Assassin’s Creed: Awakening Review

Assassin’s Creed is a series that I still can’t say I’m super familiar with but now I’ve watched the movie and read two of the manga titles (Haven’t finished the second yet) so slowly I’m becoming a bit of a veteran you could say. Typically manga based on another product don’t tend to have the best art and I’d say that’s true of this one too, but it’s good enough. It’s definitely better than the average adaption title at least and it makes for a fun read.

The story starts with Edward Kenway barely surviving as his pirate ship is downed. It’s a shame for him because he had been gearing up to be a great pirate with lots of influence but that’ll be tough now. He does come across a mysterious guy who is dying though and after evading the man’s last strike, Edward takes his gear. Edward now appears to me a member of the Assassin’s Creed but in doing so he has made enemies out of the rest of their members. Additionally while he sides with the pirates, they are slowly being outnumbered by the government and people who have defected from the pirates. Can he find out a way to thrive in this new non-pirate era?

Then in the present you have Masato who is living out these experiences through a fancy VR machine. The developers say it is a video game that will be released to the general public soon but the whole thing seems rather shady. The only reason Masato even agreed to this is because apparently his mother recommended him as a tester and his parents have been distant at best. Now maybe he can actually connect with her but part of him is still bitter so he’s not even sure what he really wants to do.

Of course it seems like the VR machine is always just a tool for the enemy to find out about the Creed’s secrets in the present. At least from what I’ve experienced so far that always seems to be the case. The two scientists don’t act too shady at least so it’s not super obvious but since Masato is already on edge that at least gives him a fighting chance in not just blindly obeying them. The way the machine works is also clever since Masato thinks he is the one actually in control, not realizing that he is just following a series of predetermined steps. Since in a way he becomes Edward during his play time, he naturally acts in the way that history ordained even if he doesn’t realize it.

I like that he actually did provide some nice criticism of it though. He makes for a solid main character and ultimately does get with the program pretty quickly. Partially because of how he’s always upset, Masato doesn’t trust anyone naturally. The ending of the manga is a bit abrupt in the present timeline as his father shows up but it does make for a pretty hype ending. We see exactly what Masato can do and exactly why the VR is a double edged sword for the villains.

On one hand, through the recordings they get to see exactly what happened through Masato’s eyes but on the other hand he retains the combat experience so eventually he will grow up to be one of the deadliest fighters. In a way it’s a shame that the manga ends so soon though because I think the most interesting aspect of the series would be seeing what is happening in the present. The old era with the pirates is decent and all but the scenes in the present have a lot more gravity to them because you really don’t know what will happen. It’s an open book and I’d like to see how the two factions are operating in the present with current tech. In theory it should be a lot harder for them to run around without causing attention.

Lets talk about the past though since that is still the majority of the series. We follow Edward Kenway and he’s not nearly as likable as Masato but he’s decent. The guy is a bit rough around the edges and certainly no hero but I do like his confidence. The guy is a quick learner and even becomes a true member of the Creed by mastering the fighting styles and trials. He’ll do whatever it takes to win and doesn’t shrink away from fights where he is outnumbered. A lot of the pirates end up taking the easy way out later on but not Edward, he just keeps at it.

Ultimately you feel like he will be captured at some point because the enemies of the pirates are just too vast but at least he’ll go down on his terms. Blackbeard also made for a fun ally who held his own in the fights. Edward doesn’t have too many friends that he can rely on so at least he had one there. While this plot gets more screen time tan the present, you still feel like you’re just at the tip of the iceberg with his adventures. I’m not sure if the manga adapts the whole game or not but I’m assuming that it does end early so this is more of a preview to get you hyped to play the game. I’d be really surprised if it ended on this note at least.

As I mentioned earlier, the art’s not bad. It’s actually a little better than I was expecting. The action scenes work out pretty well and the only times where you can feel the weakness a little tends to be in the character’s facial expression. They can be a bit shaky but the style itself works out well enough. You’ll be breezing through the pages either way so the art won’t be slowing you down there.

There’s not a ton you can do in two volumes but I would say the series did well with what it had. There surprisingly isn’t really any kind of supporting characters beyond the two developers and the father who appears at the end so if this kept on going I assume that a bunch of characters would show up. Then in the past I’d like to see more of the Assassins because I think the group has a lot of potential. There are clearly members whose skills match and even exceed that of Edward’s so they can give him a run for his money. Throw in the fact that the other faction should be just as strong and there’s a lot of lore to enjoy.

They’re both looking for a certain treasure that will apparently grant you a lot of power. I forget if it is knowledge of all things in the form of an apple or I might be mixing that up with a different title. Either way this is something that the Assassins have to protect and the villain group want to find. One group wants to maintain order while the other one wants chaos. Since neither one of the groups appear to be purely good, it would be interesting if the villains try to turn Edward at some point. I’m sure each group has a lot of dirt on the other and Edward’s nearly been murdered by both sides after all.

Ideally Edward needs to build up his own group of strong pirates to stop either side should they try to get in his way. It may be easier said than done though given how skilled they are. Most of the pirates seemed rather weak the whole time which is why they were so quick to side with the government. Speaking of which, the government would be a nice third party but something tells me they’ve been infiltrated by both sides anyway.

Overall, Awakening is a good manga but it’s one that ends as soon as it has begun. It almost feels like a cancelled manga in that sense where the adventure ends but there are so many open plot threads and lore to get into that it could have just kept going. Maybe one day it’ll get a sequel or something because manga onlies should still get a complete experience here. If you’re looking for a solid pirate manga then this is a good one to check out though. The action is almost nonstop as something is always happening and you should find the present plot to be very intriguing. The series knows how to keep the suspense high and right now I would say it’s the best Assassin’s Creed title as it is currently beating the other series I was reading. Of course, that could change depending on the other one’s final volume.

Overall 7/10

The World Ends With You: The Animation Review

I remember it feeling random that The World Ends With You was getting an anime adaption but I’m definitely all for it. It’s always fun to see a game get the TV show treatment and maybe soon they’ll do the same for Kingdom Hearts. It’s got an interesting animation style which is supposed to really emulate the video game and I’d say it does a good job of that. It certainly doesn’t look as good as a traditional show due to this but works well enough. It adapts the game well and maybe if we’re lucky a season 2 will come out some day to adapt the sequel game.

The show starts off with Neku waking up in Shibuya with no memory of how he got here. What’s even worse is the fact that nobody can see him. It turns out that he must have died at some point and is now forced to participate in a Reaper Game. Effectively this is a 7 day survival competition where he has to complete a mission each day or face erasure. The situation continues to grow more challenging for Shiki when he finds out that he needs a partner in order to fully use the super powers that are given as part of the game. Neku’s not exactly a people person and his partner is the very happy go lucky Shiki. Can the two heroes make pull this off or are they doomed?

The ole survival competition is always a good way to get some really quick tension. After all if you die while you’re already dead then that probably means you’re gone for good. You’ve also got the mystery of how Neku died since he can’t seem to remember that for some reason. The show is only 12 episodes long so things tend to move at a very quick pace. You may wonder how the 7 days will last for 12 episodes but the show does well with the pacing throughout. As someone who played the game I’d say this is a very faithful adaption that really hits the right notes. There is only a single moment where I feel like the anime had less impact than the game and I’ll get into that later on.

The soundtrack here is a lot of fun with the classic themes from the game showing up. While it’s always good to have new music to spice things up, I’m never opposed to grabbing some tunes from the source material since it’s a good nostalgia boost. The game’s main theme certainly works well as the opening even if that wasn’t the original intent. As for the animation, I would say it’s below average. The colors are striking but when they all start moving then you can see the flaws here. The actual combat isn’t very fast or smooth most of the time. It all looks like video game cutscenes for the most part.

I do like how the combination attacks look though. You can always feel a lot of power behind them. Also, as I mentioned the colors are striking so this works really well for special abilities. You can pause the show at any point and it’ll look good. That’s the strength of this style so if anyone shows you a screenshot at any point it should look good. The show doesn’t bother getting into the mechanics of the abilities here so sometimes you’ll see Neku and friends randomly using new attacks but I think even without the game you can understand what’s going on here. After all they do show the pins briefly here and there with different symbols so you understand that the power comes from them.

A more traditional style certainly could have done wonders for the series and propped it up to the next level but as they say, the animation could have been much worse. The production values probably keep this from being higher than it is but at its core the show is still fundamentally solid on writing and story so it’s not like this score will take a big hit. It’s still a pretty fun show that I would recommend to anyone looking for a quality action/adventure story. Even if you haven’t played the game you should be able to get on board with Neku and the others.

As a main character Neku starts off as a bit of a jerk and gradually gets used to hanging around with people. It’s a classic character arc that is handled well and you should be able to have a lot of fun with him. I tend to enjoy characters who are rather blunt like this and he is trying to survive after all. In this tournament, you lose that which you hold most precious to your heart which exposes his feelings for one of the characters later on. It shows how he’s changed but is also a pretty awkward way for others to start finding out about it. Ultimately the Neku we see at the end of the show is far different from the one who entered it.

Then we have the heroine Shiki who is certainly Neku’s polar opposite at first. She tries her best to see the silver linings in being trapped within a death game but is a bit timid despite her cheerful disposition so this isn’t always easy. She is good in the support role throughout the rounds and is a quality character. With her psychic cat she can certainly deal damage to the villains as well.

Next up is Beat but I didn’t care for him for big chunks of the story. See, I like his character type as he is the classic tough guy. Beat is always willing to pick a fight but deep down he’s a good guy. My issue is that he isn’t very loyal and there’s a part of the story where he doesn’t take some events very well at all and actively tries to put others in harm’s way. Once Beat broke down there really wasn’t a way for him to get back up. While you do get that he’s in a better place now, that was a really rocky moment there.

Rhyme doesn’t get to appear nearly as much but is a nice enough character. There just isn’t a whole lot of time to have any real development there. You could say the same for the other contestants. Technically there are a ton of players in this game after all and we never really get to see most of them as they end up dying off screen. The show is quite light hearted for the most part and doesn’t dwell on them but if you think about it, things get awfully dicey for most of the characters in this world.

Joshua is my favorite player in the game and 2nd favorite character in the show as a whole. He has a lot of confidence and is easily the smartest member. While the show has to cut down on a lot of the dialogues to save time, I always enjoyed his back and forth conversations with Minamiimoto. Joshua was the only guy who could ever keep up with the guy’s number phrases and insults. Joshua is also quite powerful and plays a big role in the mysteries of Shibuya. Whenever he appears, Joshua tends to steal the show.

Hanekoma is a mysterious cafe owner who seems to know a whole lot about the rules of the game and what’s going on. You can always count on him to give the heroes a pep talk while wondering what else he is doing. Sometimes you learn a lot by just staying back and observing which could be what he is doing. He’s decent enough but for a character like this I always question why they don’t do more. In a sense Hanekoma also loses points for not getting in on the action.

Uzuki and Kariya are both reapers within the game. Their job is to mess with the players and sometimes destroy them via the Noise. (Monsters) They aren’t allowed to attack players directly but that happens a lot anyway. I’m not a big fan of either one and they are completely overshadowed by the main villains. They’re not as ineffective as Team Rocket or anything but you never really feel like they are a threat. You get the feeling that the heroes could take them out if they got serious.

Additionally, both of them fall for traps very easily. Kariya is supposed to be the smart one and even he doesn’t do very well here. They talk a really good game but ultimately don’t really do much to enhance the story here. Now if you want a great villain, look no further than Minamiimoto. This guy’s just great whenever he shows up. He’s got extreme ambitions and has the power to back them up. I like his boundless confidence and his gimmick about always using numerical terms is a lot of fun. How can you not like a character like this right? His role is big here and you only wish he could have lasted longer.

Then you have Konishi who is another one of the big villain members here. She is also quite ambitious but tends to be quieter than Minamiimoto. She can also fight well when it’s time to do so and is also a good villain. She contrasts with Minamiimoto’s style well and ends up being memorable. In comparison, the final villain Kitaniji isn’t as memorable. You get the feeling that he is very powerful and all but it took a while for him to do anything. He does get a bit of a backstory by the end though which gives him more character.

The World Ends With You is a title that has a lot of twists and turns so I think it’s fair to call this part mystery. I’ve made sure to avoid those elements so you can have fun discovering them for yourself. They all have satisfying conclusions to them which help to enhance the show. Now I did mention that there’s one scene that the show just didn’t adapt very well in my opinion. Well, it’s a scene near the climax so I can’t give too much context away but Neku’s in a pinch against a very difficult opponent. Then just as things are getting hopeless, a glimmer of hope appears and the music jumps up as the whole situation is turned upside down. This was an amazing moment in the game and the music came at the right moment.

In the show the moment isn’t really treated like a big deal though. You don’t have the music climaxing at the right time, the big inner monologue before it and so it doesn’t feel nearly as powerful. The fast pacing may have worked against the show there as it had to move quickly. That was the only point where I felt the adaption wasn’t on point though, the rest of it hit all the right notes and got things moving. The pacing is quite fast and it needs to be to adapt a whole RPG into a quick 1 season show. The game had a ton of gameplay and missions that would slow things down though so the show was able to easily navigate around that and kept in what I would consider to be all of the important moments.

The review feels a bit short but it’s because there isn’t a ton to talk about here. The plot is very straight forward and while there are a lot of twists, I’m not really going into those here. Depending on the title I sometimes jump in if the twist didn’t make sense or I had something to say about it, but it all works really naturally here. By the time the show ends you don’t have any lingering questions of anything like that. So as a result when you finish the show there aren’t any big plot threads that you’re thinking about either. It’s a very open and shut case. You had your fun watching it and then you go on. For that reason maybe it should have had a stinger for the sequel but I’m not sure if that would have made a lot of sense anyway. Of course I’m always up for a little cliffhanger so I’d be game.

Overall, The World Ends With You is a pretty solid show. It’s a good all around title that has your fight scenes, adventure, and mystery angles all thrown in. The animation style may not always work for the fight scenes but it is a very distinct and colorful style that is easy to look at so that’s still important. I wouldn’t say the show ever made any big mistakes either. So perhaps it isn’t the next all star but it’s just an easy anime to recommend and have a good time with. I’d say the replay value is good here too. It’d be great if they could adapt the sequel into a show someday too. There’s a whole lot you could do with that and of course it would just be a lot of fun to see the characters back in action. I assume it’s a longshot but you can always hope.

Overall 7/10