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.
Do you remember when Twilight was a big deal? Diabolik Lovers comes from that era of hysterical fangirls and tear-filled trailer reactions, adapted into an otome game (visual novels aimed at girls).
When sweet innocent Yui goes to live in a grand mansion populated by pretty boys, her life takes a turn for the worst. These boys are bloodthirsty vampires and they aren’t afraid to show it. Her daily routine becomes one of abuse and vampire meals. Will she resist or fall for them in the process? (No points for guessing correctly.)
Just like harem anime for boys, otome adaptations are a failure from the get-go because the studio doesn’t commit to a single story path from the game. Even if Diabolik Lovers were a good game, an anime adaptation that tries to incorporate the romance arcs with all the boys will always be a mess. For comparison’s sake I checked out the anime adaptation of Code:Realize, an otome game I completed on the PS Vita. Though there are five romantic options, the game never feels harem-like because no relationship goes beyond friendship until you as the female protagonist choose to pursue it. From that point onwards, there is no “dating” multiple guys aspect. It acts as though you were never interested in the others to begin with. Furthermore, you won’t know most of any given guy’s history unless you choose his path, adding more depth to the story – and replay value. In the anime, however, it tries to put every path into the story rather than committing to one. Needless to say, the Code:Realize anime is subpar (and the detailed art is missing). So when Diabolik Lovers didn’t even have a good game to start with, there was no hope of a good anime. Yet even then, I didn’t expect something as abominable as this.
Yui’s first meeting with the vampires has them taunt and frighten her, acting like stereotypical douchebag vampires, which I took as them playing it up like in the vampire myths before they reveal that they aren’t all like that. But no, they are awful.
The vampires take it in turns, for roughly two episodes each, to torment, assault, and sexually abuse Yui. I understand that the ultimate fantasy for fans is to be dominated and protected by powerful, and preferably rich, older guys. However, none of that matters if the guys are so unlikable, as is the case in Diabolik Lovers.
I’ll tell you of her time with one of them. The vampire breaks her phone when she tries to call her father to leave, but he then tells her to get lost. (Mixed signals there, buddy.) He bites and drinks from her, and later pushes her into the pool, where she begins to drown because she can’t swim. This allows him to jump in and kiss her for air, which she will see as romantic, of course, and fall for him. What a shock. Yui is an empty protagonist with no spine, no motivation, and frankly no use. She irritates me most in this horrid affair. You might imagine that the goal of the plot is to have her make the guys nicer, to bring out their chocolaty centre. You’d be wrong. No one develops an inch by the end.
Each vampire is one cliché after the other. They all have “the one thing” to check every box in the Vampire Otome Character Type Checklist, though with the “absolute douche” trait added. Most of them have nicknames for her. Little bitch, pig, pancake (this one offends her most), and masokitty are just a few of the delightful nicknames that will make you cringe every episode.
The one vampire I expected to be a decent person – you know, for a change of pace – was the refined older brother type, who cares for etiquette and manners. After he invites Yui over for tea, he too abuses her. So, nothing new.
Story is an important element for otome fans. Sure, it is about pretty boys in the end, but a proper story creates a deeper connection within the fan. If fans didn’t care for story, they could turn to another form of entertainment if they just wanted to get to the juicy bits. The second season is a repeat of the first, except it’s with a group of half-vampire boys that kidnap her, take her to their mansion, abuse her, drink from her – you get the picture.
Diabolik Lovers does attempt a story involving the boys’ dead mother and Yui’s identity, but that lasts 10 maybe 20 minutes across both seasons.
A dear reader recommended this anime to me with the knowledge that this is trash, prime trash ripe off the bone from the nearby landfill. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the fun with it that I expected due to the emptiness of the story and characters. Diabolik Lovers doesn’t do anything. It’s too boring to be so bad it’s good, for me.
Art – Low
Diabolik Lovers carries over the tradition from otome games of pretty characters and nice looking stills. However, this is an animation, which it lacks.
Sound – Very Low
They didn’t skimp on hiring high-end actors for this in both Japanese and English – another carry over from the game. Not that this in any way saves the abomination of a script. Contender for worst of all anime.
Story – Very Low
A girl finds herself trapped in a mansion with a family of beautiful vampire boys that want to use and abuse more than her body. There is no story.
Overall Quality – Very Low
Recommendation: Avoid it. Diabolik Lovers isn’t the right sort of trash for me to recommend as a hilariously bad time. Vampire Knight is better for that.
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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)
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.
When a reader requested Giant Robo for review, I made a joke about how on the nose the title was. Easy to guess what that anime is about! Well guess what? It ain’t about a giant robot! What…?
Yeah, the robot is barely in it and even when on screen, usually does nothing. Oh sure, the robot can cry, but need it to fight more than a few times in six hours of film? No robot for you!
Not only is the robot barely in Giant Robo, the robot isn’t even needed! (Don’t even mention the other robots teased in the introduction.)
An evil organisation called Big Fire (…) wants to destroy the source of Earth’s renewable energy, Shizuma Drives, and return humanity to the dark ages. The International Police Force fights back with special warriors from around the globe, capable of immense feats and super powers, alongside Daisaku, the 12-year-old kid in control of Giant Robo.
The warriors are the reason for Giant Robo’s superfluous nature. They are so powerful – super strength, teleportation, god weapons, immortality, and more – that I have to question why there are giant robots at all. Characters often describe Giant Robo as a trump card against Big Fire, but these warriors don’t need the help and certainly not from a kid. Daisaku is more useless than his robot. Each episode opens to an introduction of the story, pressing us with the importance of Giant Robo and its amazing young pilot, Daisuke! He has no combat abilities, though conveniently for his purpose in the plot has the watch that controls Robo.
Normally I would chalk Daisuke up to the need for a kid protagonist in a story for kids. However, my understanding is that Giant Robo is a loose adaptation of the source material that tries bringing pieces from every corner of the mangaka’s work, so I assume Daisuke feels more a protagonist in his manga.
The production team had two options to make this work. They either cut Daisuke (or make him a side character if they have to keep him) or give him something to do and lower the strength of the warriors. Currently, his job is to ask whiny questions while waiting for his cue on the next Robo appearance.
As for the warriors, the stars of the show, they aren’t memorable owing to their lack of distinction. They don’t have personalities as much as they have a thing. One’s thing is to be cool and brooding. Another’s is be a joker. You remember these people by power, not by character. Most of Giant Robo is action. When it isn’t action, it’s talking about the previous plot point and getting to the next plot point. Little time passes on character development. We don’t see character moments. Because this is for kids, characters spend too much time telling about their motivations, about the lessons they learned, and making sure that the kids get it.
Seen in the context of an old anime, there is enjoyment to find in Giant Robo. It looks great, even today, and the orchestral soundtrack is beautiful. The classic feel and maniacal villains that remind of Tin Tin’s foes are fun, but you cannot divorce Giant Robo from the modern day and the advancements in anime that come with it. This story hasn’t aged well. If you don’t have the nostalgia bug, these story problems will get in the way.
Art – High
The visuals are a mix of Metropolis and Lupin the Third and still hold up today. I like the style and the attention to detail with the parallax scrolling backgrounds.
Sound – Medium
Giant Robo has two dubs – one by Manga Entertainment and the other by Media Blasters. The latter is better, though Daisaku’s voice sounds too much like a girl, so the Japanese might be a better choice. The orchestral soundtrack is suitably world ending.
Story – Low
An international group of super powered warriors fight against an evil that wants to return humanity to the dark ages. A show called Giant Robo that isn’t about a giant robot, which has an extraneous protagonist, and an ending revelation that beggars belief doesn’t make for great story.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For old anime fans only. I can only see enjoyment for those going into Giant Robo as a nostalgia trip. For the love of anime, don’t believe the title!