Tag Archives: Adventure

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

Jormungand – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Jormungand

 

Similar: Black Lagoon

Canaan

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Adventure

Length: 24 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Strong production values.
  • Knows it’s weapons.

Negatives:

  • Unmemorable for the genre.
  • Tries too hard with some characters.

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Jormungand was pitched to me as the Black Lagoon of its year. I can see why, for the similarities are obvious – an action series with a ragtag bunch of misfits circumventing the law to fight bad guys around the world. I am sad to report however, that Jormungand isn’t in the same league as Black Lagoon. That doesn’t mean we can’t look at this title as a lesson in the difference between an okay series and a great series.

The story follows international arms dealer Koko and her band of bodyguards made up of former soldiers. The latest addition to her team is child soldier Jonah, who doesn’t really want to be there. Her mission is to bring world peace by breaking every law seemingly possible while escaping intelligence agencies and other outlaw organisations.

The core of any story is its characters. In Black Lagoon, the characters had personalities larger than life, injecting the narrative with a constant stream of humour and energy. Importantly, they didn’t have gimmicks; they had personalities. Jormungand, on the other hand, uses gimmicks to define its characters. When one relies on gimmicks, each encounter with those characters starts to become repetitive with little room for growth because the writer didn’t establish their foundations. For instance, one woman’s gimmick is that she doesn’t wear panties in battle because it “increases accuracy”. This joke repeats for every scene with a focus on her. The first time, it says, “Hey, I’m not wearing panties – aren’t I quirky?” Next scene: “Hey, I’m still not wearing panties – quirky, right?” And the next: “Still nothing down there – bet you love how quirky I am.” Another woman’s quirk is her lustful crush on Koko, which also rears up every time she sees her.

You can’t do this to a character that’s supposed to matter. That’s throwaway character material. Jormungand tries too hard to make these people wacky. Without the personalities to back them up like in Black Lagoon, the quirks come across as annoying and random because they don’t tie to characters through a personality. Keep the panty-less gunslinger joke if you find it sidesplittingly hilarious, but it should be no more than the garnish to well-rounded attributes. Koko is the only character I would consider to have depth among the cast.

On the flipside, you have the problem of Jonah. He’s the “man of few words” archetype that, as I’ve said many times before, isn’t an easy one to make interesting because of how little there is to work with. One would think that having less pieces to construct a character is easier, when in reality every piece must be perfect. It’s like a chef trying to make a Michelin star dish of only three ingredients. Jonah’s counterpart in Black Lagoon is “Rock”, an ordinary salaryman who also didn’t want to join the pirates at the start. Comparing the two, you can see the difference it makes when you have a dull mute in one case and guy in over his head in a gunfight yet still dignified enough to do up his tie on the other.

As for the action, which is why most would attend this screening, it is rather good. Studio White Fox brought strong production values to the table to pump the action full of energy and explosions. As it tries to do with the quirky characters, Jormungand goes over the top with action. If your one interest is action, more action and crazier action, you won’t be disappointed. And the writer knows his weapons to impart authenticity.

Perhaps if I had not seen several such similar anime already, I would have liked it more – I suppose it’s the curse of happening to start at the top before working your way down. It’s hard to settle for something around the middle of the pack, where the plot doesn’t stick with me and I can’t remember anyone’s names except the two listed above.

Art – High

The art is sharp and clean with good animation and effort in the cinematography. It’s a seinen action series – it’s as expected.

Sound – Medium

The acting is alright, but with a script that lacks room for the actors to play like in Black Lagoon, it doesn’t reach greatness. It’s similar with the music – alright, though doesn’t go as crazy as it should.

Story – Medium

An arms dealer takes a child soldier under her wing to show him the ropes as a merchant of war. Jormungand doesn’t push itself far enough to become memorable in the competitive modern action genre.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For action fans only. Jormungand is there for those who can’t get enough action and have exhausted the likes of Black Lagoon, Requiem for the Phantom, and Cowboy Bebop.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Mirai – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mirai no Mirai

 

Similar: Wolf Children

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

When Marnie Was There

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Length: 1 hr. 38 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Beautiful visuals, particularly in environment details.
  • Small quirks.

Negatives:

  • Lacks real substance.
  • Parents don’t have enough story.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Mirai is the latest film from director Mamoru Hosoda, known for other anime films Summer Wars, Girl Who Leapt through Time, The Boy and the Beast, and Wolf Children. While I haven’t seen the first of that list (review coming soon™), I find Mirai to be his weakest. It doesn’t have an element that draws me in, attaches me to it in the way Girl through Time did with its protagonist’s personality.

Based on Hosoda’s experiences with his own children, Mirai is about a little boy called Kun who, up until this point, received all the attention from his parents. Now with his newborn sister Mirai around, he’s no longer the centre of the universe. And that doesn’t sit well with him.

He throws tantrums. He hurts his sister. He chucks his toys on the floor. He does everything in his four-year-old power to turn the attention back to him. Nothing works. In an effort to teach him much-needed life lessons, family members from the past and future visit him in the house courtyard, taking him on small adventures.

This narrative quickly reminded of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which I coincidentally saw for the first time last week, where ghosts of past, present, and future visit the protagonist to change him for the better. In the case of A Christmas Carol, it’s about turning a nasty rich miser into a generous man. With this connection made, I became more interested. Unfortunately, Mirai doesn’t have the weight and emotion found in Dickens’s title.

Mirai’s structure alternates between the present day world, where Kun misbehaves in some way to garner attention, and the past/future world with a relative that teaches a lesson relating to the aforementioned behaviour. One time, he throws his toys on the floor in a temper tantrum against his mother. So when he runs to the courtyard, it takes him back in time to when his mother was a little girl and loved throwing everything on the floor as well. This shows him that she too was a kid once, but they also go too far and trash her whole house, which earns her a scolding. “Your mother knows you’re just a kid, but don’t go too far. Give her a break looking after a newborn.”

It may sound as though I am simplifying the lesson too much, but I’m not. That’s all there is to it. These mini adventures have no nuance, no depth, which is perhaps intentional so that little kids get it. Even then, it’s too on the nose and has little for older viewers.

I could look over this, somewhat, if the adventures were more…adventurous? There isn’t enough fantasy in this fantasy adventure story. When he’s with his mother, why didn’t they go on some Peter Pan style adventure fighting pirates, feasting on junk food, blowing stuff up, only to come back to the reality of a trashed home? Any kid’s imagination would conjure up far more outlandish adventures.

The exception to this lack of fantasy is with the last adventure for the finale. Kun goes on a train journey (he loves trains) and has to face his biggest fear before he can return home. This was the only adventure I cared for in the whole film.

The other issue in Mirai is with the parents’ subplot. When we first meet them, we learn that the mother will return to work sooner than she did with the firstborn while the father wants to become a stay-at-home dad, though he has much to learn. The film’s first half sets up their situations and struggles, but the second half doesn’t pay them off. The third act all but forgets their storyline. It suddenly goes, “I guess their fine parents now.” It’s weak.

What I do really like in Mirai is the visual detail. First, there’s the house itself with the courtyard. Hosoda hired a real architect to design the unusual house for film, explained in-story by Kun’s father being an architect. I love this house. The way it makes the most of their narrow plot of land and the courtyard is great. I would be happy to live there. I also love the small details – not just in the environment. The dog barking at the vacuum cleaner, the way Mirai behaves like a real baby, and dad’s quirks when working from home while looking after the kids add a layer of authenticity to the world.

It’s a shame the story lacks gravitas to back up all the effort that when into the visuals. For emotion, I look to how Wolf Children made my heart break; for fun, I look to how Girl Who Leapt through Time made me fall in love with the girl’s attitude. Mirai is Hosoda’s love letter to his family, yet not one I recommend to others.

Art – Very High

Lots of detail, beautiful animation, and interesting environment designs are a pleasure. The only real flaw is an overreliance on making background objects in CG.

Sound – Medium

The acting is good all around, though I wonder if Kun doesn’t sound a few years too old. The 80s “city pop” opening and ending themes are a nice touch.

Story – Low

Past and future relatives of a little boy teach him life lessons when he can’t handle all the attention given to his newborn sister. A severe lack of weight to the adventures and overly simplistic moral storytelling don’t make an engaging story.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For art fans only. Mirai’s story isn’t worth attending for. However, if you love anime with lots of visual and animated details, then there is much to notice here.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!

 

Similar: No Game No Life

Ixion Saga DT

Slayers

Log Horizon

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Adventure Comedy Fantasy

Length: 20 episodes (2 seasons), 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Consistently funny characters.
  • Fun, colourful style.
  • Great parody of otherworld anime.

Negatives:

  • Weak story lacks progression.
  • World could do with greater exploration.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Kazuma is useless. Darkness is useless. Megumin is also useless. Aqua is especially useless. Everyone is useless in the world of KonoSuba! And it is great.

After an embarrassing death, high schooler Kazuma has the chance at another life in a fantasy world. A nerd’s dream come true! Unfortunately, he spawns as the worst class in the game and Aqua, the goddess that granted the new life, is a companion without talents to speak of. They soon recruit descendant from a powerful magical bloodline, arch wizard Megumin, master of explosion magic. At last, some strength to the group!

Nope. She can only cast one spell before collapsing. Well, at least they have a resilient tank in the form of paladin Darkness. She will save them! Nope. She’s has zero accuracy in combat and is a masochist that loves taking a beating from monsters – the more people that watch her sweet arse and bountiful breasts get beat the better.

KonoSuba is a refreshing change after trudging through the endless mire of isekai (otherworld) anime. This parody is better and funnier than the vast majority of titles in the genre, not to suggest there is stiff competition.

Everything works and make sense in this take on the genre, Kazuma being utter trash most of all. His team starting out at the bottom doing menial quests such as slaying killer cabbages and painting houses that barely pay enough for living expenses (note how most isekai forget expenses), just like in any MMO, makes sense. Every isekai fan believes that if they woke up in a fantasy world, they would be a powerful knight or wizard at the top of the food chain (just like how advocates for communism think they would be part of the small ruling class and not one of a billion peasants at the bottom). Who knew that being an otaku NEET doesn’t train you for life in a dangerous fantasy world? KonoSuba shows the reality of how garbage everyone would be and leans into it for great comedic effect.

The characters in particular bring this series together. They are such fun, such a riot to hang out with that they overshadow problems. I did think there was a risk of repetition at the start. For example, Darkness’s love of masochism could have quickly become her running into the fray to get smashed, we laugh at the joke and repeat next episode. However, the joke stays fresh because it isn’t about having her armour stripped off each battle. Instead, it’s about the ridiculous lengths she will go to for arousal and how much more desperate she is each time. Just when I thought it wouldn’t be funny anymore, she surprised me next episode.

The big problem with KonoSuba is the story, or lack thereof. The main goal is to defeat the Demon King, something I forgot about a few episodes in since they ignore this in favour of episodic stories. Now, these small stories work well in facilitating the characters and comedy, but they don’t progress the plot. Watching these episodes in the moment wasn’t a problem until it cares about the Demon King again, where it reminds you of how little the plot has moved. The overarching story feels like an afterthought. “Oh damn, I wrote all these great jokes but forgot the story. Quick, make something up – kill bad guy…big monster…demon…yes, demon king! All done. Phew.”

As such, if you are going to watch KonoSuba, you have to do so for the characters and humour. The world itself lacks depth, having used the generic fantasy template, and the story is just as straightforward as can be. If after you meet the whole team you don’t find it funny, then don’t proceed further.

Art – Medium

I like the colours and character designs. It’s a shame little effort went into making the environments anything but generic. If you removed characters from the shot, you wouldn’t know which anime the environment was from. The animation is strong, particularly in the spell effects that took the largest portion of the budget.

Sound – High

The acting is strong, though it may take a little getting used to Kazuma’s voice, as he sounds too old for a teen, but hey, at least it’s something different from the usual forgettable isekai protagonists. (Note: There is a dub on the way, for those interested.)

Story – Medium

A teen revives in a fantasy world, but has no talents and is surrounded by others with no talent either. Characters and humour hold up this rather barebones story.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must for comedy fans. KonoSuba is greater than the sum of its parts thanks to its characters and hilarious comedy. This is an easy anime to watch and recommend.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tsubasa Chronicle

 

Related: xxxHOLiC (same universe)

Similar: Cardcaptor Sakura

Pandora Hearts

InuYasha

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Adventure Fantasy Romance

Length: 52 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Good music.

Negatives:

  • No style.
  • No tension.
  • No reason to care.
  • No interesting characters.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is so boring that I only tried to answer one question before its end: Is this Sakura the same as the one from Cardcaptor Sakura? They look the same and share a name. Turns out, no, they aren’t the same. The author was just too lazy to come up someone new. Well, that’s it, end of review – see you next time!

What, you want me to talk about this anime? What is there to say? Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is so full of nothing that there is nothing to talk about.

Syaoran and Sakura are a young teen couple madly in love, but when she grows wings and her feathers disperse into other dimensions, she loses her precious memories including those of him. Syaoran starts hopping through dimensions to different worlds, where he meets a ninja torn from his world, a magician, and the rabbit thing Mokona from xxxHOLiC (one of the dimensions), who help recollect her feathers.

Initially, I liked how Syaoran and Sakura started as a couple – unusual for teen anime – as I believed it meant skip over the shy “will they, won’t they” nature of anime romance and go straight to developing them as a couple. Unfortunately, when she loses her feathers, she transforms into a comatose slab of boring that occasionally wakes up.

The narrative doesn’t take time to establish these two in our hearts for us to care when Sakura goes down. Why do they love each other? This is supposedly a love so strong it transcends time and space, yet we have no reason to believe it. Even once she stops sleeping so much in later episodes, she’s as empty headed as one can imagine. The author wanted to start on the big moment of her losing her memories, which is fine, but she then needed to work harder to make us care through flashbacks, or something.

Looking past this empty couple, there is nothing else to see. The action is boring as sin with its series of meaningless fights and poor animation. Cardcaptor Sakura has better action than this action series (and its collecting element is stronger). Not even using a Pokémon-like approach to the battles with magical companions can make it interesting. The action feels like filler with no end in sight since they extend the quest on a whim by saying, “Well, you’ve collected 200 feathers so far, but there’s another 100 to go! … Wait, did I say 100? I meant 300!”

Don’t fall for it. Don’t waste your time with Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. This is a contender for the Most Boring Anime of All Time award.

Art – Low

The characters look too similar to other CLAMP titles, the animation is poor, and the colouring is desaturated in season 1. It’s hard to take the drama seriously when everyone looks like Jack Skellington with giant hands. This is moving manga with worse character art than the manga.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine, I suppose, considering the script has nothing to say. The music is the only good element, a little reminiscent of .hack//Sign’s excellent soundtrack.

Story – Low

A boy travels to different dimensions to recollect his girlfriend’s lost memories with the aid of unlikely allies. So full of nothing, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle gives you no reason to care.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. There isn’t anything awful about Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, but that’s not a reason to watch something.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Banana Fish – Anime Review

Japanese Title: BANANA FISH

 

Similar: Rainbow

Black Lagoon

91 Days

No. 6

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Action Adventure Drama

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Strong protagonist.
  • Great visuals.
  • Doesn’t cringe from the subject matter.

Negatives:

  • Weak villains.
  • Humour doesn’t work.
  • Could use more brains.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Banana Fish is an adaptation of a manga by the same name that ended 24 years ago. Once a manga reaches a certain age, it’s often deemed outdated and financially unviable. Should one receive an anime adaptation, even then it could become “old news” and have no second season in favour of a gamble at the next big hit. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see something as old as Banana Fish on the slate. And when a studio does go out of its way for an old licence, they will put the full production effort behind it, as is the case here.

The story centres on young Ash Lynx, a handsome boy adopted by New York City Mafia Don Dino Golzine, who declares that Ash should inherit his empire. The boy is ruthless, resourceful, and charismatic – all the qualities he desires in an heir (and it helps that Ash is just his type). Unfortunately for the Don, the boy is also rebellious and despises him like the devil. Ash becomes hell-bent on destroying his father and abuser, especially once suspicion arises of his involvement in the death of Ash’s brother and a mind control drug called Banana Fish. This dangerous game becomes more personal when he meets Japanese photographer Eiji, with whom he makes fast friends. Eiji has just entered a world of abuse, drugs, and death.

Ash is an interesting character and the strongest element of the story. He is a mix of violence and pain as he hates just about everything in his life, yet has these moments of intense vulnerability like a lost child that has no idea of the world. As a child, people sexually abused him, particularly in the mafia including Dino, which taught him that his most valuable asset to these monsters is his body. He’s so damaged by this, one isn’t sure if he’s actually gay or if he’s willing to use his asset to gain the upper hand. It’s messed up, but it makes for an interesting protagonist.

Banana Fish opens on a song to hype you up for the action and ends on a ballad of sadness to remind you of Ash’s pain. That is the heart of Banana Fish.

Eiji is the opposite: sweet, innocent, doesn’t know how to handle gun, and hasn’t even kissed someone. He’s the only good in Ash’s life. Nothing was free in Ash’s world, until he made a friend.

The rest of the cast is a motley crew of gangsters, street urchins, and forgotten soldiers. They work fine in their roles. Where Banana Fish fails its characters is with the villains. Not one of them is interesting or has any depth. Dino is just a creep obsessed with getting Ash to come back as his heir. His plan to accomplish this? What plan? The Chinese guy with long hair, said to be a master manipulator, only succeeds through plot convenience and his ultimate desire for death is just nonsensical. He’s more whiny cartoon child than evil genius. The rest are run-of-the-mill thugs and henchmen, as normal.

The focus on action over character does lessen the impact of weak villains, since this isn’t a battle of ideologies or wits. However, the action-dominated story does dampen the initial setup with Ash’s background and his friendship with Eiji. It doesn’t stop long enough for us to absorb these characters.

To compound problems further (it’s chain of problems, at this point, one leading into the next), the action isn’t smart like Code Geass or stylised like John Wick or Mad Max: Fury Road, so I don’t feel the action alone can carry the series to greatness. People take life-threatening injuries only to stand up a minute later as if they won’t die of blood loss any moment now. Also, Ash is supposed to have an IQ of 180, yet his plans are far from genius. One hit on Dino involves standing atop a truck to take the shot while speeding past. Really, that’s your plan? Nothing in Banana Fish lends credence to his genius label. If they simply hadn’t mentioned it in that one episode, it would have been irrelevant. He’s of average intelligence with high charisma, which is perfectly fine.

My other problem with Ash is the overuse of certain tropes. For instance, I lost count the number of times he wiled his way out of captivity by seducing his captor/guard. It’s awfully convenient that every single one of them is gay and falls for the oldest trick in the book. It made sense the first time when his captor was a past abuser that still craved him. After that is pushing it. Even the humour, which is often jarringly out of place, uses this trope in a light-hearted manner.

Banana Fish has a much stronger first half than second. The first has all the tension, tough choices, harsh losses, and less to do with weak villains. It’s still a decent anime in the second half, though you have to love it for the action more than anything else. And if you make it to the end, the final scene is the best in the series.

Art – High

One of the better-looking series of the year, Banana Fish has a colourful style with plenty of detail, nice animation, and consistent quality. Distant characters lack detail though.

Sound – High

From OP to ED, main character to supporting, all the audio is great.

Story – Medium

An heir to a criminal empire rebels against the predator that raised him and finds friendship in an unexpected place. Banana Fish has a strong first half, fluctuates up and down for the rest of the way, but ends on a great moment.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For action fans. Banana Fish looks great and has plenty of action to keep the crowd busy. Not for children.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None