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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.

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (anime review)

Title: Tanaka-kun is Always Listless on Blu-ray

Director: Shin’ya Kawatsura

Writer: Akemi Omode

Music by: Hiromi Mizutani

Studio: Silver Link

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Jan. 30th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes/ 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life

Age Rating: PG

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Tanaka-kun can’t help it. Put him someplace nice and warm, and he’ll start nodding off, even in class or on the way to school. You would think that this would eat into Tanaka’s social life, but, fortunately, our consciousness-challenged protagonist has a guardian angel in the form of his best friend Ohta, a gentle giant who (literally) carries Tanaka from place to place. Then there’s class-rep Shiraishi, who’s convinced that Tanaka’s unique perspective lets him see past her beautiful appearance; Miyano, their hyper pint-sized classmate who somehow becomes Tanaka’s unwanted apprentice in listlessness; and Echizen, a self-proclaimed delinquent who’s determined to fight him. As for Tanaka, being the center of attention is the last place he wants to be, but the world just won’t leave him alone.

Commentary:

I find Tanaka-kun is Always Listless to be a very interesting series. That fact that someone that sleepy has such devoted fiends says a lot about the Japanese culture. Tanaka being one of the most tied characters in all of anime manages to lead a full ice life. If he were in an western series he would be a side character who manages to get in the way every once in a while, but to see him have not just friends but a cute girl who has a crush on him is outrageous at best.

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless has a full variety of characters and that is where it really shines. I found Ohta to be one of the more interesting character with his stoic manner and unwavering friendship to be spot on. Most of the rest of the group are standard fair for most slice of life anime, but with this series you get to enjoy them in a much different way because of Tanaka and his sleepy nature.

Overall Grade: A-

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless hits the mark on many levels and even though it has its slow moments I found it to be vey likable. I would not recommend Tanaka-kun is Always Listless if you are tired because you might fall asleep just watching Tanaka and his listless nature.

I did find the animation style to be perfect of the series and the English voice actors did a great job with understanding their character. Most of the overall production was spot on. The only area where I found any issues was with some of the basic plot line and character development of a couple of the secondary character.

I found it to be a much more positive experience than with some of the other recent slice of life series and would suggest that if you are looking for something that is straight up funny thenTanaka-kun is Always Listless is of you.

 

Initial D Legend 1 Awakening (anime review)

Title: Initial D Legend 1 Awakening

Director: Masamitsu Hidaka, Tomohito Naka (co-director)

Studio: Sanzigen & Liden Films

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: Dec. 5th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 60 minutes

Genre: Car Racing, Coming of Age

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

In Initial D Legend 1: Awakening, when aspiring racer Koichiro Iketani witnesses an unplanned street duel between Keisuke Takahashi, a member of a rival race team, and a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, Koichiro’s totally blown away by the skill of the 86’s driver. What Koichiro doesn’t know is that the driver is fellow gas station attendant Takumi Fujiwara, who was making a late-night tofu delivery for his father, a legendary Mt. Akina driver himself.

Unforeseen events are about to springboard Takumi into the center of the street-racing world, turning the rivalry between Iketani’s Akina Speedsters and Takahashi’s Akagi Red Suns into an all-out street war! The legendary series that introduced the west to the sport of drift racing is reinvented in an all new feature film that’s even faster and more furious than ever before: NEW THEATRICAL MOVIE INITIAL D LEGEND 1: AWAKENING!

Commentary:

Initial D is one of those series that has lasted the test of time even though the cars have shown their age there is something very real about teenage boys and cars. That is really the only thing that Initial D Awakening has going for it. I know that if I were still in my 20’s or even my 30’s I would be all over this film, but I found it rather single minded and lacked a depth that I was hoping for. The fact that the natural racer (Takumi) doesn’t really care about racing and is just doing it to get home faster. There is also the connection between Takumi’s father and his racing history that is way to easy and somewhat disappointing.

The plot does hold up and Awakening does a great job of setting us up for the second film. The animation is good and the work that went into the races really paid off. There is also an attention to detail on the cars that I found interesting and reassuring. The voice acting was much more typical and fell apart at time and lent itself to the typical American answer of overacting for some of the core characters that tend to add a tension that isn’t needed.

Overall Grade: B

Initial D Legend 1: Awakening has everything any Initial D fan will need to make them very happy. It is also a great film for any young man between the age of 15 and 40 who is into cars. This gives a very special depiction of Drifting and what made it so very special in the 80’s and 90’s.

It is always fun to get a feeling for the beginning of a story line and get a sense of what these beloved characters were all about before the original series began. Initial D Legend 1: Awakening does several things very well and a few thing not so well. The biggest issue for me is that the film is broken into two films and maybe should have been edited so that it is just one full length film.

Initial D fans get your motors running!

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (anime review)

Title: Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto on Blu-ray

Director: Shinji Takamatsu

Studio: Studio Deen

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Nov. 21, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genere: Slice of Life, Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Step into classroom 1-2 and meet the coolest guy in school. In fact, Sakamoto may just be the coolest guy ever. And that’s not just because he makes his student uniform and glasses look like a fashion magazine cover. There’s also the fact that nothing ever seems to surprise or rattle him. The girls are all crazy for him, of course, but even the most macho delinquents start to feel a little funny when he’s around.

However, Sakamoto never seems to notice, let alone take advantage of the attention. He’s too busy being cool and mysterious without even trying! This does drive some people crazy, but the more someone tries to challenge Sakamoto, the more they start to fall under his spell. Intrigued? Then come join the class and get a lesson in cool from the master in Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto!

Commentary:

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto! is something of a dilemma anime for me. On one hand I think it is great and makes you want to be that extra cool Sakamoto, but on the other hand I feel like it is a one note anime. There is just too much thing to upstage or discover any flaws in Sakamoto that I feel as though the series is missing a great opportunity to make a average person manage to get through High School by just being very cool. Instead they make Sakamoto cool without trying to be cool.

I know it may seem petty and in fact I see the series as a true hit and yet I still don’t connect with the character they way I wish I could have. Of course it is more important to connect with the other characters to make the series worth while.

Overall Grade: A-

I realize that this is a high grade for a series that I believe has some serious flaws and in a way I am just another hypocrite falling in line with all of the other anime fans who like this series. I did find the other students to be worthy of my fandom and also enjoyed seeing them fail at all of their attempt to trip Sakamoto up or even discover his first name. I am just a weak as everyone else that has seen and enjoyed Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto.

As far as the animation, voice acting and overall production of the series, I would have to say that it was above average but not something to write home about. I could say there was any real standouts or major failure. That for me is a job well done and should be recognized for the effort put into the series to make it work a seamlessly as they did.

If you always wondered how the really cool kids managed to be really cool then don’t watch Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto because, it will only fool you to think they didn’t even try. If you want to watch a series and realize that you are just like all the other students then Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is just the medicine you need.

 

Chihayafuru Season One (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Chihayafuru Season One on Blu-ray

Director: Morio Asaka

Studio: Madhouse

Author: Sumino Kawashima

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: September 12, 2017

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

Genre: Drama, School Life, Slice of Life, Sports, Card Game

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: A

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow

Synopsis:

Chihaya Ayase was a girl who never seemed to fit in. She never had much in common with the other kids, and her family was so obsessed with her older sister’s modeling career that, sometimes, it was like Chihaya was not even there. Everything changes when transfer student Arata gets Chihaya interested in the world of competitive Karuta, a unique card-based game that requires lightning fast reflexes, an exceptional memory, and a keen ear. Chihaya is a natural, and she has the skills to take her to the very top. Suddenly, Chihaya has found her goal: to become the best player in Japan! It will not be easy, but when a girl has a dream in her heart, nothing else matters! Will Chihaya become the Queen of Karuta? You will have to watch Chihayafuru and find out.

Commentary:

Chihayafuru is a series that starts off very slow but then it becomes something amazing. The character development is amazing and I truly believe that Chihayafuru loves its characters. Chihaya is the tom-boy who wanted nothing better than for her sister to become the top supermodel in Japan. That was her dream for her life. But thanks to Arata and Taichi, she finally realizes that she wants to be the Queen of Karuta. Taichi is from a wealthy family and he is quite the golden boy as he is smart, good looking, and mature. He also excels at nearly everything he does which is why he is the President of the Misusawa Karuta Club. He has a crush on Chihaya but is hesitant to do anything about it as he believes she only has eyes for Arata. Arata left after elementary school graduation to take care of his grandfather. His passion for Karuta is inspired by his grandfather who was a Meijin (master).

I will 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.

The animation was so beautiful and colorful. They showed off backgrounds that will take your breath away and traditional Japanese clothing that is just amazing. The voice actors did a great job and I really enjoyed this series even if the first five to six episodes drag a bit.

Extras:

Chihayafuru 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

Bakuon!! Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Bakuon!! Complete Collection

Director: Junji Nishimura

Written By: Kurasumi Sunayama

Studio: TMS Entertainment

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Aug. 22, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Riding a bicycle may be better than walking, but when another girl zips past her on the way to class, Sakura Hane realizes that there’s an even better option: motorcycles! Fortunately, Sakura’s all-girl school just happens to have a motorcycle club! It only has one member though: the mysterious Raimu Kawasaki, who’s never been seen without her face-obscuring helmet. But that changes immediately once Sakura and the girl who passed her, Onsa Amano, sign up and start recruiting!

It won’t all be easy riding… Sakura still has to earn her license, and there are problems like the club’s official status having slipped, and the need to recruit a faculty sponsor. But when the rubber hits the road, those are just little potholes as six student bikers take a ride on the wild side!

Commentary:

Bakuon!! is simply K-On! on motorcycles or one of the other many girl high school clubs slice of life series that manage to tug at that the heart strings and manage to give us all a reminder that somewhere in the world teenage girls are not possessed with being mean or crappy like they are in the U. S. Ok, that might have been a little harsh, but in reality the current media fixation on mean girls is breading a new generation of teenage girls that are crappy at best. Bakuon!! is the opposite. It gives us girls that may not always get along but they still care enough to show kindness to each other when it matters.

Bakuon!! may not reach the classic hight of K-On! but it still manages to give us some rather wonderful slice of life moments and plenty of humor to keep the viewer coming back for more. Bakuon!! also manages to avoid the trap of Love Live or Cinderella Girls and tends to stick with the much simpler trappings of a bike club. There is some mystery and suspense when it comes to their senpai Raimu.

Overall Grade: B+

I make no secret that I enjoy these simple slice of life anime and see the easy noncommittal viewing that comes with them. Bakuon!! manages to hit all the points that make it worth watching and enjoying.

The animation quality is good and so is the character design and approach to highlighting the motorcycles they ride. There is a solid attention to where they took the series adding in plenty of humor and bizarre happenings that it is easy to stay with the series. I can’t tell if Rin’s father is immortal or just very lucky.

Bakuon!! is one for the books it may not be a solid A but it sure is a series worth checking out. I just hope it doesn’t fall by the wayside in favor of mediocre series like Attack on Titan when the real hope and allure of anime is not how mucho it can be like western comics, but rather how much it can showcase the eastern idealism and philosophy that makes it so powerful.

Bakuon!!, check it out you won’t be disappointed.

Food Wars: Season 1 (anime review)

Title: Food Wars: Season 1

Director:  Yoshitomo Yonetani

Studio: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: August 15th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 24 Episodes / 600 Minutes

Genre: Comedy,  Food Battle,  Slice of Life, Harem

Age Rating: TV-MA

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Ever since he was little, Soma Yukihira’s main goals have been to beat his father in a cooking contest and take over the family diner. That’s why, when his dad suddenly announces that he’s shutting the restaurant down and sending Soma to cooking school, Soma is shocked. However, Tohtsuki Academy is no ordinary cooking school.

This elite institution is filled with culinary giants like Erina “God Tongue” Nakiri, who does her best to keep a lowly short-order like Soma from even making it inside the door. However, if the snobs can dish it out, Soma can serve it up, and when he learns that only a handful of the students manage to graduate every year, he swears that the only way he’ll leave is as number one!

Commentary:

Food Wars is a show that hit many of the high points right off the bat. The awesome way the eating experience is depicted is a  shinning star of the series. The orgasmic nature of eating food says a lot about how great food is approached by the writers. The fact that they explain what is going on also plays into the greatness of Food Wars. Spending so much time watching Iron Chef and Top Chef along with loving anime such as Toriko and Yakatate Japan I fell in love with Food Wars and having these characters run the gantlet to become serious chefs.

The characters of Food Wars have pluses and minuses. Soma is the biggest plus and Megumi is the weakest one of the bunch. I found it too easy to dislike Erina and way too easy to like Meat-Meat. Soma is more complex and being the star of the series, he has that typical Naruto characteristic of being overly positive with that overwhelming can do attitude. It is sometimes a drag on his personality but is also a rather basic trait for a anime protagonist.

Overall Grade: A-

Most of Food Wars works very effectively, the orgasmic tasting gets rather boring after the 4th of fifth episode and some of Megumi’s anxiety attacks are annoying. I think a major positive of the show is the cooking. J. C. Staff did a great job of depicting the cooking process and the talent that goes into preparing food. I loved the way the final dishes were given the spotlight and as a fan of cooking battle shows, I had a hard time not binge watching the entire 24 episodes.

I was transported back to the wonderful world of the original Japanese Iron Chef I just wish the judging was as much fun in the live action battles as it is in Food Wars. I guess I am a little jealous that I have never had a full body experience eating food. I hope season 2 of Food Wars is released soon. If you haven’t seen it then you should put on you bibs and get your knife and fork because a full course meal is coming your way.

 

SCHOOL-LIVE! The Complete Collection


review provided by Luther

Title: SCHOOL-LIVE! on  Blu-Ray

Director: Masaomi Ando

Studio: Lerche

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: June 27th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Slice of life, Comedy, Horror, Mystery

Age Rating: TV 14+

Overall Personal Grade: A-

Synopsis:

Why would anyone form a School Living Club? Could four girls, their advisor, and a puppy really love their school so much that they’d want to live in it? Or is there another reason, something that lurks behind the façade of their comfortable existence? Something that waits outside their school’s doors. Something that has already robbed one girl of her sanity? While the others try to come to grips with a dark new reality, the rest of the world falls to ruin at the hands of a ravenous force, and insanity may be the last hope for survival. Shocks, heartbreak and stunning revelations await as the twisted tale unfolds in School Live!

Commentary:

School Live! is a series that is constantly surprising the viewer with shocking, but not unreasonable, plot twists and is a show that is best enjoyed without knowing much about the plot or setting. My first time watching the series was when it was originally airing, and all I knew about it was the name of the show and what the main characters looked like. At the time I was under the assumption that the show was going to be a standard slice of life anime, but after the twist ending of the first episode I knew I was in for something much darker.

However, School Live! is not an entirely dark horror show. Rather School Live! is an interesting blend of lighthearted comedy about girls living at school woven in between the intense drama and troubled lives of people surviving a zombie apocalypse. While slice of life comedy and horror are two genre that seem to be complete opposes, but in School Life the two tonal differences provide a unique juxtaposition. The lighter element of the series provides comedic relief and gives the viewer time to get to know and feel for the different characters; whereas the horror elements gives rise to compelling narrative and a deep mystery.  

Incorporating horror elements in to this series also provided a different take on slice of life anime. In many slice of life anime, like Lucky Star or Nichijou, bazar characters or situations appear in the everyday lives of the characters with little to no reasonable explanation and exist solely for the joke. Yet, in School Live! when similarly strange comedic occurrences happen, like a club that lives at school or a professor with so little presence that people sitting next to her forget that she is there, they are often reviled later to be a direct result of the zombie apocalypse.

Overall rating: A-

Neither existing as purely a slice of life or a horror anime, School Live! may not be what serious fans of either genre would enjoy. Nevertheless it is an interesting compelling take on both of that genre, and continually left me wanting to watch more. While the English dubbing did not have the best casting and the animation quality left something to be desired, the interesting cast of characters and the gripping story more than made up for any of the show’s short comings.

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.

Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei Herz! (anime review)

review provided by Andrew & Katie

Title: Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei Herz!: Complete Collection

Director: Shin Onuma and Masato Jinbo

Studio: Silver Link

Author: Kenji inoue and Hazuki Minase

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: January 31, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 10 Episodes / 250 Minutes

Genre: Action, Slice of Life, Comedy, Magic Girl, Fantasy

Industry Age Rating: 17 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya & Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei

Synopsis:

Illyasviel von Einzbern’s life has become ridiculously complicated since the Kaleidostick Ruby convinced her to become a magical girl and join the quest for collecting the seven Class Cards. Since then, almost every day has brought a new surprise, from gaining new friends and partners like Miyu Edelfelt, to encountering her own magical twin!

One would think Illya deserves a little time off, right? No such luck: a trip to the beach quickly turns into a magical quest, and Illya finds herself caught in a string of magical feuds, encounters with love potions, an excursion into the world of “boys love” comics (plus the women who read them), and half a dozen other delirious diversions.

However, that is only the warm-up for what might be her final mission: recovering the long-lost Eighth Card! It’s a mystical whirlwind of unexpected escapades and surprising new revelations as Illya’s saga continues in Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei Herz!: Complete Collection!

Commentary:

Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei Herz!: Complete Collection picks up right where Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei left off and turns into a slice of life series for the first six episodes. During those six episodes everything seemed to drag, as nothing seemed to contribute to the plot of being a magical girl. There was not even one fight, or transformation scene. It took some time, but after finishing the series, I understand why they did that and it makes sense, however at the same time I wish they could have staged it out a little more. One thing they did well during that time was to advance the character development quite a bit, and also beyond Illya, Chloe(Kuro), and Miyu. They developed the characters of their group of friends, and the other normally background characters that are rarely seen more than one episode straight. Another thing that went way over the edge was the fan service. I like my fan service, but this got a little too unnatural and redundant after a while. I wish they would have toned down the fan service a bit. It started feeling forced and burdensome. Eventually, it added up and became too much and did take away from the story but the character development helped keep things moving along at a bearable pace.

Eventually after all the trips to the mall, the beach, the festival, the amusement park, and doing the all the summer homework (Basphamy!!!!) we finally are ready to be a magical girl again. As with all the other seasons the battle scenes continue to be very well done and exciting. As always its action packed and exciting. Even though the action was limited to the last four episodes, they did make up for the slowness of the first half. It even eventually explained, in a roundabout way, why they did it the way they did. By the end of last episode, everything is easily wrapped up tightly with a nice little bow. That is until the credits……..

Though this season was slow at first, the eventual payoff is well worth the investment of time. I normally am a fan of slice of life style animes, but for some reason this dragged to me at first. But once you get thru it and understand the reasons why, Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei Herz!: Complete Collection is a must have continuation of this great series.

Extras:

Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei Herz!: Complete Collection includes clean opening and closing animations Herz! Shorts, 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-

Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei Herz!: Complete Collection is the perfect follow-up to the entire series. Just make sure you watch them in order so you can understand the entire story.