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Assassin’s Pride (anime review)

Title Assassin’s Pride: Complete Collection

Director: Kazuya Aiura

Screenplay Writer: Deko Akao

Music: MONACA

Studio: EMT Squared

U. S. Release Date: Nov. 24th, 2020

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Magical Powers

Age Rating: 14+

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Against the savage monsters that lurk outside the glass walls of Flandore, the last remnants of humanity have only one defense: the mana magic wielded only by members of the Noble class. When Melida, heiress to House of Angel, fails to manifest her magic upon reaching majority, the half-vampire Kufa is sent with orders from her own Grandfather to resolve the issue… and if Melida cannot manifest mana, Kufa is to execute her for the crime of impure blood.

But when Melida fails the test, Kufa can’t bring himself to kill the spirited young woman whose only fault was to have an adulterous mother. And so, instead, he commits the crime of giving Melida some of his own mana. Now, bound by magic and a deadly secret, the two must work together in order to stay alive!

Commentary:

In the cacophony of magical romantic anime made over the years Assassin’s Pride doesn’t really stand out as a top series, but it does manage to come out on above average. There is a lot to take in with this series and in many ways the writer tried way to hard to make Melida a pitiful sympathetic creature. With Melida being plagued with a lifetime of disappointment and a family that fails to care except about appearance and power, she has the very typical lack of any self confidence and an over poor view of herself.

As the viewer you are set up right off the bat being expected to sympathize with Kufa and his plight. At first I wanted him to follow through with his job, but as the series progressed I began to care more about both Kufa and Melida. This change of heart made the series much more enjoyable.

Overall Grade: B+

Assassin’s Pride does find a way to make me want to follow along, but it did take several episodes for me to get there. I found the writing to be a little flat and overly simplistic at time, but in the end it managed to come through for me.

The overall animation production was solid and a tad above average for a small series like this. At least I understand why Sentai put the money up to have it dubbed. The voice action also managed to provide a reason to like the series even if it didn’t stand out as outstanding.

Once all the parts are put together Assassin’s Pride manages to get a B+ just for an overall solid series. There is my obvious weakness for these simple romantic series that takes a cold heart and helps it find humanity for the right reason.

Val X Love (anime review)

Title: Val X Love: Complete Collection

Director: Takashi Naoya

Screenplay Writer: Tatsuya Takahashi

Music: TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND

Studio: Hoods Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: Nov. 17th, 2020

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Fan Service, Comedy, Harem

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: C+

Synopsis:

Takuma Akutsu is not an attractive guy. In fact, his hulking size and ugly face have earned him the nickname “demon”, which is ironic since all he really wants is to be left alone. But you know who never pays attention to what people want? The King of the Gods, Odin, who decides that Takuma is the one person who can save Earth from complete destruction.

As a result, Takuma finds his school, class and home all infiltrated by Odin’s nine luscious Valkyrie daughters and, in order to become the Army of One that Odin seeks, Takuma has to use love to forge the Valkyrie’s maidenly powers into the ultimate force for saving the world. Yeah, no pressure there, right? Can Takuma man up and ride all nine Valkyries to save the Earth?

Commentary:

As harem anime go this is as basic a series as you can find. The basis of the story is unremarkable and the execution is average at best. In the first episode I understood what was going to happen and with little exception I was not surprised. I understand who the audience is and why there is such a strong following for these harem series, but I fail to understand why there are so many average series made. It is as if the writers can’t think of anything that would make the story more interesting and the directors have no idea how to push the production and creation to higher levels.

I have become a little more jaded and think that series like Val X Love is only about a quick money grab. While watching the series I found myself reimagining it in so many different ways that I found myself distracted by my own thoughts. This discraction never bodes well for any show that wants to keep your attention.

Overall Grade: C+

The only strong point to the series is the overall production quality. I found the animation to be a little better than I would expect for a simple harem anime like Val X Love. The fact that it was so very clear what was about to expire once the first episode aired I just had a hard time keeping my focus and found the earlier episodes very tedious. It wasn’t until the later episodes that I was more entertained and thought that there was some real redemption.

If basic harem anime are your sweet spot then Val X Love is a winner for you. If you are looking for something that will give you something more than the simple story Val X Love provides then you should look elsewhere.

Val X Love is a textbook example of a harem anime and should be watched as something meant to provide the standard trope that goes along with that story line.

The Demon Girl Next Door (Anime Review)

Title: The Demon Girl Next Door complete collection

Director: Atsuko Ishizuka

Original work written by: Izumo Ito

Studio: J. C. Staff

Director: Hiroaki Sakurai

U. S. Distributor: Sentai

U. S. Release Date: September 1, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, High school Magical Girl

Age Rating: TV 14+

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

Yuko Yoshida may be an over the top dramatic and bumbling high school girl, but when she wakes up one morning having grown horns and a tail she can rise to the challenge… or not. Her mom tells her the family history, they are descendants of a dark clan and it is now Yuko’s task to restore the clans’s honor. The major requirement is to defeat a magical girl. And she has to figure out how to find one.

Ok, so in the modern world a girl still needs to go to school, horns or not. As fate would have it, on the way to school, another student, Momo Chiyoda, saves the day, because she is indeed a magical girl.

With the target defined, Yuko sets herself to accomplishing the task. But wow, is she gullible and Momo is patient and very good at the art of manipulation. Stuck together in the ancient journey, the line between competitors and friends might not be as clear as expected in their intertwined (twisted) fate.

Comentary:

The Demon Girl Next Door is a comedy all the way. There is plenty of attention played to multiple layers of humor, from word choices, music, situations, reactions, characters and more. Knowledge of anime, cultural and historical concepts are helpful and will make it all the funnier, but it is not totally necessary. After all, if you seen enough of magical girls, then you would understand the humor behind theory that the more skin is exposed in a transformation outfit, the stronger the power.

The anime commonly uses naive acceptance of bizarre situations to be funny. Dry humor mixed with enthusiasm. As a example, Yuko walks into school with horns for the first time and everyone thinks it’s cool or interesting. Or she admits she needs to “find and muderize a magical girl” without considering that it is weird. Yuko comes from an eternally upbeat family gone silly.

I really enjoyed the thoughtful music support. It was very well done and I encourage you to notice it now and then. It was entertaining on its own, varied and upbeat and blended with the multifarious sound effects. The piano work combined with the other instruments set the tones and scenes, and even described characters. It never fails to be a positive force in the anime.

Visually, it was also fun to watch. Plenty of color, nothing weird about the characters’ looks to be distracting. There were many techniques to keep everything interesting and clever, it never felt like a short cut was taken just to get it done. The special effects did their job well to illustrate emotions or altered physical states, one of the biggest pluses in anime story telling.

It was not the solid ending I was hoping for, it was open ended as if their future goes on. Still, it was a strong ending, kind of like hope that maybe there will be another season, but just as fine if there isn’t. Not everything needs to be resolved.

I found The Demon Girl Next Door to be a fun anime to watch with enough layers to make it a bit more than ordinary comedy.

Audio is English or Japanese.

Beautiful Bones: Saurako’s Investigation (anime review)

Title: Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation on Blu-ray

Director: Makoto Katō

Screenplay Writer: Takayo Ikami

Studio: Troyca

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Re-release Date: Oct. 6th, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Drama

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Most young women have lots of obsessions, but Sakurako Kujo only has two: work and bones… and since the bones are part of her work, it really comes down to just bones. However, in between collecting de-fleshed animal and human remains for her studies, Sakurako also assists the local police as a forensic consultant, where she’s developed a formidable reputation as both a corpse magnet and detective.

Assisting her in these tasks is young Shotaro Tatewaki, who is no slouch at sleuthing himself, though his primary task is to keep Sakurako focused (and keep her from occasionally “borrowing” a particularly interesting specimen). If there’s a bone to pick, a stray skull to be found, or a random skeleton hidden in a closet, you can trust this team to unearth the evidence in Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation.

Commentary:

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation is a wonderful revival of a 2015 series that was much underappreciated. The story of Sakurako and her ability to understand the crime based solely on the bone or forensics is wonderful to watch. Allowing Shotaro to introduce us to Sakurako is a smart move. It takes us from being average individuals to being brought into a world of a special foresight and understanding of the nature of the world around us.

The strength of the series is the enigmatic Sakurako and her cold nature that gives us a mystery and allows us to follow along for the ride. I do wish they would have made Shotari a little less naive, but his persona plays off well with Sakurako.

Overall Grade: A-

The fact that this is a re-release of a series that came out several years ago is a little sad, but I hope that the reintroduction will allow for a new group of viewers to find it. Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation is a strong series that could only become better if it would have had another season that completed the story that is created in the light novels.

The animation is very good and the voice acting is done with a solid understanding of the characters needs, but much of the series is lost with so much of the focus on Sakurako. The writing and direction was a little narrow.

So, if you are looking for a wonderfully rich drama for this halloween season but don’t care for horror then Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation should be at the top of your list.

Wasteful Days Of High School Girls (anime review)

Title: Wasteful Days Of High School Girls on Blu-ray

Director: Takeo Takahashi (Chief), Hijiri Sanpei

Screenplay Writer: Masahiro Yokotani

Studio: Passione

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Sept. 22nd, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Absurdity

Age Rating: TV 14 +

Overall personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Tanaka Nozomu isn’t exactly brilliant. But, given that her only goal for high school was to get a boyfriend, who else would fail to realize that attending an all-girls school was a bad idea? Well, there’s always the fallback plan of getting other girls to introduce her to boys they know.

Too bad that Tanaka’s “bright” idea of giving her classmates nicknames based on less attractive character traits has caused her un-flattered friends “Robo” (for her apparent lack of emotions) and “Wota” (a reference to a creepy otaku types), as well as not-friends like “Loli” (who’s hypersensitive about her petite size,) to “reward” Tanaka with the special nickname of “Baka” (“idiot”), which is quickly adopted by the entire student body. Well, maybe the second week of school will be better.

Commentary:

Wasteful Days Of High School Girls is a very funny series that gives us a great view of the minds of some very unique high school girls. I have to admit that there are plenty of moments that I found somewhat taxing and annoying. With that said, I did find the series worth watching and there are plenty of smiles and out loud laughs to be had.

The one character that I had the most difficulty with is Tanaka. She is that hyper active self centered friend that we all know and would love to send her home without delay. On the other hand Tanaka does drive the series forward and provides some of the best moments. All together she is the best and worst of the series.

Overall Grade: B+

As much as I love these quirky, funny anime I found Wasteful Days Of High School Girls a bit uncomfortable from time to time. It is very reminiscent of Daily Lives of High School Boys and almost as funny. I know that many might disagree with that opinion, but I think that there was plenty of opportunity missed.

The writing was reasonably solid and the production level feel generic and property for the series. The point of Wasteful Days Of High School Girls is to create laughs and give us the a picture of the young ladies and the things that motivate them a high school girls.

If you want some laughs and cringe worthy moments then you really want to check out Wasteful Days Of High School Girls.

Z/X Code Reunion (anime review)

Title: Z/X Code Reunion: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Yoshifumi Sueda

Writer: Tatsuhiko Urahata

Studio: Passione

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Sept. 15th, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Girl Power, Fan Service, Game Derivatet

Age Rating: TV 14+

Overall Personal Rating: C+

Synopsis:

Years ago, interdimensional gates opened across our world, allowing beings from five warring dimensions to expand their battles to the Earth. Now amidst an uneasy peace, some humans are entering into pacts with the Z/X. For one young woman this is a simple choice: Azumi Kakamigahara can sign a pact with the beautiful Z/X known as Rigel, or succumb to the disease that has left her comatose for much of her life.

What Azumi doesn’t expect is that it means moving to a new Academy where teams of young women and their Z/X partners are being secretly trained to face the next wave of hostile attackers… and no sooner have Azumi and her new friends arrived than the enemy launches its first attack on their school in Z/X Code Reunion.

Commentary:

The second in the Z/X series is a little more fun, but at the same time seems to focus on the girls just for one reason. Fan service is mild in Z/X Code Reunion, but it is a real focus of the series. Why else would they want to focus on just the girls. Of course there is the blended sexual revolution that we are seeing take over the zeitgeist of the under 30 age group and Z/X Code Reunion dances around this in ways that anime seems to do in abundance in the last few years.

Overall Grade: C+

The saving grace of the series is the animation production value. It is solid and smooth, I didn’t feel like there was any sacrifice of quality. The weakness is the writing and overall plot of the series. I understand that Z/X Code Reunion is part of a larger manga and gaming franchise, and that the series has had a strong following in Japan, but I think there is a loss of focus here.

I found it easy to watch, however the plot is all to standard and something of a toss away just to show off these girls. I also found the relationships of these young ladies a little too predictable and somewhat boring.

In the long run I thought there was be a real possibility with the series that was lost with the silly focus on these young ladies and the relationship and struggles to be the saviors of the planet.

Okay, the main characters are very cute and easy to like. The story is boring and hard to really get into. I know that there are plenty of people who will love this series. So, if you love these easy to watch lightly fan serviced series that want to make all of the most unlikely young ladies the hero’s of the world, then Z/X Code Reunion is right up your ally.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou Anime Review

Title:The Pet Girl of Sakurasou complete collection on Blu-ray

Director: Atsuko Ishizuka

Writer: Mari Okada

Studio: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: August 25, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 24 Episodes / 600 Minutes

Genre: High school Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Kanda’s kindness and nurturing nature has stranded him in Sakura Hall when he was forced to leave the regular dorms at his high school. Having one by one collected a clowder of stray cats, he has to move in with the other disruptive and odd students. The place with the “ought to stay away” reputation.

Overseen by resident supervisor Ms. Sengoku who keeps herself busy with the fun side of life, it should not be a surprise that when her cousin, comes to live at Sakura Hall it is Kanda who gets assigned to take care of her. Not as easy as would be expected, to show a new student around and help her get acquainted with how things are structured. You see, Mashiro Shiina is an accomplished fine artist here to learn the art of manga, but personally she is unable to take care of herself in basic ways or understand proper behavior around others.

The rest of Sakura Hall resident’s have their own issues/quirks/talents that land the motley group in comedic situations, and then to the very end, the bonds they unintentionally formed to be strengthened.

Commentary:

Pet Girl of Sakurasou has a previous release in the U.S. before, and finally this release version is the English dub. Yea! Except for one thing, Mashiro’s manner of talking. It drove me crazy. It is so flat and emotionless that she didn’t appear to care about anyone (even when she went through the motions), not even as much as a robot, so why should we even care about her? I don’t think I ever did. Well, with that said, that is the only thing I disliked about the series. It may have been kind of a big thing, but still, I liked the series. I assume it was a discrepancy between the script and direction. Since the point of this edition is the English dub, I kept with it.

I was thinking Mashiro’s character as more a necessary plot device for the story to take place, and her exaggerated misinterpretation for comedic effect. Someone so dysfunctional in everyday life that she needed a caretaker (example: microwaving a whole watermelon), and her social improprieties about clothing and where to sleep led to much of the humor and most of the comedic fan service (not overdone).

A gathering of unique (and enjoyable) characters, it was a fun series to watch. With Sorata, the guy who wants to help everyone, as the true center (not Mashiro who the series is named for), the building of his character and him understanding the world better led the other characters to grow as well. He was the nucleus that the family bonds formed around at Sakura Hall. His acceptance of people as they are was really encouraging. Odd though, he was rather clueless when a girl liked him, but I suppose it isn’t odd for an anime high schooler.

The anime developed quickly yet didn’t feel rushed at all. It was easy to get to know the characters. It is a comedy with a story and heart. There is good character development, each needing to grow in their own way. These are personalities you can care about. There were actual things they began to accomplish as individuals and as a group, goals that were the finale of both seasons. It makes a viewer want to watch to the end.

The misfits of Sakura Hall find a place to belong.

Some other titles that I think will satisfy similar anime tastes are Toradora!, Love Hina, and Oh!My Goddess.

Overall Personal Grade: B Bright and cheery, the hyperbole that is anime that we can enjoy.

Bodacious Space Pirates (anime review)

Title: Bodacious Space Pirates Complete Collection

Director: Tatsuo Sato

Studio: Satelight

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Re-Release Date: September 15th, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 26 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Girl Power, Sci Fi, Fantacy

Age Rating: TV 14+

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

When Marika Kato learns that her late father was the captain of a pirate ship, it’s the second biggest surprise of her life. The biggest? Learning that his crew needs her to take over her father’s old job due to the terms of their Privateer’s contract!

It looks like joining her school’s yacht club is certainly about to pay off for Marika, because who wants to go into space piracy without a bunch of friends their own age to keep it fun? Toss in some outer space rivals, princesses in peril, and a pirate crew pulling double duty as high school teachers, and the next voyage of the good ship Benten Maru is going to be one of the wildest adventures ever! Batten down the hatches and prepare to kick some booty!

Commentary:

Bodacious Space Pirates is one of those many overlooked anime that just might have found a new lease on life. I thoroughly enjoyed the first time I reviewed it back in 2013 and still found it fun and representative of the way that anime manages to empower young women in a consistant manor.

The story is fun because of the way that it approaches the future and how entertainment has changed and how it blends historical events and futuristic visions.

Overall Rating: B+

Bodacious Space Pirates is well produced and the voice acting is well directed. The one weakness is the writing and the fact that there is a unnecessary love interest blended in in the middle of the series. I found it distracting and somewhat pointless.

For me the real strength of Bodacious Space Pirates is the way that it treates these young women and allows them to show that they too can be smart and able to navigate a world that would love to see them fail.

If you haven’t seen Bodacious Space Pirates then you really should check it out and if you are a young lady looking for an anime that will show that you too have a mind and can take on even the most jaded experience adults. Plus it is just a lot of fun without the heavy handed blood fest that all too many anime think they need to be just to be concidered good.

Fragtime (anime review)

Title: Fragtime

Director: Takuya Satō

Creator: Takuya Satō

Studio: Tear Studio

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: August 18th, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 60 Minutes

Genre: Yuri, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

All Misuzu Moritani has to do is think about it and, for three minutes, time seems to halt for everyone but herself. But three minutes isn’t long enough to go anywhere and come back, especially when you can only do it once a day. So, mostly Misuzu just amuses herself… until she makes the mistake of sneaking a peek up the skirt of a classmate she’s been crushing on and it turns out that Haruka Murakami is somehow immune to Misuzu’s powers! Oops.

And now a really embarrassed Misuzu has to make it up to Haruka. Double oops. Even if it means getting into a “relationship”. Wait, what? With great powers come some really big apologies and maybe a new romance as two girls take a little time off from the world!

Commentary:

Fragtime is a very interesting anime in the way it approached the question posed “If you could stop time for 3 minutes, what would you do”? Of course it took a very narrow view, but it was able to tell a compelling store in 60 minutes. I found myself become conflicted on how I felt about these young yet complex characters who manage to exhibit the polar opposites of personalities in high school. The popular extravert and the quiet forgotten introvert.

In a matter a few minutes I found myself liking one of the two and then see a flip on my feelings toward each one. I think that Haruka managed to flip me back and forth the most. Her positive and popular character is both engaging and then she felt very menacing in a flip of a switch. Misuzu is just painfully introverted and shielding which can make you feel compassion toward and then anger for her inability to express herself.

Overall Grade: B

Not being a fan of Yuri, I thought I was going have some real difficulty getting into the Fragtime. After spending a few minutes I lost that apprehension and began to realize why it was setup as a Yuri anime. It was two fold, first it was made a Yuri just to appeal to the new interest is sexual confusion. Of course the Japanese have always played with sexuality. On the other-hand it was clear that it was easy to show off these characteristics with the female high school persona. I guess that I would have been able to relate if it would have been a extraverted guy and a introverted girl, but I didn’t make Fragtime so, that is just a one sided opinion.

Once I got over the personal bias I began to understand the strength of the film. It is all about how it is hard to be both popular and introverted. I was able to relate to both and in the end I liked both and was happy with the way it ended. 

If you like slice of life that has something to say then you will really enjoy Fragtime. I am sure it will attract the Yuri crowd, but if you are hesitant about Yuri you should give Fragtime a chance, I think you will enjoy what it has to say.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?! Season 2 (Anime Review)

Directed By: Hideki Tachibana

Written By: Hideki Shirane

Studio: J C /Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: August 4th, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes and OVA / 350 Minutes

Genre: Harem, Action & Adventure, Fan Service, Comedy, Fantasy

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Grade: B+

Synopsis:

There’s rarely a dull moment when you’re the champion of a tiny Familia, and things only get rougher for Bell when the God Apollo declares war on Hestia and her followers. With Apollo’s Familia able to field a hundred times as many men, Hestia will have to work a lot of favors to keep her Familia from being completely destroyed. 

Even if Bell and Hestia manage to pull off the impossible, a major debt that Hestia owes is about to come due and Lili’s sordid past comes back to haunt her! Which means that when Bell and his friends come to Lili’s aid, it sets into motion yet another impending clash of the titans that may destroy everything!

Commentary:

The Bell and Hestia saga gets back underway. After plenty of time away from the main plotline it is great to get back to the story. There is no loss of connection here. I still like Bell and several of the other main characters and there is the connection with the other familia. I loved the way Hestia in her simple ways manage to garner friendship and loyalty, but the real loyalty is with Bell. This rather naive young man who manages to make all the girls swoon is the star of the day.

Honestly, the series is built around this natural magnatism that Bell has and what makes harem anime work so well. It is the pure essence of the main protangonist’s ability to allow others to be apart of his journey without picking favorites, even when there are favorites in the group. Simplicity is the key.

Overall Grade: B+

I really liked the main story, but was very let down by the beach OVA. there is a small plot line to the OVA but it really is all about showiing off the girls.

Anyway, the second season is wonderful and if you want more of this lovely series then you need to get in line and pick up your copy as soon as the selves get refilled.

Don’t worry, I am sure there will be more, I just hope they get tired of the silly lets go to the beach episodes.