the ones involving Rin or Yukio stand above the rest.

The sound design is just as great as the animation.  For starters, the voice cast is absolutely excellent.  Rin’s naivety and optimism are portrayed perfectly.  Yukio’s young, but mature demeanor is also presented well.  The rest of the cast gives great performances that make for an enjoyable watch.  Blue Exorcist also features one of the strongest soundtracks in recent memory.  First off, the two openings are some of the best that anime has to offer.  The very poppy first ending also manages to impress despite the contrasting tone.  The great Hiroyuki Sawano composed the score and it shows.  The musical score is great in every way.  My personal favorite is the track called “X” which just amps up the action in all the right places.  Based on the presentation and sound design alone, Blue Exorcist is worth a watch.

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Final Verdict

Everything about Blue Exorcist manages to impress.  The story and characters are interesting while the animation and sound design maintain a high level of quality.  My only gripe is the deviation from the manga at about the halfway point.  For this reason, I give the first season of Blue Exorcist a Watch rating.  I also recommend watching until the end of the forest arc, then immediately starting the second season.  Everything after this arc in the first season is good, but rather inconsequential for the series as a whole.  I’ll be back next week with another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating

 

 

Series Review – Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Descending Stories

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Studio Deen

Last year brought an absolute powerhouse of a show that still has not garnered the attention that it deserved.  Along with Konosuba, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu brought in a period that can only be called Studio Deen’s renaissance.  The first season was an absolute perfect drama that managed to be a rare anime that appealed to adults while also focusing on a particular aspect of Japanese culture, namely the rakugo performances.  The follow-up is just as amazing in every way, and before I get started with a cursory look into the show, I wholeheartedly recommend skipping this review and just checking it out.  With that said, I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The first season of Rakugo surprised many viewers by mostly taking place during a season long flashback that detailed the events surrounding Yakumo’s rise to rakugo prominence as well as the tragedy that altered his life forever.  Unlike the first season though, this one takes place in the modern day and puts significant emphasis on Yakumo’s ex-con apprentice, Yotaro and his new-found family.  However, the story once again places the bulk of its focus on Yakumo, this time showcasing his depression caused by reaching his twilight years.  That is the strength of this series.  As a viewer, we pretty much got to see Yakumo at every stage in his life.  The viewer gets to see a character change from the passage of years as well as the fallout from life-altering events that occurred years prior.  Yakumo’s descent into depression is a very serious topic that is presented beautifully to the viewer.  The ending of the series was emotional, but ultimately satisfying in every way.

I believe this story arc carries a lot of weight due to the presence of Yotaro.  Despite Yakumo’s descent into darkness, Yotaro always remains a bright character.  This provides a significant sense of optimism that balances well with Yakumo’s darkness.  Despite everything going around him, Yotaro starts a family and ultimately becomes a beacon in the dying world of rakugo.  Yotaro’s relationship with Konatsu is also heavily important in this season.  After Sukeroku’s death, Yakumo was the one who took custody of Konatsu.  This was an interesting character dynamic since Konatsu blamed Yakumo for her parents’ death.  As a result, this season sees Konatsu finally addressing her emotional pain.  The interplay between Yakumo, Yotaro, and Konatsu is the driving force of this season and results in a story that is almost perfect in every way.  My only gripe is the focus on the identity of the biological father of Konatsu’s baby.  This plotline is given a significant amount of time and ultimately I think it was not really important.  Other than that, the story was excellently crafted with the same level of care as the first season, which makes it one of the strongest shows of the year.

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Animation and Sound Design

In terms of animation and sound, there is not much to say.  Both of these aspects maintain the high quality of the first season.  However, there are a few standout moments that deserve some mention.  Any scene regarding a rakugo performance from an older Yakumo is an absolute delight in animation and performance.  These sequences are filled with outstanding symbolism.  Yakumo’s performance of Shinigami is a masterpiece in every sense.  From the way the character moves, with the voice acting and character expressions showcasing dread and terror, these sequences with Yakumo are chilling to the bone, but represent a high point in terms of considering anime as an artistic medium.  Every aspect of these scenes just ooze with personality and given our experience with Yakumo as a character, the audience feels an intense emotional connection through these performances.  As to the rest of the animation, the backgrounds are highly detailed, the characters are highly expressive, and the standout scenes are the rakugo performances, which is exactly what I said during my review of the first season.

As to the music and the voice acting, I would like to focus on one particular aspect.  Before going deeper into this point, the music of this series is phenomenal and fits with every moment.  Likewise, the voice acting is just as great.  Yotaro’s cadence is captured perfectly and Konatsu’s voice actress manages to perfectly capture her inner turmoil.  The real highlight of the voice acting is Yakumo’s performance.  The voice actor of Yakumo manages to capture the ultimate tragedy in Yakumo’s older state.  The character sounds tired, but ultimately prideful.  Similarly, this cadence comes across in the astounding rakugo performances I mentioned earlier.  This is really one of the best, if not the best, voice acting performance of the year.  Overall, the presentation and sound design of this show is nothing short of amazing.

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Final Verdict

For those that have not watched the first season, do so immediately.  While this show is not for everyone, the two season of Rakugo manage to tell a highly emotional and personal story about the life of Yakumo.  The animation and sound design maintain a similar level of quality.  This is one of the best shows of the year and deserves a chance to be watched by any fan of anime.  I give Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Descending Stories my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  By the end of the year, this series is going to be in the running for show of the year.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

Series Review – Masamune Kun’s Revenge

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Silver Link

I’m at the point now where I am getting very tired of most harem comedies.  Most of them don’t offer anything new to the viewer.  There is nothing that can set them apart from one another.  I was pleasantly surprised when I decided to check out a manga that initially appeared to be going down the harem route, but quickly turned into something much more.  The manga is quickly approaching its end, but I was ecstatic when an anime adaptation was announced.  While not completely covering the series, the anime adaptation of Masamune-Kun’s Revenge was a delightful comedy that captured the essence of the manga.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story and Characters

When he was a child, the chubby Masamune formed a close relationship with Aki, a beautiful and wealthy girl.  However, one day she rejected him and cruelly gave him the nickname “Pig’s Foot.”  In a spite of revenge, Masamune changed his name and began working out in order to become fit and handsome, with the sole goal of getting Aki to fall in love with him so that he can reject her in the same embarrassing way.

At first glance, this appears to be the perfect setup for a typical harem, but this never comes to be.  Despite being tempted by love, Masamune never loses sight of his goal of Aki.  At certain points, he even turns down several girls that express an interest in him.  Much of the comedy of the series derives from Masamune’s attempts to crack the frozen interior that is Aki’s heart.  The interactions between these two characters are the driving force of the series, but in typical anime fashion there is a tendency to break up the action when things are just starting to get good.   However, the story is excellent in terms of dealing with Aki’s constantly fluctuating emotions and given some of Masamune’s actions, her indecisiveness at times is perfectly understandable.

This revenge style plot is largely assisted by the excellent characters.  Aki is the most uninteresting of the bunch, being the typical ice queen, but even she has some moments that are guaranteed to please the viewer.  Despite Masamune’s actions being solely for revenge, he is actually quite likeable in comparison to the cold Aki. I actually found myself rooting for him to succeed with his plan, but my favorite aspect is his ability to avoid some typical anime tropes.  When he is put on the spot, he manages to come clean immediately rather than extending the drama which is typical in most romantic comedy anime.

The plot is further bolstered by the cast of excellent side characters.  There’s the stereotypical trap that always manages to be entertaining, but my two favorites are Yoshino and Neko.  Yoshino is Aki’s servant who quickly deduces that Masamune seeks revenge, but in a twist of fate, she actually helps Masamune with his plot.  She maintains a clumsy appearance to hide her extremely smart nature.  She is often a source of comedy due to the sheer ridiculousness of her calculations in helping Masamune.  For instance, one episode sees her lying to Aki in order to get her to wear a cosplay outfit out on a date.  This is just one example of her calculating, but fun demeanor.  Neko is my favorite character of the series.  Despite being frail, she manages to give great life advice to Masamune and is also aware of his plot regarding Aki.  Despite this she genuinely loves Masamune, but with a more seductive twist.  She actually makes some legitimate moves on Masamune which was very refreshing compared to what typically happens in this sort of anime.  Overall, the plot and characters were the highlight of this series.

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Animation and Sound

In terms of animation, Masamune-Kun’s Revenge is mostly mediocre.  The backgrounds are bland and the character movement can be stiff at times.  There is a bright aesthetic to the show, but even this can’t hide some of the flaws of the animation.  Despite this, there are some aspects that are brilliant.  The facial expressions of the characters are an absolute highlight and I think the animators did a great job in capturing some of the beautiful expressions from the manga.  The character design is also excellent.  For example, the animation perfectly captures Yoshino’s differing personality types.  The animation for when she is acting as the servant portrays her as meek, but when her calculating side comes to the forefront, the design makes her appear strong.  Despite these moments of brilliance, the animation is not likely to impress.

In regards to the sound design, the only highlight is the voice acting.  The voice actors have an excellent sense of comedic timing and manage to portray the different personalities of the same characters perfectly.  Masamune can come across as charming while also being extremely devilish.  The same can be said for Yoshino.  The voice actress comes across as shy and timid, but then can switch to the more dominating personality without a moment’s hesitation.  The music has some hits and misses though.  During some of the more important scenes, the music manages to impress.  One particular scene with Neko comes to mind.  However, the music can also be highly generic, making this aspect of the show a rather mixed bag.  Overall, the animation is mediocre and the sound design has some ups and downs.

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Final Thoughts

I absolutely adored Masamune-Kun’s Revenge, so much so that I hope that the series is eventually completely adapted.  The story and the characters involved make this an enjoyable series to watch.  The voice acting also brings life to these characters.  However, the animation and music prevent this series from being anything more than good.  For that reason, I give Masamune-Kun’s Revenge­ my Watch rating.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating

Movie Review – A Silent Voice

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation

Last year, Makato Shinkai’s Your Name took the world by storm.  I have already reviewed this film and I will go on the record as describing it as a masterpiece.  There was one downside of this worldwide frenzy though; another anime film that was just as a good managed to get eclipsed by Your Name.  This is an adaptation of a manga that I absolutely loved.  A manga that deals with some very serious issues that was emotionally devastating to read.  I’m talking about A Silent Voice.  This film adaptation by Kyoto Animation manages to present one of the most beautiful anime films of all time from both a story and production perspective.

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Story and Characters

I will not spoil any of the latter elements of the story arc, but for the sake of discussing the story, it is necessary to provide some background.  The plot follows Shoya Ishida through his reunion with a deaf student named Shoko Nishimiya.  In his elementary school years, Ishida was one of the main perpetrators in bullying Shoko to the point where she had to transfer schools just to get away.  With Shoko gone, the rest of the class soon shifts its attention to Ishida, making him the new bullying target.  Ishida is ostracized to the point where he lacks any sort of friend even when he reaches high school.  Because of this, Ishida becomes suicidal, but desires to atone for his past actions.  He manages to find Shoko, seeking to form a friendship with her to make up for his horrible treatment of her.

At its core, A Silent Voice is a story that is all about redemption.  There is no apologizing for Ishida’s actions.  Every character acknowledges that he did some terrible things and he even feels like his life after Shoko was almost a karmic like result of his horrible actions.  This makes Ishida’s character so interesting.  It’s rare to see an anime character know what they did was wrong and even that there is no changing what they did.  Watching Ishida move forward from the past in order to help Shoko is a beautiful thing.  Shoko’s character is similarly just as layered.  From her variety of outbursts, to her portrayal as the victim, this film does an excellent job at showcasing her character.  The film largely focuses on these two characters and it is an emotional roller coaster.

It’s about presenting some serious topics that haven’t really been covered to this extent in the anime medium.  The story takes an in-depth look into suicide, depression, and bullying.  It can be very heavy at times.  However, I think that is where the inner beauty lies with the film.  It takes these topics and expertly presents them into a story that is emotionally captivating without being overdramatic.  Similarly, it does not make light of these issues and presents them with the seriousness that is required.  It would be very easy for the film to trivialize some of the more serious issues, but it does not fall into this trap.  The result is a story in which the characters grow significantly by the end of the film.  It presents the viewer with a watch that is uncomfortable, beautiful, heartwarming, and devastating.  It really is a perfect drama.

I want to briefly talk about the nature of the adaptation.  This film should be a textbook example of how to condense a longer manga series into one movie.  Of course, this does have some drawbacks.  The film largely excises the development of Ishida’s group of friends.  This has the effect of ignoring their bullying of Shoko during elementary school.  The film showcases this somewhat, but mostly puts Ishida as the main instigator.  In the manga, pretty much every other elementary school student was an absolutely deplorable piece of shit and not every character is redeemable.  The film also does not provide the background into Shoko’s home life and the circumstances of why her mother was raising the children by herself.  I feel like this would provide some much needed characterization of Shoko’s mother, but was not truly necessary in the grand scheme.  The story arcs not involving Ishida and Shoko were pretty much the ones that were cut.  Given that the main strength of the manga was this central plotline between Ishida and Shoko, the lack of these storylines is not detrimental to the overall plot of the film.

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Animation and Sound

Kyoto Animation presents one of the best looking films of the year.  Every frame of this film is breathtaking in every way.  The backgrounds are highly detailed and showcase a level of quality that is unbelievable at points.  The animation is just as a high a quality as every other aspect.  The characters move with a level of fluidity that manages to impress at every opportunity.  This level of animation was necessary to capture the sheer emotion of the story.  I was even impressed with watching the characters use sign language. The character expressions are also highly detailed.  Seriously, any shot that is a close up on a face is likely to impress.  Any time a character cries, the facial animation just exudes the emotion.  The stylistic choice of the manga to portray Ishida’s view of characters with X’s over their face is also used to perfection here.  I do not have a single negative thing to say about the animation and this does not make for an interesting review because I don’t have a lot to say other than this is truly a perfectly animated film.

The sound design also impresses to a similar degree.  Musically there isn’t anything that really stands out other than the opening montage featuring a song by The Who, but the tracks manage to exude the emotion needed for the more serious scenes.  The most impressive aspect lies with the voice acting.  Every character gives a great performance, but the voice actors for Ishida and Shoko deserve praise.  Shoko’s voice actress perfectly captures the sound of her voice as a result of her deafness.  This is powerful because when Shoko actually speaks out loud, the viewer is inclined to listen.  It also helps give a lot of legitimacy to the film.  Similarly, Ishida’s voice actor perfectly captures that mix between optimism and fear with regards to his interactions with Shoko.  Much like the animation, I don’t have any negative to say about the sound design.

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Final Thoughts

A Silent Voice is a perfect adaptation of a phenomenal manga.  I don’t have a single negative thing to say about this film.  The story is a perfect look at suicide, depression and bullying while also providing some necessary optimism with Ishida’s redemption.  It treats these topics seriously to form a powerful and emotional story that made me cry.  The film’s animation is perfect.  The voice acting is perfect.  It’s a beautiful film in every regard.  For that reason, I give A Silent Voice my Bananaowns’ Stamp of Approval.  If this ever gets licensed in the United States, I will be buying Blu-Ray, that’s how good it was.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

This review is over, but I had a couple more things to say.  This film deals with some very heavy themes and one of them presents an opportunity to say something.  A Silent Voice starts off with a look at Ishida’s contemplation of suicide because of his years’ worth of losing faith in humanity.  For those that are suffering through depression and contemplating suicide, I strongly urge you to seek out some help.  No matter how bad things get, there are always people that care about you and these people will be hurt in the event that the worst happens.  If anyone feels like no one cares or will listen, there is always someone who does and you can always seek help with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

This was relatively serious way to end this review, but given the subject matter, it felt appropriate.  Thanks for giving this review a look.

Series Review – I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Dream Creation

This will be a rather short review as this series is a short, but comedic anime.  I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is an entertaining and heartfelt look into married life.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The story centers on the lives of Kaoru and her husband, Hajime.  Kaoru is a hard working professional while Hajime is an otaku.  The difference in their personality types creates a significant amount of comedy usually involving a variety of animation references.  Hajime’s otaku ways are strange, but rather endearing.  For a big fan of anime like me, these jokes usually land perfectly.  I ended up watching the entire series in one sitting because it was genuinely funny.  The series features a plethora of running gags that also manage to be hilarious.  My favorite involves the appearance of Hajime’s rather feminine looking brother.

I also enjoyed how charming this series manages to be.  At the end of the day, this show is about the everyday lives of a married couple.  Some moments are more serious than others, but the emphasis is on how these characters interact to get through the tough times.  It is from these glimpses of seriousness, that the audience can see how genuine the relationship between Hajime and Kaoru is.  With the comedy and adorable main relationship, the story of this anime does not disappoint.

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Animation and Sound

This is a rather short and comedic series.  The animation is not highly detailed, but is perfect in a stylistic sense.  The series is focused on comedy and the animation matches this tone.  The overall animation is very bright and cheery.  The characters are heavily exaggerated and stylized for an additional comedic effect.  The animation fits in perfectly with the comedic tone.

As for the sound design, the series excels with its voice acting.  The entire cast has a perfect awareness of comedic timing.  Seriously, every character manages to be funny in a unique way.  Kaoru and Hajime are especially great in the series overall.  The ending song is adorable.  The ending features Kaoru’s and Hajime’s voice actors singing.  This is the perfect way to end each episode.

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Final Thoughts

I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is a hilarious and charming comedy that manages to impress on every level.  I give this series my Bananaown’s stamp of approval.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

 

The Drop Zone – Ace Attorney

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures

I’m Bananaowns and this is the Drop Zone, a series where I take a look at shows that I stopped watching.  It’s time to talk about Ace Attorney.

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I don’t exactly know who this show was made for.  Fans of the video game series were disappointed in the adaptation of the many cases and characters and those who were unfamiliar with the series had no idea what the hell was happening.  I am in the latter camp as I have never played an Ace Attorney game before.  I am a current law student which made a show about lawyers really stand out to me.

When I started watching, I was surprised in what I saw.  The show was relatively nonsensical to me.  I was impressed with the content of the initial cases.  Watching Phoenix Wright solve cases was enthralling at the start.  However, the craziness of the court scenes just began to wear this initial enthusiasm down very quickly.  This was not helped by the animation quality.  The animation was wooden and the backgrounds were bland.  I could have probably stuck around a bit longer if the presentation was better.

I just didn’t get the appeal of this series.  I feel like the intrinsic charm of the games was lost in translation to an animated series.  I made it six episodes before I decided that I did not want to watch this any further.  Thanks for checking this piece out and I’ll be back next week for another review.

Series Review – Akame Ga Kill

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of White Fox

Polarizing shows are an absolute blast to review.  No matter what you write, half of the viewers end up getting upset.  There are two extremes for a show like this: one side states that this series is phenomenal while the other states that it is absolute garbage.  The truth always lies somewhere in the middle.  With that out of the way, it’s time to review Akame Ga Kill.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The story stars Tatsumi, a young man from a poverty stricken village.  He sets off to the Kingdom’s capital where he quickly learns of the corruption of the monarchy and the nobility.  Tastumi ends up joining Night Raid, the assassination arm of the Revolutionary Army.  The ultimate goal of the revolutionaries is to overthrow the King’s advisor.  Ironically named Honest, this advisor secretly manipulates the young monarch for his own personal gain despite the detrimental impact to the kingdom.  Each member of Night Raid possesses ancient weapons known as Imperial Arms.  Each one of these weapons possesses a unique ability and a significant portion of the battles of the series are between two Imperial Arms users.

This series is often criticized as being edgy for the sake of being edgy, without any rhyme or reason to it.  I disagree with this sentiment to a certain extent, but agree that the show is relatively dark.  The problem is with the anime-original ending which ends up tossing in a bunch of character deaths in a very short span of time.  I think the ending is where this edgy sentiment ultimately comes from.  Up until the point where the anime diverged from the manga, the story was actually solid.  It was not amazing, but was average and more importantly, managed to be entertaining.

The dark tone of this series was actually a highlight for me.  Before the rushed ending, the dark tone actually gave weight to the battles.  At any point, a main character could be killed in a fight with another Imperial Arms user.  I find that a lot of anime lack tension because nothing actually will happen to a main character.  I would even say that this series actually has a likeable cast of main characters.  Night Raid is filled with quirky, but lovable individuals.  For instance, there’s Mine the typical tsundere and Lubbock the typical pervert.  The show is at its strongest when Night Raid is altogether.  The characters interact well with each other and provide some humor to the serious situation.  Similarly, the main antagonists known as the Jaegers, are also just as likeable.  I also enjoyed the interaction between General Esdeath and Tatsumi.  It was just such a different hero-villain relationship then I was used to.  Overall, the story is not great, but is solid.  The anime-original ending is the worst part of the series.

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Animation and Sound

The animation quality of the series is solid overall.  Of course, the strengths in the animation are showcased during the action scenes.  Given the wide array of abilities used by the different Imperial Arms, the fights in this series are exceptionally entertaining.  The different levels of strategy employed are shown perfectly through the animation.  One of my favorite fight scenes is one of the earliest of the series and features Tatsumi before he receives an Imperial Arms.  Outside of the action, the animation is rather mediocre with the exception of the environmental design.  The backgrounds of this series can be quite good, especially in scenes that take place within the Capital.  The look of the Capital is just so interesting between the concentric designs of the layout with the variety of alleyways and shops.

As for the sound design, nothing here is that impressive.  The music fits the bill, but nothing really stands out in terms of a soundtrack.  The openings and the endings were the only things that I particularly noticed in terms of the music.  The voice acting is rather solid overall.  I find the members of Night Raid and the Jaegers are charming and threatening when they need to be.  I especially enjoy the performance of Tatsumi as his character shows the most depth in terms of emotion.  Again, nothing really stands out in the sound design.

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Final Thoughts

Akame Ga Kill is not awful, but it isn’t great either.  It’s a fairly average show that has a lot of entertainment value.  Before the anime original ending, the story was relatively solid.  The animation has some great moments as well.  I give Akame Ga Kill my Watch rating.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating

Series Review – Clannad

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation

The show I am reviewing today is mostly lauded for its follow-up.  I haven’t watched Clannad: After Story yet, so this review will solely by about the first anime season.  Clannad started out as a typical harem series, but surprisingly turned emotional at various points.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The series stars Tomoya, a delinquent high school student.  One day, on his way to school he meets a girl named Nagisa.  From there, he quickly becomes acquainted with a variety of other girls that attend his high school.  After his meeting with Nagisa, he learns that she is repeating her last year of high school due to her absences caused by illness.  Nagisa desires to join the drama club, but since her absence, the club has disbanded.  Despite his delinquent nature, Tomoya decides to assist Nagisa in reforming the drama club.

Many of the initial storylines start with Tomoya seeking to recruit members for the drama club, but this initial premise quickly falls by the wayside for almost every story arc that does not feature Nagisa.  Instead, the story largely focuses on the other female characters.  The sequel Clannad: After Story is usually touted as the emotional powerhouse of the series, but I was surprised at how ridiculously emotional this simple harem series was.  Various storylines bring out intense emotion is often surprising ways.  For instance, Tomoya’s inability to play basketball has a dark past to it.  The same can also be said for a girl in the school that loves to give out wooden starfish.  Every story arc has a significant amount of emotion and the series can be a rough watch at times because of it.  Given my feelings regarding this series, I cannot imagine how I will survive After Story.  While there is a lot of drama, it is fair to say that the show can be very comedic at times.  The comedy is largely based early on in each story arc, but is inserted in intervals.

As for the characters, Clannad is filled with a significant amount of great characters.  Tomoya is an interesting main protagonist.  Despite being a delinquent, he is one of the most helpful characters in the series.  While they are mostly used for comic relief, Nagisa’s parents even have a shocking amount of backstory to them.  Every character is similarly layered.  At first they exhibit some generic trait, but as the story arcs develop, the inner facets of the characters are put onto display.  Everyone has some sort of emotional trauma from a past event, and the series does an excellent job at using this past trauma in conjunction with present story arcs.

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Animation and Sound

The first aspect of the animation that is sure to raise some eyebrows is the character design.  For the male characters, the design is mostly normal.  However, the female characters have absolutely gigantic eyes.  This design choice has put off a lot of potential viewers and it is what prevented me from watching this series sooner.  I ended up getting used to the design and it actually grew on me.  So despite the gigantic bug eyes, give this series a chance.  As for the rest of the animation, there really isn’t anything that I would describe as special, it’s just solid.  There also isn’t anything too interesting about the setting as it mostly takes place at a high school which is an anime staple by this point.  It’s a solid level of quality though and there is nothing about the animation that I would consider to be detrimental.

The sound design for this series is solid as well.  Clannad: After Story supposedly has a standout musical track.  However, for this series, I did not notice any piece of music that really stood out to me.  The music is appropriate for the emotional scenes and does provide the necessary addition to makes these scenes even better.  The real strength of Clannad lies with the voice acting.  I love the performances of all the characters.  Tomoya has that perfect mix of humor and caring.  The voice actors for Nagisa’s parents turn in some excellent comedic performances.  The comedic timing is perfect in every scene that they are in.  Overall, the animation and sound design for this series is solid.

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Final Thoughts

I went into this show thinking it was just the necessary prerequisite in order to watch the greatness that is Clannad: After Story.  I was surprised to find a show that was highly emotional.  This was supposed to be the series that did not tug on the heartstrings.  I wasn’t supposed to cry until After Story, but that’s not what happened in the end.  I was brought to tears a few times in my watching of this series.  I give Clannad my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  I don’t know how I’ll survive the next one when I get to it, but there will definitely be a review of the sequel when my heart recovers from watching it.  Thanks for checking this piece out and I’ll be back next week for another review.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

Movie Review – Kizumonogatari: Part 2

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Studio Shaft

The second movie of the ongoing Kizumonogatari adaptation was just released on home video in Japan which means that it is time to look at this one as well.  I have already covered the first movie in a previous review, which I recommend checking out.  Like the first review, there will be no rating attached to this review as this is merely one fraction of a story that spans three films.  With that said, I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

This movie picks up immediately after the events of the first one.  Araragi is now a vampire and has been tasked with recovering Kiss-Shot’s stolen body parts from a trio of vampire hunters.  The mysterious Oshino managed to work out a deal with the hunters in which each member will challenge Araragi to a solo duel.

The film mostly features the first two duels and ends relatively soon after the third one commences.  Unlike the first film, this one hits the ground running.  The basic plot setup was accomplished primarily in the first film, often with little dialogue.  Here, the strengths of the Monogatari series are shown in full force.  Hanekawa and Araragi have a plethora of more scenes that feature the same word play and conversation that characterizes this series.  This is the foundation for the pair’s later friendship in the rest of the series.

The vampire fights are the main draw here though as they take up the majority of the movie.  Araragi has a couple of fights that defy the senses with how brutal they are.  They also manage to expertly explore the extent of Araragi’s new powers as a vampire.  As the second film in the trilogy, the movie ends on a noticeable cliffhanger, but this is not an issue.  The adaptation is flawless and I cannot wait to watch the third movie.

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Animation and Sound Design

Nothing about this animation is different from the first movie.  The unreal animation quality is continued to be displayed here, albeit in a more interesting manner.  The first movie, while gorgeous, lacked action scenes to showcase what Shaft was really capable of animating.  The duels between Araragi and the vampire hunters are absolute masterpieces of animation.  Between the showcased brutality, the fluid movement, and the overall direction, these scenes are the best showcase of animation that I have seen since the last movie.  This movie could be watched solely for the animation alone.

I really do not have anything to say about the sound design, other than that it is great.  The high quality voice acting that the series is known for is finally given a chance to shine in this movie.  The sound design of the action scenes gives these scenes the necessary weight and impact.  I also highly enjoyed the music used as well.  It perfectly shifted between the light-hearted and more intense tones.

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Final Thoughts

Kizumonogatari: Nekketsu is the second part of what is likely to be considered to be a masterpiece.  The movie is excellent in every way, just like the first film.  The final part cannot come soon enough.  Thanks for checking this piece out and I’ll be back next week for another review.

Series Review – Yuri on Ice

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Studio Mappa

If you told me at the beginning of the year, that I would be watching an anime about figure skating, I would not believe you.  My biggest regret of the year was not checking this show out until it finished airing.  Despite all the shows I was watching during the fall season, I somehow missed this masterpiece.  Of course, I am talking about Yuri on Ice.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The story focuses on a figure skater named Yuri who begins to question his professional skating ability.  In the last year, Yuri put on a terrible performance in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating and a variety of other local competitions.  Yuri returns to his hometown to rest and he decides to visit his childhood friend.  He perfectly mimics a routine performed by the famous Russian figure skater named Victor Nikiforov, who is Yuri’s idol.  This performance is secretly recorded and uploaded to the internet which attracts Victor’s attention.  Victor then travels to Japan and offers to coach Yuri, with the aim of helping Yuri win the next Grand Prix.

First and foremost, this is a sports anime, which brings some typical plot elements.  However, the story excels with its focus on the Japanese Yuri and Victor.  Both of these characters are the main focus of the series, and they are developed perfectly.  Yuri is rather tepid and a nervous wreck.  Despite being great at figure skating, he often collapses when the pressure gets to him.  He’s always questioning his ability despite everyone being extremely supportive of him.  His character arc of the series involves him overcoming his anxiety and this is a thrilling plot point.  The audience is rooting for Yuri every step of the way.  As for Victor, his story arc develops quite differently.  As the number one skater for years, Victor actually began to lose his passion for ice skating.  When he saw Yuri’s mimicked routine, this brought back the passion so much that he gave up competing for a year to be a coach and to help Yuri improve himself.

This of course leads to one of the most naturally developing relationships in anime.  Yuri and Victor’s relationship comes across as genuine.  It can be easy to solely focus on how it’s a depiction of a same-sex relationship, which is rare for the anime medium.  However, it does not fall into the same traps as other anime would employ.  The relationship is real and not just physical.  Yuri and Victor complement each other well and each of them grows as a result of the relationship with each other.  It’s actually really endearing.  Ice skating is just a means by which the characters express emotion and it’s a back drop for studying Yuri and Victor’s character.  This relationship drives this show.  It’s not the main focus, but it’s perfectly mixed with the other plot points to create a truly masterful story.

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Animation and Sound

Let’s start off with something easier to talk about.  The animation outside of the figure skating scenes is solid.  The backgrounds manage to be diverse and interesting.  The characters are also animated very well and exhibit a large range of emotion.  The figure skating can be a mixed bag at times.  Some scenes perfectly showcase the ability of animation to create beautiful moments.  The opening alone is a perfect example.  I would also say the animation is beautiful in any figure skating scene with either Yuri.  Some of the scenes though lack this quality.  This is usually present in the skating sequences of the other professional skaters.  It’s noticeable and does take me out of the moment, but I would not say it dampers the quality of the show.

The series shines with its music collection.  The opening is godlike.  It was definitely the best one of the season.  The series also has an excellent selection of music used in the figure skating programs.  These pieces exhibit all sorts of emotions ranging from innocent love to self-idolization.  Each piece perfectly matches the skater.  JJ has the catchiest and most self-serving theme.  Chris has a piece that exudes with sexual energy.  These pieces of music go perfectly with the skating scenes even if the animation is weak.  It’s for this reason that the weaker animation for certain scenes is not an issue, as the overall sum is excellent.  The voice acting is also great.  I love how confident and loving Victor comes across with his performance.  I also love the hesitant and scared performance of Yuri towards the beginning of the series.  Everything about this show comes together to form the complete package.

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Final Thoughts

Yuri on Ice is one of the best shows of the year.  At its core, it’s a simple story about a man finding his self-confidence with some help.  The relationship between Yuri and Victor is one of the most genuine and endearing relationships in anime.  The animation can be weak at times, but certain scenes are freaking gorgeous.  The voice acting and music are great.  Yuri on Ice was my surprise of the season.  I give Yuri on Ice my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval