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UQ Holder! (anime review)

Title: UQ Holder! on Blu-ray

Director: Youhei Suzuki

Studio: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Nov. 27th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 episodes + 3 OVA / 375 Minutes

Genre: Shonen, Harem, Super Natural, Romance, Fantasy

Are Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

When you’re the grandson of a famous hero, you’d think that your life would be interesting, but Tota Konoe is stuck in the dullest place he can imagine! He can’t even leave his tiny village until he can defeat his teacher and foster parent Yukihime, and she seems to be impossibly powerful. Then everything changes when Yukihime is attacked and Tota learns that both she and Tota himself aren’t who or what Tota thought they were! Now Tota has a new, impossibly long life ahead of him and an amazing destiny that ties in with the fate of his grandfather, the legendary Negi Springfield! Get ready for vampires, demons and magic users galore as Tota discovers the perils of being a member of the world’s most exclusive organization as a UQ Holder!

Commentary:

UQ Holder! is a continuation of the much beloved Negima series it might be hard to live up to all the hype surrounding the past. UQ Holder! manages to do a fine job of taking the past and melding it into the current series. I am a little disappointed that some of the answers that are provided are rather simplistic and maybe a little over contrived, but the simple fact is that UQ Holder! is fun. The plot is straight forward with few surprising twist and a rather solid underlying hopefulness that makes many Shonen anime so popular. The main character, Tota, is very much as simple as his forefather Negi, but he also has a naivety that Negi did not completely have. It is almost as if there was a mix of Goku from Dragon Ball Z and Negi to make this odd rather incomplete being. Of course his discovery of himself along the way is all part of the strength of the series.

Overall Grade: B

There is something wonderful about Tota and some of the other characters, but the insane mix of harem anime culture really detracts away from the true positive aspects of the series. The area that it shines is the real love story amount Tota and Yukihime along with his simplistic bonds with some of the other characters. I found myself liking Tota against my will and also feeling sorry for Yukihime when maybe she didn’t deserve it. Most of the others were more or less comic relief and sometimes got in the way.

My great sadness comes form the week reliance on fan service to provide silly events and even push some absurd moments forward. I would have really like to see this series put forward without the major loss of clothing if only ended up detracted from the content of the plot and making serious situation rather silly isn the end. I understand that the audience for the series is that 16 to 25 male group, but there is also a latent fanbase of young women who loved the manga series and who would have really like this series if the girls managed to keep their cloths on.

Bottom line is that UQ Holder! is a fine continuation of the Negima series and also opens the door for more to come.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me- (anime review)

Title: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me-

Director: Tatsuya Ishihara

Studio: Kyoto Animation

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: November 20th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray, Feature Film, 94 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

Yuta and Rikka may have finally started to come to terms with the various delusions that have run their lives, but as their relationship becomes progressively more real, their development as a couple seems to be increasingly in danger of stalling out! When your relationship is partially the result of a series of fantasies, what can reality serve up that’s equal to the make-believe?

Rikka’s sister decides that she’s going to move to Italy and take Rikka with her, and the solution that Rikka and Yuta decide on is both improbably logical and unrealistically practical: They’re going to elope! For real! Get ready for the ultimate fantasy road trip as our two young would-be lovers take off a whirlwind tour of the real Japan in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me-

Commentary:

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me- takes us further along in the saga of Rikka and Yuta which finally gives us some real closure on their relationship in ways that make total sense and feel very natural for such an absurdist type of romance anime. Honestly, the struggle for these characters to deal with their chunibyo is worth the watch and at the same time begin to understand that the real world has a great deal to offer.

This installment of the series points us to a bright future for everyone and allows us to continue to like everyone for who they are and not what others might want them to be. Yuta may just be the only one that understands this more than anyone but he also appears to be further along on his road to maturity than the other, especially Rikka.

The real fun to the film is the way they all interact to help Rikka and Yuta evade Toka. The beauty is that there is a symmetry to everything that goes on and a blast of humor that does not deny the original series.

Overall Grade: A

I am often worried when I come across short films that could be nothing more than toss of money grabs for a series. In the case of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me- it is clear from the very beginning that the intent is to tell even more of the store and find a wonderful stopping point for the story. Now I can’t be sure that the series is done with this film, but I would not be disappointed if it is. I feel like I can believe that they will all be fine as they mature and that Rikka will grow into a beautiful person who maintains a rich fertile imagination that will blend perfectly with Yuta’s pragmatism.

For all the fans of the series I know you will not be let down by Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me-.

Chihayafuru Season 2 (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Chihayafuru Season 2 on Blu-ray

Director: Morio Asaka

Studio: Madhouse

Author: Yuki Suetsugu

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: March 20, 2018

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 625 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Game, Romance, School Life, Sports

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: A

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow and Chihayafuru Season 1

 

Synopsis:

Chihaya’s determination to become a master karuta player has not changed, but as a new semester begins, the team’s focus switches to recruiting new members for the club in order to keep their meeting space. Unfortunately, while a number of students initially express interest, few are willing to put forth the effort it takes to play on the level of the existing members. Enter Sumire Hanano, who split with her boyfriend on the first day of school. Now seeking a replacement, she thinks that Taichi might just fill the role nicely, even if it means jumping into a pool with a shark like Chihaya! Now all the cards are on the table or, in this case, the floor and the games are really about to start!

 

Commentary:

I will first try and explain Karuta but it will not be short. Karuta is not to be compared with playing cards in the sense of the Western World. It is not Poker, Rummy or Skat. It would be most comparable to Memory. There are different types of Karuta that can be played. Uta-Garuta is played in Chihayafuru. The card game consists of 200 cards, 100 of which are called Yomifuda, this are the reading cards and 100 Torifuda, which are the cards that are use by the players itself. On the Yomifuda are the first three verses of a traditional Japanese poem. The Poetry comes from the Hyakunin Isshu (100 poems of 100 poets, each poet one poem). The Torifuda (game- or field-cards) contain the last two verses of the respective poem. The challenge consists in recognizing the poems during the reading and to catch the corresponding play card in front of the opponent. Karuta fulfills everything a sport should have, high concentration, excellent memory, lightning reflexes, strategic thinking, endurance, resilience, mental strength and a tremendous commitment to the long training for coordination and precession. The person who touches the right card on the field first gets the card, when you take a card from the opponents side you can give them one of yours, when your half of the playing field is empty you win.
It sounds simple and quite boring but it’s NOT. In order to touch the right card quickly, cards get flung of the playing field, people are sweating, thinking and reacting at full speed and crazy-eating chocolate in between these intense games. To really play Karuta at top level you need memorization skills, good hearing and senses, good posture, analytic and strategic skills, precision, strength, speed, perseverance, an emotional connection to the cards and so much more. As you can see, Karuta is very difficult to play but when it is played by people who love it, it is a beautiful thing.

 

Chihayafuru Season 2 starts off right where season one left off. We are introduced to two new characters who are the only students who join the club in the new semester. We first meet Sumire Hanano, an incoming first year, and she has decided to only join the club and learn to play Karuta in order to get closer to Taichi. Eventually, she is moved by everyone else’s passion and becomes a proper member of the club. She uses makeup, especially mascara, as battle armor and is never without it. We then meet Akihiro Tsukuba, an incoming first year student who has played Hokkaido-style Karuta (second verse karuta using two hands) and wants to join the club and learn how to play first verse karuta. He is the annoying/creepy character that you want to hate but instead learn to love. He has three younger brothers who look up to him and he plays off their attention to the extreme. He is drawn to pretty people so of course he looks up to both Chihaya and Taichi. Both characters added to the plot and made a great addition to the series.

 

Chihayafuru Season 2 focuses more on the competitive karuta than the love triangle between Arata, Chihaya and Taichi. The love triangle was there but we saw a lot more karuta games, both individual and the group games. The Tokyo finals and the High School Nationals were both shown and the other schools from season one were back again, along with a few new ones. Chihaya also faces off against the current kurata Queen and once again loses but she learns an important lesson while doing so.

 

The animation was beautiful and breath-taking. The background animation popped with color and the music really set the mood. I truly cannot wait for the third season to air so I can see what happens next.

 

Extras:

Chihayafuru Season 2 on Blu-ray 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: A

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Complete Collection Blu-Ray (anime Review)

series was reviewed by Andrew and Katie

Title: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Complete Collection Blu-Ray

Director: Ai Yoshimura

Studio: Brian’s Base

Author: Shotaro Suga

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: March 13rd, 2018

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Romance, School

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, WataMote: No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular, Haganai, and Haganai: NEXT

Synopsis:

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Complete Collection contains episodes 1-13 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and episodes 1-12 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!

Caution! Opposites may attract, but putting them together may result in chemical burns, electric shocks, and explosions. Enter Hachiman Hikigaya, a pessimistic high school student with no friends and absolutely no interest in making any, and the firm belief that everyone else’s cherished high school experiences are either delusions or outright lies. Hachiman finds himself forcibly coerced by his well-meaning student advisor into joining the one member Service Club. There he encounters club founder Yukino Yukinoshita, a smart, attractive, walking superiority complex who looks down on the entire student body.

These two negative personalities are quick to attract Yui Yuigahama, who’s cute, bright, cheerful, and needs the Service Club’s help to… bake cookies as she should not be allowed in a kitchen by herself. Is this a recipe for romance or the precursor for a nuclear meltdown? Will there be cookies or a reason for everyone to play hooky? Get ready for rom-com gone totally wrong as the three members of the Service Club is unleashed on the unsuspecting student body!

The stampede of recent events may have herded the awkward members of the Service Club into something closer to a real bonding, but the upcoming field trip to Kyoto threatens to reverse those tiny steps forward. Alongside a list of attractions to see, they will also be taking along a lot of emotional baggage, and helping others with their personal and romantic issues may just cause the entire luggage rack to collapse.

Between Hachiman’s growing realization of how much he can manipulate others, Yukino’s underlying battles with responsibility, and Yui’s shifting needs and insecurities, the tenuous thread that holds their relationship together is more fragile than ever. Even as the path ahead is strewn with psychological traps, the feelings that each of them refuse to acknowledge may end up being the true pitfall in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!: Complete Collection.

Commentary:

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection is the opposite of a rom-com but at the same time it is one as well it just depends on the episode. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection gives you a fresh and exciting spin on anime stereotypes that will leave you bawling in laughter. The storyline is mostly episodic and character-driven. The last few episodes flow together but the rest of the episodes do not need to be watched in order after the first episode.

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection really gets its characters and empathizes with them, but it does not make excuses for them. The characters are wonderful and well thought-out. Hachiman Hikigaya, or Hiki, is your cynical and somewhat pessimistic lead male character and his dissections of everyday occurrences and his appreciation for the little things in life bring hilarity to the story. The way he thinks and acts changes drastically throughout the course of the show as he meets new people and learns more about how to be a friend. Yukino Yukinoshita is the incredibly cunning and calculative tsundere of the series. She and Hiki are in the same boat when referring to lack of friends because she lacks them due to her perceived perfection and elitist attitude; while Hiki lacks them for his mistrust of others and cynical behavior. It was amazing to watch them grow on each other in a way that is not very predictable, but extremely well done. Yiu Yiugahama is the air-headed and inexplicable nice member of the group and serves as the glue that sticks them together with her much needed comical outbreaks and genuine emotions.

The animators brought these characters to life and it was amazing to watch. The character designs were bright and the facial expressions added the realism to the series. The opening and closing songs were fun to listen to and were easy to sing-along with. The voice actors did a great job and helped bring the characters to life before your eyes.

I loved the first season and I was really looking forward to the conclusion that My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!: Complete Collection would give the story. Boy was I wrong about that conclusion because Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui end up not talking about their feelings at all and instead shove them all to the side so they can just be friends. There was no plot progression, actually it crawled at a snail’s pace and never really went anywhere, and the characters did not change or develop at all.

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!: Complete Collection starts off where the first season left off at the school festival and Hachiman’s behavior is explained to some degree. Then they all go off to Kyoto and that is where all the problems for our three main characters start. Hachiman decides to go off and change the outcome of one of the club’s projects and they did not care at all for how he handled it. Yukino’s older sister comes back into the story and just causes all sorts of trouble and eventually brings their mother into the picture because she is worried that Yukino is just copying her older sister and not becoming her own person. That situation is what forces Yukino to set her true feelings aside and it changed her personality. Yui is just too shy to say her true feelings and instead just wants everyone to be friends and get along. She knows that cannot happen but she still pushes for it every chance she gets.

The animation changed a bit from the first season but it still looks great. The colors are bright and lively and the backgrounds do not detract from the characters. The voice actors did a great job as always. The opening and closing animations were catchy and I found myself singing along with them within a few episodes.

Overall Grade: B

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection has made it onto my list of favorite series and I found it quite enjoyable. It is a refreshing and interesting take on the rom-com genre. It is great that Sentai Filmworks has put both together in one package.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version (anime review)

review provided by Andrew and Katie

Title: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version on Blu-ray/DVD

Director: Tatsuya Ishihara

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Author: Jukki Hanada

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks / Section 23

U.S. Release Date: October 17, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pac / Movie / 96 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School Life

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions and Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Heart Throb

 

REALITY, BE RENT! SYNAPSE, BREAK! VANISHMENT, THIS, WORLD!!!

 

Synopsis:

In Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version, it’s just so not fair! Sure, Rikka may be a “chunibyo” afflicted with a state where she’s convinced that she has hidden powers. Maybe she DOES think she has an evil eye that always has to be covered with a patch. But that does not mean that what she believes is not real to her, and Rikka knows in her twisted little heart that Yuta Togashi is much more than just another boy. So why is he always pulling away? At long last, here is the chance to see the world through Rikka’s eyes (or eye, technically, since the evil one is usually covered). Armed with your trusted parasol, you will deal with evil high priestess sisters, enchanted animals, and the scariest thing of all, going literally boy crazy!

 

Commentary:

Basically, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version is cut scenes from season one of the series in Rikka’s perspective. There is an awesome dream sequence in the beginning that I really hope they revisit in the next movie that is due out. I am having trouble seeing this as a movie as the only thing added was that dream sequence and I was quite disappointed when it was found to be a dream. They did pick good scenes from the first season and it did make me remember the first season better.

 

Every character is likable, well developed, and brings something to the story. Yuta, the former chunibyo, looking to get away from it and to being a normal teenager. Rikka, a fully fledged chunibyo, follower of the Wicked Lord Shingan. Dekomori, the pig tailed middle school student, servant to Rikka, and wielder of the Mjolnir Hammer. Nibutani, the seemingly popular girl, cheer leader, class president, and general fantasy of all the guys, that seems to be the oddball-out in this group. And Kumin, who just wants a club she can nap in. They all bring a high level of moe, and you will quickly fall in love with them all. Watch as imaginary fights come to life, with overactive imaginations of the chunibyo. Plus you get a taste of the fascinating martial art of cooking utensils. If that’s not enough for you, enter the comedy. Well thought out Yonkoma style gags, mocking of cultural clichés and overall random insanity assist the whole thing along. Need some drama? Well aren’t you demanding… Well guess what, it has that too. There is a lot of love in this story too, so you know. How can all this work together? They did a great job of combining it all together, and giving it a balance of reality, and the fantasy of escaping reality. They also included some cultural clichés than have transcended Japan, like capcom code, role playing, slapstick comedy, and issues more serious in nature like dealing with loss and the pains of growing up. Some of us may not understand that last one, since we never actually grew up, but that is a story for another day.

 

The animation was well done and the voice actors did a great job bringing the characters to life. The music was catching and the opening and closing was interesting. All-in-all, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version is a wonderful re-cap of the first season but I was wishing for something more.

 

Extras:

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version includes clean opening and closing animations, My Brother 2 short, and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This movie was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options. However, the My Brother 2 short is only in Japanese with English subtitles.

 

Overall Grade: B

Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection
Director: Yoshimasa Hiraike
Studio: AIC
Author: Noboru Kimura and Touko Machida
U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks/Section 23
U.S. Release Date: October 10, 2017
Format and Length: Blu-ray /37 Episodes + 2 OVA’s / 975Minutes
Genre: Drama, Romance, School Life
Industry Age Rating: 13 and up
Overall Personal Rating: C+
Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: KimiKiss: Pure Rouge, Hatsukoi Limited, Clannad, and Kanon (2006)

Synopsis:
Junichi Tachibana has never been lucky in love. Ever since his date stood him up on Christmas Eve two years ago, he has pretty much given up on the whole idea and spends his days inside his closet planetarium, going to school and hanging out with his friends Kaoru and Umehara. However, there are quite a few girls who would all make wonderful partners for Junichi if he would only open his eyes and his heart. Could he have struck up a meaningful relationship with any of them if he’d done the right things and said the right words?

Well, it is time to find out as Fate steps in and decides to see what would happen if Junichi were to snap out of his funk and take a chance. This is a whole new twist on the idea of love at sixth or seventh sight, and if one boy and a whole lot of different girlfriends-to-be sounds like a lot of wishful thinking… well, it is! But wishes have that weird habit of coming true and the statistical odds are definitely on Junichi’s side as the guy without a date’s luck with the ladies goes from bad to multi-verse! Will Junichi find his good ending with one of the ladies, or is he to be lonely for the rest of his life? Watch Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection and find out!

Commentary:
Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection is a series that follows Junichi Tachibana as he falls in love with six different girls at different times within the same time period; almost like Groundhog Day. Amagami SS is the first season and Amagami SS+ is the second season. I personally prefer the first season over the second but you will need to watch both and figure out which on you like better. This series is based off a PS2 dating game with the same idea. Each girl gets their own story arc of four episodes and we usually get a nice wrapped up story within those four episodes. Some arcs were better than others, but I enjoyed them all. I am a hopeless-romantic and I love a good romance if it is well done and Amagami SS: The Complete Collection is one of the good ones. I can see myself rewatching this series again.

Junichi’s character is very well developed and we get to see this development through the arcs. However, he is always slightly perverted no matter what, but eventually you accept it and just laugh at those moments. Haruka is the girl the first arc is about. She is a very unique and cheerful girl who loves puppies and other cute things. She is really loveable and her voice actress did an amazing job bringing her to life. Kaoru is a childhood friend of Junichi and the second arc is all about her. She is hard-working and has a cool personality. Sae is the girl in the third arc. She is a first year student at the school and is very shy. They actually make a very cute couple. Ai and Junichi meet up for the fourth arc. This arc has the most emotion and development. The ending was beautiful and really moving. I could not help but feel attached to Ai as her personality is just too cute. Rihoko is the fifth arc’s girl. However, she already loves Junichi but he does not love her. This arc felt very slow and drawn out. She is not a horrible character but this arc did not hold my interest very well. We finally meet Tsukasa in the final arc. She is the class volunteer for the Christmas festival at school and Junichi decides to help her out. Eventually they get closer and something beautiful happens at the end. Tsukasa is a wonderful and likable character.

In Amagami SS+, each girl is given two episodes to wrap up everything in a pretty bow. Personally, I think they could have cut it down to one episode each and made them into OVA episodes. They drew out the episodes by adding more drama than was necessary or by introducing characters that were not in the first season. If I had to pick a favorite arc for the second season I would have to say it was the Sae arc. It was cute but drawn out.

The opening and closing songs were well done and each arc has its own closing songs. There are two different opening songs and both are well done and catchy. Some of the closing songs are better than others but I think that has more to do with how you feel about the arc itself. The artwork was well done and the background pictures jumped off the screen.

Extras:
Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series only has Japanese with English subtitles as the language option.

Overall Grade: C+
Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection is a wonderful romance and I recommend it if you enjoy that genre of anime. It would have a higher grade if the second season was better.

 

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.

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.

Comet Lucifer (anime review)

Title: Comet Lucifer: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Directors: Yasuhito Kikuchi, Atsushi Nakayama

Writer: Yūichi Nomura

Studio: 8-Bit

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Feb. 14th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Mecha

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

Sogo Amagi has spent a good portion of his young life looking for rare crystals in abandoned Giftdium mines, but it’s not until he’s lost in the ruins beneath his own home town that he and his friend Kaon make the most incredible discovery of all: a giant crystal with a girl trapped inside! Things only get wilder when the girl is unexpectedly freed.

Suddenly, the mines are invaded by giant robots controlled by a secret military organization, which is in turn fought off by a mysterious being made of crystal!

That leaves Sogo, Kaon, and their friends scrambling to figure out what to do with Felia, a red-eyed girl with strange powers who doesn’t even speak their language!

They need to figure everything out quickly, because unless they can unravel Felia’s secrets and learn why the military is after her, their whole planet may be in danger of complete annihilation in COMET LUCIFER!

Special Features: Garden Indig’s Train Shorts, Music Videos, Clean Opening and Closing Animation.

Commentary:

Within a few minutes I had a wave of other anime flood my memory. Comet Lucifer is a clear derivative of several there anime and in some ways it fails to live up to the standard that has been set before it. In other ways it manages to give us a story that entertains and intrigue. I understand why Sentai didn’t spend the money to dub Comet Lucifer and also understand why it didn’t take long to go from Crunchyroll to Blu-ray.

There is plenty of decent mystery and tension in Comet Lucifer. Although the area where it falls apart for me is in the character development and attempt to provide some comic relief. I did like the way Felia attached herself to Sogo and Kaon, but also felt like there was a weak attempt to create a real family between the three. It is not until late in the series that there seems to be a sense of connection. Even with that connection there are plenty of question that are left open.

Overall Grade: B-

As much as I wanted to really like Comet Lucifer and did enjoy some aspects of the series, but all in all I bound it to be forced and overly contrived. The series doesn’t have the feel of Fractle or even the odd the special connection that is found in Last Exile.

I tend to really enjoy these fanciful stories and love the way they tend to unfold. Comet Lucifer has much of the key aspects needed to be a fine series. In the end it does some things really well, but the total development of the characters leaves some things out which ends up hurting the overall strength of the series.

If you are a fan of fantasy anime that is a hidden love story the you should like Comet Lucifer just let it flow over you and do try to make it fit the trope it comes from.