Tag Archives: Fantasy

Basically, Lord of the Rings, though it can also be in a modern setting.

Re:Creators – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Re:Creators

 

Similar: Fate/Zero

Shirobako

Durarara!!

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Contemporary Action Fantasy

Length: 22 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Cool concept.
  • The music.

Negatives:

  • Untold wasted potential.
  • Pointless action scenes.
  • No sense of urgency.
  • The fictional characters don’t act like they come from fiction.
  • Background protagonist.
  • Not thought out enough in pre-production.

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Never has there been such a difference between my interest of the premise in an anime versus the struggle it took to finish the series. Re:Creators may make the number one spot of my most disappointing anime list.

Aspiring light novel author Sota finds himself taken into the anime he’s watching, only to jump back out moments later with that anime’s fiery protagonist, Selesia Upitiria, by his side. He soon realises that other fictional characters – nine in total – have stepped off screen and page, some with ill intent and all with questions about their worlds and ours. The conflict of their stories has not left them whole. Altair, the woman in military regalia, seems to know too much of the real world for an anime character.

How did they take such a fantastic premise and do nothing of worth with it? Well, strap in. My heart breaks to do this.

It quickly becomes apparent that something is wrong with the fictional characters – not their conflicts, but their design and personalities. They each adjust to the real world in one scene flat. Selesia can immediately drive a car better than any stunt drive. The magical girl’s scene has here thinking that damage isn’t permanent, like in her shoujo anime, which is a good scene, but that’s all she receives. What’s the point of a fish out of water scenario when you don’t use it? If I showed you the episode after a character’s introduction, you wouldn’t guess that they aren’t from our world. Look at it in reverse, when a character goes from our world to one of fantasy, like Youko in The Twelve Kingdoms, and the obvious need for an adjustment period. Even GATE executed this better. Re:Creators’ characters are closer to cosplayers than to characters of fantasy and science fiction, which is ironic because that’s what everyone assumes they are when seen in public.

The next problem with these characters is the total lack of effort that went into making a connection with the audience. I could not care if they lived or died. Re:Creators doesn’t take the time to establish them and make us connect. They pop into the world, fight, chat about the fight, fight some more, meet their makers, fight, chat about the fight, and some meet their makers for the last time. Of the 22 episodes, about 10 minutes went towards character development.

You have two options to fix this: either you spend time in the fictional worlds first as the characters follow their ‘anime’ story or you put extra effort to show us who they are in the real world story. Ideally, do both. The time Sota has in Selesia’s world is one scene. And that’s all we see of the fictional worlds. Yep, that’s it.

It isn’t necessary – or advised – to give every character time in their respective worlds. Start with the important ones, Selesia at minimum, and unveil the rest as you go, holding back the villain worlds as part of their mystery. In the meantime, develop them in the real world – start with the fish out of water problem above. Character growth occurs in the face of adversity. Therefore, you would imagine that the adversity of being in a strange land and realising that your life, your entire existence is scripted would push you to grow. Why not use this opportunity?

Furthermore, this lack of individual stories makes them feel too similar, as though they don’t come from nine different anime but from the same anime, one called Re:Creators. Imagine if Van from Escaflowne, Light from Death Note, Sakura from Cardcaptors, Saber from Fate/Zero, Kira from Gundam SEED, Johan from Monster, and Byakuya from Bleach came together in a massive crossover series. Would they for even a moment feel as if they come from the same anime? The writer for Re:Creators should have created his characters with the mentality that he was making nine different anime, independent of one another, and then brought them together regardless of how unlikely a mecha pilot would meet a mage – the more different, the better.

As for the real world characters, they aren’t any better. Sota is a blank slate. He only exists because the writer felt a need to have a real world protagonist. A Creator would have been a better choice – Creator is the name for the author of a fictional character. Creators suffer the same problem as their creations. They adjust to their characters come to life in a single scene. Forget a character of your creation – if any character you loved came to life, wouldn’t you be full of questions and excitement?

The only interesting moments are when Creator and character go head to head. The knight Alicetaria, for example, cannot believe her Creator wrote her dark fantasy world full of pain and suffering for mere entertainment. Seen from her perspective, he’s a sadistic, cruel man. For others, such as the mecha pilot, it adds comedy. His Creator has trouble convincing him to do things because he’s a prat, just as written. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t go far enough with any of these.

If not growth and conflict, what fills Re:Creators’ screen time? Pointless action. You could count on one hand the number of meaningful or engaging action sequences. Again, think about this: you have nine powerful characters come together for a massive crossover series and the action. is. boring!

Most engaging action-related content happens prior when rewriting a character to have new powers. The Creator can’t simply write that Selesia is now immortal – the public wouldn’t have any of it! Fans must embrace a believable evolution to the character for it to take effect. I like this mechanic. Not used enough, I’m afraid. More meta mechanics would help too. I’m a broken record at this point, but yet again, Re:Creators doesn’t take advantage of its premise.

There is a k-drama called W – Two Worlds about a woman who finds herself dragged into her father’s manhwa when the hero faces death. The series is full of meta mechanics. She can only return to the real world when ‘To be continued’ physically appears in the air, marking the end of the volume on a juicy cliffhanger. The passage of time is also off, which emulates cutting from one scene to the next between panels. I don’t want to give away anymore as you must watch W, but my point is that Re:Creators is surface deep.

Re:Creators did not receive the effort required for such a concept. The creator only went halfway, delivering a halfway anime. Remember, this isn’t adapted from manga – this is an original anime unbound from prior canon. They could have done anything they wanted. Another creator could use the same concept and craft something truly great.

Art – Medium

Re:Creators’ art meets the modern industry standard and the CG works, though I am disappointed with the character designs. Why do all the characters look created by the same artist when they’re supposed to come from several artists?

Sound – Medium

The acting is average with no room to flex. I like the music, first title song in particular, which I have listened to a dozen times this past week.

Story – Low

Fictional characters come out of their worlds and into modern Japan as some among them cause havoc our world and their creators. A lack of thought and planning turned the great potential of Re:Creators into a bore.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. This is a Very Low in terms of potential vs. actual. I hope to recommend the same idea executed better in the future. Re:Creators is the Great Disappointment.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

DisappointingShallow

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Noblesse – Anime Review

Korean Title: Noblesse

 

Related: Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction (prequel – included in review)

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Castlevania

 

Watched in: Japanese & Korean

Genre: Supernatural Action Fantasy

Length: Two 30-minute movies

 

Positives:

  • Makes you want to read the manhwa.
  • Well-choreographed action.
  • Bloody good powers.

Negatives:

  • Awakening is just the opening chapter.
  • Production issues in Beginning of Destruction.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Noblesse (French for nobility), based on the popular manhwa webtoon of the same name, has received two short film adaptions, seemingly as a test for the reception of a full series. The first film, Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction, tells the story of Raizel the Noblesse Vampire and werewolf lord Muzaka in medieval Europe as humans wage war around them, ending in the tragic falling out of these two friends. I assume this is a flashback volume from the manhwa selected as a self-contained story. Noblesse: Awakening is the proper start of the saga, where Raizel awakens from an 820-year slumber to find an unfamiliar modern world. He seeks out Frankenstein, loyal servant and current school principal, for help and ends up attending the school to learn modern life from his human classmates, who soon come under threat from other supernatural entities.

I have good and bad news about Noblesse. The good news? What we have of the series here is strong – I am excited for more. The bad news? That’s all there is in anime form (for now, hopefully) and we have to turn to the manhwa for the rest, which isn’t complete either.

While Awakening is a strong start, it truly is the mere first 2-3 episodes rushed to fit in as much as possible in 30 minutes. We see a bit of every key scene in setting up a larger story. Raizel awakens, meets Frankenstein, goes to class, makes friends against his will in a hilarious scene believing chopsticks are stakes and the garlic in kimchi is to poison him, and then the other vampires capture his friends for the climactic fight. Without having read the manhwa, I would wager it takes more time with these scenes. Still, they do work fine in the anime.

I like Raizel. He is the definition of a Korean drama protagonist. Let me tell you about Korean dramas one day – they’re plenty of fun. For now, the first rule is that the male lead must be tall, slender, handsome, and even a bit effeminate (middle-aged Korean ladies go nuts for that). Bonus points if he is emotionally reserved. Raizel barely speaks throughout both films with maybe 10 lines in Beginning of Destruction. However, he isn’t dull like Kaname, the aloof vampire of Vampire Knight – at least, not in what I’ve seen so far. His inner monologue, as present in the lunch scene, and his imposing manner give him character. When he has to make a hard choice in Beginning of Destruction, you can feel his pain conveyed in few words and facial expressions.

He’s overpowered as hell, though not without consequences. His blood magic looks great, particularly in the prequel.

Speaking of, Beginning of Destruction is the better of the two films when watched as is, owed due to the completeness of the arc. It does have lower production values, however, and I could only find it in Korean, which did work well. This story takes its time with the scenes, giving us enough to connect with the werewolf lord and the human girl he protects before the action starts. The action itself is well choreographed in both films and has a surprising amount of story weight for such little runtime.

Noblesse needs more episodes to deliver its potential, which I hope to see very soon. This is one of few anime adaptions I desire.

Art – High

The prequel may have average production values, but Awakening looks great and oozes style that is classically manhwa. Good animation for the engaging action.

Sound – Medium

The acting is solid. However, the music in Awakening feels generic, as if it not made for this anime but bought from a stock library. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the budget is responsible.

Story – Medium

An ancient vampire awakens to a modern world he doesn’t recognise and must learn of society and technology. The prequel shows his final moments before sleep over 800 years ago. Noblesse sets up a promising story that demands completion.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Hmm…I don’t like recommending incomplete work. If you fall in love and have to suffer the agonising wait for more, was it worth starting at all? Either wait or watch Noblesse and begin the manhwa.

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

Positive: N/A

Negative:

Incomplete

Humanity has Declined – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita

 

Similar: Yurikuma Arashi

Penguindrum

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei

Arakawa Under the Bridge

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Post-apocalyptic Fantasy Comedy

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Bright and colourful.
  • The manga episodes.
  • Surprisingly good protagonist.

Negatives:

  • Lacks focus.

(Request an anime for review here.)

You know that you’re in for a weird one when a robot loaf of bread ends a tour of the bread factory by telling guests to eat him, and when they refuse, he tears himself apart in agony and blood sprays everywhere. Except, it’s not blood. It’s carrot juice for the kids.

That wasn’t even the first weird moment of Humanity has Declined. In episode 1, the nameless protagonist has to show a village how to do butcher meat because no one can do it anymore in this post-apocalyptic society. For their convenience, an already plucked and headless chicken appears. But first, they have to catch it. Her investigation of where the chicken came from leads to the bread factory, where she meets the lovely loaf mentioned earlier.

Humanity has Declined’s speculation of our future is certainly one of the more unusual versions. Don’t expect much sense – there is no logical leap from our world to the one presented here. It’s a mix of Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In this future, miniature fairies run everything with their advanced technology, which humanity relies on due to incompetence and lack of self-sufficiency. The protagonist works as an arbiter for the UN and must be the link between humans and fairies. She knows their secret. Candy is one hell of a drug. It’s stronger than crack to these ever-smiling keychain charm-looking things.

The story’s themes are commentaries on society and culture – the factory arc satires consumerism, for example. The best episodes succeed the factory arc with the resurgence of yaoi manga after a woman called Y discovers an ancient disk of BL material. She “invents” the yaoi serial magazine, taking the world by storm. The first yaoi convention has a queue to the horizon. Unfortunately for her, others get in on the craze and make magazines of their own – satire on the spread of culture. Her love of yaoi gets her and the protagonist trapped inside a manga. What follows is a great meta episode where reality follows the rules of manga, including space confined to the size of panels. The only way out is to become a bestseller by hooking readers for many volumes.

This episode – 4 – is the best, no contest. I love how they use clickbait and the usual nonsense that long running manga resort to for sales numbers. As odd as the manga concept may sound, it’s saner than earlier events. It goes back to crazy afterwards and then to more normal again for the final two episodes at a girls’ boarding school filled with secrets. Humanity has Declined has consistency problems. Half the time it’s random weird thing after the next, leaping from one gag to another. The other half picks a theme to the jokes and sticks to it for a couple of episodes at a time, which allows development of the jokes and the sub-plots. I enjoyed the latter version and could have passed on the former.

Another aspect that doesn’t work for me is the fairies. I enjoy them best in the background, brought out when needed. Episodes that focus on them aren’t interesting because the fairies have the one joke about candy obsession (and their voices drive you insane after a while – explains that scene in the opening sequence).

Humanity has Declined isn’t a long series and the episodes I enjoyed made it worth my time, thanks in no small part to the protagonist. She could have easily been a moe girl enamoured by the fairies and all the weirdness. Instead, it presents this cynical and witty girl that provides a degree of sanity to the audience. You’re going to need it.

Art – High

The colourful pastel art gives a storybook feel – a weird storybook, sure, but a colourful one.

Sound – Medium

The OP is nuts. Expect lots of cutesy VO.

Story – Medium

A girl investigates the candy-obsessed fairies and their technology that makes this post-apocalyptic world go round. Half good and half unfocused, Humanity has Declined is one odd anime.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fans of the weird and wonderful. You don’t even need to watch an episode to know if Humanity has Declined is for you – the opening sequence will suffice. I recommend episodes 3 & 4 to lovers of meta humour.

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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!

Overlord

Re:Zero

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • An easy watch.

Negatives:

  • 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.

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

Positive: None

Negative: 

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

 

Positives:

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

Negatives:

  • 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…

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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)