Lisa Review

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It’s time to watch one of the gutter films. These are unique in the sense that it takes effort to churn out a film this terrible. Of course, you can probably guess how bad it will be as soon as you read the plot synopsis so at least the film wasn’t being deceptive about its story. With nothing going for it, Lisa was in a tough situation from the start.

The film starts off with some of the most stretched out credits I’ve seen in a long time. Usually if the credits go on this long it means that the film is stalling for time and trying to get out of playing the actual feature. It’s like a bunch of warning bells since most quality films skim through the credits or at least give you some fun backgrounds and music to distract from how monotonous it is. We also get our first look at the villain murdering someone.

Then we cut to the main character. Lisa is tired of being a kid and wants to get into some real trouble for a change. She has decided to be a stalker who collects as many names and addresses as possible. Unfortunately she isn’t a very smart stalker and doesn’t see how this could possibly backfire. It definitely paints her in a really bad light. Especially since she lives in a bit of a seedy area and should at least be aware of the news. She ends up stalking the main villain which ideally leads to them matching wits as he tries to figure out who she is from the prank calls while she keeps phoning without any real goals.

I say ideally because nothing of the sort happens. The villain isn’t smart enough to figure it out and Lisa isn’t smart enough to keep her identity to herself. She tells him her name and where to find her. Of course she uses her mother as the scape goat instead of herself. That leads to the climax where they have to fight off this guy and the whole time you’re just hoping that Lisa gets grounded for this.

The film does its best to make Lisa unlikable from the start. She comes off as an ingrate and is always trying to wreck everyone’s day. Her friend’s family was trying to have a nice vacation until she had to come and ruin it. Then she keeps trying to remind the mother of her past and uses it as ammo against her. Definitely a very petty person and without any common sense to guide her Lisa basically plays the role of antagonist as well. I can’t stress enough how bad it makes her look to try and set her mother up with some random guy. If this were a rom-com it would turn out all right as the guy would turn out to be perfect, but life certainly isn’t quite that clean and tidy.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this film since the cast is super small and the plot is so basic. There are no likable characters here so you can’t root for anyone. The Mother is the only reasonable character here and even then she isn’t given a lot to do since Lisa drags her down the whole time. She at least tries to fight at the end while Lisa mainly panics. If the film could have less crying and more planning in the climax that could have at least helped the film end on more of a high note. As it stands, this film just ticks all the boxes of a usual thriller without trying to do something about it. It’s dark and realistic but with no heart or any reason to watch. If you want a similar story you can simply turn on the news which is usually what you would try to avoid.

Overall, Lisa is just another installment in a long line of terrible films that try to sully the cinematic experience. I’d recommend staying far away from this film and watching something with more quality like Jingle All The Way. You’ll immediately notice the big jump in quality when it comes to the writing and really every other section as well. There’s just nothing that Lisa does right.

Overall 0/10

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Pop Team Epic Review

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It’s time to look at another one of the worst anime out there. This one definitely holds its own against titles like FLCL. I’ve never been a big fan of anthologies and I’m even less of a fan of this kind of art style. Mix the two together and you’ve got yourself a show that was doomed right from the start. There just isn’t anything really good about this show so what ends up happening is that you just wait for it to end. Each episode is only around 10 minutes before it repeats so it isn’t even all that long but it feels long.

There’s no plot so we don’t have to worry about that I guess. There are two characters here Pipimi and Popuko. They just like walking around and doing crazy things. Most of the shorts don’t have anything to do with the others. Since there is no continuity to keep or logic to follow the series can get as absolutely crazy as it wants. There’s just no end to it. In particular there are 3 kinds of shorts that pop up frequently.

First is Bob’s Epic Team. The whole point of these specials is that each of the characters look incredibly deformed and they go around doing more crazy stuff. The voices are annoying and much like the rest of the show it just isn’t funny. It usually gets 2 segments in each episode so brace yourself for those. The second kind of short is Pop Team Cooking. In these the characters usually start to cook or just talk until the segment ends. Nothing ever really happens but at least I can say that the title is kind of catchy.

Then we also have the french segments which are great if you like recycled animation and nothing ever happening. These definitely don’t help the show’s case either. Then we’ve got the random segments that have nothing to do with anything as well. Those are about as bad as you may expect. The only ones that are even kind of good are the long ones at the beginning of every episode. Each episode gets 1 long segment and this allows the segment to get an actual plot. We had an action one, a Detective Conan one, a supernatural murder one, etc. At least these plots were trying to be okay. Of course the show can’t help but go off the deep end here as well as one segment decides to have a romance plot within the family which gets to be about as bad as you would expect. Hey, at least nobody can ever accuse the show of being classy right?

Surprisingly the show doesn’t have a lot of fanservice since I wouldn’t have been surprised from this kind of title. With the animation being this bad though I guess it didn’t want to even try. The soundtrack is basically nonexistent, but I suppose the opening isn’t bad. The images are pretty boring but the tune can be catchy. This kind of show just doesn’t have much in the way of music during the episodes. I already talked about how terrible the animation is so we don’t have to go over that. It’s just painfully bad.

I did like the episode previews at the end because they hint at what kind of show this could have been. The hypothetical story in those bits already look a whole lot more interesting than this one. It seems like a real show with actual animation. You just can’t go wrong there am I right? The show looks rather generic intentionally of course, but I would still take it over this one in a heart beat.

The only 2 real characters here are Popuko and Pipimi but of course their personalities do tend to change based on the short. No matter how the show up the two characters are always pretty annoying though. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a fan of them. Without a good cast or a reasonable plot a show is never going to go anywhere and that’s exactly what happened to this title.

At the end of the day Pop Team Epic is a comedy show. It tries for very outlandish and abstract humor which doesn’t land. Since that is the whole point of the show it was rather doomed right from the start. It’s very focus just wasn’t good enough to keep your attention and there just isn’t anything for it to fall back on from that point. I almost feel bad for the show, but it really has no one to blame but itself. From the very first episode you could tell that it was not going to be good. Making half of the show recycled animation is also incredibly lazy. I can’t imagine how this ever got to be on TV with such lazy production values behind it. In the end you could say that it just didn’t deserve to succeed.

Overall, This is a short review, but Pop Team Epic is basically only 6 episodes so it’s a rather short show. There is no cast or plot either so there just isn’t much to talk about. It’s essentially a long joke that keeps losing its focus and forgetting the punch lines. I’m sure it had a lot of plans initially but in the end the show just couldn’t bring them to fruition. All it did for me was reaffirm the fact that anthology series don’t have a whole lot of potential. Especially when the shorts are only around 2 minutes or less on average. There is really nothing you can do in such a short amount of time. If this sounds interesting to you then by all means check it out. Still, I can’t say that I’m hyped for the next season. Hopefully it is able to do something because the references aren’t enough to help this show overcome its terrible sense of humor and nonexistent plot. Maybe we could just get a full reboot with a different group of staff behind it. Surely an overhaul would ensure that the season is better…right?

Overall 1/10

Honey and Clover Review

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There are some series where you immediately start to think that something was off. This is one of them and most of it all boils down to the art. Right from the beginning you can tell that it’s an unconventional art style and one that you automatically associate with a grittier title. It lets you know that this series will probably make some big mistakes and you wouldn’t be wrong. More on the art later.

The series has quite a few characters and plot lines. The general plot though is that there are a group of characters in a town. They all know each other through other people or directly and as such bonds have started to form. Takemoto is known as an average guy all the way through. He’s not bad at anything, but not good at anything either. One day an art prodigy known as Hagu shows up and Takemoto decides that he will be a better man. Then we are introduced to a ton of love triangles which all intersect to the point where everyone has a rival. Can they all end up as friends despite this or will their bonds be shattered?

So lets address the biggest problem right off the bat. Hagu is one of the main characters of interest as Takemoto, Morita, and Shuji all like her. The thing is, the manga always draws her to look like a little girl while everyone else is basically an adult. Takemoto was 19 and the others were older than him I believe. Hagu is around their age as well but never seems like it. I forgot in the series if it was ever stated that there is a reason why she doesn’t grow or if that’s just the art style but then the series goes a step further by making her act like a kid as well. Either way, it makes the romance hard to endure and every time it pops up you’ll end up cringing. Lets face it, it’s hard to do a good roamance at times, but even so it’s possible. This series just absolutely could not pull it off and the art destroyed any chance that it had. Hagu’s design just seems like a mistake and if the author wanted to go with this look, then she should have at least acted more mature.

I also can’t say that I liked Hagu as she made the wrong calls. So, this series also deals quite a lot with romance and the rebounds. Hagu actually does like one of the 3 characters, but she goes with a different one because he gives her the best chance at recovering her career. It’s portrayed as a good option, but that just seems fake then. She’s basically using the guy. We have several characters in the series who are totally fine with that, but it’s still not a quality romance. Even though drawing is her life, Hagu also has many different moments where she is unsure if that’s what she wants to do so I wonder if she has what it takes for the long haul.

Then another bad character is Mayama and his entire subplot. So, he has always liked Rika and has been stalking her for years. He looks through her browser history when she is gone and does a lot of crazy things inside her apartment when she’s not around. It’s all played off for humor, but the series does portray him as a rather warped individual who should be considered as more of an antagonist. Rika does lead him on and gives him one night stands to keep him entertained, but that’s no good either. Rika has a tragic past and just can’t cope with it at times. While she is still to blame, Mayama is just as guilty for ignoring this to his convenience. This was another romance that I could certainly not get behind and the guy was just a terrible character.

Then we have Takemoto who is also annoying. At one point he bails on everyone to drive around the country and re discover himself. Kind of a selfish thing to do if you think about it since he didn’t tell anyone where he was going and is gone for a very long time. When he comes back the first thing he does is confess to someone when he knows that she doesn’t like him. Fortunately she rejects him instead of playing along for a while like some other characters, but it didn’t help Takemoto’s case. Even by the end once she has made her decision he has a tough time letting her go.

The same thing is true for Yamada. She likes Mayama, but he has chosen Rika over her. So, Yamada decides to rebound with Nomiya, but even at the end of the series she can’t get over Mayama. Nomiya is fine with that, but that still means that he will just be the rebound. It’s not a very fun role and even if he doesn’t mind it, once again I can’t call this a quality romance. By the end of the series it felt like every character had to settle for the backup or being forever alone. Takemoto wanted Hagu and ended up with no one. Morita wanted Hagu and got no one. Hagu wanted Takemoto but got Shuji. Yamada wanted Mayama but got Nomiya. I guess Mayama and Shuji got their picks though.

Morita is another bad character. At least he is rather quirky and eccentric as he runs around doing his best to annoy everyone while getting rich. He actually is a genius and knows how to succeed which is good, but then he goes around causing trouble for everyone. Rather then talk to Hagu openly he runs around calling her a creature and doesn’t get serious until the final volume. It’s way too late by then if you think about it. As mentioned earlier Yamada is basically using Nomiya which doesn’t help her case. It’s fine if she can’t get over Mayama, but then just staying by yourself until the feeling has passed is the right choice.

Nomiya’s no good as he approaches Yamada once she is in a vurlnable state which basically just seems like it will help his odds. That’s not the heroic sacrifice play that I would have liked to have seen. At leas stay in the friend zone or something. Rika’s no good since she can’t make up her mind. She clearly likes Shuji more than Mayama, but ultimately needs Mayama for work so she makes compromises. She should have kicked him out once she found out about the shady stuff he was doing. Shuji’s also no good because his romance comes out of nowhere and he seems way too old to be honest. The guy’s been a teacher for a while so no matter how you slice it there is an age gap here.

Going back to the romance themes, one of the issues that the characters keep struggling with is the fact that they can’t get over their initial pick. At the end Takemoto gives a monologue wondering if it was all pointless or if it was a good thing. At the end he decides it was a good thing and finally moves on. He’s the only one who made the sensible choice in the end. See, if you fall for someone who’s taken or who simply doesn’t feel the same way, you don’t just keep pestering the person until they finally give a half hearted okay and get together with you as a last resort. You also don’t just use someone as a rebound while mentally picturing that you’re with the other person. No, the best thing to do is get over it as soon as possible and if that’s not working then create some distance. Eventually you’ll be over it and until then just bluff for a while and put on a tough face. Not letting the other person find out is the right thing to do because that will just put that person in an awkward position. The thing is, most of the cast is too selfish to go along with any of that and they all end up doing their own thing.

As mentioned, one of the reasons why this manga scored so low is due to the art. It just looks utterly terrible and is one of the worst art that I have ever seen for a manga. It’s not dead last, but it’s probably bottom 5. The art looks unfinished and everyone appears to be constantly blushing. That’s something you’d expect more from an anime which also doesn’t work. I’ve already mentioned the Hagu thing to death, but changing that would have certainly helped the score as well. The humor doesn’t work either since the characters are so unlikable. Even though the series is 10 volumes it definitely does drag for quite a bit. The commentary on romance in general was ambitious so I’ll give the series some props there, but it was just incorrect the whole time.
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Overall, Honey and Clover is a series that I highly advise staying away from. It’s just not a good series but you could probably guess that based off of the synopsis. If you like a lot of drama and romance then you may enjoy it, but if you don’t then you’ll know to stay away. I’m not a big fan of those two genres mixing myself so it’s not really a surprise that I didn’t like it. Still, I can certainly say that the series was a little worse than expected. It certainly would have been better as a romance comedy than a drama in this case as it takes itself way too seriously with all of the wrong choices. There is a lot of dialogue, but often times it is about nothing in particular. It’s just characters hanging out, but they aren’t saying anything exciting.

Overall 2/10

FLCL Progressive Review

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It’s time to look at the recent FLCL show. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a terrible anime but leave it to this franchise to fix that. The first FLCL show is still considered by me to be one of the worst anime of all time. I’d have to say that it actually is in last place from the show’s that I’ve seen. This sequel is marginally better at best. It improves in the animation but certainly didn’t do anything to actually help the aimless writing and non existent plot.

The show starts off with a small segment of the main character in an apocalyptic future where Zombies run amok. They start destroying everyone and naturally a dog is included as well. This kind of show just can’t resist such things. Get used to these scenes of nonsense since they will be in almost every episode. Hidomi then wakes up and goes through life as normal. She wears headphones so she can pretend not to hear anyone even though no music is playing. It works though as people don’t really mess with her. That’s when she gets a new transfer teacher who decides to change her life. It turns out that Hidomi is another time bomb whose emotions allow her to summon giant monsters and even gain super powers herself. Her greatest ability is the Kirby suction power which allows her to absorb anyone who gets in her way. It’s basically a one hit ko tactic against just about everyone. There is another person who wishes to stop the heroine though so everyone has to keep their guard up.

This show is bad on so many levels so let’s start with some of the mild positives. Unlike the first show this one actually does have a few scenes where the animation looks pretty decent. It’s not that random experimental stuff we had to deal with in the older one. The animation is still pretty bad most of the time though. No effort is put into the character designs and nothing about this show tells you that this was made in 2018. It just doesn’t look nearly as good as it should and that’s because the show is trying (and failing) to be artistic. Enjoy the battle between Julia and Haruko as well as Hidomi vs Haruko since those fights are really the only times that the show gets to look good.

The soundtrack also isn’t good. It’s mainly just satisfied to grab some tunes from the old show and call it a day. Don’t expect to get any solid battle tunes or anything like that. This just isn’t that kind of show I’m afraid which is rather unfortunate. It’s how it goes I suppose.

Another tick against the show is the animal violence as I referenced earlier. Why did we need a dog to die in the zombie scenes? It really had no significance there and just served to help the show dig its own grave as always. The zombie scenes were also randomly violent despite the rest of the show not going that route. It’s all just for shock value.

The show can also be rather fanservicey which is just what I’d expect. It’s not extreme like Fairy Tail or anything like that, but it all adds up. Throw in the fact that the main cast is terrible and we’ve got some problems. The main guy’s two friends are both terrible. One guy is so bad that he has to hire a girlfriend which is as bad as it sounds. The other guy never actually gets anything to do and is only around to mock everyone. The main guy (Ko) tries to help Hidomi at least but he does have ulterior motives so I don’t count that in the slightest. He also loses every fight he is in which really does not help.

Then we have the main heroine Hidomi who is really hard to sympathize with. Her father left so she is waiting along with mother for him to come back. The issue is that he probably isn’t so the mother is hoping they can move on. Especially since she does all of the work while the main character shuts off life. She does help monetarily with her job at the cafe but certainly isn’t good for moral support. At least she finally initiated an attack on the teacher for the final episode but it took her way too long to finally try and be proactive. I would have liked to have seen her do something sooner and even in the final episode she ends up being extremely annoying and is unable to see the big picture so I can’t give her any props there either.

There is also the teacher from the first series who has become a straight up villain in this one. Haruko wants to sacrifice the main heroine so that she can meet up with a mysterious guy from her past. Maybe in a classier show with decent writing her dilemma could have actually been a little sympathetic. Maybe we could have seen her trying to find a different way to do this or something like that. Instead Haruko comes across as very unreasonable and likes to go about her plans in a very roundabout way. Most of her actions don’t even make sense so you just wonder how important her goal ever was to her.

Julia is Haruko’s rival and is always trying to get in her way. Julia will talk tough to Haruko about how this isn’t right, but spends far too long trying to convince her arch nemesis of this. After a while she should know that Haruko isn’t going to change and yet she doesn’t do anything about this. You can’t feel bad for Julia when she is inevitably beat up because that character never even had a good plan. I feel like none of the characters in this show are even remotely intelligent.

Then we have a bunch of random side characters like the plant owners. Their plot is just pointless and tries to add some mystery to the whole thing, but it fails quite badly. You’ll just be wondering why the show thinks you will end up caring about them when that is certainly not the case. If anything it’s the opposite and you’ll just be counting the minutes until the episode ends.

Overall, This show just couldn’t do anything right. The humor falls flat and the characters aren’t interesting in the slightest. The writing is horrendous. The battle scenes can be good but considering who is fighting it hardly matters. The show is just soulless and doesn’t do a good job of trying to prove that we can have a quality show in such a short amount of time. Anime should at least be 12 episodes if you ask me although in this specific situation I doubt it would have helped at all. I’d advise staying away from this anime. Keep your distance and you’ll be fine.

Overall 1/10

My Little Pony Pony Tales Volume 2 Review

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Whenever someone asks if I’m a true My Little Pony fan or just a casual I imagine just showing off my big figure collection to answer the question for me. As I don’t own any figures though, I settle for just calling myself a casual. Well, while that may be the case I can say that this is a pretty solid comic. It’s fairly short compared to most trade paperbacks so you’ll have it done very quickly but it’ll still make for a pretty fun experience. The collection has solid writing and good pacing to back it up as well.

The first story is about the Cutie Mark Crusaders. They have grown bored of Ponyville since nothing ever happens there. They are ready for bigger and better things so they explore the wild and find a rock version of a changeling. It can turn into anything that isn’t alive. The problem is that the Crusaders want it to turn into a bunch of things which keeps tiring it out. If they keep it up at this pace, the poor creature won’t last too much longer. Can they learn to share and care?

Admittedly this story is a little cheesy since you would think that the Cutie Mark Crusaders have already learned this lesson. In fact I am quite positive that they already have so why are they out of character here? It’s a bit of a stretch, but at least they see the error of their ways pretty fast. It’s an enjoyable story that may not be all that memorable, but it’s still pretty solid I would say. It gets the job done.

Then we have the Celestia adventure where she finds out that Ponyville is once again picking on a defenseless pony. One of the oldest teachers in Equestria is being pressured into retiring because the ponies just don’t like her teaching style anymore. They’re all just really inconsiderate ponies who aren’t nearly as grateful as they should be. It’s quite unfortunate but Celestia decides to prove to the town that the teacher used to be really good so they should keep her. The other teachers aren’t thrilled about this, but agree. (Also, they can’t really disagree with the Princess now can they?)

I never really liked the peasants of Ponyville. Luna is always rather harsh on them and now I see that she may have a point. Without strict guidance they quickly become bullies and do their best to keep everyone else down. The teacher may have been a little too oblivious the whole time, but you’d think that they would be a little better at being like the Mane 6. I think Celestia needs to have a word with these ponies. They need to get in line with her teachings.

Next up was Spike’s adventure which is naturally the weakest one. For whatever reason his stories just don’t have the same pop that the others do. He decides to get a pet of his own which turns out to be a multiplying creature which threatens to embarrass him in front of Twilight Sparkle. He decides that he will teach the army how to be good citizens, but can he do it in time?

Naturally teaching a whole race of creatures how to be good in the span of 2 days is difficult, but fortunately these creatures were actually giving it their best shot. They seem like very reasonable little creatures which really helped Spike’s case. None of the ponies really get to do anything here so it’s a little sad that Spike is basically the only main character around. It’s a decent comic, but not the most interesting one.

Finally we end off with the best story of the batch. This one focuses on Luna as she decides to take on Luna’s duties for the day. She is determined to prove that she can handle anything. The problem is that Celestia’s duties are incredibly boring compared to hers. Luna spends her nights chasing off powerful monsters from the kingdom and getting into many spectacular battles. Celestia spends her days insulting everyone and making a lot of signatures. Luna just can’t bare to stay awake for all of this but she must!

Luna has always been one of the best MLP characters with her utter contempt for everyone. While she is a hero, she does a good job of keeping her princess stature as well. I’m always rooting for her in these stories even though she tends to lose every time. It’s pretty unfotunate but I guess the charm of her stories is that one day she will get the kingdom to accept her. I think she did a rather admirable job considering that it was her first time working in the morning. It’s definitely the most entertaining story as well.

The artwork is pretty good here. I don’t think it is quite up to the level of the main series, but it’s close. The characters look right and the action on screen is always clear. You know what is happening so it’s easy to read through the stories very quickly. There’s nothing bad to say here.

In general there isn’t anything bad to say about the comic at all. It’s just a nice batch of stories. You’ll enjoy spending 20 minutes reading through it and getting to see more of Equestria. This isn’t the comic collection you are looking for if you came for the fights, but if you just came to enjoy the interactions then this is the place for you. The pacing is tight and none of the stories are bad. At most, Spike’s was just a little boring, but it’s pretty short so there’s not much time for that feeling to sink in.

Overall, This was a fun volume. The idea of a comic that centers around the side characters is always a risky move, but the MLP series has a very big cast so I suppose that helps this out quite a bit. You’ll miss the Mane 6 for a little while, but you’ll adjust pretty quick. If you haven’t read this comic yet then I recommend checking it out. It’ll remind you of what a good fantasy series should be like.

Overall 7/10

Zero’s Tea Time

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This latest spinoff to the Detective Conan series is pretty fun. It’s definitely a more slice of life type series than the others with no actual villains or anything, but it’s a pretty good look at the inner workings of Zero’s life. The guy is definitely pretty busy. I’ll have a review for the series when it finishes, but I imagine that this could be a long while from now.

Overall 7/10

Handa Kun Review

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It’s time to look at the prequel to Barakamon. It’s about Handa before he became Handa-San and was instead known as Handa-Kun. It’s definitely an interesting take on the franchise and with a whole different cast and setting you really could think of it as a whole different part of the franchise which could have lasted a while. The series didn’t get too many volumes but it was a fun ride.

The story follows around Handa back when he was in school. These were the days before he became a calligrapher and right now he is lacking in self confidence. His only friend Kawafuji mistakenly told Handa that nobody liked him and thanks to a bunch of tricky circumstances Handa has convinced himself that this is the case. Well, Handa has decided that this year he will make friends but things never seem to work out the way he had hoped. Perhaps this goal is impossible. Meanwhile, the rest of the school idolizes Handa and misinterprets his actions in a good way each time. The problem is that Handa never seems to notice then. A few select schoolmates band together as the Handa army to try and protect him at all costs. Can they succeed?

This series is a full comedy as opposed to Barakamon which mixes in some drama at times. Of course the school setting may have tipped you off to that. Comedy titles have to be careful how they use the jokes as some will just end up shouting themselves in the back like Assassination Classroom. Fortunately the jokes here are pretty solid. Mainly the humor comes from everyone taking every action in a way that was not intended. Handa may glare at someone and his army will take it as a cue to beat that person up while Handa dashes out of there since he doesn’t want to mess with the ruffians. While outlandish at times, the misinterpretations can usually make some kind of sense and the series is usually self aware about the ones that don’t. There is one character who acts as the straight man until he gets corrupted and while that person is never needed if you ask me, he wasn’t as bad as he could have been.

Handa can definitely hold his own series as he has proved before. He’s a nice guy who means well even if it doesn’t always end up working out for him. He is certainly naive to the extreme and definitely isn’t a people person, but Handa always tries hard which is what counts. His friend Kawafuji tries to get him to make the wrong move by not accepting the helmet at the end, but Handa sees through this. While the story can be tragic beneath the humor, Handa does ultimately get a happy ending.

The first member of Handa’s clique is a kid with glasses, Aizawa. Aizawa is a genius who scores really well in tests but realizes that it isn’t actually something to look at too deeply and memorized the names of everyone in the top 100. He never lets his guard down and is a natural fit as the leader of Handa’s group. He eggs everyone on and may be the most zealous member of the group. At the very least he never doubts Handa or his lifelong calling of being in the army either. He’s a pretty fun character.

The next member of the team is the ex thug Akane. He left school for a while and felt like he would always be doomed to be a delinquent until Handa showed up. Handa showed him the error of his ways and in return this guy became a solid bodyguard that Handa could count on. It is nice to have someone on the team who can actually fight so he is definitely a valuable member to have. He isn’t quite as fun as some of the other characters, but he is amusing all the same.

Then we have the fashion model Reo. Everyone always insults his looks but he aims to be the best someday. He definitely gets to become one of the main characters after he joins and does help the overall dynamic. Reo is probably be the weakest member of the group and doesn’t have as many running gags as the others though. His rivalry with White School was also the least interesting.
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Fake Handa is probably the supporting character who was really unneeded. I’d go as far as to say that he may have been my least favorite. It is a nice idea to have a character who looks just like Handa, but the fake teeth may have been a bit much. I get tha the problem with having an exact duplicate would be telling them apart at times, but I feel like the teeth ruins the gag. The gag is a huge part of this character so after all of that he really isn’t left with anything. Dash doesn’t get to do much either but he was never supposed to be a big character here. He just shows up occasionally for a race but that’s about it. He never joined Handa’s club either and really just sees himself as a quality rival. He’s a fun character to have and I just wish he could have gotten one last race.

Towards the end of the series we got introduced to two rival schools that compete with Handa’s group. First is the White school who has their own king like Handa. Unlike Handa, Asahi acknowledges his subjects and strives to be a perfect person that they can admire. Unfortunately, this also means that he has to endure a lot of pressure as he tries to keep up this act. It’s an act to the extent that it requires effort but for the most part he seems like a nice guy either way. Asahi’s entourage is also like a twisted version of the Handa army as they each have a similarity. The leader is easily the best member of the group as he gets some solid dialogue and a lot of good character moments but the other characters aren’t bad either. He made for a good rival in the series even if he was so late. The rival to the glasses kid was also pretty good although he was shown to certainly not be quite as smart as he just repeated what other characters would say.

Then we also had the Black School which was filled with a lot of hardened fighters who also liked to have a good time. They show up to stop Handa, but run into the white school in a confrontation that would certainly be worthy of a Shōnen title. They didn’t actually get much in the way of character compared to the others since they only got to appear for a chapter or 3 but they were solid in that brief amount of screen time.

Kawafuji is Handa’s main friend from Barakamon but he doesn’t look particularly good here. He is the main reason why things are so chaotic for Handa since the lead took his joking a little too seriously. He also tries to grab the crown at the end of the series even though he definitely didn’t deserve it. You can interpret the scene in a lot of ways like maybe he was just trying to get Handa to finally see what was going on, but to me it felt like he was seriously trying to make a play for the crown there. Not a great move and throughout the series it was hard to root for him. Maybe if he had gotten to appear more that would have helped his case.

Eraser is probably the most intense member of the group as she will actually go ahead and tie up anyone who even gets close to Handa. She definitely isn’t playing around and doesn’t even get involved with the comedy hijinx like the others. She is here to guard Handa, not to be his friend. There’s a big difference here compared to the others.

The Librarian Club President is one of the last characters to show up and her role is fairly small. It’s a happy yet tragic role which is always tough to balance. To get Handa’s attention she is convinced to start ordering a bunch of books instead of just the ones that Handa likes. Unfortunately this ended up backfiring because now everybody was using her library and Handa had to avoid it since he still believed that the whole school was out to get him at the time. That’s the tragic element but because of that the library became an overnight success so that helped her future which is a positive. This was also a great way to help her get over Handa.

The art is pretty solid as you would expect. All of the character designs are on point and it’s easy to read through the pages since they are never cluttered. It’s definitely top level stuff for sure. None of the characters look too similar until the final chapter’s time skip which is good since that’s probably the most annoying thing that a series can do. In theory it should always be easy not to make two characters appear to be twins unless it is plot related.
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Overall Handa-Kun is a fun title. You can really think of it as a mini series that supports the main one. It’s a prequel that actually makes sense to read before the main title and will make you appreciate the title even more as opposed to prequels like AoT Before The Fall which has nothing to do with anything. It shows us more of Handa’s past and why he generally had a tough time making friends. It goes to show just how much character development he has gotten over the years as now he can hold a conversation without a problem. It is too bad that he couldn’t see the school gang one last time though. While he did get a cameo on the island at the end, it just would have been fun to have seen how modern Handa would interact with them. With his newfound confidence and their maturity I’m sure it would have worked out well. I’d definitely recommend checking this series out. It’ll give you a good insight as to how school dynamics play out when you have gangs and celebrities in the same class. It’s also a good example of a comedy series that was actually really good.

Overall 7/10

Strobe Edge Review

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It’s time to look at a romance manga. Naturally that will cause some alarm bells to ring off and with good reason since it’s rare for romance to be handled well and especially when it’s the main focus of a whole series. However, you could make the case that because romance is the main plot of this series it may be given more attention and the author will do a better job of depicting it. Unfortunately, this isn’t true, but the manga does tackle some fairly interesting themes.

The manga follows a kid named Ninako who begins to like the most popular kid in the school, Ren. The problem is that he is already taken by a famous celebrity and they have been together for a very long time. This celebrity is the sister of Ninako’s childhood friend Daiki who liked Ninako, but she turned him down. Ninako decides that it wouldn’t be right to try and get Ren and Mayuka to break up just so she can get together with him so she tries to hide her feelings. Unfortunately this begins to take a bigger and bigger strain on her so should she forget about the moral side of this and just go for it? She has some tough decisions to make.

That’s the big topic that the manga spends time with. It’s a complicated issue that has a very simple answer. Yes, if the person that you like is taken then you shouldn’t make a move. That person should be considered out of limits and you have to completely lose those feelings before you get into trouble. It’s so incredibly selfish to sabotage a relationship just so that you can insert yourself into the empty spot. Yeah, it’s pretty tragic for Ninako here, but she’s just got to live with it. She gets advice from her friends on both sides. One suggests that if the relationship is so weak that it can be broken then it should be broken. That sounds like pretty bad advice if you ask me. It’s all just trying to justify this action. Ninako does a good job of showing restraint for a while, but unfortunately she does begin to break down by the end. I’ll still give her a thumbs up since it was Mayuka who forced her hand by breaking up with Ren, but that was also iffy.

Basically, Mayuka seemed to only break up with Ren because she figured he’d be happier with Ninako. So, now that she isn’t an option Ren is okay with being with her, but that should still make Ninako feel guilty the whole time. Ren and Mayuka would have likely been happy if not for her meddling. Mayuka also shouldn’t have conceded defeat so quickly. Then we’ve got a lot of other rebounding occurring at the school. After Daiki was rejected by Ninako he was accepted by one of her friends and they got together. Considering the short time span in between these two, it definitely doesn’t feel as genuine as it could be. Same with Ando going after Ninako and after getting rejected he quickly got together with someone else. It’s like the characters instantly move on to their second pick after getting rejected. Don’t the characters mind being the second pick?

There is definitely a lot of unrequited love in this series. It’s definitely an interesting theme for sure, but it didn’t have the right conclusion. What should have happened was Ninako realizing that she and Ren could never be together and deciding to instead just be friends. That way they would still hang out and she could enjoy their time again. The series would have had a bittersweet ending that way, but it would have been much better. Sometimes the friend zone is actually the best place to be since friendship is magic after all.

So yeah, Ninako is a solid Protagonist. She tends to have the right idea about how to handle the situations she’s in. Unfortunately, she is highly susceptible to peer pressure though and her friends often give her poor advice. She is also put into a lot of tough situations that keep on lowering her will power. Ninako’s resolve is good though and at the very least she doesn’t make any real moves on Ren until after the break up. She handles rejection better than the rest of the cast and while the ending is iffy on a lot of levels, the majority of it isn’t really her fault. Ren is the one who is the main culprit.
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It’s just impossible to like Ren and even harder to sympathize with him. For starters, his friendship being broken with Ando was his fault. Ren allowed Ando’s girlfriend to get the jump on him and pull some moves before he broke away. Naturally Ando witnessed this and quickly stopped hanging out with Ren. I don’t even blame him because no matter how many times you explain that you were shocked and couldn’t move I wouldn’t believe it. Then Ren was with Mayuka for a long time, but still fell for Ninako. He wasn’t nearly as good as she was at holding in his feelings or not making it obvious in public. Naturally this wasn’t good for Mayuka especially since she was in a stressful period of trying to get her fashion gigs up and running. When Mayuka dumped Ren so he could be with Ninako, he should have kept on persisting that this wouldn’t happen. Perhaps if a few weeks or months had passed and Ren hadn’t gotten together with anyone then Mayuka would see that he was serious. Instead, he basically tried going after Ninako immediately which completely proved her to be correct. Ren is definitely the kind of guy that seems to play the field and while the manga tries to portray him as a really nice guy who always tries to make the right call, I wasn’t buying it. He causes at least 90% of the issues in the series.

Then we’ve got Daiki, the childhood friend. It’s a little sad for him at the start since the whole cast seems to think that he and Ninako are basically together. It’s what everyone expects and Ninako never really says anything to the contrary. As a result, when she rejects him it may seem kind of sudden, but that’s why you should never assume relationships. Of course, Daiki rebounded almost immediately so there went any possible sympathy you may have had for him. He’s also not a trust worthy friend to have as he admits to everyone that Mayuka is a celebrity and about her break up even though he was supposed to keep it under wraps. As a result, the full cast learned about this pretty quickly. Nah, Daiki’s not a quality character.

See, I would say that Ando is a good character since he’s certainly more fun than the others, but he has a lot of Captain Kirk tendencies. He gets around and has been with most of the girls at the school. He even has a reputation for that at school so if anyone wants a quick rebound they just meet up at his apartment. He tries to go away from that to be a more serious person, but completely regresses towards the middle when he’s in a slump. While he eventually gets out of that, you can’t help but wonder if he can stick to his resolve. He also goes for an instant rebound after Ninako dumps him and gets beat up in his only actual fight. Ando is very persistent, but overdoes it as Ninako really wants nothing to do with him.

Mayuka is a celebrity and Daiki’s sister so she plays a pretty big role in the series. However, while she is a solid character for a while, I don’t agree with how the plot ended. It seems to me like she ended up rejecting Ren just so he could end up with Ninako. I don’t really buy into the reasoning that her job got to be more important than him and that’s why she broke it off. She just felt like Ren was forcing himself to hang out with her which was unfortunately true. I guess it’s good to break up if you know that the person you’re with isn’t really into you and I should probably agree since I’m always against the rebound. Still, you should fight to stay with the person you like if that’s an option.

Sayuri is one of Ninako’s friends, but I’m not sure about how her plot line ended. See, it goes back to the rebound thing again as she’s going after the guy who liked Ninako but was rejected. Naturally they’re happy together now, but it’s just one of those things that I can’t get behind. She’s a nice enough person, but the romance probably should have been cut from the series and it would have benefited from it considerably. They could have kept the friend dynamic in place and it would have still worked. The series does try to pair up all of the big characters by the end, but that’s typically not a good thing.

Mao was probably the final main character to be introduced in the series. She does feel a little like a rather late inclusion to the series, but I guess she’s an okay character. Naturally she was shady in the past as she used Ando and basically made him become the isolated guy that he is today. She also managed to damage the bond between him and Ren for many years. There are some twists to this whole thing, but her betrayal does stand. Her redemption arc is decent I guess as she is certainly sincere but if you put yourself in Ando’s shoes it is really hard to just forgive and forget in this case. She’s not really my kind of character.

Most of the characters really weren’t all that good. They all were willing to go for quick rebounds so I have to blame both parties for that. I think that the only characters who didn’t go for a rebound were Ninako and Mayuka. They each picked just one person and stuck to that. I can’t be 100% about Mayuka in case there was a time skip at the end that I’m forgetting, but at the very least Ninako didn’t make that mistake. While she may have entertained the thought at times, she always knew that it would be the wrong decision and explained her correct reasoning on it. Rebounding just isn’t a good option at any time. Now you may wonder what the time frame is for the next relationship to not be a rebound, but it’s really hard to say. I’d say that it has to be at least a year or so, but that’s a very rough approximation.

The art is fairly good in the series. It’s less convoluted than some Shojo series, but isn’t nearly as crystal clear and colorful as others. I do think the author does a good job of not reusing too many panels the way that some slice of life/comedy titles tend to do. The chapters are easy to read and I’d give the art a pass. It’s not amazing, but it certainly isn’t bad either. It works well enough which is what counts. Strobe Edge’s atmosphere of light comedy which transitions to more serious drama works fairly well. At the very least, the manga never tries to get quite too serious and while sad, it doesn’t rub it in your face too much. With better writing or a different plot, this series probably could have went somewhere.
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Overall, Strobe Edge is a romance series that tackles some important themes, but gives us the wrong answer to them. It’s like that movie about the two people who wanted to try and just be friends, but at the end lost and turned the whole message of the film upside down. The manga practically justifies all of the rebounds at the end and suggests that if your love is unrequited you either move on to someone else right away or sabotage the person that is in your way. Either way, it’s not exactly the answer I was looking for. It’s a pleasant enough series so it’s not hard to read or anything, but the romance isn’t good and since that’s the whole point of the series, its score was never going to be too high. If you don’t mind the romance or think you like this direction than you can probably add a few more stars to the series and check it out. At least the pacing is solid and it’s certainly better than some other romance titles like Vampire Knight, but you’re better off reading a more fun Shojo title like Sailor Moon.

Overall 3/10

A Charlie Brown Valentine Review

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It’s time to look at a Charlie Brown Valentine’s special. It’s been a little while since I have seen one so it’s cool to go back to the franchise. It’s a fun enough special but not really one of the strongest ones due to the Valentine’s plot with Charlie seeming a little recycled from previous specials.

So, it’s a few days before Valentine’s. Charlie Brown is determined to finally give the little red haired girl a Valentine this year and hopefully they can be friends. The problem is that Brown hasn’t gotten any braver over the years so he will need Linus to act as the middle man. Meanwhile, the annual dance is coming up and Marcie intends to ask Charlie Brown to it. The problem is that he has been having trouble with his hearing lately so this can be tricky.

All of the different story arcs are related to Valentine’s in one way or another. That being said, the bullies don’t take a day off for the holidays and they decide to pick on the Little Red Haired Girl. She’s usually so mysterious that nobody dares to mess with her so this was certainly a change. In fact, she appears quite a bit more here than she usually does. We get to see Linus break out the whip once more which was pretty cool. He’s still one of the best characters in the series for sure. You feel bad for him because he just wants to be friends while someone is constantly trying to stop him from this goal.

Lucy still has her knowledge booth where she helps with your problems for a nickel. It’s not even a bad deal if we’re being honest since that’s rather cheap. Her items for purchase do take a few days but at least she doesn’t ask for cash up front. This way it’s hard to actually call it a scam since you end up keeping your money in the end.

Snoopy’s role here is rather small. He gets invited to the dance and shows the whole school who the best dog is. Beyond that, he doesn’t get to fight with the Red Baron or hang out with his bird pal. I guess there isn’t much they could do to celebrate Valentine’s, but at least show them eating some chocolate or something. I’m always ready to see more quality Snoopy screentime.

Charlie Brown looks pretty bad as per usual. His worst scene is probably when he just watches as the little red haired girl gets bullied. It’s no wonder that she ignores him since Charlie won’t even help when she is in a pinch. So much for counting on classmates right? Charlie even throws away his lunch which was pretty unfortunate since I’m sure a lot of effort was put into that. It didn’t look particularly appetizing if we’re being honest, but I’m sure Charlie didn’t mind or he would have given Linus a speech about it.

The animation is consistent as always. It does look a little cleaner than the older specials but unless you see them side to side you probably won’t notice much of a change. It’s a style that still works so I suppose that’s good enough. It’d be nice to see how the series looks with a modern hand drawn style but I have no real complaints with it here. You’ll hear some of the familiar tunes as well. There isn’t much of a soundtrack, but what is there works fairly well. The pacing is pretty good so the special flows well. There aren’t any boring subplots to drag it down or anything like that. It would have been nice if we could have gotten some kind of competition in this special since those are usually the best segments in the series. I guess it may have felt rather tacked on though.

Overall, This is a fun Charlie Brown special. The characters are iconic at his point and the special is so quick that he pacing is really good. None of the plots overstay their welcome either. While Valentine’s doesn’t lead to plots that are quite as engaging as other holidays, it does its best with what it has. I’d recommend checking this out if you’re a Charlie Brown fan. Otherwise this probably isn’t the ideal special to start out with but you’ll enjoy it all the same. It’s a fun story with good characters. What more could you ask for?

Overall 6/10

Cars 2 Review

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Cars 2 is definitely a sequel that never hit home with the fans the way that the first did. There are quite a few reasons for this, but the biggest one is that Lightning McQueen has been dethroned as the main character in favor of his comic relief sidekick, Mater. This is a huge downgrade and while Lightning still has a fairly big role, his scenes mainly remind you how great the film would have been if it had stuck to that.

The film starts off with Lightning McQueen finally coming back home in order to relax for a bit before the races start up again. He hangs out with the gang and looks forward to a good time. Unfortunately, Mater notices a car named Francesco mocking Lightning on a radio show and tries to defend him. Mater does such a terrible job that Lightning has to defend Mater and it forces to step back on the track in order to prove himself. Mater may have gotten Lightning into this, but it’s up to our favorite race car to get himself out. The only problem is that Mater is sacrificing Lightning’s chances to win at every turn. Can McQueen still pull out one last win?

As I mentioned, the film is quite good when Lightning is on screen. He has certainly kept his development from the first film and doesn’t regress in any way. He is now the experienced veteran that you would expect him to be and he even won 3 World Championships off screen. McQueen coming back to visit for a while instead of entering more races also shows what a quality character he is. When Lightning is forced to go up against Francesco, it is a very tense race because both of them are champions in their own right. It’s also a fun all star race because there are a bunch of other cars who are known from various other countries and are competing in this race. While it’s clear that the main two racers are far above the others, it’s a good way for the film to raise the stakes. It’s a natural continuation of the first film’s plot and Lightning is already established as a good enough character where you definitely want to root for him. While he’s not an all powerful race car on the track and Francesco is actually faster when going straight, Lightning pulls out everything he learned from racing in the town and that gives him a really good edge by the end. Then Mater’s bad advice makes Lightning lose the race and we’re reminded that this epic plot is only the subplot.

The main plot actually follows Mater as he helps out two secret agents known as Holley and Finn. They have to stop someone from blowing up all of the cars in the Grand Prix. The two agents think that Mater is actually someone else since the actual agent put his tracker on Mater in a last ditch effort to keep the intel from the villains. The problem is that Mater isn’t very smart and the agent still did end up dying. It’s a rather brutal scene and it’s definitely a big contrast to the rest of the film. The whole movie is so light hearted otherwise and you’re not supposed to give the poor agent a second thought, but it still is quite sad. Mater could have saved him if he was a little smarter.

Again, this is where Mater will likely lose you. You’re supposed to root for the guy since he means well and by the end of the film he realizes that he has to get a little smarter. That would be fine, but the problem is that he is a little too over the top for you to actually buy into it. The film does wipe away his biggest mistake of making a mess all over the carpet with a plot twist, but he’s still just a really bad character. He certainly isn’t someone you can root for, that’s for sure. The plot is rather predictable as the characters naturally find out the truth about him at the end, but by then it’s too late. Mater is easily the worst character in this film and I took it personally right when he sabotaged Lightning’s first race.

The two agents aren’t bad though. Holley is doing her best to complete this first assignment as a field agent, but is having a hard time since Mater just thinks she wants to be with him and nobody is taking her seriously. It’s a pretty rough time for her, but she does her best to keep her composure and still
save the day with her gadgets. Finn is the other agent and he’s a veteran who has been in his share of fights. He definitely knows how to use hand to hand combat even though he is a car and while he is completely fooled by Mater’s act even more than the rest of the characters, he also ultimately decides to be Mater’s friend anyway.

The action scenes are fun and the homages to James Bond work well. See, the film’s humor isn’t all that awful. In fact, when Mater isn’t around it can actually be pretty enjoyable. It has a nice blend of quick lines and situational humor. It’s just that Mater makes everything dial it up to a 9. This wouldn’t even be a bad thing if he didn’t have to end up saving the day at the end. That’s really what makes the whole thing cheesy. A good example of an exaggeratedly unintelligent character is Knuckles from Sonic Boom. He pulls off the role because it’s not like he’s actually some kind of excellent secret agent or anything like that. In fact, things with him don’t even end up panning out all that well most of the time. It makes the whole plot feel a lot more natural and wholesome. Mater is just given way too much credit.

As far as rivals go, Francesco is rather generic. He’s really just here to fill in the role of the mean rival car. He doesn’t actually do anything past the role, but he doesn’t do anything wrong either. I definitely didn’t mind having him around and seeing more of him would have probably been fun. It’s just a shame that Lightning’s supporting cast is always around to embarrass him and hurt his arguments. Even Sally looks really bad in this film so I can see why Lightning just takes the pit crew with him and leaves his other friends behind. They’re not exactly morale boosters.

Some of the situations also seem a little forced for the plot. Lightning would certainly know better than to get off the road when Mater tells him too. This is for 2 reasons. One, Lightning can see that it’s a straight path ahead and since he knows that you should never turn in such a situation he should have just ignored the advice. The bigger reason is that prior to this Mater had already been rambling into the intercom as he chased after Holley so Lightning could easily put two and two together to know that Mater likely still wasn’t talking about him. There’s no way he should have actually ended up losing that race. Lightning McQueen had that in the bag.

Well, as expected the animation is still pretty sharp. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it looks better than the first film as to me they basically seemed equivalent, but they’re both of really good quality which is the important part. Pixar doesn’t hold back here and the character models for the cars are good. As we finally got some action scenes here as well, we got to see how Pixar would handle them. I’d say that they worked out pretty well. On the technical side of things this film certainly aged pretty well.

Overall, Cars 2 is a decently fun sequel to the original Cars, but it is definitely not quite as good. You can certainly tell that they chopped the quality down a few notches for this one and I don’t know what they were thinking with Mater. If the main character had been Lightning and his plot was the focus then this film would have been a lot more fun. Even the ending keeps the film from going strong as Holley’s personality flies out the window as she likes Mater for no reason (Again, the film is giving Mater too much credit even though most of this situation is his fault) and Lightning doesn’t even beast Francesco in the end. Was a clear cut victory too bold for the writers to pull off? Those mistakes are definitely regrettable, but at the end of the day you should still enjoy this film. It’s a fun enough movie to watch and the pacing is good so it flies by. It has a good amount of replay value and at least I thought the set up and presentation for the big tournament was great. Whenever the subplot is happening, the film is at its height.

Overall 6/10