Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note: Waver, Reunion, and the Magic Lantern Review

This review’s been a long time coming in part because I was toying with different ways of listing the title. The normal TV show was already a mouthful and then the TV special had an episode title of sorts. I wanted to go with “New Year’s Special” or something but nobody seems to really refer to it that way as a title and most barely even use this episode. I could have called it special episode but that seemed too general. So after a ton of back and forth…you’ve got this mammoth title!

The basic plot here is that Waver ends up meeting two of his old classmates from back in the day. Amleth who is good at illusion type magic (This is Fate so that’s a super simplified version of his abilities which are a lot more technical than that) and his partner Camus who used to be good friends with Waver. They’re really looking forward to the big class reunion coming up but when Waver wakes up the next day he has reverted back to his days of being a child. What could have caused this? He needs to figure out a way to reverse this and quickly or he will be the laughing stock of the reunion! Additionally there may be something a little more sinister at play.

It’s definitely always fun to have a special that takes place across Christmas and New Year’s. This is a fairly low stakes adventure that is more about showing you all of the characters and having fun with the cast than an end of the world event and that’s what you would expect for a fun TV special like this. Just about all of the supporting characters from the show appear to help out or just to tease Waver at times.

We do get one brief action scene for Gray to use her mystical Saber type abilities but beyond that this is a chance for fans to see the old Waver interact with the new cast. While this spell did not affect his mind much at first, the longer he’s in his younger body the more he starts to act like his old self as well. He just can’t drudge up the same level of confidence when he looks this young after all. It doesn’t help that he was never much of a fighter either so take away his confidence and then things really get dicey.

The special is part mystery. Now obviously you know something is up with either Amleth or Camus (Or both) since they’re the new characters here acting really shady. Illusions are also one way to make someone appear younger right? As the special goes on we have to find out the motive behind this because surely you wouldn’t go through all of this work just for some kind of personal prank right? Nah that wouldn’t track and of course we do get a sob story by the end so watch out for that.

Ultimately the motivation isn’t great. It’s a very personal one to be sure but it just makes one character look a bit whiny/petty. One character was certainly a bit oblivious back in the day so someone’s feelings got hurt but in that case I’d say what I always say. If you’re the one who likes someone else then the initiative is on you to make the move. If you prefer to just drop hints then that’s fine but they should be rather direct hints since vague ones can absolutely be misinterpreted. By the end Waver feels rather guilty about how he used to be but at the same time I think it’s a bit harsh. You can’t expect to recognize everything as the situation is unfolding. Looking back with hindsight is also not effective since that’s completely different.

The writing in the special is on point and so it all goes by very quickly. The animation is also very solid. While we don’t get a whole lot of action here, Gray’s attack animation is as stunning as ever. Additionally the soundtrack is still really good as you’d expect since Fate always has grand music. The grand feel of the soundtrack works just as well for the mystery here since the characters are always in such elaborate mansions. The character/location designers for Fate always do a great job.

Overall, This was a fun special. There isn’t a whole lot to talk about since it’s under an hour and the plot is part mystery so you don’t want to spoil things. That said, it’s solid on all sides and so you could recommend it to anyone. Someone who is not familiar with Fate will probably get less out of it but you can appreciate the fun vibes of the special and the mystery either way. It has a good blend of humor and suspense to keep you engaged all the way through. Hopefully we get more content in the El Melloi part of the franchise soon because mysteries within the Fate verse definitely work really well. With all of the complex magical spells all around it makes for a lot of possibilities in any case. It definitely increases the variables compared to a normal detective kind of adventure even if you always have to assume Waver will need to be lucky in order to not just get blown up by the culprit since most could just take him out in a single blow. It’s tough being a scholar in a world of warriors but I suppose until the next Grail War he should be mostly safe.

Overall 7/10

Night Nurse Review

Night Nurse is a film that feels relatively uneventful for the most part. It’s a fairly by the numbers film that is really old so in a way what is considered by the numbers now, probably wasn’t at the time. Even so I had a good time here but what really made the film fun was the ending. It’s a real sudden ending that is a blast and makes the whole thing worthwhile. I don’t feel as though this film will ever really stand out in a crowd but I had a good time and that’s what counts.

The movie starts off with Lora trying to get a job at the hospital but unfortunately the interview doesn’t go well. The head nurse barely even looks at her since her formal education was not up to the hospital’s standard. Lora gets lucky when she bumps into Dr. Bell outside and strongarms him into letting her join up. It was impressive that she got in but I do remember thinking it was a bit rude the way she practically threatened Dr. Bell. The guy was just trying to have a nice day and she immediately got real aggressive. Well, her days go by smoothly and she even treats the wound of a guy named Mortie. Things get tricky when she is given more of a private position to look after Mrs. Ritchey’s kids who seem rather malnourished and unhappy. The kids’ mother is a drunk and there’s a shady guy named Nick around. They have a private doctor looking after he kids who cannot be questioned and so the whole setup seems rather nefarious. What can Lora do about it?

The tough part is that there isn’t a whole lot that Lora can do at first. She’s a nurse who is brand new to the job and so she has no sway. She’s told that this is just the way their doctor wants things to go in order to cure the kids and without more experience it’s hard for her to just go against that. She needs some kind of captivating evidence and it’s not easy. It’s a good thing that she has a friend in Mortie though because that guy comes in handy.

See, Mortie knows a lot of people all around the city. His connections may not always be above board but he definitely gets results. I like his energy and he really helps Lora out in a lot of ways. One of the most direct ways was when he stepped in later on to face off against Nick. He wasn’t going to let Lora get attacked while he was around and then the ending scene is the cherry on top. While you probably don’t want the films to romanticize the crooks too much, this was a pretty nice take on getting to his good side. Lora helped him out when he was in a pinch and so he quickly returned the favor. It was just nice all around.

Meanwhile Lora is a solid main character because she takes a whole lot of risks in order to help those kids. A lot of other nurses probably would have looked the other way and just justified this by saying that the doctor knows best. Instead Lora went with her gut instincts and helped out here. It was also fun to see her really intimidating the drunk guy who attacked her early on in the film. Her getting some revenge was good since that guy was definitely a creep all the way.

The main villain here is Nick as he has big plans for the future and is willing to murder anyone to achieve his goals. Naturally punching a lady isn’t even beneath him here. If he can push someone around then you better believe he is going to do that. The guy has no scruples and definitely doesn’t hold back. I also have to blame Mrs. Richey a whole lot here because she sort of knows what is going on but doesn’t care because she is drunk 24/7. She’s trying to just completely avoid her life which is the most irresponsible thing you can possibly do as an adult. She had responsibilities and just threw them to the winds.

Lora had a friend in Maloney who made for a good colleague. She ultimately doesn’t do a whole lot when it comes to the actual climax and taking care of the plot but it’s always good to have at least one friend around. Otherwise you’re truly on on your own and that makes everything harder. Dr. Bell was also solid even if he gets pushed around a bit. The guy knows his stuff and was a good ally to have.

In terms of the film being a bit uneventful, I think it could have used more scenes of Lora sleuthing around a bit. Maybe have her looking through files and trying to find evidence of malpractice. She certainly took a lot of risks and still uncovered the crime but it could have helped you feel like the movie was doing more. Skip the scenes of her trying on clothes which basically just exist for low hanging fanservice bait and have more scenes involving the main plot itself. This film is fairly short so you could definitely extend it a little and I don’t believe there would be any issues. It never got boring either but there’s still more you can do here.

Overall, The Night Nurse has aged well for its time though. Lora’s a tough protagonist and I’d say she compares favorably with a lot of the other heroines from back in the day. Most were not quite as proactive as she was. Lora never turned away from danger and just kept on pushing. That’s exactly what you want to see from your nurse because then you know that your kids are safe under her care. As for the milk bath idea that the maid kept suggesting, I could see it being good for your skin but ultimately I doubt it’s much of a treatment in itself. I just can’t see it being some kind of miracle treatment but in desperate times it is important to try out anything if it gives you a chance. I always thought it would be interesting to try once but in general baths aren’t really my thing so I’ll stick to the showers. If we ever get a remake to this film, the most important thing is to keep Mortie’s role almost untouched. He provides a lot of good humor here but also satisfying moments in general.

Overall 6/10

Yuzu the Pet Vet Review

Yuzu the Pet Vet is definitely one of the most emotional manga titles around. It deals heavily with animals appearing in every chapter since that’s a big part of the plot so you can probably guess where this is going. The series is meant to be a fairly light hearted, but cautionary tale on how hard it is to raise pets but unfortunately that means showing us examples of lots of bad owners and so there are a lot of dogs that get injured in this one. I’d definitely say to give it a skip if you have a pet or even in general to be honest since there are just too many pets in harm’s way here.

The series starts off with Yuzu moving to her uncle’s place because her mother is very ill. Yuzu’s mom has been in and out of the hospital for a while now but it seems extra serious this time so Yuzu’s not in a great mood. Her uncle is an animal doctor and he treats all kinds of patients. He wants her to help out while she’s around the house but the problem is that she is terrified of animals. The more she helps her uncle, the more she starts to get comfortable around them though. Who knows, maybe she can even become a proper pet vet someday?

The cast is very small here because this really is an episodic kind of series. The only constant characters are Yuzu’s uncle, mother, and the dog Sora. Even Yuzu’s best friend only appears for around 2 pages in the whole series which is pretty crazy. It’s too bad because she seemed like a high quality character and yet there isn’t anything to say about her because that was just way too short of a period. What can you really talk about with a character who has appeared so briefly? I’ll tell you…nothing! That’s all there is to say there. Definitely a wasted opportunity.

As for Yuzu, well of course she’s not great when starting out but she does improve as the series goes on. She gradually learns how to be nice to animals and by the end of the series she is the one with the wise sayings keeping the other kids in their place. She really came very far by the end and I can definitely appreciate that. That being said, as a kid there’s still only so much that she can do to help. At the end of the day the Uncle still has to take center stage when the going gets tough. Once Yuzu is grown up I’m confident she will really be helping in the pet vet business.

I can’t ask much more out of a kid for now and it’s better to be scared of animals than to be mean to them. Even during the pre arc she never tried anything like that so I appreciated this. Her uncle is a solid character. He can definitely be a bit short tempered with the kids and gets super strict but considering how high stakes a pet’s life is, it’s the right move. I can definitely respect that extra fire he has. You need that in order to convince people that you’re on the right side. His advice is always correct to so that’s an important thing to keep in mind. Without him the town would definitely be finished since it seems like there are no other big pet doctors around.

Meanwhile Yuzu’s mom is a solid character. Her main issue is that she can try a little too hard to do everything at once and it often ends up with her getting even sicker. There comes a time where you have to know your limits and that’s her moral by the end. She still helps Yuzu out around the vet once in a while but makes sure not to over tax herself which is important. It’ll be nice to see her as a main character once she’s all better.

I should note that the uncle has a pet dog named Sora who is always around. He’s a bit of a mean pup though as he is always trying to bite Yuzu and cause problems. Not the best first experience for someone who is already scared of animals. Sora gradually becomes nicer and less violent as the series goes on. By the end I would say that they really are good friends.

The art is very clear here. I would say the quality is surprisingly high overall and there is never any moment where you are wondering what is going on. The artist does a good job here. Sure, there are no action scenes so it’s not going to be as difficult to keep things clear as with another manga but it still deserves some good props for pulling that off. It makes going through the volumes real easy.

Of course the only thing that makes going through them hard is how sad most of the stories are. Basically how things play out is usually the owner is being an accidental jerk and neglecting the dog. The dog gets sick so then they head over to the uncle’s place where he fixes up the dog. On a high level that’s usually how this goes and so the rough part is always the first half. For one reason or another the owner will usually say that he or she doesn’t want to go through with any operations or see the doctor. Usually the owner is convinced that his puppy will be okay and so the dog has to put up with a lot until he’s at the doctor’s.

The series also tries to teach us about loss so lets just say that not every animal survives here. Another big no no when you think about it. I don’t want to see any animals dying or even hearing about it. Again the series may be about animals but you don’t have to go this far with it. Having animals get injured or get super sick is just way too sad. The manga should have been about healing them before they get sick. Like have one of them get the ability of foresight and that would have been cool. Sure, the manga is slightly not realistic but you can still teach a lot of lessons to the kids reading the series. I think that would work really well and there aren’t many alternatives. Sure you could make the series about robotic animals I guess…but I feel like that would probably be a hard sell. I don’t see it working as smoothly as you might assume even though I would be all for it.

At the end of the day one of the biggest issues here is that you just won’t have any fun. Sure the chapters usually end on a positive note but only after you’ve been completely beaten emotionally. It’s hard to enjoy the payoff by that point. It’s like when you fall off a bike and injure your knee. Sure, it feels good when you get up and make it home, but the bump still stings. That’s what every chapter is like here and since having fun is one of the main objectives here, there’s just no way this would end up being a quality title. There isn’t really any good reasons to check this one out at the end of the day. I would recommend a ton of manga way higher.

Overall, The series is fairly short at 7 volumes and since it’s episodic by nature that makes it feel even shorter. The volumes are mainly all stand alones and even most of the adventures stop at just one chapter. So it’s not like the sagas are long either. Whether you like the series or not will depend completely on how much you enjoy the premise and the stories that are included here. Ultimately they didn’t do the trick for me. Even though the stories are about helping the animal in the end, the animal always had to go through a lot first which was no good. That’s what the series really should have avoided even if it means changing the premise of the series altogether. At the same time I think you could have pulled this off without injuring any animals. Have the missions be a little more low stakes and it all could have worked out.

Overall 1/10

Horimiya Review

I finished Horimiya up quite a while ago but now it’s time to really dive into this one. The romantic comedy manga lasted quite a long while and it’s always impressive to see since you just tend to associate long running titles with the classic Shonen Jump action. Well this one had a fairly big cast so they got to set up a lot of romances here. Mainly what holds the series back a bit compared to other romance series is that the main two are rather weak next to other Shojo heroines/heroes and their dynamic might just be the weakest out of any pairing within its own series. Well we’ll have time to tackle all of that in a minute.

Hori is a very popular girl at school. She’s outgoing and doesn’t back down from any challenge but the big secret she hides from her classmates is that she has to watch after her little brother Souta after school. She transforms into a completely different person once she’s home since she can relax and it’s almost like a disguise so nobody recognizes her. One day she is caught though, by the really quiet, timid guy known as Miyamura. Nobody really approaches that guy because he keeps to himself but in private he actually enjoys tattoos and piercings. The guy looks completely different and rather fierce outside of school but it turns out he’s actually a real softie but doesn’t want to hurt his image. So the two agree not to say anything and now they can actually be good friends who are relaxed with each other. This will also make it easier if Hori needs to sneak out since Miyamura can cover for her. That said…can they really remain friends??

Yes! Not a chance! This is a romance series after all but that would have been a nice change of pace. That said, the series does have a lot of actual boy/girl friendships that don’t transform into something more so I give the series props there. For example Hori’s best friend Yoshikawa is very outgoing and gets along with Miyamura pretty well once he’s a part of the friendship circle and the two have a fun dynamic that never has to become anything more than that. I would include Hori and Ishikawa but he actually did like her and just ended up losing out so not sure that counts. At least they stayed on good terms though.

So lets jump into two of my main issues with the series before we go into the positives. The first one is the art which I think can be really hit or miss. Sometimes the pages will really pop out with a great double spread or a really detailed shot of the characters. The artist can clearly do a great job when needed but it’s the average panel where things get tricky. I constantly would mix up Sengoku and Ishikawa because their designs are so similar. Then once the cast expanded to include other students it got really confusing. All of the girls are distinct but the guys feel like they all have the same look and only the hair can help you tell them apart. Even that isn’t easy since the series is in black and white after all. Having distinct designs for all of your characters is a must for any series and this just felt like a big weakness as a result. You should never be in a position where you are regularly mixing up characters or I always have to say that goes squarely on the artist.

Then my other issue is as I mentioned before of the dynamic between Hori and Miyamura. The problem is that it’s never all that funny and they seem like better characters when they’re apart. So Hori has this whole thing where she gets real excited when Miyamura is upset and constantly encourages him to hit her. Because he is a pacifist and also a decent person he never wants to do this so she’ll end up sulking for a while. It’s a rather bizarre dynamic and of course part of the point is that Hori is a bit strange when she’s not putting on her school mask but even for her it’s a bit much. I’m thinking the attempt is to be like a reverse tsundere where you have the guy constantly blowing up at the girl but it just doesn’t work.

It also makes their relationship a bit one note since that gag is a constant. Ironically Souta helps out since at least when he’s causing trouble you have Miyamura defending him while Hori gets upset and that can always be more entertaining. The series absolutely has good humor throughout but it just lands better when they’re apart. Whether it’s Hori threatening the rest of the student body or Miyamura having to try and choose the option that causes the least amount of trouble when debating with friends, there’s a lot to enjoy there. The romance is just a weak link which is a bit rough considering that this is a big romance series at heart. You have shipping being done constantly throughout the series after all.

Where I will give the series some points is that it does have the characters talk about a lot of normal everyday stuff without always having to throw some drama in there. This could be boring for some but I think it makes sense to emphasize that this is a fairly small city where not much happens. So Hori and Miyamura will sometimes just hang out at home doing nothing except talking about nonsense or watching a movie. In that way they’ve already been together long enough where it’s not like every day has to be some kind of big event. Just being in each other’s company is calming enough and it’s a fairly mature take on how the relationship would be like.

Additionally, because they get together fairly early on in the manga, that gives more time for the relationship to develop. They go from being good friends to dating and keeping that same vibe. So while their dynamic may not be my favorite, I can’t say that the author rushed it. For some positive things about the dynamic, I like that Hori is a super direct person so there’s never any beating around the bush in their conversations. There’s no arc about her getting jealous and tailing him across the city to see if he’s cheating or trying to see if he’s interested in going out by asking a series of Jeopardy style questions. When she wants to do something she just blurts it out and if she wants to eat something she just does. Miyamura works at a family bakery so he’ll just bring along some good snacks and she’ll eat them. Being direct like that is definitely a plus.

Now the series is 16 volumes long so with the main romance out of the way, what else really happens here? Well, you have two other main pairings with Ishikawa and Yoshikawa as well as Remi and Sengoku. These were sort of set up early as well, maybe less so for Yoshikawa but the end game pairings are clear from the jump. This just gives them more of a chance to set things up and think about their next steps. For the most part is works well enough. You should be suitably engaged in what’s going on. You may not be on the edge of your seat like with Nisekoi or Kaguya Sama but you won’t be bored and that’s the important thing.

So I’ve already talked about Hori quite a bit. She’s a really fun main heroine although with how outgoing and direct she is, I do wonder in hindsight why it was really a big deal about the others seeing her with Souta. Honestly I get the feeling that they really wouldn’t care at all. Her best friend certainly wouldn’t and her childhood friend used to hang out with her all the time so he wouldn’t have a problem. Outside of the inner circle the rest probably wouldn’t bother her much. It’s the kind of thing that you question a bit more in hindsight but hey school reps are really important for people so it could just be that simple. Could just be a quirk of hers like how she can get real possessive of Miyamura even though she completely trusts him. She’d still just rather he not be hanging out with anyone else too often although in this case the gag is that she doesn’t care when he hangs out with other girls but other guys for too long is a no no.

The series does have a lot of annoying “guy talk” at times though so they probably aren’t the best influence around him anyway. The characters can be rather desperate at times and that’s why Miyamura needs to keep them at arm’s length. In a way he already does which some of the characters don’t like but you gotta do what you gotta do. Miyamura’s a good main hero. I do think that he goes a bit over the top with the tatoos and piercings though. He drops that entirely as the series goes on which I’d say was a good thing since his character design is much better without them. Ultimately of course fashion is up to the wearer so if he prefers that look then he should go for it but it just felt like something more out of a horror manga when he would pop in at times.

I was always glad that he held firm to his ideals and wouldn’t relent to Hori when she wanted him to get upset at her. I like how chill the guy is. It’s hard to get under his skin but if he is upset then he would let you know . He can be firm with the other friends when needed like if they took things too far at any point. It’s also cool that he works at the cake shop. It had to be so convenient to be able to bring home a cake whenever you want. Would be easy to start gaining weight of course but that would just be so convenient.

Then we have Souta who in a way does a lot of matchmaking since he is one of the main reasons why the two get together. He’s just young enough to still be oblivious about all of this though which is nice since a kid trying to interfere is always annoying. Soura’s too young to do much of anything really but he’s okay. As far as kids in these titles go I didn’t find him super annoying or anything like that.

Next up is Yoshikawa and she’s another quality character. She’s always got a brave face on even when things aren’t going her way and that’s commendable. She’s someone that Hori can lean on and vice versa when things are going tough. Her romance gets a little less time to really develop here though and she was on good terms with everyone so just ending p as a good friend would have been a solid end for her character arc. Either way she added a lot to the school dynamic and her character arc about being more confident was one of the most serious ones in the series.

Then there is Ishikawa who is a bit of a punching bag for a while. The guy isn’t super talented and definitely has confidence issues with how Hori had him in the friend zone for so long. The guy liked her for a while but she barely even sees him as a guy which is rather sad for him. Of course that’s why his next romance would be an automatic rebound since he only moves on because she made it clear that he would never have a chance. That’s pretty tough to handle when you think about it. I’m glad that things go up for him though because otherwise it was just a sad adventure for him.

Remi is a lot of fun and almost feels out of place among the other students because she’s a lot more gimmicky than the other characters. She talks about herself in the third person all the time and definitely cries a lot. Remi really gets super emotional at times which makes her really contrast with the very serious Sengoku. Naturally you can probably guess who gets paired here. Ultimately I did like Remi though. She was fun to have around but even though she was a main supporting character, I felt like she didn’t interact with Hori quite as much as you’d expect. I guess it’s a case of their both being in the same room a lot but never really having much to do at the same time.

Finally Sengoku is your classic by the books kind of guy who is really strict and has no fun. Naturally I don’t have him anywhere all that close to the other characters. I prefer characters who just have fun and go wild. I suppose you need a by the books guy sometimes but very rarely and Sengoku usually was more of a hassle to everyone than an actual help. That’s why he ends up lagging behind the others.

Honoka shows up later on as a fun little side character. She’s a bit younger than the rest of the characters so Hori and Miyamura tend to treat her like a kid which annoys her. She doesn’t mind when this ends up resulting in free food though so she’ll be a kid when it’s convenient to her. She adds some extra energy int the series so I appreciated having her around. Then you have Shindo who was Miyamura’s only friend back in the day and he’s one of those characters where you feel like the series is mean spirited against him for some reason. The guy is always just trying to be nice and helping out but gets treated like dirt most of the time.

Miyamura never wants to acknowledge that they were friends and is the only person that he bullies. Miyamura is typically super nice all the time but Shindo seems to bring out the worst in him. The worst part is that it rarely even starts off because of Shindo doing something wrong. In fact Shindo is usually just being a nice guy when Miyamura attacks him for no reason. This is another one of those comedic plots that just didn’t land for me since I would feel bad for Shindo in the end.

Yanagi was more on the forgettable aside. Apart from constantly breaking his glasses I’d have a tough time telling you much about his personality. He was around and nice enough but yeah he definitely got overshadowed. Then you have Hori’s parents. Her father gets more of a role and he always takes Miyamura’s side. In that sense the good part is that Hori doesn’t have to worry about her parents not liking him. That’s probably a huge relief when you think about it, but of course it does also mean that Hori will always be outnumbered in debates. It evens out since Hori is easily the toughest person in the room though as her father will usually shrink in the corner when challenged.

In some ways the manga is best when it’s just letting the two main characters just be cute for a while. A solid hug goes a long way compared to any shenanigans and one thing the manga shows a lot of is that Hori is a very clingy person. Once she is together with Miyamura she will end up grabbing him all the time for no real reason except to feel contact. It’s the little things like that which are fun and they both get a lot of inner monologues about how much better their lives are now that they have met each other. It also helps the comedic moments by extension since you know the characters more. Like Hori asking for Miyamura’s phone to do an inspection.

In another series that may feel like a bit of a jaded move. She doesn’t trust him or something but instead you know it’s just because she’s curious on what she’ll find and to mess with him a bit. They both trust each other but Hori being the aggressive heroine she is always likes to push things to the max. Then Miyamura is always calm enough where he will say yes to any of her demands/requests. No matter how inconvenient he would say yes to anything she asked him to do and so that makes for a good bond between them.

Overall, Horimiya is a good manga. I’d say what really keeps it from being a very good/great one is the character cast is a bit weaker than the other big Shojos and it’s just not as funny. For a long series like this of course there will be plenty of good jokes that land as well but there are also some more dull kind of lines that don’t really work. The manga has a bit more dead time than other similar titles and of course my mixing up characters from time to time doesn’t really help matters either. These aren’t the kinds of things that will feel too bad while binging though and ultimately the test of a manga is if you had fun and I’m confident that you will here. It’s still a very wholesome series throughout so if your local library or bookstore has the series then you should pick it up and give it a read.

Overall 6/10

Spy X Family Review

Spy X Family is a show that took the world by storm. It’s a pretty fun series and the anime goes all the way in adding extra effects to make the whole thing stand out even more. I definitely had a good time with this one and am ready for season 2. It’s got a fun wholesome kind of vibe to it and there are a ton of scenarios you can really explore with this setup. There is also an overarching plot but it’s more like Detective Conan where you should be enjoying it for the characters more than the story since it’s likely going to take us a very long time to get to the end.

The plot starts off by introducing us to Loid who is one of the world’s top secret agents. He can perform any mission and is an expert in hand to hand combat as well as espionage. This guy is always well prepared and basically his role is to ensure that a civil war never erupts within the world. Westalis and Ostania are the two places fighting and have to be kept in check. Lois is a member of WISE and opposing them are the special police as both groups don’t see eye to eye. So in that way Loid’s group would be considered as the villains within their territory. They have to operate in the shadows while the police are open about this. Perhaps down the road the two groups can work together but they’re far from that point right now.

Loid is given his toughest mission yet which is to make contact with the leader of the Desmond family. He has a ton of power and connections so the organization needs to have a read on him but it won’t be easy. Loid needs to start a fake family so that he can have a kid enroll in Eden Academy to befriend the young Damian Desmond. Then eventually that would lead the parents to meet. That’s the idea anyway but you can see how this plan will be very difficult. Fortunately things work out as Loid meets a young telepath named Anya (She keeps her abilities a secret though) and adopts her. Then he meets an assassin known as Yor (She keeps this a secret) and they agree to a fake marriage since it would help them both not stand out too much. See, being single in this country is risky since it makes you look like a spy for the opposing side. Loid figures he can lead this double life easily enough. He is now a father, a doctor, and a secret agent.

The situation is supposed to be temporary though so it’s not like he has to stick with the family forever. He figures that as soon as the mission is complete he will find a way to leave them but at the same time he is getting more attached the longer he hangs out with them so that may not be so easy. What is a top agent to do? Of course Anya is glad to finally have a real family so she wants to keep this up and will have to use her telepathy in order to pull this off. Finally this is a great deal for Yor too since she can now murder people without having to worry about a cover. In a way all 3 of these character split the role of the lead although I would say Loid probably has the most screen time with Anya being a close second. Yor just has a little less to do than the others since this isn’t really a full on action show there is less time for her to show off her abilities.

Right away one reason why the show is pretty fun is because of how fast paced and energetic it is. In every episode there is a lot going on and that’s one advantage for this being the first season as we slowly get introduced to all of the characters and their quirks. The introductions are always a lot of fun for a series like this and the show can turn an everyday event into something real exciting. One example of this is the big Dodgeball game. The animators went all in for this one as we even get a DBZ homage when Damian tries to stop the ball from hitting Anya.

There are intense waves of energy coming from the ball and it feels like a Shonen Jump fight. Then Anya unlocks her starlight mode when she tries to go for a super throw even if it ends up failing. The extra animation like this does the show a great service and it is a show that will hold up very well visually. The animation is really fluid and colorful. Then you have the soundtrack which is also good. I won’t call that part great per say but there are enough memorable tracks for this one to be pretty good. The ending is fairly emotional and while the intro doesn’t really work for me, there are a lot of good sleuthing tracks during the show.

The writing is also on point and another reason why the show is very solid. You can’t have a good slice of life comedy without quality characters to follow after all. Everyone brings something to the table with the exception of Franky and so you have a lot of dynamics to set up. The cast isn’t even complete yet and you can expect more characters to show up once season 2 kicks off. There’s also a good balance of plot important episodes here with character development ones.

Now lets talk about the characters. First up is Loid and of course he’s a top ranking character here. There’s just nothing to really dislike about the guy. He’s a hard worker who is good at what he does and balances his home and work lives quite effectively. The guy has to wear a mask all day but he never lets it get to him and keeps on working hard. That’s the kind of determination you like to see here. Lois is also a good fighter and gets some nice action scenes against the punks he goes after. At the end of the day he wants to protect the peacefulness of the world and never loses sight of that. It’s part of what makes him a good hero.

Then you have Yor who is also doing her best to protect the world. See, she is an assassin but one who takes out people who may threaten the country. Now, she is just following orders so the bosses could absolutely be lying to her but at least she is doing her best to be heroic. In a way her sacrifice of staining her hands with the blood of her victims is part of what really shows her conviction to doing what needs to be done. She has incredible amounts of super strength and speed as well so you know once we get a serious Yor arc she will be doing very well in the battles. I’m looking forward to that since she hasn’t gotten a chance to really show off her skills over a long period of time just yet.

Next up is Anya and of course her telepathic abilities are really handy. She is quite young though so she isn’t always good at hiding them or making the most of this. She has a number of close calls but at least the idea of anyone having telepathic abilities is so far fetched that it should be difficult for anybody to find this out. I would actually think it would be a bit cheesy if someone did figure it out unless there was another connection leading to that possibility. Anya isn’t always very mature for her age so she makes a lot of mistakes but that comes with being a kid. For me she isn’t close to Yor or Loid as main characters but she tries her best and has her moments. So in the end she does add to the dynamic.

I already talked about how Franky isn’t very solid and basically the problem with him is that he’s the comic relief character but he’s not very funny. I don’t think we even really needed a comic relief character like this to be honest. The series was going just fine without him and he add nothing to the table. Whenever he’s on screen he’s being annoying or roping Loid into some kind of scheme that has nothing to do with anything. Franky has no self confidence either so he has to really be encouraged and talked into making a move. Hopefully this guy improves but I won’t hold my breath.

After that we have Damian from school and he’s your typical bully type character. That said, his redemption arc is already in full effect as he has started being kinder to Anya even if just a little. I don’t care about the kids plot as much a the grown ups though so whenever the episode is about him, it’s usually not one of the strongest ones. At least he is getting better which is the important part. The best kid is definitely Becky though. She’s very supportive of Anya from the start and is also mature enough not to fall for the insults of the other characters. Becky is absolutely the character that you want on your side in school since she will understand the situation quickly.

At school one of the main teacher figures is Henry, someone who believes that people should always act in a very refined and elegant manor. He holds a very high standard with this and is always impressed by Loid and Yor for taking this into account. Anya usually doesn’t live up to this standard although she tries her best. I like Henry though because he leaves an impression and seems like a fun teacher.

Then there are a few miscellaneous adults like Fiona. She wants Loid all to herself and tries to figure out a way to bump Yor out of the mix. This won’t be easy though since Yor is much more powerful than she is and of course the family plan can’t be changed now. As much as Fiona wants it to happen, it wouldn’t make sense as a cover story and it would be super suspicious for Loid and his wife to suddenly break up only for him to find someone else. It’s why you can’t really root for her since she’s trying to sabotage a whole mission just for her personal feelings. Additionally it all feels petty and Yor is the better character anyway so that’s a lot of points against her right from the jump. It’s really hard to get past all of that.

Yor’s brother Yuri is a character who gets a decent amount to do. I think they really do overplay how much he cares for Yor though in one of the less funny tropes out there. I like how he can’t stand Loid and it makes for a good dynamic but Yuri is at his best when he’s acting as a special police officer or trying to find something out. When it comes to Yor he really loses all perspective. If this wasn’t so overplayed I actually think it would make for a great dynamic and he could be someone you really root for. As it stands, you can’t root for him and so when he appears you’re just expecting him to lose.

In a way the final big character here is Bond but I have to say that he is underwhelming. Usually I do like the pet mascot type characters but Bond just isn’t as cool or engaging as you would expect him to be. He can see the future which is a great ability but of course it’s difficult for him to really use. As a dog it’s not like he can just leave home at any time either. Bond is big so he’s fairly tough but that’s about all I can say for him. I’d like to see him have some more energy or something in the future.

So there you have it, that’s the main cast of characters. It’s a good bunch there and with 3 characters to juggle, that’s why there are so many possibilities for good stories. In addition to their solo adventures then you can use any combination of the 3 for fun stories as well. There is no limit to the amount of stuff the fake family can do together and of course that will keep inching them closer and closer to becoming a real family. I mean since the license itself is real, they really are a true family in every sense of the word already even if they won’t actually admit it. Due to how this is set up the show actually doesn’t have much in the way of romance yet. There is some shipping of course but for now the main two characters are mainly too busy for any of that.

While I want to see more of the Desmond plot, the show already has proven that it can hold its own even without advancing the story. It’s in a very good position as a result since it can really do whatever it wants in the interim. I do hope they mostly focus on full adventures within the episode as opposed to near the end of the season where we would have two almost totally unrelated segments like Arthur. It’s best not to do that since feature length stories are the best. You can absolutely split up a story organically too without making it into two different shorts. That would be the way to go about this.

One thing I really hope they do keep in for season 2 is exaggerating some of the moments for extra drama. Again I’d point to the dodgeball episode there but another really good one was the castle adventure where Loid played along with Anya’s script of being kidnapped by an enemy organization. The animation and fighting in that episode were both really solid. Putting in a little extra budget during these episodes is always a great way to really get an extra boost into the story.

Overall, Spy X Family is definitely a lot of fun. It’s impressive that season 2 is already on the way. They’re really not wasting any time with this series and that makes sense because you really want to keep going while the franchise is red hot the way that it is right now. If you’re on the fence about watching this one, don’t be. There’s a lot to enjoy here and we don’t have very many comedic titles about a family just hanging out like this. Through in the spy stuff and you’ve got a fun dynamic here. The show juggles several genres and if you think about it, the plot at large is fairly serious too even if that isn’t the main focus here. As long as the humor lands and the characters stay solid, this show will have a good future ahead of it.

Overall 7/10

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

A Room With A View Review

A Room With A View is one of those romance films that has so much drama you can only shake your head. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong and it’s mainly issues that the main characters bring about themselves. The romance here is definitely terrible all the way through and there is so much cheating going on that you forget who the protagonists are supposed to be. It really checks off all the wrong boxes all the way through.

So the movie starts with Lucy and her overprotective sister Charlotte trying to enjoy their hotel stay. Unfortunately they don’t have a room with a window and that causes a whole big fuss even though it really shouldn’t. A man named Mr. Emerson offers his room but Charlotte makes a big show of being rude to the guy because she figures that this is improper for some reason. Ultimately the heroines do get the room though and it turns out that Emerson’s son George likes Lucy. He makes a move on her in the fields which wasn’t very gentlemanly of him and Lucy puts some distance between them. There is a time skip and Lucy is now engaged to a disrespectful, condescending guy named Cecil but George figures he still has a chance. How will this play out?

There are a lot of issues here but first of all, George making a pass at Lucy while in the fields was definitely over the line. That was supposed to just be a chance for a normal conversation to get to know each other but he immediately went for the kiss. This is always one of the most annoying tropes. Yeah you probably want to show some initiative when you like someone but that means asking her out or throwing in some complements. Not immediately going for the kiss because 9 times out of 10 that’s going to end badly and even if it didn’t, it’s not the proper thing to do. There is no class involved with that.

It then gets worse when George pulls this stunt again while Lucy is engaged. At this point that is completely cheating and the problem is that George knows it. Basically George says that Cecil is wrong for her and so he is trying to break them up but that’s really not his place to say. You really have to stay your hand at this point because once someone is engaged then you have to respect that and George clearly doesn’t. This impacts the whole film because he is in a sense rewarded for this by winning in the end as you knew he would from the second the film started. That’s not a great moral and he is such a bad character that this is annoying.

Of course the film isn’t trying to be subtle here so Cecil is introduced as a really bad character too. For starters he is constantly insulting Lucy’s family and has total disdain for all of their family traditions and activities. He basically sneers at them all the time and you have to wonder how he and Lucy possibly got together. It would seem like she is only with him out of obligation and that’s not a good relationship either. So Cecil is awful and the film shows no attempts at hiding this but Lucy should have broken up with him first rather than cheating on the side.

So Lucy takes a lot of the blame here too for being too indecisive and letting others make decisions for her. Throughout the film one of the issues is that her sister Charlotte likes to make all of the decisions to “protect” Lucy but then she ends up betraying the heroine anyway. She tells Lucy’s darkest secrets to her writer friend to publish for the world and that’s not something that you can take back. It’s also why secrets are never worth it because if you tell one person then you may have just told everyone. You either hold it with you forever or it’s going to spill out and at that point it’s game over.

You couldn’t root for Lucy because she is a pushover the whole time. Then Charlotte is super unlikable the whole time too and just like that we’ve gone through virtually every character. I guess Mr. Emerson was okay but mainly because he was out of the loop the whole time and didn’t get to appear much. Otherwise he is trying to play matchmaker and it’s not for a great relationship pairing so that would have been really annoying otherwise.

The film loves its drama as the characters go across whole cities and states and somehow keep bumping into each other anyway. There is just no escape from this “destiny” or at least that’s what they would have you believe. That said, you cannot succeed if none of the characters are likable. Straight up it’s just going to be impossible to pull that off no matter how good or engaging the writing may try to be. At the end of the day you need a solid cast if you want to go far. Especially for a romance film since there is no fun soundtrack or dialogue to distract you.

I think a lot of movies also just miss the point of romance in general. A good romance should be one where it’s a relationship where both characters are happier than when they are alone. So if there’s always more drama, tension, and bickering then what’s really the point? There is not a single scene to show why Lucy even remotely liked Cecil. She can’t stand him and he just seems standoffish from the jump. You can tell he was created purely to get knocked down a peg by George and to lose the war so he’s just a waste of time.

Overall, A Room With A View is a film to avoid. The title along reminds me of how crazy it was to make a fuss about not having a window. Come on that’s not nearly as important as the characters were suggesting. I think Charlotte was just complaining to complain at that point or to get attention since she quickly tried to say no when the gentleman offered his room. It’s like there was just no winning at that point. Definitely a swing and a miss here.

Overall 3/10

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War Review

It is finally time to review the Kaguya manga! I finished this one back in 2022 but of course it is a pretty big title so reviews like this take a while. It was a title that really surpassed any ideas or predictions I would have had about it. I certainly wouldn’t have assumed it would have reached my top 15 of all time the way that it did but here we are. While the series may have limped its way to the ending with the final arc, the rest was all amazing and it’s a series with tons of replay value. It’s all super emotional with lots of great character development and writing all the way through. I don’t think we’ll see another series that’s part romance like this ever be quite as good. Kaguya just nailed the comedic romance bit.

The basic premise of the series quite directly follows the title. Kaguya is extremely wealthy and belongs to the Shinomiya family which owns a good chunk of the world. She is a member of the student council and has some of the best grades at school. Everyone knows her as the most popular girl that everyone respects but she has one secret which is that she is in love with Shirogane, the student council president. Meanwhile Shirogane’s family isn’t wealthy at all but he managed to study hard enough to go to this prestigious academy and even become the president. What he lacks in family reputation and status he makes up for in hard work and dedication. He hopes to eventually win Kaguya’s heart as well.

The thing is, neither one can admit to this because the first one to confess their feelings would lose the war. Love is a power struggle and so admitting your love first would cause you to be at a massive disadvantage. So they have to each scheme to get the other one to confess first but that is easier said than done. Can they pull this off or will they only end up getting into trouble? Snooze and you lose after all as someone else might show up so time is ticking. Additionally there are two more council members in the comedic Chika and the depressed Ishigami. Together this student council is going to have a lot of fun!

Right off the bat I have to say that I really enjoy the premise. See, you are automatically avoiding the “sudden” romance that destroys most romantic plots. The main two have liked each other for a long time now, in fact well over a year passes by with nothing happening in chapter 1 since they are too afraid to make any moves and that’s not even counting that they liked each other prior to the series starting. So this is a slow burn romance and there are no rebounds to think of. They’ve liked each other from the start and that’s just how it is. So already we’ve got several wins here. Now of course this is only focusing on their romance as not every romance here is great but the main one is important.

The contest also adds a nice spin on things since as the reader you know that both characters like each other but of course they don’t realize that. So that’s a fresh dynamic as well and you get to see their inner thoughts as they work on the mind games. That is the best success of the series which is that it also works as a very psychological series. The characters talk about what love really is and how the mind works as they all try to play each other like a fiddle. I always figure the one weakness of being too detailed is if someone isn’t a genius then the plan won’t work because it overestimates what the response will be. That risk is lessened since the characters are in such a distinguished school though.

Both Kaguya and Shirogane are at the top of their class too so they know what they are doing. Shirogane may have the slight edge in grades but they are really neck and neck. I also like the overthinking in the manga because it is fun to do that in real life as well. Like if a girl hands you a ticket to a baseball game. Is that a subtle date, just a friendly gesture, is it a test? You have to ask yourself a million questions in an instant and come up with the right answer all in a split instance. There isn’t time for hesitation or doubts since both would also work against you. The manga will freeze this moment as you see the everyday possibilities floating in Shirogane and Kaguya’s minds. A lot of the thought trails are very realistic as well.

Everyone does this to an extent because your mind is always active even when time is frozen. It’s why there are all kinds of time displacement techniques you can find online which are super interesting. Like trying to see how long you can keep your eyes closed and count up before you end up falling asleep or losing count. Losing yourself playing sports or video games and then trying to match that time doing something less fun. Your mind can easily trick you into thinking that one hour is quick in one moment and then long in another. It’s all pretty fascinating but I digress. Needless to say that the psychological elements here are fantastic without a doubt.

The artwork is also very solid. I will say that it is a series where you will notice the artist reusing character expressions and poses with different characters a lot, particularly if you binge the series. It is probably hard to avoid in a slice of life title like this though because there are only so many things you can do and ways of having the characters talk before it all starts to blend together. It’s always very clear what is happening at any given time though and the simple style works very well for the series. Even when there are long blocks of text and essays you are able to read them all without any issue. That’s the sign of a great title after all.

The writing is great and a lot happens here. The series initially starts off very upbeat with some drama but it’s mostly either in a parody kind of way or not meant to be taken too seriously. Gradually this begins to change as we get some origin stories that are legitimately emotional like Ishigami’s. Then this leads up to a climax that is very serious with high stakes in the last arc. I would say that the series is much better at the light arcs than the serious ones and that makes sense because it’s the kind of series that this was crafted to be. It got to be a really famous title because of all the witty banter and fun gags/writing. I can see why the author wanted to end on a serious note but the problem is just that it was hard to take things too seriously.

What I would have done is make the final arc less action packed. Yeah you heard me right, for once I would remove the action because it just didn’t feel right and gets a bit cheesy when you see the kids doing so well. Instead I would change this to be more of a mind game thriller. Have the heroes trying to find a loophole in the will or they have to go through a bunch of games in order to defeat the villains. The high stakes could be signing a contract that they will work for the villains if they lose or something. I feel like this would be much more in line with the rest of the series and would have worked really well. It would still have a serious tone and be something more like Liar Game than Indiana Jones.

For the comedy side, I won’t say every joke lands of course since that’s not possible but the reason this series is elite is because most of them do. The series has higher peaks in terms of humor than most titles could even dream of. The main cast is also very solid which leads to a whole lot of great banter and dialogue moments. The series would not be nearly as good if the characters weren’t solid so the series had the right priorities here. You get a strong core of characters and move from there. I liked all members of the student council quite a bit. Put Ino, Chika, and Ishigami in any similar setting and they likely outpace the main characters there. I’d then go a step further to say that Shirogane and Kaguya would shine in any setting, even one that is not similar. The characters are just really well crafted at the school and this includes the classmates. Only the villains aren’t very interesting which takes us back to the final arc again.

The series has its share of story arcs as well like with vacations or dealing with a romance but like an action series where each arc is clearly defined and I break them down, I’ll likely just incorporate those events while I talk about the character that it’s relevant too. So lets jump into this cast now and I’ll also talk about their respective romance plot and any important developments that came into play for them. This is a fairly long series so you can bet that a whole lot did happen over time.

Naturally we have to start with Kaguya herself here. After all the series was named after her so you could say that she is the main character. While you could say that, I would argue that Shirogane is still the true main character here. It’s pretty close to 50/50 but I just feel like we see his perspective just a tad bit more and he tends to jump start the biggest moments in the series. The dynamics between the two characters are what really causes the series to shine and I liked that Kaguya has a cold edge to her. Later on in the series we get to see her in her original icy persona and that worked really well.

I’d really be up for a prequel going into more details on that part of the saga. In a way there may not be many more details to show so I’m not sure how feasible it would be to make a long series but I’m sure they could at least do a mini series on it. We briefly see the dynamic after Kaguya retreats into herself but that’s it. Kaguya has several personalities within herself all fighting for control and I enjoyed the court scenes there. At the end of the day Kaguya is always someone who is ready to give good advice and really help out. She has really solid friendships and dynamics with all of the council members. It’s another strong part of the series since it can be easy in a series like this to miss one or two combinations but the series goes out of its way to make sure that each character interacts with each other and gets their own dynamic going.

The ending of the series involves Kaguya’s family a great deal so as you can imagine they really get to step in as well and we see how they had a real impact on her life and values. The school really helped her to become a lot more normal over time. The series also plays up how she can be naïve in some things well without overdoing it and making this an annoying trait. It also never forgets that she is a genius so she picks up on things really quickly.

Then we have Shirogane who really worked hard to try and stand out for Kaguya. It wasn’t easy but by getting the best grades and leading the council he put himself in a very good position there. I like his confidence which serves him well in battling Kaguya during their debates. Kaguya is better at planning and setting up intricate traps while Shirogane’s strength is in his quick reactions and thinking off the cuff. That ends up working well in challenges where she catches him on the back foot like with the umbrella trick. He has less family drama to worry about although throughout the series we know that something happened involving his mother but surprisingly that plot barely gets much of a payoff. She shows up at the very end but super briefly. This allows Shirogane to focus more on the main school adventures which works well enough though.

He also does take his job as president very seriously and is always trying to help the other students succeed. You can always count on him to do the right thing even if it means that he might lose some sleep. Managing to perform all his duties while leading the school in grades was really impressive. This guy really put in the work and never had any doubts of waivered in his path. He was just a really strong character through and through.

Chika is the main comedic character here although to an extent you can say they all are so that might be abbreviating her character personality a bit too much. She is meant to be a full foil to the other characters because she doesn’t overthink anything. She is quite intelligent but mainly just does whatever she wants and is always hard to predict. As a result she ends up being a great wildcard in their constant battles which works great to really expand the dynamics. Often times she will crush both of their plans and they have to scramble to set something up.

She doesn’t have a romance plot going on so she is able to just focus on being the comic relief. There is also a subplot where she fights the ramen kings and that was always entertaining. I am always up for a good ramen even if it’s not one of my favorite foods. I would end up eating it more like her as in I would just dive in while all the kings have very elaborate and intricate ways of doing this. Chika keeps the crew grounded and is always good for a lot of laughs. She knows how to manipulate people as needed given her family history of politicians and works in well among the group. Even her backstory is suitably humorous even while being a bit more serious.

Then we have Ino who joins in a bit later than the rest of the group. Her thing is that she is really big on following the rules. While it may sound like that would be easy for her to be integrated among the group you have to remember that while they are good at their jobs, they do mess around a bit. So what Ino brings to the table is that she often gets disillusioned with the group or misreads a situation causing her to panic. It takes her a little while to really get used to the group and stop panicking at the antics. She probably has the saddest backstory next to Ishigami’s as well so she had to go through a whole lot. Ultimately she did get through it all though and fit into the cast well.

I would say that she is a lot of fun either way and she does add a lot to the dynamic which is the important thing here. She interacts with Ishigami the most and given the composition of the group you would probably figure they will have a romance right? Well yes that is a big part of their plot but this romance is one that I can’t get behind quite as much. For one, I liked their banter as friends and rivals which would really be lost if they went that route. Additionally Ishigami already liked Tsubami a lot o it would feel a bit too soon for him to be changing sides like that. So this romance I could only possibly support if it didn’t happen until well after the end of the series like with a sequel title or something. Even then I would like them to delay it for as long as possible so we get more banter.

Of course this carries over to Ishigami’s side where I can confirm I wasn’t big on the romance there. His first one with Tsubame works reasonably well as him not really realizing his feelings of gratitude for what they were and falling for her. At least that’s the way I interpret it since she effectively saved his life along with the rest of the group and so that ended up turning into affection. I don’t think he would have really been ready for the relationship there and of course it would have also taken time away from him hanging out with the crew and just having fun.

As it is I really enjoyed the early Ishigami with how paranoid and depressed he was the whole time. He had a nice deadpan kind of humor that worked really well here. Still I did appreciate that he had one of the biggest character arcs in the series. I would even go as far as to say that it was the biggest because he almost completely changed character personalities by the end. He really became a new person after the whole cast helped him out and it was nice to see. The series has really good inspirational beats like that scattered throughout. You know that he’ll be fine going forward and gone are the days where he wasn’t sure of himself and basically got bullied into submission.

Hayasaka may not be a member of the council but I would say she’s the next biggest character here. She advises Kaguya on all romantic matters and is also just a great butler. She takes care of everything around the manner and serves all kinds of roles as needed. At school she even has her happy persona so that she can still guard Kaguya there. Ultimately this even leads to her getting a real character arc of her own as well as a bit of a tragic romance since she also likes Shirogane but you know there is no hope there. Some things just aren’t meant to be after all.

Her personality really stands out due to how serious she is. Even when she is putting on a mask, you can see the real her the whole time. She brings a whole lot to the table and I also liked the friendship she had with Shirogane by the end. In some ways they knew each other better than their best friends since they didn’t have to wear any masks or pretenses while around each other. At least not after Shirogane figured her out anyway. Hayasaka is a character who is easy to root for because she had already sacrificed so much in order to help Kaguya. She’s just a very selfless kind of character.

I wasn’t a big fan of Nagisa. Half the time it’s hard to know how genuine her romance plot even is because it feels like she just enjoys messing with everyone. Her boyfriend is no better. It’s hard to even know his name so because of that he’s always referred to as “Nagisa’s Boyfriend”. That’s not a very good look for the guy now is it? Both of them are mainly around just to be annoying or to break Maki’s heart since she liked the guy first. Well, snooze and you lose so I wouldn’t blame Nagisa for that one. I just felt like these two didn’t add a lot to the series and their gags were fairly expendable.

Now Maki is a character that I actually found to be very sympathetic. She just ended up liking the wrong guy. Basically he was taken so now she has to get over him but that’s a lot harder than it sounds if this is the person you really wanted to be with. The reason you think of the term rebound when someone moves on quickly is because it seems like that person wasn’t as important as you made it out to be. For Maki it hurts a lot because she was just a tad too slow and very nearly could have had him. Additionally he was the only boy she wanted and nobody else will do. Perhaps in time she will be okay but it’ll take a long time.

Unrequited feelings where one person just never confesses always ends up being really emotional and I find those romances to be really interesting. Maki took the high road in not actually confessing afterwards and that’s the right move because you do need to back off when someone is off the market. Usually this also comes with an unconscious filter where you stop being so attracted to that person but other times it can take a minute so you just have to calm down and keep your distance in the meantime. Maki does stay strong throughout and only breaks down among close friends. She’s a great character to look to on how to act when the going gets tough.

Then you have Kei who gets a decent role as Shirogane’s kid sister. Her role never gets huge or anything but she’s a fun enough character. She actually makes you feel bad for him since by all accounts he has done a great job of being her big brother but she tends to be in a rebellious phase when he’s around. I wouldn’t even say he’s being overprotective at any point but jut tries to be supportive. Fortunately she really looks up to Kaguya so that sort of helps balance things out. I would also say they do get along even if they banter from time to time.

Shirogane’s father is a guy who really got to be a lot of fun by the end of the series. He is always ready with something crazy to say and put everyone on the spot. The guy is also great at multitasking as we find out that he has managed to be a great gamer on the side. This guy has many talents and is just hilarious whenever he shows up so he ends up being one of the more likable characters. He also appeared just enough where you got to see him doing a lot but none of his gags or gimmicks ever got overplayed.

Osaragi is easily one of my least favorite characters in the series. She is a girl who doesn’t really know what she wants to do and ends up taking it out on everyone else. She doesn’t accept responsibilities for her own mistakes and has an excuse for everything. She gets a backstory but all it did was remind me how bad she was of a character. If anything I felt like she looked worse and worse as I went through the series even though you’re supposed to at least feel bad for her later on. It just felt like she caused all of her problems on her own and they kept on snowballing and snowballing the whole time. Turning her back on Ino was definitely the worst offense of all though.

Tsubami gets a big role near the middle of the series/end of the beginning. Ishigami liked her and she was a really big focus in his whole road to recovery. She definitely has a hard time making up her mind though and in a way she did a number on the guy even though she wasn’t a bad person. She just made some mistakes along the way. Ultimately I didn’t mind her, I thought she was good overall and a solid reflection of someone trying to do the right thing but just not knowing what to do. For example she did reach out to Ishigami initially to help him get out of his shell and enjoy life more. The problem is that the kindness meant so much to Ishigami that he fell for her afterwards and she wasn’t able to deal with it.

It’s hard to know what to do when someone likes you and you just can’t return the feeling. You feel a bit responsible if you were really friendly the whole time because even if that wasn’t the intention you start to wonder if maybe you were flirting a bit accidentally. So she didn’t end up handling this well for sure and ultimately just ran into one of the risks of being nice.

Mikado is a character who didn’t do a whole lot but he did have some potential. He is a tragic character in the sense that he has always liked Kaguya but you knew that he was doomed from the jump. I give him props for doing his best to watch out for her and help out in the final saga even though I was naturally hoping that they wouldn’t get together. The romance just wouldn’t have been a good idea there but he took it well and stayed gracious so that’s good. I had a soft spot for the character.

The Shinomiya villains are mostly all pretty similar. I can’t say that I cared much for any of them to be honest. Sure some were nicer than others or at least didn’t appear to be cruel for no reason but for the most part they were all just not very interesting. You really didn’t care about these guys in the slightest and it’s another reason why the final arc was weaker. You needed to give them some purpose and a reason to exist if you wanted them to enhance the arc. Maybe if they had been introduced earlier that would have ended up helping a lot.

Overall, There you have it. That’s Kaguya in a nutshell. It’s a top tier title with great characters and just a lot of fun overall. You will be investing a lot of time into the series and it is worth every second. It’s not every day you see a series like this and so I was sad to see it go. I’d highly recommend checking it out right now. Who knows, maybe some day we’ll get a sequel series although it doesn’t feel like one is needed. I would hope they could all go on some kind of big retreat for a month in the mountains or something so we could get a lot of fun banter there even though they are grown up. In a lot of ways having them in the school setting is part of the magic though so you do need that.

Overall 9/10

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