Tag Archives: Anime

Assassination Classroom – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ansatsu Kyoushitsu TV


Related: Assassination Classroom Season 2

Similar: Great Teacher Onizuka

Kill la Kill

My Hero Academia


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Comedy

Length: 22 episodes, 1 OVA



  • The occasional good joke.


  • Squandered premise.
  • Repetitive in plot and humour each episode.
  • OP is cancer.
  • Modern generic character design with little animation.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Class of delinquents 3-E has one task before graduation: kill their teacher, Koro-sensei! This isn’t an easy task when the teacher is a yellow octopus alien with super speed, god-like strength, and seemingly no weakness. Should they fail, Koro-sensei will rend Earth apart as he did to the Moon.

Assassination Classroom should be a slam-dunk success. The premise is so ludicrous that failure seems impossible, and yet they managed the screw it up. The humour doesn’t work, repetition drills the mind, and a confused identity results in an anime I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

Let’s start with the humour. Half of the comedy is ‘lol random’ and other half is predictable, going for the obvious joke. Assassination Classroom runs out of material within two episodes. Each episode features copies of the following jokes: students surprised at Koro-sensei’s speed despite seeing it every day (their reactions fill what feels like half the dialogue), kids being idiots, and the slutty teacher doing something bimbo related. None of the characters are interesting enough, largely owing to no personalities or memorable characteristics, so you can’t lean on them for enjoyment as you could in the likes of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Never underestimate the power of good characters to hang out with. The students of 3-E are supposed to be the worst students, yet we never see proof of this, which is a missed opportunity, as that should be their unique selling point and source of comedy. They’re simply generic.

Assassination Classroom tries to teach a moral each episode through Koro-sensei to his students, commentating on the intense and overbearing nature of studies in Japan. He helps them in their assassination attempts – a recurring joke that isn’t as funny as it sounds – and mentors them in life, despite his threat on the world. The aim is to evoke emotion when he is the only teacher that gives these delinquents a chance. Don’t kid yourself, Assassination Classroom, you haven’t earned the audience’s trust to start moralising about life. How are we supposed to take any of these lessons seriously when your poorly handled humour undermines the message? Do you really believe anyone will become a better person from hearing this tripe? Try applying effort next time.

There is no tension, if that’s what you’re looking for after reading the impending doom premise. There are no consequence, not even in a comedic way. A suicide bomber in episode one survives his detonation because Koro-sensei shields him at the last millisecond. It would have been much funnier as a dark comedy like Hot Fuzz, but that would require talent.

Each element of Assassination Classroom is in competition with the other. It can’t decide if it’s a comedy, a death game, a commentary on Japanese education, or about assassinations. These aren’t mutually exclusive elements – a decent author can handle easily – yet here they feel like a fart during a dramatic death scene.

Assassination Classroom doesn’t sell its concept whatsoever and is such a failure in execution that you shouldn’t give it a minute of your life. I have an idea: watch Hot Fuzz instead.

Art – Low

Here we have the modern generic designs for characters, just as Zegapain had a decade ago. The animation is cheap, static, often using the patented Dragonball Z teleporting action.

Sound – Low

The acting is passable with nothing to say. The opening sequence could kill Koro-sensei with cancer.

Story – Very Low

A classroom of students must assassinate their alien teacher before he destroys the world. Assassination Classroom has a potentially hilarious premise executed by repetition and bad humour.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Assassination Classroom is a waste of time unless you love seeing the same bad jokes every episode.

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

Positive: None


Horrendous ActionIncoherentNot FunnyRubbish Major Characters


Bayonetta: Bloody Fate – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Bayonetta: Bloody Fate


Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Trinity Blood



Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Japanese & English

Length: Fantasy Action



  • Looks great.
  • Bayonetta looks even better.
  • Flashy and stylish, but…


  • …nothing compared to the games.
  • Clumsy use of exposition.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Bayonetta 1 & 2 are the flashiest, most stylish, and greatest spectacle action games of all time, starring the sexiest lady in gaming. These games are fast and crazy, so Bayonetta: Bloody Fate has much to live up to.

Umbra Witch Bayonetta searches for her memories assisted by bartending weaponsmith Robin, dogged by journalist Luka, challenged by rival witch Jeanne, and attacked on all fronts by forces of Light. The journey twists when she meets a little girl also chased by hordes of Angels.

Much like Neon Genesis Evangelion, this franchise takes the biblical End Times view of heaven and angels, giving us some of the most weird and twisted angel designs ever created. Just look at Fortitudo below (yes, he is the right way up). The Angel boss fights are epic in the games and though you do feel some sense of that in the anime, it simply isn’t the same. That’s the problem with Bloody Fate: despite being flashy, stylish, and crazy, it is nothing compared to the games.

Even so, this isn’t a bad game-to-anime adaptation – a hell of a lot better than Devil May Cry of the same genre. Bloody Fate goes through the story of the first Bayonetta game, almost exactly – they even incorporate the motorbike level reworked for story flow. This feels as though it came from a team that actually played the game first, but had time limitations to contend with and made the best of it. What we do receive is plenty of fun.

However, the anime lacks the sense of lore and myth, for lack of better terms, that the games used to convey story. These shortcuts are the curse of any game-to-anime adaptation. As such, you need to have played the game to understand the Angels and Witches fully. The other glaring issue, one I don’t recall being in the game, is the exposition. Heavens above! Ninety percent of exposition is one character telling another character what they both already know. What makes this particularly strange is that other characters who don’t know the information could be used instead.

If your interest is the action, then there are no problems. Bayonetta still tears it up in her usual sexy manner.

I’m not sure for whom this is intended. Fans will prefer the game in every way, while new viewers will miss much of the context from not having played the game. I enjoyed it as a piece of nostalgia taking me back to the game, which I haven’t played in years but now want to revisit. Perhaps that is the true purpose of Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

Art – High

Looks great with stylish action and sexy characters. A faithful recreation of the source material.

Sound – Medium

This Japanese track is fine, but nothing beats Bayonetta’s voice in English. Boy does the script need work though – an amateurclass in exposition. I wish more of the game’s songs made it to the anime.

Story – Low

The sexiest witch in Heaven and Earth hunts down divinity’s minions in the search for her past. The characters still have the fun from the games, yet the truncated story and lack of ‘gameplay story’ is noticeable.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fans of Bayonetta or flashy action. Without background context from the first game, the anime adaption is a bit vague unless all you care about is the action.

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


Negative: None

A Quick Introduction to Anime Cels

I grew up with hand drawn animation everywhere in my life. I lost count how many times I watched the classic Disney films – Aristocats was past the hundred count, at minimum. Anime films kept the momentum going through my teen years and into adulthood with the likes of Studio Ghibli and Satoshi Kon’s works. The art is feast for the eyes. But when it comes to pure visual indulgence, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is my favourite. The gothic style, imaginative world, and fluid animation never fail to leave me in awe.

Some months ago, I acquired several animation cels from Bloodlust and after finally framing my favourites, I thought it a good opportunity to share my passion for cels with you all. So here’s a quick introduction to anime cels. (Every Bloodlust cel in this article is from my collection.)

The Name

A cel derives its name from celluloid, the plastic on which artists painted the layer of a frame. However, celluloid is highly flammable – old film reels would catch fire from the heat of a cinema projector – and was replaced by cellulose acetate.

The Layers

Each element of a scene usually goes on a separate layer – one for the background, one for each character – to avoid the need to redraw the whole scene every frame. It is common in lower budget productions to find a character’s arm, for example, on a separate layer for even more time efficiency. This does result in the character looking a little stiff, however. Some mad men will redraw everything for each frame in key shots to make them as beautiful as possible, which we will see later. It isn’t unheard of to use a physical model in the background either instead of painting it.

Genga vs. Douga

Most cels you buy come with the corresponding production sketch, or ‘douga’ in Japanese, stuck on the back. Artists refer to a douga to paint the exact frame needed – the different colours on the sketch denote the levels of shading and differentiate parts of the subject.

It is easy to confuse douga with ‘genga’, which are the drafts of a cel. A genga, often drawn by the lead animator of the scene, gives an idea of how the subject should look, whereas a douga is the exact blueprint of the final cel. Once an artist reaches the douga stage, the decisions should be final.


The Value

The price of cels vary immensely, even within the same series. Three key factors determine the value in most cases:

Condition: A cel in great condition is obviously worth more.

Source popularity and scarcity: Cels from popular shows are more sought after, naturally, and thus increase in value. However, the number of cels produced for a series is also a factor. Dragon Ball Z, while more popular than Evangelion, has so many more frames available that if a fan wanted one of, say, Goku, they have countless choices. But if you wanted one of an EVA Unit-01, you are limited to 26 episodes and a couple of movies worth of cels. As a rule, the most expensive cels in terms of anime are from Studio Ghibli productions. Not only are their films popular and gorgeous, they only have cels for 90-120 minutes of screen time.

Framing: Once you start comparing cel value within a single production, it all comes down to framing – what looks best on my wall. The crown jewels are what we call ‘hero shots’. A major character will fill the frame like a perfect photo, their face will be visible with eyes open, and have no missing parts for another layer, as mentioned earlier. The value also goes up with the importance of the scene – this is the ‘cool’ factor. A hero shot of Goku from the Saiyan Saga will be valuable. A hero shot of when Goku goes super Saiyan for the first time will be worth ten times more.

The following cel of D is barely worth anything since you can’t make out much detail and the frame looks empty without the background (I included the exact screenshot for comparison). The ‘shadow’ image is the douga pasted on the back.

In Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, I’d wager the cels for the two screenshots below would be worth the most of the entire film. They look great with or without the background, have perfect framing, and ooze cool.

You can greatly increase the value of a “weak” cel – a character missing an arm and poorly positioned in the frame – by combining it with the other layers. If you can get the background, the missing arm, and the other character she’s talking to, which balances out her position in frame, the value now jumps back up.

Look at my cel below of Bloodlust antagonist Meier Link missing his lower legs and the screenshot of this cel in action. Should I find a frame with the carriage, it would be perfect.

The next cel of interest is the following close up of Meier. It looks odd, doesn’t it? The grey shading on his left cheek isn’t good, no? And what is with that thumbprint on his chin?

Well, look at this cel in the film. That shading on his left cheek is actually a special paint that gives a glow effect under a certain light. It’s magic!

You may be interested to know that artists paint cels from the back, not the front. Painting from the front looks great on canvas to give texture to portraits and the like, but with animation, you need that smooth, even finish provided by the celluloid. It’s hard enough that artists need to keep frames consistent, but they have to paint in reverse as well? That’s nutty.

Here is the above cell of Meier from the back.

Lastly, this is my favourite piece in my collection. You will recognise it as the feature image from my Vampire Anime Guide in the side bar (my cel is a few frames earlier). It was pure fortunate to have stumbled upon this cel so similar to the image I had used.

This is a single cel – no layers. The team redrew the complete frame each time for this shot, allowing for subtle movements in the hair and lighting. That is a lot of work for a second or two of footage. The mad men are dedicated!

My next goal is to acquire some great cels from Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but they aren’t cheap if you want a good one. Reinhard, where are you!?

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.

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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.

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


Deep NarrativeStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None