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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.

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.

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.

Martian Successor Nadesico (anime review)

Title: Martian Successor Nadesico: Complete series plus Prince of Darkness on Blu-ray

Director: Tatsuo Sato

Studio: Xebec

U. S. Distributor: Nozomi, Lucky Penny

U. S. Release Date: April 4th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray/26 Episodes & Feature Film / 740 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Sci Fi, Mecha, Harem

Age Rating: 13+

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

The Martian Successor Blu-ray contains all 26 episodes of the TV series and the Prince of Darkness movie across 4 Blu-rays PLUS an entire DVD of extras including the Gekigangar 3 OVA!

Tatsuo Sato’s Comedy Masterpiece Returns in High Definition!

The Earth, its moon and its Martian colonies are under alien attack, but the war against the “Jovian lizards” has, so far, been nothing short of a series of disasters.

Disgusted by the incompetence of Earth’s military, the independent arms manufacturer Nergal builds its own space battleship and plans to launch a desperate offensive to save humanity. But due to a shortage of trained soldiers, they’ve assembled the most unorthodox crew to ever launch into orbit! With a pacifist cook-turned-unwilling mecha pilot and a ditsy admiral’s daughter in command, can this unprecedented gathering of geeks, misfits and anime fans prevail against the Jovian menace?

Commentary:

In the long list of Mecha Harem series, Martian Successor Nadesico stands out as one of the top series for me. Although it may be beginning to show its age it still has plenty of laughs and mecha action to offer. The great thing about this series is that it pokes fun at all of the tropes and silly plot devices that many of the older mecha series used. The unwilling Akito Tenkawa is every young male mecha pilot that shows up in series like Gundam, Evangelion and many others that give us reasons to root for a anti-hero figure, but in Akito’s case he just wants to cook, but may be a better pilot than a chef.

The other great parody aspect to the series is the inclusion of their own anime series “Gekigangar III“. This is a focal point for much of the crew and they exhibit a funny Otaku tenancy that pokes fun at the fan base of the mecha universe of anime. I personally think series like Martian Successor Nadesico provide a glimpse at the anime world that a large number of fans should be required to watch. This series of fun and laughs takes a goofy look at the world it lives in and also makes a very pointed commentary about the obsession that sometimes follows the fandom around.

Overall Grade: A-

I am not sure if there was a good reason to release Martian Successor Nadesico in Blu-ray it is very possible that the quality of the series is about the same on DVD. I am happy to see it coming back out. I think it is a series that needs to be re-released every 5 to 6 years just so new fans can discover the greatness of it and be reminded that anime is just anime.

There are many great anime that hold the mirror up to the fandom and Martian Successor Nadesico stands at close to the very top of the list. The other thing that keeps this anime worthy of praise is the overall humor that comes across and the simplistic approach to telling the story. If you haven’t see Martian Successor Nadesico then you really have a reason to check it out. So, get busy!!!!

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood (anime review)

review provided by Andrew & Katie

Title: Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood on Blu-ray

Director: Risako Yoshida

Studio: Zexcs

Author: Hiroko Kusanagi

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: March 28, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 180 Minutes

Genre: Reverse Harem, School Life, Supernatural, Shoujo, Vampire

Industry Age Rating: 17 and up

Overall Personal Rating: D

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Diabolik Lovers

Synopsis:

As the sole human living alone with six handsome vampires, beautiful young Yui Komori is slowly becoming used to being the constant focus of all of their attentions, both amorous and otherwise. However, if she was feeling pale and weak before, her ordeal is about to become even more emotionally draining as four new vampire brothers appear with the intention of making Yui their own permanent dinner guest.
Who are the Mukami brothers, and why are they so dead set on keeping Yui for themselves? Why do they keep referring to her as “Eve” and whose master plan are they following? How will the original six Sakamaki brothers react to having Yui stolen out of their clutches? Will the Sakamaki brothers get her back or will the Mukami brothers follow through with their master plan? You will have to watch Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood and find out.

Commentary:

I feel as if I need to add a few warnings to this series before I go any further: 1. Yui is treated like a blood bag and is not just bitten on the neck. 2. There is a religious theme to this season and that might turn you off of the series if that bothers you. 3. This has to be one of the worse reverse harem series I have ever watched.*

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood is the second season of Diabolik Lovers and honestly I cannot be more disappointed in the entire series. There are more plot holes than swiss cheese and just when you think they are actually going to explain what is going on, they end the series with the biggest cliff hanger ever! They rely heavily on the Adam and Eve story and you spend most of the series trying to figure out who is Adam and then they never say anything about it again.

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood has little to no character development and most of the characters are poorly designed with weak personalities that make the characters unlikable. The relationships between Yui and the brothers are terrible to say the least. They treat her like furniture and never have anything nice to say to her at all. I was really hoping that Yui would grow a backbone and tell the brothers off, but of course she cannot do that as their blood bag.

The animation was dark and tried to be gothic but did not get there. Since Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood is about vampires they really do not go out during the day and attend school at night. There really is not any change in the animation between the manor and the school. The voice actors did alright, nothing really stood out but I really did not expect anything to. The opening animation fit the general theme well and was enjoyable to listen to. The ending was nothing special but one out of two is not a bad deal.

Extras:

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood includes both 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: D

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood seems like it is geared more to the ecchi vampire crowd. The entire series is just about sucking tasty blood from a human. Not my thing.

Amagi Brilliant Park (anime review)

Title: Amagi Brilliant Park: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Yasuhiro Takemoto

Studio: Kyoto Animation

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: February 28, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes + 1 OVA / 350 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Romantic Comedy

Age Rating : TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

When new transfer student Isuzu asks Seiya Kanie out on a date at gunpoint, he knows something odd is going on. Especially since she wants to go to Amagi Brilliant Park, where the rides are either dangerous or mind-numbingly dull and the only costumed performers who aren’t rude or apathetic are the ones who didn’t show up for work.

So when Isuzu asks Seiya to take over as the park’s new manager, he knows she’s crazy. (Well, crazy-er, given the gunpoint thing.) But when Seiya learns that Amagi Brilliant Park is a REAL Magic Kingdom, that the costumed performers aren’t wearing costumes, that they live off the energy created by attendees, and that unless they can attract 250,000 attendees in three months, they’ll lose their jobs and homes… he goes a little crazy himself.

But, even with the aid of scantily clad fairies, giant mice and sniper-trained sheep, can anyone rescue a park that’s sunk so low that its own bus doesn’t stop there anymore? The race is on to get the turnstiles turning and save AMAGI BRILLIANT PARK!

Commentary:

Reading the synopsis I was ready to dislike this series and within the first 10 minutes I was telling myself this just might be very good. Of course, I wasn’t sure if it could sustain the simple enjoyment. After Amagi Brilliant Park gets over the initial weirdness it becomes a solid series with plenty of character development. There are a few characters that it takes some time to build out to their potential but each episode was able to move the story forward and help these odd characters begin to become a noticeable unit.

As for the romantic comedy aspect of the series I found that slower to develop. I also felt like Seiya comes across as too cold at first. I know that may have been necessary for the overall storyline but, it would have been nice to toss in some humanity to his character early on.

Overall Grade: B+

I loved the weirdness of Amagi Parks workforce and how they managed to deal with their odd predicament. I also loved the way the park represented more of the strange little amusement parks around the world. Not all of them can be the fake magical kingdoms that give everyone an overblown experience. I would love to attend a weird park like Amagi Brilliant Park.

The bottom line with Amagi Brilliant Park is that it is a lot of quirky fun and loaded with characters you want to like and some you would like to kick. The one thing I get a kick out of is when Isuzu pulls her guns, I had to stop and think about it for a while the after that every time I chuckled a little.

Amagi Brilliant Park is a worthy pick and I hope it finds a wide audience to have fun with it.

 

Kokoro Connect Complete Series (anime review)

Title: Kokoro Connect The Complete TV Series & OVA on Blu-ray

Director: Shinya Kawamo

Studio: Silver Link

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks / Section 23

U. S. Release Date: March 14, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes + 4 OVA / 425 Minutes

Genre: Supernatural, Coming of Age, Romance, Drama, Seinen

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Grade: A

Synopsis:

The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about it and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! That’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl – or boy – next door!

What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “exchange student” and the to-be-expected freaked-out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

Commentary:

I always cringe a little when I hear that a show is about people swapping bodies. Kokoro Connect only made me cringe because it is so good and how it manages to hit some genuine nerves with respect to the human condition. I have not felt this strong about a series since AnoHana made to our market. Kokoro Connect goes straight for that dynamic of exploring our relationships and our own frailties.

The animation style reminds me of the simplistic intimacy the K-ON! delivers or many of the other straight forward slice of life series. The one major difference is the solid development of the characters and the superb writing that brings the series to life. Each one of these students have a plenty of experiences that have helped form who they are, but they are just discovering the people they have become and how to move forward. Each are full and rich with plenty to say and it is very easy to become sympathetic toward them and their world.

The one thing that hit me the hardest was the honesty that came from the writing and exposed itself through these characters. This is where it made me cringe because of the way that they allow these characters to expose themselves and the things that they confess. There are things said that I can honestly say I would never expect to hear from anyone, but seeing it in this format makes those comments seem even more honest and revealing.

Overall Grade: A

Kokoro Connect is not for everyone and because of some of the conversations that happen I would say that it should really be rated 16 +. That doesn’t take away from the quality of the series and in fact adds to its overall attractiveness. Don’t expect this to be a sexy romp through adolescence, but rather a honest view of humans at this age and the things that make us who we are. There is one area that the Japanese are great at and they are coming of age stories that tug at our heart strings and Kokoro Connect hits a home run and made it on to my to ten releases. Be sure to check this one out.

Kokoro Connect  found it’s way into a top pick of mine for the series releases and with the addition of the 4 episodes / OVAs it is clear that it is now more than deserving of that list. I loved the way the series explores relationships without turning it into a silly redundant body swapping series. With the added emotion swapping that goes on in these OVAs it gives us another level of complexity and asked the question “how do we hide our feelings from our friends”? Funny thing is that we have all gone through this but not at this level of stress. The way that it is approached is both interesting and painful, but at all times it still keeps us grounded in both the characters humanity and the humanity of the viewers. There are plenty of other series that explore relationships such as Anohana or even Clannad, but Kokoro Connect does something that even they don’t do and that is touch a nerve that is so universal and at the same time so personal that they almost never come up and are almost never discussed among friends. To place young coming of age kids in the position of having to experience what others feel and all the while be bonded together through both friendship and the fact that they are all placed in this position without their consent. These simple factors make the series powerful for what it is and with the added awkwardness of those highly personal secrets rolling out from time to time makes Kokoro Connect something very special.

If you are looking for a series that makes you look at yourself and your friends in a new light then Kokoro Connect should be high on the list.

Similar Anime:

AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day, K-ON! , Tari Tari and Hanasaku Iroha are all in line with Kokoro Connect. AnoHana does explore the aspects of relationships and the dark secrets that we all hold back from each other. K-On!, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari follow a much simpler format of exploration of coming of age but they still deal directly with how we discover how to maintain relationships with those close to us as we age and life becomes more complicated. There are plenty of other series that take on relationships and if you want to feel something other than just a punch of adrenaline then you should be sure to pick one of these series up.

Young Black Jack (anime review)

Title: Young Black Jack: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Mitsuko Kase

Studio: Tezuka Production

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Feb. 7th, 2007

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

The year is 1968, the war in Vietnam is approaching its zenith, and the counterculture movement that’s been sweeping the world is engulfing Japan. While others are in the streets protesting, one young medical student becomes embroiled in a different kind of battle.

As new medical technologies to save and extend lives come into play, the temptation for a surgeon to play God has never been so powerful. Even as he strives to prove his own skills to his colleagues, Hazama Kuroo begins to suspect that the potentials for abuse inherent in the medical system are already being exploited.

To attempt to change the system means risking his own promising career as a surgeon, and to move against the perpetrators will put his own life in danger. However, as a doctor, how can he not act when lives are on the line?

The diagnosis is murder as the origin of Osamu Tezuka’s legendary rogue surgeon Black Jack is finally revealed in YOUNG BLACK JACK!

Commentary:

In the world of manga / anime few names take on the cult status that Tezuka does. Even the great Myazaki concedes that Osuma Tezuka was a undeniable force in the 1960s. The one thing that Osuma Tezuka did not do was to give us the rich and dramatic early days of Black Jack. This series produced after the legend has passed is far above anything I expected and stands out as one of favorite characters and stories derived from the Tezuka legacy. Young Black Jack provides plenty of drama and a wonderful dose of excitement.

Overall Grade: A-

If I was on the design staff for this series I would have brought up the one glaring issues with the character development. It has to be the unevenness of the character design. I know that there will always be a group that want to stay true to the strange and somewhat silly character design that is trademark Tezuka, but for this series it would have made more sense to make them all look more contemporary than the silly bulbous headed people that show up in the series. There is an uneven mix of normal looking characters and the silly Tezuka people. All I can do is ask why, it looks silly and detracts from the solid aspects of the anime.

To be perfectly honest I see Young Black Jack as something more than a Tezuka product, but rather a drama that continues to prove that humanity may need to be saved and at the same time not saved. I felt this way with other series like Black Lagoon and Darker Than Black. It just seems that Young Black Jack highlights the futility in our world and that giving all of yourself still may not be enough.

All you Tezuka fans get ready to be overjoyed and everyone else please try to get over the poor character design and look at the series as a whole. You will be very surprised and discover the deeper thoughts that run many anime that relate to a very easter way of thinking. So, be sure to check out Young Black Jack you will be happy you did.