Keima is the self-proclaimed führer of gal games (objective: romance pretty girls). When someone challenges him to prove his dating greatness, of course he accepts without hesitation. But oh no! The challenger didn’t mean 2D waifus. Keima has to venture into the real world and seduce the three-dimensional variety. Disgusting.
Furthermore, the challenge came from Death, who will kill him should he fail to seduce the girls and capture the evil spirits attached to their lovelorn hearts. A deadly collar links him to his partner in seduction, the demon from hell Elise.
The idea of having a 2D waifu god using the skills he learnt from games to entice 3D girls is hilarious. The World God Only Knows works as a comedy and is one of the few to do so with the harem label attached. This anime doesn’t half-arse it. Keima sticks to his game strategies in real life to a T even when they are spastic. The ingredient to success is the writer’s knowledge of gal games and ability to parody them.
As a side note, I find it hilarious that anime depict gal game otakus as pros since these games are so easy. I played a few for context with a previous anime and realised that once you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. They are all the same and too easy, which makes the gags in this anime even funnier, especially when Keima activates his Hindu god mode with the ability to play a dozen games at once.
Try as it might, The World God Only Knows cannot escape all problems of harem. Each episode or two is about some new girl with a problem, which has attracted a spirit, for him to help by using his gal game shenanigans. Because it introduces a new girl so often, you don’t grow attached to any of them. They are disposable. Allowing characters to grow would probably make them funnier as well. Furthermore, the girls lose all memory of the romance once the spirit detaches – convenient.
The third season has each girl come back possessed by different goddesses and he must romance them, yet again, to awaken each goddess’s power, which also recovers their memories of the first romance. It doesn’t add any depth to their character or the relationships. You may as well jump straight to season three and avoid the repetition or only watch the first season. Going for the full run did nothing but lower my opinion of The World God Only Knows.
The repeated plot splits the quality. The first arc has the introductions and the jokes, but the Goddess arc has the story, so whichever you pick only has half the relevant content, yet watching both puts you through the grinder of repetition. And not to mention, you have a second season in the middle of these two that adds to neither.
Your long-term enjoyment of The World God Only Knows depends on how much you love the core loop of an otaku using gal game tactics to win over girls. An episode or two will be enough to find out.
Art – Medium
The solid art has good visual humour. Death is an adorable chibi grim reaper.
Sound – Medium
Good acting in both Japanese and English. Nothing peculiar to mention.
Story – Medium
The god of gal games must step into the real world to seduce three-dimensional girls and capture the evil spirits attached to them. Despite one season repeating the other and the tedious harem elements, The World God Only Knows have more than enough comedy to entertain for a dozen episodes.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For comedy fans. Don’t let the harem tag stop you from trying The World God Only Knows, as it almost did for me. The comedy is good enough to enjoy beyond the harem, though 36 episodes is a stretch to keep your interest.
From the creator of One-Punch Man comes the strikingly similar Mob Psycho 100 – a socially repressed, bored, supernatural guy with more power than sense tries to hide from conflict. The difference here is the focus on comedy. Mob Psycho uses a zany comedy style in the vein of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K as Mob works with a psychic fraud performing exorcisms.
I don’t recall the names of the spirits, though I do remember their characteristics thanks to the strong visual style. There’s Balls on Chin. There’s Fart Cloud, and there’s even Car Ghost, the spirit meets exhaust pipes hybrid. They’re a fun time. My favourite episode has a spirit create the cult of LOL, where laughter truly is the best medicine – medicine straight to a frontal lobotomy! He controls everyone by forcing them to smile and feel good in perpetuity. But Mob, being a socially inept kid with zero appeal, wouldn’t know how to have fun even if you played him a marathon of Monty Python’s greatest hits, so the power has no effect on him. He’s too dumb for fun. The face-off that ensues is brilliant comedy.
Mob has to contend with more than just spirits, however, as other psychics exploit their abilities. And unlike Reigen, Mob’s hack fraud of a psychic mentor, they have genuine power. The main opponent among them is Mob’s brother, Ritsu, which leads us into the second half of the series that becomes action heavy. Ritsu was always jealous of Mob’s abilities. He shuffles around bitter at being the lesser son, especially in the face of a brother who doesn’t wish to use his power and finds it an annoyance at times. Imagine the jealousy of having a famous sibling adored by all while you are in the corner, invisible and worthless to the world. Now replace that Hollywood acting career with superpowers and the jealousy increases ten-fold.
The dilemma reminds me of a question posed to me by a reader regarding living with any anime character for a year. Would you choose someone magical to go on adventures with or an interesting but ordinary human? If you go with the magical being, sure, you’ll have adventures you could only dream of for a year, but after that, you have to contend with the rest of your life never living up to that greatness again. It would probably depress me forever. So I can understand where Ritsu is coming from. He makes for a sympathetic villain.
The other psychics and thugs Mob fights aren’t anywhere near as interesting and the comedy takes a hit in the process. The action is good, mind you, and Mob’s mechanic of going into rage mode when his emotions hit 100% (hence the title) looks cool as hell. I still would have preferred the comedy go longer and keep action episodes only related to the brother.
Lastly, I love this recent trend of having shorter seasons but of a higher quality over the budget-stretched seasons of old. Mob Psycho 100 won’t make it to my favourites list or be a must watch recommendation, but it’s a short and sweet experience that respected my time and entertained me to the end.
Art – High
Mob Psycho 100 sports fluid animation and a cool style, though the character colouring is a tad poor. The energy effects and environmental destruction look cool.
Sound – High
The dub is good for those who prefer it, though I find the original Japanese to be more on the money with Mob’s dulcet tones and the crazy villains.
Story – High
A psychic child suppresses his powers to contain the destruction he could unleash if gone unchecked, but his naiveté allows a psychic fraud to take advantage of him to perform exorcisms. A mix of One-Punch Man action and Disastrous Life of Saiki K comedy results in the successful Mob Psycho 100.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: For action comedy fans. As long as you aren’t averse to the hectic and out there comedy style of Mob Psycho 100, you will have a great time with this one.
Hunter x Hunter is purported to be different from other shounen battle anime. Let’s start by dispelling this notion, as it only sets up false expectations and ultimate disappointment.
Like all battle anime, Hunter x Hunter (don’t pronounce the x) is about a kid with big dreams. This time, we follow Gon Freecss, a boy in search of the father that abandoned him and his mother. To that end, he must become a hunter like his father before him in the belief that the profession will open new avenues of investigation.
Naturally, the story starts with Gon taking the exam to become a hunter. And here we hit the first brick wall. The Hunter Exam is tunnel-through-the-mountain boring! The exam is just one fake out after another.
Gon lives on an island, so must travel by ship to the mainland. Little does he know that the crossing is part of the test. Once ashore, he asks for directions to the exam, except the false directions are also part of the test. Then it’s an old lady with riddles, followed by a secret password into the exam site. But wait, that isn’t the site. We have to run a marathon first to get there! Watching people run, how riveting. Alright, are we done yet? No, we need to cook some barbeque. (Just kill me now.) And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, (did I mention the recap episode halfway?), and on, and on…and on it goes for 21 episodes of boring task after boring task. This exam is every idea the author came up with dragged on for eternity. Why not pick the best three ideas and make something engaging of them? It serves no purpose other than to introduce characters, which could have happened naturally later had the exam be removed (and most introductions don’t matter anyway – more on that later).
Could a 21-episode exam work? Certainly, if interesting. Narutomanaged it with the chunin exam using secret ninja techniques called “character development”, “meaningful conflict”, and “story progression”. Had the first episode of HxH been after this arc, all we would need is the narrator telling us, “This is Gon. He’s a hunter.” Twenty-one episodes saved. It’s the worst start to a shounen anime I’ve seen, barring the ones that had no potential to begin with. The arc isn’t filler, but it may as well be.
The plot next moves into a tournament arc, another common element of the genre. Gon and Killua have to fight to the top of a battle tower with hundreds of floors and millions in prize money. Matters get serious from the 200th floor onwards. Thankfully, we don’t have to watch all 200 floors – good performance leapfrogs contestants up faster.
The downfall of the tournament arc is the training sessions that eat up too much time between fights. HxH has a massive problem with over explaining its concepts and making them unnecessarily convoluted. This anime uses auras. If you’ve seen anything with aura powers before, you’ll get the point in a minute. HxH deems you too stupid to grasp it in less than hours of lectures. You can bet your savings that it will pause every fight for some long-winded explanation of X character’s power and strategy.
Training episodes suck because they have no plot nor any internal character growth. It isn’t a problem exclusive to this anime, yet these are particularly boring. Off the top of my head, only Bleach does them worse.
The first great moment occurs in episode 31 when Gon faces Hisoka, an interesting Pierrot-like villain, who values the challenge above all else and will go to extreme lengths for the greatest challenges, such as saving heroes with potential to contest him in future. He takes a keen interest in Gon. The exam introduced us to him and his villainy, but it all repeats here anyway. His power is a malleable aura compared to bubblegum that can manipulate targets with puppet strings, among other magician-type tricks. He’s a theatrical fighter that loves to put on a show.
Hisoka belongs to a villain group known as the Phantom Troupe, which leads into the next and best arc of the series. Gon and friends head to the big city to earn big bucks so they may buy a video game that will lead to his father. The Phantom Troupe arc succeeds where the others fail because it is all plot relevant and gives all main characters something to do, rather than forgetting half the team (more on that later). It also helps to have several interesting villains that pose a real threat. A highlight is the fight between Kurapika, the guy I confused for a girl in the artwork, and a villain. He is the revenge guy of the series, as there must be one in every shounen. Despite sharing much with others of his archetype, he works thanks to an interesting ability that cleverly explains how he can hope to match such powerful villains, but without overpowering him for the rest of the series. Shounens usually have to pull some convoluted nonsense to backpedal the power, such as Bleach with its moronic power resets.
At the end of this arc, 58 episodes in, I’m not blown away, yet it has been on an upward trajectory and I am convinced it’s only the good stuff from here.
Boy was I wrong.
The Greed Island arc that follows is somehow worse than the exam. Greed Island is the video game Gon seeks on his father’s trail. Players enter the game world and fight using cards with abilities. That’s right, we are in Yu-Gi-Oh now! It’s as dumb as it sounds. This arc was just an excuse for the author to cram in more convoluted mechanics and hours of idiots explaining how they work. If you want to see some of the worst pacing and exposition anime has to offer, watch the dodgeball game in this arc. Only masters of Zen can handle such trash.
The main villain for this period, a punk that blows people up with the power of cards, is pathetically dull. Much like the exam, this arc amounts to little more than wasting 17 episodes of your time. If I didn’t know better, I would believe this to be a filler arc.
Finally we come to the Chimera Ant arc, the longest at 61 episodes long, which tells of a species of dangerous human-creature hybrids that soon develop aura powers. The Hunter Association dispatches many hunters to deal with the threat.
The story has now gone from a big city, to a video game, and reached a monster slaying fantasy. Hunter x Hunter lacks focus. This review is so long because I feel as though I am reviewing three different anime at once. Watching this series gives the impression that the author had too many ideas and wanted them all to be in one story, jumping impatiently from one to the next. Remember the Big Bad Phantom Troupe? They’re barely relevant after their arc. That Yu-Gi-Oh garbage? Forget it ever existed. Arc after arc seems to wipe the relevance of the story that came previous. None suffer more than HxH’s characters.
Each arc dumps a boatload of new character on your lap for you to care about, only to take them away as soon as the arc ends. “What happened to that guy?” I kept asking myself. At the start, HxH presents a core group of four characters. Remember Kurapika of central importance against the Troupe? He’s barely in this. Oh yeah, there’s some guy called Leorio – you’ll know him as the tall guy you see on most cover art who receives enough attention for a major character. Well, he has as much screen time as a minor character. Only Killua with the white hair has the screen time to match his relevance alongside Gon.
So when we come to the Chimera Ant arc, it is no surprise to have over 50 – yes, 50 – new characters thrown at the story. A story, I might add, that isn’t directly relevant to the main plot even with 61 episodes. Interestingly, however, it’s a good arc. It starts slow (could have fit in half the number of episodes), though once the main villain emerges in act two it shows promise, until it finishes with a strong third act. The heart of the story is the Chimera King villain that questions life, morality, and meaning.
This arc gives fans a reason to call HxH dark, “the darkest shounen anime”. It isn’t really. It’s only dark if you haven’t seen what a proper dark story looks like. A villain killing random civilians isn’t dark – it’s just meaningless. There are a couple of dark moments, but it’s nowhere near enough to call the series dark. What Itachi does in Naruto is darker, yet I wouldn’t call that anime dark either. That said, a false reputation doesn’t take away from the strength of its third act. It’s a shame the arc has to be part of this anime. Both this arc and HxH would have benefited from separation. The Chimera Ant arc works as a standalone story similar to From the New World and with its removal, HxH can refocus on the plot. There is a main story consequence resulting from the Ants, but that could have come just as easily from the Phantom Troupe.
What HxH boasts in the end is two good arcs, which still need work, and a mixture of decent and utter trash for the remainder of the time. I haven’t covered half the problems with HxH in this already too-long review.
A common note you will hear of this anime is that it is the best of the battle shounen. It has the smartest fights, greatest characters, best villains, and most complex stories, they will tell you. Does it? Not really. There are smarter fights, greater characters, and better villains in other shounen anime. Nor is HxH different from the norm. You have the same types of arcs, the same cast of characters, yelling for power, energy attacks, poor explanations, and there is even a Super Saiyan mode (I won’t give it away, but it is the goofiest super mode I have ever witnessed). It does do one better than the rest – no unofficial filler, though that doesn’t save it from other pacing issues, including a narrator that repeats everything we just saw.
Many of these problems are common to most entries in the genre though. Would I recommend another battle anime over this? I don’t know. No matter which you pick, you have to tolerate a lot of garbage.
Is HxH better than most of the genre? Sure, why not. With such a low bar, it isn’t difficult to hit single digit ranks, though that is still low when looking at anime as a whole. If coming from Dragon Ball Z, as this did with the 90s manga release, it would seem mind blowing to have any strategy to fights, character development, and a story that’s more than “punch the bad guy”.
The difficulty I have with justifying a recommendation to watch Hunter x Hunter is in its 148-episode length. Consider how many other better anime you could finish in that time. And you have to factor in that no one has any idea when or even if this will ever receive a conclusion. If you love shounen, you will love this – I don’t doubt it. But if you don’t love shounen, then I can’t recommend it.
Art – Medium
What is with these character designs? Everyone looks like a bootleg knock off from other anime with no thought to theme or cohesion. There’s a reason these characters feature so little in aesthetic contests. Like all long anime, the budget has to cover too much ground. However, unlike other battle anime, HxH doesn’t drop in quality for action scenes – quite the opposite. A pleasant surprise.
Sound – High
The acting is the strongest area of HxH and the music is solid, though lacks variety for such a long series.
Story – Medium
A kid becomes a hunter in a quest to find his father, but will have to overcome many trials and foes before the end. The short version: Phantom Troupe and Chimera Ant arcs are good, and I wouldn’t bother with the rest.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For battle shounen fans only. Hunter x Hunter doesn’t have the crossover appeal to go beyond its demographic. For those who do start, note that the series is incomplete with no continuation in sight.
Samurai Jack is a unique show. I wager you won’t find its likeness just anywhere. From its striking visual style to its storytelling through sound and silence with little dialogue, this cartoon is a once every few generations type of art piece.
We follow Jack, a samurai thrown from his time into the future by the shape-shifting master of darkness, Aku. Jack must find a way back to the past to finish the job he started and stop Aku. His journey will take him to the far corners of the world, where Aku’s evil weighs heavily on all. This isn’t Jack’s world anymore. Robots, aliens, and all manner of beasts roam the world now.
Samurai Jack’s brilliance is in the cohesion of its every facet, each unique in style, yet brought together to perfection. The animation fluidity is low, for instance, but it’s sharp execution combined with precise editing gives it weight and impact, so much so that to improve the fluidity to the level of, say, a Ghibli film wouldn’t look right anymore. In fact, increasing the quality as they did for the final season could have been a disaster. Not the case, thankfully.
Genndy Tartakovsky has a style to his cartoons that extracts every grain of quality from a limited budget. It wouldn’t work without all elements uniting as one. Had the editing been off, the limited animation would stand out. It would have felt cluttered had there been more dialogue and sound. Genndy likes to give his scenes breathing time with subtle visual and auditory humour. When Jack meets a trio of talking dogs, everything stops for a long time to allow Jack’s awkwardness in this new world to sink in. It’s nothing but Jack looking left and right as club music pounds outside the booth. Less is more seems to be Genndy’s life motto.
Then when the action starts, the gear shifts into overdrive. Quick cuts, multi-panel shots, and single sound actions take over to give us the most tightly edited action scenes in animation. Samurai Jack never ever wastes your time. Watch the following video of a fight between Jack and a ninja to see what I mean.
It draws inspiration from many styles cinema and world culture. You will find influence from Kurosawa films, anime (Jack fights in a mecha samurai one episode), noir, cyberpunk, Ghibli, silent film, Star Wars, comic books, aboriginal art, and the list goes on. It would take several viewings to find them all. More importantly, this show succeeds in making them work together.
The future Earth in Samurai Jack is a post-apocalyptic melting pot that allows the series to bring you something new each episode. One episode could be in a city out of Blade Runner and the next could have Jack meeting a caveman. The overarching story is to defeat Aku, while the episodic plot is about Jack helping the many peoples and societies affect by Aku’s tyranny. This episodic structure allowed you to watch any episode back in the days when we were slaves to the TV schedule. Only the final season weaves ongoing narrative each episode, required in the build up to the finale.
This plethora of locations and characters to choose from also gives us great variety in the types of episodes. One has Jack polymorphed into a chicken, where he is kidnapped and forced into cock fighting. Sounds weird? It works. I imagine the production team kept thinking of crazier and weirder ideas for the series just to see if they could make it work. How about an episode that breaks the mould of minimal dialogue? Jack encounters a Scotsman that has the longest insults you’ve ever had the fortune to hear. He’s loud, brusque, and aggressive – Jack’s opposite. Hey, it works. Can we get Jack to join the mafia? Sure, let’s do it.
One of my favourite episodes has to be the season one finale, where Aku recites fairy tales to children with him featured as the hero or Jack as the evil villain. “Once upon a time there was a little girl with an adorable red cape, and great flaaaming eyebrows!”
Aku is a brilliant villain. He may be the all-powerful evil of the universe, but he is so much fun! Every scene with the guy is a riot. He is a villain that loves being evil, but he has his share of problems too. His inability to catch Jack has him depressed at times, so he sees a therapist. It’s a clone of himself… Perfect.
Think about this: they managed to have a villain that kills indiscriminately in a kid’s cartoon. It should traumatise kids, but due to the careful balance with humour, it succeeds. Samurai Jack is full of humour, and yet full of emotion. It reminds me of Fullmetal Alchemist in how it balanced both ends.
And here we arrive at Jack himself. He could have easily been a standard protagonist surrounded by a brilliant series, someone we would remember for the series not for the character. Genndy could have gotten away with the cultural encounters and odd scenarios to keep us engaged. Most cartoon protagonists for kids don’t have much depth to them. It’s about the whole package of the cartoon rather than the character. However, Jack has the qualities of a character worthy of any drama series. He breaks, he falls, he thinks it all too much, especially when he arrives so close to success and it slips through his fingers. It is in his effort to stand back up that we see a complete character.
Samurai Jack adapts Bushido culture better than most anime. The final season in particular draws on the earthly and the mystical aspects of the samurai legend. His culture is at the core of his character, yet he is a character out of his time where such a culture no longer exists. The internal conflict that arises is fantastic. As I said – could have gotten away without it, but that extra effort elevates this show into the hall of excellence and makes it one worth remembering.
I have no notable complaints with Samurai Jack. At most, I could say some episodes aren’t as good as others, though that’s an occasional drop to 95% quality. Not a real complaint, is it? There was a time when I could bemoan its incomplete state, but after a 13-year wait, Genndy gave us the conclusion to the samurai’s journey. It was everything I had hoped for.
Art – Very High
Samurai Jack needs to be seen to appreciate the quality of its visuals, thanks in no small part to the sharp animation, pinpoint editing, and cinematic flair. I love the character designs – identifiable, distinct silhouettes, and it all fits together, from the caveman to the robot assassin.
Sound – Very High
Phil LaMarr as Jack and the late Mako as Aku – a perfect match. The stellar sound mixing matches the editing style. Minimalist, restrained, and flawless.
Story – Very High
A samurai searches for a way back to the past to save the ruined future from a master of darkness. You could watch any episode of Samurai Jack and have a great time. Why do that though, when you can watch all of them?
Overall Quality – Very High
Recommendation: A must watch. There is nothing else like Samurai Jack.
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.