Category Archives: Action

Often high in violence and fast-paced. Not necessarily gory, though can be.

Persona 3 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: PERSONA 3 THE MOVIES

 

Related: Persona 3 the Movie #1: Spring of Rebirth (included in review)

Persona 3 the Movie #2: Midsummer Knight’s Dream (included in review)

Persona 3 the Movie #3: Falling Down (included in review)

Similar: Persona 4 the Animation

Noragami

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Action Fantasy

Length: ~1 hr. 30 min. each movie

 

Positives:

  • Looks and sounds like the game.

Negatives:

  • Lacks the relationship development.
  • Boring protagonist.
  • Not enough story.
  • No tough decision made.

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Persona may be the best Japanese role-playing game series, known for great stories, tough gameplay, and complex character arcs. It is also known for its several anime adaptations, none of which have a good reputation. With Person 3 going to movies rather than a series and released after Persona 4 the Animation, I had hopes for a better adaptation with lessons learned from its predecessors. I should have thought better.

A 25th hour exists after the stroke of midnight, the Dark Hour, which none but a select few are aware of. The Dark Hour is the time of Shadows, monsters that feed on the human mind and spread apathy in society. New kid Yuuki finds himself dragged into the conflict by the SEES organisation, a group of Persona summoners that fight Shadows in Tartarus, the giant tower visible during the 25th hour. Yuuki’s unique ability to summon multiple Persona will prove invaluable.

This is a great setup for a story. It has everything a young adult audience could want – unique individuals, supernatural powers, a secret society, double lives with school, and a dash of edge (they summon Persona by shooting themselves in the head with magic guns). It’s part of why the game is so beloved. However, going from game to anime, you have to remove the key element of gameplay, which is easier said than done. This does give opportunity to touch up any story issues caused by gameplay interruptions, as the game has to put gameplay above all else. In the case of Person 3 the game, it suffers from pacing issues between key plot points while you climb the levels of Tartarus. The anime doesn’t need to show the several hundred battles it takes to reach the top.

Flipside, the anime does have to make difficult decisions about the protagonist and his potential relationships. In the game, you choose his name (or hers if you play the PSP edition), his dialogue, and whom to date. What is the anime to do? Should it pick one girl and make that the official pairing, igniting a waifu war for the decade? A harem, on the other end, won’t fit the tone. Person 3 the anime went with no relationships, abstaining from any difficult decisions. The protagonist has no personality and the relationships are surface deep.

I don’t understand why they made Yuuki this way. They could have easily given him a personality that didn’t contradict the dialogue choices from the game. Even if there were a contradiction, it would be better than this soggy toilet paper of a protagonist. If you’re going to be so limp with the adaptation, why bother at all?

The relationships are a similar case. Alright, you can’t make the game relationships work without the multiple choices, so what do you have in its place? Nothing? Perfect… With a blank protagonist, what character development opportunities did they expect to find? If Person 3 the game were a favourite of mine, I would be disgusted.

These movies don’t work even when seen with uninitiated eyes. For one, the opening scene with Yuuki entering the Dark Hour and signing the contract with Igor is nonsense without context from the game. The story doesn’t establish his life or set the scene for even a moment first. This scene should have come after his first day of school, at the earliest. The action is good, yet even this grows dull without characters to care about to the end.

The dark tone and grim style are the best features of these movies, which is a pleasure to see translated from old PS2/PSP graphics. Outside of that, everything is either mediocre or worse. These Person 3 movies do not deserve your attention.

Art – High

These movies look great, matching the game’s style, but they aren’t “movie” quality. Instead, it’s a good-looking series stitched together into movies.

Sound – Medium

The soundtrack comes from the game, which is neat. The acting is average – no surprise when most character-building dialogue isn’t present.

Story – Low

Teenagers hunt Shadow creatures using summons during a hidden 25th hour of the day. The Person 3 movies made no tough decision and ended with an anime that has the style of the game, but none of the character.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. This limp adaptation of Person 3 isn’t worth your time.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

DisappointingShallow

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The Seven Deadly Sins – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Nanatsu no Taizai

 

Related: The Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of the Commandments (Sequel)

Similar: Samurai 7

Yona of the Dawn

Fullmetal Alchemist

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Well-paced.
  • The talking pig.

Negatives:

  • Immature humour and protagonist don’t match the plot.
  • Baby-faced art.
  • Stereotypically battle anime action.
  • No surprises.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Princess Elizabeth collapses into a pub during her quest to find the Seven Deadly Sins, legendary warriors said to have betrayed the king. The perverted child that owns the pub saves her and turns out to be the Sin of Wrath, Meliodas. He soon agrees to aid her plight and, accompanied by his talking pig, they search for the other Sins.

The Seven Deadly Sins came recommended, so I watched it in anticipation of seeing something worthwhile. I waited, and I waited… And I waited. Something worthwhile never came. I like the talking pig – he’s good for a few laughs – and the pacing never drags. That’s about it.

The first warning sign beyond the blobby character designs (though never judge an anime by its cover, and all that wisdom) is the protagonist. Meliodas looks like a kid despite being thousands of years old. (If you’re wondering why from a marketing perspective, it’s to match the age of the target demographic.) His defining trait is groping women. This anime isn’t subtle about his “rapiness” and I’m sure they would have him do far worse if it didn’t affect the age rating. It isn’t funny like what you find in Golden Boy and Great Teacher Onizuka. The gag is that he gropes women – usually the princess. And that’s the whole gag. These jokes only work when there is some form of repercussion or counterplay. It is so encouraged that a point of conflict between him and another character is about how he doesn’t grab her arse as he does to other women.

This “humour” alongside the alcohol jokes had me questioning the target market at first. I had gone into The Seven Deadly Sins without research, so perhaps my age group assumption was off. However, everything else is in line with a typical battle anime for a middle school audience. The baby-faced art and dumbed down story don’t mesh with the sexual and alcoholic humour. It’s not that it’s inappropriate for kids – this is for the individual to decide – but rather, I don’t think they’ll get it. And it’s not the same as adult jokes hidden in Pixar and DreamWorks movies, which slip by children for adults to find hilarious. Thankfully, the series seems to grow tired of this joke and barely uses it after a while.

I don’t know what to make of the other characters. Most don’t do much. Elizabeth is a nuisance who cries at everything, including in the middle of a deadly battle because Meliodas is nice to her. It’s as lame as it sounds. Ban, the immortal Sin of Greed, has the most screen time after Meliodas and the only real character arc. I liked his backstory with the Fountain of Youth and his theme, naturally, of greed. I thought this to be a turning point in the series, but alas, it goes back to Meliodas the Boring. The other Sins are filler characters preceded by much hype and no payoff. I assume they will have their time to shine in later arcs, in which case they should have come into the story later on.

One thing Hunter x Hunter does well is not keeping side characters around when they aren’t story relevant. Naruto is similar with the team system, where it can logically bring along only story relevant characters for the current mission. In The Seven Deadly Sins, once a character joins the group, you know they will hang around doing nothing most of the time.

A final point I want to make on the characters relates to the seven deadly sins theme. This was most famous in Fullmetal Alchemist with the villains, where you get why they have the model the seven sins. Each of those villains is a perfect match to their sin while not being one-note either. They are fantastic characters. The seven deadly sins in this anime don’t seem to have any point of relevance to the theme. Why are they titled after the sins? They each committed some sin as part of their backstories, yet it doesn’t relate much to the sin with the slight exception of greed. Meliodas, for example, failed to protect someone. What does that have to do with wrath? Most of these characters have similar sins, so they could equally fit the Wrath title. Furthermore, unlike FMA, these personalities have nothing to do with the sin, weakening the theme even more. I’m willing to bet a considerable amount of anime bucks that the author read FMA, thought the villains cool, and decided to use the theme in his manga, but made them the good guys to differentiate himself without understanding what made the others so great.

These aren’t terrible characters – apart from Meliodas, perhaps – and have enough dimension to avoid being flat. They simply don’t have anything to elevate them, which is where the theme could have played a significant part.

I haven’t even talked of the action yet. The action is as stereotypically battle anime as you can get. It has impossibly fast moves (no need to animate), delayed damage, invincibility to attacks when standing still, crying ability names, and a secret move for each fighter. The Seven Deadly Sins greatest action crime is the “just kidding” fake-out. Once every fight, a character will take massive damage or an instant kill attack, pretend to take the hit or be out of the fight, but then, “Just kidding!” they’re actually fine. (If they would all die, then we could get out of here.)

It also has the laziest battle progression. With the use of lightning fast attacks almost exclusively, we don’t see how someone survives an attack – they stand there and take it – and the defender has to tell the attacker how his ability worked for the audience’s sake. Every. Single. Fight. If that’s not lazy, I don’t know what is.

When someone breaths fire and the opponent creates a shield to block said fire, we don’t need an explanation. In The Seven Deadly Sins however, someone breaths fire, the opponent takes the fire to no consequence, and then has to tell us how invisible fire-eating thetans cover his skin or some nonsense like that. This is what I imagine a boxing anime would look like if the creator knew nothing about boxing. Did he get through the opponent’s guard by feinting left to land a right hook? “What does feinting mean? His punches just go through because of abracadabra. But don’t worry, the opponent takes no damage because of mumbo jumbo.”

No effort went into figuring out how the abilities work and how characters would attack/defend with them in battle. I’m sure you, dear readers, could all point out instances of impossibly fast or fake out actions in other battle anime and wonder why I criticise them so much here and not there. These action techniques are valued in rarity. When Rock Lee drops the weights and goes lightning fast (note how we can still see the action and slow motion adds impact), it matters because it’s a change from the norm. Sticking with Naruto, you see Gaara survive all manner of attacks without a scratch and you’re thinking, “How the hell does he survive?” He’s the exception, which makes him more interesting. When the series does reveal the secret behind his sand armour, it only has to explain once before we can see it in action, in detail, from that point forward. Deadly Sins’ problem is that these techniques constitute 90% of the action. Add on to this the “everyone has a trump card” ability mechanic, and it becomes boring real fast.

If you are new to battle anime, The Seven Deadly Sins will likely seem decent. It has competent production values – it’s no Beet the Vandal Buster – and fights don’t have padding to last several episodes. The tournament takes a few episodes, not an entire season, which is refreshing. However, in all other respects, I would recommend the established series like Naruto, My Hero Academia, or Hunter x Hunter. The battle genre is one of anime’s most competitive and it certainly isn’t lacking in content to keep you busy for the next century, so to turn to The Seven Deadly Sins, you must be desperate.

Art – Medium

I detest the character designs of The Seven Deadly Sins, especially the baby faces. Though it looks made for kids, the art doesn’t match the content other than in its immaturity. The animation is better than the style.

Sound – Medium

The dub cast uses their Sword Art Online character voices, which I couldn’t un-hear, so you may want to go with the Japanese. Could do with more memorable music – battle anime usually have memorable soundtracks.

Story – Low

When the Holy Knights of Britannia overthrow the king, a princess goes in search of the legendary warriors known as the “Seven Deadly Sins” to reclaim her kingdom and defeat the tyrants. The Seven Deadly Sins is as generic as imaginable in its action, often at the expense of character and story that showed potential. The pacing is good.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For action anime fans only. The Seven Deadly Sins feels worse than the sum of its parts, owing to a lack of anything to differentiate itself from the competition. You could watch so many other battle anime first.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: 

Hollow World BuildingNot Funny

Tiger & Bunny – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tiger & Bunny

 

Similar: My Hero Academia

S-CRY-ed

Darker than Black

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Comedy

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Fun premise.
  • Late act 2.
  • More below the surface.

Negatives:

  • Sticks to “heroes doing hero things” for too long.
  • Finale fizzles out.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Now for a completely different take on superheroes, Tiger & Bunny is here! To succeed as a superhero in the city of Stern Bild City, a hero needs sponsors. After all, who’s going to pay for all the damage from a battle? The channel Hero TV follows these superheroes on the streets as they fight crime, everything filmed and performed with an eye for entertainment and, above all, a responsibility to the sponsors. You thought superhero work was about catching bad guys? Amateur.

This is a brilliant premise (and a clever way to insert the anime’s sponsors into the series). If you think about it, should a superhero ever exist in the real world, sponsors would be on their doorstep within the hour. Can you imagine how much Coca Cola would pay to have the superhero take a sip of Coke after a successful arrest broadcast to the world?

Our principal corporate patsy in this case is Kotetsu a.k.a. Wild Tiger, a has-been hero that fails to score arrests for points on Hero TV, outstripped by the popular heroes such as the flying Sky High and the young idol Blue Rose (sponsored by Pepsi). The Wild Tiger trading card is worthless. He can’t even give it away! He hits rock bottom when a larger corporation buys out his contract and pairs him with the newer, shinier hero model sponsored by Amazon and Bandai in Barnaby, who has the same power as Tiger – five minutes of super strength and speed. Together, they are Tiger & Bunny (named by Kotetsu).

This anime immediately reminded of a favourite old movie of mine called Mystery Men, which spoofed superheroes to an extreme degree. One hero’s superpower was the ability to shovel very well. The strongest hero was Captain Amazing, plastered with sponsor patches like an F1 driver. There is a strong Western influence in Tiger & Bunny, including a Joker and Harley Quinn-like villain duo.

When Tiger is about to catch a criminal fleeing aboard the monorail, Hero TV’s showrunner tells him to hold off on the capture as they must cut to commercial on a cliffhanger. Tiger & Bunny had me from that moment. As evident by the premise, this is a fun anime. I love the makeup of the world with its reality TV obsession and the un-super superheroes.

Tiger & Bunny does do more than comedy by expanding the major characters. Kotetsu is trying to balance hero life with his responsibilities as the single father to a daughter, who doesn’t know of his alter ego. He makes promises he can’t keep. It goes into lives of washed up heroes, saviours fallen from grace. What happens in retirement? What if forced to retire? Blue Rose, on the other hand, hates doing hero work when she just wishes to be a singer.

The most conflict goes to Barnaby, though. Despite outward appearances of a young hero on top of life, the death of his parents during childhood torments him to this day. His thread, which properly kicks in during the second half, is the best of the series. Until the midpoint, episodes are just “heroes doing hero things” without much story. Fun, sure, but lacking depth. Barnaby’s story and the villain he confronts elevated the anime.

It’s a shame then that the quality slouches back to basic hero vs. villain for the finale. Tiger & Bunny doesn’t quite grab all of its potential and run with it. Greatest fumble of all is the handling of the vigilante Lunatic that incinerates heroes and villains alike he deems unworthy. He comes into the story early on and makes several appearances that both aid and hinder the protagonists, but by the end, his story arc goes unexplored except for his origin story. You could suppose that they saved him for a sequel series, if meant for anything at all, yet even so, you can’t bring in such a significant element and seemingly forget about him by the end. It would be akin to forgetting Two-Face’s story in The Dark Knight. I need a little more of that conflict sauce. Give it to me!

Despite the fumbles, I had a blast with Tiger & Bunny and I can easily recommend it to anyone. The premise alone is worth your time. Let’s hope My Hero Academia, which I am watching at a snail’s pace, is at least half as inventive as this anime.

Art – Medium

The glitzy metropolis design is a pleasure, as are the sponsor-plastered heroes. CG for several of the armoured characters isn’t as bad as it could have been.

Sound – Medium

The acting is strong in Japanese and English. They managed to capture the goofiness of the heroes in this weird world quite well. The music, however, isn’t “superhero” enough. It doesn’t have the fanfare you would expect (WWE wrestlers get it right).

Story – Medium

In a world of superheroes sponsored by big corporations for profits, a has-been hero finds himself paired with the new, handsome hero to perform for the crowd while catching criminals. The fun concept of Tiger & Bunny elevates it above a generic superhero anime.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Tiger & Bunny has such a wacky idea that even if you have grown tired of superhero stories, this could refresh your interest. Do note that most episodes have an after credit scene that is necessary viewing to avoid small confusion.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

X-Men – Anime Review

Japanese Title: X-Men

 

Similar: Wolverine

Tiger & Bunny

Darker than Black

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Drama

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Best of the Marvel anime.
  • Strong drama episode between Cyclops and Emma Frost.
  • Good casting in English.

Negatives:

  • Japanese girl’s power is uninteresting.
  • Weak music.

(Request an anime for review here.)

So here we are at the final Marvel anime series and by pure coincidence, I saved the best for last. X-Men is the first of the Marvel line up that I would consider good. Iron Man was almost average, Wolverine was nothing but shallow action, and Blade just plain sucked.

This X-men adventure follows the team after the death of Jean Grey as Phoenix, its members dispersed in mourning until Professor X summons them on a mission to Japan in search of missing mutant girl Hisako Ichiki. A cult known as the U-Men has been kidnapping mutants to harvest their organs for enhancement experiments. The X-Men soon run into Emma Frost, former White Queen of the villainous Hellfire Club, who also claims to be in search of the girl, though the X-Men have their doubts, Cyclops in particular.

The structure is the same as the other Marvel anime – meet new character, help with small problem, uncover bigger conspiracy, fight the mid-tier enemies, prepare for final plan, climax – but X-men stands above the others because it pauses to let characters develop, to let the drama sink in. Jean’s death hit Cyclops especially hard and his head isn’t in the game, snapping at his teammates. Help comes from the unlikeliest source (unless you’ve read the comics) – Emma. One episode has little more than Cyclops and Emma talking, like a therapy session, and it is great. It’s good to see a complex character like Emma receive focus and to meet a broken Cyclops, which makes him more interesting than the usual stoic leader. This single episode has me wishing the X-Men could receive another, superior anime. There is much potential.

X-Men isn’t all success, however. The new girl, Hisako, is forgettable. I can’t remember her personality as of this review, two weeks after finishing the series, and her power is lame. She can create psionic armour to look like a mech, which seems awfully cliché for the Japanese mutant. I know this power is from the comics – still lame. They also allow her onto the team too quickly. She’s not a tag-along either, but a proper member, making me question how desperate the X-Men must be for new members.

Outside of this, there isn’t much to discuss. The action is decent – brutal Wolverine is always a pleasure – and the overall story works. To fit the Japanese setting, they modified the story of Moira MacTaggert by having her reside in middle-of-nowhere Japan instead of a European island (if I recall the comics I read over a decade ago correctly). It’s a nice bit of mystery and tension.

After the disappointments that were the other Marvel offerings, I am surprised I finally enjoyed one – pleasantly surprised. I’m not saying it’s great or that Fullmetal Alchemist will have to watch its back, but I am saying that, for once, Marvel didn’t waste my time with an anime.

Art – High

The art is closer to the Western style and is the best looking of the Marvel anime. They changed the look of Wolverine compared to his anime, oddly enough.

Sound – Medium

Well cast in English, while a few characters aren’t quite right in Japanese. The music is weak.

Story – Medium

The X-Men travel to Japan in search of a missing local mutant girl as Cyclops copes with the death of Jean Grey. Thanks an injection of drama and less tropiness, X-Men is a solid watch and the best of Marvel anime.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. The classic X-Men Animated Series and X-Men: Evolution may be far superior, but the X-Men anime is still good. It’s the one Marvel offering worth watching.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Pokémon: The First Movie – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Pokémon: Mewtwo no Gyakushuu

 

Related: Pokémon (main series)

Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns (sequel)

Pokémon: The Movie 2000 (next movie)

 

Watched in: English

Genre: Action Adventure

Length: 1 hr. 25 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Mewtwo is a menacing villain.
  • Good moral lesson.
  • Team Rocket works better than in the series.

Negatives:

  • Production values aren’t movie quality.
  • Dated pop songs in the dub.

(Request an anime for review here.)

The first soundtrack I ever owned was for Pokémon: The First Movie on cassette. It was all I played on my Sanyo Walkman for months. Listening to a particular song was a challenge, as I had to fast forward and guess when to stop. Nope, too early – still on ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’. Oops, too far. Screw it; let’s just go back to the Pokémon Theme. Only good song on the list anyway. (Man, I’m glad I live in the future.)

The release of Pokémon: The First Movie was a major event in the West. Pokémon was at the height of popularity with the trifecta of games, anime, and trading cards. We kids went nuts for a movie featuring Mew, the rarest Pokémon. Would we receive the adorable monster in game and in card from at last? (Spoiler: No. Nintendo hated us. Bastards.) To see Pokémon on the big screen was mind blowing to the child mind. What about all these years later, though?

You know what, it ain’t bad.

The story centres on Mewtwo, clone of the ancient Mew, believed to be the most powerful Pokémon. Breaking free from the shackles of his creator, Mewtwo seeks to prove his superiority over humankind and all Pokémon by inviting the best trainers to the ultimate challenge on his island. Of course, Ash Ketchum, who has actually never won anything meaningful in his Pokémon trainer career, receives an invitation – ‘cause protagonist. Little do he and the other trainers know that Mewtwo has sinister plans for their Pokémon.

The First Movie was refreshing at the time for having a plot with serious stakes – the end of the world and all natural Pokémon. The main series suffered from endless low-stakes episodes, usually undermined by Team Rocket. Ash had never faced a challenge. In fact, the series hated challenging him so much that in the Pokémon League, the final test for a trainer, he lost not because another trainer bested him, but because his Pokémon doesn’t listen. Super lame. The First Movie had weight, which holds up today.

It’s also great for fan service, bringing together most fan favourites such as Charizard, Venusaur, Blastoise, and Gyarados in one place for an epic battle. Let’s not forget Mewtwo, the star of the show. He is a great villain. You don’t expect a Pokémon villain to have good and bad qualities in conflict within himself as he seeks a purpose. And he delivers one of the deepest lines in history. (I hear Gandhi rose from his grave upon hearing Mewtwo’s words.)

Mew plays well off Mewtwo. I love how Mew cares so little for Mewtwo’s bravado, more interested in playing around like a cat distracted by yarn in the face of destruction.

Team Rocket is a pleasant surprise too. As funny as Team Rocket can be in small doses, having them appear every episode to derail the plot grew tedious. In The First Movie, they’re hilarious and complement the film rather than get in the way. Meowth has always been the best character and he has some great lines in this, and the fight against his clone is great. There’s something amusing about Meowth chatting with his clone while all around them Pokémon are stomping the life out of each other.

Pokémon: The First Movie won’t hold any interest if you aren’t a fan of the franchise. This is aptly described as the best episode of the original series rather than a standalone film. But if you do have any passing interest in the franchise, even if purely through the games, Pokémon: The First Movie is the perfect trip back to childhood.

Art – Medium

Though Pokémon: The First Movie looks much better than the series, it still barely reaches the standard for good anime visuals of the time.

Sound – Medium

I can’t watch Pokémon in anything but the dub – I don’t even know most names in Japanese. Meowth is always the best voice, but Mewtwo has the best dialogue this time. The soundtrack is mostly pop songs that haven’t aged after their populist inclusion in 1999. They don’t fit. At all.

Story – Medium

The ultimate Pokémon invites the best trainers to his island for a test of strength, where he can cement his dominion over mankind. Mewtwo’s villainy and the ultimate lesson of Pokémon: The First Movie make it one of the franchise’s best stories.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: A must for Pokémon fans. Even if you aren’t a Pokémon fan, The First Movie is an enjoyable ride down nostalgia lane.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None