Category Archives: Adventure

Let’s go on a quest! Characters usually embark on a grand journey, encountering various obstacles along the way.

Last Exile – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Last Exile


Related: Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing (sequel)

Similar: Allison & Lillia

Outlaw Star

Castle in the Sky


Watched in: 26 episodes

Genre: Science Fiction Action Adventure

Length: 26 episodes



  • Some interesting world and tech designs.


  • Lacks a compelling hook.
  • Quite boring really.
  • Could use more exploration.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I only made it through a few episodes of Last Exile in 2003, the year of its release, and I have considered moving it to my drop list ever since, though always imagined I ought to give it another chance first, until reader’s request for review made the decision for me. Was I right in my initial impression all those years ago?

Last Exile is set in a steampunk world where flight is more common than driving thanks to Claudia crystals. ‘The Guild’ dominates the skies as the only mass producer of flight engines and as such, they play arbiters between two warring nations. Sky Couriers Claus and Lavie find themselves caught up in the war when they agree to take on the job of delivering a little girl, who has more to her than initially thought.

This is a difficult review to write. How do you write for anime that has nothing to talk about?

Last Exile is unremarkable. I had trouble figuring out why this was exactly. The world is nice, though largely unexplored despite all the flying, I like the design of the ships and technology – wish they had elaborated on them more – it’s a decent looking anime too, and the acting is fine. Sure, some of the music is weird but not an issue. And then I realised the problem: the characters.

The characters are boring. Not in the traditional sense, mind you. They are boring because they are safe, the base templates for characters, like picking the default appearance in an MMO. There is nothing bad about the default character. However, there is nothing good either. They have no charm, no flair. Even the weird characters from The Guild are your safe versions of weird characters! Everything about Last Exile is safe in execution, from the characters to the conflict to the world.

You may be thinking how it is possible to be safe with a fully invented world. Simply put? Not exploring it enough. When I read the blurb about the Claus and Lavie working as Sky Couriers, I assumed world exploration would be a core component of the series. Binding them to the war was a mistake, as it ties them down. The war should have been the backdrop to the story that creates conflict for the protagonists, not the driving force. At least they go podracing in a canyon that one episode. This world has just enough lore, just enough technology, just enough locations, and just enough society to create the impression of a larger world than what we see. Last Exile is right on that line between bad and good.

Lastly, what is the obsession with chivalry? In the first battle we witness, the commanders won’t shut up about chivalry. It’s “I’ll show him chivalry” this and “Time for some chivalry” that and “My chivalry’s bigger than yours.” It’s comically stupid. I am still not sure what the goal was. Are they meant to be funny? Is it to paint them as honourable? I have no idea!

Last Exile is an anime for those who want something simple and safe. It’s unlikely to disappoint. Won’t rock your world either, though.

Art – Medium

Last Exile looks good in the mechanical designs, but the CG ships stand out on occasion without filters and effects to mask them. Why do the kids have huge hands, by the way? Odd.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine, as is the music, though warps your mind on occasion.

Story – Medium

Two flight couriers find themselves embroiled in a sky war between two factions when they take on a job to deliver a girl. An extra shot of adrenaline, another layer of complexity, and more dimension to the conflict would have gone a long way to lifting Last Exile from the forgettable slot in which it fell.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Last Exile is so middle of the road that it has nothing for or against it.

(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


Kino’s Journey – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World


Related: Kino’s Journey: Life Goes On (prequel)

Kino’s Journey: The Land of Sickness (sequel)

Kino’s Journey: Tower Country (OVA)

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Animated Series (2017 remake)

Similar: Mushishi

Girl’s Last Tour

Humanity has Declined

Spice & Wolf


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Slice of Life Adventure

Length: 13 episodes



  • Philosophy without the boredom.
  • Intriguing exploration of society.
  • Pleasant yet disturbing.


  • The art is jank.

(Request an anime for review here.)

What a pleasant surprise to find an anime pitched as philosophical that is interesting! Usually, the best philosophy we find in anime is from series that don’t advertise this element, while those that do often curse us into a vegetative state of boredom.

Kino’s Journey follows the titular character Kino on her journey to see everything the world has to offer, meet its people, and learn of its societies accompanied by her talking motorcycle Hermes. They will pass through a town that believes the Apocalypse is tomorrow, discover what happened to a telepathically connected society, meet a robot nanny that cares for a wealthy family, and Kino will even fight for her right to first class citizenship in the most magnificent city.

The magic ingredient to the success of Kino’s Journey is in the ever crucial ‘show don’t tell’ story technique. It’s important in all stories, but particularly so for a philosophical piece if it means to engage the audience. At no point does this story tell you how you should feel or what you should think of a person or society. Do you agree with a town that forces kids to go from 12 years old to adulthood in a day, skipping the teenage years if it means making them better adults in society? What about two countries that go to war without casualties on either side at the expense a few tribesmen between the two? Less people die than if there were a real war, even in the tribe. Is it right? Kino’s Journey allows you to answer for yourself. At no point does it tie you down while it vomits philosophy down your throat until you get the message.

Mystery plays an important part, keeping you curious until the often-disturbing end each episode. Many of the stories are low-key disturbing. No one will overreact or show abhorrence to those involved, which only makes you, the audience, more uneasy. Kino’s Journey is pleasant even when it disturbs you. I love this subtlety.

One episode has Kino visit the greatest library in the land, where one can borrow any book in exchange for another – a bibliophile’s dream! However, writing books is banned. Why? The answer is a great commentary on the balance between creativity and criticism.

Outside of a two parter, each episode is a different story in a different location with vastly different people. The episodes always mix things up. You could easily see another series having dragged out each story for two to three episodes, but not Kino – it takes as little time as is necessary for you to connect to the characters and for the effect to sink in. This is an unpredictable world with threats around every corner. Kino doesn’t know whom to trust. Even during happier episodes, I anticipated it all going wrong in some sick twist at the last second. The nicer stories are a heart-warming change of pace.

I can’t finish without mentioning Kino herself. She is an unusual protagonist, though a perfect fit to the subdued tone. From her soft voice to her contemplative nature, she has subtlety to match the philosophy and rarely shows emotion. It’s rare to have an adventure protagonist that doesn’t explode with excitement at new discoveries. She may seem dull at first – she was for me – but she’s deceptively deep and you soon realise that a more animated lead wouldn’t work.

Like its protagonist, Kino’s Journey doesn’t look like much, yet its exploration of society, psychology, the meaning of life, and the human animal is a must watch for any anime fan.

Art – Low

Though I like the vintage art style, the animation leaves much to be desired. Kino’s Journey secured the budget of a niche title, which is regrettable if understandable. They couldn’t be sure a philosophical series would find success even when adapted from bestselling novels. The folk tale sequences are good storybook moments.

Sound – High

The acting is good in English, though the Japanese has the edge with a better Kino. Pleasant music, even when it gets disturbing – rarely shifts from that pleasant tone.

Story – Very High

A girl rides her talking motorcycle around the world to learn everything its societies have to offer in the understanding of humanity. The use of subtlety, pace, and deep exploration of Kino’s Journey’s themes makes it a resounding success.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch. Kino’s Journey is an excellent anime that even the philosophy-averse should watch. Stick to the original over the 2017 remake despite the polished visuals of the latter.

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


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


Deep NarrativeStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Girls’ Last Tour – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou


Similar: Kino’s Journey

Made in Abyss



Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Science Fiction Mystery Adventure

Length: 12 episodes



  • Adorable characters with a great dynamic.
  • Angelic music.
  • Doesn’t drag.


  • Needs more atmosphere.
  • Little environmental storytelling.

(Request an anime for review here.)

The city once stood grand, an industrious marvel that reached for the skies and bustled with life. Now, the only life you will find, apart from the howling blizzard, is the low rumble of a tread bike as it grinds over rubble and under fallen girders. Listen carefully and you may even catch the sound of laughter from two girls. Chi and Yuu might be the last people alive.

By all indications, Girls’ Last Tour shouldn’t have worked with me. I don’t like those plot-light ‘do nothing’ anime that use the excuse of “It’s meant to be like that!” for the utter lack of depth, purpose, or interesting characters. Girls’ Last Tour succeeds by having those three elements. Who would have guessed that was the secret.

The series works, at its core, thanks to the two girls, whom are a delight to be around. Chi is the brain, focused and prepared, while Yuu is the brawn, asleep and hungry, and the two complement each other well. If you’re going to have two characters together all the time, they had better work. These two are adorable.

Each episode has the girls travelling to a new place as they search for supplies and explore the fallen city. The content is light – one episode is about them making music with the sound of rain falling on tin cans. Another centres on them learning to use a digital camera. You know, wholesome stuff. These may sound dull – they do to me – but the pacing sells it. These episodes don’t drag. The story doesn’t force itself to extend the girls crafting a makeshift hot bath in an abandoned factory for 20 minutes just because that’s an episode’s runtime. The stories vary in length, often paired together to fit the length of an episode. When a story does take longer, it makes the effort to include more drama – not too heavy, mind you – that deserves the minutes.

A curse of plot-light anime is the feeling that they aren’t going anywhere, particularly when they are set in one location. Each new episode feels more and more like a repeat. Girls’ Last Tour is always on the move and showing us something new each episode. As I came to realise this, I found myself looking forward to the next episode because I trusted the show not to waste my time. I relaxed.

The world has good ambiance. It reminds me of a collapsed Soviet Russia blanketed in perpetual snow. There’s a story to it, a mystery. However, it doesn’t make enough use of environmental storytelling. For example, in the game The Last of Us, you come across animals from the African savannah among city ruins in America. Without a word, this tells us a story of what happened to the zoo when society collapsed. Girls’ Last Tour should have used this technique more. It gives titbits – no more.

The atmosphere is in a similar situation. There is enough of it to say Girls’ Last Tour has an atmosphere, yet with room for so much more. It covers the basics of blizzards, rain, and silence. Why not go deeper? What about that specific sound of wind howling through damaged pipes? How does it sound through a collapsed high rise with shattered windows? Are there any insects around? Can one hear the slow creaking of a bridge on the verge of collapse? A greater atmosphere remains hidden in there somewhere.

Girls’ Last Tour is a surprise success nonetheless. It doesn’t overdo the cuteness, it keeps moving, and the girls a bundle of wholesome fun.

Art – Medium

The character designs are adorable. I’m not one for moe designs, as my regular readers know, but these work. Their heads look like mochi! The artists must have had fun designing the world, desolate and mysterious. However, they could have worked in more environmental storytelling.

Sound – High

The two actresses for the girls work great together. Good thing they do, for there isn’t much more beyond them. I like the angelic music, one of the few atmosphere-contributing elements of the series.

Story – Medium

Two girls tour the ruins of their once thriving city in a quest for fun and hope. A lack of drag and the inclusion of mystery on the move lifts Girls’ Last Tour among other plot-light anime.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: For fans of calm anime. Girls’ Last Tour won’t blow your socks off, but its fun characters and light mystery will make you feel wholesome by the end.

(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

GATE – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri


Similar: Log Horizon

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!




Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure

Length: 24 episodes



  • An easy watch.


  • Why is this guy protagonist?
  • No fantasy world building.
  • Fantasy characters act too modern; present day characters are too calm.
  • Female iris designs.

(Request an anime for review here.)

First it was one person transported to a fantasy world; then it was a city; then a country; nowadays they just let anyone in.

A portal opens in Tokyo, connecting our world to one of fantasy and an army of warriors and all manner of creatures spills out onto the streets of Ginza. They slaughter anyone in sight. Worst of all, the invasion has cancelled the doujin convention, which Youji was so looking forward to – he is an otaku after all, as he told us in scene one. The modern military pushes back the fantasy horde and ventures through the portal soon after to understand the source of this calamity. Youji finds himself leading a recon team – not that he wants to, or anything, because he is an otaku above all else. They will have to negotiate peace and broker truces if they mean to survive their adventure of elves, dragons, knights, and catgirls. Most of all, everyone must remember that Youji is an otaku.

I forgot one detail: Youji wants me to tell you that his is an otaku. Don’t forget it.

This dimwit has to remind us every scene. He doesn’t stop. Considering an otaku wrote this, you’d imagine the one character he would depict correctly would be the otaku. Self-inserts are rarely good, however. Best part? Him being an otaku has no bearing on the story in the end. Come. On!

Like this hollow protagonist, GATE puts no thought into building its world, societies, monsters, and magic. The writer took the base template of ‘fantasy world’ and added nothing to it, resulting in a world no one would care to learn more about. Why would you when there are no secrets to uncover, cultures to learn, or dynamics to understand? All the fantasy characters act too modern as well. They may not know what a gun is, but their behaviours and morals don’t differ from ours.

On the opposing side, the modern people are far too sane about crossing a portal to a fantasy world. Do none of them realise what this truly means?

The first episode is a deception, leveraging the idea of all-out war between modern and fantasy societies, when in actuality, GATE is more comedy than action and the two sides are at peace most of the time. Again, the fantasy people are too modern, accepting the army with ease, and Youji learns their language in about two seconds (you thought a dozen races would have different languages, didn’t you?) A lack of action is no loss in this case with how little thought went into it. Prepare to put an equal amount of thought into GATE if you mean to enjoy it.

Basic, very basic, politics contribute the most to conflict with one king wanting to seize power, while a group in the Japanese government considers sealing access to the gate from other countries to secure the new world resources, resources that the fantasy residents are oblivious to.

The comedy is fairly good among the main group, which teams up with an elf, a mage, a death oracle, and more before long. A soldier with the catgirl fetish loses it when he meets one. If you can’t make meaningful tension, then amusing humour is better than nothing for a modicum of enjoyment.

Art – Medium

The art is your decent modern quality. Though why do most girls have lines across their irises? It makes them look full of tears.

Sound – Low

Voices are average in a weak script.

Story – Low

A portal connecting our world to one of fantasy initiates a new type of conflict. GATE would greatly benefit from world building and a different protagonist to engage the audience.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For bored fantasy fans only. GATE’s sole merit is its ease of consumption for anyone who doesn’t want to think about it. This is trash, but it might be your sort of trash.

(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


Hollow World BuildingHorrendous ActionRubbish Major Characters

Made in Abyss – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Made in Abyss


Similar: From the New World

Hunter x Hunter

Haibane Renmei


Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Mystery Science Fiction Fantasy Adventure

Length: 13 episodes



  • The world.
  • Final episodes.
  • Stunning artwork.


  • Protagonist never shuts up.
  • Forced cuteness.
  • Several episodes of padding.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Imagine a world with a city built around a vast and seemingly endless chasm filled with monsters and treasures untold. This world is grand, gorgeous— a mysterious place that echoes silence and danger. Now imagine a shrill voice piercing that world for eternity. That is Made in Abyss.

This noise machine is Riko, a 12-year-old girl that wants to become a Cave Raider like her famous mother. She never stops talking. If another character isn’t talking, then she certainly is. The writer had her comment on everything. An energy blast out of nowhere fends off a monster about to eat her and she gives a line that someone must have saved her. No shit. She doesn’t ask, “What was that?” because it would mean less words. These ‘stating the obvious’ lines along with an inordinate amount of forced cuteness dialogue permeate the series.

Episode one does not have a moment of peace until the 20-minute mark. It lasts 18 seconds.

False enthusiasm constitutes half her character. As she searches for relics to bring back to town, she must keep telling us how enthusiastic she is while “cutely” tripping over and getting into accidents. It’s not enough that we can see enthusiasm. Oh no, she must tell us all about it. Made in Abyss desperately wants you to find Riko cute, at the expense of all else. Most of the humour falls flat because of how rammed down your throat it is. “Is she cute? I asked, is she cute!? IS SHE CUTE!?”

These characters are in this vast, mysterious world and instead of allowing the audience to take it in, the camera stays on this annoying girl. She does ease up a little later. However, various characters along the journey expositing on the Abyss replace her chirping. We almost spend more time hearing about the Abyss than exploring it, which leads to another problem with the script. The first nine episodes have three episodes’ worth of content – the first four could have fit into one episode. Unlike usual slow pacing where scenes drag on forever, Made in Abyss slots pointless scenes between events that matter. With all this excess space, why not include moments to reflect on the world and the adventure? Of course it has to be forced cuteness and pointless dialogues instead.

Riko’s descent into the Abyss begins when a Cave Raider returns to the surface with her mother’s white whistle (denotes rank) and a message that she is waiting below. Riko, who idolises her mother, answers the call and begins the journey with Reg, the robot boy that saved her with the energy blast earlier.

He is a bit of a problem in the story due to his ability to stretch his arms with ease and accuracy, which trivialises the danger of falling into the depths, and his arm cannon can obliterate the monsters that make the Abyss so dangerous. Made in Abyss still has tension, but you will realise how much easier several moments would be if the writer didn’t conveniently forget Reg’s power.

Along their journey, they face monsters and meet a variety of characters, most of which aren’t particularly interesting. One supposedly scary woman, a legend and partner to Riko’s mother, is a walking cliché of the mad woman with the low, insane voice. No one actually believes she would harm the kids, do they? Her scenario comes from a writer out of ideas for conflict during downtime.

Thankfully, characters become more interesting the further we descend into the Abyss. In fact, the whole anime is more interesting further down. The final three episodes are better than the previous 10 combined. The final episode is better than the previous 12 combined. The change in story and character quality is like a parabola, redeeming the show, though there are great elements before the final act. Most obviously, the world is fantastic, not just in the intrigue of the Abyss. The human society is fascinating because it isn’t like ours. You notice how mediocre anime in different worlds like Re:Zero still have people that feel as if they are from our world? No one acts medieval in those medieval worlds. Made in Abyss’s society is one shaped by the Abyss. There is no greater honour than being a Cave Raider that brings back the best relics. Everyone knows that once you go down you’re probably not coming back and yet it is still celebrated. Even a child descending isn’t particularly odd. It reminds of Spartan society where a warrior child is the norm, not the exception.

My favourite world building detail is that of the Curse. Reaching a certain level is a point of no return, as to ascend again would be to active the ‘Curse’, dooming any diver. The hardy can survive in the depths, assuming the increasingly powerful monsters don’t eat them. The origin and extent of the Curse is the mystery I am most eager to see answered.

Answers – Made in Abyss doesn’t give many of those and as such, its final quality is hard to determine. Most anime – any story, honestly – shows you its quality within a few episodes. That’s not to say there won’t be fluctuations, but typically, a good anime starts that way. You know it’s good from the beginning. However, for stories that hinge on the Great Mystery, the end can make or break everything. If the payoff doesn’t deliver, then all that came before has little value. Made in Abyss is one such story.

As such, my thoughts are temporary and I will write a new review after the series conclusion, to see how it all comes together. It could go either way.

Art – High

The backgrounds are stunning – out of Ghibli or Shinkai works. The animation, sadly, doesn’t stand out and the quality drops after a few episodes.

Sound – Medium

Great OP song – sounds like Seal’s ‘Kissed from a Rose’. The acting is fine, insufferable protagonist aside, but the script is at least 30% padded.

Story – Medium

An abyss of unknown depth calls to a child when her mother sends a message from the deep below. This first season of Made in Abyss sets up a mysterious world and delivers a great finale in spite of prior padding; however, everything hinges on the payoff that has yet to come. Do note that the last episode is the best, so the trajectory is upwards.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Wait for another season. Made in Abyss, as it stands, is 99% setup, the first five episodes of other shows, and while the setup is great by episode 13, if it doesn’t pay off next season, then it isn’t worth it. Few anime need a complete adaptation as much as Made in Abyss does. Knowing the modern anime industry, expect to finish with the manga. Let’s hope MIA doesn’t take on its classical meaning…

(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: N/A (pending further seasons)

Negative: N/A (pending further seasons)