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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.

Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle (anime review)

Title: Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle: Complete Collection

Director: Masaomi Ando

Anime Writer: Yuuko Kakihara

Music: Akito Matsuda

Studio: Lerche

US Distibuter: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

US Re-Release Date: Aug. 4th, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Fan Service, Action,, Mecha

Age Rating: MA 17+

Personal Overall Grade: B+

Synopsis:

The Royal Knight Academy was established to train the heirs and scions of the lands how to fight using the ancient mechanical dragons known as Drag-Rides. Those noble intentions, however, go royally astray when Lux, deposed prince of the Arcadia Empire, accidentally stumbles upon the Kingdom of Atismata’s new Princess Lisesharte in her royal bath and sees altogether more than he should have.

Challenged to a Drag-Ride duel when the Princess bares her anger, Lux finds himself thrust into a series of events that could ultimately expose the darkest secrets of both their royal families! Now, whether he wants to or not, Lux will be spending his time fighting monsters, corruption, and the attentions of his female classmates, both lethal and otherwise!

Commentary:

Well that genre that is all aboout sudo mecha anime that is really a simple harem has a new star. The Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle has it all. A somewhat naive protagonist who is much more powerful than any expects and a full line of young women who fall in love with him. Honestly, I really like Lux, he his a lot more than the naive leed male character, he is a likeable guy who is placed in a awkward place where he has to do something very special and he manages to get us were we want to go.

Overall Grade: B+

Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is a winner in my book. The only issue I really have is its narrow adherence to the mecha harem genre. I thought the writers did a great job of creating some characters you like and somewhat care about. Lux is by far the strenght to the series and it is great to see a leeding male character that is both solid and vulnerable at the same time. The rest of the female characters are also very strong and interesting.

So, if you are looking for a fun and entertaining harem mecha then Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is for you,]. If you haven’t seen it then you should take the opporunity to sheck it out. Be sure to give it 4 to episodes to get the real feel of the serie.

RE: STAGE! Dream Days (anime review)

Title: RE: STAGE! Dream Days: Complete Collection

Director: Shin Katagai

Writer: Team Yoree

Music by: Kota Yamamoto

Studio: Yumeta Company Graphinica

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: June 23rd, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Girl Idols, Music, Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14+

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

When Mana Shikimiya joins her new school’s struggling Lyrical Tradition Dance club, she finds herself swept up in a dream shared by thousands of other middle school girls across Japan: To someday compete at the Prism Stage, where teams of young women battle in song and dance for the chance to become the next generation of top idol singers!

First, though, she’ll have to help save the club from being shut down, and then she and her new friends Sayu, Mizuhua, Kae, Kasumi and Minori will have to up their musical game in order to make it to the first level of competition. Because no matter how badly they want to win, there are hundreds of other girls who want it just as much… and those girls all have a head start!

Commentary:

In the over crowed world of girl idol anime there has to come a point were the story has a just lost its appeal. Re: Stage manages to do something unexpected. It finds a way to make you care about these girls and all of their quirkiness and awkward social habits. It all starts with Mana trying to get out from underneath the family shadow to Minori and her overbearing nature that makes this little series worth while. 

Living in the shadow of series like Love Live and Idolmaster you get the feeling that most of these girl idol series are out to capitalize on the enthusiasm for the genre. RE: Stage gives you just a little more and makes you want to continue to watch to see if this funny group of young ladies can make it work.

Overall Grading: B+

The production levels of the series are a little above par and the graphics program used manages to make the images smooth and easy to watch. The writing is by far the strong point with the series. It allows the viewer to actually care about the characters and watch them progress. The voice acting is very much what you would expect and at times a little over the top, but with these types of series you have to expect plenty of high pitch shrill in the voices.

Re: Stage just might be coming to this genre a little late, but I hope it finds a solid audience. It is much better than many of the series that have been released over the last couple years and deserves a chance. If, School Girl Idol anime is your preferred genre then you really need to give this one a chance. The characters are full of life and have enough personal idiosyncrasies that makes you want to really root for them. Check it out you just might like what you see.

To Love Ru Season 1 (anime review)

Title: To Love Ru Season 1 on Blu-ray

Director: Takao Kato

Anime Writer: Akatsuki Yamatoya

Studio: Xebec

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: March 31st, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 650 Minutes / 26 Episodes

Genre: Ecchi, Fantasy, Sci Fi, Comedy

Age Rating: 17+

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

To Love Ru Season 1 contains episodes 1-26 of the anime directed by Takao Kato and features a new English Dub.

What do you do when a naked princess from outer space suddenly appears in your bathtub? If you’re Rito Yuki, the confused teenager who’s rub-a-dubbing when the perky Princess Lala of Deviluke splashes down, you inexplicably find yourself engaged to her royal highness’ heavenly body, whether you want to marry her or not! Oh, and you’re ALSO now heir to the throne of the Planet Deviluke, as well as the target for an endless stream of intergalactic invaders, assassins, rival suitors, and an unbelievably long cosmic chorus line of gorgeous women who are all determined to wormhole their way into Rito’s heart and/or bed! And that, needless to say, is probably going to make getting together with the nice Japanese girl who Rito’s actually in love with just a wee bit more complicated!

Commentary:

Yes here it comes again with a new English Dub. To Love Ru, is one of those anime that just keeps on giving and with a very specific target audience the giving is oh so welcome. Funny thing is that I may not be part of that target audience and end up seeing the flaws that most viewers miss because they don’t care about things like writing or true character development. Now I will give it very high marks for staying true the Japanese formula of having a helpless shy embarrassed young man as the main protagonist and a buxom bouncy wouncy space princess as his kryptonite. Never-the-less, To Love Ru brings it all in your face and makes you either root for Rito or better yet root for Lala to crush his helpless existence. Either way there isn’t much hope for either.

I realize that this anime was first aired in 2008. There might be all kinds of reason why it really looked more like a late 1990’s production and why the writing is so shallow, but it was clearly popular enough in Japan to keep coming back for more. I guess that every shut in Otaku wished he was Rito. Of course there are moments I would have like to be Rito, but those are few and far between.

Overall Grade: B

As I mentioned, I found it strange that the animation production levels look old for a 2008 production and the character design was also outdated. This made it a little harder for me to watch it, but the most frustrating issue I had with the series is its writing and character development. I know what the series is meant to do and that is to titillate the viewer and this is where it excels. The characters are one demential and don’t give much reason to care about any of them.

Every episode is just a setup for the series to show off women’s bodies and in the end make young me want more. I wish this one could have been left on the shelve longer, it just left me feeling sorry for the guys who are going to line up to get them some To Love Ru. Of course, it is for this very reason that I give it a B and not a lower grade. The series does not try to hide what it is in fancy writing or over the top animation, it just is what it is and does have merit.

So, if you are looking for that classic Ecchi anime then you need look not further, To Love Ru is here for you.

Mysteria Friends Anime Review

Title: Mysteria Friends

Director: Hideki Okamoto

Writer: Hiroshi Yamaguchi

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: 3-10-20

Format: Blu-ray / 10 Episodes / 150 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C-

Synopsis:

The students come to Mysteria Academy to learn the art of magic. Anne is a princess as well as a top student, well gifted in magic. She has become friends with Grea, a princess from another realm, who is a half-human/half-dragon.

The regular things such as studying and test taking go on, and even the ever present beach episode. But it is a magic school and not everyone is human, so there are some unique things that go on.

The main focus of the series is the friendship of the two princesses. Grea lacks the confidence of Anne which causes dome difficulties. She really likes Anne and has quite a crush on her. Anne doesn’t seem to realize this, but still really likes Grea and wants to spend time with her. But as royals, duties can get in the way.

Commentary:

So, my big issue with Mysteria Friends is that I don’t even know who to recommend this for. The show doesn’t seem to have a clear audience in mind or what kind of anime it is. Episode one dives in with fan service and innuendos. I expected it since the back cover seems to boldly hint at that. Then it really drops off, so it is more like a magic high school drama show. Or yuri. But not really. There is a bit more fan service thorough out, but in the end, it gets pretty bland. So, the beginning seems like it is for adults but the end seems aimed at a younger audience. From fan service to blushful crushes. It would have been a fine show had they gone either way but it was muddled and usually seemed like a platform for random ideas the would be cool to do.

The characters of Anne and Grea are okay. Visually they are well designed and the personalities are fine. Nothing unique, even though Grea has a tail and wings, her personality is shy and self-conscious. True, as half dragon she has things to cope with that others don’t, but it really is important in one episode, and that doesn’t really need to be there for the story development. Anne is a high achiever, but as a princess who will one day lead her community, her royal duties are increasing. Unfortunately it is too much the same as the princess in tada never falls in Love which I recently watched. So, it seemed bland. Except for Anne’s sort of body guard, the other characters come and go randomly. Characters get thrown in and maybe are quirky or act in a certain way, but it goes nowhere as if they are no more than props.

The biggest part of the plot is the friendship of the two princesses. Grea really values her relationship with Anne and appears to have romantic feelings for her, sometimes. It’s not always consistent. Like when Anne seems to want a stronger relationship, Grea doesn’t seem to notice. Grea sure gets embarrassed a lot. Over and over. Over done.

The story really isn’t fleshed out. There is plenty of starts at things but they don’t develop are become part of the story, or things we might need to know just skipped over. Everything is rushed.The episodes are only 15 minutes long. Mostly it just moves onto to something else. One episodes introduces monsters of sort and then that’s it, nothing, no impact, no nothing.

We never get a sense of what their world is about. The setting is cool, especially as a Harry Potter fan, but that is’t utilized much. It’s as if it is only because it looks cool, but there is no reason for it. They go to the beach (of course) and swim among ruins, looks cool, but nothing else, no reason for it.

So, as a story, as a series, it lacks purpose and direction. Why? It’s based on a game! Mysteria Friends tries to tell a story with the elements and setting of a game. It stayed the bits and pieces.

Overall Grade: C-

Grimms’ Notes The Animation (anime review)

Title: Grimms’ Notes The Animation on Blu-ray

Director: Seiki Sugawara

Writer: Hiroshi Yamaguchi

Studio: Brain’s Base

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: March 3rd, 2020

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Game Derivative

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

The mystical Story Teller created a world where everyone is born with a book that dictates their life story in advance. Everyone, that is, except for a handful of individuals with books full of blank pages that allow them to cross from one prewritten storyline to another and act of their own free will. That ability turns out to be a fortunate thing, as rogue plotters called Chaos Tellers are introducing new and unexpected elements into the most popular storylines, fracturing the course of fairy tales and bedtime yarns into the stuff of nightmares. Can Ex, Reina, Shane and Tao undo the repercussions of aberrations like Little Red Riding Hood suddenly gaining the ability to manipulate fire? Things are looking mighty grim indeed when our heroes must fight to un-revise the revisions!

Commentary:

I am always a little cautious when it comes to anime made from games and in the case of Grimms’ Notes I am re-enforced in my learyness. Grimms’ Notes is a good looking anime and has its moments, but the overall retelling of some of the sories that have been a part of the western culture for such a long time leaves me with the strange feeling that these creators missed to point. To be honest I don’t always understand Japanese folk tales and historical mythology and different cultures see stories differently so, I guess that it is okay if they butcher a few European myths, ledgends and folk tales.

Overall Grade: B-

The real weakness with the series is the way they managed to wrap everything so easily. I thought the characters were solid enough and that the overall production values were right in line with the quality of work done by Brain’s Base. The writing on the other hand left me wanting for a lot more.

I believe that this series could have been a real winner and with a little stronger understanding of these stories that they infused the series with there would be a much more robust fan base for it. I now understand why Sentai did not spend the money on dubing this series.

Bottom line is that if you are a fan of the game then you will want to see this series. If you are not a fan of Grimms’ Notes the game then you might want to stick to someting less note worthy.