Black Clover

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Well, I have started the Black Clover anime alongside the Toonami viewers. It had a pretty solid start with the first episode. The animation and music appear to be on point and as the series goes on we should get many more fights and characters added to the mix. It’ll be a while before this series finishes, but I shall have a review up when it does.

Overall 7/10

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Asdivine Hearts Review

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It’s time for another installment from Limited Run games. It’s had a pretty good run so far and this is probably the best game they’ve ported yet. It’s a classic RPG with all of the old elements in tact. It started out as a mobile game which explains why they didn’t mess around with the formula too much. Maybe it’s just me, but I think you only need the core aspects of an RPG to do well. A solid leveling up system, a map, and a convenient way to heal/save. As long as you have that then you’re okay. Modern RPGs sometimes get lost in all of the extra features that take away from this basic concept. This title pulls it off flawlessly.

The game starts off with the Light and Dark gods fighting it out. (Okay, a little cliche, but who doesn’t like a classic Good vs Evil theme?) The Light god is defeated and falls to Earth where she possesses a cat. This takes us to our heroes Zack and Stella. They grew up in an orphanage and are now getting ready to head to the outside world so they can earn money and support the other orphans. As they traverse the forest, they notice their cat change. It wasn’t very subtle since the Light goddess loves to talk. They call her Felix since that was the cat’s name. They also don’t believe her story about being all powerful after all, but I don’t blame them since Felix basically has no power for most of the game due to possessing such a small animal. The fate of the world now rests with these two teenagers and their pet cat goddess. Can they really stop the Dark god from destroying the world?

There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot, but I’m trying to avoid them to you can see for yourself. In short, the Dark god has his reasons for doing this even though the two gods used to be best friends. I don’t agree with them at all though as even being sympathetic is a stretch. It’s one of those cases where the whole game would have been averted if there had been a little more communication between the characters. I’d also say that he went off the deep end either way so you just can’t defend him. Felix was surprisingly shady as well, but she finally learned the values of friendship.

The gameplay is your classic turn based combat. You can use physical skill attacks or magic against foes. I used magic for the first 70% of the game until I found out that skills are actually far more powerful. I recommend focusing on those but always have a magic stone equipped so you can learn new spells. Uriel and Stella’s are especially helpful since they weaken a boss’ defense and attack. It’s a simple gameplay style but you always learn new things. I had been using Stella’s final smash throughout the game since it restores everyone’s HP and MP, as well as increasing all of their stats to the max, but little did I know that Uriel’s is even better. I used it against the Final Boss and he was frozen for almost 20 turns. It was crazy and that Final boss was definitely unforgettable. He had a similar move where he’s paralyze you for the whole fight so it was merely a question of who used the ability first.

Be warned that whenever you flee a monster encounter you lose some final smash meter. (9% to be exact) My strategy was to run until I made it to the end of the dungeon. There is always a save point near the end which tells you that a boss is up ahead. Then I’d quickly fight a bunch of monsters to get my full meter back and then fight. The save point heals your HP and MP as well so this way you don’t have to waste any items on the way. You will almost definitely need to do some serious grinding before you finish the game, but it goes by pretty quickly here. The enemies give you a lot of EXP.

Also, make sure you break any rocks that you see by the enemies. They have a chance to have 3 AHP points within them. You can save up to 20 of those to buy a 20% up EXP item for a character or save up to 100 points so you can have a full team revive during a boss fight. I went the whole game without getting 100 so I’m glad I just went for the EXP right away, but it depends on how you play. I’m sure there is a way to find more rocks, but you can’t find out much from the game online. It’s just trial and error so these are the paths that worked for me. As you can see, the gameplay was simple, but pretty detailed. I could spend a while just talking about that aspect, but you get the idea.

Zack is a solid main character. He’s your classic adventurer who rushes into danger and is always confident in his skills. He’s a nice guy but doesn’t tend to be very formal so all of the characters call him out on this. I’d think that formalities wouldn’t matter much when the planet is at stake, but evidently it is still a priority. He has to make some tough calls at the end, but chooses the right ones. I definitely have no qualms with Zack and he was an engaging protagonist to follow.

Stella is the main heroine and she’s pretty nice. Her unfortunate tendency to try whipping the main character when he’s being nice is a little suspect, but she actively tries to control herself as the game goes on. She’s a little more timid than the other main characters which is another part of her character arc. Based on her design in the sequel, she has learned to be more independent so it’ll be cool to see how she is there. She’s a good character even if she’s not a great one.

Celine is a high priestess who ends up joining the cast and becoming a main character. The fact that she knows hand to hand combat is certainly helpful. She also objects to Zack being nice to everyone all the time but gradually learns that he doesn’t mean it as an insult. I’d probably rank her last among the main heroines, but they’re all rather close. She just didn’t seem to bring as much to the table as the others and her subplot about lacking confidence didn’t really help matters.

Uriel is a mysterious girl who claims to know Zack from the past even though he doesn’t remember her. To pay Zack back for saving her life, she will now help him save the world. Her dark magic is incredibly useful in combat and she is the most loyal of the allies. She was my favorite member of the team and I relied on her Final Smash attack for the final boss. If I’d known it was so good, I would have used it sooner.

Felix is an intriguing character since she acts nothing like what you’d expect based on her role in the universe and character design. Instead of being a wise old lady who brings peace, she’s always insulting the humans and picking fights. She talks quite a lot and doesn’t follow any orders even if they’ll save a lot of trouble. It’s all about her pride here. She’s a fun character to have around since this results in a lot of banter. It was unexpected, but certainly in a good way. I already talked about the Dark god. He comes across as very whiny and completely unsympathetic so you’ll just think of him as another obstacle in the road. I preferred his two Legion generals.

Finally we also have the Dark Copies. The heroes end up travelling to a Mirror World towards the second half of the game where they meet evil copies of Zack and Stella. They were definitely interesting characters. I don’t like either of them, but they make for really good villains. It always ups the stakes when you find an evil version of yourself. They were also quite powerful and had some of the more challenging boss fights in the game. They were a great addition to the cast. You need human opponents like that once in a while because just having monsters isn’t as personal. Throwing in the humans shows that you can’t trust anyone in the mirror world.

There are a few supporting characters like the Queen, Lars, Luna, etc. They are fairly good. They add to the plot and come in handy, but aren’t really main characters. There are 3 different levels of characters here. The main characters who appear frequently and go on the missions. The supporting characters, these still have full character portraits like the main ones, but don’t get on the front lines. Finally, the non characters, the ones with names, but no accompanying picture. It was a pretty good way of knowing who was important and who wasn’t right off the bat.

The graphics look really clear and smooth. One positive for mobile games in general is that they don’t have the budget to add in the fancy stuff so they make the fields clear so the sprites that they do have look great. Throw in the PS4 resolution and this game really looks modern. There is absolutely nothing dated about the graphics and the character portraits are also high budget as opposed to the interesting Street Fighter V ones. I enjoyed the soundtrack. It’s noticeably limited as there are only 3-4 themes in the game for the most part, but fortunately they are catchy. I really enjoyed the main battle theme which plays for virtually all of the bosses. The game also did throw in a unique theme for the final boss which was definitely appreciated. I have no qualms with this area of the game.

There is a good amount of replay value here as you can try to get all of the PS4 trophies. During that process you can try to hit Level 600 with all of the characters and unlock the various endings. I got the normal ending, which I’m pretty satisfied with, but it would have been nice to have gotten the others. I thought I had enough of a trust level to get one of the bonus endings, but apparently not. The main game will last you over 25 hours as well so it’s not like the game even needed bonus content at all. It’s well worth the price.

Overall, Asdivine Hearts was a really fun game. The plot starts right away and even the intro which is probably the slowest part as you get the feel for the game was fun. A lot of that is due to the smooth gameplay, but the characters and story deserve a nod here as well. I definitely love RPGs since turn based combat/grinding is fun and you spend so much time in the story that you’re almost guaranteed to get to like the cast. The map in this game is also perfect so you’ll never get lost which is huge. I’m not going to say that this was one of the best RPGs ever, but it actually is pretty high up there. I hope the sequel ends up getting a PS4 release as well.

Overall 8/10

Trinity Souls of Zill O’ll Stats and Records

Stats time!

Play Time 24h 1m
PS3 Trophy% 38%
Areus Level 47
Dagda Level 44
Selene Level 43
Journal 58% Complete
Characters 95% Complete
Bestiary 93% Complete
Titles 25% Complete
Glossary 95% Complete
Help 97% Complete

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral

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It’s always funny when a series is consistently defeated by its spinoffs, but this happens to Fairy Tail once again. Blue Mistral is actually pretty decent and I can already tell that it’s going to leave the main title behind. Wendy isn’t much of a fighter yet, but ideally she will grow into the role of the main character as the series goes on. It’s worth checking out and I’ll have a review for the series when I finish it.

Overall 6/10

Shantae Half-Genie Hero Review

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It’s time to take a look at another one of the Christmas games. Shantae was definitely a lot of fun to play through and it’s an indie game done right. It’s not super long or anything since it’s a game that is made to be speed runned, but it’s still long enough for you to feel like you got your money’s worth. The level designs are all on point and the game just looks and sounds good in general. I can also finally say that I’ve played a game in the Shantae series!

Shantae was trying to enjoy her beauty sleep when the village has need of her services once again. As a half-genie hero, Shantae protects a village and in exchange they pay her or at least give her a place to live. Unfortunately, the mayor has a habit of firing her. The village is attacked by all sorts of villains, including Risky Boots. Shantae will have to take them all down and save the genie realm, but can she do it?

The game has a nice retro feel to it as the game uses sprites the whole time. The levels are all pretty bright and cheerful. Even the villain levels and burning remains are still bright enough for you to see where you’re going at all times and breeze through. The game has that simple fun factor that the Mario and Sonic titles of the past possessed. It’s something that some games tend to lack nowadays with their artificial length and unnecessary quests. This one had a few riddles that needed to be deciphered, but they weren’t anything too crazy. I found them all in a reasonable amount of time.

Ironically, I managed to find most of the bonus collectibles in the mean time. By the time I was able to get to the next story level, I was very overpowered. I had a large heart collection by then and a lot of power ups that made the rest of the game a breeze. Naturally, all of these collectibles help the replay value section. The main game should take around 5 hours or so, but in order to get the Platinum Trophy, you’ll need to play the game again and complete it in a mere 4 hours. Certainly doable, but it’ll take some practice and a nice plan in mind. This is a game where I actually do plan on getting all of the trophies sooner than later so stay tuned for that. I’ve already got 72% of the trophies and more are on the way.

The music selection in the game was certainly enjoyable. The song that played during the first level was definitely a lot of fun and so was the boss theme and the burning cafe. They helped make the game more exciting for sure. This game definitely really succeeded on a technical level as well as when it comes to the pure gameplay. The creators definitely put a lot of heart into it and I can see why the kick starter people would feel good about their contributions.

As for the gameplay, it starts out like a classic Mario game, but with her hair acting as a sword of sorts. As you play through the game, you’ll get gradually stronger to the point where the old levels will suddenly be a piece of cake. You’ll learn how to fly, swim underwater, grab onto ceilings, and also multiply your attack power and speed by 4x. It’s fun to see the contrast to the start as you really begin to breeze through all of the levels. It’s hard to believe just what a difference the power ups make, but they are well worth it.

As mentioned before, the level designs are really good, which help to further make the gameplay shine. The only part of one level that seemed a little overly difficult was the Flappy Bird homage in part 3 of the last level. Luckily, you can cheese it out by falling on the very left of the final spike platform and then turning into a Bat. I somehow think that this wasn’t intentional, but we certainly take those. Anything goes when it’s time to complete the game right?

Shantae makes for a good main character. She reminds me a lot of Lina Inverse from Slayers, but less obsessed with money and riches. Shantae’s just a noble hero who tries to do the right thing and save the day. She even takes time out of her day to chat with the villains when they’re not busy trying to rule the world or resurrect old pals from the previous games. There are a lot of references to the older games, but it’s certainly not necessary to purchase them to understand what’s going on. You’ll be able to get into the game rather easily. Shantae’s grandfather and two friends aren’t that charismatic so I don’t mind that they got a rather small role. This is one of those games that really leans on Shantae as she has the most personality by far.

Risky Boots does the same for the villains. She seems to be the only villain who is totally evil and doesn’t have time for niceties or cracking jokes like the others. Her plan was actually pretty intense and if you get the bad ending, she does succeed in destroying quite a few people. Naturally, I went for the bad ending since the good one needed me to grab more collectibles. I’ll probably see that one when I attempt the speed run at some point. If not, well..I can probably tell what will change anyway, but you’ll just need to find out for yourself.

The sheer fun factor of the game ends up putting it ahead of Shovel Knight and Mighty No 9. There is a lot of backtracking here and helping people out with side quests, but they were all fun to play through. The levels are also short enough where it isn’t a bother to go back and forth as you look for collectibles. It’s just a very well made game and if I were to have any complaints, it would be that you can’t skip the credits, but I suppose that’s cool for the people who pledged to this project.

Overall, Shantae Half-Genie Hero is definitely a good PS4 game and I’d recommend picking it up. It’s certainly not the longest game on the block, but it’s long enough and has a good amount of replay value. If we do end up getting some free DLC for it soon, that’ll be even cooler, but there’s enough base content to make it all worthwhile. Sprites also work perfectly for the game since otherwise the dancing and attires could be a bit much in this desert land, but sprites make everything 20% better. Hopefully this game did really well so we can get a sequel at some point. Of course, if Shantae is added into the Switch version of Smash, then she’ll have enough publicity to last a life time!

Overall 8/10

Doctor Strange Review

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All right, I got to see the latest big Marvel film! As we inch closer to the long awaited Infinity War, it makes sense to bring in a heavy hitter like Doctor Strange. He will certainly come in handy for the big fights since he is already one of the stronger members on the team. Considering that he has only just begun to learn the mystical arts, he’ll only get stronger from here. This is definitely a solid film and ranks pretty well compared to the other MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films. I’ll have a list of them from best to worst below.

All right, lets dig into the plot! Doctor Strange was a very successful surgeon. He may have even been the world’s greatest. Unfortunately, he gets into a car crash and his hands are severely damaged. To bring them back to working condition, he heads to the mountains to learn from The Ancient One, who healed a patient in a similar condition. It turns out that she used magical abilities and now Strange can learn these as well. The catch is that Strange will now find himself in the middle of a war between light and dark. Can he help defend the universe or will Strange return to his normal life?

Even before we get to Strange actually becoming adept at using magic and fighting off the villains, the film is pretty fun. I liked Strange quite a lot back in his confident days. You see how he isn’t very heroic as he doesn’t help those who may not make it through the day. Strange was in it for the publicity, but at least he was still helping people. He did it for the wrong reasons, but it could be much worse. I was a little surprised at just how rich he was, but surgeons do make quite a lot of money and if you’re the world’s best..then it makes sense that you’d be rich. I’d call this part the prologue and it’s fairly short. The scenes all go by very quickly and maybe that’s part of why it was fun. It doesn’t drag on, but still lasts long enough for you to get a general feel for how the situation was for Strange and his colleagues.

The action scenes after that certainly live up to the hype. Strange and the other magicians all fight using more of a Green Lantern style than Harry Potter. They use magic to create energy weapons to fight with and can also alter the landscape around them during battle. Magic seems to be able to amp up their physical abilities like in Psyren as well since we see Strange jump long distances and land without injury. His super cape also allows him to fly. This is definitely how I can picture some of the Green Lanterns battling when sparring with each other. Strange’s magic is limited only by his imagination so he can come up with a lot of good weapons.

Since Strange is a genius, he is also able to learn the spells at a rapid pace. He even becomes adept at time spells, which is very handy in a fight. Sure, it can mess with the time stream, but it’s still worth using since it can help the heroes out when they’re in a pinch. With the abilities he showed here, I’d put Dr. Strange ahead of all the Avengers in a fight except for possibly Vision, Thor, and Hulk. Strange’s one weakness seems to be that he’s rather slow..the curse of all spellcasters. He can fly, which helps to make up for that and he can bring his spells up a lot faster than good ole Harry Potter, but it will still be tough to do in time against a speedster. For the Hulk, the problem is that most of his spells probably wouldn’t do much damage to him at the moment. Considering that Strange still has room to improve while the others do not, the tables could turn very quickly. As it is, I consider him to be pretty close to the others. Ms. Marvel should claim 1st easily if she’s handled accurately though.

As I mentioned earlier, Doctor Strange is a great character and the best one in the film. He is certainly charismatic and will remind you of Iron Man. With Iron Man getting mellowed out in his old age, Dr. Strange could become the most charismatic in the MCU. We’ll just have to see if being sorcerer supreme also makes him “wiser” and he loses some of that fiery spirit. Hopefully not! The Ancient One is another one of the big characters here. She’s the mentor figure in the film…and well….we’ll see if you know what that means for her. Regardless, she’s a good character but tends to be a little too cryptic. A few more direct words would have helped clear up some of the major misunderstandings. Perhaps she was just too full of herself or simply thought that she could handle whatever troubles arised. She was fairly tough and was shown to be a more capable fighter than the others. At this point, she is probably still a little stronger than Strange as well. It’s just always going to be tough when you’re outnumbered.

I can’t say that I liked Mordo, but granted, I knew where things were going thanks to the comic. I didn’t expect the road to be traveled so quickly, but here we are. His magic boots are definitely a handy tool to have. I’ll take the cloak personally since it gives auto defense as well, but the boots help Mordo be an aerial fighter. He doesn’t get a whole lot of action here so that’ll probably be more in the sequel. It’s hard to take him seriously as a threat, but a good power up can go a long way.

Christine is the main heroine of the film. As always, I thought that the romance was rather weak and unnecessary here. She wasn’t a bad character though and while she didn’t take the supernatural aspects particularly well, few characters do. Usually, a character only takes it well if it’s a comic relief moment and that wasn’t going to happen here. Christine does give us one of the jump scares in the film so that was neat. I’m hoping that she gets some powers for the sequel since that would help her out quite a bit.

Kaecilius is the main villain and he won’t be the next Loki. He’s essentially Malekith 2.0 or any other average baddy. He wants to destroy the world. That’s basically his only goal. I think one of the reasons why he doesn’t work so well is that this guy has been a disciple of the magical arts for ages. He’s one of the strongest warriors and yet….Doctor Strange is able to give him a good fight and overpower the guy in his very first skirmish. Despite everything that happens afterwards, it sort of destroys the hype around the guy. He’s not a bad villain though and I like him more than Mordo, but there just isn’t much to him.

Now, Dormammu is a solid villain. I didn’t really like the design that he got in this film, but the personality is still intact. When Strange makes his move, Dormammu does his best to keep doing what he does best. His attacks are definitely cool looking and his power is certainly treated with a lot of respect. I don’t see him getting a large role anytime soon as a result, but it was certainly nice to see him. There are some other nice tributes here like the Staff of the Living Tribunal, which pops up. That guy is an interesting figure in the comics as he is supposed to be one of the most powerful beings in the multiverse. I always took that with a grain of salt and believe that the staff proves this. It wasn’t able to break a simple conjured staff. I do want it to appear more in the sequels though as it leads to a lot of questions. Is the Living Tribunal dead? I wouldn’t be surprised, but seeing him and the other big Marvel abstracts on the big screen would be pretty awesome.

It almost goes without saying, but the effects are really good. The scene where Strange is launched into the magic world and the colors start going crazy is certainly the best example of this. I definitely enjoy seeing visuals like that and there is a lot to take in. All of the fight scenes are visually a blast as well. I am confident that the Dr. Strange films will be able to keep this up and it’ll be cool to see it transfer over to Strange’s other films as well. He’ll certainly be returning sooner than later. I can’t really say that the soundtrack was all that memorable though. I forgot most of the tunes right away, but they fit the scenes well enough.

There are two after credit scenes in this film so make sure that you stick around for them. They are the best scenes that we have gotten in quite a while and the first one in particular is a lot of fun. It definitely has a lot of promise and while it wasn’t the Spider-Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, and Ms. Marvel teaming up against Thanos cliffhanger that you may have been expecting, we can be confident that this will be happening soon. The second scene is a little more grim and you’ll definitely feel bad for person X because of what person Y does to him, but it also helps lead into a film and tries to legitimize a threat. Both are important and aren’t filler, which is huge since that has been my problem with some of the other scenes from past films.

Time for that MCU list! There aren’t as many films as in the Godzilla franchise so I won’t be using as many tiers since it would just spread them out needlessly. There will only be three tiers instead. The films that are easily a cut above the rest, the films which are all more or less at around the same level, and the ones that are easily weaker. Lets go!

S. Avengers, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A. Doctor Strange, Thor 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man 2, Thor, Iron Man, Iron Man 3, Hulk
C Captain America, Ant Man

You should account for recency bias here as the theater effect typically makes a film stand out even more than usual for a few months. That being said, I do think Doctor Strange is a solid enough film to keep this spot for a while and if anything it just speaks to how Marvel has been able to keep up the quality and even improve upon it.

There are certainly a lot of other things to talk about here, but I’m trying to keep this movie completely spoiler free so I’ll have to let them go for now. One thing that I will say is that Strange has a good point about how warnings for spells should be written before the spells. One of the “crimes” that he commits isn’t even that bad if you ask me. It’s always a moral dilemma about how you should wield this fundamental force of nature and it’s too big to tackle in a paragraph, but if you can use it, then you probably should. I think it may play a big role in Infinity War if the Avengers aren’t quite ready for Thanos in the initial confrontation. You can’t even call it a Deux Ex Machina since it is already established and isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers. It would likely only be able to be used once so they wouldn’t have infinite shots. That’s enough hints on that though.

Oh yeah, I should probably just put this out there. Doctor Strange could easily beat Harry Potter and Voldemort in a fight. It’s not even close. In his very first fight with absolutely no prep time, Doctor Strange was able to take on 3 skilled opponents at once. (Probably the best fight scene in the film) Harry wouldn’t have been able to take any of them on. Being able to use spells while also fighting is a skill that will let Strange beat most other opponents. That’s another reason why I liked Strange. He didn’t want to join in the war, but when the fight came to him, he made sure to finish the job and take out his opponents. His only real misstep was snapping at Christine and just watching as the Ancient One was triple teamed. Seriously, he probably should have stepped in or tried to do anything. That would have been very helpful. I’m sure that he won’t panic like that again though and he’s still a rookie (Relatively. Astral Projections eliminate the need for sleep so he’s gotten to improve at triple speeds or more) As far as protagonists for Marvel go, Doctor Strange is probably the most likable one, with Tony Stark being second and maybe Cap being third. Cap’s gotten more likable over the last few films.

Overall, Doctor Strange is another solid installment to the MCU. I’d consider it to be one of the best Marvel films that they’ve put out. It works really well as a stand alone, which is rare for a film this late in the game. It’ll make Strange’s appearances in other films all the more special as he’ll already have had his character development and it will make the film feel more like a crossover. This film balances the more comical aspects with the serious ones pretty well and I’d say that it did a much better job of it here than Age of Ultron. The latter went a little too far with the comedy at some points. The moving buildings angle made for some really fun fights and this is what Thor: The Dark World should have done with Malekith. The fights in Doctor Strange were gimmicky, but still had a lot of action and you couldn’t say that they weren’t fighting. On the contrary, someone was always on the offensive in the fights and it just meant that they had to concentrate on multiple things at once. Magic is such a great ability to have. I certainly recommend checking this film out and then we’ll see if Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Spider-Man can hold their own against this film. It’s certainly going to be tricky, They’re dooooooomed but if there’s anything we’ve learned about comic book films, it’s that you can’t count them out. After all, Civil War actually made Black Panther a likable character and was able to get me on Team Iron Man for once. Both of those were things that I didn’t think were possible.

Overall 8/10

Puella Magi Oriko Magica Extra Story Review

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After reviewing the Oriko manga earlier, it’s time to look at a one volume AU for it. This volume works as a What If prequel where we follow the two main villains from the last title. While the art has greatly improved, this manga decides to follow Yuma’s plot more, which dooms it in the end. Otherwise, all of the other areas of the core manga have improved so this is a good sign for future Madoka titles. Just keep Yuma’s origin out and we’ll have ourselves a winner!

The manga starts with Kirika having no friends and eventually getting Magical Girl powers. She vents out her frustrations by beating Witches until she finally finds a friend that she used to have. She saved the girl and reminds her to always have hope as she physically defeats the friend’s mental demons and heads back home. It’s a nice little origin story for Kirika and she is already much more likable than how she was in the previous volumes. The fact that her boss, Oriko, is a good guy in this series changes things dramatically since Kirika does whatever the other girl says without question. Of course, a true friend should always be willing to call someone else out so Kirika’s definitely got to work on that.

The real plot starts after this. Oriko happens to run into a little kid named Yuma, who is being hit with child abuse. Unfortunately, Yuma doesn’t want to leave the situation as she believes that being a good kid will take it all away. Oriko isn’t cool enough to break in and actually help Yuma, but at least she does give her some words of advice about the whole thing. That’s good….but helping would have been better. Especially when you consider the fact that she got a vision that Yuma was going to die. I didn’t mention it in this review yet, but Oriko’s magical ability is that she can see into the future. Unfortunately, she can’t control this ability so it happens completely at random.

Oriko doesn’t have a lot of time to rethink her moves either since a magical girl hunter in white has shown up. Her name is Sasa and Oriko is naturally on her hit list along with Kirika. The irony of all this….Oriko will have to fight hard in order to defeat this villain since Sasa has the ability to control other Witches. Still, Kirika and Oriko are fairly powerful so they should be able to handle this challenge with no problems!

So, Oriko’s a decent main character. As I mentioned earlier, she should have helped Yuma out more. Besides that, Oriko doesn’t really do anything wrong. She decides that instead of murdering every other magical girl like in the main manga, she’ll just go and fight the final Witch as best she can. We can assume that she died in this battle since even Homura couldn’t win in the TV show, but who knows…maybe she can pull it off. Either way, it’s much better than just trying to destroy someone. Hopefully the irony of Sasa trying to assasinate her and Kirika really hit home. It’s amazing how different a character can be in a what if though. The single difference of meeting Yuma before making her plan is hinted to have been the deciding point. (At least according to the volume) It’s hard to imagine Oriko’s personality changing so drastically, but it’s definitely a good thing since she was a very unsympathetic villain in the first series who was pretty bad.

Kirika’s also much better. She’ll still follow every order and while she talks about friendship, it comes across as hollow due to this. Naturally, Kirika looks a little weaker now that she’s one of the protagonists, but that’s a classic manga/anime trope so it’s to be expected. When she’s not around Oriko, Kirika is typically a lot more independent and heroic and that’s why she looked so good in her origin story. I don’t think the dynamic of Oriko and Kirika would make for great banter so I’d hope that more characters would be introduced in a long running series. Especially since the manga keeps trying to pair these two up and has a lot of teasing between them. Focusing on the action is much better.

Especially since we can finally see the action scenes this time. The art really has improved and it is leagues ahead of the first two volumes in the Oriko series. Those were almost unreadable at times while this one looks more like your standard action manga. It’s still not incredible, but it certainly rises up to an average level and is clear enough where you can easily get what is happening on every page. I was pleasantly surprised to see this.

As for the main villain, Sasa was okay I suppose. She fits the bill as the villain and her army of witches is also fairly impressive. She’s certainly very greedy since she wants all of the Grief seeds for herself, but this strategy definitely seems risky. Why go out of your way to attack other Magical Girls when there are already so many seeds to grab? Well, I guess she needed some kind of motivation. Her design was a little on the generic side though.

Finally, Yuma’s a good character. It’s too bad that she had such a tragic past though. The topic of child abuse is a little too dark for this title and especially since she actually died in one timeline. It shows that this threat was quite serious and it took Yuma too long to get out of there. It was great to see the grand parents show up and take her away. I would have liked to have seen a prison announcement for good measure as well, but this was a great start.

Overall, While this volume’s art was significantly better than the main series and Oriko/Kirika were greatly improved as characters, it was not able to beat the main title. I really missed having the main characters of the TV show around since they really held up the first manga. The fights were solid and since this was a single volume, the pacing was very quick as well. It’s an easy 7 if not for Yuma. If you don’t mind a dark plot like that, then I believe you’ll be able to enjoy this manga a lot more than the other one. If it is an issue, then I recommend checking out the two volume Oriko series instead. The art may be bad, but at least you’ll get to see Homura, Kyoko, and Mami with solid roles. They look really good and have the best scenes in the series. With this volume now complete as well, I look forward to seeing how the next Madoka manga titles fare. I’m still waiting for a definitive one!

Overall 3/10

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen Review

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After watching all of the Slayer seasons, it was time for a slightly more serious take on the fantasy genre. By “slightly” more serious, I mean that this one is very somber and dramatic for the entirety of its run. (Ignoring the sequel series/season) You can tell that this is the tone that it is going for as soon as the first opening plays. It’s catchy, but the images are also quite sad. It depicts a barren wasteland and a solitary hero who must wander through life on his own even when his friends are near. His mission is a fire one and the stakes are high. It’s a fun series even if one of the characters goes through a personality shift a little too quickly at the end. (Azalie)

A long time ago, Orphen was taught magic at the Tower of Fang. Things went well for a while and Orphen became one of the strongest magicians in the world, but his mentor (Azalie) became greedy with power and used a mystical sword to stab herself which transformed her into the dragon, Bloody August. The Tower of Fang decided that she must be eliminated which caused Orphen to leave on a mission to save her and to defeat the Tower of Fang if necessary. On his travels, he ended up meeting up with a kid named Majic and a rich lady named Cleao. Majic gets involved in the quest because Orphen decides to take him in as an apprentice (For a good amount of money of course) As for Cleao, her family owns the legendary sword that transformed Azalie in the first place so Orphen decides to take it back. Cleao follows him so that she can take the sword back once he’s done with it.

The sword isn’t powerful enough to change Azalie back to her human form though so Orphen needs to find a few relics to amp up its power and allow him to cast the spell. Is it that easy though? A lot of complications occur and naturally the Tower of Fang aims to stand in his way. Along the way, Orphen softens up a little with the group, but for the majority of the series, he’s serious business through and through. He can’t relax until the mission is complete.

Orphen’s plot is pretty engaging and this first series builds up a lot of the universe as we learn about the current status quo. The Tower of Fang seems to be the only ruling body in the world or at least the main one by which all others look to for advice. I wonder how they got such a high rank since the group doesn’t seem all that tough. If I could change one thing about the show’s plot, it would be that I’d like a better resolution at the end, fight-wise. There wasn’t really a big fight to end the series surprisingly and Orphen never got to have a big fight with Childman. Even fighting Azalie in her final form would have been a blast to see as the student surpassed the mentor. Unfortunately, all of these fights never got to happen which was a little disappointing. The series had a good amount of action in its run, but I feel like all anime should end off with a big fight. End on a high note right?

Orphen’s the lead of course and he makes for a good one. He’s completely focused on the mission so he rarely humors his comrades on their comic relief subplots. He’s an excellent mage so he rarely ever loses a fight. He reminds me a little of Train Heartnet although he is typically in denial a little more. Azalie isn’t quite as selfless and nice as Saya was in Black Cat. It’s still a noble goal to save her of course, but he certainly bites off a lot more than he can chew here. Regardless, Orphen’s tough personality and ace combat skills make him a great lead.

Cleao’s the main heroine and she always means well. Unfortunately, she’s not much of a fighter. She gets into arguments with Orphen quite a lot, which ultimately help him not get too focused on the mission to the point where he’ll lose everything else. When a fight starts, Cleao’s glad to try and help even if it’s only a little. It’d be great if she could learn a spell or two, but Cleao is certainly charasmatic so she’s got that going in her favor. The group needed an energetic character in the mix for the good banter and contrast that it brings. She owns Leki, a magical dog of immense power who comes in handy quite a bit. This also ended up helping Cleao a lot since Leki is immensely powerful and can blow away most opponents with ease. When Leki grows up, he could even end up being stronger than Orphen if the bigger versions of him are any indication.

Then…we have Majic. Unfortunately, he’s a bad character. He’s one of the main comic relief characters of the series and a running gag is that his magical abilities are terrible and seem to never actually improve no matter how far the series ends up progressing. One scene towards the very beginning of the series doomed him though even if it was meant as a quick comic relief scene. Majic uses his spells to make a mirror next to where Cleao was bathing so he could watch. It’s a pretty despicable act and while Orphen put an end to it, it shows that Majic definitely has no standards. It’s a quick scene and Majic never does anything like it again, but there’s no way that he could be a likable character after that. When you’re in a small group on the road, you have to be able to trust your partners. After an act like that, there’s no way you can really trust Majic so it’s good to see him fail at performing spells for the rest of the series.

Volkan and Dortin are the other comic relief characters. Volkan always acts as the voice of reason against Dortin while Dortin forces him to come along anyway. Dortin is like Hercule or other comic relief characters who always talk a great game before getting wrecked. It works really well for Dortin though and he is easily one of the best comic relief characters of this type out there. He gets most of the best lines in the entire show and the banter between him and Orphen helps to make the series so enjoyable. Typically, any scene with the two of them is going to be pretty good and a lot of Dortin’s schemes are fun even if they’re doomed to fail. I don’t really care for Volkan, but then again, I typically don’t care for the “straight man” in jokes or the serious comic relief character. It just doesn’t work for me at all and destroys the point of a comic relief character.
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The whole show is really about saving Azalie so she has a big role in this. For the first half of the series she’s essentially mindless. Not completely as seen when the dragon turns into Childman and he still has control, but it is hard to see what her plan is. Later on, we find out a lot of startling plot twists about her. The sword transformation may have not been how she planned it to go, but she was aiming for power for all the wrong reasons. She always wanted Childman, but as he was a reasonable mentor, he placed the friend zone card. That’s what Azalie wanted vengeance and she ultimately ends up taking over Childman’s body.

From there, she freezes one of the Fang members, tries to destroy Childman, and also breaks the mind of one of the Elders. She is a complete villain through and through, there’s no way to get around that. Despite all of this, everyone treats her as a likable hero by the end who just went a little off course. You can make a plot like that work such as Cardfight Vanguard where Kai went around doing quite a few evil things before being taken down, but it has to be gradual. In Orphen, this turnaround is just about instant as soon as she is essentially defeated and Childman is turned back into a baby. Also, we learn that she essentially becomes the boss of the Tower of Fang in the sequel series. She never gets to pay for her crimes of murder and assault in the slightest.

Don’t get me wrong, Azalie makes for a great villain, but it’s incredibly hard to buy the fact that she is now a “hero.” It’s not that easy and quick to switch sides and especially not when we see her being evil for quite so long. All it took was for Childman to remove the friendzone card from the table, but it’s way too late for that. So, while Azalie is cool, I think that the end plot development simply did not make any sense by the end. It could have been handled better.

Childman is Azalie’s mentor and seems to be generally considered as the strongest magician in the world. His abilities are quite high and it is revealed at the end that he could even have defeated the Bloody August if he had wished to do so. I don’t like this guy though because he is supremely annoying. All along he wanted to save Azalie as well, but he just decided not to tell anyone and as a result, he made no real progress in his quest. Either way, he would need some artifacts if he wanted to do anything, but he never got any of them and then Azalie took his body with ease while Childman was in awe of her. He really could have handled the situation 100x better than he actually did. I respect his power, but that’s about all.

Hartia is Orphen’s childhood friend, although you could barely tell from this season. Hartia acts like a friend and tries to act as a mediator between Childman and Orphen, but it’s tough since Orphen wants nothing to do with him. It also doesn’t help that while Azalie was in Childman’s body, she kept incriminating herself and Hartia intentionally to further widen the wedge between the friends. By the end, Orphen and Hartia had some all out battles with each other. Hartia could certainly have done a better job of explaining things at different points, but in the end the fact of the matter is that he chose the tower over Orphen and that’s probably at the heart of Orphen’s grudge. I like Hartia’s superhero identity even if it certainly doesn’t help to smooth things over with Orphen. He’s actually a lot stronger than he lets on.

Flameheart is one of the main villains and he is the first opponent to flat out defeat Orphen before the fight was interrupted. He may not be the coolest villain around, but he is quite powerful. He meets with a bit of an anticlimactic end though as he made the same mistake as Azalie as he tried to grab the sword. I suppose that the sword is just hard to resist. I’m not really a fan of this guy though and he does do a lot of whining when things don’t go his way. Good villains have to keep their calm and activate a backup plan when things don’t go well.

The show has some mild fanservice towards the beginning and the end. For the end it’s mainly through the astral projection of Azalie appearing for no real reason. It’s her astral form, but it is still overused quite a bit and Cleao also gets some towards the beginning, but by and large Orphen manages to dodge this trap for the most part. There are definitely a few filler esque episodes, but they’re typically not bad. At the very least, filler helps you appreciate the real episodes a whole lot more.

Power Level wise, I’d place Orphen the character above several magicians like Dr. Strange and Lina Inverse (Definitely a close fight though and composite Lina could be another story with her Sword of Light) but physically he is around human level which can hurt him against fast opponents. As a series, Orphen is fairly realistic despite the magic so it wouldn’t rank too high next to other anime titles, but I’m sure that we’ll be getting some power ups as the franchise goes on.

The soundtrack for the show is pretty good. We have a solid opera theme that plays for the big moments like when the Bloody August attacked the Tower of Fang. It was a great scene I have to add as it came out of nowhere and was pretty unexpected. Who would have thought that the big villain organization would be taken down so suddenly and in the span of around 2 minutes? These guys talked such a big game, but they crumbled in the end. There are quite a few other good battle themes in the series as well. Both of the openings are also quite good with the second one having better action scenes, but the first one probably encapsulating the themes of the show a little better. In the end, I will actually choose that one as my favorite for this series.

As for the animation, it looks pretty solid. Especially when the high budget scenes show up, there is a noticeable difference. The colors are nice and vibrant and this is especially useful for the action scenes. Even when the budget is normal though, the show looks very clear. Naturally, the sequel series looks a lot richer with detail, but this one is definitely solid. There are even some illustration type shots towards the beginning of the series which are always fun. As long as they aren’t spammed of course, but that’s not the case here.

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Overall, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen is a solid show. It’s definitely one of the more somber anime that I’ve seen in a while at times, but there is no shortage of comic relief characters, which keeps the atmosphere fairly light at well. The animation and soundtrack hold up very well and fight scenes are solid as well. It’s an all around solid show and one I’d recommend to all fantasy or action fans. If you like good banter a lot, but are not necessarily an action fan, I think you can still enjoy this show quite a bit as well. I’m just about done with the sequel series so you can expect a review for that as well fairly soon. It opts to drop the serious angle so it’s more of a lighthearted adventure which works well enough in its own right, but it is definitely different.

Overall 7/10

Now You See Me Review

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It’s time to watch a film about magic! This is a bit of a team film as several magicians who are the best at what they do are grouped together to perform tricks that have never even been attempted before. Obviously the stakes are high, but these guys are ready. Unfortunately, there are dozens of plot holes and plot twists that don’t make sense. The writers took all of the easy routes during the film when it comes to explanations and it ultimately makes you feel like there was not a lot of effort put into this title.

As for the plot, it revolves around this team. The magicians find a magical orb at a mysterious apartment that they were all sent too via playing cards. These cards were expertly handed to them as they were in places that nobody should have been able to get to all that easily. The challenge isn’t told to the viewers until the very end, but it involves stealing a lot of things and crushing the lives of several people. What’s in it for the magicians? The thrills and the chance to join a mysterious magic group of legend.

That’s their side of the story. On the other side, we have Dylan, an FBI agent whose mission is to capture these guys. They may not have been a threat at first, but they rob all of the money from a large bank’s vault and then they steal millions from their boss. Their last trick is set to take place in New York so Dylan must use every tool at his disposal to win. To his dismay, he has a partner for this case from Interpol and he fears that she (Alma) will slow him down. His ego is certainly fairly strong.

At the very least, this isn’t the kind of film that I found dull in the least. The pacing is very quick and most of the dialogue is fairly snappy and entertaining. There is a lot of banter to be found here. Given the nature of the film, there are also a few chase scenes like the ones on the ground and a car chase as well. We even get a big hand to hand fight scene between Dylan and one of the magicians where the guy is pulling off things that shouldn’t even be possible thanks to his magical skills. It’s the kind of action that you want to see in a summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, this gets held down by many other elements.

For starters, Danny is one of the magicians and he’s pretty unlikable. His first scene is him having a one night stand with someone before shooing her away because he has to get to a meeting. Not a great introduction. His overconfidence is good as he messes with the cops a lot, but it’s just irritating to see the cops simply have to back off. They know that this guy is a burglar and he’s also taunting them so that’s reason enough to keep him locked up for questioning for a while.

Another one of the magicians is Henley and her thing is that she’s good at escaping impossible situations like being chained up in an underwater tank and then appearing in the audience. Naturally, she can’t resist quickly stripping before jumping into the tank. There’s a really unnecessary romance plot between her and Danny that goes nowhere and probably never will since her character is not going to be in the sequel.

Merritt is next on the list and what if I said that he was the worst member? He is good at hypnosis to the point where the film has to sacrifice even more realism. Just by talking to you for an instant, he can get you to do whatever you want. He uses his tricks of mind reading as well to humiliate everyone all the time. Despite this, he doesn’t realize that he’s the desperate one as he even asks Henley if she wants to have a one night stand. Whenever he’s on screen, you can get ready to face palm. Why is this black mailing individual one of the four horsemen? (The name of the magic group)

Finally, there’s Jack. He’s the youngest member and he’s great at slight of hand. He can pick any lock and he can magically use the handcuffs that are on him to cuff someone else in the blink of an eye. It’s all really a big stretch of disbelief if you ask me. He’s the best member of the group, but it’s practically automatic. He has no huge faults that hurt the character and he takes all of the big risks while the other members try to get somewhere safe while they still can. They’re not exactly dependable as you can see.

Luckily, Dylan’s a likable protagonist. He always looks and sounds tired, but it gives the impression that he has been doing this for a while and that he has experience on his side. He knows how to talk tough to all of the villains even if he ultimately ends up getting humiliated a lot of the time. He’s the main reason why the film is a blast. His only failing is that he tends to blame everything on Alma and yells at her for basically no reason whenever he’s stressed. Alma should have just left to work on her own after a while because I know I wouldn’t bother with someone like that. Especially when he has to keep on asking her for help since he doesn’t believe in magic.

The main fault with this film aside from the unlikable magicians is the large amount of plot holes. Honestly, you could write a whole 1000+ word review on just that aspect. In the end, we are led to believe that the magic is basically real to an extent. There’s no other way to justify how the magicians pull off so many feats. They hypnotize someone to rob a bank, they can fight off professional FBI agents with their tricks, They can leap from speeding cars and have time to exchange a dummy in their place that looks incredibly realistic to the point where nobody can tell that it’s a fake even at close contact, They can make completely real looking illusions, They phone in the dates for their robberies and where they are taking place, but the police don’t want to close the building or cancel the show, etc. They are able to take down the FBI and Interpol and the citizens of New York are actually cheering them on. Are you kidding me? It’s one thing for Americans to cheer someone illegally walking on a tight rope. It’s another to cheer about someone robbing people (Robbing a bank is essentially robbing a lot of citizens as well) and making lives miserable. I just don’t see that happening in real life to be honest.

There’s also a big plot twist about who the real leader of the 4 Horsemen is and it makes no sense in context to the rest of the film. There’s no way that the film can justify this in a way that will satisfy me. Sorry guys, I’m just not buying it. It turns the film upside down, but not in a good way. The only good part about this was that the tough talking Thaddeus was finally taken down a notch. He made for a good rival to the FBI in following the magicians and I liked his overconfidence, but he had to go at some point. His back and forth with the other old guy was one of the best scenes in the film though. Both of them are supremely confident and have a lot of resources, but only one could come out on top…or maybe none of them. The way that it all happens was pretty interesting and the scene where Thaddeus loses is funny. See, if you ignore the lack of realism, the final twist is hilarious. If you think back to all of the other scenes in the film while already knowing the twist…..well you just have to feel bad for the FBI. This looks pretty shameful on them.

Overall, Now You See Me is a film that should and could have been great. Becoming a good film is a three step process after all. 1. A film should be enjoyable. Check! 2. A film should have likable characters. X. 3. A film should minimize negatives:Extreme Violence, Sensuality, Language, Terrible Dialogue, Bad Pacing, etc. X. So, this film simply couldn’t follow those 3 rules. As it is, I wouldn’t really recommend it. It can make for a decent way to spend your evening, but there are simply better ways to do that. The sequel should be intriguing since the magicians are on the run. I’m looking forward to that and it looks like the big team up’s going to happen. The interesting thing is, I don’t think you would even realize the end twist just judging from the trailer of the second film so that was actually handled pretty well. On a final note, remember that you should never tell a group of teenagers all of the right passwords to your super complicated Swiss bank account which holds millions of dollars even if they claim that they only want to know it for a game they’re playing…that scene was just sad. Dylan’s boss in the FBI had the best line in the film, which basically encapsulates your opinion of the FBI’s handling of the case. “The level of incompetence displayed on the case, that’s a magic trick in and of itself. Abracadabra, I’m takin’ over…”
I reeeeeally loved that line, even if the character proceeded to get embarrassed in the very next minute. When watching the film, that’ll be your reaction as you can probably think of better ways to handle the situation.

Overall 5/10