RWBY Volume 8 Review


It’s always great to have RWBY back in action because the world of entertainment just isn’t the same without it. RWBY is the greatest show of all time and Volume 8 continues to operate on that high level. The show just has the perfect blend of action, story, and excellent musical themes to accompany the scenes. Throughout the season it’s always fun to watch reactions and learn new things about the show through interviews and such. There’s just a lot to take in and you can bet like last year I’ll have a few editorials for the show up before the next volume ends. Lets dive into Volume 8 and what it added into the table. Keep in mind this review is meant to be read after you have seen the show as it will go into a detailed discussion of important plot details

The show starts off with the heroes still in a dangerous spot. They are currently on the run from Ironwood and the Aceop’s but ultimately they do have more leverage since Penny is now the Winter Maiden. Ironwood orders the heroes to give her back or he will be forced to take drastic measures. Meanwhile Salem has finally arrived and intends to destroy Atlas while obtaining the next relic which is the staff of creation. Team RWBY is also having some issues among their team with each person wanting to try a different plan. Ruby wants to go with Ironwood’s initial plan of getting Amity Tower up to try and contact people around the world to help out while Yang wants to prioritize saving Mantle first. They’ll need to split up which is dangerous.

Naturally quite a lot happens along the way from there. So lets take things one step at a time. The first half of the season deals a lot with a new villain called The Hound. It’s a powerful Grimm to be sure and it was really giving the heroes a hard time. It’s got a cool design and I like the concept behind it. I would argue that Team RWBY shouldn’t have had as much trouble with it as they did though or team Yang when the Hound embarrassed them in the first skirmish though. Ordinarily I’d expect Yang to have taken the creature out pretty quickly but they ended up freezing for a little too long. With this Hound out of the way I expect Salem to be bringing in more of them soon. Potentially at least different Hound variations for Summer and Hazel.

We also get Cinder’s backstory at long last. It’s a play on the Cinderella fairy tale but a much darker twist. Cinder was effectively a slave working for a rich family that would torment her with a shock collar for quite a while. Eventually she was able to harness her abilities and escape but not before having to murder a huntsman as well. It was a pretty intense origin story to be sure and had one of the most impressive tracks in the season. Interestingly that song is one that already existed as opposed to most RWBY songs debuting in the volume they appear in. Cinder’s backstory shows that she didn’t quite start out being as evil as she is now but that certainly escalated quickly.

Rhodes really helped push her to the next level here since he was very quick to attack her. I would have to put pretty much all of the blame from the origin story on him. He knew about all the crazy things that were being done to Cinder or at least it would be hard to miss since they spent so much time together. Additionally he was telling her to be careful and such so he had an idea that things were dangerous but he never tried to help her out. Escaping with her or something like that would have solved the issue but instead he just trained her and told her to wait a few years. Ultimately she did try to wait but one day the family caught her with the swords so she had no way out. He was also the first one to draw his weapons and prepare to attack after this.

In the current story Cinder’s certainly an absolute villain and an unrepentant one so since then she has clearly taken it to heart that she needs absolute power. We can see why she is always trying to get stronger now. Her role in this season is really good. While she does have a rep for taking quite a few losses over the years she has also earned quite a lot of great wins. Up until now she has beaten Pyrrha, Ozpin, Winter, Jaune, and a whole lot of other fighters. I would say that she has certainly earned the amount of hype that she has gotten and is still one of the best characters in the show.

Another big event in the season is Salem finally arriving. We are 8 volumes into the show so this was definitely a big deal. Everyone is always very afraid of Salem but we’ve always had to wonder exactly why. The Maidens are incredibly powerful after all. It was hinted that the reason everyone fears Salem is because she is immortal but would there be more to it than that? So far it doesn’t appear so. I would make the case that right now Salem really isn’t all that impressive. Of course she will have plenty of time to show off more of her abilities soon since I don’t see her going away anytime soon. I still think Cinder will ultimately be the one to take her down though in a big betrayal scene.

Salem dies here and we find out that she has been destroyed several times by Hazel. Due to her immortality she is able to regenerate pretty quickly though so it’s only a minor setback. She showed some decent speed in the fight before going down, but as of right now I would still take any of the Maidens over her in a fight. Salem’s a fun villain though. She may not be quite as interesting as Neo or Cinder but as an immortal leader of the Grimm it’s nice how she manipulates the other villains so well. She also got a pretty tragic backstory a while back so you can potentially see why she wants the relics. We don’t know for sure yet of course but in theory she will want to bring the gods back so she can try to wipe them out or so they can wipe out the planet.

This volume introduced some pretty interesting new angles since we now know what the staff of creation can do. It can create pretty much anything although at the expense of something else. So now you have to start asking yourself some questions because it seems like this could easily destroy Salem. Create a box filled with fire or holes where you can put weapons in and keep destroying her over and over again, have her fall into the endless void. Well, the void leads to another realm seemingly so that might not do the trick but if that place isn’t connected to the main world that would be interesting. Finally, just open one of the vaults, throw her in and then close it again. Presumably if she could open a vault then she wouldn’t be searching so hard for the Maidens. None of these plans would be all that easy but this is why Salem needs more than just immortality. To recover from her showing this volume she’s going to need to go all in during the next volume.

Ironwood gets a big role in this volume as you would expect. After all, in the last volume he and RWBY really differed on their approaches on how to do things. He even went as far as to shoot Ozpin so he wouldn’t get in his way anymore. He went from being a fairly unremarkable character to completely stealing Volume 7 and helping to escalate it to the second best volume of the series. Well, it seems like his approach may have went too well. This volume decides to take him to the extreme of being a complete villain filled with ominous backgrounds like in his TV broadcast to suddenly just shooting people for not much of a reason.

Now you could say part of this is his semblance but despite being confirmed on a writer’s zoom call, I don’t put much stock in it. Ultimately there is no visual or audio queue to the semblance in the show and it is never referenced so for all intents and purposes it just does not exist. What seems to have happened here is that they wrote Ironwood too well as a morally gray character to the point where a lot of people were rooting for him. You’d look online and almost nobody was supporting Team RWBY in their debates against him.

The main reason for this is really that Ironwood at least had a plan but whenever Team RWBY was asked for specifics they didn’t seem to know what to do next. That happens in this volume as well when Mantle is being attacked so one of the Happy Huntsmen shows up to tell them it’s time to evac but Ruby insisted on staying. When they pointed out that they have been getting wrecked by the normal Grimm and the numbers are about to multiply Ruby didn’t have an answer except a vague “We’ll get through this”. Not having a plan is always the quickest way to lose support. It’s similar to a debate that happened in Attack on Titan although there we still have the gray character staying that way.

Maybe it was always the plan for Ironwood to go totally off the rails but I do feel it’s more likely that the writers saw how a ton of people were rooting for him and knew they needed to weaken his case quickly or people wouldn’t be happy with Ruby and co. So in this volume Ironwood is just straight up evil most of the time but he’s still a fun character to have around. He’s a little on the gullible side at times but at the end of the day he’s still a fighter. His battle with Winter is really solid and really cements him as one of the strongest characters in the series. To think, at one point he was considered the heavy underdog in that battle. Personally I think there’s still a decent chance he is alive. His ending was intentionally rather vague with no body shown so it’s not beyond the pale to say that he would have escaped. I doubt Watts would be as lucky though.

Ruby gets a solid role here. She does lose her will to fight at one point again but it is a pretty tough time for the team. At this point Weiss would probably be the best option for the leader as she’s gone through the most and has really matured into being a character everyone can count on. She’ll always support Ruby though so the team is in good hands. Ruby’s speed also makes her a very capable opponent in any fight. I look forward to her getting to fight more in the next volume. Here she may have mostly just taken losses but when up against foes like Neo and Cinder that is to be expected.

Weiss is great as always. She may be a little hard on Whitley but it’s hard to just get over something like that with what she had to put up with over the years. I’m glad that we’re seeing her use her glyphs more in combat now like the old days. If she keeps that up I could see her potentially becoming the strongest member of the team since those abilities are just so versatile. There’s a lot you can do with glyphs from gravity control to elemental attacks. Then she always has her summons available too.

Yang has a lot to do here since she gets her own solo quest and also has the task of cheering up Ruby. I would have liked her to have fought more in the climax but it also makes perfect sense that the villains would try to take her out of play right away. If you take out the strongest hero on the team that will always be the safest path to victory. She has to be the mediator quite a lot in this volume since Ren also deals with some issues here.

Blake gets to fight the Hound and has some good blows in the finale as well. Her role here is quite solid. She may not have quite as many individual moments as the other 3 but she did just have her big volume with Adam back in 6 so that makes sense. She still makes the most of her moments although she absolutely needs a new weapon soon. I still say she should use Adam’s sword since that would be cool but either way she has come a long way from her early days on the team and isn’t really a loner anymore. I expect she’ll be getting more hype battles in the next volume.

Jaune’s role here is small for the most part but he’s low-key a very solid leader. He knows how to handle each character and add moral support. He’s just a very well rounded character but I have to admit that I heavily disagreed with his choice at the end of the volume. Effectively Penny asks Jaune to murder her to that Cinder won’t be able to do so. The idea is that you die when you are killed so this can Penny can control who she gives the maiden powers to. I’m pretty surprised that she didn’t give the powers to Ruby to be honest but maybe she knew Winter was going to need those abilities more. Jaune just shouldn’t have obliged her in this case. By stabbing her like that he was basically conceding defeat to the villains and admitting that there was no way out. There’s always a better way and he should have just fought til the bitter end.

I have to say this was a very weak volume for Ren though. He looks pretty bad the whole time. Ren started his path of panicking ever since last volume but here it gets worse as he intentionally attacks each character using their pasts like Jaune and Yang while not actually contributing to the situation. It looks like he’s getting back to his usual self by the end of the volume so he should do better next volume but he was easily one of the worst characters here. Nora does a lot better as she is also attacked with feelings of self doubt but just pushes through them and helps the heroes as much as she can. Now that she is close to fully recovered I expect to see her fighting more soon.

Penny is a character I’ve never been a huge fan of. Her super cheerful persona isn’t a bad thing per say as I still like characters like that but I guess she just felt hollow. I don’t know, I got more from her in the first few volumes before her first death. It’s quite ironic that she was brought back only to die again although a lot of people did suspect this would be the case. At least she got to briefly wield the powerful abilities of a Maiden. I’ll still take her over Oscar/Ozpin though. I’m still waiting for Ozpin to betray the heroes but at this point I’m not sure if he could. Part of the issue for Ozpin is that he has not done very well at all against Salem over the last thousand years. Evidently he’s not as great a tactician as he thinks he is. He really accomplished nothing over many years which is why so many people left him. It looks like he is trying to do better this time but I have my doubts.

Oscar’s at least trying his hardest but every time he uses magic, the two of them fuse even more so at this point I wonder if Oscar still exists. Is he still really separate or at this point are they basically the same character? I could see the next volume delving into that a bit more. The AceOps are all still here of course but you could make the case that Harriet is the only one with a real role. She is the most extreme of the group and the only one who is ready to listen to Ironwood without hesitation. While the others are portrayed more as following orders, I would say Harriet goes into full villain mode. She just wants to blow everyone up as part of the mission so she fits in with Ironwood.

I like her as a villain though. She keeps the heroes on their toes and having super speed is such an incredible semblance to have. Aside from Ruby’s which has super speed as well as flight, I don’t think there’s any other semblance I would take over that one. It’s just way too good. The fact that she was dunking on Qrow is still solid even if the guy can’t catch a break lately. Qrow went from being one of the best characters in the series to fading fast. Qrow was fantastic in Volume 3, Excellent in Volume 4, and then I liked him quite a lot in Volume 5. The cracks in his armor began to show a bit as he had trouble with Lionheart but you could attribute that to animation. Fine, I can accept that.

Volume 6 Qrow was brutal though. He was so lost in his own misery and apathy that he nearly let Ruby and Yang die right under his nose. That would have happened without him doing a single thing about it. His depression just held him back real hard and when mixed with the fact that he seems to have been extremely nerfed, it’s not a good look for him. Losing to Harriet is just yet another loss to the mix and since Ruby was winning/put up a way better fight…that’s not good for him. I’m hoping he can make a comeback because he needs it.

Now Winter is a character who looks really good here. I’m not really a fan of when characters just follow rules even if they are evil ones. It can be a bit much or when a character goes against the rules but does so too late. Here Winter ultimately made a stand before that happened and then stood up to Ironwood. Since that goes against everything she had been working towards, I can appreciate her resolve and drive to stay on the path. I think she’ll make for a fantastic Winter Maiden as well and look forward to her going up against the villains more soon. It’ll be a tough matchup against Cinder though with the whole fire vs ice thing but if anyone can pull it off, Winter can.

Emerald also gets a considerable role here as she finally joins the heroes’ side. It’s definitely been a long time coming. Originally she was the pure evil one while Mercury was the guy questioning if this was the right path like in Volume 2 when Emerald was having a blast watching people get eaten by the Grimm while Mercury didn’t seem happy. That changed in Volume 3 as Mercury began to revel in the misery while Emerald no longer enjoyed it. Her only real tie here was to Cinder the whole time and Cinder really treats her poorly so the other side would definitely sound better. Now, if Cinder comes back asking Emerald to join her, will she stay strong or defect again? Personally I think Emerald’s a hero to stay now. She may end up dying for it but I think she may get to live through her redemption arc. If Mercury goes for a similar position, I don’t think he’ll survive as the guy has a lot of death flags written all over him.

Meanwhile Hazel finally got his big ending here. I was never a big fan of the guy personally, just because he’s ultimately working for the lady who murdered his sister. He blames Ozpin for sending her on a suicide mission and yes that’s fair, but how can you work for the one who ultimately orchestrated her death? Hazel would make a lot more sense as a third party kind of villain. Still, he eventually saw the light and I have 0 complaints about the way he went out. Hazel ultimately went out on his own terms and you can’t really do much better than that. Again, we don’t see his body so he may be alive but with Salem right there at best he can hope to be a living grimm or something but death would probably be preferable for him.

For Robyn there’s nothing much to say. You may still be confused why she is in the show since she’s had close to 0 impact on the entire franchise. Well…maybe next volume will be when she finally pops off. I have my doubts personally but she has to have been kept alive for a reason right? Watts had a solid volume as well. I like him as a charismatic villain. He may not go into the field a whole lot but the guy has guts to talk to Cinder the way that he did. I can respect that and while he may have ultimately been manipulated, I don’t think he would have had much of a way to escape anyway.

Finally there’s Neo who is always fun. I’ve always considered her to be a demi maiden power-wise just because of how effortlessly she handled Yang back in the day and how she even had the upper hand against Cinder until she activated her maiden abilities. This volume continues to support that as she completely shattered Yang’s aura in a single hit (Surprise attacks don’t affect aura as far as we know so that’s still a power feat) and then she was handling both Blake and Ruby teaming up with ease. I really hope she doesn’t die anytime soon because I want to see her get some more action. Her moveset is just very unique and I like the fighting style. Ruby just needs to convince Neo that Cinder is more to blame for Torchwick’s death which is fair since it’s a Grimm that ate Torchwick. It’s not like Ruby did anything to cause that.

Now for the volume ending stinger, I think the safest bet is they’re now in some kind of lost pocket dimension that the gods built but forgot about. That’s probably why they were warned not to go there since it’s so desolate the whole time. It is for the best that the show quickly confirmed the team was alive though because I don’t think anyone ever thought they were really dead. Even if the show only kept Yang as the one who had fallen down, she’s just too important of a character to go down like that. If a member of RWBY dies it wouldn’t be until the last arc and even then I would be surprised to see it. It’ll be interesting to see what’s down there especially since Neo and Jaune are crashing the party. If Jaune gets a big power up that will definitely be cool to see.

In theory with the delays to this volume and all the next one probably won’t start until November but hopefully it debuts earlier since that would be great. At least in the meantime we should be getting the CD soon so the full music tracks will be online. We’ll see if the next volume has any animated shorts like the Adam special or if those are going to be gone for good. If it helps to speed up airing the season then it’s worth it I suppose but those are always a lot of fun.

Now lets compare the volumes. It’s always fun to update the rankings as each volume airs. Naturally Volume 3 is still the all time best if you ask me. It was the absolute peak of the series’ nonstop action along with the plot settling in. The stakes were raised immensely and you just could not change the channel. The second best volume would be 7. Ironwood was just developed into a fantastic character here and the battle with RWBY vs AceOps is still the best one in the series. Mix that in with one of the best OSTs and it’s hard to see this volume getting beat.

3rd place would be Volume 6. It’s a pretty close one but the Adam climax was a really powerful one to end the series on. Additionally, the Grim Reaper’s origin as well as the return of Neo are scenes that are hard to be beat. Bringing her back into the fold was a fantastic idea. It’s also when the new animation style really got going. 4th would be Volume 8. It was a great volume and we got to have the heroes make a comeback and take a big win. It’s been a while since they made any serious headway against the heroes so it was nice to see how they could coordinate here.

5th would go to Volume 5. I tend to waffle between this one and 2 a lot because it’s pretty close. I would say 2 probably had longer stretches of hype fights and action but 5 had the better climax. The Raven vs Cinder fight is just fantastic. The More the Merrier episode is probably the biggest missed opportunity in the show just because the setup was absolutely perfect with all of the battles going underway but then there wasn’t really any animation to them. Volume 5 will always be the most awkward volume for fights in that sense but the story beats were still right up there. 6th is Volume 2, the big Neo fight was hype as well as the battle with the Giant mech. I always liked seeing Torchwick in the focus as well and it’s just a volume that really holds up quite well.

7th would be Volume 1, where it all began. The climax with Torchwick is a lot of fun and it’s always easy to forget that at the time you could make a legitimate argument for Blake being the most powerful member of Team RWBY. She had more real life experience than the other 3 and even went on her own to fight Torchwick. It didn’t go well until Sun stepped in but it was a good effort. Last place would be Volume 4. A very solid volume to be sure since this is all relative by RWBY standards but there was a lot of info dumping here and not a lot of action. The Tyrian fight is really the only big battle in the volume until the final episode. Qrow vs Tyrian was worth it though as it’s still one of the best fights in the season but it just couldn’t keep up with the others.

So that’s the rankings for now. 3, 7, 6, 8, 5, 2, 1, 4. I imagine as I continue to revisit each volume that could change but the rankings are pretty solid. Really the closest ones that I can see changing is the middle group (6-2) but the top two and bottom two volumes would be pretty hard to move at this point. I imagine with the series in the middle of so many events all future volumes will be in a pretty good spot as well as they aim for the top. Can any possible dethrone 3 though?

As always the animation is top notch here. The character models are really smooth and I wonder why all CGI shows can’t look this sharp. I understand it’s now using MAYA technology as opposed to POSER from the first 3 volumes which is completely open software, but it should still be possible for professional studios. Yet, I have yet to see a CGI show look as good as RWBY. It really shows how talented the staff is to make this a reality.

The writing is excellent as well. While I have my share of complaints with how Ironwood was written into a villain, that’s a narrative choice more so than a writing flaw. They just wanted him to be as evil as possible. The episodes are all very engaging and you want to see what happens next. The soundtrack is also excellent. I wouldn’t say it matches 7 quite yet but I liked the theme that played during the snow chase with the hound as well as the one during Cinder’s origin. Every volume usually has at least 2 stand out themes and those would be the ones for me. I’m definitely looking forward to the CD coming out though since I’m hoping some of the normal episode themes also make it in since there are a few instrumental battle themes that also stood out like the one in the final episode.

There’s certainly always more to talk about but I’ll start wrapping it up here. There will be at least 2-3 editorials about RWBY before the next volume comes up so if there’s any big discussion topic I need to bring up I’ll certainly write something about it. The possibilities for going forward are definitely pretty endless. With Atlas down the villains are also one step closer to destroying all 4 of the kingdoms. Haven is all but destroyed, Beacon isn’t doing great, and Atlas is certainly over. Vacuo is the last place standing in full health and it’s less of a formal kingdom and more of a bandits lair type of place so that’ll be different anyway. That’s why I definitely want to see their reaction to all of this.

Overall, RWBY is definitely as great as ever. The toughest part here is going to be waiting for the next volume. Each volume continues to be excellent so I look forward to seeing what they’ve got coming up for Volume 9. Ideally I’d like to see Raven return and for Yang’s Dad to finally get a fight. As a member on such a powerhouse team that guy has got to be a good fighter. Then once we get the team back to the surface I’m expecting a lot of big battles for sure. It feels like we’re getting closer to the ultimate climax although I would still expect that not to happen until around Volume 11 or 12.

Overall 10/10

Sakura Wars: The Animation Review


It had been a long time since Sakura Wars had gotten a complete TV show before this one came out so it was definitely a big deal. Between this and the new game the franchise was finally going to hit it big again. I get the feeling it wasn’t quite as big a hit as they intended at least since to me the series seemed to vanish again. That being said, the show is great. It’s easily the most complete Sakura Wars product out there and in 12 episodes it accomplishes a whole lot. This is absolutely the kind of vibe you want to have for the show and the new cast is a lot of fun.

The show starts out with a very engaging scene as a monster shows up to kidnap a kid named Klara. She is stopped in her tracks when a mysterious lady shows up known as the White Cape. Both of them are interrupted when Seijuro along with two guest stars from foreign combat revues show up. Seijuro takes the girl over to his team to look after her since it’s clear that a lot of villains are after her. While he will be away in Europe tracking down some clues, he leaves Sakura in charge of the team. She vows to watch over Klara with her life and the two of them hit it off really well. The rest of Sakura’s teammates are pretty cool about this as well. It won’t be so easy though. The Moscow team have arrives and claim that Klara is one of them and demand that the team hands her over. They refuse but the Moscow team is appealing to the government so this may be taken out of their hands. Can Sakura and her team protect this kid?

When you think of Sakura Wars, action usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It’s more of a drama or slice of life that includes a lot of action. Well, this show definitely tossed that out the window. There is a ton of action here and as you can probably guess, I was a big fan of that. The first scene in the show is a pretty powerful battle between the various characters. We got to see Excalibur and another girl briefly as they helped Seijuro fight these girls off. They definitely feel more like guest star characters and so you shouldn’t expect to see them do much again until the very end. Still, they had excellent character designs and just really helped to start things off on the right note. They’re exactly the kind of allies that you want to have by your side at all times.

This was also a nice way to build up the stakes and get the show ready from the start. It wouldn’t let up after that either as you could typically look forward to some kind of fight going on in each episode. Surprisingly the heroes don’t fight the demons quite as much as usual since it’s mostly the Moscow group getting in their way and the Black Cape. The monsters probably figured they should lie low for now and I don’t blame them. They do look pretty good when they appear though as the main unit had a lot of trouble with them. There is even one moment in particular that is pretty rough for the group since they had to be saved. It just goes to show that there is always someone stronger after all.

This time around the animation is in pure CGI. Fortunately this is an example of using CGI the right away. The character designs are on point and the fight scenes look good. Naturally with hand drawn animation I’m sure the show would have looked even better but this one handled everything pretty well so I had no complaints. The energy effects are still quite vibrant whenever the characters are attacking and the fight scenes are good. There’s one scene where White Cape has to deflect a ton of bullets and she does it with ease. Then you’ve got Leila blocking Hatsuho’s punch with ease which was another pretty hype moment. You can still feel the impact each time which is definitely the important part.

Then we’ve got the soundtrack. The opening is pretty solid and it feels like a nice remix of the classic intro. That said, the ending is what really stands out here. It is quite stellar and just feels like an epic way to end each episode. You’ll be at the edge of your seat each week as you wait for things to continue. In the actual episodes the music is a little more forgettable though so mainly it’s the beginning and ending where it shines.

Still, this wouldn’t be Sakura Wars without at least having some time to calm down and just enjoy the sights. We get one full episode where Sakura gets to go on a family outing with Seijuro and Klara. The main villains as well as the rest of the heroes all decide to tag along and wreck this little trip of theirs. It’s pretty interesting to see even the villains get in on this. I suppose it may have been a decent time to try and steal Klara away but you feel like they’d never get away with it. You could say that this is the only episode that doesn’t seem to further the plot so in a way it’s like filler.

It was a fun episode though and it gave Shiba some much needed screen time so that alone makes the whole thing worth it. The show balances out the genres pretty well. Aside from that happy episode then you get a more emotional one early on with Hatsuho as she feels bad that Seijuro didn’t choose her to be leader. The tough truth is that Sakura was just better suited for it. Then of course you have the pretty serious episodes of the climax where the villains are making their big play. The show succeeds at every theme so whether the heroes are just having fun on their own or jumping in to make some kind of great stand against the villain, the episode really flies by.

The writing is on point throughout but you would expect no less. The ending to the series is also very satisfying. There are a few ways they could have gone about this of course but this was the optimal route. Additionally, there was one character moment that would have just been plain unfortunate but the very last bit of the ending made sure to correct this. Make sure you stick around til the very end of the show. Ultimately the ending was just great when you consider all of that and so the whole show benefits as a result.

Lets talk about the characters now. First up is Sakura, the leader of the team. She is a very dedicated fighter who stuck to her guns and wouldn’t let Klara go. She also took a lot of big risks in putting her life on the line to protect Klara. Sakura also mastered the more powerful suit of armor pretty quick. It’s clear that she is the most powerful member of the group, especially thanks to her sword skills that she can use even without a suit. When you put that all together, her allies just don’t have anything on her. Seijuro made the right choice.

The bond between Sakura and Klara is also just a lot of fun. Sakura’s always got her back. As for Seijuro, he doesn’t get a whole lot to do here. The higher ups keep throwing him on wild goose chases so he can’t help out at home. From what we see he is clearly a good fighter though. While Black Cape was able to take on the entire Sakura team and do well, Seijuro was able to take on 2-3 of them at once and came out on top. He’s easily one of the most impressive fighters in the series so that’s why it’s a shame that we couldn’t see him fight more. He has trained the team well though.

Klara has a big role of course and she’s good. Now it’s not always easy for a kid character to be very impressive as worst case they can just be really annoying and hold everyone back. Fortunately that isn’t the case with Klara. She’s just a nice kid from the start. While English isn’t her first language (Well, technically it would be Japanese since this is a translation) she does well at fitting in and even throws in a few Russian lines on occasion. The fact that she has some special abilities helps out quite a ton as well. There’s a lot of build up to this so when she finally gets to join the team the scene feels very well earned.

I was also glad that Seijuro was quick to let her help instead of just wasting time and trying to stop her. She is a member of the team after all so it only makes sense that she would jump in right? This is one case where Klara feels necessary to the team’s dynamic so it was good that she was on board. She ended up being a lot more fun than I had expected. Then we have Hatsuho who is the power member of the group. Unfortunately because of this she loses just about all of her fights. It’s sort of like Sailor Jupiter from Sailor Moon or Tauros from Saint Seiya. Since they are the power members of the group, they are always the first to get wrecked to show how powerful the next villain is and after a while you wonder if they really are the strong member. I guess physically yes, but when Hatsuho is physically weaker than every villain she encounters in the series, that makes things rather difficult for her.

It does lead to one of the best scenes in the show though when she throws a punch and Leyla casually catches the hit while also bringing Hatsuho to her knees. Hatsuho has a tough time here in other scenes as well like when she lost to the demon twice and then growing jealous of Sakura. Fortunately the two talk it over with Sakura being oblivious to what the chat was truly about and then Hatsuho was able to get over it. It was good character development because staying jealous would have just made her look really bad. As it stands I do like Hatsuho quite a bit but she’s got to work on that.

Azami’s the ninja of the group and is not nearly as talented as she thinks she is. This leads to a lot of fun little scenes where she does her best. My main issue with her is the fact that she seems insanely weak in a fight. Ninja stars aren’t going to work on giant monsters. Additionally she seems like the character who would be quickest to betray Klara so I definitely would not trust her in the slightest. Anastesia is another member of the group but unfortunately she really gets nothing to do here. I guess maybe she had enough screen time in the game so they decided to skip her here but it is a shame since everyone else got a big role. All we know about Anastesia from the show is that she’s probably the most serious character of the group.

Claris is more of a low key character but she is quite solid. Her magical attacks definitely look a lot more impressive than the bullets and ninja stars everyone else is using. She is a very pleasant character who is happy to help and doesn’t really worry about anything. She’s quick to try and cover for Azami despite not being too invested in what’s going on just because she is a good friend. So while she doesn’t do a lot in the show, she leaves a very good impression. Their boss Sumire doesn’t do much either but you wouldn’t expect the boss to get mixed up in all of this. Mainly she is notable just because she was on the original show so it’s nice to see that she moved up. Hopefully one day she can access her powers again and suit up, defying what we thought was possible.

Then you have Hakushu, the White Cape. The show makes it plain as day that they are the same character so you don’t have to worry about spoilers. The show is definitely self aware about this the whole time as her disguise is completely obvious. All she does it put on a mask and a cape but everything else is the same from her voice to the hair style. In her first scene we have Sakura chasing White Cape and when she turns the corner there is Hakushu who half heartedly says the Cape ran off. Hakushu also tends to make errors when talking as if she was White Cape and always has a weak excuse as to why that happened.

The show has a blast with this so get ready for the big reveal. Either way Hakushu is easily the best character in the series though. The fact that she is portrayed as the most powerful character while not having a robot is pretty incredible. She always jumps in to help and is willing to do a whole lot more than any of the other characters. The scene of her deflecting tons of energy blasts using super speed is pretty incredible. It’s clear to see why she commands so much respect as Sakura’s boss. Part of why she is the best character is because of how many times she saves the characters. Aside from that, she also seems to be the most intelligent as she stays one step ahead of everyone else. She also finds time to run an orphanage so she is truly a woman of many talents. She steals any scene she is in.

Then you have the main villain Kaminski. This guy is your classic take over the world kind of villain. There’s not much different about him but he does have a flair for the dramatic which works really well. In general he tends to be a fun guy. He keeps a polite demeanor about him at all times even though you know it’s most likely fake the whole time. Considering how long he kept up this charade though, you feel like he gets really sloppy by the end. If he hadn’t suddenly tried being as evil as possible and being cold to Leila then he had a good chance to win this. It almost felt a little out of character for him to be honest as he made things really easy for the heroes. Well, either way he was a pretty charismatic villain that’s for sure and definitely not someone to underestimate.

Leila is his right hand woman and a great villain. She’s the standout villain because of her great character and hype demon form. Her story is a tragic one since she looks up to Kaminski and sees him as a hero so she chooses to ignore the fact that he is manipulating her the whole time. Again, at least he was pretending to be nice which is good so why wreck a good thing and start pushing her away? Leila does all of the hard work throughout the series and is quite powerful. Not only is she able to take on the whole Sakura team with ease but I dare say even White Cape would have a tough time with her. Part of what makes things tragic for Leila is there’s also a lot of memory and emotion tampering going on within her so she is rarely in her right state of mind. You’re certainly rooting for her to break free the whole time.

Then you have Shiba who is a solid mechanic here. One thing that separates him from most is that the guy can actually build useful things that don’t break. It’s a bit of a foreign concept in Sakura Wars where usually the geniuses are a little eccentric to put it mildly or just build walking disasters. This guy even showed some leadership experience like when he had the team tail Sakura. This guy’s a pure comedy character that’s for sure but he excels at it and all of his scenes are a blast. Now, would I sacrifice a scene of his to get some more of Excalibur and the other heroine? Absolutely, but that was likely not on the table anyway so I’ll take what I can get here.

This show even manages to avoid having much of any real fanservice. The fact that the show is CGI probably helps a bit with that since even if the character design for Leila’s super form could have gone tricky, the show didn’t go there. Aside from CGI, that’s just a directing thing though so the director did really good to always play the scene straight. She’s a demon fighting the heroes, the show never tries for anything other than that. That’s when you know that the show is going to be a really solid adventure from start to finish. I suppose we have the gag of Shiba running out of the shower to get slammed but I wouldn’t really count that to be honest. If you like the gag of someone yelling as the camera fades out though, Shiba gets a lot of that.

While the animation is quite solid as I mentioned, I will say that it’s still hard not to chuckle during the dance scenes. Maybe it’s because of how smooth and gracefully the characters move, but it’s just hard to take the villains seriously when they’re just dancing as they talk about the plans. I will say that it’s fun when Leila styles on the heroes while dancing though. Now that’s a whole other level of disrespect right there. There’s even a dancing battle so you can tell the show was having some fun with this. Hey, if you can do solid dance numbers and want to show off the animation why not right? Then you have the epic stills where the colors really jump out of the page and you’re reminded of the potential of CGI all over again. Honestly if every CGI show looked like this we wouldn’t have any problems. Hand Drawn would still be the best but this would be a much more respectable backup plan.

Overall, Sakura Wars: the Animation is a terrific anime. The government looks pretty bad as they fall for every trick in the book but Sakura’s team stays strong throughout and makes sure to protect Klara. When they fail that job White Cape is always around to help out so they have a great system going. Part of what sets the show apart from the rest of the titles in this series is how much action it has. The rest of the Sakura War titles just can’t match this. The best bet would be the OVA for Revolution but that is shorter so by definition it can’t match up. This one’s got fights in pretty much every episode. The final episode especially goes bold with this as the whole episode is really a big fight scene. By the end of the series we learn why one character is so exceptionally strong and I dare say that leaves room for a nice sequel someday. Honestly the humans are in a fantastic spot right now so they don’t need to worry but it’s still good to be prepared. One plot still going is the demons approaching. It’s implied that as long as Klara exists they will keep on coming so ultimately they need to find a way to take out the demons for good. That would make for a fun sequel.

Overall 8/10

Spider-Man Review


Spider-Man has had a whole lot of shows and movies over the years. He is Marvel’s most popular character of all time after all so you would expect nothing less. The character tends to churn out a lot of quality content. Ultimate Spiderman may not have set the world ablaze but it was definitely a solid show with good animation and a lot of guest stars. This show tries to take the character back to its roots as more of an origin and then slowly starts to build things up. It definitely had a solid run and I’ll look forward to seeing what’s next.

The show starts off by getting the usual origin out of the way with Peter being bitten by a radioactive spider and then allows Uncle Ben to be murdered. We then cut forward to Peter being accepted into Horizon High on scholarship. It’s a very prestigious school, one of the top ones in the entire country for technology. He’ll now be surrounded by other geniuses at the school and Aunt May is naturally very proud. He’ll continue to work as Spider-Man on the side but this school is hiding more secrets than Peter would have initially suspected. Can he continue to hide his double identity while also keeping his grades up and uncovering the school’s mysteries?

For people who grew up with the Spider-Man comics from the 60s, they’ll feel pretty nostalgic. It’s fair to say that we haven’t had a proper Peter Parker story in a TV show since the 90’s version and that was quite a while ago. Ultimate Spiderman while fun, was absolutely a Spider-Man story first and foremost. It was about him constantly teaming up with other heroes and even working as an instructor. That show was going for a team up approach while this one is going for a more personal feel.

It’s like comparing Batman the Brave and the Bold to the classic 90’s Batman story. Both have very different approaches. Now I’m more of a team-up guy personally but that doesn’t mean a solo story will lose. You’d have a hard time finding people who prefer Brave and the Bold to the 90’s show or saying that Ultimate Spider-Man beats the 90’s version. Solo stories can be a blast as well and then when they have their guest stars it feels like a bigger deal. With constant team up series you do run into the issue of how to increase the threat each time or how to make the individual stories feel threatening after having end of the world stakes.

Ultimate Spiderman had that issue to an extent at times as it’s hard to go from Spider-Man taking on the Beyonder to stop the universe and then going back to Paste Pot Pete. This Spider-Man show starts out with far more street level threats for Spider-Man to take down which then leads up to the season 3 finale where he has to defend the Earth from Venom. Now lets talk about where this show ranks real quick. Naturally it does not beat the 90’s show but I would put it above Spider-Man Unlimited, The Amazing Friends, the original cartoon, and the CGI show. Pitting this one against Ultimate Spider-Man is tricky. Ultimately I would give that one the slight edge. It’s close but ultimately that one does win in animation and it had a healthy episode count with a lot of solid adventures. Who can forget the mobile game adaption right?

So that would still put this on the higher end for Spider-Man shows. If you look at the show on its own then it absolutely stands out quite well. I thought the show handled the approach of seeing Spider-Man slowly mature and become his own hero really well. An interesting angle is also how it introduces the other Spider characters like Gwen, Miles, and Spider-Girl early on. In a way it’s like a look at the 60’s Spider-Man if he grew up in the modern day where there are just so many heroes. Now, while it may have been even more interesting to have kept Spider-Man by his lonesome to really start off small, it is kind of nice to have other characters trying to hide their secret identities for a change. It’s like a big game of cat and mouse as nobody knows what the other is doing. I always like that kind of tension.

For the animation, it’s not nearly as vibrant as Ultimate Spiderman was, but it does look very clear. I think once you get used to the more pale colors, the actual flow of the animation is quite solid. The hand to hand action is really good and the choreography even for the energy attacks is always on point. You can follow along with the action really well. The soundtrack is less noticeable but unfortunately that is really the norm for most shows. Really if you look at post Justice League there aren’t many comic book shows where you can point to a really vibrant soundtrack. (Ignoring the animes) The only one I would name would be Avengers Assemble as to this day I say they ripped some of the themes straight out of Justice League. It was always cool to hear them of course. That said, there is one theme I really liked here. I would unofficially call it the Cloak & Dagger theme since it always appears in an episode where they show up. That can’t be coincidence right?

Season 1 is mainly episodic but with a lot of plot lines being foreshadowed. This was a nice touch because it’s one of those things the original comics did so well and any superhero show starting out should absolutely do this. Yeah it can be risky if you don’t get future seasons but it’s worth it. Early on in season 1 the show already starts to foreshadow the Jackal, Spider-Gwen, Doc Ock, Norman, Alistair Smythe, and many more characters. you have all of their human personas walking around so you know what’s going to happen to them even before the characters themselves do. For some characters the payoff is quick while for others it takes a very long time.

One of the big sagas in season 1 was the big Spider-Island adaption. I remember when that arc was still going on in the comics and the show handles it pretty well. Suddenly every character has spider powers and you can imagine how society would go absolutely nuts at this point. If everyone is super then nobody is or at least that’s how the saying goes. Spider-Man would just have a lot of competition in standing out. Doctor Octopus also gets several episodes to himself as he is introduced. This guy would go on to have a pretty massive role so that makes sense. The first season does a great job of setting the stage and getting all of the characters introduced.

Season 2 starts to ramp things up for Spider-Man from street level threats to more high end villains. First off, Peter gets a job at the Daily Bugle so we’ve got that iconic storyline now. Meanwhile Doc Ock is trying his best to work as a hero but can Spider-Man really trust such a guy? It’ll really test his whole motto about giving everyone a second chance. Venom also finally merged with Eddie Brock, leading to the most famous version of the character. Even the Avengers show up and get kidnapped so Spider-Man has to save them. Yes, Spider-Man is a rookie no longer. Now he is a full hero and people are counting on him.

The Venom two part saga was pretty hype. Eddie definitely makes for a powerful villain and it add some tension since he knows who Spider-Man is and how to reach him. When someone like Aunt May is put into a dangerous spot naturally Spider-Man isn’t going to take that well. The Avengers episode is admittedly a little cheesy that they were captured so easily. By the way, it was A.I.M. that captured them so…I’m having a hard time buying it.

Season 2 doesn’t end there with the big events though. Next up we have a saga where a bounty is put on Spider-Man so every villain wants a crack at him. This leads to many episodes where Spider-Man has to deal with many villains back to back. It was a good way to show off his stamina and really illustrate that Spider-Man is not an easy guy to bring down. This all leads up to the whole Superior Spider-Man event where he trades bodies with Doc Ock. Now that was an intense storyline both in the comics and the show.

You do feel bad for Peter though because Ock puts his life through the wringer. It’s the kind of thing where no matter what Peter does or says later on about someone else being in his head, people will never trust him quite the same way again. Ock does a great job while trading places though and shows Spider-Man several ways he can improve. Now, he’s not an improvement in every way of course as he’s more of an anti-hero but he does make some valid points about Spider-Man installing better web equipment and having tech around to monitor the city. Ock took the whole job very seriously.

This also helped introduce Cloak and Dagger who would never become main characters in the show but looked good whenever they showed up. I rather like that duo so it’d be cool to see more of them. Their great theme song helps as well. If anything you might miss Otto when he’s gone. Although I didn’t really care for his possible romance plot though. The show mainly stays away from any romance which is probably for the best since in a school setting that could get overly dramatic pretty fast.

With Peter back we get the Avengers getting kidnapped again which is always fun. Beyond that the final episodes are all about the Goblin War. Norman’s making his big play..or is it Norman? Either way Spider-Man and the other wall crawlers will have to try and take down this army of goblins. Fortunately most of them are just grunts with a costume but it is concerning that so many have appeared to spread chaos.

Definitely a solid way to wrap up season 2 for sure. The stakes were increased and it was nice to get a change of pace here with the whole body swapping thing. The Avengers admittedly looked very bad in this season and it would continue to an extent in season 3. I guess that’s the one thing with having a lot of guest stars here. To show off how powerful the new threat is it can be tempting to have them lose so Spider-Man has to save the day but you have a hard time believing that the Avengers would lose first to A.I.M. and then to Regent.

Finally we make it to the final season which is easily the shortest one at 6 episodes but at least each episode was double length. The title of the season is Maximum Venom so you can imagine who the big villain is. So Venom is coming back and this time he has brought an entire planet of symbiotes with him. Together they manage to take over the planet, the Avengers, and just about every supporting character there is. Characters like Aunt May have to form a resistance and we even get Moon Knight on the team. For many of the heroes Earth is already lost so they plan to fight back a little bit here and there or wait it out in the sewers.

Now I’m not going to say this is executed quite as seriously as it all sounds on paper but I wouldn’t say it’s comedic either. The show actually plays this out pretty straight and Venom is really shown to be a fierce opponent. We also get Mary Jane introduced to the season at long last. They may play up how awkward Peter is around her at times though especially with baby Groot messing with him during their appearances. You feel like Mary Jane would make herself scarce after the opening scenes but at least she took it all pretty well and just seems like a very nice person the whole time. I suppose she just barely made it into the show before it ended since she showed up for the final episodes of the series.

Season 3 ended the show off pretty well. We got to close out a lot of the big plots here. All of the heroes are on good terms now and they’re pretty much ready to leave the school. I still don’t like Max but at least he should have less things to hide now though. Spider-Man is also ready to become an Avenger so things are looking up. If we got a season 4 then I’m guessing everything would go sideways again on account of the Parker Luck but at least like this things went well for him.

Lets talk about some of the characters. Peter is the main character of course and he’s really good. He may make his share of mistakes but throughout the show he is portrayed as a nice guy who does what he can to help out. Balancing his work as a superhero and an everyday student is naturally pretty difficult as it is. While it takes him some time, he does live up to his reputation for giving people a second chance when he forgives Otto Octavius which is pretty tough after all the things that guy did. The show also takes time out to show what a genius he can be as well which is something we don’t always see a lot of lately. The school setting and expanded take on his origin days helped to give him time to show this off instead of just overwhelming opponents with his physical power.

Then we have Harry who gets a pretty big role and character arc here. At first he starts out as Peter’s best friend and then of course things get pretty heated once he learns more about the Goblin heritage. He also gets a bit jealous when Otto enters the picture as well. It takes a while for all of them to really form one close unit but I liked him and the cool fire sword he got as Hobgoblin. It helped to make him more of a threat and not just another one of the friends. Since Peter’s friends all had super powers here that may have easily overshadowed him.

I definitely did not like Max though. I found him to be one of the most ungrateful characters in the series and he was always quick to go against Peter despite how much the lead did for him. Peter had his back every step of the way and the guy never did anything to try and help him. The worst of it was in the final season when Peter tried to save his job twice including disclosing his secret identity and Max just slammed the door in his face. Mix that in with all the dubious experiments and Max is just not a good guy.

Anya is one of Peter’s best friends in the show and she becomes Spider-Girl. Anya’s a fun addition to the cast and from the main members I certainly haven’t seen her as much as the others so it was nice to see her get some extra screen time here. She doesn’t really have any big personal plots compared to some of the other characters but she’s always ready to fight and help out.

Miles gets the biggest role from the friends as he helps Peter a lot and they share secret identities pretty early on. He also has the plot with his uncle/father (I forget which but I think it’s his father in this version) being a super villain so that adds a personal element to things. Surprisingly it’s a bit of a smaller role than you would expect. He’s typically the comic relief member of the group and tries to make sure everyone is having fun.

Then we have Gwen and naturally she has a big role since the Jackal is always around. Surprisingly Captain Stacy doesn’t show up as much as you would expect. Gwen’s a solid friend and may be the most fleshed out character from Peter’s inner circle. This family development definitely helped a lot in giving her things to do aside from just fighting the villains off. Her battles with Jackal definitely tend to get pretty intense. The Jackal’s also a fun villain. I’m always up for seeing more of him as I consider the guy to be a far more compelling evil scientist than Otto. It also opens up the door to the Spider-Clones although the show didn’t get into that yet.

Aunt May is solid as always. I did like that she was able to fight here like when she took her giant gun out. It shows that she was ready to rumble which is always important. I like to think that she knows Peter is Spider-Man as well even if she doesn’t say anything. Jameson’s role here is small but he does look good in the Venom episodes when he puts his life on the line to buy his staff some time. It shows that while he is a pretty gruff fellow he’s ultimately still a good guy. He’s a solid boss who thinks of his employees first.

Otto gets a really big role in the series since he starts out as a hero, turns evil, turns good, turns evil again, then he turns into Spider-Man, then he turns good again. He had a whole lot of things going on that’s for sure. I never really became a fan of his though. I guess the character just never really interested me but he’s better than in Ultimate Spiderman so I’ll give him that. While I usually didn’t care for his episodes much next to the other characters, I did like the Superior Spider-Man story arc quite a lot so that one worked out really well. At the very least his fans should be happy with how he looked.

Likewise, Norman gets a lot of props here. He’s the big mastermind behind a lot of the villains which is very fitting to his character. He’s always been the kind of guy who manipulates others from the shadows. He seems to return over and over again throughout the series. Harry finally got some closure from his character by the end which was a good way to wrap up the cycle. Norman’s always been one of the most compelling Spider-Man villains and the show did him justice.

Sandman doesn’t appear much but his opening episode was very memorable. It actually gets rather tragic by the end of it too. His powerset is always fun to watch and he does make for a pretty sympathetic villain the whole time. Speaking of minor roles, the Avengers look decent at best but most of the time they come across as pros who talk a good game but really can’t back it up. Being kidnapped and having to be saved by Spider-Man multiple times isn’t the best look after all. As the Superior Spider-Man Ock was also able to defeat them rather easily.

Finally there is Venom and naturally he looks pretty great here. He has several hosts during the series and in each one he is able to dominate pretty quickly. I’m still not a big fan of the whole twist that he was one of the weaker symbiotes on the planet though. That always seemed a bit cheesy to me. I like to think of Venom as one of the tougher ones. That’s just how I’ve grown up with him after all. Seeing him be humiliated and mocked by the others doesn’t feel right. Beyond that he does have his own sense of pride though and makes for a pretty intimidating villain. He was a fitting choice for the final boss.

Spider-Man definitely had a good run. There were a lot of solid adventures here and characters to meet. It’s not quite a great show as it would need that extra boost to reach the next level but it was quite consistent. As the seasons went on the show just kept bringing more plots forward and it felt like a pretty strong continuity was established here. Whether something happened a season ago or two the show would remember. If it had kept on going it would have been nice to see how everything else was adapted. Alas, all shows must end at some point.

Overall, Spider-Man is definitely a show that all fans of the character should check out. In general if you enjoy superhero shows then this will be a good one to check out. The story is sound and you have a good blend of action and adventure. It’s a pretty light hearted show and you can also expect some decent comedy. The jokes don’t tend to drag on for the most part or anything like that so you’ll be able to focus on the story. The show doesn’t really have any weaknesses so it makes for a pretty fun experience from start to finish.

Overall 7/10

Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia Review


After watching the film a while ago it was time to jump into the show. I really like the idea of the company just giving people a choice on which arc to adapt. Instead of adapting the whole mobile game, just have the fans pick their two favorite arcs. One for the show and then one for the movie. Additionally, it’s not like it’s taking a different route or anything. The show literally picks up as if it’s season 7 of an ongoing series. There’s even flashbacks to scenes we’ve never seen and the characters just jump in with no recap or explanation. Technically there is an episode 0 which quickly runs through things as well as re-adapts the movie but it’s more of a general compilation. This is something I wouldn’t mind getting more mainstream. Your favorite manga never get an anime adaption and it’s over 20 volumes at this point? Quickly get a 12 episode anime to cover the final arc. It’s just genius because this also opens the door to adapting the older sagas at some point if the company really wants to.

After the recap of the previous 6 singularities, the show opens up with the heroes already completing the first 6 singularities and getting ready to complete the final one. This time they have to travel to the distant past in Babylonia where the age of the gods met its end. Their mission is to correct the timestream and locate the Holy Grail. It won’t be easy though as King Gilgamesh is already in a pretty big war with the three goddess alliance. These beings are immensely powerful and can’t be defeated so easily. Still, Ritsuka is determined to accomplish this mission and asks Gilgamesh if they are able to defeat the goddesses, can they have the grail? Meanwhile, you’ve got quite a few factions taking advantage of the chaos such as a being who claims to be the legendary hero Enkidu, although that hero should have been long dead by now. The heroes also meet up with a girl named Ana and Merlin, the most well known mage of all time. With their help, perhaps the heroes have a fighting chance.

The show manages to fit a whole lot into the 21 episodes. Pretty much every episode either contains a big fight or some kind of plot twist. You can expect each episode to never miss a beat as the plot moves forward. One thing you will be impressed by right at the start is the smooth animation. The show’s hand drawn style is definitely on point with a lot of great movement and high speed action. Every character looks like they can be a top tier threat with how they are dishing out the special attacks. The show also uses some CGI at times, particularly with Mash like in her opening fight scene but it’s handled really well. I suspect maybe they are trying to emulate Ufotable a bit with how they seamlessly meld the two together. This animation company certainly did a great job with this show. Some shows can make it difficult when you’re trying to find screenshots for the review like even Beyblade which has great animation but getting a screenshot isn’t always easy. This show has the opposite problem where there are so many great ones it can be hard to choose.

Naturally the soundtrack is also really good. It has that opera style feel for a lot of the bigger fights. I also liked the main goddess theme for Ishtar whenever she would appear for a fight. It definitely has that desert feel to it but with a lot of action so you felt like a big battle was about to come in. The technicals on the show were never in doubt throughout this. The opening is a little more low key next to the other Fate intros but it’s still very catchy.

As expected the dialogue is really good with each character being quite distinctive. There’s a lot of planning and strategizing going on throughout this war. Particularly since Gilgamesh and the humans appear to be on the losing side they have to do a lot of planning to try and make a comeback here. His very regal style of talking is always great. The guy embodies being a king through and through which keeps reminding me of why he is one of the greatest Fate characters of all time. I’d still ultimately say Archer is number 1, but Gilgamesh is a very close #2. This may even be his best portrayal yet although he’s great in all of them. His best design is still the casual design with the black shirt though.

With a series as intense as Fate you can always expect things to get a little violent though. You have characters being tortured and civilians slaughtered by the dozens. The most intense episode may be when the creatures show up in Uruk to dispose of the humans. They do succeed to quite a large extent as almost every human is destroyed. They’re either sliced to death or eaten and if you’re a human you’re probably hoping for the former. One of the heroes is captured and tortured a bit before being consumes which was definitely not fortunate for her. On the whole I wouldn’t say the show ever gets quite as up there as Fate/Zero or Demon Slayer in how intense it can get, the show is definitely not afraid to really blow people up.

As the show is in the desert you can expect a lot of wildlife. Now, the monsters here are created using magic so you could call them more magical creatures than animals. Still, I’d say there’s less of a distinction. Going back to my Pacific Rim review, I would consider these creatures to be more like true animals. It’s not exact, but I wouldn’t say any fight scene with the heroes beating up on them was quite so fun. I was always eager to get the characters back to fighting each other instead. Also, it’s not like the creatures ever stood a chance so after a while it’s not as if it is super impressive to beat them anyway. I’d prefer the battle with the new human creatures.

Those monsters were quite deranged to be sure and since they can talk that did make them legitimately spooky. Now this is how you introduce a powerful enemy invasion force that can be feared. They may almost be too powerful in some respects as one of them was strong enough to overpower Mash so with an army it’s hard to see how the heroes can stay alive for long. We have some super OP fighters on our side but even the goddesses were taking some hits. It’s a good thing Ritsuka is around to refill their energy or things could get a little tricky.

On a final note for things holding the show back a bit, this one does indulge itself a bit more than the other shows with the fanservice. It can be a bit cheeky the whole time with a lot of specific camera angles while the characters are fighting. Mainly I’d say this tends to happen to Mash and Ishtar. As I’ve mentioned in the past, a character design alone I wouldn’t usually consider as fanservice. Even some of the crazier ones like say Quinella or Nami’s “battle suit” I wouldn’t say are too crazy on their own. It just depends on if the show decides to pay extra attention to this during the battle. In this case, that’s what happens whenever Ishtar fights. I wouldn’t say the fanservice ever gets crazy though. It’s consistently there but to a fairly low level. Only slightly notable because the main Fate shows never really have much of that but I suppose this is more of a spinoff.

One of the fun things about the various Fate titles is always seeing who these heroes are. If you’ve heard of them, their weapon, or if you can predict their noble phantasm based on that. I’m not the biggest scholar on classic characters of legend but Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors have helped quite a lot with at least being able to put a face to some of these names. Quite a few of the heroic spirits in this title like the guardians Gilgamesh sends to fight Gorgon appear in those games. In this one we get a bunch of big characters including ones not seen in Fate before now like Merlin and we even have Leonardo Da Vinci. The show makes good use of these guys.

In a power level context the show can be a bit tricky at times. Not because it’s hard to see their powers but because you can’t always be sure of their max limit. The heroic spirits are sort of like batteries. They naturally decay if they aren’t fighting for a while and they do need to be charged up either with rest or Ritsuka just using his amplification abilities. Ishtar for example looks consistently powerful but she isn’t able to use her most powerful abilities until the end of the series when Ritsuka is able to give her a boost. Since the same would be true for the other characters, it is hard to say who would truly be the strongest.

That said, you can usually work your way back based on who appeared first and who appeared last. One thing with this show is you can expect the main characters to get beat up quite thoroughly in just about each episode. Even when they recruit a goddess to their side they end up getting wrecked by the next one. At one point they get 2 and are still losing. They just have the unfortunate luck of recruiting the weakest one first or at least it certainly seems that way. The battlefield and even time of day are important in seeing who wins in a fate matchup though. I’ve been talking a lot about the general aspects of the show though so it’s time to discuss the characters.

Ritsuka is the main character here and he’s pretty solid as you would expect. He’s been through quite a lot by this point in the story but he hasn’t gotten jaded or lost hope. He’s always ready to lend a hand to the other fighters. He may not be able to fight all that much on his own but he still jumps into action. Definitely a good hero to keep everyone together. Then you have his main partner Mash. She is admittedly a bit on the weaker side but as a pseudo servant it does make sense that she would be relatively low tier in the grand scheme of things. Get ready to see her lose in just about every episode though. If you’re a big fan of Mash then that could get a little tough to watch but she always fights well. You can see that she has experience, it’s just that there isn’t a lot you can do when you’re physically outmatched like that.

Then you have Ishtar who gets a huge role here. She’s a lot of fun and one of the standout characters. Now she is weaker than all of the goddesses but that makes sense for a few reasons including the fact that she doesn’t have her ultimate weapon. She probably cares about humans more than the other goddesses as well. I like her aerial fighting style and the theme that accompanies her scenes is always fun. She has a hard time showing her feelings but she is willing to take quite the beating to defend the heroes. Her outright confidence and determination easily allowed her to surpass the other goddesses as a character.

Next up is Enkidu or I should probably call him Kingu. It’s not like he is able to keep the charade up past episode 2 anyway. The real Enkidu is long gone but this guy looks just like him. I won’t spoil why that is but he makes for a pretty intense villain. Maybe a naive one though as he really doesn’t tend to think a few moves in advance at all. This results in him getting surprise hit and overwhelmed quite a few times. You’ll see his face twist with shock a lot. Considering that he is one of the strongest fighters in the series, he really doesn’t contribute much when it counts. He does give us some of the most dynamic fights in the series though. So I’m a bit torn on him on how much I like the character but his strength is the real deal.

Merlin is more of a hype character. He gets a lot of hype from everyone but never really does much. As someone who exists everywhere but will cease to exist everywhere if he dies, it’s an interesting predicament. He has a lot of confidence though and is good at dodging so he has that going for him. Ana is much more fun as an ally. She has a deal with Merlin involving things you won’t get to learn til the end but until the deal is fulfilled she will be helping the heroes. Her power level isn’t very high but she is a valuable ally to have since every person counts here. I liked her savage fighting style as well, it definitely comes in handy.

As for Gilgamesh, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? The guy is very regal and an excellent ruler of the kingdom. He understands his people and how to best utilize them. This isn’t a Gilgamesh that has grown overconfident or discarded humanity. He serves as King and believes in giving everyone their proper role in society. It’s easy to see why he is such a beloved king. his strategies may not always pan out but he’s a really fun guy and whenever you see him on screen you’re sure to be in for an entertaining scene. He has a good working relationship with everyone and the way he is always laughing fills you with confidence.

His most loyal employee is Siduri who is a nice person. She’s probably one of the only people who would dare talk back to him. She is able to understand what he is really saying beyond the bravado which is important. Then in the darker corners of the city you have a mysterious being of shadow. There’s not much I can say about him but while his role is pretty small, it’s also a critical one. He gave the show a solid fight scene as well.

Ushiwakamaru definitely has a big role here that’s for sure. She’s a fun character and I like how much speed she uses in her fights. She’s definitely not a fighter you will be forgetting anytime soon. Alas, this is Fate so don’t expect everyone to have a happy ending. From all of the characters she probably has it rougher than most. At least she never allowed the villains to break her. I’m not sure I buy her going down when the speed advantage was so great but I suppose if she decided to never run away eventually she would tire, although I expect it would be days later.

Then you have Benkei and I really didn’t like him. There aren’t a lot of bad characters in the show, up til now they’ve all been good in fact. This one is an exception though. He chickens out when it counted and that caused quite a lot of grief and casualties. Ultimately he just wasn’t abe to make it up to the characters. Leonidas gets a smaller role but at least he did charge in when it counted. The heroes probably would have fared better if they had teamed up instead of going 1 on 1 but at least he slowed the villains down.

Jaguar Warrior is an interesting character because initially she is so strong that she wipes the floor with all of the characters but then slowly but surely they don’t take her seriously. It’s not like she can do anything against the goddesses I suppose. She’s a fun character to have around though. Probably not someone I would trust to be honest but if you have absolutely no other options then she is not a bad ally to have.

There’s also the Mage King but he doesn’t technically appear here outside of flashbacks so I don’t think there is much to say about him. He seems like he is going to make for a great final boss though. Back at base you also have Da Vinci and Roman but they don’t do much. Roman is still hiding a lot of secrets to be sure so the heroes are going to have to be careful with him. Da Vinci seems safe but you never know. They’re usually here just to give us some quick moments back at present but more often than not they don’t have any ideas for how to deal with the villains.

Now lets talk about the three goddesses and the main villain. First up is Gorgon who is pretty powerful. Not only does she have a whole lot of poison thanks to her snakes but looking directly at her is a bad idea. Cursed eyes are always lethal in any anime, but especially in Grand Order they’re given a lot of significance. I’ll give her some props for being so powerful. She has a bit of a 1 track mind with how she wants revenge on humanity and doesn’t get as much character as the other goddesses but makes her presence felt with how long she remains as the big villain here.

Then you have Quetzalcoatl who has the toughest name to spell. She is all about combat and likes fighting people 1 on 1. There are some twists that help with redeeming her character. She is quite strong as you’ll see when she easily wrecks the main cast. Her final fight is also quite the spectacle as she unleashes some pretty crazy attacks on everyone. She is definitely a memorable character to have around for sure.

Finally there is Ereshkigal. Here’s the thing, she seems like a very nice character in the present. Someone you can sympathize with and all. But the flashback is hard to ignore where she repeatedly tortured Ishtar for a while before stripping her of her decrees and leaving. In the show they don’t explain it too much but decrees and orders are part of your power level. The higher your divine right and the more authorities you have, the harder you will be to defeat. Ereshkigal really put Ishtar in a dangerous spot and you don’t just torture someone without being a psycho. So I liked Ereshkigal in the present but she seems like a completely different character than what we know of her.

Finally we have Tiamut, the big boss of the season. I have to say that she was handled really well. It’s pretty much a trope for a show to always end off with a giant monster or just a giant enemy in general. I see even Fate went this route. Usually I’d be rolling my eyes at this but this may be the best example of how to handle it. Tiamut is more intimidating than the villain from the latest One Piece film, My Hero’s first film, Godzilla: all 3 Netflix films, etc. The reason is because Tiamut is effectively portrayed as a god and her invincibility is absolutely crazy.

The way the show is able to pull this off is because of how stellar the animation looks. Each cut is just crystal clear and she feels like a walking disaster. I also liked how her eyes have actual stars in them. I just love anime eye effects like that where the colors are really crazy and vibrant. Having symbols is an added bonus. So Tiamut was just a real threat as she took the final attacks of so many fighters and just kept on going. I haven’t seen another giant type fighter look so impressive, maybe ever. Her design is memorable, her durability is some of the best I’ve ever seen, etc. This is just the proper way to handle a giant opponent. I won’t go as far as to say it would beat having a humanoid sized opponent at the end but I can appreciate the angle here. You could make a case for Tiamut maybe even being the strongest Fate character of all time since she is invincible in the real world and even in the underworld she is almost impossible to stop. 1 on 1 who could stop her?

It’s no surprise that the show would have an out of this world climax though. The show just has such high standards for the soundtrack and animation that you knew they would go all out. It’s also easy to see why fans would vote for this one to be the big arc to get an anime adaption because I wonder if the others would have such a grand spectacle to end things off on. Surely this one can’t be topped right? I suppose we can’t rule it out but that would be difficult. I fully expect the climax of the book to have something big with the Mage King though. Maybe summoning a bunch of other heroes to come in and help would be ideal.

As a final note, the show also has some pretty good humor. There’s a lot of solid banter throughout. Gilgamesh and Ishtar both tend to have a lot of the best scene with regard to this. The writing is on point so it almost goes without saying but I did want to give the humor a mention. It helps give you a breather from when things are getting so deadly although there isn’t much time to rest in the second half once the new humans start showing up to eat everyone. The first half is more low key in that respect as we’re introduced to the characters and see the heroes lose a bunch as they slowly get used to this world.

Overall, Fate/Grand Order -Babylonia arc is a pretty fun show. It’ll definitely take you on an emotional rollercoaster with all the epic fights as both sides keep trying to gain ground in this war. Grand Order seems to really go all in with bringing in so many different characters from the franchise. This one seems to be definitely gotten the most high tier with crazy stakes but I’d still look forward to seeing the older arcs at some point. With the season ending on a huge cliffhanger for the climax of the first main arc of the game, hopefully that gets adapted at some point. The animation is definitely top tier. I would still say Ufotable is the best but CloverWorks absolutely establishes themselves as a top tier contender with this title. Pretty much every episode has a huge fight scene and the animation is always excellent. Not just in motion but a lot of the still shots if you pause the scren. Yes, that even includes the CGI which is better than most competitors. If you’re a big Fate can then you definitely need to check this out if you haven’t already. Also if you just enjoy action then this will still be a pretty big title to check out. The animation is absolutely on point and the characters each have their own distinctive fighting styles. We’ll see what the Fate series has in store next.

Overall 7/10

Pacific Rim: The Black Review


I’ve been awaiting the Pacific Rim show for quite a while. From the start it looked like the show was doing all of the right things that the movies couldn’t quite capitalize on. I mean, I did enjoy both films pretty well to be honest and would definitely recommend them but the idea of Kaiju vs Robots has a lot of potential out of that. An animated format will always be the answer for taking something to the next level and The Black definitely pulls it off. I’d be game with them just continuing the rest of the franchise in this style.

The show starts off with introducing us to the main characters’ parents. They are trying to help with the evacuations particularly since their kids are still around but the government has declared this place as lost. The parents manage to protect everyone and then leave to go and find help. Unfortunately help never came and many years have passed. Taylor and Hayley are the two kids who couldn’t escape in time. As siblings they are quite close but have taken the loss of their parents in different ways. Taylor thinks he has to protect Hayley at all costs and wants to stay safe in the village until they return while Hayley is convinced that they are dead and thinks they need to leave. Well, their hand is forced when a Kaiju attacks. Taylor and Hayley take a test Jaeger (Giant mech suit) and escape. Their best bet is to try and find civilization but can they survive in this Kaiju wasteland?

There are 7 episodes out currently as season 1 concluded. I’m hoping we should get season 2 pretty soon. If they could fast track that and get it out quick that would be ideal. The show does manage to conclude a lot of the main plots pretty well but we’re just at the tip of the iceberg here. The show doesn’t reference the movies all that much beyond a few names you might recognize like easter eggs for the suit and the pilot. Otherwise this works as a standalone title which works for me. We’ve already got a pretty solid cast and world going on here after all. Then we can build to an eventual crossover so far. Right now we haven’t really had time for any aliens to show up for example so throwing that in will be cool.

A lot happens in these 7 episodes after all. We get a new villain faction and it’s hard to say if they are human or alien yet. My bet would be alien but it’s hard to guess. Either way they get the stinger at the end of the season and it’s a pretty hype way to get season 2 rolling. Then there is the bio form running around. Won’t get into specifics since that would definitely be a spoiler but it seems like an interesting take that’s different than what Uprising did. It’s another kind of fusion and based on the dialogue we should see some more of these soon.

Meanwhile the animation here is pretty solid. It looks like it’s straight out of a Fire Emblem cutscene. That video game kind of look works well and the animation’s pretty smooth. It may not be quite like Castlevania or a true anime look like that but it works well enough. The fights are also nice and colorful with the Kaiju and Jaegers. If you’re going to do CGI then this is the level you’ll want to be on. The soundtrack is a lot more forgettable though. I can’t say that I could really recall any themes by the end of this.

Taylor may take a little time to get going as one of the main characters but he does get better. Hayley handled the situation better initially but eventually Taylor came around. He still panics quite a bit and I see more character development incoming for him. At the end of the day he is ready to step in and help Hayley and is determined enough to reach his goal that he even goes through the solo diving process. Meanwhile Hayley is solid from the start with how she jumps into battle and always tries to have a plan. They make a good team and who knows, if Taylor had gone with her initially and helped with waking up the Jaeger then they may have had time to train a bit more.

Loa is the main A.I. for the bot and I like that she has some good personality here. The series is already hinting at an origin story for her. It’s hard to say how it’s going to play out. Is it simply that she used to be the A.I. for another Jaeger and the pilots have traumatized her or is there something more to it? A lot to explore here but she definitely helps to keep you guessing. Then you have Mei who is the best character of the season. She’s the right hand woman of Shane and so starts out as an antagonist. From the start you can see that she has a lot more humanity than the other members though. She’s not just going to destroy humans without giving them a chance.

She is also the most skilled human in the series. That doesn’t mean she will stand a chance against any of the Kaiju but it’s good to have a solid human fighter on board with how many corrupt people are out there. There’s no end to the humans trying to take them down. I imagine this will only continue as the seasons go on. Mei still has some more demons to get past since she isn’t quite 100% past them but I do think she’s at a point now where she is ready to actively participate and be a part of the team. I look forward to seeing this play out.

Then you have the main villain Shane. Effectively he’s a black arms dealer who sells things for a profit and makes sure that he always has some plan at the ready. The guy suffers a lot of losses to his troops though and doesn’t make for a great general. Just look at how he sacrificed so many brains in the experiment to try and get a pilot on the Jaeger. Not the smartest move when you already don’t have a lot of men and are living in a Kaiju wasteland. By the end of the season you’re sure he will be back but the guy doesn’t have a whole lot of resources left. You feel like it’s going to have to be a big coincidence that he ever catches up with them at this point.

Then you have Boy. Now, I think everyone will know exactly how his plot is going to go the instant you see him in the tube but I won’t say just in case. He has to be the weakest character though. Most of the time Boy is just holding the characters back. He doesn’t have much common sense so he runs off all the time picking on little animals. There’s nothing heroic about this guy for most of his screen time because a more heroic soul wouldn’t be attacking all these creatures. He gets the heroes into a lot of trouble all the time. I’m hoping he improves but his core personality is one that doesn’t usually change all that much so I admit that I am having some doubts here.

Then you have the mysterious Apex, a being that seems to be part Kaiju and part Mech. In the film we saw aliens piloting mechs by sort of infusing the two so this is like a more advanced version of that. It’s got a pretty great design and has a great role. Definitely one of the more hype characters and he gets a lot of really pivotal scenes. One of the best things about this guy is that he shows some real intelligence so I can call him a true character more than most. Whether we see an army of them soon or stick to just this one, I don’t see any passing the first. This guy will come in handy soon.

As for the Kaiju, we get to see quite a few as the series goes on. The Rippers which are like little dog Kaiju. I was a bit on the cuff with these guys. They were a little close to looking like real dogs. I would say there was just enough Kaiju where they weren’t, maybe in part because the blood is blue or they just didn’t show a whole lot of animal type mannerisms and mechanics compared to others. If any of them had been taken in as a pet or something it could have changed things entirely since the viewpoint shifts but it’s hard to say for this kind of thing. They are fairly weak though and only good against humans. Then you have the Eel who goes down awful quick. The best Kaiju personally is Acidquill. The two tendrills it shoots out are very impressive and I liked the fightstyle. That’s a good way for a Kaiju to stand out among its peers and this worked out quite well for it.

The Kaiju with the biggest role here is definitely Copperhead. He follows the heroes around quite a lot and is a very determined Kaiju. He gave us some solid fight scenes and made for a good opponent. Most of these Kaiju likely won’t be returning for the second season so we’ll see who the replacements are next time. As long as their are mechs, Kaiju will continue to show. Right now the humans are definitely on the back foot since the aliens can seemingly summon an infinite number of Kaiju to keep on bumping up the ranks. No wonder the humans are always running.

All right, time for a spoiler paragraph so skip this if you haven’t seen the show. It won’t be in depth spoilers but just my quick theories on things. So for the parents, I’m thinking right now that the Dad is dead but the Mom escaped. The reason for this is based on what we saw, the Dad definitely seemed to be crushed in the ship while the Mom did run out of the hatch in time. Now, why is the father’s body not there? Well, someone took it so perhaps the Sisters will turn him into a Kaiju or something like that. There’s a lot of possibilities so it’s hard to say for sure but it’s definitely going to be a pretty interesting path to watch.

Rim: The Black definitely has quite the body count at times. Someone’s head gets blown off, a village is blown up, etc. This is definitely not a world that has worked out very well for the humans. The show can have some violent moments on occasion like this but usually they are either mostly off screen or stylized quite a bit. The show has an intense atmosphere but at the same time by and large I wouldn’t call this a violent series all that much. Again, if the dogs had been more like real dogs then we may have had some real problems but as it is the show has stayed the course.

Part of what makes The Black so much fun is really just boiled down to the premise. Giant robots vs Giant monsters and the characters keep this working well. The main suit is Atlas Destroyer and I definitely like the design of this Jaeger. I also like that it becomes more of a hybrid later on which enhances the design anymore. I expect the main characters will be fighting a little more in the second season now that they are more experienced so that will be fun to see. There’s a lot of adventure and action throughout the show so you should be on the edge of your seat. The writing is also quite solid so the show ends up being really balanced and makes for good marathon watching. I saw all 7 episodes back to back after all and it definitely didn’t drag on.

As a final note, am I the only person who thinks Hayley completely looks like Link from Breath of the Wild? I think it’s due to using a similar shading system but you would really mistake her for Link easy. I’d also say she has a strong resemblance to Samus from Metroid. I guess you could say that some similarities can be drawn from Link to Samus by extension and I would say that is true at least in Breath of the Wild. Maybe it’s just a character design that is easy to make you think of other characters but the instant the trailers came out I remember thinking that right away and that never changed during the show. It’s just a random observation but it was interesting.

Overall, Pacific Rim: The Black is a great show. I had been pretty hyped for this ever since the trailer since it looked so dynamic and the show did not disappoint. It definitely ends up finishing in the blink of an eye but it really delivered on everything the show promised. The characters are a lot of fun and the fights are dynamic. The water type effects when trading out blows or when they are used in place of the blood is an interesting one. It could have been hit or miss but it works well in this one. The show opens up a lot of plot lines to be completed at some point in the future. I’ll be looking forward to how that goes. I’m sure there will be a lot of theories on everything going on right now. Lets see if Rim keeps going strong and finally re-establishing Rim as one of the premiere mech titles.

Overall 8/10

Beyblade: V-Force Review


Beyblade is ready to make its big return with this second season. The original Beyblade season was great, no doubt about that. However, this season takes things to a completely new level as it easily jumps up to one of the best anime out there. That’s right, this one is an easy 9 no questions asked. You’ll get to see a ton of hype duels and a bunch of great new characters. Effectively this season accomplishes everything that the first did and then even improves upon it.

The season starts with explaining that the Bladebreakers have gone their separate ways. Effectively the group has broken up since each member has gone their separate ways. Unfortunately a group of mysterious individuals appear and manage to defeat or at least tie every member of the Bladebreakers. Tyson in particular gets slammed twice by the mysterious Ozuma. These new enemies intend to steal their bit beasts so the Bladebreakers decide to reunite to stop them. This group known as the Sacred Shields aren’t the only group after them though. You’ve also got a group of scientists who keep on sending bounty hunters and trained professionals after them as well. With everyone wanting a piece of the team, can the heroes really escape?

The first episodes are really about establishing the new group led by Ozuma and allowing the heroes to get used to Bey battles at this level again. One thing I was surprised about was Kai’s sudden retirement. That plot didn’t really work for me. So Kai retired because there was nobody left who was worthy to fight and yet it’s not like he beat Tyson the last time so why retire? You’d think he would at least want to end on a win first before stepping out of the game and Wyatt even points that out. Wyatt’s a kid at school who knew Kai and his role is actually rather big due to the influence he left behind on Kai. I wasn’t a fan of the guy personally and stealing someone’s Beyblade is never the right answer. Still, he was right that Kai shouldn’t just ignore a fight like this, especially when someone is targeting him.

Kai does recover from the slow start though and did put up a good fight against his opponent. In general the Saint Shields are a lot more interesting than the scientist villains so whenever the focus was on them that was definitely a good thing. The season really started out with a bang by introducing these Saint Shields and having them easily dismantle the main characters. They didn’t waste any time with that episode 1 fight coming in to the mix of a new rock song. That has to be one of the most influential fights in the series just because of how sudden it was. I always like the plotline where a hero just became world champion or beat the best there was and suddenly is defeated by a new challenger. It really establishes the new villain as being tough.

Naturally this can be tough to execute because you also might just not buy into it. Like Tyson was shattering universes with his Beyblade and now he can’t beat this guy? In some ways I would say they’ve scaled down the feats from the first season so don’t expect the Beyblades to look quite as powerful. Still, the intensity is always present in the battles which is the important thing. The animation is a lot different for the actual Beybattles here but I was definitely enjoying them quite a lot in the season. In general I would even say the battles were better here. In part because the season had the heroes powering up a lot more.

You could mistake this for DBZ as the characters start yelling and powering up their Beyblades. This was executed exceptionally well and really made you engaged in what was about to happen next. The character designs aren’t quite as good as season 1 though even if I think the animation is a little better. The characters just don’t look nearly as powerful. Tyson was ripped in season 1 and now he looks like a kid. Kai’s new outfit also isn’t nearly as cool as the old one. They do keep their strength though even if it doesn’t show like Tyson being able to race across the entire city. At the very end of the season we also get some power levels introduced to the series which was cool. I had definitely not been expecting that.

So the first half of the season is really solid but it’s the final chunk where the series kicks it into high gear. First, with the scientists out of the way, we get the final battles with the Saint Shields. One of the fights takes place during a rainy battle at the amusement park which was a lot of hype. Kai and Ray got to tag team against one of the big opponent teams. Then we had Ozuma and Tyson finally have their big rematch. It was a terrific way to end the arc and you couldn’t ask for better.

The final arc is the best though. A new kid named Zeo has been hanging around with the heroes for a while. He even saved them from the Saint Shields at one point. Well, he goes from being a happy, mild mannered kid to a really intense villain almost over night. The heroes aren’t sure what to do about this yet but there isn’t much time to think about it. The World Championships are starting up again so the Bladebreakers have to defend their title. This time the tournament is in a 2 on 2 setting though where the teams compete in a best of 3 set, one at a time. The bladebreakers split into two teams. You also have the Saint Shields stepping in, the hunters King and Queen, two of the international fighters from the earlier team that got mind controlled and of course Zeo’s team. That means that you have every big character in the season all rolled into one big tournament.

It would have been fun to have seen some of the season 1 guys as well but to be honest most of them would probably get stomped and the season 2 fighters are more interesting anyway. The more the better though if you wanted to make the tournament last a few more episodes. Every single duel in this tournament is incredible and a big part of why this season will be so hard to beat. Every duel just draws you in because of how strong each character’s motivation is. For example, I would say the big highlight battles in the tournament are Ozuma vs Zeo, Kai vs Zeo, and of course Tyson vs Zeo. There are a lot of other hype battles to be sure but in each fight the hero really wants to take Zeo down no matter what.

This leads to a ton of solid back and forth. The soundtrack is also so amazing in the season that each duel is really built up. The first season’s soundtrack was already excellent and this one took it to the next level. It reduced the amount of time the weaker songs played and even introduced some new ones. Swing Low is the standout theme here for sure which always shows up when the opponent is dangerous. Whenever you hear that theme you know things are about to get real.

This climax can hold its own with any anime. Then you also have the fun tournament meetup scene where the fighters get to interact. It’s a small thing but I always love to see this moment especially when it leads to a little fighting the way that this one did. King and Queen definitely love to stir the pot. They are even bold enough to directly cheat in one of the tournament battles. If you ask me that should have automatically disqualified them but of course they are allowed to proceed a bit since the judges just want to see good battles. Otherwise you feel like the Saint Shields may have actually won that battle. I was surprised at how quickly King turned over a new leaf by the end though. Hopefully they return at some point.

Tyson is a fantastic main character as always. You’ll notice that he does seem to be a lot more tense than usual here though. He picks fights with the characters quite a lot to the point where he is always breaking up the band. Being the champion of the world has certainly gotten to him. That said, his skills are still the real deal. If not for Dragoon chickening out on him he may have very well had fewer losses by the end of the series. When he’s not blowing up at everyone Tyson also does have a ton of great lines where he does pat himself on the back. A high energy main character like Tyson tends to always be a lot of fun. He enhances every scene he is in and is just fun to root for. He gives a good amount of pep talks as well. I’d still go with Kai as the best character but it’s awful close.

Then you have Ray who is the team’s consistent third strongest member as always. He is a blast to have around and I always like when a series has the big three established. Think One Piece, Saint Seiya, DBZ, etc. You can always count on Ray to go in there and get some wins. In some ways he even looks better than Tyson as Ray never even entertains the idea of cheating while the others get tempted to do so during the tournament. Ray is all about fighting with honor and to the end. His fights tend to get more intense than the others with how much physical punishment he takes, but Ray always gets back up. It’s too bad that he was the only one who didn’t get to fight Zeo, that would have been fun.

Max is around the whole time so he has a pretty big role but he always tends to get overshadowed by the other members. His Beyblade fighting style is all about defense and to his credit it is handled rather well. He is always relevant in the battles and gets a good fight to end the series. I’m not the biggest fan of Max but he’s fun enough and a good friend to have. At the end of the day he’s a nice guy who fights fair so what’s not to like right?

Kai is the main rival and so of course he is a blast here. Again, I wasn’t big on his first episode though with the whole retiring and then mellowing out. It just didn’t feel like Kai, especially just letting an opponent stomp him like that. As the season went on he quickly rose back to his old levels though and that was great to see. He really serves as a mentor to the group and was probably the only one actually making sure Hilary was okay during the big fights like saving her from the boulder and a big fall. Kai was also determined to stop the part hunters and did a great job. He always brings a ton of intensity to the battles which is important.

Hilary is a new addition to the cast and she’s fun enough. She gets a lot of fun banter with Tyson. Tyson certainly takes a lot of shots at her but she can dish them out just as well which makes for a pretty good balance. If she could duel that would be even better since she could help out in the climax but as it is she’s solid. I prefer her to Kenny who is technically more important to the battles but at the same time I’ve just never been a big fan. He should duel at this point and he is always doubting the team and putting them through a lot of training. Dizzy doesn’t do much as the A.I. but she gets some good one liners and tends to be pretty sarcastic the whole time.

Lets talk about some of the other big characters here. First up is Zeo of course since he is the big villain. He was a fun hero so it made for a fun character arc. I do have to say right off the bat though that I still don’t buy how he was able to take on the complete range of Saint Shields with a single blow and then go back to rookie status after that. I wouldn’t say Beyblade is the tightest when it comes to power levels but that just felt like a stretch. None of the characters seemed to think it was off either. Even if it was a surprise attack, the match should have just kept going.

I also have to admit Zeo’s reasoning for turning evil is very weak and does make him look bad. At the end of the day he turned against his friends incredibly easy which was disappointing for them. Zeo makes for an excellent villain but I will have to say that I’ll remember him as a traitor pretty well too. So, great character but his betrayal was too sudden and too easy. I did like the explanation for why he was so strong by the end though, that did make a lot of sense.

Then you have the various Doctors. Doctor K probably had the most personality since she actually got kicked out and then went right back into the ring with her own team. You have to admire her persistence that’s for sure. She even grabbed a gun to try and shoot the tops herself so you can’t say she does things halfway. Then there’s Doctor B who gets scared a lot. He does a lot of the grunt work of actually challenging the team and bringing the robots so kudos for that. He’s just never really much of a threat though.

Dr Zagart is someone you don’t mess with though. I’d have liked to see him duel a bit too but he does have much more of an imposing presence about him. The guy feels like a main villain and you can tell that he’ll back it up as needed. Much more so than Gideon who basically gets shoved aside and frightened by all of the other villains. You feel bad for him because essentially he is a henchman who is forced to act like a leader until he is tossed aside. Cool character design though. By the end of the series there are so many layers to the hierarchy in the organization that it’s quite impressive.

King and Queen are added near the end of the series but they leave an immediate effect. What better way to solidify yourself as a threat than taking Kai down right? I wasn’t exactly expecting Kai to be dispatched like that so this was a pretty epic way to introduce them. Both of these characters make for really epic fighters. I also like how both of them are ready to jump in when one of them is in trouble. Queen cheats on King’s behalf the first time against Kai and King returns the favor against Mariam. Their costumes are pretty cool too and at the end of the day the impressive thing is really that their skills are the real deal. Even without crazy power ups they were doing well.

That’s one thing you’ll see a lot of here compared to the first season though, rampant cheating everywhere. You have characters using Beyblades that keep on regenerating. Then you have the 2 on 1 battles like I just mentioned with King and Queen. Kai gets double teamed, Mariam gets double teamed, it happens a lot in the series. The most annoying part is when the heroes just get frozen though. If you see your teammate being double teamed you’re really obligated to jump into the fray immediately if you ask me. Anything less and you’re not watching your partner’s back as closely as you should.

Time to talk about the Saint Shields. Mariam gets a lot of development in the group. I like her confidence and she does like a clean fight. You could say she appreciates it more than some of the other members who just want to win at any cost. She certainly taunts Dunga quite a bit but the group is pretty close knit so they definitely get along well when it counts. Dunga is also a solid fighter although he’s naturally not quite as charismatic as Mariam. His brute strength takes him pretty far in the series but ultimately falters when it counts.

Then you have Joseph who probably gets the smallest role out of the group. He just doesn’t have a true character arc next to the others but does have consistent skills. The best member has to be Ozuma though. He seems to take this mission the most personal when it comes to trapping the Bit Beasts. He has a lot of passionate duels and the way he stole the show in the first episode of V Force was just incredible. His entrance was absolutely perfect and his victory over Tyson was decisive. There was nothing questionable, no dirty tricks or cheating. He just won straight up.

Then we have some of the other characters who appeared briefly and then got turned by the Psychic team. Salima tried to stay strong and even did some detective work but ultimately her will power was no match for the power of the dark blades. It was definitely unfortunate but nobody in the series seems to be able to resist its powers so she isn’t alone in this. Kane is another such victim. He was a decent rival to Tyson but you did feel like he had no real shot once he was a good guy again despite a pretty impressive intro. Both of these characters were pretty interesting. They got overshadowed but had a good run. I can’t say much for their two partners though. They were definitely not very impressive in the slightest.

Wyatt is someone who’s worth more than a mention since he was integral to Kai’s plot. My main issue with him is how weak willed he was. First he stole Kai’s Beyblade and then after that he was very quick to turn to the dark side again. I can see why Kai didn’t want to train him because this kid absolutely could not be trusted. No matter how many sympathetic flashbacks the guy got, I was never a fan. Finally we have Gordo who was Zeo’s partner in the finals. It’s clear that the whole purpose of his character was so Zeo could have a partner but the guy was fun. I liked his design which is a total reference to DBZ and the guy can fight so he was a worthy partner.

Right from the first episode V-Force establishes the stakes as being quite high. These fighters are extremely powerful and it’ll be fun to see Season 3 up the stakes again. The question is, can they top this one? The fun part with Beyblade is you know there is always a chance even if it’s hard to picture when you’re coming off the incredible highs of this climax. The season has incredible replay value to the point where you could easily go back to watch some of the big fights again right now. While I’ve mostly been praising the second half of the show, I do want to say the first half is great as well. A lot of the Saint Shield battles are there after all and you’re guaranteed a lot of great moments with the cast filled with action and intensity. You can’t go wrong there.

You can also tell how impressive a show is when there’s a fight where the outcome is already all but determined and they still keep you invested. In a fight like Kai vs Zeo you already know there’s no way Kai can end the arc prematurely. At the same time you want to see just how close he can get. Even fights with throwaway villains end up being a lot of fun because of how well the show executes the battles. There’s also a lot of solid character development everywhere. The main characters are obvious, but take someone like Hilary. She starts out despising Beyblade and giving Tyson a hard time but by the end she is as invested as the rest of the characters. Admittedly she was a lot of fun as one of the antagonists but as an ally she’s cool to. The show has a lot of fun with the dynamics and banter. It almost goes without saying but the writing is absolutely phenomenal here. The trash talking is top tier with Tyson getting a hype line about how he’s seen better duelists in Kindergarten at one point when fighting Ozuma. Lines like that are why Tyson’s still the Beyblade champ.


Overall, Beyblade V-Force is a terrific anime. It’s just incredible how intense the duels are and how excellent the characters are. You can really get behind this as one of the all time greats. I can really see why Beyblade got to be so great. There’s nothing that this show doesn’t execute at a masterful level. It definitely deserves to be up there with the all time greats like Yugioh and Cardfight. The best part is knowing that Beyblade still has tons of episodes and seasons left to go. If you haven’t watched Beyblade yet, you definitely need to change that as soon as possible.

Overall 9/10

Sakura Wars: New York Review


This Sakura Wars OVA definitely feels a lot different from the previous ones. On one hand it easily has a lot more action than any of the others to come before it as well as an ongoing plot instead of being episodic. On the other hand it decides to engage in more harem antics as everyone fights over the main character. It basically evens out so this ends up being on par with the other OVAs but it could have otherwise had potential to be the very best. I suppose that just wasn’t in the cards this time around. I will say the posters for this OVA are easily the best ones I’ve seen compared to the others though.

The story starts off with Shinjiro in high spirits after taking out the Samurai Warriors villain, Nobunaga. When he goes into work he is in for a shock though as it turns out that the troupe is starting a new play for Cleopatra. The worst part is that they want him to be the main heroine in it. Shinjiro never performs in the plays and to be placed into this role is not something he’s looking forward to. Unfortunately the group won’t hear any objections. Meanwhile, a mysterious pair of individuals have appeared. They are targeting various landmarks in New York and seem to want to resurrect Cleopatra or do something with the Egyptian artifacts. Can the New York team of fighters stop them?

First off, I do have to say that the actual premise of the OVA is quite forced. Bare in mind that the Star Division is completely made up of young women with the exception of Shinjiro. So naturally one of them should be playing the main female part right? Instead they play the male roles and you’re left shaking your head. Clearly the whole point of this story is to put Shinjiro in a tricky spot. Then to market the play (Because you do that apparently) he has to run around in his Cleopatra outfit for the entire OVA.

Fortunately for Shinjiro he is oblivious to basically everything but even so, you know that the characters are intentionally messing with him for no real reason. Each episode tends to follow a formula where he hangs out with one of the girls who teases him a lot and then they team up to stop the villains. Sometimes they succeed in protecting the artifact and sometimes they fail. Shinjiro’s costume is also so realistic that the villain actually mistakes him for Cleopatra as well so there’s also that.

On the positive side, as I mentioned we do get some real fights. This is due in part to the fact that these villains have actual powers. The main villain can use his energies to summon monsters and his sidekick can fly. We get a solid hand to hand fight with Subaru even if you could tell that the budget wasn’t entirely ready at that moment. On the whole I would say the animation is good though. The final fight looks really solid for sure and on the whole the character models are on point. That fight just felt like there was less going on despite it being a close quarters encounter. The soundtrack is more on the bland side but we do get the intro song near the end so that was fun. Adding a lyrical song at the end is always a good move.

In true harem style each episode focuses on a different character. Shinjiro gets to hang out with almost everyone although at 6 episodes there isn’t quite enough time for everyone with the plot also taking time to shine as well as Shinjiro’s mother showing up. The episode with his mother was definitely pretty fun. It was definitely nice to see her clowning on the team. It makes sense that she would be quite powerful since she’s related to Ogami. Clearly even though she is not on the front lines her fighting ability hasn’t decreased.

For the rest of the characters, Gemini is still the best heroine of the group like in the games. Admittedly she doesn’t get a huge role here but she does always try to support Shinjiro and doesn’t mess with him the way that some of the others do. She’s also always up for a fight which I think is important. When all of the characters brought Shinjiro various meals to cheer him up, her idea of steak had to be one of the best options. I’ll take that over the other meals which were pancakes, chicken n rice, fish, and some more that I’m probably not remembering.

Shinjiro Sagitta helps get Shinjiro out of a jam when he’s being peppered with questions from his Mom but otherwise doesn’t get quite as big a role as the other heroines here. Then you have Diana who is still the worst member of the group. She never has Shinjiro’s back when it counts and isn’t as decisive as the others. I didn’t care for her much in the game either. Rikaritta’s really a kid compared to the others so you can’t take her quite as seriously in a fight. She’s a gun character with her twin gun style but sometimes they’re fake guns anyway so it’s not quite the same as a real weapon. While it’s a comedy plot she does always threaten to eat her pet as well which is a big no no.

Finally there is Subaru who may get the biggest role here and I dare say the OVA was shipping her the most. She’s relatively emotionless next to the other characters but also turns out to be the strongest one. She’s the only character to actually try to attack the main villain on her own and she was doing pretty well in the fight. Without any outside interference she very well could have won the battle and ended the OVA just like that.

As for Shinjiro, I can’t say he’s the best character. He spends a whole lot of the OVA yelling and being pushed around. Almost every episode ends with him yelling as the other characters tease him. He never stands up for himself. The only thing Shinjiro has going for him is the fact that he’s a solid fighter. While Ogami is likely still stronger, we see Shinjiro fighting outside the mech with his twin blade style more which is important. He’s not afraid to get out there and start fighting. He definitely should have declined the play position though if everyone was just going to make fun of him the whole time though.

While I was glad to have a real villain here, the villain was pretty bad. I don’t even remember his name and the wiki doesn’t bother to list his name on the OVA page as it is. That’s how forgettable the poor guy is. My main issue here is how he keeps on thinking that Shinjiro is the reincarnation of Cleopatra somehow and constantly suffers from huge headaches whenever he uses his ability. There’s no way you can get intimidated by someone who can’t even control his ability right? No matter how you slice it, this guy just isn’t impressive in the slightest. His sidekick was more interesting and she didn’t get to do much.

So at its core this OVA has quite a lot to make fun of. It’s clear that it was just thrown together without a ton of effort or anything. That said, it is nostalgic to see the cast from the game. Despite the crazy plots, the episodes all do flow together well and are over in a blast. The episodes can be ironically funny and I would say the writing is good. The villains may not be very solid but we do still get real fight scenes. It also can’t be understated how having a real ongoing plot is a nice change of pace as well. There’s a lot more you could have done with the New York cast to be honest but this is a start.

Overall, Sakura Wars: New York is going for a very different direction than the specials before this. I guess New York would have to be a little different right? It’s not perfect and the story is so incredibly forced, but it’ll keep your attention. If you liked the Sakura Wars video game based in this location then you’ll like the OVA even more. It’s pretty fun and at the end of the day that is important. I wouldn’t say there are any negatives that really end up hurting the OVA. SO it may not rise up to great territory but it’s pretty good and a consistent watch. I wonder if these characters will ever return.

Overall 7/10

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review


It’s been a long time since SHIELD started and quite a bit since it finished at this point. I’ve had the review on the backburner since November of 2020. The show certainly had its ups and downs over the years. It was always fun to have this show to look forward to each week either way and with over 130 episodes it lasted a while. I definitely won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. Grant Ward’s various appearances and basically coming back every season was always a blast. Maybe one day these characters will return. That said, I ultimately would not recommend the title due to some seasons just going a little too crazy.

The basic premise of the show is that there is a group known as SHIELD which has always protected the peace over the years. They do so from the shadows and nobody even knows they exist aside from all the big companies in the know. Agent Coulson is one of the highest ranked members. He was thought to be dead after the Avengers 2012 film but he managed to survive. The show begins with him assembling a new team of fighters. Ward, Skye, Fitz, Simmons, and also the experienced Agent May. Together they aim to stop Hydra and all other threats from infecting the planet. Season 1 is mainly about introducing the team and taking some grunts down first. The season ultimately ends with some big plot twists as well as an inside agent who was a traitor all along.

This was a solid way to introduce the cast. One of the more underrated scenes is when Garrett shows up with his team on the SHIELD base and we get some quick fights. Ward took care of his opponent while Coulson and Garrett had their talk. It was pretty tense and also cemented Ward as the most dependable guy on the team which helped make the twist more effective later. While teased a lot, I also like how they made sure to reference the Avengers in just about every episode. It was an effective way to remind people that SHIELD was in the universe even if later on it felt less and less like the show was actually canon.

Coulson is debatably the main character of the series although you can make an argument for Skye. He’s a very solid leader and does a good job of always making sure SHIELD is on the right path. It was nice seeing him get some power ups over the various seasons but for the most part he stayed as being a very normal down to Earth guy who was ready with the quips. He had a lot of the best lines in the series and always helped to add some levity to the situation. It just wouldn’t be the same without him.

Agent May is definitely the toughest member of the group. She is able to fight through serious injuries and never stops battling. Her nickname of being “The Calvary” may get old after the heroes mention it for the 50th time but season 1 was really about building up hype for all the characters so I suppose it makes sense. Her fairly emotionless approach to most scenarios was always fun. Her best moment is likely when she crossed over into another dimension to take out some powerful aliens in Season 6 and effectively had a time frozen fight to the death there. It was quite impressive.

Then you have Ward who is always super confident and charismatic. He tends to steal the show whenever he is around because the guy is so fun. While most of the other team members are either rookies or jaded retirees, Ward is just an excellent agent who is still in his prime. He’s skilled at everything he tries and that’s why he is always the person people turn to. How many characters are able to consistently get hype as a hero, villain, cybernetic copy, and alien in the same series? Whenever Ward shows up you know something is about to go down.

That said, there was one scene with Ward that I found ironically funny as soon as it happened. So in the series there are 3 people who are extremely determined to protect Skye. First you have Coulson who really sees her as a daughter figure. You have Calvin who is actually her father and so his goal is to protect her at any cost. Then you have Ward who is obsessed with Skye and wants to protect her in his own twisted way. All 3 of these characters have a good amount of hype and skill so you figure they can handle anything right? Well, there’s one scene where Skye gets threatened so all 3 of the hype characters pull out their guns only for Whitehall and his crew to take out bigger guns so they surrender.

That to me was the funniest scene of the entire series. To have all 3 of these characters just immediately surrender to a bunch of guys with guns was hysterical. It was certainly tough for the heroes before the era of them all getting their powers that’s for sure. As for Skye, she definitely gets a whole lot of development across the various seasons. She starts out as a timid rookie and eventually becomes a confident rebel. In the final season she even actively makes the choice to murder one of the villains against orders. Specifically, she ordered someone to murder a villain though so she didn’t get her hands dirty in that scene but she takes out her share of enemies.

Once she became Quake, Skye became one of the most powerful SHIELD agents which is impressive. The fact that she can conceivably destroy the planet is pretty impressive. So Skye’s a good character but I do think she uses her powers rather poorly. She should be winning just about every fight and yet most times she forgets she has powers or uses them way too late. There are so many times where she is defeated and you have to shake your head. When you have impressive abilities like that you really just need to fight to the end and keep on going. Personally, I think she just didn’t train enough.

Then we get to the worst member of the group Fitz. Fitz is just extremely annoying from day 1. His personality is your standard science guy who is really smart academically but doesn’t do well socially. After he gets betrayed by Ward he loses a lot of his mental functions for a while so it takes multiple seasons until he is back to normal. You can try to make the case that this is why it was so easy for him to turn to the dark side but there is still no excuse for this. Fitz is very easily turned on multiple occasions. He is often okay with taking the easy way out such as sacrificing a few to stop an attack. He goes as far as to perform tortures on his teammates and the guy never properly gets any real repercussions for this. By the end of the series you can’t look at him without thinking that you are just flat out looking as a villain. Fitz is not a true hero as far as I’m concerned. His romance plot with Simmons also drags on over and over again and often times Fitz is tempted to forsake his duty as an agent for this.

Unfortunately Simmons is pretty much just as bad. When we find out that Skye has powers Simmons is very quick to say that the lead should be destroyed. There is no mind control here or anything like that. Simmons just jumps right into drastic territory because she thinks the risk is too great. The fact that she was willing to betray her friend so easily was just crazy. Then you have the whole destiny thing where she and Fitz delude themselves into thinking that they are immortal so nothing can go wrong in the present. That’s why pretty much any scene with these two can be painful. They’re just bad characters.

Fortunately we had some extra agents in Hunter and Bobbi who were far better even if their screen time is pretty limited. Hunter doesn’t take things too seriously and you could say he isn’t even all that heroic. Mainly he’s here for Bobbi. He still makes a lot of mistakes of his own though. When we meet the “Real SHIELD” lets just say that things get shaken up. That said, It made for a really cool cliffhanger to suddenly have a whole other group around. I would have been fine exploring that plot for a while longer to be honest because there is a whole lot you can do with that.

Bobbi also stands out as a quality character. One of her better scenes is when an alien warrior shows up and just easily crushes the main cast. Bobbi goes up against him in round 2 again facing certain defeat but doing so to buy a little more time. She’s a talented fighter and doesn’t even like combat but is always willing to stand back in the fray. It’s too bad she wasn’t around to fight more. Next up is Mack who gets a pretty big role by the end of the series. I wasn’t a fan of his though.

Mack’s main issue is that he’s not good with power. He panics a whole lot and starts yelling at the team for no real reason. When the going gets tough in the final season he literally just quits even though he has a responsibility as Director and just gets out of there. Then he gets depressed and shuts everyone out for over a year. You can’t be making these kinds of mistakes when you’re leader or you’re just putting everyone in danger. That’s why I could never support his rise to leader, especially when May or Skye would have done a much better job.

Lincoln is one of those guys who joins up but you feel like it’s just so he can have a romance with Skye. Given that there are other guys around who will last longer that means he was doomed from day 1. Lincoln was reasonable I guess but he doesn’t leave a huge impact. His electric powers were cool though and he did defy the Inhumans at times so I’ll give him credit there. Radcliffe is one of those villains who’s around a little more for comic relief at times. He’s a super genius given that he was able to build Aida and he usually comes out on top with his plans. He evaded SHIELD for years after all. He’s a fun enough villain and has some humorous moments even if he doesn’t really get to go in the field a whole lot.

We got some guest stars early on in SHIELD even if they wouldn’t return for long. Nick Fury’s scenes in season 1 were a lot of fun. It helped really make Agents of SHIELD feel like a big deal at the time. Maria Hill also got to appear and she’s a capable general as always. One of the more surprising appearances had to be Lady Sif. She gave us a fun episode even if Ward was mind controlled a little too easily. I like to think he wouldn’t fall for that. While not a guest star, we also had Agent Triplett show up for a brief time. Unfortunately he didn’t last very long but I did like the guy while he was around. He was always very enthusiastic about the mission.

Back to bigger members, Yo-Yo is easily the most powerful SHIELD member. She has legitimate super speed. Now, she does have a drawback where she has to return to the spot where she bounced from each time. That is a pretty big weakness but with her speed it shouldn’t matter. Of course that means that the show has to make her look bad a lot of the time so she doesn’t end the fight quickly each time. She can be a fun member for the most part despite this. It’s just tough for speedsters because they always have to be nerfed at some points.

Deke is a character who started out okay and then really jumped up the ranks. He had to survive in a pretty dark future and that showed his determination. Once he was in the present with everyone else he was able to have a blast just enjoying all the little things. He started his own company and had the catchiest theme in the whole show. It was always a lot of fun to see him even if the rest of the cast treated him horribly the whole time. At times it was for comedy and at other times the heroes were just jealous of his success. He took it all in stride though, even wishing Skye well despite his one sided romance for her not working out well for him.

One character who joined the crew late and definitely was not that good was Daniel. He is here from the Agent Carter show and managed to become a main character by the final season but he’s just annoying. Another one of those guys who panics a lot and he also got over Agent Carter awful fast to rebound with Skye. While it can be nice to have someone from the old days here marvel at all the new stuff I was just never able to get on board with him. I’d prefer if Deathlok had returned. He had some fun appearances early on in the show and was a good fighter to have on hand. His role was ultimately not very large though.

Garrett was one of the first big SHIELD villains and he did really well. The guy has a lot of connections and is really good at strategy. He had some solid one liners as well so he’s pretty memorable. I thought he was better than Malick who is a similar kind of villain but won’t leave as much of an impact on you. Now Raina was a villain you don’t forget. She loves to hear herself talk and is constantly making speeches. That said, despite being able to see the future and knowing a lot, she ultimately doesn’t fare too well here.

Calvin was an interesting villain seeing as how he’s Skye’s father and all. He has a pretty tragic backstory with what happened to his wife. You kind of hope he’ll take down Whitehall real quick but that guy is just a little too tricky most of the time. At least Calvin was always interesting though and you could definitely understand his motives. I wasn’t really a fan of Whitehall though. He’s just another old scientist here to cause some havok. We’ve seen it all before.

Season 2 features the destruction of SHIELD thanks to the events of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier film. Coulson is now the Director of SHIELD and things are as busy as ever. For starters a race of beings known as the Inhumans have begun appearing everywhere. These guys have a lot of fantastic powers and now every group wants them such as Hydra and AIM. In particular a man named Whitehall is quite intense about grabbing them all and running live experiments until he can perfect a way to use their powers. It turns out that Skye also has some ties to the Inhumans as well. Can SHIELD really keep this under wraps or are we about to get a war between humans and Inhumans?

You could say season 2 is when we really started embracing the comic book nature of the show more. Inhumans are a nice segway because they have powers but are fairly normal otherwise. The annoying thing about this is always that the Inhumans initially aren’t looking for trouble despite their tough talk and are taken down pretty quick. It’s why you send to see a lot of people acknowledging that Magneto has a point while Xavier’s wish for world peace goes on as mutants keep being captured and destroyed. Inhumans are effectively very similar to mutants if you think about it and are hunted a lot as well. Black Bolt doesn’t really get to weigh in here compared to his mini series though. This season was a lot more violent than the first one as Whitehall keeps going back to his scientific roots. In effect it’s why you always get worried when someone has regeneration because you know they are going to end up using that ability quite a lot as Jiaying had to.

Jiaying plays a pretty big role here as the leader of the Inhumans or at least this branch. Her healing abilities are really good but in a way this is just bad news for her since it means the villains can exploit this for quite a while. That said, I wasn’t a big fan either way. She just didn’t seem to have any plans for the long term survival of the Inhumans which is not good. Eventually of course things were going to go sideways. Gordon was a dependable right hand man. His teleportation ability was also really solid. He’s a likable guy. Gordon may not always watch his back too closely but without him the Inhumans wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as they did.

Then you have a pretty interesting villain in Lash. Lash is so powerful that most of the Inhumans couldn’t last very long against him at all. It would take several just to try and bring him down. He’s pretty much a creature of mindless rage and he’s at his best when you don’t know his identity. The show really allows this guy to go all out and get a lot of hype so I appreciated that. Even the design was pretty unique.

The third season brings The Hive into the fold. Hydra has brought him around to cause chaos and he is basically a king of unlimited power. Naturally he decides to use Ward’s body so we have the guy around once more. His powers are pretty impressive and naturally this is bad for the Inhumans since he can effectively use a lot of abilities. Coulson wants to use the Inhumans for good as always and strikes a deal with Rosalind and her government group. She’ll stop capturing Inhumans for nefarious purposes and he’ll share data. This truce threatens to compromise both sides though and causes a lot of tension within the ranks of SHIELD.

As soon as Ward was back it’s hard not to get hyped since he’s always a blast. Of course in this one he’s here completely as a villain at this point trying to get revenge on Coulson. I was not a fan of Coulson’s partnership with Rosalind from the start though. You can’t make deals with villains like that and by all accounts she was totally a villain with all the kidnapping and such. You can’t just pull all of that and hope to get away with it. With this deal she would basically get away completely free. It was a pretty reasonable season. I would say it wasn’t as big in scope or new ideas as the first two seasons but the Hive had to be the strongest villain yet. From all of the seasons this one blends together the most because there were quite a few episodes here so it’s not like it was literally all Ward but he’s easily the most memorable part of the whole thing.

As mentioned Rosalind wasn’t very impressive. I just didn’t like her as a character from the start and she never really got better after that. She’s basically just another government agent. We got to see more of two SHIELD Agents Piper and Davis who would have bigger roles later on. Needless to say, I was not a fan of these characters. They just don’t really add anything to the story or dynamic. You could cut them out and nothing would have changed. I would say the best way to think of them is like getting two red shirts from Star Trek but then giving them an entire plot line and lots of extra appearances for some reason. No matter how often they appeared they were never impressive.

The Hive was an impressive villain as mentioned. I mean to a good extent he just felt like Ward but he does have a different personality in the end. He was certainly more ruthless. Then you had Hellfire who was another villain around but not nearly as powerful. The guy’s basically just a traitor who sells out and ultimately doesn’t realize that in the end the Watchdogs will take him out as well. His flame powers are good though. Elemental abilities are always fairly high tier because there is so much you can do with them.

In the fourth season the gang begins to tamper with forces beyond their comprehension like the Ghost Rider. The group heads out to find him but he’s busy tracking other villains down. The Ghost Rider is effectively a spirit of vengeance using a human host that appears from time to time to carry out a mission and then leave just as suddenly. Naturally this is a big burden on the human involved. We had some nice ghost type fighters to go up against him and the effects for his flames were pretty solid. We also have some drama within Shield as the Patriot takes over in Coulson’s place and quickly starts to become a very shady individual. That’s why you have to be careful when turning down a position to someone else. Coulson didn’t want to be leader and now it could come back to bite him.

Additionally we have the Framework appearing here. In this other world everyone’s lives are a little bit different which includes a completely evil Fitz as well as a powerful android known as Aida. This just helps to cement Fitz as one of my least favorite characters as we see just how close to being evil he is. You could cut him some slack if this was just in the framework but lets just say this isn’t the last we’ve seen of evil Fitz. This was definitely a very intense season. I liked Aida though, she’s one of the most memorable villains to be sure. She got a pretty bad deal by the end as Fitz basically just used her. She was a villain of course but you still felt like Aida deserved better. Her abilities were absolutely crazy as well so you could say she was one of the strongest characters in the series. You also can’t go wrong with Ghost Rider of course. He’s always a pretty fun character to have around and the heroes are lucky to have him and his powers at the ready.

Ghost Rider just helped give the heroes a lot of muscle and came through when it counted. His host here was also solid as he was always ready to fight. Things were certainly personal for him after all and he made sure to get a whole lot of revenge on the heroes. As for the Patriot, I did not like him. The guy was given a good position and then squandered it on a power trip. He had every opportunity to be a great character but at the end of the day he definitely did not live up to it. I have to take away a lot of points from him as a result. He just could have been so much better so it was a shame that he couldn’t live up to this. The way he went out also wasn’t super impressive.

Enoch is a character who would end up having a massive presence in the series. He is a Chronicom from the future so he is always prepared. He tends to be a pacifist and has a hard time understanding human customs but gradually he becomes proficient at it. He also has a lot of solid humor scenes. I would argue the final season gives him a little too much hype with being able to take down the entire SHIELD group. It’s hard to picture that in the slightest but he is tough. Also, without his planning the team would have died many times over. He’s like the Watcher only at least he actually helps out.

The Superior is another big villain who showed up. I like the fact that he realized how Coulson was always popping up from the dead and why he may be responsible for everything. He wasn’t correct of course, but I would say that it’s a reasonable interpretation of events at its face value. I also liked his determination to solve everything as a human and win with his own two fists instead of taking any shortcuts. He’s the kind of villain you don’t forget very quickly.

We finally get time travel in the 5th season. The heroes are transported to the year 2091 where naturally humanity has fallen. The Earth was destroyed and a bunch of Kree rule most of the universe. The heroes are onboard the “Lighthouse” and have to find a way back to the past. Additionally Fitz is somewhere in this timeline, or at least a version of him is. He’s currently working with Enoch and eventually the two plots collide. Once the heroes are back home they have to figure out a way to prevent the Earth from being destroyed and averting this disastrous future. It’ll be difficult but Talbot feels he is up to the task.

This season went the most all out in a lot of ways. Having almost the whole season take place in space was pretty crazy and we even had effectively a tournament as Skye and Yo Yo were forced to face off against other villains. Having a villain group with the powerful Ruby also helped to up the tensions. The stakes were quite high in this season although at times it would also get pretty dark here. The future is pretty hopeless with Kasius in charge after all so everyone either becomes a slave or is quickly taken out of the picture. Talbot being tortured for ages while the heroes were having fun in space was also rough. It’s easy to see how he came off the deep end in the second half.

I enjoyed his battle with Skye a lot though. It felt like something out of Supergirl with the characters flying around and getting things pretty high tier. For the most part despite having characters with super powers you couldn’t expect to see big meta human battles like this. Talbot may have become a big villain but at the end of the day I’m still a big fan. He was an interesting villain which is always important and with his powers I do think he would have been in good position to protect the Earth. With Thanos referenced it would have been fun if he had stepped in to fight for a while.

Tess is one of the survivors in the crazy timeline and she did well to survive. She’s got her own connections and always has a gameplan. While Tess may not stand out a whole lot next to Deke, she did well. Flint was another survivor who did well and the fact that he had some basic rock powers was cool as well. He’s a little young so there wasn’t a ton he could do but every bit helps. Kasius is the big villain here but he’s not likable in the slightest. He’s one of those villains more worried about romance and wanting more power than actually having plans. He would tend to just be annoying most of the time getting emotionally involved with his past and rambling a lot of the time.

Sinara was a solid villain though. As Kasius’ right hand woman she was always ready to fight. Her techniques were fast and lethal leaving no margin for error. Serious villains like that always tend to work well because they are focused on achieving their objective and that’s it. Sinara did really well. Likewise I enjoyed Ruby. Her disc throwing abilities were quite potent. I also liked her confident the whole time. She may have been manipulated a whole lot during the show but she’s a villain who really stood out. Ruby may not have seemed evil with her personality but she was ruthlessly butchering all of her opponents so you can’t go easy on her either.

Season 6 breaks the team up into two groups. One group heads into space for a lot of adventures while they look for Fitz who is once again missing across the timestreams. This tends to be the more lighthearted plot as the heroes go to a bunch of different planets. Every place is pretty different. Then you have the ground plot where a guy named Sarge who appears to look just like Coulson is running around. As Coulson should be dead by now the heroes are upset to see this lookalike. Sarge is saying some crazy things about surviving a lot of destroyed planets so the heroes need to get some answers out of him before Earth is put on a 1 way trip to oblivion.

The space adventures were okay but I think most of the intrigue and suspense here was with the Sarge plot. There’s a lot of fun mysteries here like what his whole deal is and how he relates to Coulson. There’s a lot you could do with his whole world hopping thing as well and seeing Coulson as a villain was just surreal. It was always fun to have him around. The rest of his crew was mostly forgettable but Sarge stands out. That said, I do think he didn’t handle some plot twists well as he was quick to forget his grudge. I would have liked him to keep his Sarge personality through and through.

It does make for a good climax though and the arc is just exciting from start to finish. We even got a bunch of monsters running around. Meanwhile Izel made for a great space villain though. Her humming was fairly iconic and she made for a solid mastermind. This isn’t her first rodeo as she’s been taking planets down for ages. I’d be very close to saying that she is the best villain in the show. I won’t go quite that far but she can hold her own with any. Her ability also helps to make her one of the most powerful ones though as she keeps on controlling people. She could have easily finished off the main characters so many times you’ll lose count. With great power comes a lot of holding back though. Her fight in the realm of the dead was also a lot of fun.

That brings us to the final season which involves a ton of time travel. The Chronicoms have decided to eliminate SHIELD by destroying them in history. The team will now have to keep jumping to different eras in time in order to keep up with them. The difficult thing here is that the Chronicoms always appear to be a step ahead. Additionally the heroes manage to grab onto Daniel Sousa so now they’re at risk of changing time. Still, the villains changed time first so does it all even out? Each episode is a reference to a different movie or show and we also get a lot of crossover elements here to really cement this as the final season. The gang’s together for one last ride and then it’s all over.

SHIELD did a good job of really throwing in as many elements as possible here. We got to relive all of the seasons to an extent and got some extra closure for each character like Skye getting to see her Mom again. The best episode here was probably the time loop. I could watch films and shows about that concept for ages. I’m a pretty big time travel fan so elements like loops and paradoxes are just a lot of fun. It was a fitting way to end the saga at long last and this was just a really solid season. It would have been nice to see Deathlok, Hunter, and Bobbi are they feel like the only big characters that the season was missing. We did still end up getting just about everyone though so I was definitely still satisfied in the end.

Nathaniel Mallick is one of the big villains here. You could make the case behind him being the main villain over Sibyl but they’re both about 50/50. With his sonic powers at the ready he makes for a pretty big threat in the season. I would say at no point do you think he could seriously beat Skye in a 1 on 1 fight but unfortunately she tends to turn her back during battle a whole lot and just underestimate everyone. This really ends up leading to her downfall at times. He’s not really my kind of villain. The guy whines a whole lot and doesn’t really seem to know when he’s being manipulated. He just talks with a lot more confidence than you would expect considering his lack of power but I guess relative to most of the case he is pretty tough.

John Garrett shows up again and I have to say I liked this new version of him quite a lot. The guy can teleport now and has endless confidence. He returns every one of Coulson’s subtle digs and one liners with a counter of his own which is nice. You want to see a villain be able to dish it out like that. This whole thing is more of a game to him compared to the others though so he does panic a bit when things are coming to the end. I still have him as the best villain in the season though.

Sibyl has a big role of course but you can’t help but feel that she ruined everything for the villain. The Chronicoms have time travel at their disposal and crazy high tech options. Why couldn’t they just blow up the planet or something like the hunters suggested? Sibyl kept saying that they had to follow her plan exactly since she can see the future but at the end all that did was put the villains in a bad spot time and time again. Things would have been a lot better if they had just ignored her. So she’s a fun villain but she overthinks everything.

Finally we have Kora, but she was not very good. My main issue with her is that she was very wishy washy about which side to be on. She was quick to turn evil and then to turn around again and again. She also wasn’t very smart with how she handled her final scenes. I remember in one cliffhanger when she hugged the villain a lot of people were waiting for her to suddenly stab him or something but then it just never happened. There’s a lot more the series could have done with Kora if you ask me. I liked her confidence and swagger, she just never followed up on it.

Naturally there are a bunch of other characters in the series overall but these are at least a bunch of the big ones. With 130+ episodes it makes sense that there’s time for a lot of them. Especially since as a live action series the episode lengths are double that of a normal show so this is more like reviewing something that’s 260 episodes long. It’s still quite impressive that it lasted so long. In general that’s just quite the feat. I also thought the show wrapped up quite nicely with the final season. They had a lot of fun with it and explored some nice concepts.

So at the end of the day, why does this show lose out? Well, in particular with the earlier seasons like 2-4, the series decided to get really gritty. You had characters being tortured numerous times, surgery on screen while the character is still conscious, and things like that. The show liked to make the villains appear as big threats by making them as evil and sinister as possible. It’s just the way the show would usually handle this. So it would go for being violent as well as dark/tragic. I would say in the final seasons, especially the very last one this got dialed back a bit but there would be moments like this in every season. You were never truly going to escape the violent nature of the show. Even the final season had the buzzsaw robots which were incredibly over the top to the point where it was more of a spoof than anything.

In that regard Agents of Shield is a show that’s more like Attack on Titan. It’s entertaining while watching it but it can never escape the core issues that doom it to a low score. Typically if you’re a long running title your odds of surviving moments here and there are increased because you can have so many positive moments that you drown out the bad ones. For example, if you’re only 13 episodes and have a horrible episode, that will hurt more than having 8 bad episodes out of 136. It’s all relative of course and you hope that even at its worst a show will never go bottom of the barrel. Shield never gets awful I would say but what hurts is the frequency of these moments. It got to a point in some seasons where you could expect this to happen every episode. I recall Whitehall’s season being the most violent at least back in the day. The Inhumans and the whole cyber season could be up there too though.

So violence is the main thing against the show. In a combat setting you can give it a bit more leeway but when you get to the torture and non combatants being thrown into this then it gets to be a bit much. On a much less severe note, the show also has a ton of rebound romances as it goes on. Throughout the series you can’t possibly take any romance seriously because of how they keep shuffling. Skye had affairs with Ward, her tech co-worker, Deke, and Lincoln at the very least. I think that was it at least. May had Coulson and Ward, but I could swear there is a third guy in there somewhere. Then you have Yo-Yo going with Mack as well as some other guy although I forget that expendable’s name. Simmons was with Fitz and some random guy she met on the moon, etc. Basically everyone in the show tends to be quick to fall for multiple characters so even by the end when they presumably find their true romance you may roll your eyes at that.

The Fitz and Simmons plot gets a ton of screen time for example and I can never buy into it. I mean, it doesn’t help that both characters are some of the worst in the series though. Fitz and Simmons continued to surprise me with how bad they were the whole time. Each season would bring them to a new low and they both had a similar plot line of going off the deep end. I suppose they match up in that sense but yeah I definitely was not feeling this story from start to finish.

It’s usually most convenient for guest stars since they don’t have time for more than one. For example at least Hunter and Bobbi always stayed consistent. It was definitely sad to see them go since they did add a lot to the team’s dynamic while they were there. So Agents of Shield can’t really get away from the romance angle and there’s a whole lot of it. I gather that’s pretty much a requirement for live action shows or pretty much most shows in general but with such a long running direction then it’s bound to add up after a while. The writing was usually pretty solid though. We got a lot of nice interactions during the show and pretty quality one liners. It’s pretty fun to see the first episode of the show again and then compare it to the ending. I ended up checking out the very first two episodes again just to see the contrast. The show started out very upbeat and fairly low key with a lot of practical effects and everything was down to earth. Then by the end you have the heroes hopping across dimensions and all having super powers so it was really quite the journey. It feels pretty natural as you go through though.

I would say the show is at its best when the gang is having fun with some solid action scenes thrown in which is why I would probably put the first and last seasons as the best ones. Still, it did a good job of shifting genres for each impending threat. The show also did a good job with the season cliffhangers. Each season would usually end with something crazy like the reveal of a new director or a cutaway to the far future where everything has gone crazy. It always made for a pretty hype way to await the next season. Good cliffhangers are always crucial for a long running title like this.

Overall, Agents of SHIELD is one of the only long running live action series that I’ve watched from start to finish. Aside from The Office, Ultraman, and Agent Carter I can’t think of any completed series where that is the case. I’ve seen a ton of episodes for old classics like Twilight Zone, Odd Couple, and I Love Lucy but not in a start to finish kind of thing. It’s pretty rare in general and I’m definitely more of an anime/cartoon guy but live action titles definitely have their own charm. With today’s effects they can basically be like watching a movie that just keeps on going and going. I wouldn’t be able to recommend the show myself as there are too many moments where you’ll be shaking your head. If you like watching the Marvel films though and want something to binge through as 2021 continues to roll then this is a pretty good option. It gets quite a bit darker than the films but there’s also a lot of light hearted episodes and comedy thrown in so that may balance it out. It should definitely last you a while even at top speed.

Overall 3/10

Fruits Basket Season 2 Review


Fruits Basket has returned and really picks up right where it left off. To the point where it can be easy to mix up events from both seasons so won’t have any trouble getting into the action. The first season was definitely pretty solid. It was a good slice of life drama with Tohru helping quite a lot of characters deal with their issues. Ultimately she helped a lot but was not able to actually fix their circumstances quite yet. In this season Tohru works even more to find out about the Zodiac curse. It does feel like we’re approaching the end here as several characters have effectively completed their character arc now. It won’t be much longer until they are all set.

It’s a bit hard to give this show a direct plot synopsis though. There are a ton of little mini arcs here and even stand alone episodes since so many characters have their own subplots at work. I suppose the basic premise is about Tohru finally deciding to end the curse but not being sure exactly how to do that. After all, all of the Sohma family members want to break the curse but it’s still around and they haven’t found out much of anything about it. It’s not the kind of curse you can just snap in an instant after all. So in lieu of a more general plot synopsis I’ll talk about some of the mini arcs in general.

In season 2 the student council gets more of a role which is fun. Their episodes with Yuki are always a lot of fun and make for a pretty solid meanwhile plot. Of the members naturally the leader Manabe is the best one but the group as a whole works well. First you have Sakuragi who gets the smallest role of the group and is probably the least friendly. He gets worked up a lot more than the others and just doesn’t appreciate all of the shenanigans going on. He thinks the student council should be working like a well oiled machine but I can say now I don’t think that was ever part of the plan.

Then you have Kimi who basically just likes flirting with everyone for fun. She’s a pretty cheerful character who gives the council a lot of energy. Kimi is pretty charismatic so whenever she is around the scene tends to be fun. Then there is Machi who is having a tough time with this gig. She’s not exactly one of the more outgoing members of the group. She tends to stay silent and keep to herself at all times. She gets her own plot in this season as we see her backstory and she starts to get past this. Machi is a solid enough character.

Then we have Manabe and that guy’s just a blast. Pretty much every scene is him proving why he should be the Council President. He’s the leader but technically Yuki has that job. Manabe is able to defuse pretty much any situation really quickly. He likes to take life on the fast lane and doesn’t really worry about things the way Yuki does. Manabe just goes with the flow and has a lot of fun in the process. He’s also around to listen whenever Yuki needs to talk about things. It’s clear that Manabe is a lot more intelligent than he allows others to believe and just acts in whatever role will help the other succeed. He has quickly become the best character in the series. The guy’s role may be smaller than most of the Zodiac members but he does well with it.

The Student Council episodes serve as development for the members but also for Yuki. While Machi is slowly going through her character realizations, Yuki is also coming to terms with his life. He finally realizes the truth about how he views Tohru which is nice. Not a lot of series deal with this but just because you think you might be in love with someone doesn’t mean you are. Now, he does mention faking it for some scenes but I’m not sure I quite buy that. I think he just didn’t really realize it until this point. It’s similar to the hero scenario where someone saves your life so you think you are in love with them now. I’d say in a lot of action movies this happens unironically with the character never realizing it. Yuki going in a different direction is likely the biggest event of the season and in a way I would say Yuki’s plot is now 100% closed. He has come to terms with his parents, his brother, Kyo, and Tohru. Even his relationship with Akito is basically finalized now. They’re not exactly friends, nor will they ever be but I’d say they have both said their piece at this point.

Naturally Kyo gets a lot of attention as well. He’s gone to the point where he has completely decided not to let anyone in his life. Kyo’s not quite as battle hungry as he was in season 1 either which also shows how he has been improving. Yuki doesn’t set him off the way he used to and Kyo’s a little more okay with acting nice to Tohru. Of course the two still occasionally fight and Tohru’s always ready to break it up. Kyo’s seeing things from a different lens now and it works well. Of course he still does have his aggressive personality such as giving everyone a tough time at the play but after all of the grumbling he still heads in to do his part. At the end of the day Kyo is someone you can count on and from the main guys I still think he’s a more enjoyable character than Yuki. Both are strong characters with deep character arcs, but I’d just say Kyo’s consistently won out.

Tohru appears constantly so it goes without saying that she gets more screen time and development here. The show is now at the point where it has enough characters that she doesn’t have to appear at all moments but she is still the lead for a reason. We finally found out who actually gave her the cap as a child even if she doesn’t know. Tohru gets to be very proactive in this season as she actively heads to the Sohma estate and does a lot of ground work for the investigation. It’s always nice to see because you shouldn’t wait for the answers to come to you. In a case like this with everyone trying to hide the truth, that means you’re going to need to ask some of the tough questions.

Shigure continues to troll everyone and hide a lot of what he knows. While I always appreciate the fact that he is the only character who ever talks back to Akito and mess with the villain, you can’t call him a good guy by any stretch. By this point Shigura’s inaction is just becoming antagonistic to the point where he doesn’t have anyone’s back. He basically gets in the way of the investigation as well. His poor editor doesn’t show up much this time but he’s not exactly reliable as an author either. At least he gives the main characters a place to stay I suppose.

Arisa and Saki don’t get to do much this time around. As Tohru’s friends they do maintain a presence here of course but that’s about it. Arisa has her whole troubled romance plot still going but it seems like that will be resolved in the third season. We do get some moments on it here though like Arisa finally breaking down and begging Kureno to come back. Kureno has a pretty big role in this season though as we see exactly why he continues to put distance between them. As a Sohma he has his own drama to deal with after all. He is the one always with Akito so as it is the guy doesn’t have a whole lot of freedom. Unfortunately I would have to say that he is one of the worst members of the group. Precisely because of the fact that he could be helping out a ton.

A lot of the Sohma are in pretty tough spaces. There’s not a whole lot they could do to help their situations. Throughout the series they get the strength needed to make their situation better but it was an uphill battle. In Kureno’s case you really can’t compare his trials to the others. He basically makes things tougher on himself but he reasonably could have done a whole lot. I also don’t buy into his reasoning for staying and being shackled. He should have at least told everyone what he knew. Kureno was also in a good position to prevent Akito from going off the deep end by using his avenue to escape as leverage. The guy didn’t do any of that so I definitely did not like him in the slightest.

A pair of characters who got a pretty big role here were Rin and Hatsuharu. Rin basically missed season 1 so this was her chance to make a name for herself. She basically starts off by dumping Hatsu, insulting Tohru, and threatening Shigure so it’s a solid start. She wants to end the curse at any cost but insists on doing it alone. She’s built a wall between herself and the rest of the Sohma. Rin does deserve some credit for getting out from under Akito’s gaze though. The villain basically doesn’t mess with her anymore which has to be great. Unfortunately Akito did catch her back in the day through a flashback which leads to Rin not doing so well. Once again, Akito just looks way too good.

While Rin has a suitably tragic backstory like everyone else, I do think she took things way too far at every opportunity. Hatsu was a great ally so just pushing him and everyone else away like she did felt pretty forced. Rin just made a lot of unnecessary steps the whole time. She would have been a much more likable character if she had pushed everyone else away but stayed with Hatsu. I feel like that would have made more sense. As for Hatsuharu, he’s definitely a very loyal guy. He’s still got Rin’s back even after all of this. He’s also a good friend to Yuki in this season as he offers a lot of advice the whole time. He tends to be more of a low key character but one who gets the job done.

Naturally we can’t forget about Akito. I have to go on a bit of a tangent here as this is the one part of the show I still can’t buy into. Akito is a seriously ill person who is on death’s door all the time. Akito can barely even more or anything for long before going down with coughs. Yet, every character is deathly afraid of Akito. They all freeze up and allow themselves to be physically assaulted without trying to resist. Tohru got her face scratched, Yuki got a glass slammed on his head, Rin was pushed off a building, Hatori got his eye cut out, etc. Even Kyo allows himself to be pushed around. Whenever Akito talks the rest of the cast suddenly act like they’re Shaggy in a Scooby Doo film with how they tremble and whimper. Akito’s just flat out not that tough.

It’s also worth noting that the Sohma family is incredibly strong politically but it’s not like they will use any physical violence against you. So the characters don’t have to worry about that. They just really overexaggerate this part. You can make the case that this is part of the curse which has power over them but I also don’t buy into that being the case. The characters will occasionally act defensive when something hits a nerve but then go back into getting wrecked mode. The worst instance of this with Akito scarring Tohru while Yuki and Kyo just watched. To date that’s the worst scene in the franchise to be honest.

I have to retroactively take credit away from Kyo and Yuki here as in my season 1 review I wrote that I’m sure they would be able to get over their fear of Akito if it was to protect Tohru. Apparently that was not the case. Akito still continues to dominate everyone but this scene was horrible for both of those characters. Just standing by while she was attacked because they were afraid is the kind of move you don’t want to see any quality character have. It’s not like I’ll say they are bad characters as a result of that but I definitely did lose a lot of respect for them there. Tohru was basically left to fend for herself and it would have been even worse if not for Momoji and Kureno. We learn Akito’s backstory here but none of it makes the character any more likable or sympathetic. Ever since Akito was a child, dealing out pain was always priority number 1. So when you consider that, it still makes Kureno look even worse for not doing anything to correct this path. If the show tries going down the road of redeeming Akito that will definitely be a tough task to accomplish.

Hatori doesn’t get much to do in this season. He mainly reminds Shigure not to do anything crazy. Likewise Kagura and Ayame already got a lot of their character development. It was nice to see Ayame help out with the costumes and such for the festival/play. Ayame is a character who always comes through so you can appreciate that. He may not have done great back in Yuki’s origin but the fact that he continues to try and improve on this is the important thing. Momoji has a quick episode where we get to meet his sister but due to Sohma rules she can never know the truth about them. It’s definitely one of those tragic things but at least if they can continue to meet and stay on friendly terms, Momoji should be able to tell her in a few years once the trouble has died down.

Two common themes in most of the character arcs here is forgiveness and redemption. All of these characters either dealt with relatives or friends who were quite cruel to them originally and have to try and let go of their grudges or starting out not being a great person and trying to come to terms with that. The show balances out the emotions quite well. While on the whole I’d always say Fruits Basket is a pretty light hearted series, it knows when to get serious. You can go from episodes of the characters smashing watermelons or visiting the beach to characters contemplating suicide or being stuck in isolation for large periods of time which permanently scarred their psyche. Sometimes you have an episode that combined both such as the beach visit where everything is super happy until Akito makes a surprise visit to attack Tohru and just embarrass Yuki/Kyo. When a character is having an important moment they are able to do so with a somber tune playing in the background and fairly downcast colors. It’s part of why a character like Manabe can really shine here since he’s great at reading emotions and acts accordingly.

The writing is on point here as well so the origin stories don’t get boring or anything like that. Of course I’ll always have my issues with the Akito stuff and a lot of the characters just not doing anything to actively make their situation better. All that considered, it’s worth saying that Fruits Basket never drags on which is really important. A lesser series would have definitely crumbled under this kind of weight. Either focusing too much on the drama or making things overly sad to the point where the characters don’t have a happy ending or it doesn’t outweigh the past. The series always addresses the past but doesn’t dwell on it which is an important distinction I’d say. For example while Yuki shares his past with Manabe, we get to cut to the present time quite a bit where a soccer game is going on and they have some nice banter. It’s a nice contrast there.

Fruits Basket has quality animation as you would expect. All of the scenery is on point and the character designs are good. The whole thing is fairly low key as the show isn’t doing anything crazy to show the animation off but it always looks consistent. You won’t be finding anything off model or low budget here. It’s just all on point as you would expect it to be. For the soundtrack of course you have a lot of emotional themes here. I would say they are pretty good although it would be difficult for me to remember specific ones off the top of my head.

Overall, Fruits Basket Season 2 continues to move the series along at a good pace. There is a ton of ground that gets covered in these 20+ episodes as every character got to have some time to shine. It’s still hard for me to take Akito seriously and everyone constantly bowing to him can really be something else. With Tohru as a quality lead throughout I can only assume that season 3 will continue the solid streak of seasons for Fruits Basket and end things off on a high note. Even though the Student Council plots all seem to be complete, I’m hoping they still get another episode. Manabe just steals the show and their episodes tend to be some of the most entertaining ones in the whole anime. Fruits Basket has definitely been a really solid adaption of the manga, making the story a lot more interesting in this format. It’ll be a shame to see it go but maybe not Fruits Basket Another will finally be able to get an anime adaption of its own like everyone has been waiting for.

Overall 7/10

Astra Lost in Space Review


I remember reading the manga for Astra a while back and it was a lot of fun. It’s not every day that you get a space exploration manga like this. It’s sort of like an anime version of Star Trek only all the exploration is for one singular purpose of getting back home. Part of what really makes the series succeed is the quality character roster. I like almost all of the characters and even the weakest ones still bring something to the table. The story here is very character focused so if the writing wasn’t on point or if the characters were forgettable then this could have easily been rather lackluster. Instead, it’s a great anime that I could easily recommend.

The series starts off with a group of kids getting ready for a field trip to space. Aries is excited for this since she can make some new friends. The trip almost comes to a screeching halt when a pickpocket steals her bag but Kanata shows up to foil this theft and introduces himself as the captain. The other kids don’t agree with this proclamation but quickly allow him to take the title. The heroes do some exploring on the first planet but before they can head home a black hole sucks them up. Fortunately a spaceship was nearby and the heroes manage to get inside. They are now many light years away from home. Their only chance to get back it to go from planet to planet grabbing supplies and doing what they can to survive. There’s only one problem…this was no accident. One member of the crew is attempting to murder everyone on board.

Including the bit about a murderer on board really helps to take the series to the next level. It’s just a great plot line because it also gives you extra reason to really look at each character. Every character gets at least an episode to themselves and they all have distinctive personalities. None of them appear to have a motive but of course they’ve only just met each other so technically they don’t even know a whole lot. Each character could easily have a motive here. This extra layer of danger is always present on the journey which changes this from potentially being more of a slice of life to a high stakes adventure. You’re always assuming that the murderer will help out while the heroes are stranded in space but of course at any time this could change. With that said, lets talk about all of the characters.

First we have the fearless leader Kanata. He’s a world class athlete who doesn’t believe in giving up. A friend of his died a long time ago when he fell off a cliff and Kanata wasn’t strong enough to hold on. He blames himself for this even now and it’s his motivation for becoming strong. He has a lot of survival tips and sayings that he utters throughout the series. They’re all rather basic so the other characters make fun of him but at the same time they are quite true. Kanata’s easily the best character in the series and that’s always the ideal situation for a show. When your main character is great then the show’s already off to a brilliant start. Is all this bravado and heroism just an act to bump everyone off?

Then you have Aries who is the main heroine. She can be a bit of a space case at times and her main quirk if that she sometimes can’t hear what someone says and instead thinks they said something that rhymes with it. Like if a character tells her “Go get some help” she might think they said “Go and fry some kelp” which leads to some tricky situations. It doesn’t happen very often though. She has a photographic memory and wants to be friends with everyone so she is always very nice to all of the characters. Aries is a fun character and is quite useful on the team. Having a photographic memory is no small potatoes after all. Of course that ability would also make it easy to systematically take down every character.

Next up is Luca. He’s got a quick wit and likes having fun with the rest of the characters. He’s the only person who can easily approach Ulgar. He quickly figures everyone out and as a result is able to connect with everyone. Luca’s got a pretty sunny disposition but of course that could just be his way of coping with guilt for blowing everyone up. Luca’s definitely a solid character, you really want to have someone like that on your team to keep people from feeling too tense or anything like that.

Following Luca is Charce. He’s really into science and all of the foreign wildlife in these planets is fascinating to him. Charce is a good cook and just a man of many talents. He can also be a bit of a flirt at times. From the main characters I would say he is one of the weaker ones. The science angle isn’t quite as interesting as some of the other character quirks. Of course by cooking a lot of the meals he could potentially poison everyone so that’s something the gang will have to take into account.

After Charce is Zack. Zack is the genius member of the group. He remains rather emotionless at all times and is ready to repair whatever gets broken. He tends to find out a lot of the clues for the mystery going on and always reports to Kanata. Of course discovering the clues should not make him any less of a suspect as it could be a way to deflect suspicion. Zack makes for a very solid right hand man to Kanata and may be the most important member of the crew. He’s definitely a very high quality character and the show wouldn’t be the same without him. It’s nice to have a genius character who isn’t a jerk or anything the whole time and is actually quite reliable when it counts.

Quitterie is the next heroine on the ship. She’s definitely more aggressive than Aries and being friends with everyone isn’t her goal in the slightest. She has a colder disposition to the rest of the crew initially including her younger sister. Quitterie just isn’t good with people so she always has a wall around her emotions and is quick to dish out insults. You can probably guess how her character arc will go and she is a very necessary member of the crew. You always need a character like her to balance out all the super friendly ones. She just tells it like it is and serves as the ship’s doctor. Of course that means it would be easy to give people the wrong treatment intentionally.

Then there’s her younger sister Funicia. While she may seem too young to be a suspect, that could be what she wants you to think. She also has a toy bear she talks through which always acts a little meaner. Based on the show’s explanation it seems like the Bear acts out her thoughts which explains the different personality but at times you get the feeling Funicia is just messing with everyone. She’s a charming little kid and doesn’t get in the way you might expect one too. That’s the main reason why she is pretty fun here. She does her best to contribute. She may get in trouble at times, but who doesn’t on this ship right?

Ulgar changes things up and makes Quitterie look nice in comparison. This guy gets set off by anything and doesn’t even want to talk to the other characters. He makes it clear that he’ll only help out when it’s life or death. Of course there are 100 reasons to suspect him but one big thing against that would be that it may feel too obvious. Ulgar is a solid character and I enjoyed him on the show. He talks a good game but I wouldn’t say he’s ever overly mean or anything. The closest is when he piles on Yun-Hua with everyone else and you wish she would speak up a bit. Ulgar helps keep the crew on edge.

Speaking of Yun-Hua, she would have to be the weakest character in the series. Her main gimmick is that she’s super timid and is afraid to ever speak up. She feels like she has no particular talents and this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy as her hesitant nature causes her to mess up at times. Perhaps she wants to bump everyone off so that she will have accomplished something. By the end of the series I don’t feel like she ever really left a big impact though. Even her big moment basically involved singing while everyone else did the work. I wouldn’t go as far as to call her a bad character but I admit that I just didn’t like her. Substituting her with another person for the final member would have worked out well.

There’s one other important character in Paulina, but she doesn’t appear until near the end of the series. She’s a nice enough character. I wouldn’t say she does enough to really leave much of an impact though and is mainly here for some more plot twists. Paulina may panic a little too much with her fainting spells though. You can cut her some slack for just being really surprised I guess. Eh, she’s basically just around so she doesn’t change much of anything in the dynamic.

Naturally we do get some meanwhile scenes on Earth. You have the classic round table meeting type scenes with a bunch of the hype characters. These discussions were always very interesting and naturally they are quite crucial to the plot. You definitely need them around and this is one time where I didn’t mind when we would cut away from the main plot. For a mystery like this you want to see other points of view so this worked out quite well. The parents of the kids naturally have to appear as well and this was a good way to do it. Naturally Kanata’s father was the most interesting member of the group to me. The guy just has a very cool disposition.

The show also did a good job with its pacing here. Pretty much every episode ends with some kind of plot twist. As a result there is a final scene (Like a movie’s after credits scene) quite often where the twist is unveiled. You may feel bad for Kanata in each case as it almost always happens when he’s getting ready for bed. I haven’t seen a show consistently dish out so many hype twists like this in each episode before so it was quite nice. This show was just built really well for the 12 episode format. It pretty much lines up perfectly with each episode.

As for the animation, it’s pretty good. There aren’t a lot of chances for the animation to really shine for a show like this since it isn’t very action packed of course, but the character designs are on point and the level backdrops work well too. There’s definitely nothing to really say against it. The soundtrack is relatively low key. You won’t be finding any standout tunes here but nothing holding it back here. It’s basically just a sci-fi 101 kind of ost.

I already talked about the writing and naturally it is great. The question is, was it enough to make you sympathize with the traitor once that person was outed? Well, I would say no. To me the traitor still loses a lot of points in the end. I can more or less get over the original attempt from episode 1 because the character didn’t really know the others yet and the backstory covers this really well. I can’t overlook the issues from the last episodes though. By that point the traitor has absolutely no reason to go through with this particularly because of everything they know at this point. The character would have been redeemed in my eyes if they had just admitted to the whole thing or even not made any more attempts. Let the whole thing be a secret to the end. So acting on this and trying to murder everyone again is why this character was no good.

With as many plot twists running around as Astra had, naturally you may not be able to buy into all of them. For me there was just one that I find to be super sketchy. Lets just say it involves historical revisions. The sheer scale of this one just makes it impractical to me to the point of being impossible. If it was hundreds of years or something then I can buy into it as things can easily be suppressed in a long enough period of time. It was all too recent for it to be this complete though. I think the only way it would work out is if we were introduced to the world as some kind of closed off dictatorship where information is heavily funneled. That would then work out quite nicely because even in modern days we see that countries or areas where information is regulated leads to a lot of misinformation. It wouldn’t be beyond the pale for this to happen here. The issue is that Astra’s land functions as a very well run place with a lot of safety and access to information. They can bump people off when they find out the truth but they would have to have done it a lot more often. So, I don’t really buy into this twist but I wouldn’t say that it hurts the show either.

Each planet was fairly different which helped the adventure angle. So you could look forward to the heroes hanging out at the ship but also all the unique dangers that each planet would bring. Whether it would be not having enough food to survive or giant plant monsters trying to eat everyone. The show always had a good contrast going which was nice to see. The episodes just really fly by because they’re all just very interesting. It makes for being a very complete show and one that could have easily been stretched into 26 episodes and I’m sure it would have worked out quite nicely.

Overall, Astra Lost In Space is definitely a great anime. Fitting in a classic adventure story with a good deal of mystery is always a good idea. The genres support each other really well and you’ve got an engaging watch here which is really what you were hoping to find. It’s a self contained anime that you can really watch at any time so I’d recommend it to fans of all genres. Of course I’d be down for a sequel even though there aren’t any real loose plot threads left. Just seeing the characters again would be fun and with space exploration there is naturally a whole lot that you could do with it if you really wanted too. We can see how Kanata would handle future situations.

Overall 8/10