SSSS.Dynazenon Review


Gridman was definitely a really fun show and so it’s nice to see the franchise continue on. This one’s sort of a mix between being a sequel and a spinoff. I would call it a spinoff because even if it takes place after the original show, the cast is completely different. I tend to think of sequels as still being mainly connected to the original. I heard a lot of good things about this show from everyone who had watched it previously and I would say it lives up to that. Ultimately I would give Gridman the edge here but this is a show that keeps up with it in all areas and makes it a close fight. If you liked Gridman then you’ll definitely like this one as well.

The show starts with Yomogi running into a rather odd guy named Gauma. Yomogi gives the guy some food but runs off because he doesn’t want to get roped into something strange. He’s asked out by a girl named Yume but she has a reputation for asking guys out just to not show up for some reason. Yomogi accepts but she stands him up as well. Fortunately Gauma shows up and chews her out about this. Before any of them can really process what’s going on a Kaiju attacks so Gauma absorbs them as well as another nearby kid and they fuse into the robot known as Dynazenon to take down the Kaiju. They are now a team that will have to train together to save the world but these kids barely even know each other. Will they really be able to work as a team?

I do like the idea of these kids never even meeting before and suddenly having to work as a team. It does make for a pretty tough dynamic on them. The kids all do mean well though and try their best to show up and get a lot of training. Each character is dealing with their own drama though and I’ll get into that individually. There is also a villain group of Kaiju followers who basically think Kaiju are the greatest and should rule the world. They dominate them using mind control powers and try to destroy everything in their path. Gauma seems to have had some kind of connection to these guys.

One way in which the show doesn’t quite match up to the original is that you can’t really take these villains seriously next to the ones from the first show. These guys are usually played for comic relief after all and by the time they get their act together the show is pretty much over. It’s an interesting enough dynamic to have these guys kind of like Team Rocket but it also means that none of them will have you on the edge of your seat. Their overall goal is worth discussing though.

So…Kaiju rights are important and all but immediately their goal is invalidated when they have to mind control the Kaiju. If they seriously just wanted Kaiju to be free to do whatever they want…why mind control them? Aren’t the Kaiju smart enough to defend themselves? In that case then you’re not actually helping them out and this is all just an excuse for the villains to put their own goals into the picture. They’re basically projecting their objectives onto the Kaiju. We’ll have to see the leader in the next movie or show if she ever shows up to maybe put some better perspective on this but for now the group’s motivations just aren’t the best.

As for the villains themselves, well they try to get their own rivalries and everything. Mujina doesn’t feel very emotional about anything so she continues to work with the villain group but barely even knows why. She’s along for the ride so to speak and when she tries to help it doesn’t always work out. So along the way she learns how to tap into her emotions and it’s hard to say if this was her or just some feedback from the Kaiju control. Either way it made for an interesting arc but I did think it was a bit random how they tried to make her rivals with Koyomi.

The show seemed to want each villain to have a counterpart on the heroes’ side but this was a bit weak since they barely interacted. They did meet 1-2 times which seemed like it was getting close to setting up a romance plot but that never happened. Then you have Juuga who seems to be the smart member of the group. He talks tough but gets a little less to do than the others. He’s upset at Gauma not being with the group any longer but can’t exactly do much about that. From the villains he just didn’t have a ton of personality.

Onija is the member who almost dies in every episode which is a bit of a running gag there. He’s one of the most enjoyable members of the group so I’ll give him that. I also liked his dynamic with Mujina as their personalities may be complete opposites (Emotionless and the most emotional) but they did look out for each other and even got in sync at one point. It was a good way to give the group a little more humanity and make them leave an impact.

Then you had the leader Sizumu who takes the most steps to contacting the heroes and trying to stay on top of things right from the start. He was interesting and also seemed to believe in the ideology the most. I would have liked to have seen him explain his view on things a bit more though because he just doesn’t talk much. I also thought he blew it in the climax by not blowing up the main characters while they were in their human forms. Come on that would have been perfect for him. They would not have been able to do anything and it would have been game over. Ultimately he didn’t do that and I feel like that was a mistake on his end.

Next up is the third party group with Knight and The 2nd. I never would have guessed the 2nd’s true identity tbh. I knew Knight’s right away because he looked pretty similar but she really grew up. I only found out when looking up the names for this review so that’s pretty cool. She does well in finding gadgets to use and giving the heroes a chance. She’s a solid support character the whole time.

Knight is the guy on the field saving the main characters a lot of the time. He looks pretty strong initially but quickly becomes someone who does take a lot of Ls here. Either way I was glad to see him and he’s definitely my favorite character. He was a nice way to connect things to the Gridman show and he has certainly learned how to take charge. He doesn’t tend to goof off or make mistakes like the others but of course being so serious can have its own risks as well. It seemed like he wasn’t going to break out of the dream world on his own and he won’t ask for help even if he’s getting crushed. That’s just his style.

Now that means it is time to talk about the main cast and the plots that come with them. We’ve got quite a few characters here so lets jump right into them. First up is Chise and she is really eager to be one of the main team members. She is always present at training and even learned how to fight a bit so she could be a backup fighter for any role. You definitely have to admire her dedication here but unfortunately she just doesn’t have the skills to be a main member. I figured this might end up turning into a big jealousy subplot but ultimately she does handle things well.

Then she ends up getting an ally of her own so in a way she is finally a full member of the team. Chise’s a nice enough character. She may not have gotten quite as much to do as the other characters but she was nice enough and never really complained. She would do her job as well as possible and that was that. Her Kaiju Goldburn was also a fun ally to have around. I’m glad that the heroes ultimately didn’t try to take him out and that he was a hero right from the jump. It’s always nice when the heroes are being reasonable like this and it worked out well for everyone involved. I do think he should have been able to stick around and help out. In a lot of ways I feel like the heroes didn’t make the best decisions at the end.

Lets just say that the Earth isn’t in a very safe place at the moment. You shouldn’t weaken its defenses unless you absolutely have to and I wouldn’t say that this is one of those cases. Keep the Earth in tip top shape as far as the defenses go and you will never regret it. Now you have to hope that the people with the defenses arrive on time and considering that they could be anywhere, that’s putting the planet in a lot of danger.

Koyomi is the next character and I never really warmed up to the guy. He’s fairly timid the whole time and basically just spends all day in his bed playing video games. His story is really about gaining confidence, confronting his past, and getting a job. Right now he has no motivation for any of that but I guess being a sci-fi warrior defending the planet will help out on any confidence issues. Throughout the show he runs into a girl he used to have a big crush on back in school but in the present she is already married. This is the plot where I didn’t think he handled it well.

Koyomi clearly still likes her and can’t really get over this or think of anything else when they’re having a drink. She seems excited to chat about old times and get reacquainted but he’s not able to do this and just gets super jealous when her husband arrives. He ends up hanging up on her at one point and severing all ties but it didn’t seem like she was messing with him or trying to lead him on. I got the feeling that she was just being a nice neighbor. Perhaps a very oblivious one since Koyomi wasn’t subtle but she didn’t really know that things were in an awkward spot for him. Ultimately things end on a good spot for them all but it wasn’t due in large part to anything Koyomi did.

Gauma is the leader of the Dynazenon group and he’s got his whole past with the villain group. We see bits and pieces of this and ultimately you can piece together why he left their extreme group but you’ll probably still have some questions involving the leader and more exact circumstances. It’ll be interesting to see more of that but in the present he’s a solid enough character. Gauma is one of those loud guys who is absolutely not afraid to speak his mind and call someone out. He doesn’t waver in his sense of justice and so he can always fight at 100% power. That’s what makes Gauma a fun character and he tends to get some of the better comedic scenes. He doesn’t really have a subplot or doubt that he’s fighting through compared to the others.

Yume is the main heroine here and naturally she does start off in a very rocky position. Standing guys up for seemingly no reason is a very interesting way to start a character’s journey. She seems rather mean at first although not in a direct throwing insults at everyone kind of way but just in how she doesn’t care about the emotional damage. She seems rather off initially and we gradually learn more about her. Her sister Kano died a while back and the circumstances were vague so Yume hasn’t felt good about this. She has no closure because it seems like it may have been an accident, a suicide, or even a murder.

Yume wants to find out the truth but barely even knows how to start and it’s a tough task to be alone on. Fortunately Yomogi wants to help out and so gradually Yume gets a little bolder and is more prepared for the world. The show even got to let her have some closure via a time travel, dream like world. It was a pretty cool way to use those. Usually when the villains pull this off the heroes get all mad about it but in this way it does at least allow you to get some last words out. Since for all intents and purposes this is the real Kano, Yume was able to confront her.

The whole thing is a bit tragic as it seems like they were just never on the same wavelength. Yume wanted to be friends but both found the other to be rather unapproachable. With Kano the show still leaves it a bit vague on exactly what happens. On one hand, Kano basically tells Yume that she didn’t jump off the building so that only leaves an accident as being the main possibility. It seems very happy but once Yume jumps into the portal and vanishes, Kano gets dangerously close to the edge and starts singing that odd song again. It felt like the show really wanted to bring it to a complete 50/50 chance where you just have to decide what she was going to do and even if it’s the same thing.

Surely after talking with Yume she wouldn’t go through with this but if she was close, does that mean that without a talk with Yume she may have jumped? I don’t know, the show makes it hard to really guess but personally I choose to believe it was an accident. The alternative is just too tragic and it would have been a shame to go out like that. We do see that her life wasn’t all smiles and happiness but on the other hand you like to think that she would have been able to stay strong through it all and at least confide in someone to help her.

Yume definitely had to go through a whole lot either way and that’s why she is so broken at the beginning of the series. With help from Yomogi she is ultimately able to go past this. They have their rocky moments as well but it ultimately works out and Yomogi doesn’t back off. Fortunately he has friends giving him good advice as well so the two of them were very fortunate in that respect.

As for Yomogi, well he’s a bit of a pushover initially so I was worried that he would be like the latest protagonist from the Cardfight Vanguard show. Fortunately he gets over that phase pretty quick and does stand up for himself more than most. At one point it was time for a training session but Yomogi mentioned that he had work so he wouldn’t be able to make it. No hesitation or anything like that, he just didn’t go and he misses several training sessions as a result. I was glad that he was able to stick to his guns on that.

He may not be the natural leader type so you won’t see him yelling like Gauma about drive and friendship but he does well in a support role. It’s fairly unique to see the main character not be the leader here and the show did well with that. He had a good dynamic with Yume and the rest of the characters as well. One advantage I would give this show over Gridman is the character dynamics for sure. I thought the main characters just had a better connection than the Gridman ones and in general I would say the human characters were better as well. Certainly the good guys were better at least.

Naturally the animation here is really solid. The battle scenes are epic and you get to see both the heroes and villains utilizing absolutely devastating combos and bursts of speed. Each of their abilities are always nice and unique, plus I like the robot designs. I also thought the human character designs were pretty good. This is one of those shows that pays attention to detail with the eyes and so everyone has a distinct look to them. It helps each character really stand out. The show is just nice to look at.

It also pairs well with the rather relaxed atmosphere that the show has. The stakes rarely feel as high as in Gridman and the show typically isn’t as trippy either like with the train into nothingness. You don’t have the city being a world made out of tetris of dark villains running around. Instead it’s more of a romance story to an extent as the main characters grow close and everyone else deals with their own baggage. You rarely feel a sense of danger but I don’t think the show was going for that anyway. This is more of a slice of life drama with the creature of the week thrown in and the show executes this well.

I also liked the soundtrack a lot. There are a bunch of really solid tunes here for both the heroes and monsters. They’ve all got that techno vibe to them and work really well for the action. You’ll always get pumped in each scene. I was less impressed with the opening visuals but the music itself was good. You definitely won’t be disappointed with the music while watching the show.

Dynazenon’s strength is in the human plots and so that’s where I can see how this one beat Gridman for many people. It certainly does win on the emotions and writing, but for me Gridman won on the villains, story, and action. You felt more like the world was at stake and nobody was playing around there. While the humor here tended to be rather fun, it was also frequent enough where it would lower the stakes. You never really felt like the heroes were in danger here compared to Gridman where everything was moderately serious. So you’re going to be more pumped up in Gridman as you eagerly devour every episode but you’ll probably grin and earnestly enjoy the interactions more here. Based on which aspect of the show you’re more excited for will determine which one you like more.

If we’re going to use this as a tiebreaker, I will say that the romance in Dynazenon is considerably better than Gridman’s as well. There you had the villain trying to pull the moves on the main character and the slight romance with the main heroine but you’re not likely to be invested in it a whole lot and may even be rooting for the villainess since she’s more direct. Here the whole show is really built around the main romance and it’s handled in a very gradual way that’s fairly effective. I can say it’s one of the better romances I’ve seen in a while and is much closer to something like Tsubasa and Nisekoi than the average romance that I usually take shots at. I wouldn’t call this one rushed, obligatory, pointless, or anything like that and it’s automatically in the top 10% of romances that I’ve seen. It’s rather high praise. Yeah nobody’s watching for the romance but it’s a fairly big point of the show so it’s worth pointing out.

Overall, Dynazenon was definitely a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing the crossover with Gridman. There is a whole lot you can do with having these two groups together and I’m all for it. Ideally you’d have the human characters return from both series so they can interact but in a way I don’t mind if only the heroes from this show return while the villains from Gridman do. It would be an interesting matchup since both sides aren’t familiar with the other. We’ll definitely have a lot of solid robot action which is always a plus so no matter what it should be a blast. If you like a good character drama show or just want some classic mecha action then this is definitely a title to check out.

Overall 7/10

Cells at Work!! Review


It’s time to look at the next installment in the Cells at Work series. Season 2 focuses more on the side characters like Normal Cell so it serves to expand on how well you know the cast. It is not quite as explosive as season 1 though and you will miss Red and Neutrophil when they aren’t around. You can tell the production values have dropped as well. Since the show is a slice of life title it’s not like you could call this a filler season but it does feel like that a bit since nothing big happens until near the end of the season. The climax is really solid though and ultimately this is a good title even if it isn’t a great one.

The general premise of the show is that all of the blood cells in a person’s body are sentient. They go around making sure that everything works and this is how you stay alive. Red blood cells move the nutrients around and the White blood cells take out the germ intruders. It all makes for a smooth operation and so you see their day to day lives. Near the end of the season the big villain known as Cancer makes his return to kick things into high gear. Can the heroes stop him?

This is a rather short season with only 8 episodes in it so the whole thing goes by pretty fast. The cast may not be the strongest out there but they’re still nice enough. Lets get the weak points of the show out of the way first. As with the first season I do find that the backgrounds can feel a bit repetitive because there’s only so much you can do while being inside of a body. It limits the show to an extent because the average slice of life has a lot of fun outdoor backdrops and elements to keep things fresh. With that out of the question here the characters have to do the heavy lifting.

Some of the characters are pretty fun so that works out well enough but at the same time I wouldn’t say that this is a series with top tier humor. Titles like Bleach and Noragami would be funnier. As a comedy it’s probably a little below average and the action is only standard. In a lot of ways that is the best way to describe the show. It’s not particularly weak in too many areas but it’s not strong in any of them so it only ends up being a rather standard show that isn’t too remarkable in any way.

From the soundtrack there is one theme that I liked a lot in season 1 and it returns here but barely. Felt like it didn’t get used to much this time which is too bad. The rest of the themes are okay but not really memorable. The animation also isn’t all that impressive. The first season had a lot of really intense, fast paced action scenes while this one has those very rarely. The battle with cancer at the end is probably the only one that felt like it had a lot of really good shots.

Now onto the good stuff. Neutrophil is still one of the best characters here. I like his drive to always protect the body and help the others out. He doesn’t waver in his goal and just keeps on going while also being reasonable. He did help the normal cell with hiding the other germs at one point and isn’t the automatic killing machine that everyone thinks he is. All you have to do is watch how he always supports Red to see that he’s a nice guy. Whenever he was the focus of an episode that was a good thing.

Red really gets the shaft here so don’t expect to see her a lot. She’s still a fun enough character but in a way she got bumped from being one of the 2 lead characters to a very minor supporting role. She makes the most of her moments but it would have been cool to have seen her do more. Maybe not a fight per say but some kind of support role.

Killer T is a fun character as always. He can be a little stern and rough around the edges but that’s just how he rolls. He still put in a ton of effort in order to master his super attack and won’t give up on his friends. He can be a bit much but Killer T will still land in the positive section every time. Meanwhile Regulatory T Cell definitely took a heavy hit here. She ultimately crumbled when the going got tough and that’s not easy for me to forget. She was on the wrong side and used a technicality as an excuse.

By the time she turned things around she had already done a ton of harm. There was no way to get on board with her character after all of that. She quickly sunk to being one of my least favorite cells here and there’s no real way to climb up again. At least realistically I don’t see that happening. She really enjoyed dishing out the pain against her friends too. It’s not like there was any hesitation, she just went right to it. You can’t make mistakes like that.

As for the normal cell, well he’s decent enough I guess. He was a bit annoying in his first main episode though where he is making fun of the white blood cells and all. I get that he’s jealous but the guy was insanely petty the whole time. You should be showing a little more respect to the guys who are keeping you alive right? Without them the germs would have infested the planet and that would be it for them all.

The first episode is mainly about the little cells who go around building bridges and being generally helpful. I liked their coach who got to appear since she was a strict teacher who ultimately helped them all out. It was a low key but fun way to kick things off. The second episode reminded me why the Memory Cell is still one of the worst though. He never comes through when the heroes actually need him to and when your weakness is your memory then you know you’re doomed. How could you start thinking you know about the future?

Neutrophil did well in the other part of that episode to stop the invaders. The 3rd episode has two segments as well. In one of them the Mast cell struggles with being liked vs doing her job. It’s a bit messy since the others don’t appreciate her. Ultimately she finds a balance here but I can’t say that I was a big fan of hers either way. The other segment had one of the more intense fights here as Neutrophil had to fight for the hair. The fact that thousands of his comrades died in this fight makes things surprisingly dark for a minute there. This villain really had a good setup going to stop the heroes each time. Kind of a shame that none of the others ever messaged for backup before though. You’d think that some of them would have done that.

Then we get to the mini arc of the normal cell watching out for a bunch of little creatures. Its nice and wholesome to an extent but at the same time you just feel like he’s not handling things very well. Being mean to the white blood cells is never cool and how is this guy so clueless about the world as a whole? He basically has to grow copies of himself all day so he can’t leave his room. Why not use that time t read or learn about the world? It might be fair to say that the world has no real educational books like that but in that case he should try asking around. Normal cell wants to be a hero but ultimately it just isn’t working out for him.

Finally we get to the Cancer Cell plot and this one is definitely fun. It also brings up some deep questions like Cancer Cell asking why he has to be murdered just for being born. The interesting part of making every cell’s job automatic while also making them sentient is that it can bring up dilemmas like this. White blood cells have to murder germs and cancer cells. That’s the law of this reality and yet as this cancer cell points out, that means its unfair to his group. From the instant they are born, they are slated for destruction. Even if they stopped their activities they would have to be destroyed.

Neutrophil doesn’t really have an answer for that either. He just explains they have to finish this and proceeds. Cancer Cell is a villain so don’t get that mixed up but his points were worth thinking about. He also mentions why they have to risk the lives of trillions of cells and lose them in many fights to protect one body. Why not just take out the body so they can all die together or just ignore it until it eventually shuts down. It’s not an option that’s sustainable in any way but sacrificing trillions of lives for one does seem a bit lopsided.

So you can always count on the cancer cell to really get you thinking. He’ also got a cool design and really solid powers. It took all of the strongest fighters teaming up to take him down for the count. NK cell got to appear again and she did really well in the fight. She’s another really solid character for sure and works well with the others.

As for my final thoughts on Cancer’s questions on just destroying cells because of their type, I agree with him that it’s not right but I can’t think of many ways around that. The characters are very limited in what they can do because of the setting and in his case he was already acting aggressively evil. Maybe there’s some kind of prison that can hold them. At the very least I was glad that Neutrophil didn’t hesitate and just rushed in. If you don’t have the answer then there’s no point in dragging it out. Just get out there and take care of business. Maybe one day he will be able to get his happy ending if they can find a cell that cures other cells.

The stakes were high and cancer is a fitting final boss so it was a good way to wrap up season 2. It always feels odd to finish a show that’s less than 12 episodes because it feels short. We still got the final saga to be a two part event though which was neat. You’ll have a good time here and you might even pick up a few things. It’s very science based like last time so you may recall some more scientific names than you did to start the show but at the same time there are so many names that you may forget them just as easily.

If we ever get a season 3 I think a good idea would be to get them out of the body somehow. That, or make it a time skip where the body now looks like a city. That would make for some fun new dynamics and even having the human shrink and appear in there would be cool. It would be tough to make that work but it would spice things up. Assuming we need to keep things reasonably similar then just bringing the animation budget back up to season 1 levels would be good for all of the fights. It’s hard to know how you can possibly top Cancer as a final boss though.

Overall, Cells at Work!! is a fun sequel. If you wanted to see the characters again then this definitely does the trick there. It should feel nostalgic seeing all of the characters again. It’s definitely got the same vibe as last time and due to its nature you can jump in on almost any episode and know what’s going on the whole time. It’s very accessible for casual watching and makes for a solid experience. There wasn’t a ton to say here compared to many shows since there isn’t a lot to theory craft or a huge cast to discuss but ultimately I’d say I covered the main points. If you checked out season 1 then you’ll want to watch this as well.

Overall 6/10

Bigger Than Life Review


It’s never a good thing when you become bigger than life because that means that your ego is probably something you haven’t kept in check. This film has something like that happen to the main character but it’s not ego in this case. Instead it comes through not following the proper dosage on a drug and things get a little dicey. It’s why following the instructions for anything is so crucial.

The movie starts with showing us how sick Ed is. He’s been having seizures and fainting spells as of late so he is taken to the hospital and the prognosis is not very good. Ed will be dead in short order unless he tries an experimental treatment which could bump him off as well. It’s his best and only option though so he goes through with it. At first things appear to be fine but slowly Ed begins to go more and more insane to the point where even his family barely recognize him. Will Ed be okay or was this one case where the cure is deadlier than the condition?

Now, I mentioned that the issue is with Ed taking too much Corazon but even before that he started going a bit off the deep end. Sure this sped it up but based on how it appeared, he would have gone crazy sooner or later while taking these. Nowadays it’s more of a mainstream drug and I know it’s used on a lot of things so at least the going crazy part isn’t happening now.

Ed’s wife Lou doesn’t handle this too well the whole time though. On one hand she is trying to back up her husband at every turn which is admirable but it goes too far when he starts becoming a danger to everyone around them and she doesn’t act. He becomes quite harsh with their kid and starts acting like a drill sergeant. He doesn’t treat her very kindly half the time either and by the time she is finally ready to acknowledge that he is crazy..he is completely off his rocket. Her final plan also wasn’t subtle enough which nearly cost her everything.

The story has a happy ending but she didn’t contribute to that too much. She also should have been a lot nicer to Wally who just did his best to keep her in the loop and offer advice. She was rarely if ever grateful at all. Its fortunate that he was around in the end or thing would not have gone very well at all. Wally was easily my favorite character here. No matter how many verbal shots he took, the guy just kept trying to help anyway. Now that’s a really good friend.

As for the kid Richie, he’s not old enough to be able to do much of anything in this scenario anyway. He’s not a very interesting character and eventually also gets to his breaking point but there’s just no way for him to really impact the story. I don’t think you even needed him in the film since it doesn’t change much. You could have Ed threaten someone else instead for the same effect.

As for Ed, well it’s hard to like him here since he was taken over so completely by the drug and cracked. It’s too bad there weren’t at least scenes of him trying to fight it or we could see in his mind as the two sides of him fought. Instead since the brain washing was so complete and immediate, the only thing you can assume here is that he didn’t have the willpower to resist this. Hopefully he is able to stay strong now but for the majority of the film he’s effectively the antagonist.

The movie doesn’t have a very fun feeling to it the whole time either because of this. It’s either the characters running away from Ed or he’s just acting off. There aren’t a lot of light hearted moments after the first few scenes. The ones we do get later on are almost always interrupted into a more tense moment.

If the character cast was better then it would help the movie for sure. Instead this just ends up being a movie that you will get through but you probably won’t be recommending very high. It doesn’t really have any replay value either. The writing is good but the characters aren’t so it’s not really able to take full advantage of that. Some of the drama can also be a bit forced like Ed not letting Lou know about his part time job. While he indicated that she wouldn’t be happy about it, that’s not consistent with her character at all. Seems to me like she would not have thought that it was a very big deal at all.

So Ed’s perception may have already been a little off here. He was adding on extra stress to himself that he just didn’t need. Once he turned crazy he would certainly start making a lot of scenes like at the school and when he started to read his Bible but before that it didn’t seem like he had enough trust in Lou. If he had confided in her earlier and more often then she may have been able to help him get around the side effects right from the start. It’s why you can’t always go it alone in these things or you may end up being down and out.

Overall, Bigger Than Life is an emotional film about losing control of your mind. It’s definitely going for a pretty serious vibe and succeeds at that but as a result the movie just doesn’t have a lot of charm to it. You can get by without charm if the story is just that epic and engaging but this isn’t even that kind of adventure. It’s more of a low key story as the characters try their best to get through this tough period and there’s just not a whole lot of reasons to watch this one. It’s not bad and if you’re up for a more somber film then it’s worth a shot but you can definitely find something else to check out.

Overall 5/10

Kaguya-sama: Love is War? Review


It’s time to take a look at season 2! I like what they did with the title. It’s a small thing but a season 2 should always have some way to easily differentiate itself from the first and a question mark even works on a story level since the competition is starting to get trickier for the two leads. It’s definitely a great follow up to the first season. I would still give season 1 the edge as it had more standout segments for me, but it is nice to see Ishigami and Ino getting more of a role here. They do help to make the student council feel more complete.

The general plot here is that Shirogane and Kaguya are still trying to get the other person to confess their love first. Love is War after all and the first person to concede is the one to lose here. That’s the general set-up but more specifically it’s time for the election arc. The first year is over after all and that means the Student Council will be temporarily disbanded as the elections go on to elect a new student council president. Shirogane ultimately ends up running for the position again but this time he will be up against Ino. Ino is a first year student with big dreams and she wants to change the school. Thing is, if she wins then Kaguya and Shirogane might not see each other as often anymore so even if they can’t admit this, it adds extra fuel to their determination to win this.

The season is 12 episodes and a lot of those are stand alones so I won’t say the election arc lasts for very long but I would still consider it one of the major story beats here. Then we have the aftermath and the other big story event is that we finally see Ishigami’s full backstory of what happened to make everyone in the school dislike him. It’s certainly one of the more emotional parts of the story and while you may have expected that to be the season finale, there is one episode after that so that things can end on a lighter note. I still say Ishigami’s episode would have been perfect to end the whole thing on though.

So lets dive in and first off I’ll get the technicals out of the way since not much has changed since season 1. As was the case last time, the soundtrack is dynamite here. I don’t think it can be stated enough how important a soundtrack is for a comedy/slice of life kind of show. You need it to really inject a lot of energy into each scene. While strong writing would be enough to keep the show interesting without it, why turn down an advantage right? Kaguya is leaps and bounds above all other shows in these genres with the soundtrack. There are a lot of fun themes and then you even get the occasional homage like a Mission Impossible/James Bond kind of track.

Also the theme song’s pretty catchy. It even remembered that Kaguya was in the archery club and incorporated that into the song which was a nice detail. Then you have the animation which is still really good. It may be slightly calmer than season 1 so the original may have the slight edge there but it’s extremely close. Either way the animation is still very smooth and works well with the scenes. It never feels low budget and it’s a show that remembers to give everyone eyes that stand out. One of the big benefits of anime is how crazy they can make the hair and eyes so whenever a show remembers this it’s a good thing. In fact there’s a whole segment about Shirogane’s eyes and how they change when he has gotten some sleep. This would not have been as effective if they hadn’t given it as much detail earlier.

One of the reasons the franchise made it so big in the first place is how clever the writing is and this season doesn’t stop with that. One of the most effective gags in the whole series comes in the final episode as the gang play a fun Mario Party type game where you have to pump up a balloon. If it pops during your turn then you’ll lose and may also get a bit traumatized with how big the explosion will be. Each character has emotional flashbacks and inspirational montages where you’d expect them to surpass their limits and they don’t. It’s definitely a great scene and that was one of the better segments so it was a good way to end off the season.

The show is always funny without being silly. It’s got a great balance here. Another really solid part is when Kaguya has a trial against her other selves in her mind. The way each personality is represented while also being recognizable from her previous moments is solid. It’s a comedy scene for sure but at the same time you can tell that it’s not coming out of nowhere and can even be a bit of foreshadowing for her future moments. The show has quite a lot of depth which puts it apart from the average comedy.

I’ve read the manga and in a lot of ways that’s why these early adventures were my favorite part. I like the fun shenanigans before things get too serious. Serious moments are all well and good too of course but the banter between the characters and the fun games are when the show is at its peak. We definitely get a lot of moments here for that throughout the show as well so it never loses its momentum. Now lets dive into the characters although the cast is still a little on the small side.

Kaguya is still a great lead and certainly gets her share of wins here. From the main two I still think she tends to plan out her attacks a lot more thoroughly and is also willing to cross the line a bit more to get what she wants. Whenever we see how she knocks candidates out of the running through poison tea (Probably just sleepy tea or something very mild) or blackmail, it shows that she is really someone who has Shirogane’s back at all times. She can still be a bit quick to betray Chika all the time though so their friendship certainly isn’t the best but I’m sure she’ll get better at that eventually.

Kaguya’s plan of using citrus to burst the balloon at the end was also inspired. In general she definitely has quite a few good showings here and part of why the dynamic works is because she and Shirogane both get their clear cut wins from time to time. So instead of constant cop outs you have times where each one can feel proud of their complete accomplishment. She’s also very supportive of Ishigami even if he doesn’t always realize this.

As for Shirogane, it’s also a great season for him. While he may not be as thorough as Kaguya, his reaction times are always impressive as he’ll be able to think of some kind of excuse to save his bacon all the time. His most impressive win here had to be tricking Kaguya into being the one to beg him to stay on the council. His plan here was solid in a few different ways because if she hadn’t done that then he probably wouldn’t have re-submitted the application so it was a win-win. He created a scenario where he couldn’t lose.

Shirogane is also able to take the high road many times. He helped Ino when he saw she was in a jam and he’s the kind of guy who will accept a personal loss if it means helping someone out. I’d say that’s his humble beginnings showing here as he had to work his way to the top and knows what it’s like to lose. He’s just a very nice guy and probably one of the nicest characters in the series. You can always count on him in the end.

Ishigami has a lot of character development here and getting his own arc was impressive. He definitely had a rough string of luck. I would say he didn’t handle some parts amazingly like trying to convince the girl of why he was beating up the cheater but in the spur of the moment it’s not always easy to make the right call. I’m glad he didn’t end up writing the apology because that would have definitely been unfortunate. In the end he did not have to compromise on his ideals and now he can finally move on from the past.

He may not have gotten the perfect ending to his arc that he would have wanted but ultimately he’s still in a much better place than he was. You can see how he’s gotten more confidence over time as well. He’s not always perfect and can speak his mind a bit too much but at least now he has a positive relationship with just about everyone. Ino is really the only exception with how she’s constantly attacking the guy for no real reason. At least right now she always appears to be the instigator.

Then we have Chika who is still the fun comic relief character here. She does well in that role and is always ready to brighten up everyone’s spirits. She enjoys her role as the love detective as well and is always ready with some good advice. Chika also still has the sub plot where she will occasionally train Shirogane on a task that he’s really bad at. That continues here as well and you have to applaud her dedication of not giving up. She even ends up having a bit of a rivalry with Kaguya this time around while poor Shirogane is stuck in the middle.

Chika’s role may not feel as big as the others in a sense since the serious story parts never involve her but she is always around. You don’t feel like her role is small while watching the episodes since she is constantly around. Next up is Ino who has now joined the ranks as a main character. She makes for a solid antagonist in the election arc. Ultimately her points and ideas may not have been particularly valid in a lot of ways which explains why she would have a tough time getting votes but she tries hard.

I like her enthusiasm and confidence but do think she could work to be a bit nicer. It does appear to be true that she doesn’t really incorporate feedback most of the time or she could have done better and of course her baseless attacks on Ishigami don’t help her case. Ino’s timing can also be rather rough most of the time so she ends up not getting a very good opinion of the whole student council for a while there.

Hayasaka is more of a supporting character but one who’s always a lot of fun to have around. She plays a lot of roles here like being a student and Kaguya’s maid. She is expected to help out on the field and subtlety find out intel for Kaguya as well. There is no break for her and there’s a whole segment about Kaguya bugging her constantly when she is just trying to relax. It’s quite the thankless job for her but ultimately Hayasaka always pulls the mission off without a hitch. It’s why she is the ultimate bodyguard.

Finally there’s also Kei, while she did appear a little in season 1, her role has gotten a bit bigger here. As Shirogane’s sister you would expect her to have a role since it’s a common practice to win over someone’s family members so you can get closer to your actual target. This doesn’t tend to work out very well for Kaguya in this season though. Kei’s a fun enough character even if she always seems a bit rude to Shirogane when he’s just trying to help. Imagine getting mad at him for trying to get you a present for your birthday right? The show did good in also giving her eyes a distinct design too. No detail was left out for this anime that’s for sure.

Now with the amount of segments that the show has (2-3 per episode) you’re not likely going to find all of them top tier. The reason why the show still manage to be great though is because the vast majority of the segments are really excellent. The weaker segments for example can be when the two randoms are always asking for love advice from the main characters when they’re just trying to flex. I’d like to see the council call them out on it although still being more low key than Ishigami’s reaction. It’s always tough when your rep is on the line though.

Still, the show avoids the easy pitfalls of romance/slice of life titles like fanservice. The show has been very good about staying sophisticated so this doesn’t become an issue. There can be some small moments here and there but never any scene that stays into focus for very long or an extended situation that would make this an issue. The romance still plays a backseat to the comedy as well so things don’t get too dramatic. It’s a little more serious than in season 1 as you can tell the characters are weakening but it’s still not quite there yet. The two characters are best as rivals so it’ll be sad to see the dynamic go away once that changes.

The pacing is also really fast with how many segments are in every episode so things are always happening. You’ll never be bored in any episode that’s for sure. Whether the characters are playing a game or going for one of their many schemes, it’s always moving quickly. You’ll laugh at the funny scenes and get emotional during the triumphant ones. We even got a whole tragic plot with Kaguya’s phone getting damaged. I know it can definitely be rough losing out on all of your data like that. It’s why my important photos are backed up through social media or this site so if my phone were to ever be destroyed I’d still be okay. It’s still a hard loss though so you can feel the sadness of the scenes before the heroes are able to help her out. The show really knows how to handle every genre and we even get a lyrical song to close out the final episode as it transitions well into the opening. We’ll see if season 3 can keep up this momentum but I have no doubt that it can even if passing season 2 can be another story.

Overall, Season 2 is a solid follow up here. If you liked season 1 then you will certainly like this one because it really keeps the same energy and focus that the first season had. It’s really just as strong in most ways. I still give season 1 the edge because I felt like the climax was more emotional and the segments would beat out the season 2 counterparts on average but it’s a very close battle to be sure as I still gave them the same score. If you’re in the market for a fun rom-com then this is definitely the title to check out. With season 3 having started recently you also know right off the bat that there are a lot of episodes to check out so it makes jumping into the franchise that much more appealing.

Overall 8/10

Komi Can’t Communicate


This series definitely seemed to get pretty big once it became an anime. It’s got an interesting premise about making 100 friends although I can’t say that the main heroine is very solid and the near anthology style of the manga holds it back for now. We’ll see if the friends amp this title up as their numbers grow and I’ll have a review up for this series once it’s over.

Overall 6/10

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War Review


Kaguya is definitely a title that took the romance genre to new heights. It has to be up there with Nisekoi as one of the all time greats. The manga has definitely been a lot of fun with how crazy it is and season 1 of the anime manages to capture that same energy. The premise is excellent and the show really manages to capitalize on this. So in the end you’re bound to have a good time with this one and you’ll definitely be really hyped for the next season.

The show starts by introducing us to the 2 main characters, Kaguya and Shirogane. They are members of the Student Council and are considered to be elites in a school that is already comprised of only the rich and influential. Shirogane has earned his way to the top as the student council president through good grades and being a general genius. It’s something he is quite proud of since there is otherwise no way he could possibly be in the school. Then you have Kaguya who is a member of the most powerful family in the world, the Shinomiya family. She is a natural prodigy at just about any skill she picks up.

With such talents comes a great ego on both sides though. Shirogane and Kaguya both like each other but refuse to make the first move. That is where “Love is War” comes into play as the anime uses a lot of battle analogies for this. The way to win this battle is to get the other person to confess first. If you can do this then you will have won the match but on the other hand is you break down and confess then it will be an eternal loss. So who will end up conquering the other? That is the basis for each episode as they use their impressive intellects to try and get the other person into a tight spot where they have to confess.

Right from the start I thought this was really a great plot. It’s also a fairly big departure from the usual rom-com setup where it would be one character obviously chasing after the other. Here we actually get to see into their heads as they come up with all kinds of crazy plans. It’s safe to say that Kaguya tends to be better at planning things out long-term as her plans usually involve a lot of research from before the day has even started. Meanwhile I would say that Shirogane is quicker at thinking in the moment like when he has to counter her various plans and come up with some strategies of his own. He’s never on the back foot for long.

You may wonder how this premise could go on for so long but it’s really easy as the show comes up with all kinds of fun scenarios throughout the 12 episodes. Additionally there are other characters here as well and I’ll get into them in a moment. First off, as an adaption the anime really does a great job. The soundtrack is a 5 star title. There are so many great themes that fit each of the various moments in the show. You’ve got action themes, comedic ones, emotional tracks, etc. Whatever scene is happening, the show is able to amp it up with some well placed music. You’ll definitely want to listen to a lot of those tunes again. As for the theme song itself, it’s fairly decent. I wouldn’t call it high tier or anything but the song is catchy enough. I think the visuals can feel a bit too lazy with how so many scenes are reused over and over again.

It’s a stylistic choice but one that didn’t land for me. Otherwise the general animation in the show is really quite good. There’s always a lot happening in every scene from background effects to things happening in the character’s eyes. The show is never taking a break with the animation and it helps keep everything as interesting as possible. The story is engaging enough where it would still be good but that’s why this ends up being a great adaption as it makes everything even better.

You can feel the tension in the episodes as the characters have to try and get each other to crack. In that sense the Umbrella segment is one of the best ones because almost the whole thing is the two characters casually hinting that the other one is lying about not bringing an umbrella. There isn’t a lot technically happening so the scene has to carry itself with pure dialogue and music. It does so quite well. On average my favorite segments tend to be the game themed ones though. Whether the characters are playing a card game, board game, or a mental game, I like the competitive fire it brings out in the cast. Chika tends to do surprisingly well at some of these too even if she doesn’t always win.

All right, lets talk about the characters now. I think it’s a strong testament to how good the cast is that I can remember the names of the main 4 immediately. Sometimes it takes a little while to really know the characters. Kaguya is a solid lead for all the reasons I mentioned before. She’s a genius, always has a lot of plans at the ready and knows what she wants. Kaguya does well in this war of love and is also just a good person beyond that. She will put aside her competition to help someone out in need, whether it be a child who needs to cross the street or Ishigami flunking a class. So her role as a member of the student council never really takes a back seat and that makes sense.

Kaguya is someone who certainly values honor and duty so she doesn’t let go of those things. Then you have Shirogane who is also a blast. He’s someone who is always under a lot of stress since he has no family connections or money to fall back on. As a result the guy is constantly doing a million things but he always has time to compete with Kaguya and the others. He really comes through in the climax of the season and definitely helps to put everyone in a better place. At the end of the day he’ll also stop to do the right thing even if it might hurt him in his battles with Kaguya.

The two have a really solid balance going in part because of how different they are. They each have similar goals but you’ll see how they tackle this in different ways. I’d also say Shirogane tends to overthink things a little more than Kaguya does. He imagines things going in the worst possible way all the time. While this may happen to Kaguya once in a while, it’s almost constant for him.

The next biggest character here would be Chika. She’s the main comic relief character of the series and fulfills her role very well. She doesn’t notice any of the tension between the main two characters and just likes to have a lot of fun. She’s often the character who will bring in the games to play with. She has less of an honor code than the other two and doesn’t mind cheating at times though. Chika can often be a bit of a space case and mess things up for the others but at times you also figure she’s a lot smarter than she lets on.

Chika is one of those characters who just doesn’t let anything really get to her and has a lot of fun all of the time. She’s another very strong character as a result. The main two still win but she’s still an extremely solid character and probably one of the best you could hope for to slot in as the comic relief character. Often times those characters don’t seem to contribute a whole lot to the plot or can get annoying but that never happens with her. She’s just consistent through it all and the series would lose a lot in the dynamic if she wasn’t around. Just having her here as a third party to mess up Kaguya and Shirogane’s plans is great.

Ishigami is the final member of the student council and doesn’t really get to do much until fairly deep into season 1. I liked how the anime would keep him out of frame or have him facing the wrong way until it was time for his debut. It was a good way to acknowledge/foreshadow that he would be appearing soon without actually spoiling that part yet. While I don’t think he’s as strong as the main 3, he’s still a solid member. His gimmick is that he’s super afraid of Kaguya and loves playing video games so he doesn’t take the school as seriously as the others. It’s to the point where he nearly flunks so the guy definitely likes to live life on the edge.

Ishigami tends to get in trouble a lot but most of the time it’s through situations of his own creating so you don’t feel super bad for him. The guy needs to work on reading the room which is not one of his strengths right now. He does add to the dynamic though and so I’d say he didn’t arrive too late or anything. With these 4 the student council is in good hands and they’re all quite different so it’s not like they’re stealing a lot of screen time away from each other or anything.

That’s it for the main characters and right now there aren’t too many supporting characters. A few like Shirogane’s sister do appear but haven’t had much to do yet. I’d say the two main ones to show up would be Hayasaka and Nagisa. Nagisa and her boyfriend have a bit of a running sub plot where they will show up to separately ask the main 2 for advice since they assume Kaguya and Shirogane would have a lot of experience even if that is not the case. There’s not a whole lot to say about them beyond that but they seem like nice enough characters.

Hayasaka is a much more entertaining character though. She is forced to live a double life so that nobody suspects that she is actually Kaguya’s maid. Her role is really to keep Kaguya safe and so she does this really well by also being at school so she can help out as needed. Hayasaka is more old school on the romance angle and just thinks Kaguya should confess but of course that’s not going to happen. Hayasaka really goes the extra mile in her duties to help Kaguya out so she’s a very solid ally to have.

That about wraps up the characters. Each episode tends to have 2-3 adventures in it so the episodes really breeze by. It shows how quick some of the adventures are but also that the show isn’t really going to drag them out which is good. The pacing is always on point here. While the series eventually gets more plot driven I would largely say that season 1 is episodic. Some development and events do carry over of course but for the most part you can pop in any episode and understand what’s going on right away.

There really aren’t any negatives to speak of for this show. With any comedic title there are bound to be some segments that you won’t find quite as funny as others but with multiple segments per episode I doubt there will be any episode where you don’t like any of them. The weakest segments for me would be Kaguya getting sick and Kaguya being unable to laugh. Then the best ones would be the Umbrella and all of the game episodes I mentioned earlier. The series also avoids some of the potential pitfalls of the rom-com genre like random fanservice and lots of rivals popping up out of the wood work. Not to say that the show is completely devoid of fanservice but it’s fortunately just about nonexistent.

Finally, the writing just feels very sophisticated. It’s the kind of show that will randomly drop lots of different scientific theories at you. The characters are always showing off in one way or another so it makes sense and works naturally. This helps to enhance the script all around and the line between the characters stating facts or just bluffing gets really blurry which is always nice. You don’t want to necessarily believe whatever you hear them say but it’s always nice to see them invoking all of the theories anyway. The show is really a comedy first and a romance second but balances the two to perfection and never gets overly dramatic. It is just a great all around title.

Overall, If you’re looking for a solid rom-com then look no further. Even if you’re not big on romance I could still recommend it entirely because at its core the series is about the mind games that come from this. The romance is always around but it’s not a dramatic romance or anything. Often times the characters will just seem more like friends anyway and you might even hope that this could be the end game instead of getting together. It’s just season 1 though so it’s too early to be thinking about the end game. Just enjoy all the laughs and fun and the 12 episodes will go by in a breeze. You’ll also be looking forward to Chika’s continued assault against the Ramen Kings. It’s a small subplot that begins in this season and is just a lot of fun with how seriously they take their food. I’m more of a “Stuff my face” kind of eater personally but I understand that some like to really savor the experience. It’ll also make you hungry for some good pasta even if you don’t have a ramen on hand.

Overall 8/10

The Long, Long Trailer Review


This is a film where the title is definitely very accurate. The whole movie involves the long trailer from start to finish and the journey along with it. That said, I thought it was a bit weaker than I was expecting it to be. The movie just drags on a bit and while it’s still a fun adventure, there is less variety than in the average comedy type movie like this. At its core that’s what the issue with the movie is. It needed more unique moments.

So the movie starts off with Nicky in the rain looking for his wife in a trailer. The whole thing looks rather odd so an older man tells Nicky to wait in his little house since it’s impossible to pass by it without being seen. Nicky then decides to share his story and almost the rest of the film is a flashback. He and Tacy had a reasonably solid marriage and things were going well but she desperately wanted to move into a trailer. Nicky was completely against the idea and I can’t say that I blame him because this does not sound like a good move. They shop around but ultimately end up going for a really small one that still breaks the bank. The trailer has a lot of things wrong with it and may even destroy their marriage. Can they overcome this vehicle?

Now it’s nice that Nicky ends up relenting so Tacy can get her trailer but he was really right and should have stuck his ground here. A trailer is a ton of work since you need to drive it around, find a place to park it, find utilities, etc. It’s not like you just have running water and a nearby town to get supplies from. It seems to me like you usually only live in a trailer as a last resort but not because you really want to be there. This is probably the first time I’ve seen a character actually want to make the change.

It makes even less sense when you consider how good the house that they were living in was. It wasn’t some run down little apartment or anything like that, it was actually a pretty solid place to live. Deciding to leave there was a big mistake. Well, they end up getting the trailer and they do their best with it, but it just doesn’t work. The whole thing shakes, you can get stuck in the mud, etc. I have to say that living in a trailer seems like even harder work than I would have guessed. There are just so many things that you have to take into account in everyday life with this.

One scene I did appreciate is how close the community apparently is. Everyone jumps up to help when Tacy isn’t feeling very well and apparently they have whole communities for the people with trailers. It’s nice to see that they’ve got some kind of support network going and honestly they probably should have just stuck with this group. I know the main two wanted some privacy so they went out again but maybe they should have just stayed long enough to at least pick up some tips and tricks.

Ultimately I have to mainly give a lot of grief to Tacy in the end though. So the heroes end up having to cross a huge mountain to get to their destination and this will be extremely dangerous. To help their odds of survival increase, Nicky lets Tacy know to toss out her random rocks that show every place they’ve been. Tacy agrees but secretly keeps them which almost results in their death. If you’re going to keep the rocks then keep them but lying about this nearly ended up being fatal for both of them. It’s easy to see how there was a lot of friction here as a result.

Now this is one of those crazy comedies where both characters will have their unreasonable moments but I think it’s fair to say that for most of the adventure, Tacy was not handling this very well. She really wanted the trailer but wasn’t going to be able to make it work. Not to say you can blame everything on her since she couldn’t have known what was going to happen. She just ended up putting them in this dilemma.

As for Nicky, well he tends to get overly emotional at times. It comes with the territory of trying to roll with these crazy schemes but he does nothing to help the tension between him and Tacy. Throwing out the rocks and running off just serve to amp things up even more. All in all I still liked the banter between the main two and the humor is what carries the film. It may not make both characters all that likable individually but the strong dialogue will ensure that they are both memorable.

Where the film falters as I mentioned is that it just feels like not much happened. Just look at the plot description that I used, it pretty much encompasses the entire film and that’s not very long. It’s all about the characters riding around in their trailer without ever making any real progress here. I suppose the drive up to the mountain was decent but in a way I just wanted some scenes outside of the trailer. So in a sense the premise itself limited the film. There just wasn’t a lot going on and it shows that there are only so many jokes you can do with a trailer.

Overall, The Long, Long Trailer is a good movie but not a very good one. There’s not a whole lot of replay value here and while the movie doesn’t drag on or anything like that, it won’t keep your interest quite as much as it should. There’s enough world building and potential here for sequels that have a completely different plot though. If you want to watch a retro comedy film then this isn’t a bad watch. As a one and done it’ll do the job even if you think it could have been better. The moral here is that the grass is always greener and sometimes you gotta be satisfied with what you have.

Overall 6/10

Spy X Family


Spy X Family has proven to be quite the hit so far and it’s easy to see why. The setup is really quite solid and the characters are all a lot of fun so far. I definitely see this being a great light hearted adventure all the way through and hopefully it can keep up that energy for a long while. I’ll have a review up for the series as soon as it’s completed.

Overall 8/10

A River Runs Through It


A River Runs Through It is a fairly peaceful film. For the most part I’d call it a slice of life about the characters learning just how great fishing is. The narration really lays it on about how great fly fishing is in particular and it’s an activity that really keeps the family together. It’s a fun adventure and while it’s one that may not be too eventful for the most part so there won’t be a lot of replay value, I wouldn’t say it had many issues either. The story will keep you interested all the way through.

The film starts off with Norman and his brother Paul as kids who grew up in a rather small town where everyone knew everybody. Their father John was the local paster and as a result they tended to get into a lot of mischief. Paul was usually the instigator here but Norman would always have his back and they would just hang out. At the end of the day they would all go fly fishing and just enjoy the great outdoors. As time passed by, the two brothers got older and had less time to hang out as Norman went abroad to study and Paul joined the newspaper business but they would ultimately still keep on fishing together.

The movie takes place over a long span of time so the traits that the characters had just kept on going whether it be for better or worse. In Paul’s case it was definitely worse as his mischief kept on accelerating over and over until he was pretty much a delinquent. He started gambling with the wrong crowd and seemed to have even gotten mixed up with the mob. He put on a brave face at all times and wouldn’t let the others know that anything was wrong but it certainly did catch up to him. It’s a shame because he seemed like a nice enough guy but ultimately if you mess around the consequences will catch up at some point.

Meanwhile Norman was always more laidback and relaxed so this trait carried with him into the present. In some ways it also got him into trouble as he was quick to say yes to a request even if he didn’t really want to do it. This ended up being a focus when Jessie appeared. Norman liked her and while she didn’t seem to really feel the same way, she hung out with him just enough so she could use him to give her brother Neal a friend. She seemed to not be very genuine the whole time so you knew things wouldn’t work out so I was a bit surprised when it did later on. Norman’s attempt to help Neal seemed to have won her over and he was a nice guy from start to finish.

Norman was independent enough now to try and counsel Paul away from his shadier practices though so gone are the days where he would just follow him. Unfortunately it didn’t work out but Norman really did his best at all times. Neal was definitely the worst character by far though. He doesn’t take anything seriously and never acted very mature. He really didn’t put any effort into learning about fly fishing at all. In the end he really just wasted everyone’s time. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves after all, so there was nothing more than Norman could have really done here.

Norman’s parents were good. John did well in his Bible teachings to help instill good habits to his kids. He was always trying to be as responsible as he could be and wanted the best for them. Their mother was also good and helped break up their only fight in the film. She helped keep everyone together. At its core the film is about family after all and we got to see how this family operated. They had a good setup here.

One part that I thought was going to be a bigger subplot was Norman seeing if he would fit in after having been gone for so many years. It seemed like he may have been missing some inside jokes and all when he first hung out with the friends again but ultimately that wasn’t the case. He just went fishing with Paul the next day and it was all how he remembered it. The town just didn’t change that much and fishing was the constant that he needed so it all worked out. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a big deal. They all grew up together so I like to think the friends could have caught him up to speed if it became necessary.

While the movie is a slice of life, we do have more than one death scares. There’s a scene early on where the two brothers go on a very dangerous canoe ride which almost becomes lethal. Then later on while fly fishing Paul gets a little too close to the water and things almost get deadly. In both cases that could have instantly switched the tone and feel of the movie. It adds some tension in for sure and reminds me why I would never take a canoe ride like that and even for fishing I’d stick to the solid ground. Fishing isn’t really my thing either way though so as a whole I would just skip on it. Even just loading up the bait to the hook would be a little too much for me since I’m not big on bugs like that.

Overall, A River Runs Through It is a good movie. It’s certainly a calming type of film if you want to just enjoy the scenery and what the small town experience would have been like. The movie does have a rather sad ending though which may end up defeating the purpose of the title if that’s why you’re watching it. I was a little surprised that it took this turn but I can’t say there was not a build up to it because everything was escalating. I sort of thought it was going to end with everyone fishing and just the implication that things were not going to go well. The film wasn’t afraid to just go through with it though. Either way, the film as a whole is on the upbeat side so it should still work as a calming title.

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy Review


Time to check out a manga about voice acting. It’s a fairly unique premise to build the series around and works well with your classic rom-com setup. If anything I thought this series really could have been quite a bit longer. I’d have liked to see Hime get to progress more so we could see her in the bigger productions. The series really seems to end just when she has broken out of her shell with the inevitable big time skip. 12 volumes is nothing to sneeze at but something like 16-20 would have been good. All in all, this is a fun series with a satisfying conclusion.

The series focuses around Hime who is a girl that really wants to be a talented voice actress. She attends Seiyu Academy for that one goal but she does have a big weakness. The problem is that her voice…makes her sound like a gorilla. The higher pitch she tries to use, the deeper and rougher the voice comes out. It’s all frustrating for Hime because she has been practicing for so long but has not even come close to her goal. Ultimately she wants to be a “Lovely Blazer” which is what the fighters in a popular anime/music group/vocal group are called. Meeting one in person was what inspired her as a kid.

Still, dreams are only dreams until she can get close. At the school she meets up with the popular boy at school known as Senri. Senri is the opposite as he is extremely talented in any role and is seen as a prodigy. Unfortunately they don’t get off on the right foot so he really dislikes her now. (His fault because he starts off by insulting her) When a play reading for Snow White goes wrong, Hime discovers that she does have exceptional voice acting talent…for male characters. This isn’t exactly her dream though and she wants to keep it a secret. She meets up with a voice coach who makes a deal with her. She has to keep performing as a guy in secret by dressing up as a guy and living a double life. If she can pull this off for a while then he promises to make her a big star as a girl too. Hime’s double life has now begun, but how long can she keep up the act!?

Double lives tend to be fun because it just opens up so many possibilities for story telling. It’s part of what makes superheroes fun as well. Hime has to keep on deceiving everyone as she pulls off her skills to the point where she has to even live at a different place temporarily so nobody knows what’s going on. She has some family issues at home though so this is easy. (Everyone has family issues in this series) Ironically enough, she gets along with Senri really well in her alter ego but the longer she keeps up the secret, the harder it will be to tell him the truth.

So there’s a ton going on here which is part of why I said it could have been longer. For starters, she’s in her boy form so long that “Hime” can vanish for whole volumes. It becomes very rare to see her at all sometimes to the point where you get used to her other design more. Each plot also has its own set of characters. As Hime she hangs out with the dropout group where the voice actors/actresses were just not big enough to be popular. At school they all help each other to be better. As “Shiro” she hangs out with the expert music stars and directors and also meets Mizuki, a guy who ends up liking her and is quite possibly the worst character in the series although I do not think this was intentional by the series.

So lets go through each side here. I would say the Shiro plot was the strongest one since it’s really the meat of the series. Having to assume a whole new identity and keep the bluff going allows for a lot of shenanigans to occur but also shows how versatile Shiro is. She is still able to make friends quickly and everyone respects her work ethic. She is still a newbie to all of this after all but begins to improve very quickly. Even the tough director gives her a pass after a while.

While I don’t like him, Mizuki will also stick up for her. This storyline also allows us to learn more about Senri’s situation which is certainly complicated. You know that this alter ego will have to end at some point but it’s fun for the duration of the series. I think Hime should even have kept that as something to use if she’s ever in a tough spot trying to find roles as herself. Or maybe reveal it by being in a show where she plays both roles but I’m not sure how feasible that would be long-term. The more the years go by the more her Shiro disguise likely wouldn’t work. It’s the kind of thing that mainly works because she’s still a kid, well I guess teenager at this point but still on the younger side.

As mentioned, Mizuki is just a character I didn’t like at all. The guy’s a big star who is really timid after things didn’t work out with the first girl he liked. He tried his best to help her out at every corner but ultimately this caused her to think he was stifling her development and she had an outburst before dashing off. Honestly I wouldn’t say he did anything wrong there and the girl just should have spoken up. Regardless this traumatized Mizuki so with Hime he is really trying to have a balance where he helps out but lets her do her own thing.

So that’s good but then he ends up trying to make some moves on her and this is where he faltered badly. He’s the kind of character who is nice one second and then quite rude the next. You were never rooting for him to win with her at any point. His origin was sad so you want to cut him some slack but he didn’t make the double life any easier on her when he starts up with the drama. At least he gave her the glasses which could help her get into the prince voice easier.

Senri gets a big role in both sides of the plot. While he doesn’t get along with Hime at all, he does form a quick bond with “Shiro”. After all, for him it’s just easier to hang out with another guy since he at least has some experience there. Senri easily has the biggest character arc in the series and it’s one that was handled well. He slowly breaks out of his shell and learns how to live normally. I thought his plot was usually the most engaging so I was always ready to see what was going on with him.

He also has the most tragic backstory of the group. So his mother Sakura is the world’s greatest actress. She didn’t start out that skilled but had a drive like no other. She ultimately had Senri as a kid but had stopped being an ordinary person long ago. So she raised him as if they were in a movie. Every action and moment was according to the characters they played and so she didn’t see him as her son. Senri grew up with this rather twisted view of the world where everyone was faking their actions and playing roles. This led to a lot of friendships being broken and his becoming a loner.

It’s easy to see how he doesn’t know how to connect with anyone in the present. It’s not like you pick up social skills automatically. How you’re raised plays a big role there and so he was completely broken since he was raised in a way where he didn’t know what was an emotion and what was the role. In the present it makes for an interesting character trait since he really can’t tell if he is in a role or not. That’s definitely a high level of trauma.

So while Sakura’s skills are very good, this hurts her as a character quite a bit. You like to think that she would have been able to raise Senri a little better than she did but he never ended up becoming her top priority. She would always choose work first and of course work is important but Senri’s life was very nearly ruined as a young age. Without Shiro he would have only grown worse.

Shuuma is Mizuki’s friend and he wasn’t very good right from the start. He jumps right towards bullying Shiro from the start to drive him away from Mizuki. It’s the kind of petty tactic that you can’t really come back from. So while this was short lived, it’s not like he had any great moments after this to improve his character further. Fujimori is another character from the agency plot and he’s much better. The guy is rivals with Mizuki but doesn’t randomly go after Shiro to make himself feel better.

In fact, he quickly learns that teamwork is good and is very supportive the whole time. He does end up getting caught in the romance crossfire between the other characters so they’ll randomly attack him but the guy meant well. He’s a rather minor character overall but he was always entertaining.

That’s about all of the characters from the Shiro plot. Before going over to Hime’s story, just a quick reminder that Hime = Shiro. Shiro is just the cover for Hime when she has to work as a guy for a while and using the separate terms in the review is an easy way to keep the two plots separate. For the most part the storylines and characters don’t interact nearly as much as you would expect. There is some overlap like how Senri is at school and in the business but for the most part he’s more of an exception.

Hime and Shiro have the same personality so there’s no sense in talking about the character twice. Hime is a solid main character. She may not be particularly talented at the start but she doesn’t let this get her down and just keeps at it until she can be the best. We actually do get to see a lot of chapters where Hime is training and practicing various steps. I would say it’s very rare that we see this level of training so the author really did a good job in showing just how much drive she had. If any character deserved to get good then it was her.

This is also what helped Haruka to be a likable character. So in the Hime plot, he has given her the mission to pretend to be a guy for a while to get her networking experience, connections, and basically because that’s the only kind of voice she can use at the moment. He acts tough on the outside but he really does this to help her out. So when she gets bullied or talked down to, he always has her back. There was one scene in particular where they go to Hime’s house because they needed permission from her mother for something.

In the scene Hime’s mother keeps talking about her other daughter and dissing Hime the whole time. Haruka was quick to take Hime’s defense and publicly support her there. I thought it was a really pivotal moment and you always want to have an ally like that. When Hime gets sick, Haruka helps make sure she gets peace and quiet. He ends up feeling like the parental figure that Hime never had.

While Hime’s mother looks bad the whole time, none of the blame can be put on Hime’s younger sister Akane. Akane is still just a kid and while she is super talented and successful, she is never mean about it. I get the feeling she’d like to be closer to Hime but it just isn’t possible in this toxic household. Between Hime and Senri’s mothers, the series certainly has a lot of broken households where the characters weren’t raised well. At least you’re glad that Akane was able to have a successful life so far.

Then you have Hime’s friends at school who are all in the delinquent/lower class because they struggle with one form of voicework or another. First is Tsukino and her issue is that her voice is just really low. It’s hard for her to use her voice more since she got bullied for it a whole lot. Part of Hime’s role in this group is to get everyone past their fears though and gradually Tsukino gets past hers. I wouldn’t say she gets a lot of moments in the series but everyone got something to do and this was a nice enough plot.

In general I just liked how close knit the group was and how they would all have each other’s backs during the tough times. Shou is the tough punk of the group and basically isn’t doing well because he can seem like a bit of a delinquent. This comes in handy though because he doesn’t let anyone mess with them. Additionally he’s able to be friends with Ume who had a tough time being with others. Ume could be a little stuck up at times and with her talent for writing scripts, she wouldn’t take the voice actors/actresses into account. Gradually she is able to fix this.

That really wraps up both sides of the adventures here. The cast is fairly large here and they’re all balanced well. It does go back to what I was saying about the series being a little short though. With all of these characters I really think it could have been really good to have just had a few more volumes. It feels like there is still so much to do when the series ends. We didn’t really get to see everyone’s reactions to finding out about Hime, her journey into being more successful, etc. You just have to try your best to fit in the pieces when the time skip jumps in.

The artwork here is good. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the stronger Shojo titles that I’ve read in that area but the writing is able to hold it up. You’ll be blasting through each volume because it just ends up being a real page turner. The humor works well enough and balances out the more serious moments here. I suppose the romance wasn’t bad. Any scene with Mizuki in it was always annoying but the rest wasn’t super dramatic nor was it usually the focus so that helped. This way the title got to be more about the various friendships with the characters and how they all help each other to succeed. An academy where you train to be a professional should be a place like that where you can count on others to have your back.

Overall, Voice Over is a series that I would certainly recommend. It’s a fairly unique premise and it’s always fun to see the inner workings of how the voices go. Changing up your voice and doing a lot of roles always seems like something that would be difficult to do. Naturally it’s best when people just like your default voice so you can keep using that but I want to say that most won’t be so lucky. You’ll need to be able to play many different roles. So if you’re up for a light hearted adventure then this is a fun one to check out. Where else will you get a fun comedy with the main character living two lives right?

Overall 7/10