Tag Archives: Medieval

Set in a period of knights and castles, or Samurai and Emperors.

Akame ga Kill – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Akame ga Kill!

 

Similar: Kill la Kill

The Seven Deadly Sins

Attack on Titan

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • It ends.

Negatives:

  • The characters.
  • The story.
  • The writing.
  • The art.
  • The action.

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I read Akame ga Kill pitched as anime’s Game of Thrones. Either the recommender hasn’t seen Game of Thrones or hasn’t seen Akame ga Kill­. My sides will never recover.

From the first scene, Akame ga Kill is an obnoxious anime. I fail to recall a time I hated a protagonist quicker than here. A cocky hero with forced-cool dialogue? Yeah, I hope he dies. He’s so stupid that a large-breasted girl cons him for all him money on his first day in the capitol. She just about asks for it and he hands it over. He’s that stupid. Then a noble girl happens to be passing in the next scene to take him to her estate. Why make him lose all his money if it amounts to nothing? The purpose is to acquaint him with the nobles, but it’s so clumsy that they may as well have typed the script directions on screen.

We then meet the main plot. A group of assassins called Night Raid aim to kill the sinful elite of the kingdom, chief of which is the emperor and his minister for oppressing the populace. Busty Girl is a member of Night Raid, as it happens. So that’s why she was in the useless scene earlier.

Night Raid’s signature – and by extension, Akame ga Kill’s – is gratuitous violence. It’s so meaningless, so overwrought and in a story littered with unfunny humour of poor timing that it didn’t faze me in the slightest to see a noblewoman sliced in two at the waist, her hands spiralling away from her body. Akame ga Kill has so much edge that Gillette has its engineers working around the clock to unlock its secrets. I mean, each episode is titled ‘Kill something’ – ‘Kill the Darkness,’ ‘Kill the Grudge,’ ‘Kill the Audience’s Sanity and Tolerance to Atrocious Writing.’

Episode one’s key action scene has Busty Girl comment how Hero Guy is good because he’s lasted longer than usual against Emo Girl. In reality, Emo Girl mostly stood around and when she does attack, he survives through luck. Her sword that bifurcates people like butter can’t pierce a wooden statuette in his shirt pocket when convenient. Wow, so impressive, Hero Guy. They’ll fall in love over nothing, of course.

Night Raid reveals to Hero Guy that the noble girl and her family torture commoners for amusement, including his friends whose names I can’t remember. Much like the violence, there is no build up to this revelation so it leaves no impact. It does foreshadow how shallow the villains will be, however. “Are you shocked? Are you shocked yet?” The show keeps asking. Yes, I am shocked at how someone can write a story and characters this bad. I can’t believe this is making Aldnoah.Zero look like quality.

I am unsure of the target audience for this anime. It’s too violent for children, yet too immature for adults. Hell, it’s too immature for children.

By the way, I wrote this review after watching a single episode, and with the final episode complete, I have nothing to change except to say it only becomes worse. Here are a few highlights to come:

  • The strongest villain falls in love with Hero Guy for no valid reason.
  • Emo Girl and her sister want to kill each other for edginess.
  • Fights devolve into characters playing their Trump Cards – they literally call their best abilities Trump Cards (how subtle) – creating a binary flow to fights. It also makes no sense why they don’t open with their ‘I Win’ buttons.

Akame ga Kill has no redeeming quality.

Art – Very Low

While some of the backgrounds look decent, nothing can make up for poor animation, bad choreography, generic style, and dissonant character designs. The character design is so lazy that half of them dress in everyday modern clothes in a fantasy world. The creator couldn’t be bothered to design clothes.

Sound – Very Low

Every character sounds like the typecast of their archetype in an atrocious script. The music is as forgettable and generic as the art.

Story – Very Low

A group of assassins kill the corrupt elite of the kingdom one villain at a time. With some of anime’s worst characters, shoddy action, expository dialogue, and cringe-to-the-edge, Akame ga Kill will kill your brain before the end.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Akame ga Kill has likely made it into the ten worst anime I have seen, and I go out of my way to watch some bad anime for the ‘so bad it’s good’ joy. Akame ga Kill cannot even boast that quality.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueHollow World BuildingHorrendous ActionInduces StupidityNo DevelopmentRubbish Major CharactersShallowUgly Artistic DesignUseless Side Cast

Attack on Titan Season 2 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2

 

Related: Attack on Titan Season 1

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • New Titan type.
  • Some solid art and audio.

Negatives:

  • Too much CG.
  • Atrocious twists.
  • No tension.
  • Characters are still flat.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Get your hype pants on; we are here for season 2 of Attack on Titan! Feeling all nice and comfortable? Right, now take them off and prepare for boredom as you sink further and further into the couch, until all we can see of you is two dead eyes staring at the screen. Attack on Titan Season 2 is bad.

The first problem should become obvious after you finish episode one. Where are the main characters? Where’s the main story? Instead, we follow the B team as they search for a breach in the wall that let a dozens of Titans inside. The purpose of this point of view is to give us the backstories for a few characters, which is fine in concept, but it takes near half the season and isn’t engaging.

Not that the main characters are of any interest either. Eren is still your ever-angry teen, Mikasa still has no personality to speak of (the last episode gives a glimmer – yay…), and Armin is still useless. I have yet to comprehend how Armin is supposed to fill the role of the ‘smart’ character. If he is smart, it’s because everyone else is an idiot. In a fight against the Armoured Titan, do you attack the armour or go for the exposed muscles? Go for the armour of course! Just keep slashing at that impenetrable plate until every blade breaks. You’ll get through it eventually, I’m sure. And then – I kid you not – one character has this incredible epiphany, recalling full plate knights with no armour on the back of joints to allow movement and how the Titan must have the same weakness. Did you not see the exposed muscle everywhere until now? You. Idiots.

If this series doesn’t end with humanity wiped out, I will feel cheated.

Now I must talk about the twists. The midpoint twist is one of anime’s worst. It’s the sort of twist that was thought of at the last moment, the writer running to print room to stop the presses for his last second addition. Or he planned the twist but executed it this poorly. I’m not sure which reality is worse. The story tries to explain it by flashing back to the moments of foreshadowing, yet ignores all the aspects that break the twist. And the end twist, what else can it be but a deus ex machina to crown the cake in a red bollock trying to pass for a cherry?

Oh man, don’t forget the unbelievable overuse of the flashforward narrative structure. Almost every episode starts with the characters in a dire situation before it flashes back to the present for us to wonder how they get to that situation. I hate to break it to you, writer, but this is Attack on Titan – everyone is in a dire situation at all times. It isn’t shocking to show these scenes to us. More than that, it is lazy. Lazy, the perfect word to summarise the writing this season.

The laziness should have been obvious from season 1, seen no more clearly than in the author’s misunderstanding of how big an area a 480 km radius covers. This lack of basic research comes to a head in season 2 with the main goal of finding the hole in the wall. The scouts on horseback cover a vast distance in a day or two that should take weeks. The world of Attack on Titan feels the size of a city, not the size of the large country it purports to be.

Alright, the story is garbage. What of the action, the real reason everyone attends class?

A few scenes are exciting with that same quality animation, the most interesting of which introduces the new yeti-looking Titan with intelligence above the rest. However, the action Attack on Titan is known for – Spidermaning with swords versus giants – is scarcer this time around. I don’t know if it was time or budget, but action scenes seem designed to require as little of the webslinging as possible. On the other hand, I have praised many action series that didn’t have half the spectacle of Attack on Titan. But those series used the action to develop characters, since they knew that they couldn’t rely on flashiness to engage the audience.

Attack on Titan does not do this with its characters, main or otherwise. Action development is a pacifist having to make the decision to kill someone to save another he cares about. In Attack on Titan, we know how everyone will act and how they will fight, so there’s no excitement. Mute the action and you miss nothing.

All these problems combined manage to kill Attack on Titan’s other strength – atmosphere. The increasing plot armour for important characters coupled with having a Titan on the heroes’ side means the tension is low. Yep, humanity is on the brink of extinction and the tension is still low. Just great. That oppressive feeling, the sense of impending doom, the idea that it could all end today is gone.

Art – High

Season 2 has few of the amazing action sequences from before, with more static shots and ‘left to right’ animations taking their place. There is CG everywhere now. CG horses running across CG ground, the Colossal Titan in full CG, and more CG horses stand out like ink blots on paper. The art is still good overall, but doesn’t have the impressiveness of season 1.

Sound – Medium

Take all the music of Attack on Titan and lower the hype. You now have this soundtrack. The script hasn’t much to say.

Story – Low

Scouts investigate a breach in the wall that allowed a swarm of Titans inside human territory. An overuse of the flashforward story structure, flat characters, and twists conjured out of thin air saps all engagement for the story.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For diehard Attack on Titan fans only. If you are a fan, you’ve already seen season 2, so my recommendation doesn’t matter. But for those unsure after the first season, this isn’t worth your time. Attack on Titan Season 2 has almost none of the qualities that made the first engaging.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Deus Ex MachinaNo Development

Samurai Champloo – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Samurai Champloo

 

Similar: Afro Samurai

Michiko and Hatchin

Rurouni Kenshin

Katanagatari

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Historical Action Adventure Comedy

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Stylised art and animation.
  • Great dub.

Negatives:

  • Bit boring.
  • No reason to care for main goal.
  • Plateaus early.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I have overheard this exchange many times: “I haven’t seen much anime. Mainly just what everyone has watched – Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, you know.” “Oh man, you should totally watch Samurai Champloo! It’s like Bebop. You’ll love it.” I thought it finally time to test this oft-mentioned recommendation.

Well, it’s little like Cowboy Bebop. For one, Bebop is excellent; Samurai Champloo is not. The two series share a director and similar music…and that’s about it. Bebop too didn’t have a stellar overarching story, but its self-contained arcs each episode had depth to engage the viewer. Champloo’s episode arcs are half trying to move the feeble plot while not giving enough in its mini stories.

The adventure kicks off when ditzy waitress Fuu saves Mugen, a wild warrior, and Jin, the well-mannered ronin, from execution. In exchange, the two samurai agree to help her find a samurai “who smells of sunflowers.”

Things seem fine at first. The setup is solid, the character quirks play well off each other, and they had direction. Several episodes later though, with no progression in sight, my engagement swan dived off a cliff into the blistering barnacles below. If this were like Cowboy Bebop, where the creators could rest everything on each individual episode’s story, it would work. I would conclude with “The overall story is average, but the smaller stories are worth your time.” Unfortunately, Champloo’s smaller stories are mediocre alternations between dealing with someone trying to kill the heroes or them helping a local in exchange for food. A few episodes are better, even pretty good, but none even comes close to the Bebop’s weakest episode.

As for the overarching story, it’s Champloo’s weakest element. The story never gives a reason to care for finding the sunflower samurai and it turns out weak at the resolution – a goal for the sake of having a goal. It lacks the gravitas to drive a story.

This weakness similarly bleeds into the characters. Each of the trio has a secret, as most characters do in fiction, but since the writers didn’t weave these secrets throughout the story, they have no impact when illuminated at the end. If Edward Elric’s big secret were that he wanted to be a flamenco dancer all along, the audience wouldn’t see this as some amazing twist. Was Ed liking flamenco a recurring element in the story? No. So why the big reveal? Champloo’s secrets aren’t as bad as a Flamenco Ed, by any means. They do leave a lot to be desired though. It goes get a bit better in the second half – certainly funnier.

What I wish for most here is an increased intensity, both in comedy and drama. What you see in the opening episodes is what you get throughout, save for a few good fights in the finale. It frustrates me to see a project with potential that needed one person to say, “Make it more intense.” Samurai Champloo doesn’t have bad ideas, just weak execution.

Art – High

Samurai Champloo’s stylised art reminiscent of Afro Samurai and The World Ends With You DS game has good animation. I like the ‘knobbly’ character design. Mugen looks an inch from starvation, which is fitting.

Sound – High

Modern DJ scratches and jazz replace the traditional music for a medieval setting. This works with the story style. Great dub.

Story – Medium

Two polarising samurai help a ditzy waitress find a mysterious samurai “who smells of sunflowers.” Reaching its peak within a few episodes, Samurai Champloo doesn’t escalate the comedy or action enough to overcome the weak motivations.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Perhaps you may find Samurai Champloo more interesting than I did – the three-episode rule is all you need to know if it is so. The modern art/music meets samurai dichotomy may be off putting, whereas its very unusualness will be its appeal to others.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Berserk (2016) – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Berserk (2016)

 

Related: Berserk (1997 – original prequel)

Berserk: The Golden Age

Similar: Claymore

Vision of Escaflowne

Hellsing Ultimate

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Dark Action Fantasy Horror

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The monsters and world.
  • Exploration of repressed lust.

Negatives:

  • Glosses over details.
  • Some truly atrocious CG.
  • Shounen humour with poor timing.
  • The crushing disappointment.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Berserk (2016) covers the Black Swordsman Arc of the franchise, following The Golden Age Arc movies, and when announced, many including myself were excited to see more Berserk. Perhaps the end was in sight at last. What no one predicted was the lack of care such a revered series would receive. An early preview showed but a glimpse of the CG atrocities that awaited us.

Before I get to the story, I must address the glaring art. This still looks like Berserk’s rich world filled with terrifying monsters, but this can’t make up for the awful CG that no amount shaders can mask. It reminds me of Valkyria Chronicles’ cutscenes, which is fine for a game, not anime. The first rule of CG in anime is never use it on organics close to the camera. The modelling at its core hinders all visual elements, while the floaty animation isn’t even fluid, for it chugs more than once. One could do better in modded Skyrim. The abrupt use of 2D on occasion, while better quality, looks out of place in this CG-fest. Furthermore, if insistent on CG, why not use Studio 4C like the Golden Age movies?

Beyond art, the story oozes lack of effort and care. I said this continues off the Golden Age Arc, but it doesn’t really. This seems to skip half of the Black Swordsman Arc in the manga. When we last left our characters, Guts had rescued Casca, yet here, his quest is to find her once again while he’s hunted by demons because of the brand on his neck – demon GPS, essentially. Where’s the bit with her disappearance? All we get is a brief scene that gives a whole lot of nothing. A few too many elements don’t receive exploration or explanation, forcing us to guess their significance.

All right, we’re in the story, we’ve accepted the skipped chapters, what else could go wrong? What bothered me most about Berserk 2016, more even than the CG, is the inclusion of shounen humour centred around a naked fairy called Puck (think Zelda’s Navi without the endearing qualities to make up for the annoying) and some sidekick kid, who reminds of Raki from Claymore, just nowhere near as bad (now that would be some feat). He talks too much. They don’t do much beyond deliver gags from generic battle anime. I know they come from the source material, but the timing is poor regardless. Whom did they think they were appealing to with this juvenile humour? Berserk is far too violent and explicit for the target audience of such humour. It feels more Eragon than Game of Thrones – never a good thing.

Berserk 2016 has positive qualities too. The main conflict is against a band of Holy Knights charged with protecting a Holy Inquisitor (read: torturer) and capturing Guts, for he leaves a bloody trail in his wake, including once innocent people possessed by demons. When dead, the possessed and innocent look alike. Most interesting is the Holy Knight Commander Farnese, who reached her position through birth, nepotism, and devotion rather than skill. Her zealous life is ripe for exploration in regards to sex. The story is unrestrained about her lust in the face of religious celibacy and devotion, going into the depravity and secret desires of the human denied intimacy for life. The way she lashes out to being attracted to someone is excellent and shows great depth of character. I wish we got more of her.

One can see greatness in the story when it slows down to develop a moment, but before it truly settles, we’re off again, galloping into the next action scene. The editing is also choppy at times. Almost every episode has a moment where it cuts to a different location, shows us the start of a scene for ten seconds, and then cuts elsewhere. Why show us this other scene if you aren’t going to give it time? It’s jarring.

The story here is good, more so during latter episodes, in the same deep world, characters, and themes, but the missing details would elevate it to the highest tier. The final shot announces a new season in the works. Let us hope they improve significantly before then.

Art – Low

Atrocious CG can be enough to ruin the experience for some. As a side note, the TV broadcast has heavy censorship (there’s lots of nudity and brutality in Berserk), so some aspects look weird, such as a woman with no nipples and entire shots have a black shadow across half the screen.

Sound – Medium

Though Berserk uses the same composer as previous iterations, track misplacement is an issue. The OST is weak compared to the greatness that is Forces – Guts’s theme has the same artist, but is the least prominent song of the series. Some odd sound effects: Guts’s sword resonates with a loud clang when cutting demon flesh, as if striking metal to metal. Now, I haven’t killed any demons in real life, but I’m certain metal against demon flesh doesn’t clang.

Story – Medium

Branded with a demon mark that keeps demons on his trail, Guts searches for Casca amidst the madness of a holy zealot army. More action than story, Berserk still has aspects of greatness, particularly in its exploration of repressed lust through the commander of the holy knights.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. If you haven’t read the manga, story omissions won’t bother you as much, thus leaving your enjoyment up to the CG. If you can get used to the CG, Berserk: Black Swordsman Arc has enough to engage until the end.

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

Positive:

Holy S***

Negative:

DissapointingUgly Artistic Design

Re:Zero Starting Life in Another World – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

 

Similar: Steins;Gate

Erased

Sword Art Online

When They Cry

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Psychological Drama Fantasy Thriller

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Hooks like a whale fishing pole.
  • Some moments of greatness.

Negatives:

  • Many moments of arse gravy.
  • Convenient stupidity from protagonist.
  • Crazy for the sake of crazy villains.
  • Body pillow sales first, character design second.
  • Overuse of shock twists.
  • Explain, anime, explain!

(Request an anime for review here.)

Re:Zero, the hotly requested review of the spring and summer 2016 seasons and the latest attempt at guy-trapped-in-fantasy-world story. Re:Zero distinguishes itself in the oversaturated market by using a respawn mechanic, where only the ‘player’ is aware of the death as it rewinds to the latest checkpoint. The player repeats the ‘level’ until he succeeds. No one could possibly fail with such a strong hook, yes? That’s a bold assumption we make, dear reader.

Subaru is a NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and avid fantasy fan teleported to a fantasy world. However, after he stumbles onto a murder scene and dies, time rewinds to the previous checkpoint, giving him another chance to survive and prevent the murder. He resets to zero. The incident centres on Emilia, a half-elf spirit caster in search of her royal insignia stolen by a thief, who is also murdered in the same incident. The plot thickens.

He goes through several ‘lives’ as he figures a way to save Emilia and others. Seeing the same events from different angles was engaging, for Subaru tries convincing people to change their actions. Problem is that only he remember the events of past lives and can’t mention his power (it kills him if he does). Friends see him as a stranger upon respawn. Outside the empty episode 1A (hence why they made the premiere a double episode to reach the hook in 1B), the first arc has all the promise of a great series. Then the second arc starts.

First, we are treated to the ‘body pillow’ scene with the introduction of twin moe maids, Rem and Ram, designed to ensnare the NEETs in the audience and sell body pillows. Their suggestive poses and moe trash behaviour is inconsistent with their behaviour outside these scenes when they matter. Later, a cat-knight “meows” as it paws at the air for another demographic. (Kill…! Me…!) Downtime episodes have to complete that marketing checklist!

Instead, why not, I don’t know, explain how Subaru got to this world – he blinks and is there, that’s it – or how he acquired his power? Maybe build this world.

Once past the maid advertising, there’s another murder involving Emilia with a new checkpoint. The arc initially feels repetitive – same progression, different murder – but Re:Zero keeps it fresh by diving deeper into the effects of Subaru’s power. For example, Subaru and Emilia grow close, until the murder resets him back a few days and she no longer remembers their intimacy, as she technically hasn’t experienced it. Seeing Subaru go mad at these differing realities is great – Re:Zero’s best element. It also brings good humour as he speeds through familiar scenes – “Yeah, yeah, I know that already.” “But I’ve never mention this to anyone before.” Shame they forget the psychological scarring when convenient. Only at major events do the writers suddenly remember this guy has lived through dozens, possibly hundreds of variations on current events, suffered and died each time.

Unfortunately, the second arc’s twist – the murderer’s identity – is garbage, purely for shock value. Thus Re:Zero introduces us to another of its major failings. As if to one-up itself all the time, each twist tries to be more shocking, no matter the believability of said twist or consistency of character, and always at the end of an episode to force you to watch the next. One or two would be fine, but this often is tiring, lazy, and breaks pacing.

Arc three doesn’t want to let the garbage down when it finally shows Re:Zero’s overarching story – the ascension of the next monarch. Five prospective princesses marked by their insignias (hence the theft earlier) meet in the palace to vie for the throne. This may be one of the worst episodes in all of anime.

So, we have a candidate that openly declares she wants the kingdom out of greed, another who says she deserves it because everyone must grovel before her, a third who hates the kingdom and everyone in it, a fourth who wants freedom from an ancient dragon, and one who wants equality and prosperity for all (Emilia, of course). With this whole affair treated childishly, how are we supposed to take any of it seriously like the shoe demands us to? This is supposed to be a world with hierarchy and royalty, yet none of the societal decorum is respected in favour of tropes (princess pressing boobs into guy’s arm), so what’s the point? How much more interesting would it be to have complex and competent opponents?

Only one princess has competence, which is used for some weak conflict over several lives. Not that it matters, since Emilia leaves the plot at this point until the final episodes. The maid Rem takes her place of importance (was only a matter of time before the Sword Art Online harem bled into Re:Zero).

Like these “eccentric” princesses, all villains are crazy for the sake of being crazy. “Hey, if we make them crazy, then we won’t have to develop personalities.” No opponent is memorable, not even with the violent murders and intense conflicts.

Re:Zero’s dilemmas are interesting enough to grab your attention on premise alone and the tension keeps you seated, but the navigation of these dilemmas is pants-on-head chopsticks-up-the-nose retarded. Despite the acknowledgement of Subaru’s fantasy experience from games and manga, he is an idiot in this world. There are so many better ways to succeed. Need to beat someone who will kill you all? How about, and I know this will sound crazy, you learn magic and combat through your many lives?

The story gets worse with each arc or ‘level’ – most praise falls into the first arc – until all steam evaporates for a limp ending. What Re:Zero gets right is great. However, the many elements it gets wrong are utter garbage. There’s no middle.

Art – High

Bit kiddy in the art style (what’s with the trend of specular ‘boils’ on girls’ cheeks?) despite all the blood, but Re:Zero has lots of detail. Every house in the packed city has detail and many people populate the streets. Good animation and camerawork in combat.

Sound – High

Good acting makes the major characters sound natural, even in the face of fluctuating script quality. I never say no to ethereal OP and ED songs either.

Story – Low

A NEET teleports to a fantasy world where he respawns at checkpoints upon death, and uses this power to prevent others from dying. Moments of greatness cannot make up for the plethora of character and story problems in Re:Zero.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fantasy game anime fans. Unless a fan of Sword Art Online and its ilk, Re:Zero is only worth watching to know what everyone is talking about this season. Years down the road, few will mention it, like Aion.

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

 

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

Positive: None

Negative:

DissapointingHollow World BuildingInduces StupidityWeak End