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Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy

review provided by Luther

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy

Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Distributor: Rightstuf

Studio: SUNRISE INC

Release Date: Release Date: 6/6/2017

Format: Blu-ray / 3 Movies / 412

Genre: Comedic, slice of life romance

Audio: Japanese

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B –

Synopsis:

Universal Century 0079. Amuro Ray finds himself caught up in the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. He unwillingly becomes the pilot of a prototype Mobile Suit called the Gundam. Now he and the crew of the White Base will have to fight for their very lives as the enemy attempts to destroy this new weapon at all costs.

Combatants will face triumph and turmoil as they battle their way through space to get to their final destination on Earth. The outcome of the war lies in the hands of the Newtype in the anime series that started it all!

Commentary:

The original Mobile Suit Gundam series is unquestionably one of the most important anime series ever made. It was the start of one of the biggest anime franchises of all time, spawned a massively popular toy line and has a presence in almost every other type of media. However, the series influence also stretches across the mecha genre as whole. Gundam was a drastic shift from other mecha anime like UFO Robo Grendizer or Mazinger Z, where the robots were more like super heros rather than machines of war. While the main mecha in Mobile Suit Gundam, The RX-78-2, still has some of the characteristics of super robots of older shows, the overall feel of gundam was much more militaristic and and came across as being more realistic.  Mobile Suit Gundam is also quintessential example of a unwilling youth pilot, which is a narrative trope that has become a mainstay of the mecha grene.

While Mobile Suit Gundam is deeply significant for many reasons, it was long since been surpassed in terms of quality and thematic execution. Series like pat Patlabor have a more realistic portrayal of mecha as military equipment, and Neon Genesis Evangelion is probably the most famous case of an unwilling youth pilote in all of anime. However, while Mobile Suit Gundam no longer the front runner in what it set out to do, the series is still worthwhile to watch, both for what it is and for its historical significance.

However, Mobile Suit Gundam in undoubtedly a product of its time, and has not age as well as some series. With subpar animation, and some dated narrative aspects, many first time viewers might not find the original Mobile Suit Gundam in in line with modern tastes. Furthermore, with 43 episodes in the series, new viewers might consider the series to be too large of a time commitment. Fortunately for anyone curious about the origins of this massive franchise the Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy is a easy way to get into the original series.

The movie trilogy take the T.V. series and condenses it into a set of three movies, each lasting about 2 and a half hours. The movies are primarily composed of footage from original series, and hits all major story points, making it a good overview of the series and considerably easier for newcomers to get into. Original fans of the series will still have new to watch for the movies do feature some new footage, especially in the third movie.

Yet, while the movie trilogy is considerably easier to watch due to its shorter length, the movies are not without their own problems, and the most notable of those problems is the odd sense of pacing. Being composed of edited content from the original series the movies do not have the normal rise and fall of actions as content originally produced as a movie. Rather, each movie has several story arcs in them, thus at the end of each arc the story will hit a point that feels like natural end point for a movies, but still be far from over. This sense of pacing made each movie feel as if it went on for much longer than it really did, and left me feeling hesitant to start the next.

Overall Grade B- :

The Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy has many problems, some caused by age and others caused by the condensed nature of how the films were made. Despite the problems, the movies are still an excellent way for new fans of anime to be introduce to one of history’s most important series, and for old fans to revisit the series.

momokuri (anime review)


Title: momokuri Complete Collection

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date:

Format: Blu-ray / 26 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Comedic slice of life romance

Audio: Japanese

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

It doesn’t seem like he had taken the time to consider the offer. He just went for it. As a new high school student, Momo quickly agreed when an older girl confessed to him and asked him out. Yuri, not at all an average girl, is in her second year of high school and she has a serious crush (obession?) on him. She finds everything about him so incredibly cute, she can’t help but seek out his location and secretly snap some photos, and maybe find a little memento. This awkward pair are both thrilled to be dating, but find nearly every aspect of having a boyfriend/girlfriend embarrassing. Very embarrassing.

As the school year progresses,  Kuri increases her collection of photos and mementos of Momo, usually through what many people would call stalking. Her best friend warns her this is weird and to keep it to herself.  Even so, she tries her best to make Momo happy. Through the holiday, tests and all the usual life moments, their relationship grows slow yet steady. A year end trip to a resort brings up questions that test this young relationship.

Commentary:

It can be fun and calming to watch the familiar.  Momokuri is full of typical anime settings like the waterpark, the festival, the amusement park, the haunted house, the hot springs and to finish off the list, the Christmas episode. What is important is what happens there. It all starts with Kuri seeing Momo from afar and developing a major crush. Being the kind of person to really put all her effort into something, she decides to confront him and viola they are a couple in episode one. Now, that is where anime starts going.

Momokuri  is a cute and friendly, light hearted comedy. There is no big challenges or obstacle to over come, it is just a slice of life. Like visiting friends. On that note, it really is the characters and their friendships that make this anime worth watching. All of them were easy to like. Momo is a gentle and conscientious person and Kuri is the energetic enthusiast who really dives into things, albeit often in a weird sort of way.

Now, as the anime goes on, Kuri’s obsessive behavior gets weirder nearly becoming a character on its own. Her weirdness eventually causes her boyfriend to get confused and doubtful. It seems his old button or used straw might make her happier than actually being together. But it is all secondary to the pool of embarassment Momo and Kuri’s relationships is drowning in.  The constant embarrassment makes this anime a poor candidate for binge watching. Every milestone their relationship reached, was accompanied by them both being embarassed. I’d say stick to 4 or 5 episodes at a time, because the constant of this emotion got annoying. Never fear, after a break, it started making more sense and I was no longer annoyed by the endless embarrassment. It can even come across as sweet.

Visually, this was well done. Nothing too inventive, but the art work really conveys the characters and their lives. Besides, there is no way a live action could convey embarrassment as effectively. The detail to clothing was also really good, especially the girls’ outfits. They didn’t really talk about it, but it added to the expressions of their characters and personalities.

Some of my favorite moments include the comedy surrounding the “indirect kiss”,  it was sweetly funny.  I’d  also have to say the scene where someone is making cotton candy was really awesome. I watched it twice to make sure.  Yup, still awesome.

Overall Grade: B  Momokuri is romance about already being in the relationship. Along those lines, you might also enjoy My Love Story and Say I Love You.

 

Himouto! Umaru-chan (anime review)

Title: Himouto! Umaru-chan on Complete Collection Blu-ray

Directed By: Masahiko Ohta

Written By: Takashi Aoshima

Music By: Yasuhiro Misawa

Studio:  Doga Kobo

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 30th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C

Synopsis: 

To her classmates, Umaru Doma appears to be the perfect girl. She’s beautiful, friendly, and fashionable, earns top grades, and seems to be able to do any task asked of her with ease. She’s even humble and polite! However, if Umaru’s classmates could see her in the privacy of her home, they wouldn’t even recognize her.

Once she’s inside the door, the pretty clothes come off, the orange hamster hood goes on, and it’s time to pig-out on snack foods, binge-watch television, and play violent video games! This version of Umaru is everything that the public Umaru isn’t: she whines, rolls on the floor, leaves messes all over the apartment, and makes life miserable for her poor older brother, Taihei. Even the most guarded secrets have a way of being found out, and, as Umaru becomes even more obnoxious and outrageous, her two lives are bound to collide in disastrous fashion!

Commentary:

Himouto! Umaru-chan manages to prove a very painful point. That point is that being funny at other expense typically fails a being funny, it just ends up being mean in the end. I find it a sad commentary on the overall world wide society of mistreatment of others and more pointedly family has become a norm.

I did find the humor to be the change in Umaru when she walked through her front door. There is some comic relief from this childish transformation and also the direct juxtaposition of Umaru as a small child which may make her behavior a little less horrible. For me it just drives the acceptance of bad behavior.

Overall Grade: C

Even with the lack of real humor I can see why Himouto! Umaru-chan has become so popular and can’t deny the overall appeal of the series.

If you are looking for a series that reinforces the new norm of bad behavior and a pure childish acceptance of someone who manages to learn how to pose and act presentable in public but treat her Brother like crap then Himouto! Umaru-chan is for you.

Chivalry of a Failed Knight (anime review)

Title: Chivalry of a Failed Knight the Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Directors: Shin Ōnuma, Jin Tamamura

Screenplay Writer: Shogo Yasukawa

Studios: Silver Link, Nexus

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: June 13th, 2017

Format as reviewed: Blu-ray/12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Romance, Magical Users, Fantasy, Action

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Ikki Kurogane may have come from a long line of Blazers, people with the ability to create weapons or devices manifested from their souls, but as far as the Hagun Academy is concerned, he’s been a major disappointment in the magical powers department. He is so disappointing, in fact, that he’s earned the unfortunate nickname of the “Worst One”.

However, things change for Ikki in the most surprising way when Princess Stella Vermillion, the most promising Rank-A Blazer to come along in many years, decides to transfer to Hagun. When she challenges him to a duel where the loser must obey the winner for the rest of their life, the last thing anyone expects is that the Worst One might prove to be a match for the Crimson Princess… and the unforeseen consequences will push the boundaries of society itself!

Commentary:

Chivalry of a Failed Knight takes on many common tropes in the anime world and manages to step up and succeed at some and not quite make it at others. The strongest of the plot devices that it goes after is the romance. It does start off very awkward but overcomes it sort comings relatively quickly. Wishing the first few episodes you become invested in the relationship between Ikki and Stella and root for them the rest of the way through the series.

When the series brings in the little sister and her fixation on Ikki it becomes almost to simplistic and something that should have never been introduced. I am always at a loss when anime finds a need to bring a sibling relationship to the brinks of incest. Thankfully that manages to loose its punch early on and only becomes a side issue that has positive reasoning behind it.

Other aspects of the Chivalry of a Failed Knight that manage to succeed are the character development for Ikki and Stella. Most of the other characters manage to remain secondary and don’t need the development which adds to the strength of the romance. There was also a hint at Chivalry of a Failed Knight becoming a harem early on but that faded as the real plot began to take form.

Overall Grade: B+

Chivalry of a Failed Knight is very entertaining and try to make a real mashup of many different storylines. I think the series does some things well and others were never really given a chance which was reflected in some poor writing. It is very clear to me that if the series had not tried to take on so many plot devices it would have been much stronger.

Overall it is clear that there has been plenty of effort to give the series a focus. There appear to be no plans at this time to give us the rest of the story in anime form, but both the light novel and the manga are ongoing and there is always hope that the studios will take the chance and wrap the story up.

Either way, I found Chivalry of a Failed Knight to be very entertaining and well worth the effort to watch it and hope for a second season.

Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle Anime Review

Title: Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
U.S. Release Date: 4/18/17
Format and Length: Blu-ray or DVD /12 Episodes
Genre: Sci-fi/fantasy- drama/comedy
Industry Age Rating: 17+
Overall Personal Rating: C
Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Tenchi Muyo, Infinite Stratos

Synopsis:

The old brutal Kingdom of Arcadia has fallen during a civil war and in its place is the New Empire Atismata, led by a group of nobles. One of the forces protecting the county are the Drag-Ride Knights, a force that pilots flying mech. They train at the Royal Knight Academy, an all female school since they have the inherent ability to pilot the Drag-Rides. Suddenly, Lux, a former prince of the old government, literally falls through the roof into a compromising situation.

Although he is actually considered a criminal, what to do in a situation like that? Have him arrested? This is anime after all, so he becomes a student to pilot a Drag-Ride for which he is already highly skilled (luckily they had a male suit). And, this instantly becomes a harem anime. School being school, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of studying, but plenty of reasons to suit up in the Drag-Rides, which are the armored suits that serve as extensions of the pilot.

The new government has some manipulative behaviors and on top of that, there are dark forces and plenty of people wanting to use them either for power or revenge. There is hope with the Black Hero who is divinely powerful and benevelent. He is said to have help spared many lives during the war. Another mystery is the Ruins, what they conceal and how to find a way to unlock the way inside the inner space. Finally, what evils lurk in the people who are standing next to you, no matter what they look like.
Commentary:

Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle doesn’t seen to exist in its own cohesive universe. Lux is the main character and is surrounded by a typical harem of the typical, all girls’ school students. Speaking of typical, to me, that is what the story is stitched together with. Perhaps tested and true, story themes and elements that are classic or cliche’. So, where it seems to head off the path is that there is too many story ideas and things dropped in together. Sort of a tossed salad instead of a well blended smoothie. Pick a bunch of well known elements like mech and fighting,  magic, the accidental harems, kingdoms, festivals, androids, evil brothers, mystical runes, giant beasts to reawaken, gender swap, creepy goth girl, etc. …. mix them all together and tuck in a few more that didn’t quite fit (air floating whale for example), even whole scenes that totally don’t seem to fit (an out of place violent jail scene that was too intense to make sense with the rest of the series).

And still in line with typical, well, the usual kind of stuff to fuel the fan service fire. Like, whoops, the room Lux hides in to avoid everyone just happens to be the changing room. Or when he falls, he lands on top of a busty young lady. Then there are the clothes. The school uniforms for the girls have corsets that push up under their breasts then very short jackets so that their breasts (covered by their shirts) hang out beneath.  Hmm, they only guy has a vest and a long jacket. And, enough of a person being all worried about perverts but running around in skimpy clothes. It’s not funny anymore, if ever.

There seems to be a reason to get out the Drag-Rides in nearly every episode, even to settle school disputes. The school duels usually go awry because some bad guy or monster usually shows up and gets involved. The battles are half exciting and half stupid. Too harsh? Well there is a lot of odd delays and just hanging around in the air. The actually engagements are often lack luster, in fact, it is so annoying to see a battle that is supposed to be epic and the whole stadium of people are in danger, but students just stand around making commentary instead of helping or just plain getting out of the way. Even when Lux was being crushed, the other Drag Knights just hung  in the air and didn’t do anything. But, when they do get around to it, the special battle effects are pretty cool. And I did like the split screen where the battle and close ups were seen at the same time on screen.

One final annoying complaint. The completely unrealistic, although maybe rooted in wishful thinking for some, is the overly busty, totally cute teen who is innocent and childlike, who through her ignorance comes across as very sexual and does things like wear skimpy clothes and craws into bed with a guy only to fall blissfully asleep with her boobs squished up against him.

Time for me to mention what makes the anime worth viewing. After all, I did watch every bit of it. Best of all, there is beautiful, dramatic colors, with quality line, design and backgrounds. I do like the art work and style. The mechs are visually interesting in battle, they are like flying extension suits, the characters aren’t inside the mechs, but rather wear them. You can see the pilot and the machines sort of extend their arms and legs.They move and the suit mimics that movement. The music really adds to the dramatic effect, sometimes more than the actions. This anime was only in English as subtitled .

Overall Grade:  C     It was a good brain work out trying to figure out what was going on with all the jumps and plot holes, but, rereading the fan service paragraph I wrote, by trying to understand the story, I think  the point of the series was lost on me and I was not the intended audience. So, if you are looking for some comedic fan service and some actions, Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle could be fun and enjoyable.

Girls und Panzer der Film (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Girls und Panzer der Film Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima

Studio: Actas

Author: Reiko Yoshida

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: May 16, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray/DVD Combo / 120 minutes

Genre: Action, Comedy, Military, School

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Girls und Panzer Complete TV Series, Girls und Panzer Complete OVA Collection, Girls und Panzer This is the Real Anzio Battle

Panzer Vor!

Synopsis:

In Girls und Panzer der Film, when the Ministry of Education goes back on its promise to keep Ooarai Girls Academy open, the task of saving the five-mile-long Academy Ship from the wreckers falls to Miho and her barely-seasoned tankery team. However, things go off track almost immediately.

While the Oorai tank crew may have won the high school tournament, they are now facing a larger and more experienced university team, and if they fail, their armored vehicles will be forfeit! Will they be swapping their tanks for the memories? It is possible, but winning a tank battle is all about tactics and teamwork, and the fledgling Ooarai students have more friends and allies than anyone suspects. Get ready for another high-caliber round of the only sport where “having a blast” does not necessarily mean you are having a great time, as the Ooarai team puts everything on the line!

Commentary:

The Oorai tank crew had to learn a hard lesson at the beginning of Girls und Panzer der Film. They learned that a verbal agreement means nothing because the Ministry of Education does not honor them, but thanks to some very helpful people they are able to get the Ministry of Education to agree to let them fight one more battle to save their school. Basically, it is the TV series all over again but in much less time, with better tank battles and new tanks to show off. I would recommend watching the TV series first because it explains everything that is going on and you will understand why girls are driving tanks that are actually shooting actual artillery and why no one gets seriously injured. It would also be a good idea, because the characters are already developed, and very little further development happens in Girls und Panzer der Film, save for a couple of scenes. The tank battles, always unique, and interesting because of the tactics used, tended towards the end to be over the top, but I think that is what they were going for. And they did do a good job of taking it over the top, and back again. Another thing over the top was the sound. If at all possible save this for a surround sound system with good speakers and bass. They did a great job getting the theater sound into it well mixed. If you do not like loud cannon fire, or explosions, turn it down, as they put a lot of emphasis on good sound quality. The other thing is the CG work. Moving tanks with heavy detail, hand signals, and general quick scenery changes can be challenging for even the most experienced production company to get right. They got this one right. The CG is so well mixed, if you did not know what to look for you would miss it. They did a great job with the animation in general. If you are a fan to the series, or a new comer that just wants to see cute girls driving tanks, this will be one for you.

Extras:

Girls und Panzer der Film includes Girls und Panzer in (about) 3 minutes, clean opening and closing animations, and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This film was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: B+

Sound of the Sky (anime review)

Title: Sound of the Sky (Soro no Wata) Complete Set on Blu-ray
Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Writer: Hiroyuki Yoshino
Studio: A-1 Pictures
U.S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment
U.S. Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Format: DVD/ 12 episodes/ 355 minutes
Genre: Sci Fi, Slice of Life, Comedy, Drama
Age Rating: 14+
Personal Rating: A
Similar Titles: Air, Kanon

Sometimes our goals in life lead is to do things and impact others in way we would never expect. They also put us in situations that just might make all the difference in the world.

Synopsis:

A young girl, Kanata Sorami, joins the army to learn how to play trumpet because she saw a solider play “Amazing Grace” and was touched so deeply that it is the only goal she has in life. The army sends her to the outpost in the town of Seize to become the bugler. Unknown to her she becomes one of the Fire Maidens of Seize. These are the historical protectors of the Village. The other members of the squad are Rio Kazumiya, Kanata’s trumpet teacher, Filicia Heideman, the company commander, Noel Kannagi, the mechanic and Kureha Suminoya the other private assigned as the gunner.

In the beginning Kanata does not know how to play the trumpet very well but she has a great ear for sound and with some training by Rio she manages to become wonderful player and even the village begins to enjoy her playing. During this time she becomes a valued member of the platoon and the bonds of these 5 women become so close it almost seems as though they are sisters.

There is a tentative peace between Helvetia and Roma. The current talks are not going very well and the platoon must always be on the watch for anyone coming across the no-mans land just outside Seize. During this period of stress there is a secret about Rio that comes to light that drives her away from the platoon to eventually end up having a overreaching impact on everyones life.

Commentary:

This wonderfully crafted anime brings together several key elements that makes it one to be seen. The first of these elements is the bonding of the main characters that creates a group of women who become true sisters and find that they each have their role to play. They are each very different and have a dramatic past that is at the core of who they are. This is highlighted by Kanata who has the loss of her family and the contact with a beautiful bugler who was playing “Amazing Grace” in such a way that made her think to was the true Sound of the Sky. That was the motivating factor behind her having no fear and wanting to be able to play that piece for all the world to hear. The others also have past experience that make them so special that they each bound together make an unstoppable force. All of this is accentuated buy the strong character development and the wonderful series of events that bring them together.

The second of the outstanding elements has to be the plot structure and the way the story is told. By the middle of the series I was a little concerned that Sound of the Sky as nothing more than a string of unrelated events but in classic Japanese story telling fashion all of these events all roll up together and provide a ending that managed to warm even my cold heart. The stories told about these women and girls consistently brought a kind smile to my soul as I moved through the series and at the end I wanted only good to happen for this loving group of women.

The final and possible most impressive is the high quality of the animation. I found myself blown away by the impressive artistry put into creating the world that these intrepid ladies lived. The monastery where they lived was so well developed it made me feel like I was there and the landscapes were Miyazakiesk and created a peaceful place that we all would want to be a part of. At every turn I found myself in awe of the talented work that went into this loving series.

Overall Grade: A

Sound of the Sky is not one of those knock down drag-out anime that is all about the action, it is a kind gentle anime that does not shy away from action, but rather uses it only when it is important. The creators have given us something to contemplate and use as a guide to what it is to truly care about those others around us. This series should be put on everyones must see list.

Because of the gentle spirit of Sound of the Sky I would recommend Air and Kanon as the two other series to get that loving feeling from.

Nurse Witch Komugi R (anime review)

Title: Nurse Witch Komugi R on Blu-ray

Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi

Studio: Tatsunoko Production

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 2nd, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Magical Girl, Comedy

Age Rating: Teen 14 +

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Komugi Yoshida wants to be famous, but her efforts as an idol don’t seem to be working out so far. Unlike her prim friend Cocona or her tomboyish rival Tsukasa, both of whose idol popularity is soaring, Komugi seems to be getting only the bottom-tier jobs, like pitching pharmaceutical products to the locals.

However, everything changes when Komugi discovers an injured creature named Usa-P who offers her a chance to be something bigger: a magical nurse! With awesome powers and a cute outfit to boot, Komugi might just be moving up in the world, but is she going to be able to handle the stress of saving the world, being an idol, AND keeping up in school?

Commentary:

Nurse Witch Komugi R is a straight forward magical girl comedy that is clearly aimed at the younger female audience. I found the simple approach a classic style of telling the story and keeping the viewer engaged without making things overtly complex. This is a fun departure from all to many recent anime that want to make sure they keep the viewer on their toes at all times.

The character development in Nurse Witch Komugi R is also very formulaic, but it does not detract from the overall quality of the series. There is a clear development of who we need to root for and who we should be leery of.  This makes everything rather easy to get straight and to keep in order as the action heats up.

Overal Grade: B

Nurse Witch Komugi R is a wonderful little series that keeps the magical girl story alive and well. I enjoyed the way Kormugi’s real life intermingled with her magical existence and the same goes for the other girls. I never got the feeling of dislike for any of them and found myself rooting for them as the series grew.

The animation is clean and suited the series well. I thought the look and feel of all of the elements played well off of each other. If there is a down side it is the simplistic approach and writing. All too often the answers were seen coming a mile away and after a while the antagonists were way too standard and a little tiresome.

If you are looking for some light fun and a magical girl seres that exemplifies the classic natures of the genre then Nurse Witch Komugi R will fit the bill.

Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection on Blu-ray
Director: Keitaro Motonaga
Studio: White Fox
Author: Takamitsu Kono
U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23
U.S. Release Date: April 25, 2017
Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 600 Minutes
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Industry Age Rating: 17 and up
Overall Personal Rating: B+
Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Utawarerumono

Synopsis:
Where is he? More importantly, who is he? Awakening in a frozen wasteland, his first memories are of danger as he is instantly attacked by a giant creature. Kuon, the cat-like girl who rescues him, doesn’t know who he is either, but she gives him the name Haku in honor of another mysterious stranger who came to this world. Now, Haku must quickly learn how to survive in a land where monstrous beasts prowl, and where half-human beings rule in a city riddled with intrigue and secrets. With armies to aid, Princesses to guard, and a whole new future to explore, Haku and Kuon will face truth after shocking truth!

Commentary:
Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection is a continuation of the original series, and takes place several years after the original Utawarerumono series. I have to say that the original scored very high in my book, as it would have received an A. It was an epic tale, with twists and turns all about. Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection (second season is a fair statement) continues to live up to its predecessor. You are introduced to a completely new set of characters, and a new land. There are a few characters that make an appearance from the original series but they are only there for a few scenes, and make little impact. The first ten or so episodes do go slow at first, but they spend all this time building characters and relationships. The characters are very well developed and feel very real. You will develop an emotional attachment to many of them. At first the menial day to day activities will drag, as they develop characters, but after that it turns into another epic story as the action picks up, making it hard to stop watching. Many things will surprise you, and if you are a fan of the original, you will find a few of them will bother you, but rest assured that there is a reason for the turns it takes. The ultimate surprise came in the last episode, and completely without warning. Then it happened. It ended. If you have read any of my previous reviews of animes based on video games, you know it’s a pet peeve of mine that they must wrap up a story, and not use it as a “buy the game to see how it ends” to promote further sales of the game. In fact, there is little that irritates me more, as I am not a gamer. I cannot say that it ended completely, because it did not. It was more an end to that chapter, and more to come, except, there was no more. That was a big let down in the moment, but all things considered they did stop at a good point, if they plan to release another season to continue it. I very much hope they do, because I’m not buying the game. If they don’t, my disappointment will be extreme.

The art work itself was very good. In most scenes, they did a great job of mixing the CG with the animation so it did not stick out like a sore thumb. They also did very well with background scenery. Always active, like real life, the animation did not halt when characters were talking, like they do with many other titles. From tale and ear movements, to overall background action, there was much detail and made it even more enjoyable. Also the music was pretty good. Not epic, but worth listening to and not skipping the openings and endings, unless you cannot wait to see what happens next, like I did. I’m not known for my patience either. Overall, Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection was a great story and worth checking it out. Had it wrapped up better instead of leaving it as an end of a chapter with lots of story left to tell, it would have gotten the highest score possible. I look forward, with much anticipation, to the continuation of Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection.

Extras:
Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: B+

Ajin: Demi-Human (anime review)

Title: Ajin on Blu-ray

Director: Hiroyuki Seshita, Hiroaki Andō

Writer: Hiroshi Seko

Studio: Polygon Pictures

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 16th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episode + Movie / 325 Minutes

Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure, Thriller, Supernatural

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

When the truck slammed into Kei Nagai’s body, he should have died instantly. Instead, the high-school student finds himself resurrected, with all of his wounds somehow healed. However, Kei’s real problems are just starting. Now revealed to be an Ajin, one of a mysterious new breed of demi-human that have begun appearing around the world, he’s been marked with an international bounty, and in the eyes of the world’s governments, Kei is a specimen to be contained by any means possible.

Now he’s on the run, unable to trust anyone except his closest friend, and his only hope is to discover the terrifying secrets behind his new abilities before he’s forced to use them in battle! When you have an infinite number of lives ahead of you, death is only the beginning!

Commentary:

Well, well. Ajin manages to do something I wasn’t sure could be done in the current anime world. It manages to take a interesting story and animate it to almost a sad boring place. Polygon Pictures does a very poor job of animating this series and takes a solid story and almost makes it unwatchable. Fortunately that is where the failures end. The rest of the series is strong enough to give people a reason to watch. I am saying this even though this type of stress has been taken on in other series. Will Kei use his power to harm humans or not? Now I understand it is very common to see this issue in other anime and many of them did a much better job of presenting it. I think it is also very poignant that the real horror is produced by humans and that the Ajin are taught to hate the humans because of it, but of course there are plenty Ajin that are just down right evil.

Overall Grade: B-

Ajin may have found some notoriety by being an exclusive on one of the more notable streaming services, but I think it is great that the first half of the series along with a movie are presented as a set that could have a place in almost any anime collection. I realize that the animation is terrible and it appears as though Polygon still has some work to do with their use of their Computer Graphics program. I am not too sure that some students were given their first shot at animating this one. I realize that Polygon animated Knights of Sidonia and there were some issues with the quality of animation, but the art style and tone of Knights of Sidonia lent itself to this raw CG whereas Ajin really doesn’t.

The rest of the production and writing of Ajin save it and make it worth watching. The story is relatively straight forward, but once again there is enough interesting action and flavor to keep everyone interested.

Even with the poor animation I am still very interested in seeing the remainder of the series released.