Tag Archives: Shounen

Young Adult boys as the target audience.

86 (Eighty-Six) – Ethically Sourced Warfare

Japanese Title: 86 – Eighty-Six –

 

Related: 86 2nd Season (TBR)

Similar: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans

Aldnoah.Zero

Guilty Crown

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Drama Science Fiction

Length: 11 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Visually nice
  • More focus on non-combat side of war is interesting
  • Good music

Negatives:

  • Most characters are nothing
  • World building needs work
  • Lacks nuance

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“Ethically sourced warfare.” This is the creed of the Republic of San Magnolia, for in the war with the Empire there are no casualties on their side. Only AI drones die for this conflict. Or so they say. In truth, the zero casualty count refers to the Alba, a silver-haired race that lives in luxury and without worry in the Republic’s eighty-five districts. The others – those of the wrong race – are the front line soldiers. These drones aren’t unmanned. These outcasts are known as the Eighty-Six and when they die, they aren’t human casualties because they aren’t human in the eyes of the Republic.

Vladilena is a rising star in the Republic military, recently assigned to take over as Handler for the “drones” of squadron Spearhead, a unit infamous for driving its Handlers mad. Leading Spearhead is Shinei, a.k.a. Undertaker, a repeat lone survivor of many battles with a special connection to the dead. Vladilena knows the truth of this war, working to keep her unit alive and to spread the message about the atrocities facing the Eighty-Six.

With a premise like that, I’m in from episode one. I like that we see military “service” for the Alba as a cushy desk job. Regulations are whatever as long as you don’t go against the grain. Looking at this city, you wouldn’t imagine there is a bloody war happening not far away. I am also surprised that the “drones aren’t unmanned” fact wasn’t kept as a twist. Generally, the protagonist would get this new job guiding a bunch of AI drones, many of which die in the war – doesn’t matter because they’re just machines, of course – until the mid-point turn that forces her out into the world and she sees the truth. All those drones she sacrificed for the sake of winning a skirmish? Real people, dead, because of her. Now she would work to make up for her ignorance. That’s the normal structure. Interesting to see 86 reveal the information upfront.

This change allows the story to be less action focused, which may put some people off. Instead, more time goes towards conversation between Vladilena in the city and Shinei on the frontline, sometimes bringing in the rest of Spearhead. 86 is about the effects of war rather than the war itself. For the first season anyway. I haven’t read the source material, but I wouldn’t be surprised for action to take up a larger and larger share as the story progresses.

Early conflict for Vladilena is her approach to dealing with these outsiders. She takes that classic well-meaning but actually condescending approach that we see between rich philanthropists and the poor in the real world. She’s so certain of being in the right amongst her peers, is so much more progressive than them that she doesn’t consider perhaps she doesn’t know as much about the Eighty-Six as she thinks. Just because she knows more than the others, it doesn’t mean she can swoop in and tell the Eighty-Six who they should be and how to fix everything. I like that. It’s a good seasonal arc for her.

However, 86 isn’t as good as I had hoped it would be on initial impression. Cutting back on action in a war story is a bit of a risk. Action is much easier to pull off than dialogue is in keeping an audience engaged. When dialogue is the centre, characters become of utmost importance as the driving force of the narrative.

The cast of characters is a problem in 86. When examined, there are only three real characters: the protagonist, her scientist friend, and Undertaker. Everyone else is nothing. The series dedicates two episodes to characterising the rest of the Spearhead crew, as they remind Vladilena that even with her kind words she is still an upper class citizen safe in her palace. She cannot relate to them nor be one of them. In fact, she hasn’t bothered to ask for their real names. And so, she gets to know them better until they let her into their lives – remotely – and grow closer. Despite this, each of these side characters are little more than one line bios in the series’ archive. There are too many of them, for one, that they end up as this singular entity of hive-minded thought. I can’t truly distinguish them in any meaningful way. Those important names arrive in a rapid-fire sequence, many of which are sci-fi names that take effort to remember. But who will bother to remember when they are so boring?

Add to this Shinei the Undertaker. He is of the quiet reserved type, a favourite archetype of mine, which is one of the most difficult to pull off without coming across as bland. Shinei isn’t as strong of a character as he needs to be for such a story. Lean 90% action and he would do fine. The audience wouldn’t particularly care when they attend for the action. His backstory and reason for driving handlers insane is interesting for the future. Right now, there’s not enough to him to make me think, “I care about this guy. I care about all he’s been through. I want him to have better.”

Another disappointment relates to the world building. After a strong establishing episode, the world barely builds. We end up see and knowing almost nothing of this world, which is a problem in a completely fictional setting. Even the social world building amounts to little when, in one episode, Vladilena gives a lecture and announces to a whole class of cadets the truth about the drones. She suffers zero consequences. I get that she is a bit of a prodigy and related to people of high rank but this should be high treason. Isn’t the whole point that everyone is blissfully ignorant and to break that ignorance could undo the fabric of societal order? Even if everyone is aware but chooses to feign ignorance because it gives them easy lives, it should still have consequences. When a story does things like this, it renders the rules of this world meaningless. When everything is meaningless (and your characters aren’t good enough), why should I care?

What started out as promising has end up being an average anime that neither offends nor excites. There is room for improvement though I am not hopeful. I probably won’t be watching season 2, which is all you need to know, I suppose.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. If you’re up for a war story by way of anime, 86 is a decent watch.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Moriarty the Patriot – Not So Smart

Japanese Title: Yuukoku no Moriarty

 

Similar: Death Note

Black Butler

Monster

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Mystery Thriller

Length: 24 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Production I.G. production values
  • Spiffin opening songs

Negatives:

  • Poor use and understanding of these iconic characters
  • Villains are comically flat
  • Artificially intelligent
  • James Bonde

(Request an anime for review here.)

Moriarty the Patriot is Dexter by way of the Sherlock Holmes universe, presenting a “what if” alternative to Holmes’s infamous rival. What if Moriarty had committed his crimes for the good of Britain? It’s not the first time someone has taken such an angle for this character, so let’s investigate how anime fared.

William James Moriarty is an orphan adopted into nobility who wants to break the class divide and mete out justice against the rich for their treatment of lower classes. Class disparity is the main theme of Moriarty the Patriot. Early episodes have him helping lower class people enact revenge against the rich that “got away with it.” For example, he helps a tailor kill the nobleman who murdered children, including the tailor’s son, for sport.

The immediate difference those familiar with the original Moriarty will notice about this version is his conversion into that of a bishounen. Professor Moriarty was far from handsome, caring about intellect over vanity. Holmes described him as hunched over, balding, and with sunken eyes. It is weird seeing Moriarty as a simpering pretty boy. The appearance change is of no importance to me. In fact, he looks as I would expect for an anime. His character matters. And this is where Moriarty is a pale imitation of his inspiration.

In the backstory episode of him as a child orphan with his sickly brother, it tries to make him look smart and benevolent by giving advice on all sorts of things to commoners, but it comes across as forced and condescending for a kid. He’s a know-it-all that happens to know exactly everything to advise these stupid commoners. The only bit that worked was him advising a group of bank robbers on dirt around the bank. The explanation is that he read a lot at the grand library. Firstly, an ability to riddle off a bunch of facts for “life hacks” isn’t a sign a genius (and has nothing to do with what made the original Moriarty a smart villain). Second, the Victorian lower class weren’t dumb. It’s up there with the myth that medieval peasants never bathed. Moriarty the Patriot needs everyone else to look like idiots so that Moriarty can prove his “genius” (remember my point in other reviews about how bad early writing echoes throughout a story? Keep this in mind.)

Also, while knowing the data helps with horse racing betting, it isn’t as sure as he makes it out to be. If you could win 80% of the time…just think for a second.

As an adult, they tone down the know-it-all aspect of Moriarty, yet we never witness an instance of actual genius from him. Original Moriarty avoided getting his hands dirty and preferred eliminating people through “accidents.” He was a schemer, not a hitman. Holmes described him as a spider at the centre of a web. This iteration is so unlike the original in appearance, personality, motivation, and methods that I don’t know why they called him Moriarty (commercial familiarity aside). If he weren’t called Moriarty but this were still a Holmesian story, I would never guess who he is meant to be. His plans rely on stupid opponents.

The classism is extreme and ridiculous. Every high-class person spits on anyone lower than them at every opportunity. It’s inaccurate and makes no sense. Think about it – if the people who work for you do a great job, you want them to keep doing that job well. So why treat them in such a manner that would make them worse at their job? We aren’t talking a faceless corporation where a money pusher at the top never sees the people below him. Nothing exemplifies this more than episode four, where a nobleman allows his gardener’s baby to die rather than allow his personal doctor to provide a simple treatment. The gardener falls into depression and the botanical garden, the nobleman’s pride and joy (all thanks to this gardener), falls in quality. When the gardener’s wife tries to take revenge, the show presents it as some great surprise to the noble. What could the motivation possibly be?

I get that some people are scum of the earth – obviously – and money can’t make everyone smart, but these villains are another level of stupid writing. I don’t refer to one or two here. All villains in Moriarty the Patriot are the stupidest characters in the show, which is ironic for a series based on Holmes’s smartest opponent. One guy murders a low class passenger in his expensive room on a cruise ship. Even if you do throw the body overboard, what about the pool of blood on the carpet in your room? This is the genius intellect Moriarty has to contend with?

They all amount to the same motive: “I am rich, therefore I hate poor people.”

The upper class did look down on the lower class in an organised hierarchical sense, where each individual has their place in society and must not step above their station. The lower class weren’t like slaves of the South. Even within the upper class, one could find further structure of which rich families could associate with particular other rich families as equals. Mastering social standing wasn’t an afternoon’s lesson.

The one area in which Moriarty the Patriot is accurate is the charity of nobles. Or rather, the appearance of benevolence by nobles. The Moriarty family takes in the two orphan brothers because it makes them look good to other nobles. Appearance is the material point. A noble doesn’t allow tenants to die on their land because it would look bad. Perhaps nobles care for the lower class employees, perhaps they don’t. Regardless, they care about appearances.

All of this is not to defend nobles or paint them as kind. My point is that nobles would be just as varied and complex a class of people as any other and that making them so two-dimensionally evil is lazy. The final moral message is equally flat.

Most of season one is a series of cases with Moriarty helping victims enact revenge on the rich that wronged them – a revenge of the week, if you will. I thought it would remain this way throughout, acting as a prequel to Moriarty’s encounters with Holmes in the book. Perhaps the clash in The Final Problem (the main Moriarty novel) would be the finale or hint that it occurs after the end of the anime. However, Sherlock Holmes himself enters the story and Watson too. Proceedings switch to a Holmes perspective for a good while before it cuts back and forth, becoming almost fifty-fifty between Moriarty and Holmes.

Holmes is a little closer in depiction to the source material. For one, Holmes was a good-looking man with great care for personal cleanliness (his residence was a mess on account of being a hoarder though). Still, it is weird to see Holmes as a bit of a ditz in this incarnation, always at odds with Mrs Hudson, who is more like a mother/nanny to keep his antics in check. Though as I said, I don’t care about changes as long as they deliver something worthwhile.

The most accurate element of this adaptation is Scotland Yard, still easily fooled by master criminals.

Moriarty the Patriot is better when it follows Holmes, funnily enough, owed in large parts to drawing more from the original Sherlock Holmes cases. It’s evident that the writer for this series would have nothing without another franchise to lean on. The structural shift feels like the intended “revenge of the week” formula ran out of ideas and the author had to return to the source.

The improvement in quality is short lived, sadly, with the introductions of “James Bonde” and Jack the Ripper. James Bonde may just be the worst reference I have ever seen to an iconic franchise. I can’t elaborate without spoiling anything. You should know, however, I actually cringed. Jack the Ripper drops things a level further with supernatural physical abilities, something not presented in the world elsewhere and it tries attributing them to intelligence (?) when he escapes a trap. Overall, anime isn’t sending over its best.

The greatest deception Moriarty the Patriot ever pulled was giving me hope for a great anime with these high production values based on a beloved franchise. Victorian London looks great (could use a full time spellchecker though) and I love the opening songs. My hope mostly worsened as time went on.

I have read the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes and seen a dozen different adaptations, some with greater departures from the source material than this yet still delivered. I would have to go back through the archives to be sure, but I’m confident Moriarty the Patriot is the weakest series to utilise the great detective that I have consumed.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Not for Sherlock Holmes fans. Others may be able to switch off and enjoy Moriarty the Patriot as a schlock thriller.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

The Promised Neverland Season 2 – Holy Truncation Batman!

Japanese Title: Yakusoku no Neverland 2nd Season

 

Related: The Promised Neverland Season 1

The Promised Neverland manga (partially included in this review)

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Psychological Mystery Thriller

Length: 11 episodes (season 2), 181 chapters (manga)

 

Positives:

  • Opening song

Negatives:

  • Most egregious truncation of the source material in anime history?
  • Doesn’t succeed on its own either
  • Recycled animation
  • Some bad acting amongst new characters

(Request an anime for review here.)

Contains spoilers for season one – unavoidable.

What the hell happened here? I watched the first season of The Promised Neverland a year ago, which I quite liked, and now I come back to this…this… What do you even call this? Did an intern carrying the script trip over and have most of the pages fall into a shredder, collect what was left, rewrite the page numbers at the bottom, and then hand it to the animation department?

I had heard rumblings that viewers were discontent with the cutting of material. I did not realise just how bad it was until I read the manga. This review was to come out weeks ago, but less than halfway through the season, I could already feel something missing, so I turned to the manga, you know, to read the 30-50 chapters that went into this season. Little did I realise that this adapted all remaining chapters.

The Promised Neverland, at first, is about children living in an innocent orphanage before they learn that this is a farm and they are the livestock for demons. Season two follows them after the escape and on the run, guided by a series of clues left by the mysterious “William Minerva” to get back to the human world.

Season one adapts 37 chapters of the 181 total. Season two “covers” the rest. That’s right, 144 chapters in 11 episodes. And Horimiya fans reckoned they had it bad. I don’t know why studio CloverWorks thought that Promised Neverland – this anime, of all anime – would work with such truncation. I’m not certain (and I don’t have time to do the research right now), but this may just be the worst case of cut content in anime history. We’ve had incomplete adaptations of manga epics in the past or ones that created a new ending to finish what they had available, yes, though I can’t recall any finished adaptations with such massive holes. Unlike Horimiya, which worked alright without those chapters, Promised Neverland doesn’t work without 50% – at minimum – of what they removed. Why even bother with a second season if it’s going to lack all substance and make little sense? The first season worked fine as a standalone anime with suggestions to read the manga if you want the rest.

It hurts the brain to comprehend.

It’s particularly strange because season one was such a good adaption. In fact, I found it improved upon the manga by cutting back on inner monologues that over explain proceedings to the audience and made it darker. The manga is more light-hearted and has more playful moments, whereas the anime pushed the thriller angle to much success. A quick side note, however, is that the tone for the Grace Field arc in the manga better matches the rest the series. The manga isn’t anywhere near as dark as the premise would imply. The anime would have needed to make a few changes to the rest to match season one, which makes the abundance of “happy kids” moments, as I refer to them, more glaring and irritating in the second season. They work in the manga because they are tonally consistent and only take a page rather than a scene. Of course, they are also further apart with all content present.

Season two initially matches the manga well enough when the kids meet two demons that don’t eat humans and learn more of the world. We learn that demons eat meat to maintain their form and intelligence. Without feeding, they would devolve into ravenous savages. I love this world building detail. However, a few episodes in, they reach the hideout provided by Minerva and it all flies out the window. So butchered is this one section alone that there is no purpose to leaving it in. In the manga, it turns out there is someone living in the hideout already, a crazy man. He is the whole point of that section, so to remove him but leave the rest is simply stupid.

Then comes the time skip. Around 90 chapters ignored, gone, including the best action arc of the series, where some kids find themselves in a demon duke’s hunting ground for sport. Worse still is the effect on what they do adapt from the final arc. Without the setup that comes before, the finale is limp. Everything revolves around a grand plan, which already requires a fair suspension of disbelief in the manga, yet now demands a total leave of logic. The plan only works if all antagonists are absolute idiots.

See, this season’s failure isn’t that it cut material. I don’t inherently care about cut material. Its failure is being a bad anime, adaptation or not. Again, why did they bother?

This season isn’t worth your time. Instead, look at the manga.

The manga isn’t without its faults. I mentioned earlier that it wasn’t dark enough because there isn’t enough death, especially considering the pre-schoolers in the group (I have the impression the author grew too attached to the characters). The answer and eventual solution to the demon and human world divide is so lame. Magic? Really? While the final arc is a great finish to the ride, the epilogue chapters are just contrived nonsense (again, author is too attached). Contrivances and coincidences to solve non-action problems are a recurring issue with this author. Minerva’s pen, for instance, is a wonder machine that solves any plot puzzle for which the author couldn’t think of an idea, providing the next clue on the trail. I would have also liked to see more of the mother and the important demons to give them more impact in the end. The mother especially needed more chapters.

Contrary to my machine gun of negatives, The Promised Neverland is a good manga I recommend to anyone unless you didn’t care for the first season. It’s a page-turner, the demon culture is interesting, you feel for the main characters (the cast is too big to care for the rest), and the action is solid. Oh, nice art too – love the full-page illustrations before each chapter. Meanwhile, the only good element of The Promised Neverland Season 2 is the opening song.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Read The Promised Neverland manga instead.

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Jujutsu Kaisen – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Jujutsu Kaisen

 

Similar: Naruto

Bleach

Demon Slayer

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Action

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Slick animation for great action
  • Grotesque enemies
  • Interesting powers

Negatives:

  • Serious power creep
  • Main characters lack mystery and story

(Request an anime for review here.)

As the penultimate review of the 30 Reviews in 30 Days challenge, this one for Jujutsu Kaisen is two days late, as I needed more time than I thought to ruminate on it. I can’t quite decide how good I think this is. Let’s lay out the good and the bad and see where we get.

Jujutsu Kaisen is the latest big thing in the battle shounen space, having made waves with slick animation from the studio behind the goodness of Dororo and Yuri on Ice. It follows Yuji, a high school student turned “Jujutsu sorcerer” after he eats the finger of a cursed being, granting him extraordinary power. This power does come at the cost of having the finger’s owner, Sukuna, taking residence inside him and threatening to take control at any moment. He now studies at the Tokyo Jujutsu High School to hunt for the rest of the cursed fingers and so the teachers can keep an eye on him. He teams up with the stoic Fushiguro and brash Nobara under the tutelage of Satoru Gojo.

I want to start with the good points since they caught my attention initially. First, the animation. Fantastic! What ever happened to the good old days of battle anime having the most static animation in the industry? The best of times! All kidding aside about nostalgia blindness, Jujutsu Kaisen has excellent action animation. More than fluid, the choreography draws in the viewer and shows attention to the camera work as well. On top of this, the abilities have visual variety. A signature move of Jujutsu sorcerers is the Domain Expansion, allowing them to envelop the nearby area in an environment to enhance their power. Think of it as a home turf advantage. The look of this domain will vary by character and match their personality or power type. For example, a villain who fights with lava powers and has a volcano for a head will transform the environment in a lava hell. The variety in techniques changes up the setting on a regular basis. A concern with an ordinary modern Tokyo setting for a supernatural action series is a lack of interesting settings in which to stage fights. Domain Expansion nicely solves this.

There are plenty of other great abilities too. One guy claps and swaps positions with the target, another creates dogs from the shadows, and a girl harms enemies by hammering nails into straw dolls. An old geezer even fights with an electric guitar that generates energy!

If action is your priority in battle anime, then Jiujutsu Kaisen has you covered. It would be tough to decide what would go into a “best of” highlight reel since there is so much good-looking action.

The next great element is the grotesqueness of the villains and certain abilities. Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t a horror anime, but it feature plenty of body horror. When Sukuna awakens, an extra pair of eye open on Yuji’s cheekbones and a second mouth grows on his cheek. Disgusting. And fantastic. One villain has a row of arms inside his mouth. Another grows a plant that shoots buds of biting teeth. Just about every enemy is disgusting is some way and it works! You won’t forget these freaks anytime soon.

The third notable positive is how this anime distinguishes itself from its inspirator, Naruto. The similarities are obvious – protagonist has demon inside of him that grants great power but also takes over on occasion; second main guy is from a special clan bloodline with a unique technique; the girl of the trio is the strong aggressive type; the teacher has magic eyes he keeps covered except in combat (his Domain is akin to the Sharingan’s Tsukuyomi illusion) and is goofy during downtime. That’s just a few of the similarities. However, it sounds a lot more similar on paper than in practice, as this brings more than enough of its own spin on the common elements to feel fresh. My Hero Academia, another Naruto inspired battle shounen, often just feels like Naruto in a superhero skin. With Ninjutsu Kaisen, I don’t find myself thinking, “This is just like Naruto.” Instead, I think, “Reminds me of Naruto, but I like how they did that differently.”

Now we get into the negatives.

While I said the action is great, this is more so in the moment (much owed to the animation). When you step back and look at the fights in terms of story and arcs, the quality wanes in large part to the odd power creep. There is a hint of this problem from the very first episode, before Yuji eats the finger. He already has immense strength and speed for a human. Then he grows stronger in the middle of fights after nothing more than a pep talk or a “I just need to be stronger” thought. Eh? The power curve also ramps at a random rate with little explanation behind the progression. Some characters are so powerful that they could seemingly deal with all villains alone. Spinjutsu Kaisen also does that thing where it tells you someone is a mega genius, yet has nothing to show for it, or some guy can pull of some feat so miraculous it would render all challenge meaningless if used at the start of the fight.

The second season focuses a new set of students from the sister school in Kyoto and they have a show match with the Tokyo kids, like a mini, mini Chunin exam. This is the perfect opportunity to develop characters and give a sense of power progression. Think of Naruto season one when Kakashi uses a few Sharingan techniques. This makes you wonder what else can it do and when will Sasuke learn those moves. Give us a taste of future power. Or it’s like the opening of any Metroid game, where you start with a full arsenal of equipment only to have an incident break your gear at the end of the first area. Now you have something to look forward to without being overpowered right away. Doesn’t reveal all the upcoming power though; that’s for you to discover as you progress.

In Jujutsu Kaisen, a teacher demonstrates the technique and then the character of focus learns it or develops some other power to deal with the situation too quickly. It feels as if the action writing goes, “What power would make this fight look awesome?” and then just puts it in with little thought to how he gains/masters this power. Flashy fights will only hold my interest for so long.

The sister school leads me into the other significant failing – the main characters. They simply aren’t interesting (yet?). The power creep disconnects you from them on an action level, while the personalities and backstories disconnect on a personal level. Yuji’s motivation is the death of his grandfather, who passed away peacefully but alone. He wants to avoid the same sad end. This leads him to value his friends and protect them at all costs, just like any shounen protagonist. There isn’t much beyond that.

Main characters need mystery and sub plots. Sasuke’s backstory with the Uchiha Clan or Killua’s story in HxH, are some examples. Even Bleach, when it was good for a couple of seasons, had Rukia’s relationship with Byakuya. Why is her brother of all people so adamant on imprisoning her? Fushiguro has a hint of story (in the vein of Sasuke’s), but why do they introduce it so late? As for Nobara, she doesn’t have anything. I’m sure her story will enter later – it would be madness otherwise – but you have to give something on main characters early to make the audience care. Doesn’t have to be the full saga. In fact, it’s better to hold answers back for later. Still, the more important the character, the more impactful their hook should be. It can be the little things, doled out over time. Let’s stick to the Kakashi example. He’s an important character, though not a main. How does he have the Sharingan when he isn’t of the correct bloodline? Why does he teach the kids that protecting teammates is more important than anything else, which goes against the ninja code? What is under his mask!?

On the other hand, the minor characters from the other school are far more interesting. Granted, they don’t have the pressure to grip the audience like main characters do, but I’d rather see them over the main students. Todo, a wrestler-looking dude and Itadori’s self-proclaimed best friend, is hilarious with his eccentric personality and way of judging others based on their answer to the question, “What’s kind of girls do you like?” and he has a simple though effective backstory as a delinquent too strong for his own good. And that’s just one of them.

I want to be clear that none of the characters are bad. None make me clutch my temples in frustration at yet another moronic decision. The main ones simply aren’t compelling enough to carry the series.

I know more of this review went to negatives over positives, but my overall experience with Jujutsu Kaisen is positive, on reflection. I didn’t mention the great music and quality acting either. It’s simply that I value story and characters above all and when those are your weakest elements – made more disappointing amid high production values – I become concerned. And yet, no problem is unfixable in future seasons.

My concerns going forward are the lack of mystery, in both story and main characters, and power creep with everyone already so powerful. I want to keep watching Blingjutsu Kaisen, but I do not want a Bleach situation where it’s one fight after the other and Domain Expansions go down the route of Bankai – “Oh look, the new ability is an even bigger Bankai. How exciting…” Don’t disappoint me.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must watch for battle anime fans. The core demographic will almost certainly love Jujutsu Kaisen, while others may find that a lack of mystery dampens long-term engagement.

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

Positive: 

Fluid AnimationGreat OP or ED Sequence

Negative: None

Utawarerumono – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Utawarerumono

 

Related: Utawarerumono: The False Faces (sequel)

Similar: Tears to Tiara

Vision of Escaflowne

Scrapped Princess

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Drama Fantasy Science Fiction

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Sounds good on paper, I guess?

Negatives:

  • Lazy fantasy
  • Packed with anime clichés
  • No interesting characters
  • Final act twist

(Request an anime for review here.)

Utawarerumono, an anime I remember most for the long title and whose review I’ve had in the bank waiting for completion since a year ago. Two? I don’t remember. Wait… Yep, file created January 2019. I am not keen to write this review because, simply, I am not keen on this anime. Frankly, it’s boring. The clichés are numerous, the fantasy is lazy, and no character grabs my attention. You know you’re in for a rough time when even the OP doesn’t have great art or animation.

This anime centres on a mysterious man found in the woods. He can’t remember his past, who he is, and he wears a mask that can’t come off. A local village of animal people take him in and call him Hakuoro, curious about his lack of a furry tail or ears. Whatever he was in the past, Hakuoro becomes a leader in this village and leads a revolution against the oppressive emperor.

The story isn’t immediately boring. I like a good revolution. The character designs scream laziness and their implementation are the first warning sign that little effort will go into anything. These villagers have animal tail and ears, yet are human in every other way, from behaviour to society. Their part-animal design is pointless. There’s also something I hate about Hakuoro’s one defining characteristic of wearing a mask all the time. Is try hard the phrase I’m looking for? I don’t know. Just lame. I can’t imagine anyone caring about the mystery of who’s under the mask.

Before long, the story shows similar flaws by dipping into every shounen cliché in the library. Honour at the risk of everyone’s lives, grandstanding, characters than can’t contribute on the battlefield because they aren’t main characters, and the skinny girl with a giant sword no one else can lift for some inexplicable reason are but a few examples. Some characters have supernatural abilities with no explanation of how or the limitations of said powers.

For an anime with significant time dedicated to battles in the uprising, the strategy isn’t clever. At all. Did any second thought go towards this? Don’t know.

On paper, this story sounds good – a man rises up to become emperor with the aid of a part-animal race, yet everything has such average execution and never goes beyond the obvious that it isn’t interesting. One leader is joyous and rearing to tell how he slaughtered the enemy one second, then becomes melancholic the next. That’s Utawarerumono’s attempt at conflict.

So bored am I with Utawarerumono that when the big act three twist reveals itself, I just sigh. The twist upends everything in the plot, which sounds like it should wake me up, but when elements prior offer no engagement, it’s hard to care. Also, I don’t like when this twist type is in the third act. Not to give too much away, though using such a twist so late tends to nullify much of the build-up and work put in by earlier acts. It benefits as a first act twist to invert the protagonist’s world and throw them into the unknown, or as the mid-point turn (if well foreshadowed) to shake things up. Using it late has an effect similar to an amnesia twist, just not as bad. Utawarerumono does make it worse by having an amnesiac protagonist. Ironically, I almost forget that detail.

I’m not sure why Utawarerumono is even on my list. I can’t remember.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For specific fantasy anime fans only. Being a fantasy fan isn’t enough to enjoy Utawarerumono. You must also be a fan of specific anime fantasy clichés.

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

Positive: None

Negative: 

Hollow World Building