Tag Archives: School Life

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

Strike the Blood – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Strike the Blood

 

Similar: Blood Lad

Dance in the Vampire Bund

Campione!

A Certain Magical Index

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Action Harem

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Slick visuals and decent music.

Negatives:

  • Bland, forgettable characters.
  • The generic ecchi gets worse the later the episode.
  • The same as every other high school action harem anime.
  • “Monsters.”

In recent years, each anime season seems to have its obligatory high school action harem that’s always a pile of old nonsense, the same tired ecchi jokes and lazy characters. Is Strike the Blood another one such dud? Yes. Review done.

For those still interested, let’s continue. High school student Kojou is the rumoured Fourth Progenitor, an originating entity of the vampire species, and does his best to hide his power and go unnoticed. Charged with keeping him in check, Yukina, a Sword Shaman (who fights with a spear), acts as a guard of sorts to Kojou. They reside in the Demon District manmade island off the coast of Japan where monsters, sorry, “monsters” roam free. When a renegade attacks Yukina one evening, Kojou has no choice but to use his power and they set on the trail of a homunculus.

Over the course of the narrative, several girls join the cast, each personality forgettable, barely given any effort before the next girl is forced onto stage. Even Kojou and Yukina aren’t what I would call developed or structured. Interestingly, nothing interesting happens until the end of the third episode, so why didn’t the writers use that time to establish the protagonists, make us care for them and see glimpses of the greatness they could develop into. How about, instead of giving us Kojou’s rubbish schoolteacher, who is supposed to be 26-years-old but looks like a middle school girl, you put some effort into the damn protagonists, you know, the most important characters of the show. Oh yes, there is also a villain, if you can call a guy whose job extends to wearing a suit and going ‘Hur hur hur, I am evil’ a villain.

Rather than add more conflict and development as the story progresses, the screen time goes to ecchi, the predictable panty shots, breast grabs, compromising situations, etc. You know the drill. Strike the Blood is so desperate to titillate, it resorts to having a lesbian throw herself at Kojou. Don’t worry, implied pedocest isn’t far behind. The ecchi gets worse the longer you watch.

Strike the Blood’s greatest problem is how generic the whole affair is. Everything is standard for the action harem genre. We know how the relationships will go with each girl. We know every twist in the action. We know each character’s personality for the rest of the series within an episode of meeting them, and this never changes.

Strike the Blood feels created to fill a slot for the season, sticking to a safe and easy formula to bang it out the door as easily as possible. This anime clearly had a budget, judging by the visual and audio quality, so why waste it on this? Are any of these high school action harems going to try anything different?

Art – Medium

Strike the Blood boasts nice visuals on a technical level; however, the character design lacks creativity (two unrelated girls look remarkably similar) and their powers aren’t interesting.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine and the music decent, but there is nothing special to be had here. Still, the audio department doesn’t interfere with the experience.

Story – Low

Like all high school action harems, Strike the Blood follows a standard formula where a guy is special for some reason and a gaggle of girls join the narrative one at a time, ecchi in tow. Forgettable, dime-a-dozen story.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother unless you love the genre. Strike the Blood is one of those anime that won’t be remembered in a few years, if it hasn’t already slipped from consciousness, that is. A single original thought would have gone a long way.

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

 

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Hollow World BuildingInduces StupidityNo DevelopmentRubbish Major CharactersUseless Side Cast

Karin – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Karin

 

Similar: Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase

Rosario + Vampire

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Vampire Comedy Romance

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Reversal of the nosebleed trope.

Negatives:

  • The joke grows tired before long.
  • Love interest Usui has no personality.
  • Little animation, especially in backgrounds.
  • Subpar voice work regardless of language.

Karin is an unusual vampire. While the rest of her family drinks blood to survive, she produces blood to the point where it bleeds from her nose if she doesn’t feed it to humans. She’s an un-vampire, if you will. Matters complicate when new guy Usui joins the school and she starts producing more blood than usual around him.

When I say Karin has nosebleeds, I mean nose-explosions, nosebleed rainbows, literally. It’s nice to see that it’s the girl with the arousal nosebleed instead of the guy, as is usual; however, it doesn’t feel as though the writer put much thought beyond that into the narrative. You have your gimmick, what next? What makes the two work as a couple? Do they share any interests? Do you have any other jokes? Unfortunately, the answer to these sorts of questions is ‘I didn’t think of that.’

The plot is mostly about keep her blood level in control, hiding her vampirism, and her crush on Usui. There isn’t enough here to carry a story for twenty-six episodes; it would have been better at thirteen like most of these romantic comedies. Also like these budget romantic comedies, they force drama in the last few episodes at the expense of all comedy. While Karin may not be death-by-laughter hilarious, it’s still poor form to change genres in an attempt for emotion at the end. Those last few episodes are Karin’s worst.

I find Karin to be an ultimately forgettable experience. It isn’t the worst anime I have seen but nor does it have anything noteworthy.

Art – Low

Mediocre character design; weird face art with a straight line from chin to nose tip. Minimal animation, as most shots have no more than a character’s mouth moving – budget visuals. Similar situation with the backgrounds using a watercolour style, but since there is no motion it looks like the characters are on a stage, not in the world. Every scene transition uses a tile wipe with the same awful jingle.

Sound – Medium

The dub is quite bad. Karin sounds stilted; when moving from one sentence to another, she often doesn’t pause as though punctuation is missing. Lacks emotion. The mother’s British accent is atrocious. The original Japanese VO isn’t much better with those ear-grating squeaky voices. Repetitive comedy jingles for music.

Story – Low

Having the girl get explosive nosebleeds instead of the guy is a humorous reversal of an overused trope, but Karin’s romance between a vampire girl and a human falls flat under its meandering pace and hollow characters.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Karin may be amusing if you don’t care about depth and just want to watch something that takes no thought. The comedy isn’t strong enough to carry this anime.

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

 

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

Positive: None.

Negative:

Ear Grating Voice WorkLacks ConflictPoor PacingUgly Artistic Design

Rosario + Vampire – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Rosario + Vampire

 

Related: Rosario + Vampire Capu2 (sequel – included in this review)

Similar: Love Hina

To LOVE-ru

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Harem

Length: 26 episodes over 2 seasons.

 

Positives:

  • The art is clean and the voice acting decent.

Negatives:

  • Your typical harem with the same cast of clichés as seen several times per anime season with a premise that doesn’t try to be original.
  • Monster-girls that have nothing monstrous about them, never mind the flat personalities.
  • Repetitive episodes structure and conflicts. Manages to be formulaic in three genres at once.
  • I’m sure a joke was intended somewhere.
  • Can’t forget the paedophilia implications included in most harems.
  • Writing so poor, they included a character just to explain what the writing means.

I hate Rosario + Vampire. The harem genre isn’t great to begin with, but this reaches an all-new low in idiotic characters, repetitive storytelling, and general lack of humour. Let’s get this over with.

Like all harems, it starts with an ordinary guy moving to a new place, in this case, accidentally, a school for monsters. On arrival, a pink-haired girl drives her bicycle into him and they fall in love (just roll with it – this will end sooner that way). She is a vampire tempted by his blood and wears a Rosario that keeps her timid. But when removed, her full “vampire” self emerges, larger breasts and shorter skirt included. With no bus back for a month, the human guy must contend with hiding his lack of monster traits from others; the school however, has a policy that all students must remain in human form to practice blending into the human world – how lucky.

It isn’t long, one episode, in fact, before the rest of the harem begins to enter the picture. Each one is introduced in more or less the same way. They hate or want to attack the main guy, the Rosario comes off and the vampire saves him (she does everything) with the guy providing a “noble” act that makes them fall in love with him, including the teacher that rapes him (not hyperbole). First up is a succubus, the seductive one from every harem, then a witch, the pre-pubescent one for pedo material, followed by a snow demon, who fills the psychotically obsessed slot, another witch as Evil Spice, and a second eleven-year-old in season two, as if one wasn’t enough. What are their names? It isn’t important; they have no personalities. I’m sure they thought breast size would make up for flat characters.

The narrative in Rosario + Vampire is so lazy that it manages to not only be harem formulaic, but also monster-of-the-week formulaic (a monster after the guy or a harem girl) and transformation formulaic. That has got to be some sort of achievement. The quality for this presentation is awful as well, so much so that a bat familiar character has to tell the audience directly what the anime tries to show you.

Look, I have nothing against clichés as long as there is something worth seeing, something entertaining. If I had fun, I don’t care that I have seen similar before. In Rosario + Vampire’s case however, they always select the obvious jokes, those that a novice comedian would make in a second. The anime also plays the serious parts about “love” and “friends” (if you’re friends, then, please, enlighten me on their interests) with a straight face, which comes off as laughable, and not in a humorous way. And the attempts at eliciting an emotional response through “tragic” backstory are pathetic. ‘Oh, humans were so mean to me because I was a vampire. I hate humans.’ ‘My life is so hard as a witch. No one understands me.’ Shut the hell up and spare me.

Rosario + Vampire couldn’t be any worse if it tried.

Art – Medium

The visuals are clean, if generic. No creativity in monster design. I understand that this show was designed purely to sell sexy love pillows, but it would have been nice if the monster-girls weren’t “monster”-girls. Even with little to show, each episode relies on a repetitive transformation sequence.

Sound – Medium

Music is rubbish outside of the decent ending theme. The voice acting is okay – would have been great if the script had this elusive element called ‘emotion.’

Story – Very Low

Rosario + Vampire is a harem anime through and through. The characters are awful, the plot goes nowhere, and the jokes never attended the meeting.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Anime doesn’t get much worse than Rosario + Vampire. This repetitive harem that is fifteen years behind the originality curve is one to push off a cliff.

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

 

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

Positive: None.

Negative: 

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueHorrendous ActionInduces StupidityNo DevelopmentNot FunnyRepetitiveRubbish Major CharactersShallowUseless Side Cast

Please Teacher! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Onegai Teacher

 

Related: Please Twins! (Same setting)

Similar: Midori Days

Waiting in the Summer

To-LOVE-Ru

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Romance Comedy

Length: 12 episodes & 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Several genuinely funny moments.
  • The teacher is a fun character with her kind heart, ditziness, and jealousy.
  • Tsutaetai Koto ga Arunda’ is a gorgeous piano track.
  • Looks surprisingly polished considering the low budget narrative.

Negatives:

  • Suffers from several anime romantic comedy clichés, especially the ‘interrupted kiss’ a dozen times.
  • The most contrived twist occurs in the final third to force “meaningful” drama before the conclusion.
  • The teacher’s family is irritating, her sister in particular, for the few episodes they are in.

I really wanted to like Please Teacher more than I do. It could have either been a great piece of socially commentary or death-by-laughter hilarious and charming – or both. Unfortunately, it didn’t even come within the horizon of what I wished. And no, it isn’t because of the student-teacher relationship premise; that premise is Please Teacher’s most interesting aspect. In the real world, a student-teacher relationship isn’t alright because it’s a breach of trust and abuse of power (even if of consenting age, as in the case of Please Teacher). In the real world, there also isn’t a disease that comatoses people at random, halting the ageing process while unconscious. However, in fiction, you are free to explore ‘what if.’

What if your teacher was an alien? What if you have to pretend to be in a relationship with her to cover up the fact that she is an alien from your family? Then what if you have to marry her to cover up the fact that you are in an illicit relationship with your teacher from the principal, saving her job, which is a cover up for the fact that she is an alien? (Breathe!) It’s an interesting scenario, and the one of Please Teacher.

Kei is a fifteen-year-old (in appearance) high school student who witnesses the teleportation of a beautiful alien woman with pink hair to his town’s lake. I say in appearance because he is eighteen, but suffers from an affliction that causes blackouts referred to as ‘stand stills,’ one lasting three years, throughout which he didn’t age a day. The morning after the alien arrival, he is shocked to see that she is his new schoolteacher, Ms Kazami. Furthermore, she moves in next door to him. After a series of mishaps involving her TARDIS-like alien complex, resulting in a compromising situation between the two, Kei lies to his uncle about them being in a relationship with her. Kei’s uncle goes along with it (he has the hots for the voluptuous teacher despite his wife standing over his shoulder), and is the funniest character in the series.

Matters escalate further, when the school principal finds Kei and Ms Kazami locked in the sports equipment room. The uncle comes up with the genius idea that they are married, saving her job and his place in school (true age revealed to address the legality). She is a charming character.

Much of the humour comes from them hiding the relationship, especially from Kei’s school friends, and his awkward inexperience with women. Make no mistake; there are plenty of risqué moments and clever sexual innuendos, but nothing explicit. Though Please Teacher isn’t gasping-for-air hilarious, it still has a good number of gags, most of which are in the first half and the OVA (the funniest episode). Past the halfway mark, the humour declines to make room for “drama.”

This drama is utter rubbish. There is the most contrived twist with Kei in the final third attempting to bring depth the narrative. To call it a twist is generous. I won’t spoil it, but if it were spoiled, you would be dumbfounded by its stupidity. One would think that the greatest opportunity for drama in a student-teacher relationship is the illicit nature or at least the age difference. Nope, nothing to do with the relationship at all. Pathetic. I am all for drama, but this… And it came at the expense of all humour. At least the funny OVA that follows afterwards set the record straight.

In the end, Please Teacher is an enjoyable show outside of the final third’s swan dive into arse gravy. The dynamic between Kei and Ms Kazami is fun to watch as they hide their relationship. Recommended for an easy viewing experience.

Art – High

Sports surprisingly polished art and character design considering the easy-money narrative. Doesn’t feel cheap.

Sound – Medium

Good voice work in both languages and one particularly great piano piece. The rest of the music is bland.

Story – Medium

A pleasant and fun story about a boy forced to marry his teacher…until the final third that decapitates the humour for terrible drama.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. If you want something fun to watch with an interesting premise and a good amount of polish, then Please Teacher is for you. Also, you must be able to look past the student-teacher relationship.

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

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions)

Positive: None.

Negative: 

ShallowWeak End

Voices of a Distant Star – Review

Japanese Title: Hoshi no Koe

 

Related: 5 Centimetres per Second (same director)

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (same director)

The Garden of Words (same director)

Similar: Pale Cocoon

Gunbuster

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Length: 25 min. OVA

 

Positives:

  • The tragic narrative hits the right emotional notes with its interesting premise.
  • Beautiful environmental art, especially the grand shots of the cosmos and planets.

Negatives:

  • The use of CG for aliens and mechs looks out of place, never mind the ugly designs.
  • Character art looks unfinished.
  • Little is established. How did the girl become an elite pilot so quickly? Where are the aliens from? What does the boy actually do?
  • The voice work in English is monotone for much of the time. Japanese isn’t much better.
  • Prediction of flip phones as the standard in 2046. I jest, I jest.

Having recently watched Nolan’s Interstellar, I was reminded of Voices of a Distant Star, first anime feature of director Shinkai Makoto (of Garden of Words and 5 Centimetres per Second fame). Both Interstellar and Distant Star make use of time dilation to create drama with its characters. Distant Star tells the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who joins the space fleet in the fight against aliens, leaving her boyfriend behind on Earth with text messages as their only means of communication. The further she travels into deep space, the longer messages take to transmit – days, months, even years – and because of relativity in light speed travel, a couple of days for her is equivalent to years for him.

This story is a tragic one dealing with love separated, literally, by time and space. Distant Star is a powerful piece when it hits its emotional highs; I felt for these two characters. Unfortunately, the side story of the galactic conflict distracts from these heartstring moments. The writer needed a catalyst to launch the girl into deep space, there’s no disputing that; however, a galactic war isn’t a small plot point. It needed more time and space, so to speak, to develop into a full-fledged plot line. We get no backstory on the war, no information about the aliens, and nothing on how the girl became an elite pilot so quickly. (Aside: How is she allowed to wear her school uniform in the mech? I am guessing that it’s a metaphor for her wanting to be back with him during their school days.)

 

Shinkai could have chosen a simpler premise such as the exploration of distant stars to act as the catalyst rather than a war. This would allow more time to focus on the relationship. All we know about these characters is that they are in love. We know nothing about their interests, strength or weaknesses – who they are, really. Then again, they could have extended the runtime to explore each aspect in depth; at 25 minutes, Distant Star is too short for what it tries to achieve.

When it comes to the art, the war causes more problems. Poor CG was used for the mechs and their alien opponents, which is nothing but jarring, and it doesn’t help that their designs are awful. The cockpit view is cool though, using a lone seat with controls floating in a holographic interface.

Despite all that I have said against Voices of a Distant Star, I enjoyed my time here. The premise alone was worth a watch, and even if you don’t enjoy it, the short length means little time is wasted.

Art – Medium

Beautiful environments and lighting unfortunately tarnished by jarring CG for the hideous alien and mech designs. The character art seems to be in its draft stage.

Sound – Medium

Decent voice work in Japanese, monotone in English. I understand that when people are sad, they speak in sombre tones, but full monotone sounds dull. There are no moments of negative energy, no passion in the words. Half the music doesn’t fit the theme. Also something off about the Foley sounds at times.

Story – Medium

A tragic story of long distance love amid a galactic conflict, which results in neither aspect getting the development they deserve.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Worth 25 minutes of your time for what it does right. Voices of a Distant Star is a nice piece of anime that could have done with a longer runtime to develop the relationship and the war further.

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

 

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

Positive: None

Negative: 

Hollow World BuildingShallow