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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

 

Positives:

  • The occasional good joke.

Negatives:

  • 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.

(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:

Horrendous ActionIncoherentNot FunnyRubbish Major Characters

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Bayonetta: Bloody Fate – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

 

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Trinity Blood

Castlevania

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Japanese & English

Length: Fantasy Action

 

Positives:

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

Negatives:

  • …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.

(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:

Negative: None

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.

(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: N/A

Negative:

Incomplete

Birdy the Mighty: Decode – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tetsuwan Birdy Decode

 

Related: Birdy the Mighty (old OVA version)

Similar: Parasyte -the maxim-

Ajin: Demi-Human

Darker than Black

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Comedy

Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Surprisingly good.
  • Complexity of alien relations.
  • Birdy is a fun character.

Negatives:

  • Audio mixing issues.
  • The guy is too ordinary.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Birdy Cephon is an intergalactic officer from the Space Federation working on Earth to find her target, an alien disguised as a fashion worker. To that end, she remodels herself as ‘Shion Arita’, fashion idol by day, officer by night. The target is within reach when it all goes wrong. She accidentally kills Tsutomu, a high school boy that happened to be in the building, and in her distress, she takes his consciousness into her body with the hope her people may be able to restore him. Until then, they have to balance his school life with both her jobs, all while keeping the dual residence a secret. More aliens are on the way.

When I first saw this setup, I resigned myself to an average series, something pleasant along the lines of Noragami. You have ordinary guy with extraordinary girl in high school for hijinks thanks to the ability to swap appearance back and forth, and the occasional villain to vanquish. The humour made good use of the scenario – when he annoys her, she initiates a punch against herself, swaps bodies, and he takes a fist to the face. They soon travelled to her home world, a nexus of alien civilisations with the Space Federation, where she initiated protocol to restore his body and she faced punishment for his destruction. I like the alien tech, such as the ships and the city – I anticipated an earthbound adventure only. These were pleasant surprises, but they returned to Earth sooner than I would have liked and the ‘ordinary’ settled in.

I had heard conflicting reports of Birdy the Mighty: Decode for years (the reason it’s on my list to begin with), and I started to feel which side I would fall on. Once the plot gets going, however, and all the typical body swapping jokes and secret identity scenes are out of its system, Birdy the Mighty: Decode captured my attention. This change starts when an alien entity merges with one of Tsutomu’s friends, raising his personal stakes and delivering a heartfelt narrative. The main villain of the season, Shyamalan (I can’t find confirmation if this is a play on the Hollywood director), also steps up. His pure evil heightens conflict further.

The first season ends with significant ramifications, which the second season uses to full effect. A group of alien fugitives are in disguise on Earth for Birdy/Tsutomu to capture. However, rather than be typical evil-only villains, they have shades of grey that creates a complex web of relations. Some ally, some turn on each other, and some even want no part of the whole affair. Then other villains want to kill these villains. And a friend of Birdy’s adds yet another knot to the plot.

Birdy the Mighty: Decode goes from predictable to engaging and far more violent than the colourful art implies. If anything, it adds too much in season two. A few sub-plots don’t have much to them since there simply isn’t enough screen time for everyone. Also, though we do return to the alien world, it’s still not as much as I would like. This nexus reminds me of Mass Effect’s Citadel, which is my favourite location in that game.

Lastly, Tsutomu never grows into a deep character, despite all efforts. He’s not harem level, of course, but the writer fell for the trap of thinking that an ordinary character meant bland. Birdy makes up for it with her sense of fun contrasted by her violent backstory as ‘Berserker Killer Birdy’.

Birdy the Mighty: Decode is by no means excellent, yet it does just enough to put it above the middle tier of comfortable anime. This was a pleasant surprise.

Art – Medium

Can you believe this stylised art came for A-1 Pictures, the studio of blandness? This was before they ran out of creativity. The ‘weak’ line work makes the colours pop and the animation is great most of the time, but the character detail is too low by today’s standards. I still like the style and texture.

Sound – Medium

Season one has a serious audio mixing problem. You strain to hear the dialogue because it sounds as if everyone whispers, then a sudden moment of action blows out your eardrums. It’s been a while since I experienced an anime with this problem. Be careful of the ED, which is at twice the volume of the content. That said, I enjoyed the music when it wasn’t trying to kill me.

Story – High

A boy merges with an alien girl after she accidentally blasts him apart, dragging him into her world of alien criminal hunting and intergalactic relations. A patchy first season doesn’t stop Birdy the Mighty: Decode from weaving an engaging plot in the second.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: For sci-fi fans. I didn’t expect to like Birdy the Mighty: Decode – you may have the same experience. Don’t bother with the old OVA version (unless you love awful dubs).

(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: None

Ajin: Demi-Human – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ajin

 

Related: Ajin: Demi-Human 2nd Season (included in review)

Ajin Movies (old version)

Similar: Parasyte –the maxim-

Tokyo Ghoul

Elfen Lied

s-CRY-ed

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Horror

Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons), 3 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Starts well.
  • Fast pace.
  • Interesting immortality mechanics.

Negatives:

  • Villains try far too hard.
  • Allegiance flipping.
  • CG still needs work.
  • Poor dialogue.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Ajin: Demi-Human is one of Netflix’s first anime commissions and most known for its use of CG characters. Before you flinch, the CG isn’t anywhere near the level of Berserk 2016. For one, keeping the environments in 2D was a wise decision. The characters still don’t look great, mind you. The problem with CG characters is that parts of the model are too smooth, such as the mouth, and the smooth animation later chopped to 24 frames-per-second doesn’t blend well. In 2D animation, the mouth will jump from one position to the next – perhaps with an ‘in-between’ position – but in CG, the mouth moves from start-frame to end-frame in a smooth motion, which doesn’t look right. It’s smooth, yet choppy at the same time. For a look at how to use CG for 2D animation, I cannot recommend this video enough on how they did the graphics for Guilty Gear Xrd (skip to 33:55 if you don’t want to watch the full hour).

The CG will likely prejudice most anime fans, not giving the rest of the series a chance. But let’s imagine you don’t mind the CG – what of the story?

Ajin: Demi-Human revolves around humans called ‘Ajin’ that can regenerate, paralyse with a scream, and summon Black Ghosts to vanquish enemies. Humanity fears their powers. To be an Ajin is to live in perpetual hiding, hated by all. Upstanding student Kei walks in front of a truck one day, only to get up from a pool of his blood to see black matter issuing from his skin. He is an Ajin. And so starts his life on the run, distrustful of everyone around him and with nowhere to go. However, an old friend comes to his aid.

The story starts strong, pitching us headfirst into the Ajin situation with intense action and tension as everyone and their mum wants Kei. Not dead, funnily enough, because the bounty for capture is immense and there is the whole matter of immortality.

On the opposing team, we have government worker Tosaki and his secretly Ajin partner working to control the superhuman threat. He tries too hard to sound tough. When witnessing Ajin immortality experimentation through torture at a research facility, he threatens his partner to do as he says or this would happen to her, even though she already does anything he wants. What’s the point of the threat? He also sabotages the research organisation for reason that don’t make much sense in an attempt, I assume, to paint him as tough and independent.

However, this is nothing compared to the true villain, Sato the old man Ajin. Every line out of this guy is bravado and metaphors about war and video games. Never have I seen a series want you to find a villain intimidating so badly, yet keep failing and trying with the next scene. He could have been interesting with his manipulation of Kei, turning him against humanity, and his acts for Ajin rights and compassion from the public. Sadly, the bravado overpowers it all. Season 2 is particularly bad for this.

As for Kei, he’s an average protagonist without much personality going for him. He also can’t seem to decide on his motivations and allegiances. For example, when Sato is breaking him out of the research facility, Kei switches to protecting the researchers from Sato, who wants to kill them all. These people just tore his teeth out, severed his fingers, and drilled his skull for ten days and he instantly wants to help them? The first thing one researcher says is a promise to get him back on the torture slab! Kei isn’t a smart kid despite his intensive studying (what a shocker).

Even with all of these problems, Ajin: Demi-Human is never boring thanks to its fast pace and conflict against the world. It’s much better than the CG gives it credit for.

Art – Low

Ajin’s mix of CG characters and 2D backgrounds looks much better than the likes of Berserk 2016, yet still has a long way to go.

Sound – Low

The villains’ dialogue needs an overhaul and different actors. Season 2 OP and ED are torture. The rest of the music is good however – intense.

Story – Low

Kei develops superpowers marked as one of the ‘Ajin’, which turns humanity against him. A strong start veers off course into a second season dominated by a rubbish villain that tries too hard.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Try it. Most viewers won’t give Ajin: Demi-Human a try due to the CG, but the intense man vs. world story is entertaining enough.

(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:

Awful Dialogue