Natsume’s Book of Friends Continued Review

It’s time to continue the adventures of Natsume and Nyanko. In season 2 we slowly continue to expand the cast and Natsume gets into more crazy adventures but at its core this is still a classic slice of life kind of adventure. So if you enjoyed season 1 then you will like this as well. I would say the average episode here is also stronger than its counterpart in season 1 so all in all there is quite a lot to enjoy here. The seasons definitely go by really fast.

For this season lets jump into the review on a quick episode by episode basis since we’re already familiar with the characters. The first episode has another Nyanko appear and so Natsume has to figure out what’s going on here and why he has run off with the Book of Friends. Is this an enemy to be scared of or just another Yokai pulling a prank? You never can tell right off the bat after all and the book of friends is quite dangerous in the wrong hands. It works well as a peaceful episode to start off the season. I would not say that the stakes or danger level are as high as in other episodes but usually you always start a season off with a rather calm adventure.

In the next episode we have a spirit get absorbed into a little snow bunny. This means that much like Frosty The Snowman his very existence is in danger when the weather starts to turn warmer. Natsume has to help him find another spirit but also keep this guy at arm’s length in case he’s actually trouble. It’s another fairly calm episode although as a nice touch I did like that Natsume’s mother figure made another quick snow bunny to keep his company. The guardians may not be his real parents but they are always very cheerful people and it’s nice to see them helping out. They do their best to make him feel at home even if Natsume isn’t 100% comfortable yet.

After that we get an episode where Nyanko doesn’t look very good since he allows an enemy Yokai to attack Natsume and nearly finish him off. It’s only thanks to the help of someone whom Natsume had rescued earlier that the hero managed to stay alive. Not a great look for the bodyguard who was supposed to still be on duty right? Nyanko definitely needs to learn how to keep his guard raised a little more if he really wants to protect Natsume when it counts. It was a good episode to show how even the little good deeds you do during the day can come back to help you in a big way. It was also almost nostalgic to see Natsume get knocked to the ground again even if that’s a little sad.

Someone on the blog once told me that it seemed like Natsume was knocked onto his back for over half the show and it does feel like that’s pretty much the case sometimes. He’s constantly knocked to the ground by all of these yokai to the point where it almost starts to get pretty funny. Seriously the guy just can’t catch a break. To an extent part of the issue is that Natsume does have a tendency to let his guard down which Nyanko calls him out on but sometimes there seriously isn’t anything he could have done. You have to keep in mind that most of these yokai are significantly stronger than the average human after all even if Natsume does have a mean right hook. Poor guy can’t even enjoy a day at the hot springs which is what the episode was about initially.

In another episode a mysterious egg appears and when it hatches a monster comes out of it. It’s a nice looking monster though and Natsume has decided to protect it from a mysterious yokai that seeks to have its master eat the thing. Natsume makes the right call here and decides not to sell out the egg. It’s one of the more tense episodes because Natsume isn’t the best liar but he has to keep this yokai at bay by acting as if he hasn’t seen the egg. He doesn’t really know what the monster will turn into either so he has to be careful but one thing’s for sure, giving it to the guy who wants to eat the monster would have been the wrong move so I’m glad that Natsume didn’t do that.

In the 5th episode we have a poor kid who is unable to move on because his name is tied to a tree. His only hope is a super cryptic message about the end of the world so it’s a good thing that Natsume is here to help. One thing I liked about this episode is how this is the realistic ending of how cryptic puzzles would play out. In most shows there are always a bunch of geniuses that solve these puzzles but what if you’re just some normal kid? Well much like this kid you’d probably have no idea what is going on and just be stuck. It shows how selfish it can be to rely on puzzles. Well that may not have been the actual moral of the episode but it’s certainly what I took away from it. It’s less of a danger episode and more of an emotional one but it works well.

Now we get introduced to a new character, Toru. She is a good addition to the main cast and immediately beats most of Natsume’s other friends. One of the reasons why she is good is because she is determined to solve problems on her own and isn’t waiting for help. She just goes on her own to fight a monster and try to come up with ways to win. It’s not easy either since she can’t actually see them normally and has to try and trick a monster into going into her magical circle. Not a very easy thing to do and even once that happens it’s not like she has super strength or anything like that. So as a result she is definitely on the back foot here.

Toru doesn’t give up though and for the rest of the season she is someone who can help out Natsume at times. Definitely the best supporting character as a result. It’s a little frustrating for Jun fans though because she is someone who would also like to help Natsume but for some reason he refuses to be honest with her. As a result she is one of the only people who doesn’t know about Natsume’s abilities and he keeps her at arm’s length. Not the place you really want to be and it also means that there is only so much that she can do to help. Even Kaname gets to help more and the guy barely appears in this season at all. He’s a good guy but he can’t see spirits either so that always puts him at a disadvantage.

After that two part adventure we had a story about a mermaid. Basically mermaids are real in the world of Natsume and their blood can give you immortality but as a result they tend to be jaded with humanity. At this point they just don’t get along and so one is so bitter that she may be about to murder her old friend. Natsume has to try and clear up 100+ years of misunderstandings and quickly before someone ends up dying here. Does he have the skills for that or is it all over for him? It’s a reasonable episode but the mermaid gets off a little easy considering that she really was going to try and murder the friend. Natsume may have changed her mind in the end but it doesn’t change the fact that she was completely willing to pull the trigger.

Next up is a story with a mysterious painting that starts to sprout in Natsume’s room. It can’t be taken off though and it appears to be making Natsume become fatally sick. If he doesn’t remove this soon then he is a goner but what can he possibly do? The odds are against him. There is another yokai that wants the painting but she isn’t able to take it off either. Nyanko could burn it away but Natsume forbids him from doing this since there is a mini monster inside the painting. All this leads up to the realization that this won’t be easy. It’s an interesting episode but a bit annoying with how this doesn’t feel like it should be such a big deal. Can’t they knock out the wall the painting is on and run off like that? At least once Natsume is super sick.

After that we have a yokai decide to get revenge on Reiko. See, way back in the day she destroyed him in combat so now the monster is here to get Natsume. The main character isn’t big on violence and doesn’t like fighting Yokai but this time his family is in trouble so it’s time for him to step up. It’s a pretty good episode to be sure and definitely one of the most intense. After all this time we have a yokai who wants to destroy Natsume. There are no doubts about this and so he is fighting for his life which isn’t always the case here. We also got to see a lot more of Reiko than usual so that was pretty cool.

As we near the end of the season, Natsume gets to meet up with a bunch of other people who can see yokai. For the first time he isn’t quite alone here and can meet likeminded people but it doesn’t go quite as he planned. They may have the same abilities that he does but they don’t really think the same way and so he leaves not feeling particularly fulfilled. This episode sows the seeds that he will soon need to choose between the humans and the yokai but how can he actually manage to pull this off? Also, should he really choose or is that something being pushed onto him? I liked this episode as it expanded the world building for the season and also set up the final two episodes pretty well.

The season ends with Natsume meeting a kid named Kai who was trapped in a chest. Natsume saves him and after some misunderstandings the kid realizes that Natsume is a good person. The one problem here is that Kai is a yokai so Natori has been called in to destroy him. Kai seems nice enough but his goal is to free a bunch of demons which does not sound quite so innocent. If Natsume does nothing then they could end up hurting a lot of people but if he helps Natori directly then Kai will die. It’s not an easy choice but time is against him so Natsume is about to be pushed in a direction one way or the other unless he can do something real quick.

These two episodes were the best ones in the season so it was a great move to end with them. First off we had a lot of action as Kai is easily the most powerful fighter that we have seen in the series. He can move at super speeds and can even fire off powerful energy blasts. That’s not something that just about anyone else here could do. In theory he could have easily beaten the whole cast including Nyanko if he was truly evil so it’s lucky that he wasn’t. Now that would have been a real problem. Fortunately Kai isn’t really a bad guy, just misguided. If not for Natori complicating things I do think that Natsume could have easily talked him down.

The ending also veers away from being tragic and instead it just works really well to wrap things up. I don’t recall Kai ever appearing again in the manga but hopefully I’m forgetting a story since I’d like to see him return. Natsume may have decided to support both the humans and yokai which will be difficult but it does feel like the right decision here. Natori looked real weak which definitely reminds you that in the war of humans vs yokai the humans are definitely on the losing side. If the Yokai ever decided to destroy the Earth humanity would be doomed so it’s fortunate that this isn’t happening. That would have definitely been intense.

As always Natsume is a good main character even if he’s a little bland. I still disagree with him giving some of the characters the run around about his powers though. Sure, some definitely aren’t ready for it and he doesn’t have to tell strangers but someone like Jun who basically knows? I don’t see the harm in telling her. Natsume also does get himself into a lot of dangerous situations which definitely makes things really hard on Nyanko. I think he could dial that back a little while still looking out for the spirits.

Nyanko on the other hand also lets his guard down a lot and often vanishes when Natsume needs him. So the issue is definitely not all on one person here. They get a lot of fun banter and Nyanko does often save Natsume when it counts but all it takes is one of these mistakes and that would be curtains. In theory there will be less yokai after Natsume the more that he gives the names back but in this season we still aren’t given any metrics for how many names are left so it definitely could be a long while.

The animation is pretty decent here. I still wouldn’t say that the show particularly stands out for the animation but at the same time there isn’t much to stand out with since this isn’t a particularly colorful show nor is it an action packed one. It’s a show with very muted colors that is trying to be fairly realistic outside of the whole yokai angle. The closest we get to some true action here is when Kai powers up before styling all over everybody. It never turns into bad animation which is the important part though. Meanwhile the soundtrack is also more on the forgettable side. There aren’t any really sharp themes and while the theme song is okay, it’s not one that will likely get onto your playlist any time soon.

I would say this show does a good job of fulfilling its objectives in what it set out to do. This is a slice of life show first and foremost which may have some danger on occasion but for the most part it’s about Natsume finally opening up and making some friends. That’s where his journey really starts and ends here. He’ll only continue to meet more people as he goes through his adventures and in a way that’s all that he has to do. By the end of the journey he will be able to look back at himself and see how much he has changed. Hopefully Reiko shows up soon. I like to think that she is a yokai that’s haunting someone at the moment. It just doesn’t feel like she is someone who would simply pass away without at least meeting Natsume first.

Overall, Season 2 is a good show and I would say it is better than Season 1. It has more high intensity episodes and it feels like the plot moves more. I would still need a little more out of this show to reach the next stage though. Either focusing more on the story than being episodic or throwing in some more humor here. This show is really easy to plug and play at any time which is a good thing but on the flip side none of the episodes are really the kind that would glue you to your seat. On any given day this would probably be getting defeated by another show airing at the same time. So you should watch this for a fun calming experience but it’s not really a big bingeable show which is what separates the good shows from the great ones.

Overall 6/10

Natsume’s Book of Friends Review

It’s time to delve into the anime version of Natsume’s Book of Friends. I’ve been reading the manga for a long while now and it’s definitely a slow burn type that could go on for a while. It’s more about the adventure and the different situations Natsume comes across than completing the story but I do think it’ll have a satisfying conclusion once it’s all over. Season 1 starts us off on a fun note with the character introductions. Right now the cast is fairly small so you get to have a lot of focus on Natsume. If you’re looking for a calming title to watch then this one should fit the bill. Each story tends to be rather emotional without being too sad so you are able to feel happy by the end.

The series centers around a kid named Natsume who has the ability to see Yokai. This is not an ability that he wants because it alienates him from the other kids. Of course he learned the hard way not to let the other kids or even adults know that he has this power but it can make for some embarrassing situations like when he has to run away from one. His only solace is to make it to a temple in time and the yokai can’t follow but the problem is that this can happen at any time. Still, he has tried to find a decent balance of this and leads a quiet if uneventful life. One day he comes across a demon in a cat statue known as Nyanko Sensei.

He agrees to help in exchange for eventually consuming Natsume’s soul or something. I forget Nyanko’s actual excuse but it’s one of those excuses where you know he’s not really serious. The yokai actually seems kind of lonely so now he has a friend in Natsume and Nyanko is very powerful so demons can’t mess with Natsume quite as much as they used to. Natsume then finds out that the reason why all of the Yokai are after him is because he has a legendary book of names. See, his grandmother stole a bunch of Yokai names into her book which basically bound them as eternal servants to her. Now this has been passed down to Natsume but he has no intention of ordering them around. He now has a goal, Natsume must return every name back over to the Yokai in order to grant them freedom and allow them to pass on. Some Yokai will happily agree while others may hold a grudge but he knows that this is the right thing to do. Can Natsume get those names back?

In a way you already know the end goal to this now but the series is clever in not letting you know how many names are in the book. So there could be 100 names in there or there could be 1000. We just don’t know. On average Natsume will release 1 name per episode but sometimes he’ll miss one and sometimes there will be multiple names. Either way the progress is steady but it’s like attacking a boss in a video game where the health bar is hidden. You just have to make sure to never lose heart and keep attacking but as a result the journey can be long. I would like the series to eventually say how many names are left but I know that is a narrative limiter in a sense since it puts an end date. No series should have to end until the writer wants it too so there’s no rush on this.

As I mentioned this is a very calm series. Each episode usually revolves around some kind of Yokai dispute or some kind of tragic event that happened to one and so the demon needs closure from Natsume before passing on. During the day Natsume still has to balance his school life and not let anybody know that he has these powers. I do think he could have at least let the heroine know since she was interested and clearly wouldn’t be giving him any grief about it. Well, maybe in the future I suppose. Don’t expect any big action scenes or much of an ongoing story here though because this isn’t that kind of title.

I also wouldn’t really call it a comedy. Sure the characters can have their moments but for the most part a slice of life drama sounds the most fitting and even then I would almost remove the drama part because it just has the wrong connotation to it even though I would say that is technically accurate. You’re here just for the adventures and to take in the atmosphere. As a result it’s going to have a lower ceiling than most shows and I would call it good as opposed to very good but it’s also a very safe show. You can’t imagine anything super questionable happening here and so it should never really dip. It’s a very consistent ride with no real bumps in between.

As a main character Natsume is okay. He’s a bit emotionless at the moment and in large part that’s due to what he had to put up with as a kid. Presumably he should be getting more and more expressive as the show goes on. He can throw a solid punch when necessary though and is a quick runner. He shows traces of a real personality at times but for now he’s more of an empty shell. A guy who does the right thing and acts pleasant but it always feels like a bit of an act. Of course as the viewer we know that he really is a nice guy but he just doesn’t know how to really interact with people yet.

Nyanko is the more entertaining part of the dynamic. My only issue with him is that he’s supposed to be a real bigshot among the Yokai and yet he never seems as impressive as he should be. I’d just like to see him dominating the others more but again this isn’t an action series so those moments would be a bit more limited. He likes to cause trouble and make an uproar but as much as Natsume acts annoyed about it, he’s probably glad to have a break from the endless peace and quiet he once had. Nyanko is always having fun and messing around which adds a whole lot of energy and excitement to the dynamic. He makes the show better just by existing.

Reiko doesn’t really appear in the present but she’s a big part of the story since the whole situation with the book started because of her. She clearly had a lot of talent and ability back in the day to trick so many Yokai. It’s hard to say just how nefarious she was. I don’t think she was oblivious at what stealing their names would mean for the Yokai but she also seems like a trickster who likes to mess around. So if she died suddenly which I think is most likely, then she had probably intended to return all the names before she passed. She just didn’t realize that in a way she was gambling with their futures but of course this is conjecture. We just don’t know much about her yet but I do think that she is fun. Hopefully she isn’t actually dead somehow and shows up one day.

Then you have Jun who is effectively the main heroine here. She suspects that something is off about Natsume and that he can see spirits but of course she can’t prove it. This is the only area where I was annoyed with Natsume because this was a perfect chance to share his secret. He already has Tanuma who basically knows. Of course that is because the guy has a bit of a 6th sense to him as well but I just don’t see the harm in telling Jun. She is quite persistent either way and will keep hounding him until she gets a satisfying answer. Not saying he needs to bow to peer pressure like that and tell her right off the bat but I just feel like he was being vague for no real reason.

Jun’s nice enough and hopefully she sticks around. Tanuma is also good. He’s a fairly quiet guy so he gets along with Natsume well enough. Natsume’s still more of a solo act though so the guy doesn’t appear a ton. Near the end we are introduced to Natori who feels like the only really major character beyond Natsume from the human side. This guy is a famous actor and yet he can also see yokai. He has an odd lizard spirit that runs around him all the time and the guy has a certain edge to him. Whenever he’s around you sort of feel like the overarching plot is starting to move a bit. This is a guy I absolutely wouldn’t trust if I was Natsume but at the same time I would try to use him in order to get some answers. This is the best time to pull that off after all and usually you see villains using heroes so why not try the other way around right?

The soundtrack is a bit on the weaker side. There weren’t really any standout tracks that I was tempted to look up afterwards. It’s not surprising as a calm show will have calm tunes but throwing in some kind of electronic theme would have been nice. The animation is also fairly basic but not bad. It shouldn’t be winning any awards in my book but you can always see what is happening and nothing’s off model. It works well enough to supplement the story and have you going smoothly through each episode. On a technical level the series does what it needs to in order to move on.

The 12 episodes go by really quickly. In a way it all feels like pre arc but that’s sort of the series in a nutshell. It’s basically an anthology series so how much you enjoy each season will likely depend on the cases within it. The stories in here are all fairly solid. There is even some danger on occasion like when Natsume leaves while Nyanko isn’t around and gets attacked. 9 times out of 10 it is never smart to leave without Nyanko but sometimes there isn’t a choice as Nyanko will just drift off on his own. Natsume’s punch always does a lot of damage to Yokai which hasn’t really been delved into yet. At least that is a way out for him, it’s an attack option that he can use as a last resort but he prefers not to use violence.

His family is nice enough. They aren’t his real parents but the two people who take care of him have really done their best. Natsume is still a bit traumatized to an extent so he tries not to worry them at all. He probably tries a little too hard so it’s almost like he’s hiding things from them but you understand the reason for this. The only time he really gets mad at Nyanko is when the cat breaks one of their object. You look forward to seeing him level with these two a bit more in the future. I feel like they would be more understanding than everyone else from his childhood just based on their temperament. Even if they didn’t believe him for example I don’t think they would treat him any differently.

Overall, Natsume’s Book of Friends is a good show. The episodes go by quickly and it’s something that you can plug in and play on the TV at any time. Due to the episodic nature of the show it’s not like you’ll have to try hard to recall what was happening last time. You can just jump into each adventure fresh and take it from there. A show like this could use a big plot or some fights to take it to the next level but it’s comfortable where it is at and executes the premise well. It’s a show that’s hard for me to picture being really disliked. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, at most you might find it boring but probably not bad. For season 2 I would just like to see a stronger opening and a more energetic soundtrack but if not I can still count on some fun stories.

Overall 6/10

Assassination Classroom Season 2 Review

It’s time for the end of the Classroom saga with season 2. We get more action in this one as there are more super powered beings now but the series still blends together the more slice of life adventures with those too. I’ve never been a fan of the way the series ends and so the anime doesn’t really change that but you should have a good enough time here. The animation is still sharp and you will be invested in finding out what happens in the end. Can the characters surpass their limits and stop Koro-sensei from blowing up the planet?

We start things off with some slice of life adventures and a quick fight with Itona as the season kicks off. Itona had been a bit of a recurring villain so he was finally brought into the fold as one of the main characters but of course this also means that he lost his powers in the process so he becomes fully human. It would have been nice if he could have kept his powers even if it would have made Koro’s job of staying alive a lot harder. Now he would really have to be watching his back a lot because all that Itona would need is a single strike to claim victory. Still you get to have fun with the cast before things get real with the Reaper.

The Reaper mini arc is one of the top highlights in the whole series. The reason for this is because he does embody the perfect assassin without super powers. Yes his abilities are so good that they may as well be super abilities but technically he doesn’t have any biological enhancements of alien parts. He’s just using true skill here and he manages to absolutely hold his own against the main characters. That’s really nothing to sneeze at and his fight with Karasuma was great. The arc really gave a glimpse of how the whole show could have been with the cast trying to stop the more powerful assassins.

That said, it also underscores once again how the kids aren’t really ready for the big time. Without Karasuma they would have had absolutely no chance here. He’s just in a completely different league Karma and Nagisa get their moments of taking down stronger opponents but this was something the series could never get past. At the end of the day the kids needed some kind of time skip so that they could have really helped contribute more. More often than not the teachers had to do the heavy lifting here.

We also get more fights with the top scoring rivals from the school led by Gakushu. The rest of his group was never as memorable but he made for a great rival to Karma. The two of them would duke it out a whole lot throughout the series and it was a fun rivalry. The school competitions were always fun and another side to the whole assassin life as they would use their skills academically. Those battles were always fun also because that meant there was less time for Koro-Sensei to appear and mess things up.

This also closed out the plot with the principal Gakuho once and for all. He was definitely a really fun antagonist in the series and will be missed. The fact that he could hold his own against everyone without any powers was crazy. His origin story was definitely a sad one and the guy was absolutely dedicated to making sure that nothing like that would happen again. He pushed himself to the physical and mental limit of what a human could be and it paid dividends. He could pretty much mind control anyone and had a whole lot of influence. That’s not something that you can see just anyone doing and his confidence never wavered. The guy would take any risk if it meant he would win. Still one of the best characters around.

There’s also the subplot with Nagisa’s mom that finally concludes here. She definitely went rather crazy throughout the series so it was nice that she could finally see a bit of reason. I mean it did take a crazy assassin and a burning school to get the message across but hey at least she did change after that and Nagisa could finally have a break. He would need it since we’re approaching the end of the series now and there wouldn’t be many breaks left.

This led into Koro-Sensei’s origin story which is really solid. Basically he wasn’t always a terrible character. Back in the day he was a top assassin who got results and was basically the best in the world. He even trained the Reaper and in a fair fight nobody could beat him. Ultimately he would have continued to be the strongest but he ended up getting attached to one of the researchers, Aguri which gave the villains some leverage and ultimately had him change his ways. He was no longer a ruthless monster who wanted to destroy everybody. Instead he would now be a caring teacher.

The backstory does a good job of establishing why he wanted to be a teacher in the first place and also tying everything together for the climax. It also gives us a massive twist to one of the characters in the series that was always pretty shocking when it happened. Best twist in the series easily and I gained a lot of respect for the character with what she had to put up with the whole time. Just enduring the pain alone without ever letting it show was already a lot to deal with and that’s not even counting the emotional pain. The only thing it doesn’t really do is explain what happened to Koro-Sensei’s personality to the extreme degree that it is in the present.

Did repressing his emotions for so many years cause him to want to just be as extreme as possible to make up for lost time? I don’t believe that it was all an act because there would be no reason for that and it would just feel like a cop out. Regardless while I consider him to be one of the weakest characters in the series in the present, I did like him a lot in the flashback. Sometimes a characters just really falls down I suppose.

After that emotional arc and we wrap up the fights in the present, we approach the end with the big Civil War. The kids have to decide on whether or not they should murder Koro-Sensei. Of course you know that I’m going to be on the side saying not to murder him. Cmon now, that’s just the worst decision you can make. If it comes down to sacrificing one person to save the world then in almost all cases I’m going to just say that it’s time to let the world be destroyed. You don’t trade lives as they say. Additionally there was still a chance that he wouldn’t blow up so you have to take that into consideration as well. I was rooting hard for the no kill team to win this one because of that. It’s just the only way to have a satisfying ending.

I won’t say which team wins but ultimately I wasn’t thrilled with the ending so you can expect that not everything went the way I wanted it too. I feel like it can be hard to ultimately deliver on an ending because after any big adventure there are so many ways a story can conclude. Although while many Jump final arcs tend to get some heat I usually disagree since ending with a big war arc is always the way to go. The war arc here isn’t literally the ending but it’s close enough where it may as well be and that worked out well. In this case it’s just the actual ending that’s the big problem and so for the last episode you’re not quite as invested. You know this could have easily been saved with just a small stinger at the end showing a certain cliffhanger moment. That’s absolutely all I would have needed and I would have been good. A shame that didn’t happen.

As you’d expect the animation is still really sharp here. I’d say one thing that the series does exceptionally well are the really sharp colors for the character designs and action moments. They really do a good job of depicting the pure intensity of the villains and heroes when they are using their assassin techniques. The ost is also good. It has a good amount of variety and I liked several themes there. It may not be the biggest soundtrack out there but it definitely gets the job done.

In general the character cast is good too. Nagisa and Karma are a solid duo as the leads with their banter and rivalry going on. They really help each other to succeed which is important and of course Karma has that classic rival energy of always being ready to pick a fight. Part of what makes this work so well in the school setting is also how he just won’t tolerate bullies…at all. The other characters may play nice but he just jumps in there and gets the job done which I can always appreciate.

The rest of the kids are solid as well. Itona was more interesting as a villain but he’s still reasonably good. Kaede went way up in this season as she got a much bigger role and the rest of the kids are all around to help out as needed. Irina still tends to not do great when it counts but Karasuma always steps up against the big villains. He also helped the kids out even though it would put his job in jeopardy near the end.

Then for the villains we had quite a few really solid ones like the Reaper. That guy’s techniques were crazy good and it makes sense that almost nobody could touch him. He’s really perfected his craft. Shiro wasn’t nearly as solid as a villain even if you do have to give him some props for his dedication. The guy never gave up that’s for sure. He just kept on trying to go after Koro for ages at this point and considering the power difference there, it wasn’t a small feat. I already talked about how great Gakuho was of course.

The series is at its best during the action moments. We get a lot of quality battles and quick choreography. The show tends to be at its weakest during the comedy episodes as the cast just isn’t generally solid enough to hold these up for long. That’s why the show tends to quickly devolve into fanservice and shenanigans like that to pass the time while the serious episodes avoid that. The fanservice isn’t crazy but still fairly frequent at times and it doesn’t help that Koro’s one of the main characters and he usually encourages this quite a bit. Ironically if you cut him out of the whole series then the show instantly is elevated but the whole series revolves around him so at that point you’re really talking about a completely different series.

At the end of the day I stand by my reasoning that the show would have been more solid if the main characters were more grown up rather than being kids the whole time. It just stacked the deck too far against them, particularly with how fast Koro-Sensei was. If anything even most of the villains should have gotten neg diff’d the whole time. Sure Shiro’s cloak had that special substance on it but there are still loads of ways for Koro to have beaten him. The power levels were just set too far apart which meant that things wouldn’t always end in a very satisfying way although I’ll give the show props for mainly not having Koro ever lose in a crazy way that would make no sense with his speed. I do think that they did put a lot of thought into each of his moves.

Overall, Assassination Classroom season 2 mainly picks up right where season 1 left off. If you enjoyed the first season then you will enjoy this one and vice versa. I would still give it the advantage over the first season as we get a lot of the biggest moments here like with the Reaper and the origin story though. It suffers from the same issues as the first but focuses more on the strengths which is good. I don’t think this will ever be remembered as one of the top Shonen Jump titles but it was pretty big while it was going and it is still memorable enough to be remembered even as the years go by. If you haven’t checked it out yet and are looking for a fairly low key slice of life with some action arcs then this should be right up your alley.

Overall 6/10

Clannad: After Story Review

Clannad: After Story is one of those shows that will start to stress you out near the end. It starts to go towards an ending that you know would absolutely wreck it and you’re just hoping that it doesn’t go that way but a small part of you knows that it could be possible. Well, it doesn’t happen and so you can breathe a sigh of relief. The show does stick the landing and ultimately it’s a good show. I do think it lags behind the original which managed to balance the drama and comedy a lot better. As the After Story this one is a lot more serious throughout with less time for light hearted humor. As expected from this franchise though the emotional scenes definitely do land and this will be a show where you get emotionally invested.

The show starts off with some final school adventures. Enjoy this part of the show while you can because once they leave the school then that’s it. The first episode is sort of the introduction episode for new fans that you often see for season 2s. It’s a chance to get the whole cast hanging out and having fun. It’s a Baseball episode so you’ve also got the sport bonus. It’s a fun way to start up the season and is probably the happiest episode in the saga. Nothing goes wrong, it’s just everyone having a good time bonding over the game. Definitely one of the best executions of the “intro” episode that I’ve seen.

The first real arc involves Tomoya’s friend Youhei as he finally gets his time to shine. Or falter as is the case this time. His sister Mei is really concerned about him because Youhei is still a big troublemaker and doesn’t seem to have matured at all. A lot of time has passed over the years so she was hoping to see some improvement. Youhei figures that he will need a fake girlfriend to trick Mei into thinking that he can look out for himself. None of his female classmates want to help out with this though so the only candidate left is Nagisa’s mom Sanae who doesn’t mind helping out.

The only tricky part is that Youhei doesn’t actually realize that she is the Mom and actually thinks he has a chance. Meanwhile Mei sees through this fairly quick and is discouraged again so she pretends to be going out with Tomoya to test Youhei’s bond but unfortunately he fails at this one because since he’s Tomoya’s best friend he figures that he will look the other way. Everything pretty much blows up at this point and it doesn’t help that Mei wants Tomoya to help her get Youhei back on the soccer team since everything seemed to go wrong as soon as he was kicked off of that club.

Part of the problem though is that the club is as corrupt as they come. The actual members of the club just aren’t good people so there isn’t much benefit in trying to warm up to them. It would have been better if they didn’t even try to help but of course once Mei says she will go Tomoya has to accompany her because these guys can’t be trusted. We do get a big fight there though and then another fight later on between Tomoya and Youhei.

This arc definitely had a lot of serious moments and a lot of dramatic ones as well. The reason I thought that Youhei didn’t look good though is because all of the plans were just bad. For starters, getting a fake girlfriend to convince Mei that he is mature now is just going to have the opposite effect when she inevitably finds out the truth. Even if he could keep the secret, well now he’s living out a lie. His best bet would be to get an actual girlfriend but of course that wasn’t quite in the cards for him either.

He’s always been the most unintelligent member of the cast and so Tomoya ends up tricking him a whole lot but if there was ever a time to rise above that then this would have been it. Instead Youhei makes the wrong call in not speaking up when he knows Mei is way too young for Tomoya. Honestly if the explanation was that he thought it was another prank that would have been way better than his nonreaction here. I would at least have been able to buy that a bit but otherwise he had to make a stand here and shut this down.

Youhei never really came back from that since he doesn’t get much of a role after this. Ultimately he was a good friend to Tomoya and kept him in check over the years but as the resident punching bag of the series it would have been nice if he could have at least looked really good during his big serious arc. That was his chance and he blew it.

Meanwhile I’d also say Mei didn’t look very good here. She could be a bit too forceful in trying to make sure that Youhei matured. At the end of the day it’s something that he has to do on his own and it’s not like you can really force it to happen. Her decision to get him back on the soccer team just ended up causing a whole lot of issues instead of really helping anything out.

It is unfortunate that Tomoyo and the others don’t get much of a role this time but it does work as the after story. It’s a bold approach for sure but when you think of this as the story taking place after the main story has concluded then it makes sense that most of the old characters would be completely written out. Their time in the sun has ended after all.

That said, we do get an alternate reality saga real quick with Kyou and Ryou. So of course Ryou has always liked Tomoya but was way too timid to actually say anything. Well, this time she does say something and he agrees to go out with her basically because he would agree to go out with any girl who worked up the courage to ask him out. That’s how it seems to be at least given how many alternate paths there are. Thing is…he quickly realizes that he actually likes her twin sister Kyou more which makes things complicated.

Kyou’s always liked Tomoya as well but tries to bury these feelings. Having her twin sister going out with him just makes it even harder to hide. Ultimately she wins out and Ryou gets wrecked again but I feel like having both of these involved in the same alternate path made things a little extra tragic. It would have been better if either Ryou got her own alternate universe episode or didn’t do much here. It just makes Tomoya look bad for jumping around so quickly.

Additionally Kyou owed it to her sister not to make a move in that case. Teasing Tomoya on the bench and messing with him was really just a way to get him to fall for her even if she wouldn’t admit it. It’s only natural that she would defeat Ryou once she got serious because she’s more outgoing and attractive while also being able to hold a normal conversation with Tomoya way more than Ryou ever could. But it’s like the bro code, you have to have the sister code as well where you won’t just steal the man like that.

The instant it happened everything was all over because if Tomoya stayed with Ryou then she’d know it was out of pity so the relationship was destroyed right off the bat. This at least allowed them to get more of a role in the season though. Kyou appears a bit anyway as a teacher in the future but Ryou mainly vanishes. Fuuko also appears a bit in the future but her role is really small and I wouldn’t say that it’s too pivotal. It was mostly just a reason to have her around but I miss her supernatural abilities as a ghost. Surprisingly the ghost never got to appear again but I guess that’s because she was back in the world of the living.

We get a mini arc for Misae who is sort of the dorm mother for a bunch of the kids. She was around a bit in season 1 as well so I suppose this was her chance to finally get some real development. It’s a pretty emotional arc that even has some supernatural elements to it. Basically she likes one guy who already has a boyfriend and then a magic guy named Katsuki likes her but it’s hard for him to confess now since Misae was already crushed.

As you can see this is one of those very dramatic arcs. I do think getting together with Katsuki wouldn’t have really worked because the rebound would have been way too quick there. You need time to get over the first love since things didn’t really work out there. It’s interesting to know more about her past but at the end of the day it’s not like she ever ends up being a main character. Think of it as extra world building. Katsuki did the right thing in not confessing initially though. I would defend that as there are times where you shouldn’t “Shoot your shot” and confessing right after someone had a big break up or was rejected is certainly one of those times.

Yukine gets a mini arc as well and if you don’t remember her that’s fine. Her role was eve smaller in season 1 but basically she is always in a small room in the school with some coffee. It turns out that she works as the resident nurse for a bunch of gangs in the area and patches them up whenever they get hurt. As a result everyone likes her because she doesn’t interfere in the fights. Still, her brother was the only one strong enough to stop the fighting entirely and things are getting dicey without him. This leads our hero Tomoya to have to jump in and try fighting.

There are some fun moments here especially the big moment where the brother seemingly appears. This one is less of an emotional arc I’d say and more of a quick action one. The fight is actually played totally straight and has a good amount of tension. It’s clear that Tomoya won’t be able t win with his busted arm but it’s always impressive just how long he lasts considering what he has to deal with. He does well in every sport and challenge even when he can only use one arm.
Now we enter the big part of the series which is the climax to Tomoya and Nagisa’s plot. Well, she is sick once again which is rough because that means that she will have to miss school once again which could prevent her from graduating. Her condition has always been a bit of a mystery as the doctors could not figure out exactly what was wrong with her. This naturally makes things rather tough on Tomoya who can’t possibly enjoy graduation without her. Also if she has to start a whole new year again then that means she will be all by herself this time. He also has to move on and get a job which is where Yoshino comes in handy.

I always thought Yoshino was a good guy and he really comes in handy when it counts here. The guy does his best to show Tomoya the ropes and has his back at every turn. It’s not every day that you find a good friend like that. Yoshino’s speeches also may be a bit on the cheesy side but he does mean every word of them. I was glad that Tomoya never laughed at them because he does owe this guy a lot.

Akio and Sanae are fun supporting characters here as always. Sanae definitely likes to have fun and act as one of the kids along with the main characters. She’s good at alternating between being a motherly figure and a friend and helps quite a lot of the characters in the show. She really came in clutch with helping Tomoya when he was down in the dumps during the show. He really had a rough stretch and during that period she kept going after him until she was able to get him into the clear. It’s not something most characters could have done.

Akio also helps out a lot too of course both verbally and economically. He wants Tomoya to know that he’s here for him and the message is definitely received. I’d say a good part of why Nagisa is able to remain so hopeful throughout everything going on is because she had such supportive parents. It just wouldn’t have been possible without them.

The show definitely goes farther in the timeline than you’d expect but it’s why around half of the show takes place after school. We get to see Tomoya out in the real world working a job and how each character has went on to pursue their dreams. It does mean that the show takes on a much more serious tone for those moments though. There isn’t a whole lot of comedy after the school part is over and things can even get rather dark. It’s why everything was riding on the ending which ultimately is what keeps the show afloat.

You are super invested in everything going on and it’s all emotional but of course that is also why a bad ending would really doom the whole thing. The animation is solid here as expected. I would say it maybe doesn’t feel quite as high budget as the first season which had some really stylish moments for the occasional fight scenes and Chun Li combos. This one has moments like that as well but they tend to be rare and not quite as flashy. Still, it all looks good enough to me. Then for the soundtrack you’ve got all of the classic tunes. The emotional songs definitely fit in with the scenes really well and help to really amp up the atmosphere. I’d definitely give the full soundtrack a thumbs up for sure.

Now I’m going to dive into the more spoilery aspects of the show so skip the next 5 paragraphs if you haven’t seen the show yet. After all with a big emotional show like this you don’t want to know any of the big events before they happen. It would soften the impact of every scene in a big way since you can only experience them once.

All right so here we go. Nagisa is unable to overcome her illness and ends up dying. It was definitely a real tragic moment because you really thought that she would get better this time. She does end up delivering her baby Ushio first though and asks Tomoya to watch out for him. Unfortunately Tomoya gets super depressed to the point where he can’t even interact with the baby and so for several years Nagisa’s parents take care of him instead. I have to say that this made Tomoya look really awful though. You can’t just shut down like that and he basically became his father even though he swore that he never would.

Well, eventually Sanae tricks Tomoya into spending time with his daughter Ushio and the two of them grow close. Tomoya finally reconnects with all of his old friends and becomes a good father…only for Ushio to get the same illness and die. So now Tomoya has lost everything. See, this is where the show would have immediately gone down the tubes for me if it ended like that. There would just be no coming back from this because it would all be way too mean spirited and empty. It would be like the whole adventure was a waste and it was a cruel twist of fate. Tomoya had a theory that Nagisa and Ushio’s lives were dependent on the town so it being changed was what destroyed them.
Well, that wasn’t quite it. It turns out that instead there is an Earth Prime of sorts with the robot and the girl. By sacrificing her life the girl is able to give everyone a fresh start and resets things to the happy timeline where everyone lives and is happily ever after. Every part from Nagisa dying onwards just didn’t happen. It’s a little rough for the robot since he wanted to have fun with her but in a way he is reincarnated to the human world too. It’s all a bit trippy there for sure bit I was a big fan of this one without a doubt. We needed a happy ending and it finally justified that whole plot so I was glad about it.

Otherwise that arc was quickly becoming a train wreck. Tomoya would have lost all my respect in ditching his daughter like that. It would have been such a horrible look for him. Meanwhile his father committed a crime and went to jail which I thought was unexpected but maybe it would at least remind Tomoya not to make the same mistakes. So seeing him go to the dark side anyway was just really off. Even though the timeline reset it still happened so I can’t forget that but at least he got a shot at a second chance.

Meanwhile Ushio was a good character. She had to live without her father for a very long time but she kept a positive attitude about the whole thing and didn’t hold it against Tomoya. She just rode the waves of life and kept it moving. We don’t get to see her too long since the series was nearly ending by the time she showed up but she made an impact in that time.

I didn’t really talk about Nagisa much but I’d say that she’s a good heroine. It’s certainly not her fault that she gets sick a lot and she tries to stay strong throughout all of the sad things happening to her. Having to repeat a year again for the third time just because she was sick probably felt really unfair. Then she does her best to work and support Tomoya during his tough job as well. She never complains and always tries to do the right thing so there’s nothing to really dislike here.

Meanwhile Tomoya definitely made more mistakes this time around. Even in season 1 he wasn’t perfect as I thought some of his pranks could be a bit on the mean side but at least that was more of a humor plot. Here he tends to make more serious mistakes as the show goes on, ones that are a whole lot harder to just wave away. To in the end I have to say that I didn’t like Tomoya, he erased most of the goodwill around his character.

At least I can say something for this show that I rarely say and it’s that the romance here was actually rather solid. At least for the main pairing since Tomoya and Nagisa got a lot of time to interact and build this romance up. It’s certainly way better than the usual rushed type of romances where you feel like it just happened out of nowhere. In context this one took months to develop and at this point they’ve known each other for well over a year. When a show that is part romance manages to execute the romance well you know that it’s going to be in good shape.

In a way the show benefits from not trying to squeeze in a bunch of side romances. That would ultimately just distract from the main one where you want as much development as possible. Since this is the after story we also don’t have to worry about any of the other heroines trying to make a move because at this point they have all accepted that Nagisa and Tomoya are together. So there’s no funny business. It’s just everyone being good supportive friends as the adventures go on. The show is also long enough where you feel like you’ve known the characters a long while and got to see them on their journey. Not all of the characters get a big conclusion but since it’s from Tomoya’s view it makes sense that he wouldn’t see them all complete their dreams. We do get quick glimpses to see where they are at though.
Overall, Clannad: After Story really lives up to its name as being the post game in a way. The characters get to go through their epilogues while you watch. It’s something you almost never see since usually the end of the story is just that…the end. It’s very rare that you get the cast back for a whole other season like this. Maybe a big movie or something but not a full show. In the end the first show still wins just because it is a lot more fun and the school setting just works better but if you saw the original show then you owe it to yourself to watch this one. Even if just to see how the whole robot plot ends since in season 1 it still felt rather pointless by the end. At least now in this season you really see why it was included.

Overall 6/10

Tiger & Bunny 2 Review

It’s time for the return of Tiger & Bunny. This sequel gets us some new heroes to change the dynamic a bit and we get fights which are always good but ultimately don’t make a ton of progress in the grand scheme of things. At this point it may be fair to say that the series doesn’t intend on actually taking the villain organization down for the count and instead they are planned to be here for the long haul as a constant obstacle for the heroes. Season 2 still doesn’t match the full potential that it could have had as a very slow start holds up its progress but the climax was very solid. Ultimately I would still lean on season 1 being the better season even though this one had the better visuals.

The series starts off with mainly exploring each of the new team dynamics. See, the government in charge of the heroes, in all of their wisdom has decided that heroes shouldn’t be solo anymore. They should all be a part of the buddy system and so everyone is divided up into pairs. Of course Tiger & Bunny are already a team so there is no change for them. In a way it’s a bit embarrassing that they aren’t leading the ranks which causes some disputes but at this point it’s nothing too serious. Tiger & Bunny get along way better than they did in season 1 and I like that their development really stuck. Now when they fight it’s all in good fun and nobody takes anything too personally.

So the first half of the reason really has each team get an episode as they try to work with each other. Unfortunately most of those episodes are on the weaker side and do little to make the characters more likable. One of my main issues with the series has always been that the cast isn’t quite as likable as you would expect. A lot of them are okay and so you can get through the show easily enough but you don’t have many standout characters. Some are better than they used to be like Fire Emblem while others have sharply fallen like Origami Cyclone so it doesn’t feel like a whole lot has changed. There are two new characters, He Is Thomas (I’m just going to be calling him Thomas for the rest of the review) and Mr. Black. Both are characters that are very interesting and had a lot of potential but I didn’t feel like they ever lived up to that.

I’ll break down each of the team up episodes a bit while going over the characters. The first one is about Tiger & Bunny so there’s not too much that needs to be said there. Their characters have already been explored a lot. As always I tend to prefer Bunny as he’s more impulsive and ready to just jump into action. Tiger has the stronger moral compass as he’s been a hero for much longer and wants to do the right thing no matter what. They make for a good team even if Bunny has to hold Tiger up a bit more now that Tiger’s powers are running out sooner. With all that said…it’s still crazy that normal bank robbers can actually give the entire hero cast a run for their money though.

At this point it’s a bit of a running gag but it still just feels a little crazy. These heroes may not all have the strongest of abilities but it should be a simple matter to take these crooks down. It always feels like the show is stalling for time to introduce the heroes but there have to be better ways of doing this than by nerfing them. It’s just not going to be worth it to hurt the hero reputations like this. I suppose it does make things even more believable when Fugan and Mugan are taking heroes down left and right though. Usually each episode ends with them beating up a bunch of other heroes in the background as they get closer to the main series. I do think that this is a compelling plot point as you are waiting for them to appear the whole time. The flash forward at the beginning was also a really good way to set things up even if it takes forever to get back there.

We start to learn more about Mr. Black in the next episode. Basically he’s a guy from a small town who really wants to be a really big hero and is determined to do this as fast as possible. The whole being in a team thing is a huge issue for him because now he has to share the spotlight and he has to team up with Thomas, the most anti social member of the group. Black’s power is also more on the defensive side as he can create barriers but that’s about it. Later on he starts to learn how to weaponize them which is good since you should always be able to convert barriers.

Black gets a lot of screen time but you always feel like his development doesn’t get to the end you were expecting. He does become more of a team player gradually but it takes a whole long while to get there and you don’t feel like he will end up being one of the top heroes anytime soon. He almost starts to come to terms with being more of a support type fighter. He’s not always quick on the uptake and he can try too hard. I just thought Black’s potential was greater than the actual execution but at the same time he is still one of my favorite heroes by default so there’s that.

As for Thomas, he ended up being a little more interesting and rising to the top. Basically he prefers to be a lone hero because he feels like he really can’t trust anyone. We get an origin story which gives us some added context into why that is. He definitely has good reasons for not wanting to team up with anyone and then in the present he is given even more reasons to support this. His telekinetic powers are also very handy even if they have a very hard limit compared to most. He basically can’t lift more than what he can lift normally which does limit just how much he can use these powers. Still, he knows how to fight in hand to hand and has a lot of determination. The show is going for a nice parallel with how Bunny used to be and that works really well.

After that we get to see how Blue Rose and Golden Ryan work as a team. Unfortunately their teamwork isn’t great as you would expect. They tend to disagree about the catchphrases and then Ryan is super jealous of Blue Rose meeting up with Tiger. Now she certainly could have told him why she was meeting with him one on one to avoid the misunderstandings but personally I don’t think that she needed to. Ultimately it’s her private business and you don’t have to tell your work partner everything. Ryan jumps to all the worst conclusions the whole time. At least Bunny took Tiger’s side the whole time and wasn’t doubting him. Sure he may have weakened a bit over time but at the end of the day I do believe Bunny was going to trust Tiger no matter what and it shows how they have been teammates much longer.

Ryan does get a big role in this season as his backstory actually gets expanded on here. The whole climax ends up being a lot more personal for him than you may have expected initially. He easily has one of the most powerful abilities in the series so I would like to see him take more of a center stage role. He is just rarely put in a position where he can succeed though which is unfortunate. He does bounce back from the initial episode though and ultimately looks good. He’s still one of the better heroes.

Blue Rose is also good here as she is slowly but surely starting to get over Tiger. A part of her may not move on for a while but I think she is starting to see that he’s just never going to notice her at this point. She gets a solid role in helping out throughout the series and her ice comes in handy. Her tag team battle with Ryan was definitely good as they both got to use their special talents to slow the villain down. Ultimately you always know that they’re doomed but the attempt is what counts.

Then you have Rock Bison and Origami Cyclone in one of the worst episodes to set up the team. Basically Cyclone is super sensitive about everything so if you get his name wrong then he’s going to sulk a lot. A big issue with Cyclone is that he refuses to actually directly confront Bison about this and instead moves behind his back and acts passive aggressively. Look if you’re upset about the mix-up on the name then just say so. It’s not like Rock Bison is a bully or something. He would absolutely apologize right away and not make the same mistake again. In fact Bison does try to apologize right away and Cyclone just won’t accept it. It makes him look really bad to the point where I ended up putting 100% of the blame on Cyclone. You have to be able to take a joke and keep it moving instead of just being down and out the whole time. That’s not the right way to handle any kind of situation.

As for Bison, I would say he looks a lot better here than in season 1. He mostly just felt like a joke in the first season as he was the power hitter but got absolutely clobbered in every possible fight that he was in. At least here he gets some respect and is trying to even change his image a bit. I think it’ll be some time before I can really say that he’s risen up enough to where I could call him likable, but he’s trying to be better and that’s what counts.

Then we have Sky High and Fire Emblem’s combo episode but this one makes Fire Emblem look bad for the most part. Here’s the issue…he thinks that Sky High is too perfect. He wants the guy to have some flaws so they can talk as equals and know that they have each other’s trust. My common argument to that would be that maybe he doesn’t have any real flaws. Nobody’s perfect of course but it’s not a given that you have to have a big enough flaw that it would ever show up in daily life right? Sky High basically has a perfect life going on for him and he’s very methodical about it. There’s just nothing wrong with it and of course he overhears Fire Emblem gossiping about this to the main heroes and that starts another misunderstanding.

There just didn’t need to be any issues between the two of them. They are the number 1 ranked hero team in the city and I think it would have made a whole lot of sense to have just kept it that way by explaining in the episode that they both get along really well because they just have a good system. That’s all you really need. In this season Fire Emblem is no longer attacking Rock Bison in every scene so he’s automatically better even if the episode wasn’t a great look for him. Sky High is a solid hero as always although I wish he would contribute more in the fights considering that he’s known as the #1 hero. I know it’s popularity based and not by strength but still.

Finally we’re up to the last team which is Dragon Kid and the new heroine Magical Cat. Dragon Kid is eager to leave a good impression as her first time being a mentor and so she tends to be a little overbearing in how she looks after Magical Cat. Cat doesn’t really mind but the issue is that her mother does. Cat’s mother believes that Dragon Kid is doing this on purpose to steal the spotlight and so she encourages Magical Cat to defy orders and do whatever is needed in order to rise up. This is a plot that will actually last for the rest of the series. Mainly my issue with Cat is that she lets herself be ordered around and manipulated like this.

If she would just stick up for Dragon Kid more or make a stand then things wouldn’t escalate so much. It is tough defying your parent like this but Cat knows deep down that Dragon Kid isn’t doing anything super wrong and should have just talked it out with her. For sure there are times when Dragon Kid won’t listen at all which is annoying but for the most part there is usually a chance for some dialogue. Kid ultimately gets better by the end as well so it was mainly a momentary setback and then she starts to be a quality character again. Of course it would help if Cat’s power was more offensive though. It’s totally reasonable not to want her in the front lines when her water powers are so weak and emotionally fueled. If Cat is having a bad day then her powers get even weaker.

Lunatic is still around but unfortunately the show really dropped the ball with him. He used to be such a grand figure in the series but he starts off as being semi retired here and only briefly goes back into the spotlight. The show sort of glossed over the actual retiring part which was unfortunate. I would have liked more of an extended scene on why he chose to retire as opposed to picking up the context pieces ourselves. Then when he gets back out there it’s just way too brief. Lunatic as a character is just fascinating and when the heroes are constantly on the ropes you know that he’s someone else for the villains to fear.

In fact you could say that the heroes can almost start to understand him more when the city turns against the NEXT and they have to choose to continue as vigilantes like Lunatic or retire. It changes the perspective a little bit even if there’s still no way to get around the murders. Lunatic has to be brought in but I wanted more of a fight around ideals instead of the rushed subplot we got here.

After that we start to get into the main plot with Fugan and Mugan showing up to cause chaos. They work for Ouroboros and are commanded by Nicolai. They’re pretty powerful as one of them can absorb attacks and the other one can teleport. It takes a painfully long amount of time for the heroes to figure out how their powers work when at least the teleportation one should have been obvious for a while there. What works about these villains is even after you figure out how the powers work, it can be hard to stop them. Basically you have a tag team that can stop any attack easily with the absorption and then counter quicker than the eye can see due to the teleport. Taking them on individually is your best bet and I recommend taking down the teleporter first.

Unfortunately teamwork isn’t often the heroes’ best trait and Bunny was taken down earlier by a bomber so he wasn’t able to contribute much here until the end. (That bomber episode was a really good oneshot episode though. We got to see Tiger really get upset and go solo as a rogue for a little bit there. I think that could have even worked as a multi part episode) So Mugan and Fugan really start to dominate the heroes rather easily but it makes for a lot of good fights. You may feel like the heroes should do better but then you remember how much trouble they had against normal bank robbers and it all starts to make sense.

The animation for the show has never been my favorite and I would still consider it below average compared to most but they do their best for the fight scenes. The show certainly looks its best during these moments as the sharp colors stand out and you really get to see the super speed of Bunny and Tiger in motion. Sometimes it can be a bit exaggerated because if they actually moved that fast then things would play out very differently in many circumstances. So try to ignore the power level issues as best you can because this show has a lot of them.

Despite the powers I wouldn’t say that I liked either villain much though. Mugan and Fugan were just a little too needy the whole time. One of them was also super unintelligent for some reason and they’re always goofing off until it’s way too late. I can’t say that their boss Nicolai was much better either. He gives the orders and got attached by the end but that’s really about it for him.

The other boss in Sigourney was more interesting but made a whole lot of slip ups. She didn’t handle things as well as she could have. Towards the end she starts getting “Just as planned” moments but they all fall hollow when you remember she’s on plan D by this point. Her ability isn’t the most handy to have because while she can possess people, it leaves her real body completely defenseless. It’s good when hiding in the shadows but won’t help a whole lot in a straight fight.

For some more supporting characters we do have Kaede who gets to show up a bit. Her role isn’t particularly big though but she is starting to get used to her powers a bit more. The tough part about being a copy expert is that you need to have someone on hand with powers to borrow but with the new buddy system that should help a whole lot. I look forward to her appearing as a full hero one of these days. She does need to learn to be a bit more honest with Tiger though. She lies to him on several occasions here. You know that he wouldn’t be on her side with some of her decisions which is why she lies but that’s not a good excuse. She has to face Tiger, not try to deceive him.

There’s also Mattia but that guy tends to be annoying. He doesn’t realize what is going on all around him at all and tends to be oblivious every step of the way. I was actually waiting for him to turn evil the whole series because of how shady he was. I also felt like he never added a whole lot to the series so I question a bit on why he was even added. I know the lab stuff tie in later on but you could have the heroes find out about it as opposed to having this guy as the go between. Agnes also shows up for hero TV but she definitely ended up putting on a lot of weight since the last season. At first I thought it was an animation thing where the character model was off at first but then things stayed that way so it’s an intentional change. I guess that the TV business is just way too stressful after a while but it will take a while to get used to her new design for sure.

Then for the final arc we have two main villains here. The first one is Gregory who has the ability to cause your powers to run wild through physical contact. Specifically he will usually lick the opponent which is certainly a gross way to pull this off. This guy can’t fight so he’s always hiding behind the ability because if he gets out there for even an instant then he would be crushed. It’s why it’s always annoying when he isn’t just taken down right away. He lasts a long while but in part because the government looks awful here the whole time. This guy whines quite a bit as well and so he’s a very weak villain in this series. I never ended up liking him.

Fortunately we had one more villain in Aldun who was way better. Basically this guy was a big villain back in the day but after he was caught, he rotted away in jail for so long that he actually thought he was a hero. So when he’s freed Gregory just pretends that the actual heroes are the villains and quickly convinces Aldun to take them down. Aldun is unfortunately very gullible and it takes him a long while to realize that he’s on the wrong side. By then he’s wide open for a cheap shot. I do like how overwhelmingly powerful he was though. The guy is sort of like an All Might type figure who requires a whole lot of fighters to even come close to him in power. The average fighter would be completely decimated against him.

Now I should note that it was an interesting angle to think that the NEXT were just being infected by a plague instead of a villain’s super ability. I thought that it was a reach for them to think this but fine. Where things got iffier is afterwards when the heroes find out there is a villain with the exact kind of power that seems to be affecting the heroes. Suddenly nobody wants to hear it and the heroes don’t have any real support. This should have been a huge deal and with how often the heroes have saved the day it would have been nice to see the public helping out or even random government guys stepping in.

Instead Ouroboros is so infested into every network that they bury the knowledge and quickly turn the heroes into public enemy number 1. Even the cops get in on it as they start prioritizing taking down the heroes over taking down the villains. That never makes sense in any show that I watch and so of course the same was true here. It’s just annoying to see the priorities completely backwards like this and so Tiger & Bunny are stopped on multiple occasions. Even the heroes are very lackluster in their responses when they should be out there trying to find the villain and taking names. They do to an extent but it always takes a lot of convincing and debating.

It also just worked too well to split up the heroes. Look, the NEXT were still being infected after the groups were split up so if it was a virus then isolating everyone wasn’t doing much good anyway. Naturally crime went up in the main city immediately so how were they going to handle that? The police were so antagonistic and they could never stop a villain before so that won’t help. Villains with powers aren’t going to peacefully leave either so all you’ve done is make the world a more dangerous place but the public readily accepted it. It reminds me of Magneto saying how the humans and mutants would never be fully integrated. All it takes is one bad thing to happen and everyone forgets all the good. That was the case here as well.

At least it wasn’t the whole planet though. Apparently only the main city went crazy as others were still having the heroes so Cat and Thomas were close to going to other cities. It makes you feel like the heroes wouldn’t even want to stay in the city after a while since it’s like they were pretty much being betrayed there. I’d be tempted to leave for good after stopping the villain myself.

The soundtrack is mainly lifted from season 1 with a few new tunes. It’s not the most impressive soundtrack. I’d say that it sounds okay but it could have used some more fast paced action tunes. This may not be a show with an overabundance of flashy action scenes and speed moments but some really solid music like that could still go a long way into helping it become that kind of show. Good music to listen to never hurts a title after all.

Tiger & Bunny 2 shows promises of what the show could be like and if everything was like the climax then this would be an easy 7 star show. It just needs to focus on the big plots and action scenes over the day to day stuff. Some shows can do day to day adventures really well but this one cannot. The opening team up episodes really show this. The characters just aren’t interesting enough to pull it off and as a result those episodes can almost come close to being boring at times. Perhaps really top line visual effects could bump this to the next level as well but that doesn’t happen here.

For season 3 to finally take the next step I’d say that we need a big plot right from the jump and more likable villains. Maybe have a replacement for Lunatic to challenge their sense of justice a bit more. We also don’t need much more bickering from the heroes as they should all be a good unit now. So instead build stories around that like in Justice League or Avengers where they’re a good team and have to stop some kind of challenge. Just making things fast paced with a good story is really all that you need.

Overall, Tiger & Bunny 2 really starts to pick up during the climaxes of each arc but getting there is always the rough part. The villain abilities tend to be cool but not the characters themselves which is another issue. Black and Thomas should really improve the dynamics and I expect to see more of that in effect by the third season. So if everything goes as I figure it can go then I expect the next season will be the best one yet. It would be nice if we could make some legitimate progress on the Ouroboros plot though beyond just taking out a few more members. It depends on if they actually want to have a conclusion to the plot but it would make sense to me. If you like superheroes then this is still a good title to check out but I would recommend watching My Hero Academia first as the definitive superhero anime.

Overall 6/10

Pandora Hearts Review

It’s time to experience the world of Pandora Hearts. It was always a very unique title with a whole lot of fantasy and adventure but at times it would get so convoluted that the story couldn’t really move forward. The anime finishes rather early into the series or at least it felt early. It was nostalgic to see the old characters again. I’d still say that it doesn’t end up being one of the stronger titles out there but at the end of the day I’d still call it a good show.

The series follows a kid named Oz who has had a really rough time of things. He is in line to be the King eventually but his father barely ever talks to him. He seems to dislike Oz on a personal level for some reason and no matter what Oz has done, he just never seems to be good enough. As a result Oz seems chronically depressed even if he always forces a smile on his face. One day during a ceremony a group of villains known as the Baskervilles appear and attempt to murder Oz. He ends up falling into the Abyss where he makes a contract with a chain known as Alice. This allows him to return to life rather than being stuck in purgatory but 10 years have passed. There is a lot of mystery about what happened on the fateful day that caused Oz to disappear. Why did his father seem to be in league with the villains and why does Alice have no memories anymore? All of the mysteries appear to converge around Oz’s lineage and so together with his childhood friend Gilbert, he seeks out the answers to these questions.

In a way you could say that the series is part mystery. A lot of characters know much more than they let on but they are always rather dodgy with their answers. Good luck getting a straight answer out of anybody. Everyone here appears to be shady so Oz can’t really trust anyone, not even his best friends. So this also causes him to be even more alone but at the same time part of the theme in the show is about trying to trust people again which is something Oz and Alice both have trouble with.

The show balances out the more serious moments with a lot of humor. The characters will get drunk and run around and we get a decent amount of slapstick humor. Alice certainly enjoys beating people up if they don’t listen to her and there are a lot of antic around. I’d say that the humor lands well and in some ways it even feels a bit nostalgic like an older humor style. While the cast may not be the strongest overall, they all have good dynamics with each other which makes for a lot of good banter.

Another thing the show does well is the soundtrack. It’s got a very grand feel to it like Sword Art Online. There are quite a few operatic themes in here and so it just sounds great on all accounts. It’s definitely a very good strength of the show. Meanwhile the animation is also pretty solid. I wouldn’t say it’s anything amazing but it’s consistent and the fights are on point. I wouldn’t call this an action show even though there are some fight scenes so it’s more about just making sure that the visuals are on point and the show does well there.

One thing the series does not do well is to convince us that Alice (AKA B Rabbit) is one of the strongest Chains out there. So in the Abyss there are a bunch of chains which are effectively monsters. Alice is so advanced that she has a human form and interacts just like a normal person. Everyone is always afraid of her because she basically rules the Abyss. Think of her like Godzilla on Monster Island. He is the unquestioned King. Well, you would expect her to be extremely powerful then and yet she loses so many fights.

There is always an excuse of course like she’s low on energy or Oz isn’t controlling her properly but these are things you would expect her to fight past. If she really is the best then what’s the problem with having a little handicap right? Much like Saber in Fate, I didn’t think Alice actually lived up to the hype. She’s a great character but the power levels in the show just felt a little screwy because of this. If anything Xerxes seemed to have a more useful ability at times since Alice is more about brute force and doesn’t have any hax type powers.

I’d say the other weak point of the show is the actual mystery. Keep in mind that a big chunk of the series is about “The Tragedy Sablier” and you’ll probably hear this phrase at least once an episode. It’s a really big thing and so we get flashbacks and everything but often times you’re more interested in the present. It’s because they really drip feed you things that are happening in the past so after a point you want them to just show you the whole thing or keep it moving. The show is often at its best in the present with the characters having a good time and getting past their personal issues. Each of the main characters have some kind of trauma that they have to get past so focusing on that works really well.

You’ll notice that there are quite a lot of really sad scenes in the show and the OST has a good amount of emotional tracks to reflect that. These scenes are always executed well and you could probably keep the mystery element to a smaller focus and the show would really be able to just focus on the present instead. The lowest point of the show is during one of Alice’s flashbacks where she deals with the other Alice and things get a little rough for one of the cats. One guy even loses an eye in the process. Xerxes and Alice went through a lot back then, that’s for sure.

Now as to the characters, as mentioned earlier Oz is a really good character. For starters I like that he doesn’t feel bad for himself. He’s been through a lot but always puts that big smile on his face so that nobody will worry about him. It works with most of the characters at least. People all handle sadness differently but in general the ones who put on a brave smile and try to keep going always tend to make for the best characters. Then you have characters like Gilbert and Alice who can see through this but they are rare for sure. Oz is always ready to stand up for his friends as well.

He’s definitely not a fighter but will pick up a sword so he can defend his allies and is also not quick to trust others. He’ll say all the right things but always keeps his eyes open and that’s a really smart thing to do. Then we have Alice and while I had the power level issues, I do like her a lot as a character. She’s one of those characters who may have a difficult time speaking her mind without putting in some tough talk but is very attentive. So she’ll notice if something is up right away even if the other characters don’t realize it. Oz would have been in a tough spot without her. I’d argue that she had an even tougher backstory than Oz with everything she had to go through in the Abyss, not even knowing if she would ever get out. That has to be an absolutely frightening prospect. Even if you are the strongest in that realm, being immortal and knowing there is no end in sight while also losing your memories is a raw deal.

Gilbert is Oz’s best friend but the whole thing is a bit awkward for him since he aged 10 years while Oz hasn’t changed at all. Additionally they didn’t part in the best of ways with how the incident went down. Oz is naturally glad just to be back together though and Gilbert is able to warm up and go back to the way he used to be even if it does take some time. It also can’t be quite the same way it used to be now that he’s older. He tends to fight with Alice a lot which makes for some fun scenes. Gilbert also had to make some concessions during these 10 years including leaving the service of Oz’s family for the Nightrays. I was glad that Oz took this in stride because it was a reasonable move. Gilbert needed to get more power and this was the way to do it.

In comparison Oz’s uncle Oscar is not quite as interesting. He didn’t do a ton during these last 10 years and while he is one of the only characters that Oz can really trust, he doesn’t know a lot of the answers that the other characters have. They basically kept him out of the loop so he is rarely all that helpful. He’s a nice guy and all so he’s not bad but you just wish he would be able to contribute a lot more than what he does in the show.

Oz’s sister Ada also gets a decent role here. Naturally the situation is tough on her as well since she was Oz’s younger sister but now she’s so much older. It’s gotta be tough to adapt to that. She’s not really a fighter but she is always ready to help out and stand by Oz’s side which is important. He needs a strong cast around him to make sure he doesn’t break under the strain of everything going on.

Sharon’s got a much bigger role here. She rules over Xerxes as a very mysterious third party. She’s someone who seems to know a whole lot about the tragedy, the abyss, and the Baskervilles so as you can probably guess she rarely ever tells Oz what he wants to know. It’s not that she knows everything, there is plenty that she doesn’t know but the fact that she won’t say what she does understand is why you can’t trust her. I found her and Xerxes to be two of the most suspicious characters in the show.

They can be very helpful and they get a lot of comic relief scenes but that’s not enough to consider them as allies for sure. One of the benefits of this style is that even villains can get comedic moments to try and hide their true evil. It’s an effective ploy in a mystery like this because then you really can’t rule them out. Likewise they could not be the main villains but still have goals that are at odds with the heroes. If Sharon is the planner then Xerxes is the muscle.

He is always sent off to do battle or aid the heroes when things get dangerous. He gets a lot of development here and even a bit of an origin story. It’s the kind of series where everyone is hiding something. Xerxes does come in handy a lot and saves Oz’s life on more than one occasion so whatever his true mission is, you know that Oz is still happy to have him in his corner for the time being.

The Baskervilles make for a very interesting villain group. Their objectives are wrapped in vague shadows but they say Oz is a curse and want him back in the Abyss so something is going on there. They seem to have some kind of cause that they believe in and a flashback gives more depth to this. Part of what helps them as a group is that they all seem to have their own character. They aren’t just mindless minions even if you’re unsure of exactly what their end game is. I guess you can add that as another mystery to the pile.

Never out of mysteries, the show gives us another one with the character Jack. He is one of Oz’s predecessors in the family and for reasons unknown his dead spirit can inhabit Oz’s body and take control of him. While Oz is frail and can’t fight all that well, Jack was known as the greatest member to ever be born into the family. He’s strong and commanding, even the villains will always stop and listen to what he has to say. This doesn’t help Oz’s confidence issues but Jack helps out a lot and he’s definitely one of the best characters in the series. He also tends to be cryptic though and would prefer to just vanish for a while than answer Oz’s questions. So again I would not trust this guy but he’s always cool to see even if his role is small so far.

Then there is Vincent who is up front about being a big villain. He mistreats his maid and comes across as a very intense guy. He’s quite cruel and a big change from Gilbert even though they are brothers. While he will listen to a request from Gilbert, he can ignore everyone else and follows his own agenda. Whatever his end goal is, you know that it’s not good. He makes for an interesting villain as he helps to mix things up even further but hasn’t done a ton yet.

Echo is fairly emotionless but it’s still rough to see her working for Vincent. It would be great if she could strike out on her own and just get away to a happier life. Working for that guy is just plain confusing and she seems like a nice enough character. She just happened to be on the wrong side. One character that is only hear to add more questions is a guy named Rufus. He is one of the dukes and a man of great stature but he spends most of his time messing with the heroes or intentionally spoiling someone’s backstory instead of answering the relevant questions. So he’s intentionally annoying to the characters even though he is someone who could also shed some light on things.

Then we have one of the best characters in the show, Elliot. This guy is great. He’s got a solid honor code and is a really stand up guy. He knows how to fight with a sword and has a very traditional mindset where he will do the right thing no matter how hard it is. He may seem out of his depth at first as a normal guy in a world with a lot of craziness but he always holds his own. He has a good skirmish with the Baskervilles and protects Oz. He may not get along with Oz at all really but he doesn’t let this slow down his sense of justice. That’s how you know that he is a real one. Other characters could have been petty about the whole thing. Unfortunately his role is small so you don’t see him much.

His partner Leo is also around but I was never as big a fan of that guy. He can be a little harsh to Elliot and can’t quite quite as well. His banter isn’t as funny as some of the other characters and so ultimately he doesn’t do anything to really enhance the show. Finally we have Oz’s father who is presented as one of the big villains. We still don’t know exactly why he wants to get rid of Oz but you can bet that his role would continue to get bigger as the series went on. Right now there’s no reason to like him as he just feels like a traitor who is on the wrong side.

So there is a lot going on here. Pandora Hearts builds up quite a large world with a lot of rules and mechanics. At times it feels bigger than what the show can possibly adapt as well which ends up being true since it ended early anyway. I still say that focusing on the present would be more fun but I understand that the mystery is a big part of the experience. One advantage the show has over the manga is it’s much easier to tell characters apart. In the manga quite a few of them look so similar that it’s hard to keep them straight while in the anime you can easily tell who is who. Ultimately I look at the show more favorably than I did the manga. It may not be quite good enough to get to the next level and lacks the replay value that some other shows have but I had a good time here from cover to cover and could easily recommend it. It’ll definitely make you engaged in what’s going on or laugh at the funny moments but either way there is something for everyone.

Overall, Watching Pandora Hearts is like reading half of a mystery novel. You’ve got the setup and all of the questions but the show ends before you can actually get the answers. Maybe one day the show will continue but it seems just old enough and the series just not popular enough to get that chance. You can’t rule out anything anymore though so I’ll just hope that it does return. At least because of this the ending does leave things off on a very intriguing note and you can do your best to fill in the blanks on your own unless you read the manga. I’d still recommend checking out the show. The ost is amazing as I said and it makes for an interesting watch. It’s fairly unique too so it’s got that going for it.

Overall 6/10

A.I.C.O. -Incarnation Review

It’s time for another Sci-Fi show. There are quite a lot of these anime running around and this one really goes into the technical elements. Get ready for a lot of discussions on the burst, alien life forms, and cloning which can be pretty intense but at times it also means that the pacing can be a bit slow. This is a good title but another one where it takes the show a very long time to really get good. I don’t think it fully found its footing until near the end and the ending wasn’t ideal so while there is some replay value here, it won’t be near the top of the list.

So a while back there was an incident known as The Burst! A lot of people died in it and now some organisms known as Matter rule the area. They’re effectively mindless and touching it will result in your death unless you destroy the contaminated limb quickly. Now you need professionals just to get near it if you want to study the area or something like that. Our main character is a girl named Aiko and her family was seemingly murdered by matter but one day a guy named Yuya appears and says that this isn’t the case. They are still alive and Aiko needs to save them.

This guy is a bit shady though as he’s on the run from a mysterious military group and wants her to follow him without question. Aiko does want to save her family though so even though it means leaving her friends and old life behind, she follows him. Yuya and some other shady guys have enlisted a group of professionals who will guide them through the affected areas of the burst. At its center is presumably where Aiko’s mother and younger brother are. Once they save them then the day is saved….or is it? What does Yuya want out of this? Aiko figures she has no choice but to trust him….but this could be a mistake.

Now I would call that the basic plot but a lot of other things start to occur as the series goes on. I’ll go more into it in a minute but we have to answer the tough questions like if a clone is truly alive and what it means to sacrifice one. Do you sacrifice a town to save a kid who might be trapped within the Burst? Then you’ve got the government groups all fighting each other and a whole lot of chaos as outside governments want to weigh in on the conversation. I think the show could have tackled all of this in more interesting ways because there is a lot of cool stuff to discuss here but for the most part it is satisfied being more of a low key show that talks about it but mainly just from the main characters’ view. Extending this with another 10-12 episodes and bringing in more outside forces could have worked.

As far as the animation goes…it’s decent. I wouldn’t say it looks very good or anything like that but it’s not bad. It’s more that there aren’t a lot of good fight scenes because typically they’re just fighting the matter which is effectively mindless and can’t fight back beyond lunging at everyone so the fights aren’t super exciting. There are some episodes where you have the characters blasting the matter for the whole episode and yet you’re not excited because it isn’t a real opponent. Fortunately at the very end of the show we do get a real villain but it is very near to the end by that point.

As for the soundtrack, it’s not on the memorable side. The tunes within the episodes just don’t stand out and I wasn’t a big fan of the opening. It’s got to be one of the least exciting ones that I’ve heard in a while. The show is just not impressive on a technical sense so that means the actual story needs to hook you which it does not. This is starting to sound rather negative so I should say that what keeps this from being a bad show is that it does execute on some of the potential. While it does tend to drag out some elements and not take others to their full use, at least it is trying to tackle a bunch of Sci-Fi themes. Throw in an explosive climax (Even if the ending is underwhelming) and you’re really all set to at least get things interesting for the end. To it’s not the most engaging show out there and loses in most head to heads, however if you are looking for a decent Sci-Fi title to bring up then I would eventually mention this one. It’s still good enough where I could recommend it.

Now as for the characters, first up we have Aiko as the lead. I do think she’s a bit too trusting with the whole Yuya situation. She wants to save her family and that’s great but you still have to keep your guard up at all times or else you’re just going to walk into a trap. As the show goes on the mission appears to be riskier and riskier all the time. By the end Aiko learns a lot and makes a lot of good decisions. I do think she handled things maturely and did try to help out as best she could. Her being a bit naïve is her only bad trait, beyond that I liked her well enough as the main heroine.

She would actually contribute by firing the cannons and would disobey any order that told her to stand down. So Aiko did have some toughness to her and that was really important because if she was a passive main heroine then it would have been that much easier for the villains to take her down. As it played out this way, she was at least able to make decisions of her own and stayed in control of her destiny. Aiko definitely surpassed expectations here.

Unfortunately I could not say the same about Yuya. This guy starts off reasonably well as he’s very mysterious but you figure he’s got a good plan at the ready. You have to decide if you trust him the way that Aiko does or if this is all some kind of big mistake. Ultimately I did not agree with his plan at all and that is what ended up hurting him here. He is willing to make a whole lot of sacrifices and while the other characters get him to be more reasonable by the end, it doesn’t change what he was willing to do. You can’t trust him and he grew worse as the series went on.

One area where the show struggles is with the supporting cast though. Outside of Aiko and Yuya, the divers don’t really stand out. There are quite a few of them and you have the gruff leader, the hyper newcomer, etc but there isn’t much to them beyond that. One of these guys is Kazuki and he ends up liking Aiko from the start. It’s not a good idea to fall for the person you are escorting since this is supposed to be a mission where you stay neutral and everything. He definitely fails on that end.

I do give him credit for always having Aiko’s back though. He’s probably the only character in the series who doesn’t waver or get tempted to abandon her at any point. Yeah that’s because he likes her but isn’t that still a pretty good complement to his dedication regardless? When she falls into the cafe and asks for help he immediately tries to get her out of there while everyone else was still hesitating. That counts for something.

Unfortunately it’s not like he’s super strong or anything so ultimately he can’t stand in the way of the government but he tries his best. You figure that he’s doomed from the start too so you feel bad for him there. Maho and Daisuke are the two leaders of the diver operation so they have a lot of experience but they don’t tend to contribute a whole lot. As you watch the show you’ll see that they technically talk with the crew and make decisions but ultimately don’t change things up.

At least someone like Kaede may make her share of mistakes as she dives into the fights but she’s memorable because she gets a whole character arc about maybe being too impulsive. Her partner Haruka always takes the blame when this happens but it causes Kaede to really think about how she has been handling this situation. At the end of the day she doesn’t want to create more trouble and so she gets a bit more cautious as the show goes on. Haruka doesn’t really get an arc like this in comparison but at least this makes it easier on her as well.

Yoshihiko has his hands full with Kazuki but does as well as can be expected. He’s the more calm member of the duo so he usually has to end up being more of a boring character there but his advice isn’t wrong and in terms of pure skill he is probably better than Kazuki. Together these divers are good enough to blast away at the blobs and we’re told that they are the best in the business so even with their character flaws they make it work. Fighting in teams of 2 helps out with that I suppose.

Outside of the whole main plot with the heroes trying to save Aiko’s family we’ve also got a whole government conspiracy plotline going on as well. This isn’t quite as interesting as it could have been but I always appreciate seeing their take on things. The main character here is Akiko and her ongoing banter/feud with Susumu. They used to work together but now he’s on the rebel side with Yuyu while she works for the government. This leads to a lot of disagreements and subtle threats between the two. It’s always very subtle of course but you can’t help but think that Akiko actually would take Susumu down if she could.

I think what would help this plot a bit would be to have the characters actually talk things out a bit more. Typically how the conversation goes is she would ask him for details and after he gives the intel she hangs up on him. She’s very openly using him the whole time until the end where she decides to help but because of that there is no ideological battle or anything like that. I think that’s a missed opportunity because there is a whole lot you could do with that otherwise. She was a decent character though while Susumu is mainly forgettable.

The real standout character here is Kyosuke as the main villain. Basically he wants to save his daughter who is in a coma after the burst. He thinks that the answer to saving her lies within Aiko and that goes against Yuyu’s plan here so they are naturally at odds. It’s always a good idea to have the villain get a decent motive though and having him want to save his sister was an effective way to do that. He seems like a reasonable guy for the most part but as the show goes on he starts to go more and more off the deep end.

We even see how he used to function normally with how he had some friends and other doctors who had his back. Eventually they just weren’t able to do this anymore but it was nice to see because it makes sense that he would have some allied by this point. The premise makes it unlikely for everyone to have a happy ending but you are hoping that she will be able to pull through at least. Then thanks to Kyosuke we do have some more action by the end.

The climax still isn’t super exciting but at least it’s a bit different. Instead of all the blobs being mindless, now you have some being controlled by him and some by the daughter. Then you have Aiko controlling others as well so it all gets really crazy. The show’s ending is not very satisfying though which was another missed opportunity. So what I’m saying here is that the concept of the show was better than the execution. Giving us more monsters and such would have been great or give us more government meetings about what to do with the burst. This was a huge event that the show barely even bothers talking about except to nuke it all. I want to know more about the origins and how the other countries are taking this. It’s touched on but just barely.

Okay now I’m going to quickly talk about some of the more in depth parts of the show so skip the next 3 paragraphs if you haven’t seen it yet. Head out now because we’re starting fast:

So the big twist here is that Yuyu is trying to save the real Aiko who was captured by the monsters a while back and is used sort of like a core. He intends to sacrifice the cloned Aiko to bring the real one back to life. This touches on the classic theme of if a clone is truly alive or not. (The right answer is that the clone is alive so destroying it would be awful) As we’ve been with the clone Aiko the whole show we feel like she is alive and you would hope that he could see that but he doesn’t. Even up to the end he intends to destroy her until Kazuki knocks some sense into him. Of course by that point Aiko convinces herself to die for the original. It’s an interesting dynamic where both the clone and original would rather sacrifice themselves to save the original.

Clone Aiko looks a little bad at first though because she is fine with someone being sacrificed for a while but when the twist is that she will be the one sacrificed then she isn’t happy about the plan. I know she eventually comes around but it wasn’t the best look since it seemed to imply that she would be fine with someone else dying. It’s a good twist about the two Aikos though and the show has a good amount of foreshadowing for it. It’s easily one of the most interesting parts of the show and you know it must have been tough to be stuck within the Burst for so long without any way out. Likewise for the daughter who was in a coma but still conscious within the void all this time.

The show could be a little dark when you think about all of this but it’s not going for that angle. Now why did I not like the ending? Well, they save both Aikos which is great and what I was hoping for but they decide the family isn’t ready to know this and so one of them can never see the family again after the final goodbye. Cmon that doesn’t make sense to me, we’ve just survived a big sci-fi apocalypse. They can handle seeing two Aikos and the ending just feels unfair/forced. I didn’t buy that excuse and it just made the show forego what should have been a really happy ending.

If I could change one thing to improve the show rather dramatically it’s that I would cut out one episode of the heroes running through the mindless monsters and add it to the beginning. Have Aiko decide not to trust Yuyu at first and gradually she realizes that she wants to take a risk and goes off with him. That would help the pacing because part of what hurt the show is that the pacing died around the middle. You had multiple episodes of blasting away at the mindless ooze and it’s just not exciting. There’s action but how dangerous can these creatures really be? (Surprisingly they do pretty good at times)

After all in some ways the slice of life parts were better than the apocalyptic adventure which should never happen. I liked Aiko’s best friend even if she never appeared after the opening episode. The scenes of the characters talking and planning were better than when they were running through the endless labyrinth of monster zones. There’s even a blue gel creature that randomly shows up and at least you could wonder what it’s deal was. Meanwhile fighting the sludge monsters didn’t do anything for me.

Overall, A.I.C.O. Incarnation is a good show. While I had a laundry list of issues and weak points for the show, it shows just how strong the ideas and premise was. I saw a lot of potential that was left on the table and that’s what really made the show underwhelming for me. It didn’t look great on a technical level but could have still thrived without it. Unfortunately the writing and plot direction could not compensate enough for this. If you want to watch a Sci-Fi show though then this is a good one to check out because it’s short and it does touch on all those themes I mentioned. At least you can ponder them even if the show has no time for this.

Overall 6/10

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls Review

It’s time to take a look at the Lost Girls OVA that came out a while back. This one mainly focuses on Annie and Mikasa in side stories outside of the main story. One of them even works well as an AU of sorts that helped with the timeline theories from way back when. It always feels a bit odd to have a Titan story without the Titans really doing much here but it’s a good way to get some character development in and I can’t say that I really miss the titans must at all.

The first story focuses on Annie and it’s a two part adventure. Basically it’s almost time for her to pull off her plan of betraying the Survey Corps and kidnapping Eren but she needs an alibi and so she asks her roommate to cover for her as she takes a day off. The roommate says sure…as long as Annie does her a favor first. In this case it’s following up on a missing persons report that the girl just left hanging. The Military Police have a rather bad reputation of being extremely corrupt and not doing anything about it so Annie’s expected to just do the bare minimum but she has some free time so why not right? She is at a disadvantage though since the events happened a few days ago but she will give this her best effort.

So this is a detective story through and through. We get to see Annie checking around the city for any trace of Carly (The girl who vanished) and asking around. Most people would be far too scared to do anything like this because the city is so shady that you could die at any corner but when you’re a living titan with regen that makes things a little easier. Annie also knows a lot of hand to hand combat and takes out anyone who messes with her. The thugs of this town will certainly know not to mess with her next time. She uncovers the clues rather quickly and then has to decide how to handle this.

It’s not as simple as just solving the case since she can’t be tied up with any extra details when her mission is the next day. Additionally this isn’t just someone getting lost. It becomes clear that Carly disappeared deliberately so that also complicates things. Annie is quite efficient at solving the case though to the point where I thought this was only a single episode before checking and seeing that it was two. The mystery was handled well though so this was a good pair of episodes.

There were a good amount of twists and the writing was on point so it kept your attention the whole time. The animation looked good and the soundtrack was on point as well so definitely no issues there. Carly’s father was also a good character. I liked how perceptive he was. He wasn’t just some NPC to be tricked or discarded. Instead he had some good insight of his own and made sure that he wasn’t just being led around the whole time.

Meanwhile Carly does well for herself too. I wouldn’t say she is quite the strategic mastermind that the father is, but she was clearly able to strategize enough to pull off this whole plan so that’s impressive enough in itself. Then Annie did good in actually solving the whole case. In the end it’s one of those case where all of the characters are being rather corrupt and acting like criminals but I would expect no less from the world of Attack on Titan. After all, even the investigator herself was a titan traitor so that’s just how the ball bounces.

The only part of the special that may make you think twice is when Annie transforms for an instant near the end. No way the people of the town wouldn’t have seen that with such a large/bright flash of thunder. As a side story you want to make sure you don’t mess with the main timeline and I feel like this definitely does. The odds of nobody else seeing that is slim to none. You’re definitely going to notice that and so they probably should have had Annie win this without transforming. Sure, I bet they wanted to have her use the power at least once but it is a potential issue there.

The final story is about Mikasa and this one gets really trippy the whole time. You get lots of flashbacks, flash forwards, this is partially an AU and so everything is odd. There are random flashes of different times that Mikasa will get. Now this is fun for theory crafting and foreshadowing for sure but you definitely need to be ready for it. I was having a good time with it all the way through though. The actual main plot though is that Eren is coming up with a Hot Air Balloon so that he can finally escape this city and see the rest of the world. Mikasa desperately wants to go too so that she can always be by Eren’s side but a clown stands in her way. If she doesn’t get by him quickly then it’ll be too late.

This clown guy is definitely a rather odd figure. So his goal is to make Mikasa murder him and he figures he’ll prove that he can use his magic to corrupt anyone. Mikasa is just a little girl at the moment after all so this should be seemingly impossible. The anime uses a lot of fun effects to make this guy appear as deranged as possible and it definitely gets rather spooky. More props to the animation with this and the whole thing is framed very dramatically. It’s an effective way to use a short bit of time and make it intense.

Then by the ending we see more of how this is an AU although the balloon was a good first guess on that. It’s a solid special that may not be as important as the Annie one since the things there actually happened but it’s an interesting look on how things could have gone over here. Eren is just as ambitious and single minded as ever so the guy is always in danger no matter what timeline it is. The idea that the characters can see other timelines while they’re dreaming or asleep was always a good one. It’s nostalgic thinking of all the Attack on Titan theories from back in the day.

The animation for both specials is good as I mentioned earlier and the soundtrack is on point too. It’s a nice complementary piece for any fan of the series and I’d be cool with more OVAs for smaller adventures like this. You could probably have a lot of fun with it while keeping the Titans out although the series doesn’t have the most interesting cast so you probably would want to keep it to these characters and Eren. Not sure there are more than 3-4 other characters who could hold their own episode like this.

Doing more mysteries is probably the easiest way to generate more stories unless you want to do more AU type stories. The reason being, it’s not out of the question for the survey corps and military police members to have some down time between missions. There are quite a few empty gaps in time during the series and with the sheer amount of crime and craziness going on in the city, it would be believable that they were short staffed enough to add the characters in. You probably would want to keep it to short one shot adventures though instead of going for the big conspiracy mystery ongoing though because otherwise then you start to make things a little tricky. Having Carly’s father return would be fun as well.

Overall, Lost Girls is a good OVA. The title may not make sense in a literal sense but maybe what they’re going for here is how both of them have lost their purpose at the moment. Annie is being a traitor but doesn’t really know why so in the meantime she’s solving a mystery case. Meanwhile Mikasa is lost in a whole other timeline but rolls with it in order to save the day. At least that would be my interpretation of the title. There may not be much action here but the OVA is still interesting so I’d recommend giving it a shot. I think you’ll have a good time watching it.

Overall 6/10

ID-0 Review

Now this is an anime that I had never heard of before. It’s a Sci-fi title with a fairly original premise and it’s very unique. You couldn’t say that this one was emulating any other anime on the block. That said, while being original is good and all, I can see why this one didn’t ultimately get a second season. It starts off very slow and while it builds up by the end, it’s a little too late for this one to have really hit it big. I liked it well enough, but it does have its share of issues.

The show starts off by explaining that we are in the distant future and now one of the big ways to get rich is to farm the material known as Orichalt. It’s sort of like the great gold rush has returned, only now everyone is working on getting this material. You’ve got the government who is going after this as well as local pirates and such. In order to extract this material from deep space, people can put their soul inside of an I-Robot and control it virtually. It’s very safe since if the robot dies you just get booted back to your body at least. That’s true for most characters at least.

The main character here is Maya and she is still a student but has big aspirations for the future. Unfortunately there is a hitch to this plan as she has a run in with local pirates and is now framed for working with them to steal the Orichalt. Until she clears her name she will have to work with this group but gradually sees that they really aren’t bad people. Why was she even framed in the first place? She will have to work through these answers while also getting to know her new friends who are actually permanent I-Machines meaning that their bodies are long gone. This means that if they die, there is no coming back from that.

So lets tackle what I would consider to be the weak points of the show first. One is the main thing you may have guessed from the poster and that is that the animation isn’t very good. This is a CGI show and one that is very rough around the edges. While I’m not the biggest supporter of CGI, I can say that there are high end shows, medium, and lower tier. This one would be in the fairly low side as it’s all just very janky and at times the movement is off. Not to say there are no cuts here as the show does turn it up for the climax but for around 9-10 episodes it just doesn’t feel very natural.

A visual issue isn’t one that would hurt the series all that much on a score level though. While it may prevent it from taking the next stage, it wouldn’t make it a 4 or anything like that though. Animation is more like the frosting on top of the foundation so if your foundation is good then you’ll be okay. The other weak part I’d say is the story which is a bit more serious. It feels like the show is a bit more aimless for the first half and things don’t kick off for a while.

It’s hard to really care about the hunt for Orichalt. There is some tension between the government and the main pirates group regarding the hunt and how the government monopolizes this. The pirates basically hunt for it because they need the funds and there aren’t many other options. They also do like the thrill of the hunt as well. The show doesn’t pause on the ethics of this too much as it’s fairly direct. Think of these guys like the Strawhat Pirates. They’re on the wrong side of the law but at least they don’t hurt anybody and so it’s still easy to root for them. We’re not really given much of a downside to the pirates going hunting with how much Orichalt there seems to be everywhere.

The characters are fairly dry though and so you need something from the story to really get the cast going. Once the climax does start, then things get more interesting. We actually get a fairly deep dive into personas, the soul, and how it all intersects. One character has amnesia for example and part of the show is about finding out more about his past and the inevitable dilemma of what he’ll do if his personality was different back then. We’ll get into that more later but the show does get really interesting by the end, I just wish it did that a bit sooner.

The soundtrack is also virtually nonexistent for the most part. I wouldn’t say I remember any tunes and the theme song wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t catchy and there wasn’t a whole lot of animation in it. So the show just feels low budget on all fronts and that spills into the experience a bit. Now lets talk about the characters. Maya is the main heroine here and she’s a nice enough person. There isn’t much to her beyond this and she goes through a fairly standard character arc of not trusting these pirates until she finally sees what nice people they are. By the end she is ready to take more risks and is more confident in her navigational skills.

Ultimately there isn’t a ton for her to do beyond that especially as Ido seems to be just as good as her in this area. Often times he will come up with a plan and just ask her to confirm it or vice versa. It helps the group be doubly sure about everything but for the most part she doesn’t change much of what would have happened without her. She is here to give them a bit of an emotional push though as it can be easy to think of everything scientifically after being a robot for so long. Maya is still more on the emotional side. It’s annoying when she gets held hostage but in the end she’s okay, there’s just not much to her.

Ido is the best character though and does his best to hold up the show. So he has lost his memory which is why he calls himself Ido. (Get it? ID 0? As in his Identification is zero because he doesn’t know who he is) Ido doesn’t exist on any record and he doesn’t have an ID code like every other ID machine. He wants to find the truth to his past but without any hint at all it seems like a lost cause and so he’s really thrown himself into his work, almost to a dangerous degree. He takes a lot of risks because he just doesn’t think it matters all that much.

This all changes when a little girl named Alice appears and then we start to slowly get more info on the plot. I’ll touch on that second half a bit later. Going on with the character introductions, Alice is a little kid so there’s not a whole lot that she can do. She seems to possibly have some kind of powers and at the very least everyone is after her but there’s not a whole lot that she can do about it. Alice is mainly a tool for the plot but barely a character for most of this.

Grayman is the leader of the pirates and is always ready to make the tough calls. He’s a rather stern guy who is nice deep down but is careful not to get too entangled in the emotions from the crew. His role is a bit smaller than you’d expect but he does a good job of leading the troops. Rick is the comic relief member of the group although his backstory is rather tragic. The guy is always joking around and he can go really fast which comes in handy by the climax. It would be nice if he could dial down the flirting a bit though. They really need this guy to focus instead of trying to make moves all the time! Plus as a giant robot who will never have a human body again, it feels like he may be out of luck there. It’s good that he stays optimistic though.

Karla is a character who was good for the most part. She was a reasonable member of the crew who kept everyone grounded and was good at strategy. Unfortunately I lost a ton of respect for her later on. Lets just say that she made a deal which was awful and took huge risks with very limited upside. It leads to Ido’s best scene in the series but it wasn’t something that was going to help her win back any points. She really lost all likability from this point on and got off rather easy. This is not the kind of character that you want to have at your back.

Clair probably gets the smallest role in the group. As Grayman’s daughter she helps to be a mediator when he is arguing with someone. She’s always calm and nice about everything but there just isn’t much of a role for her here. I expect she would have done more in season 2. Amanza joins the crew later on in the show and she was a fun addition. She can fight which is always appreciated and has some good plans. The group would have had a much tougher time without her and she starts to contribute right away.

There’s a character in here called Sam Taylor who only appears for one episode but was a great character. Not only did he nearly outsmart the whole crew but he was talking really tough considering that he is only a human while they’re in giant mech suits. That takes a whole lot of confidence in your own abilities and he pulled this off with ease. On a separate note, the heroes do need to work on keeping their guards up though. They seem to drop their guards immediately when they let people in which is something that Amanza took advantage of as well. This guy just left a big impact and I remember him partially because this was the first really solid moment in the show that made me take notice.

Okay so now I’m going to talk about the meat of the plot from episodes 9-12 so big spoilers will ensue from here on out. Skip to the last paragraph if you haven’t seen the show yet and don’t want to know about this yet. This is when the series got really interesting and ambitious. If you ask me this should have been the focus from the start and that would have been perfect. So Ido used to be a guy named Kain. He was actually a rather extreme scientist back in the day and was willing to do anything to save his daughter Alice. This led into him working with the Orichalt and messing with its very essence which was related to a dark god. So Addams stopped Kain by sealing him away and Kain effectively died but was such a genius that he was able to transfer to an I-Robot but lost his memories.

Then we had Kain mass cloned and one of his clones got big ideas to replace him and assume his identity. It gets more convoluted by then and it’s all very interesting. This is the kind of story I like to see because while it can be tough to follow, it lends itself well to a lot of theory crafting. It’s just interesting to ponder all of the possibilities and the show gives you a lot of ammo for this because there is a ton of dialogue and flashbacks in these episodes.

It’s also interesting how Kain an Addams basically reversed positions after the memory erasure. Now Addams is the extremist while Kain has mellowed out and is trying to find a solution for everybody. I actually thought Addams was a really good villain throughout this. He is absolutely a villain of course but the objectives were sound here and you could absolutely see why he was going with the old plan. The situation was tricky enough where saving everyone seemed impossible so the idea was to guarantee a few rather than risking everyone.

At the end of the show the government has to decide if they trust Ido’s gamble to use the last of the Orichalt to possibly save everyone or everyone will die, or go with Addam’s plan which guarantees survival for a group but will definitely doom the others. Always a tough decision but I tend to go with the group of either everyone lives or everyone dies. It’s an equal playing field and no time for regrets since everyone will be dead anyway.

I haven’t even touched on this yet but with the dark god, basically he needs to reabsorb Alice to be complete and it’s why those dark crystals are constantly chasing her and attacking the heroes. It’s like a living version of Orichalt but interestingly his weakness is to weaponize actual Orichalt and stop him. Of course the ship can only carry so much of it and it’s like shooting money at the guy so that’s not unlimited either. It’s an interesting concept going on here.

Although I wouldn’t say it’s the most visually interesting plot. You can only see the heroes blasting away as pixelated objects for so long. The objects can’t even fight back per say, but touching them is bad and they can crush you with sheer numbers. It’s like fighting a never ending blob of pure matter which is certainly dangerous in space since if you’re caught, that’s it. It just doesn’t make for particularly interesting action scenes.

We do get some real mecha fights near the end though. Addams has his own mech suit of course and Ido is able to have a proper fight there. We also got an excellent scene where Ido was seemingly cornered but then moved with incredible speed and took out quite a few fighters. That was one of the best animated cuts in the show and likewise for the fight with Addams. It felt like they saved up a lot of budget to spend on the end and they delivered there.

The ending is fairly definitive so it’s the kind of show that did not need a sequel anyway although it still would have been pretty fun. I think if they built on the ending well enough then season 2 would have been stronger. You could mostly avoid the slow start because we already know the characters and that way you could jump right into the story. While I didn’t think the cast was very impressive, maybe they would be able to look better in a high stakes environment.

With the whole clones angle, there could always be another one out there so you could use that as a plot thread and of course even if the dark god is gone, you could have other pirate groups that are less friendly show up. Just don’t focus on the actual mining too much, that’s the part that won’t be as interesting even if we do understand that it’s super dangerous. One wrong move and you could die while getting the Orichalt but that would be such an anti climactic way to go out.

Overall, ID-0 is a unique show that just suffers from a very slow start and a fairly low budget. Once we get to the meat of the plot then things get very interesting. As long as you enjoy the discussions and what they’re talking about then you’ll love the climax. If you don’t tend to like all of the sci-fi jargon then you may not enjoy it quite as much but we also have a lot more action so that should help balance things out. I can also finally say that I’ve seen a whole anime about space miners so that’s nice bragging rights. The show is very short either at 12 episodes so I’d still say it’s worth a shot if you’re looking for another sci-fi show. Think of this more like an adventure like Star Trek as opposed to an action and you’ll be going in with the right mindset.

Overall 6/10

PokeToon Review

Pokemon has been getting a lot of little shows here and there. This is the latest one and it’s going for a more low key vibe as the anthology switches animation styles a lot. Some of the shorts are pretty solid while others are definitely weaker. In general I would say this one doesn’t hold up to the last few shows but you should still have some fun here. With only 8 episodes that are shorter than normal ones, it won’t take you long to blast through them all.

The first short is about Scraggy as he fights with Mikikyu in classic Looney Tunes/Mickey Mouse style. The animation is very much going for that kind of retro look and so there is a lot of battling going on. It’s very nostalgic to see this style and it’s nice enough but what I do miss about it is that there isn’t any dialogue or anything like that. So there’s barely a plot here. It works well enough since the short is….well short, but if this was full length then it would eventually drag on. This would be in the lower tier from the 8 episodes at 7th place overall.

Then next up we have an episode about Pancham and now this was a really solid one. I would put it as the 2nd best. Basically he wants to be a hero like his role model Arcanine but the problem is that the way evolution works, he can never be an Arcanine which shakes him up a bit. Still, he decides to train hard and become a respectable hero in his own right. One day there are a bunch of miners stuck behind a cave-in and it’s up to Pancham to save them.

It’s always nice seeing a Pokemon with a lot of personality and ambitions of his own. I liked Pancham right away and the story is very satisfying as he works to achieve his dream. The kid also wasn’t super annoying here although he could have let Pancham know about the situation a little sooner instead of just running around. At the end of the day Pancham is someone that you know you can count on to help save the day and take the right steps to saving the people.

Next up is a short that’s more about the human this time. Blossom wants to be a Pokemon trainer but her Mom denies the idea while her father is too nervous to do much of anything. She figures that she will just have to leave without permission and finds a nice Nidoran but unfortunately there is a misunderstanding and now his parents want to crush her. Blossom retreats to the village but with NidoKing and NidoQueen fast approaching, has she just doomed the village?

I liked the idea of the story more than the execution which is why this one has to settle for third place. I was thrilled when some Pokemon Trainers showed up right away because the idea of a village without trainers would be crazy. So that was cool and it also just made a lot of sense. The fact that they were losing is quite embarrassing but I can also get behind this especially with how the new Arceus game presents the world. If you live in a low level area then you might have weak Pokemon so when a tough wild one shows up then you’re sunk.

This does make Blossom’s dad look awful though. He just couldn’t care less and even when he hears the large explosions in the distance he doesn’t do anything. When Blossom shows up scared and desperate he coldly reminds her that his Charizard won’t listen to her. Throughout the adventure he just isn’t helpful at all even through to the climax as he lets his daughter take all of the risks. The special was trying to make him appear as the guy who appears to be rather helpless but is actually really tough. It just completely failed on that note.

The special itself is nice because of the action and Blossom is a good character but the Dad definitely makes it fall down a notch this time. I still like the idea of some Pokemon storming a village with trainers. I’d actually like to see something similar with Team Rocket someday. At this point all villages should have a bunch of trainers so that would make for a great premise to a short.

Now we can talk about the weakest special of the 8 which is about a Magikarp. This one is going for a very quiet kind of short like the first one. There is no dialogue here or anything like that. So it’s all about this one kid who plays by the lake and his music is really appealing to Magikarp. One day the kid leaves so the Pokemon has to try and find him. It’s one of those shorts that would be a lot more emotional with some dialogue and more of a full story. The abstract design of the short really doesn’t work nearly as well. It’s not all that interesting so it really couldn’t keep up with the others.

On the upper half of the 8 specials was one about Slugma at 4th place. This one is about a girl who always tries to be friends with Slugma when she stays at her grandma’s house, but the Pokemon is very shy and always hides. Still, Slugma is a nice Pokemon and does his best to make sure that she’s comfortable by always supplying a lot of heat to the house. There’s not a whole lot going on in this one but it’s a nice wholesome story. I also just like seeing all of the Pokemon just hanging around the house. They really would be a lot like having pets in the real world.

One of the longer specials was about a girl trying to survive past the Pokemon scare challenge. Basically there is a haunted spot in the school and so a bunch of guys decide to check it out. The main girl here gets spooked by a ghost and raises her hand by accident so she has to come along but then she is turned into a Gengar, one of the very Pokemon that used to frighten her. With the other kids stuck in the school, she will have to try keeping them safe from the other Pokemon and conquer her fears at the same time.

I put this one as a bit weaker than the others at 5th because while the idea is good, I don’t think the short did a whole lot with it. The kids aren’t very likable and I’m also not sure why they would all be super scared of ghost type Pokemon. I feel like if there were real ghosts here then that would make sense but in a world where Pokemon are so common place, I don’t see them being thought of as super scary or anything like that. The kids are very young so I can cut them a little slack, but only a little.

It was cool to see the girl turn into the Gengar since that’s like something out of Mystery Dungeon but the special just wasn’t all that exciting. The more emotional stories are definitely the ones that would tend to be a lot more high ranking and this one wasn’t going for those vibes. At least we got some cool effect with the whole dimension shifting.

Then there is the Snorunt episode which is one of the weaker ones at 6. Basically a few kids have a secret base which is a nice homage to the old Pokemon games. One day they come across a Snorunt that is outside but the problem is that they live in a very warm climate so it’s not good for the Pokemon. They have to decide if they should take him to the PokeCenter in which case their secret base could be exposed or just try to save him themselves. Fortunately they make the right call.

It’s a decent enough short but the animation wasn’t as good as some of the others ones and I wouldn’t say that the story was super explosive either. I also don’t think that this would necessarily expose their base’s location. I’m thinking that the rationale would be that they would have to say where they found the Snorunt but they could always hide the base for a day when the adults go to check on it and then blow it up again. Still, it was good that they made the right choice.

Finally we have the Jigglypuff short which I rank as the best out of the 8. This one is about a girl who befriends a Jigglypuff but for some reason she’s afraid to sing. What’s worse is that another girl has a Jigglypuff that loves to sing so they start blaming the Jigglypuff and even the main girl for this which leads to a lot of tear and emotional moments. This Jigglypuff may not be able to sing, but at the end of the day she still tries her best so as not to disappoint her Poke trainer.

There’s no danger or action here but it’s a pretty good story. I liked the animation and it had solid vibes here. On a technical level is probably had the highest budget and I could easily see a slice of life kind of show in this setting. It was a good way to end things and it’s easy to root for Jigglypuff. Always good to end on a high note and that’s exactly what PokeToon did.

At the end of the day, the anthology format is what really holds this one back a bit. We had some solid shorts here but also some very weak ones. Some would have good animation like the final short and others looked incredibly rough. In general this does not look as good as any of the earlier Pokemon shows and I wouldn’t say that it manages to beat any of them either. It’s still not a bad show though and it’s so short that it’s worth a watch. I would like the next series to be a little more focused though or if not, at least stay consistent in the animation instead of going for more experimental styles. Build a whole show off of the last special and that would really work well.

Overall, PokeToon is a solid online series. As a mini series it fills the bill of being entertaining and I’ll always take anything to extend a franchise even more. It ultimately won’t be making any waves or claiming any big victories but it’s a show that you can pick up and play at any time. You don’t have to try and remember a lot of characters or what’s going on. Just pop in a short episode and you’re all set.

Overall 6/10