YuriCam: Yurika’s Campus Life – Manga Review

Japanese Title: YuriCam – Yurika no Campus Life

 

Genre: Yuri Comedy

Length: 5 volumes

 

Positives:

  • A ridiculous premise you may find hilarious.

Negatives:

  • No real depth or quality.
  • The humour gets repetitive after a few chapters.
  • Utter nonsense if you don’t find it humorous.

(Contains high levels of nudity and sex)

I have never seen/read an anime or manga with a premise as ridiculous as Yurika’s Campus Life. Yurika attends a girls-only college and has been with 5,000 of its students (rumour), seriously hurting her chances of getting a boyfriend (in what universe?). Many of her lovers got pregnant as well (allegedly). See, she has this animal magnetism that makes her irresistible to women, even those who claim to be straight. When her socialite family goes bankrupt, she must use her “talents” as a gigolette in exchange for food and accommodation.

To give an idea of just how alluring she is, the opening page has a girl drop her dress because Yurika asked to borrow study notes. A dozen pages later, another woman throws herself at Yurika to forget her ex-boyfriend. As word spreads, more and more students crave her lurid services, which include mayonnaise bottles used as an extra “appendage.”

There is a lot of sex in this manga, roughly two scenes per chapter, all with comedic intentions, and while the most explicit areas use strategic censorship, innuendos more than pick up the slack. You will think this whole manga either entertaining or nonsensical. I personally found the one joke repetitive with a couple of chapters.

Art – Medium

The art is rather standard without much variety.

Story – Very Low

A repetitive and ridiculous premise of salacious activities. The absurdity may be funny to some.

Recommendation: So bad you have to read it to believe it. If Yurika’s Campus Life sounds hilarious to you, then give it a try. Just don’t expect any sort of depth or insight.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Pietà – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Pieta

 

Genre: Yuri Drama

Length: 2 volumes

 

Positives:

  • It isn’t awful.

Negatives:

  • Characters so flat, I am not sure what their personalities were supposed to be.
  • The “twists” have no build up; they just happen for plot’s sake.
  • Has no subtlety, no nuance in between key plot events to bring life to the narrative. This also makes all the dialogue stiff.
  • The art is bland to the point where every facial expression looks the same.
  • The two girls have no chemistry.

Pietà tells the dull story of high school girl Rio with suicidal tendencies who finds companionship in the arms of a classmate, Sahoko, from her all-girls school. Rio has led a troubled life, her younger sister dead in infancy, mother abandoning her without cause, and stepmother wanting her dead.

Pietà’s main problem is immediately apparent with Rio. Even with the tragic backstory, she isn’t interesting in the slightest and I can’t fathom how the author expects us to believe her popularity in school. This implied popularity is a common problem in bad writing. We are told that a character is so amazing, so wonderful that everyone wants to be them, and yet we never see what it is that makes them so special. In Rio’s case, she has no personality, acts in a manner that would creep out people, not attract them, and has no discernible skills. Frankly, this applies to all the characters, but Rio’s faults, as the protagonist, are the most glaring. By the second chapter, the most significant interaction between the two girls is a five-second conversation where Rio wonders if she has seen Sahoko somewhere before. Sahoko then accepts Rio’s invitation as if it’s the most ordinary thing to be invited, alone, to a mentally disturbed teenage girl’s house to take care of her fever.

There is no chemistry between Rio and Sahoko; the interactions lack conflict and drama, unless forced by the author. For example, early on, Sahoko cancels a date to have dinner with her parents who haven’t seen her in a while, sending Rio into a spiral of moping. It’s forgotten within a few pages. The writer clearly couldn’t think of any conflict to fit the scenario. Need drama? Have Rio act suicidal. Need even more drama? Have Rio harm herself. Such laziness. The plot points on their own sound fine – having a suicidal character harm themselves at some point in the story is par for the course. However, the narrative has to build up to these key moments. Pietà has no such rise in tension or nuance to hint at the forthcoming twists. Even when dealing with the stepmother subplot, I just didn’t care. They could have beaten each other to death with waffles and I wouldn’t have blinked.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the manga is intentionally lifeless to make Rio’s depression relatable. Boredom does not equate to depression.

Art – Low

Looking at a single page of Pieta, the art looks decent, even if expressionless, but when you notice that it looks the same on every page, the artistry dies. It doesn’t help that a ‘happy’ character looks the same as when depressed.

Story – Low

Pieta’s story of a suicidal girl finding comfort in a classmate is an exercise in lazy writing. The author had the concept and key plot points ready, though forgot everything else – personality, depth, details, incidentals, etc.

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Pieta doesn’t have anything of substance to hold your attention. The characters are without personality and the narrative lacks all the details that bring depth to a story.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Voices of a Distant Star – Review

Japanese Title: Hoshi no Koe

 

Related: 5 Centimetres per Second (same director)

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (same director)

The Garden of Words (same director)

Similar: Pale Cocoon

Gunbuster

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Length: 25 min. OVA

 

Positives:

  • The tragic narrative hits the right emotional notes with its interesting premise.
  • Beautiful environmental art, especially the grand shots of the cosmos and planets.

Negatives:

  • The use of CG for aliens and mechs looks out of place, never mind the ugly designs.
  • Character art looks unfinished.
  • Little is established. How did the girl become an elite pilot so quickly? Where are the aliens from? What does the boy actually do?
  • The voice work in English is monotone for much of the time. Japanese isn’t much better.
  • Prediction of flip phones as the standard in 2046. I jest, I jest.

Having recently watched Nolan’s Interstellar, I was reminded of Voices of a Distant Star, first anime feature of director Shinkai Makoto (of Garden of Words and 5 Centimetres per Second fame). Both Interstellar and Distant Star make use of time dilation to create drama with its characters. Distant Star tells the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who joins the space fleet in the fight against aliens, leaving her boyfriend behind on Earth with text messages as their only means of communication. The further she travels into deep space, the longer messages take to transmit – days, months, even years – and because of relativity in light speed travel, a couple of days for her is equivalent to years for him.

This story is a tragic one dealing with love separated, literally, by time and space. Distant Star is a powerful piece when it hits its emotional highs; I felt for these two characters. Unfortunately, the side story of the galactic conflict distracts from these heartstring moments. The writer needed a catalyst to launch the girl into deep space, there’s no disputing that; however, a galactic war isn’t a small plot point. It needed more time and space, so to speak, to develop into a full-fledged plot line. We get no backstory on the war, no information about the aliens, and nothing on how the girl became an elite pilot so quickly. (Aside: How is she allowed to wear her school uniform in the mech? I am guessing that it’s a metaphor for her wanting to be back with him during their school days.)

 

Shinkai could have chosen a simpler premise such as the exploration of distant stars to act as the catalyst rather than a war. This would allow more time to focus on the relationship. All we know about these characters is that they are in love. We know nothing about their interests, strength or weaknesses – who they are, really. Then again, they could have extended the runtime to explore each aspect in depth; at 25 minutes, Distant Star is too short for what it tries to achieve.

When it comes to the art, the war causes more problems. Poor CG was used for the mechs and their alien opponents, which is nothing but jarring, and it doesn’t help that their designs are awful. The cockpit view is cool though, using a lone seat with controls floating in a holographic interface.

Despite all that I have said against Voices of a Distant Star, I enjoyed my time here. The premise alone was worth a watch, and even if you don’t enjoy it, the short length means little time is wasted.

Art – Medium

Beautiful environments and lighting unfortunately tarnished by jarring CG for the hideous alien and mech designs. The character art seems to be in its draft stage.

Sound – Medium

Decent voice work in Japanese, monotone in English. I understand that when people are sad, they speak in sombre tones, but full monotone sounds dull. There are no moments of negative energy, no passion in the words. Half the music doesn’t fit the theme. Also something off about the Foley sounds at times.

Story – Medium

A tragic story of long distance love amid a galactic conflict, which results in neither aspect getting the development they deserve.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Worth 25 minutes of your time for what it does right. Voices of a Distant Star is a nice piece of anime that could have done with a longer runtime to develop the relationship and the war further.

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

 

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

Positive: None

Negative: 

Hollow World BuildingShallow

Mind Game – Review

Japanese Title: Mind Game

 

Similar: Paprika

The Tatami Galaxy

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Adventure Comedy

Length: 1 hr. 40 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Zany comedy.
  • A plethora of music and visual styles.
  • God, the ultimate troll.

Negatives:

  • May be too weird for most.
  • Slow to start.
  • Character animation is erratic in quality.

Random floppy wiener. Formula 1 racing. A couple having a picnic. A love letter passed on. Soccer player in a diaper chases a woman, Myon. She escapes to a bar with her friend Nishi. He is shot up the arse by the soccer player, separating soul from body. In limbo, god trolls Nishi through texts and recreates the bullet-up-the-rear moment with a wireframe model for Nishi to see over and over. God turns into a hippie. Then a literal shithead. Now a goldfish bowl with live fish. A fashion model. Nishi defies god to escape limbo back to just before his death. Renewed by his afterlife encounter, Nishi disarms the soccer player and caps him in the head. Yakuza. Car chase. Trapped on the city bridge. Giant whale erupts from the water and eats him and his friends. Now they live in its stomach.

This all sound too weird? Well, it should. Mind Game is one crazy anime. At some point in every scene, I had to question what I was watching. The crazy train never ends. Mind Game employs a narrative in the vein of Pinocchio, only instead of wanting to become a real boy, Nishi wants to grow into a real man that would impress Myon. He goes on a wild adventure with her and another friend, pushing their sanity to the limit.

Studio 4°C (known for the Catherine video game and Berserk remake) employs its zaniest visual techniques to deliver an energetic and spontaneous film. One moment you’re looking at roughly drawn art, almost as if the artists were in a hurry (which works), and the next moment, you’re looking at a Picasso style with random live action thrown in. It keeps changing. One would think that a dozen art directors had different ideas of what the film should look like, resulting in an amalgamation of ideas. For the most part, the splicing works to keep you captivated. Mind Game is never dull; I will concede that. However, the artistic choices are great or terrible, no in-between. Interestingly, the segment that looked most normal, Astro Boy inspired, was the dullest. By far my favourite was the encounter with god the douche-bag. Just brilliant.

Art’s only problem is the erratic animation quality. In some scenes – the climax, for example, or the car chase – animation is excellent; however, there are times where it feels as though the animation runs at five frames per second. This was probably an artistic choice, but it simply doesn’t work.

The music morphs with each scene, lest it appear too normal in this loony toon. The music’s range is incredible. An unsettling, one-note wind chime tune for a scene, Disney’s Fantasia for another. How about Bahamas holiday music? Sure, why not. Again, it works great in places, not so well in others.

If you do decide to watch Mind Game, be warned that what I have described here is only the tip of the craziness. Mind Game is an eclectic piece of work that will mess with your head, which you will either love or hate. It’s a self-aware tale that bends reality to breaking point and then keeps going.

Art – Medium

A crazy mix of art styles and techniques with random real life images thrown in. The animation quality is erratic.

Sound – Medium

Sports a new style of music every scene, some zanier than others. Like the music, the voice work changes in tone with each scene to varying degrees of success.

Story – Medium

The Pinocchio-like story is slow to start and nothing but weird from then on, possibly too weird for some. Don’t expect logic here.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Mind Game is an incoherent anime of ever-changing visual and musical styles that fans of oddity will enjoy. To everyone else, it likely isn’t worth your time.

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

 

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

Positive: 

Holy S***

Negative: 

Terrible Start

Ninja Scroll the series – Review

Japanese Title: Juubee Ninpuuchou: Ryuuhougyoku-hen

 

Related: Ninja Scroll the movie (prequel)

Similar: Basilisk

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Dark Fantasy Action

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The villains have some interesting abilities.

Negatives:

  • A bloated cast of villains leaves no room for character development.
  • The art and animation is lacklustre and markedly worse than the movie.
  • Uninteresting plot.
  • Lacks the choreography that made the action in the movie compelling to watch.
  • Awkward dialogue and poor audio quality.
  • Electronic music doesn’t match the medieval setting.

Fourteen years after the events of the movie, Jubei is once again roped into conflict when a group of demons destroy a village, killing everyone except the priestess Shigure. Jubei fights the demons and acquires the mysterious Dragon Jewel, making him a target to the demons. The government agent Dakuan from the movie is charged with the priestess’s protection. He hires Jubei again as a bodyguard to escort her and the Dragon Jewel to safety.

These fourteen years weren’t kind to Ninja Scroll. It went from a good action anime in the movie to a snooze-fest in Ninja Scroll the series. Each episode is about fending off some new ninja with a speciality power. While the powers have some creativity to them, the characters have no depth. One major complaint I had against the film was the lack of development for most characters, stating that a little extra screen time could have served admirably. Here they have thirteen episodes to work with, and rather than develop characters, they bloat the cast with a new villain each episode.

Even Jubei is worse. It seems like they heard the one line description of Jubei’s character from the movie (easy-going vagabond ninja) and didn’t bother to look further into his character. He is now one-note. His haunted past, inner turmoil, humanity and strength, all gone.

So, the narrative and characters are bland, but what about the action, the movie’s best aspect? Surely, the action is still worthwhile, no? It isn’t, I’m afraid. Though it is the strongest part of the series, which isn’t saying much, without the choreography and animation from the movie, action scenes aren’t compelling. Every fight has that moment where Jubei slashes at the enemy, appears to do nothing, they stare at each other, and the villain even talks before being split in two. I grew bored within a two episodes.

You will be thankful for the dull action when you have to listen to poor dialogue coupled with awkward voice work, particularly in English where the audio quality fluctuates between characters. Many of the actors aren’t the same as the film and worse than their originals. Almost every English voice, some with terrible accents, sounds either bored or as if they are reading straight off the script. The mismatched music doesn’t help either. Synth and electronic music wasn’t the best choice for a medieval setting. Who thought mechanised singing was a good idea?

I’m not sure why Ninja Scroll the series needed to be. It doesn’t add anything to the movie, introduces nothing of worth, and doesn’t even manage the action that made the original entertaining.

Art – Low

So generic. Lacks the dark visual quality of the movie. Also suffers from an inconsistent frame rate. Weak gore. Shadows go missing quite often.

Sound – Low

The wrong kind of music for the theme and setting coupled with poor voice work to match the awkward dialogue.

Story – Very Low

A repetitive new-enemy-of-the-episode structure that leaves no room for character development or any meaningful plot, for that matter.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid this and watch Basilisk instead. Ninja Scroll the series isn’t worth your time, even if a fan of the movie. It’s just too boring to suffer through the blandness.

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

 

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

Positive: None

Negative: 

Awful DialogueDissapointingEar Grating Voice WorkNo DevelopmentRepetitiveShallowTorture MusicUseless Side Cast

Anime and Manga Reviews