Tag Archives: School Life

Set in school of all stages, though high school is most common.

My Bride is a Mermaid – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Seto no Hanayome

 

Similar: Ah! My Goddess

School Rumble

To LOVE Ru

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Comedy Romance

Length: 26 episodes, 2 OVA

 

Positives:

  • So many great laughs.
  • Visual humour.

Negatives:

  • Art is cheap.
  • All attempts at drama fail.
  • Final two episodes.

(Request an anime for review here.)

When Nagasumi drowns one summer, he considers himself fortunate to be saved by the mermaid Sun. However, according to the laws of Yakuza mermaids, once a human catches sight of a mermaid, he must swim with the fishes – either by death or by marriage. Nagasumi has no choice. He becomes engaged to Sun and she joins his school to be close to her beloved, against her Yakuza family’s wishes. So not only does he have to contend with a sea dwelling gang after his hide, he must also keep Sun’s true nature secret from classmates.

Yakuza mermaids, a ridiculous concept to be sure, but an effective one. Sun’s father sends his best henchmen to kill Nagasumi and free his daughter from the shackles of marriage to such a loser. His enforcer can morph into a shark – he does this a lot in the heat of the moment. My Bride is a Mermaid is unexpectedly hilarious. The art gives an impression of mid 2000s harem with lame comedy.

Instead of turning into a full harem, as one would expect, the other girls must either kill or protect him. A tiny girl that lives in a conch has the job of assassinating the guy while pretending to be sweet and innocent in front of Sun. The disciplinarian girl from his class with a crush on him acts the police officer role, like her father, making her the perfect rival to the mermaids.

The Yakuza take up positions in the school to accomplish their mission, including the boss as a class teacher, while the bookkeeper teaches maths through criminal means. This black man with curly hair is considered so charming and attractive that the mere sight of him renders everyone enamoured. This recurring joke never failed to make me laugh. It reaches a new level when Nagasumi drinks a charm potion and becomes the apple of everyone’s eye (and loins).

Some of the gang aren’t so successful. The giant octopus teaches cooking, though often includes bits of his tentacles in the process. It isn’t long before a rival gang joins the fun to take the humour to yet greater heights. Their leader, a Terminator of a man, is a riot. He doesn’t understand his daughter at all, so plays gal games and re-enacts them as the girl to get closer to his daughter.

Mermaid has a ton of visual humour in the facial expressions, reminiscent of Great Teacher Onizuka, which alleviates the subpar art quality. One classmate is called “chimp”, but he acts like a real chimp, face included. Does anyone realise this?

The jokes come fast and they come often in this one. It is comedic beat after comedic beat, sharply timed with barely a dull moment in between. Just about every joke lands. These aren’t the greatest jokes of all time – it’s no Fumoffu – but they are fun.

My Bride is a Mermaid fails, however, in the tradition of most comedy from that era, when it attempts to inject drama in a place where it doesn’t belong. All drama fails here. Unlike Ah! My Goddess, one of the few light-hearted comedies to manage a little drama, which worked it in slowly without compromising the identity of the anime, Mermaid’s drama comes out of nowhere and contributes nothing of value.

The drama is at its worst in the final two episodes with the introduction of a new villain that goes against the tone thanks to his persistent rape vibes. Why did all of these comedies just have to finish with drama? Is comedy alone never enough? I like a story that can manage both of course, but I equally love others that stick to comedy. In the end, quality matters. Was it studio mandate at the time to have a dramatic finish, much like how every drama this decade must end in a tragic death to extract fake tears from you? Or that every fantasy has to be inside a game?

I’ve said it before, but bad final episodes leave the strongest impressions on a dissatisfied audience. My Bride is a Mermaid isn’t one of the greats. Even so, it didn’t deserve such a careless end. I went in with no expectations and came out having had a good time thanks to the comedy. Don’t let the garbage drama stop you from enjoying a laugh.

Art – Low

This cheap-looking, budget-animated, too-cutesy anime’s visuals are partially redeemed by great use of visual humour, particularly with the faces.

Sound – Medium

The acting is just as silly as the script, which it should be. I prefer the dub, for the Japanese made several poor casting choices that turn funny characters into annoyances.

Story – Low

A guy agrees to marry a mermaid to avoid death at the hands of her yakuza merman father, later bringing her to school for endless hijinks. My Bride is a Mermaid’s comedy far outshines the feeble drama.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: A must for anime comedy fans. The story may go nowhere and the drama may fall flat on every occasion, but the comedy in My Bride is a Mermaid is certainly worth sticking around for.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Weak End

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Future Diary – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mirai Nikki

 

Similar: Deadman Wonderland

Death Note

Another

Eden of the East

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Supernatural Action Horror Thriller

Length: 26 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Interesting premise.

Negatives:

  • No smart characters.
  • Alliance flip-flopping.
  • Inconsistent powers.
  • Yuno’s obsessiveness is weak.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Everyone knows of Mirai Nikki, or Future Diary in English, if not by name then by the yandere character of Yuno and her repeated pronouncements of “Yuki”. What I didn’t know, despite having heard of this series in 2011, was the premise of Future Diary. I always thought it was about an obsessive girl (Yuno) trying to kill the guy she loved. There is far more to the story than that, though not necessarily to its benefit.

Yuki has a cellphone diary that tells him the future, forewarning him of the many possible eventualities from his competitors in the battle royale. However, it doesn’t reveal his future unless tied to someone else. He teams up with his stalker Yuno, who also possesses a “future diary”, except hers only reports on Yuki’s status every ten minutes. When paired with his diary, it makes her the perfect guardian in this battle. What is the prize for victory? Godhood.

I was disappointed when they introduced the battle royale angle. I had hoped for a smaller scale story with the duo avoiding one fatality after the other, delaying the inevitable, akin to The Time Machine and Steins;Gate. The battle royale turned this into generic shounen horror, pointless ecchi included. Not that it couldn’t have succeeded, but the writer evidently could not handle the complexity of a story with so many possible outcomes and 12 time altering powers to track. Each diary is different and creates a 12-pointed rock-paper-scissors game.

Juggling all of these elements is Future Diary’s greatest failing. For one, the diaries for each character conveniently don’t forewarn of something or don’t function as they should when the plot needs a character to die. Comparing to the similar Death Note, the rules there are set and don’t waver, which makes it all the smarter when one player outsmarts the other. Bending the rules when convenient makes the audience lose trust in the author.

This also extends to the inherent supernatural abilities of some characters. A character can have the strength to break out of a bind one moment, and then be rendered useless the next in a similar situation. I’m not even sure if they are meant to have superpowers, but some characters defy human boundaries of ability.

Future Diary also has an overreliance on crazy over smarts. None of these contestants are smart. Instead, just about everyone is “lol I’m a crazy psycho, aren’t I interesting?” There’s little variety in the showdowns against the various competitors, lasting 2-3 episodes a kill, and it makes much of it feel like padding. Future Diary is like taking the Batman versus Joker story but with 11 different Jokers and one of them is on Batman’s side (sort of). The more copies of “the psycho” you include, the more it dilutes the strength of the individual. I thought that the battle royale direction would be about producing a variety of opponents with some clever trick to besting them. The only real difference between them is their diary’s ability, which even then isn’t that varied.

Then we have the allegiance switching every other episode. “You know these two allies? Let’s have them fight each other next episode.” “But, sir, that doesn’t make sen—” “Who cares – it will surprise the audience!” It reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean 3, where Jack Sparrow and company flip-flopped allegiances every few minutes because the producers heard the audience liked Jack’s triple cross in the first movie. Future Diary does the same to generate dumb conflict.

Lastly, we come to the main couple, the one thing that gave Future Diary any popularity. Yuno’s obsession with Yuki doesn’t work for me. I don’t buy into her reason for being so possessive of him, even once the story provides an explanation later on. The best psychotic characters, as unhinged as they are, have a well-defined reason for their behaviour that we can understand, from their perspective, without agreeing with them. Yuno is just psychotic because that’s what the story needed.

And Yuki? You won’t remember him before the series is over.

I was rather bored with Future Diary for the most part. It doesn’t have that quality reminiscent of bad horror, where you can enjoy the silliness of the violence regardless of story quality (a bad story likely enhances the experience). The deaths needed to be more ridiculous like in Another, an anime that I didn’t find great either but had advantage of over the top deaths. It’s strange that Future Diary, so full of psychos, has such tame kills. I guess being generic shounen horror will do that to you.

Art – Medium

The visuals are rather good, though needs more atmosphere for this type of series. Scenes don’t feel as frightening as they should as a result.

Sound – Low

The Japanese and English acting is roughly the same. English Yuno is less annoying, but you may want her more psychotic Japanese counterpart. Regardless of language track, the writing sucks.

Story – Low

A boy with a mobile phone that tells the future enters a battle royale against others with similar devices, as a psycho chick protects him against everything except herself. Future Diary’s good idea crumbles under bad writing, incoherent storytelling, and shallow characters.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Future Diary is too much of a mess for me to recommend and the deaths aren’t inventive or ridiculous enough to enjoy with friends.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Incoherent

Genshiken – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Genshiken

 

Related: Genshiken 2 (included in review)

Similar: Welcome to the NHK

The Tatami Galaxy

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Slice of Life Comedy

Length: 27 episodes (2 seasons with 3 OVA in between)

 

Positives:

  • A few good jokes.

Negatives:

  • The dub.
  • Low effort art.
  • Dull most of the time.
  • Shallow characters.

(Request an anime for review here.)

When college girl Saki discovers her boyfriend’s hentai stash, she consults his friend Madarame at their clubhouse and asks if his fetish for hardcore material of the 2D variety is normal. “I would not be caught dead with any regular porn,” replies Madarame. Welcome to Genshiken, the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture.

This decorative name is just another way of saying “Otaku Club”, where they play games and read doujinshi (fan made manga, usually hentai) about the characters, watch anime accompanied by more doujinshi, read manga with more – you guessed it – doujinshi on the series, and finish off the day with an eroge or two. This club is all about unfiltered otaku fandom. It is unashamed of its appreciation of naked 2D culture. Well, Madarame more so than the rest – new kid Sasahara hasn’t fully accepted his fandom.

The main theme of Genshiken is learning acceptance of you hobby and not being ashamed of what makes you happy. It captures the awkwardness of being embarrassed of by niche interest. An admirable theme, sure. It’s a shame Genshiken does so through narcosis inducing characters.

I like the general concept of a slice of life focused on discussing anime and game related media, comparing manga versus adaptations. It’s one of the many things I do after all! Where Genshiken fails for me is in the blandness of the characters and how nothing they say is interesting. It needed more critical analysis. You have two approaches for storifying analysis of a topic: You can go the abstract route, like The Tatami Galaxy where everything is metaphor and allusion, or you can straight up have characters discuss it in relation to their daily lives, as Genshiken attempted. With the latter, you must make sure that the discussions have depth. It’s the difference between a Half in the Bag review by Red Letter Media and the tripe that WatchMojo vomits out. If the audience were likely to hear what everyone thought of already, why should they attend?

I’ll use the secondary couple of Saki and her boyfriend as an example. He is an omega otaku despite his outward “handsome” appearance, spending every waking moment playing games or beating it to eroge, even with Saki around. Her arc as a non-otaku is a desire to make him normal, though of course she will come to accept him and his friends before the end. Sounds fine, right? Sure, if he weren’t a nothing character. They have no conflict. She gets angry at him for ignoring her or not satisfying her needs, but nothing comes of it. He sits there, all pleasant and boring, and we move on to the next scene. She wouldn’t be interested in him once over the lust. Their relationship has nothing to say.

The one couple that does work is the cosplay designer guy and the cosplay girl. He’s an awkward guy that thinks she’s out of his league, not realising that she’s just as awkward as he is. They help each other grow together both in public and in private (nice detail of showing how awful he is at kissing). Certainly, hearing people talk about their fetishes in an intimate moment will likely make you feel uncomfortable, yet people do that. They get a few episodes of attention.

Genshiken, like most club-based anime, ends with graduation and moving onto the next stage in life – the workforce, in this case. I appreciate that it shows the reality of how difficult it is to get a meaningful position in the creative industry (Sasahara wants to be a manga editor, just like a million other otaku), which once more like the discussions, only states the obvious.

Throwaway – that’s the word I’m looking for. Sasahara’s struggle in the finale feels throwaway, just like every piece of commentary in Genshiken.

By contrast, Welcome to the NHK covers many of the same scenarios and themes, does them better, and has content to engage people outside of otaku culture. (The one scenario Genshiken does better is the experience of selling your self-published work at a convention.) Watching Genshiken after NHK is unfortunate for the former’s chances of engaging me.

On top of the dull characters, we have the art. Recorded at what feels like four frames per second, Genshiken is ugly, with bland backgrounds and unfinished character art. Remember Saki’s boyfriend? Yeah, he’s supposed the handsome otaku – hence why a “normie” like her would be interested in him – but he looks just as ugly as the rest. I know Genshiken comes from the early years of digital animation, yet this is abominable. The stills look bad. The animation makes it even worse. If you can call that twitching animation.

Now, if you want to see Genshiken at its worst, go into the dub. This is a prime example of what we mean by a bad dub “back in the day”. Where to begin? Lifeless acting, miscast voices, and flat dialogue are just a few of the dub’s transgressions. One character has a stutter, but the English actor has no idea how to stutter, so instead we hear what sounds like an outtake of him fumbling the read. No one – no one – does a good job in the dub. Switching from English to Japanese makes Genshiken feel like a new anime. It can’t fix the art, mind you, but wow does it make a difference. This is a good case study on how performances can affect everything about a series. I am so glad the dub industry outlived that era.

Art – Very Low

Genshiken has recurring segments on an anime the club members are a fan of and it looks better than Genshiken itself. Where’s the animation? Why are the characters distorted and inconsistent? Why is this so ugly?

Sound – Medium

The dub is awful in every way. One of the worst of all time. Stick with the Japanese if you venture into Genshiken. It’s weird and amusing to hear Tomokazu Seki (Sagara from Full Metal Panic) play a depraved otaku.

Story – Low

Genshiken follows the daily life of the members of an otaku club. Otaku pandering and good intentions replaced interesting characters and good story.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For hardcore otaku culture fans only. Genshiken is otaku pandering, no question, and little more. You won’t find much of interest if you aren’t part of that culture or have a fascination with it. Welcome to the NHK is better.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Ugly Artistic Design

Persona 3 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: PERSONA 3 THE MOVIES

 

Related: Persona 3 the Movie #1: Spring of Rebirth (included in review)

Persona 3 the Movie #2: Midsummer Knight’s Dream (included in review)

Persona 3 the Movie #3: Falling Down (included in review)

Similar: Persona 4 the Animation

Noragami

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Action Fantasy

Length: ~1 hr. 30 min. each movie

 

Positives:

  • Looks and sounds like the game.

Negatives:

  • Lacks the relationship development.
  • Boring protagonist.
  • Not enough story.
  • No tough decision made.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Persona may be the best Japanese role-playing game series, known for great stories, tough gameplay, and complex character arcs. It is also known for its several anime adaptations, none of which have a good reputation. With Person 3 going to movies rather than a series and released after Persona 4 the Animation, I had hopes for a better adaptation with lessons learned from its predecessors. I should have thought better.

A 25th hour exists after the stroke of midnight, the Dark Hour, which none but a select few are aware of. The Dark Hour is the time of Shadows, monsters that feed on the human mind and spread apathy in society. New kid Yuuki finds himself dragged into the conflict by the SEES organisation, a group of Persona summoners that fight Shadows in Tartarus, the giant tower visible during the 25th hour. Yuuki’s unique ability to summon multiple Persona will prove invaluable.

This is a great setup for a story. It has everything a young adult audience could want – unique individuals, supernatural powers, a secret society, double lives with school, and a dash of edge (they summon Persona by shooting themselves in the head with magic guns). It’s part of why the game is so beloved. However, going from game to anime, you have to remove the key element of gameplay, which is easier said than done. This does give opportunity to touch up any story issues caused by gameplay interruptions, as the game has to put gameplay above all else. In the case of Person 3 the game, it suffers from pacing issues between key plot points while you climb the levels of Tartarus. The anime doesn’t need to show the several hundred battles it takes to reach the top.

Flipside, the anime does have to make difficult decisions about the protagonist and his potential relationships. In the game, you choose his name (or hers if you play the PSP edition), his dialogue, and whom to date. What is the anime to do? Should it pick one girl and make that the official pairing, igniting a waifu war for the decade? A harem, on the other end, won’t fit the tone. Person 3 the anime went with no relationships, abstaining from any difficult decisions. The protagonist has no personality and the relationships are surface deep.

I don’t understand why they made Yuuki this way. They could have easily given him a personality that didn’t contradict the dialogue choices from the game. Even if there were a contradiction, it would be better than this soggy toilet paper of a protagonist. If you’re going to be so limp with the adaptation, why bother at all?

The relationships are a similar case. Alright, you can’t make the game relationships work without the multiple choices, so what do you have in its place? Nothing? Perfect… With a blank protagonist, what character development opportunities did they expect to find? If Person 3 the game were a favourite of mine, I would be disgusted.

These movies don’t work even when seen with uninitiated eyes. For one, the opening scene with Yuuki entering the Dark Hour and signing the contract with Igor is nonsense without context from the game. The story doesn’t establish his life or set the scene for even a moment first. This scene should have come after his first day of school, at the earliest. The action is good, yet even this grows dull without characters to care about to the end.

The dark tone and grim style are the best features of these movies, which is a pleasure to see translated from old PS2/PSP graphics. Outside of that, everything is either mediocre or worse. These Person 3 movies do not deserve your attention.

Art – High

These movies look great, matching the game’s style, but they aren’t “movie” quality. Instead, it’s a good-looking series stitched together into movies.

Sound – Medium

The soundtrack comes from the game, which is neat. The acting is average – no surprise when most character-building dialogue isn’t present.

Story – Low

Teenagers hunt Shadow creatures using summons during a hidden 25th hour of the day. The Person 3 movies made no tough decision and ended with an anime that has the style of the game, but none of the character.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. This limp adaptation of Person 3 isn’t worth your time.

(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:

DisappointingShallow

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san

 

Similar: My Neighbour Seki

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto

Tsukigakirei

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Comedy Slice of Life Romance

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good chemistry in the main couple.
  • Sweet and innocent.

Negatives:

  • Female trio of supporting characters.
  • Episodes are too long.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san, which roughly translates to “Skilled Teaser Takagi” with no official English title, is about middle schooler Nishikata who tries his utmost to embarrass his next-seat neighbour Takagi in class. He attempts this by pulling pranks to catch her out in moments of humiliation. Trouble is, she’s too skilled and always manages to turn the tables on him.

This innocent anime harkens back to the childhood days of boys and girls teasing the ones they secretly like. Nishikata and Takagi obviously like each other, though he doesn’t realise it and she’s too inexperienced to know what to do with these feelings. Karakai very much succeeds in capturing that age of innocence. Those of you looking for something light and sweet are in the right place.

The first episode has him making a paper jack-in-the-box (alternate folding two strips of paper to make a spring) when she interrupts by saying she can’t open her pencil case. It must be stuck. She asks if he can try. He does and it opens easily, only to have a paper jack-in-the-box spring out and surprise him. Drat! She got him first. And so this pattern goes each episode. It stays in the classroom for a few episodes before it goes beyond to places like the walk home and out in town.

My first issue in Karakai lies with Takagi. She’s too infallible, never losing to Nishikata. Once you catch on that she will always flip the script, it loses some of the engagement and makes the story’s core loop grow old before long. Having him win occasionally would pleasantly surprise the audience. The 20-minute episodes exacerbate this issue, as they drag for so little content. Ten minutes an episode would have sufficed. Three to five “skits” from the manga go into each episode, yet it still feels too thin.

However, the chemistry between the two leads goes a long way towards redeeming this situation. They have more chemistry than most couples do in romance anime.

With each failed stunt, his frustration grows and he must spend more time with her outside of school for any opportunity to beat her. He always overthinks it, stressed, and seemingly on the verge of a mental breakdown over being embarrassed each time. Her underlying agenda is to get to know him better and though she may not admit it, you can see that enjoys his pranks. It’s sweet.

Now when it comes to the supporting cast, I haven’t anything positive to say. Most are forgettable, in the background, which is fine for a small series focused on its principal couple, but these three girls are an annoyance.

I don’t know why they have a sub-plot, why the camera ever cuts to them, or why they are even in this anime. As I understand it, they come from another manga by the same author as Karakai – an unpopular manga at that – but why are they here? They add nothing to the main couple or the theme. Cutting them would have gone a long way to tightening the pace of the whole series. Even so, they aren’t an issue serious enough to make you drop the anime.

I didn’t love Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san. It isn’t the right sort of series for me to love. But I enjoyed the first few and the last few episodes enough for me to recommend that you try this niche title. It has a good heart.

Art – Medium

The big heads and even bigger foreheads are the perfect art style for this innocent middle school comedy.

Sound – Medium

The acting from the two leads is serviceable, while the other characters don’t do enough to matter – except those three girls who sound annoying, though that may be as directed. The Pink Panther-esque mischief music is fun.

Story – Low

A middle school boy keeps trying to get one over on the girl next to him in class with his pranks. Though the scenario is a tad repetitive and goes for too long, the innocence of Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is quite refreshing.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is better than the sum of its parts, but it will only take one episode to know if it’s for you.

(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