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tada never falls in LOVE (anime review)

Title: tada never falls in Love

Director: Mitsue Yamazaki

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: 9-24-19

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: comedic romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Tada and his younger sister live above his family’s coffee shop with their grandfather. At his high school, he and his friends are members of the photography club. His father was a photographer who died when Tada was still in grade school and now, as his son, he intends to follow in the same path.

Two new students from the European country Larcenberg move in next door and begin classes at Tada’s school. They are Teresa and her very protective friend Alec who are studying abroad in Japan for a year. Teresa’s enthusiastic and trusting nature quickly earns her the friendship of the photography club. They just don’t know who she is back home and that her future obligations will pull her away too soon.

Commentary:

I found tada never falls in Love to be a pleasant way to spend my time, like being with friends. I knew I liked it by the middle of the first episode. many of the characters have their own back or secret stories which makes it fun for the audience to be ” in the know”.

I don’t think the title was quite- the right description is on the back of the box, the header is “The Princess and the Photographer”. That seems to sum it up better for me. Core to who each of them are, these roles they act out and then we get to see what will unfold from there. The story was solid, a bit predictable but still very nice.

tada never falls in Love is visually appealing. I enjoyed the background and scenery especially. The interiors supported the story and gave a really base for the overall feel of the story. For example, the cozy feel of the coffee shop and the casual comfort of the photography club. It was also beautiful when they are outside and well done. The greenery was presented very artistically.

The one thing I didn’t care for in this anime was the English dub. The script was fine, but the Larcenberg accents were off or awkward, often distracting. Of course there isn’t a real Larcenberg with real accents, and they obviously really tried, but the actors seem to struggle with a consistency to make it seem plausible. I usually prefer to watch anime in an English dub when available but in this case, I preferred the Japanese sound with the English subtitles.

One last note, Nyanko Big , the family cat was very enjoyable. As a character he was full of personality and as a comedic element, he was indeed funny. He could star in his own show.

Overall Grade: B+

What it came here to do, it did well.

Review: Di Gi Charat Ultimate Collection

Title: Di Gi Charat Ultimate Collection on Blu-ray

U. S. Publisher: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: 9-17-19

Format: Blu-ray / 33 episodes / 320 Minutes

Audio Language: English or Japanese for the series, Japanese for the specials.

Genre: Comedy

Age Rating: TV PG

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Di Gi Charat is a collection of comedic episodes that mostly stand on their own. Basically, alien teen girls come to earth, landing in Akihabara, supposedly to be famous entertainers, but they actually end up working and living at a game store. New to the culture, they still understand most everything, but a few mistakes are made and their unique abilities cause a few odd problems. Still, they seem to know how to keep the customers in line (or at least baffled).

Commentary:

If you are looking for something light and happy to watch, and would be knowledgeable about gaming/anime references, then Di Gi Charat might be the show you are ready to binge. It is a fine diversion, silly and funny with extra helpings of cute. Don’t be expecting something out of the ordinary or epic. It’s just for fun.

Now, I know there is a back story of sorts, the female characters come from another planet. But there doesn’t seem to be a real need for it, but I do suppose it justifies their quaint or unusual behaviors and unique abilities.

The girls are made to be a store mascot, and they do so very well. Cute, bubbly and easily recognizable with their look: outfits and especially the oversized hair ornaments/hair ties. Top marks for character design. I also enjoyed the way the people in the crowd were depicted. Hey, there is an element of truth in its near faceless portrayal.

The episodes are short, which makes the aforementioned binge watching a touch annoying with the opening song seeming to take as much time as the episode. I never timed it, but it was still annoying. Cute, but annoying… like cute often is.

Now, it is an older series, so it looks that way. The animation is dated and there is a cartoony feel to things. But that suits Di Gi Charat fine.

The disc contains a big section of OVA specials not on the main menu page. Make sure to look for them.

Overal Grade: B

Cute, funny and silly. Hey, it’s a comedy. Better be in the mood for cute.

Love Stage Anime Review

Love Stage with English dub.

Title: Love Stage Complete Collection

Directed By: Kenichi Kasai

Original Work: Eiki Eiki, Taishi Zaou 

Animation Production: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: 07/30/19

Format: Blu-ray / 10 Episodes + OVA / 275 Minutes

Genre: Yaoi

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Izumi was born into a show biz family. His parents are both actors which put them into the situation that starts our story. While doing a commercial for a wedding magazine, there was a problem with the actress who was to play the flower girl. They pulled little Izumi to stand in, dressing him up like a little girl. And was he ever cute! The little actor playing the ring bearer, Ryoma, got a big crush on “her”, and kept her in his heart.

Now it is ten years later and the magazine is doing an anniversary commercial and wants the same actors involved, this time having the grown up ring bearer and flower girl be the groom and bride…What? Izumi doesn’t want any part of it. He doesn’t want to be an actor, he wants to be a manga artist, besides, he’s a guy! Well, his family pushes him into doing the commercial. He is dressed up in a beautiful wig and gown.

Ryoma is thrilled to see his love again and after the wedding kiss, he professes his love to his commercial bride. Well, however flattering, Izumi is revealed to be a guy and things sort of go badly. But still Ryoma can’t stop his feelings for Izumi. Can they at least be friends?

Commentary:

Love stage is a fun BL anime, with many of the typical elements of yaoi story telling that fans are looking for. Ryoma is the hot rising star, a few years older and very sexy. Izumi is the cutie guy who can easily be mistaken for a girl. With traditions ideal of romance and dating women, they resist the love and passion that they begin feeling for each other.

This version is a re-release with a new English dub. I usually prefer English dubs to subtitled, and that is how I watched most of this show, but towards the end, some of the voices just got on my nerves. Way too squeaky, like a mouse on Saturday morning cartoons. Easy fix, I just watched the Japanese language version. I don’t understand why some of the English voices were so exaggerated, that element was not part of the Japanese voices.

There is many things that work well in the series. The visuals were good, the depictions of the settings were given a bit of artistic expression that I enjoyed. The characters had their own style and developing personalities, even the support characters. Izumi’s brother was too bravado, but seemed to support the story at necessary times. The comedy was cute, especially at the beginning. The manga club was also a humorous touch.

All in all, Love Stage is a cute romance series for the yaoi fan. It goes farther in the OVA in case you might be looking for a little more action and love.

Overall Grade: B Love Stage has all the elements to be a successful BL anime.

Best Quote: “He said if I didn’t find you, I was Brown Bread. I don’t really know what that means but he made it sound really bad.”

Cutie Honey Universe Anime Review

Title: Cutie Honey Universe complete Collection

Director: Akitoshi Yokoyama

Writer: Akiotshi Yokohama

Original concept/manga series: Go Nagai

Producer: Production Reed

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: July 23, 2019

Genre: Action, fan service

Audio: Japanese and English

Age Rating: 17+

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

The sweet natured young lady named Honey is more than just a student, she also works with PCIS, the organization that fights against the evil collective of monsters called Panther Claw.

Panther Claw is strictly controlled by Sister Jill who wants the Airborne Element Fixing Device that Honey’s father had created. She also has a vendetta against Honey which fuels her insane and ruthless destruction. The disposable monsters that serve Sister Jill are transformed from people she tricks or captures.

In their attempts to force Honey into giving up the Airborne Element Fixing device, Panther Claw will use innocent bystanders to lure Honey into traps. With her instinct for good, Honey engages in battle to try to stop them, all the while struggling with the insight that it is her and her father’s creation that are the true targets.

Commentary:

Cutie Honey Universe is an action anime with a nod to the past. Developed from a manga series created in the 1970’s, this series follows other Cutie Honey shows. This directly influenced the older look of this animation and also the story telling pattern. Still, it had some interesting graphics and design.

This is a story of good and evil, with Honey being the pure goodness. She is sweet, naive and forgiving perhaps to a fault. Sister Jill is almost pure evil. Some of the attacks are unique in form and gruesome in concept. I don’t know why, but some of the violence was just weird. Be prepared to suspended a need for logic or clarity, especially in fights. Some things just don’t make sense, but made for a cool fight.

Cutie Honey Universe seems to get bogged down in the middle by the repetitive nature of the episodes. Panther claw sets a trap, creates havoc, Honey and the PCIS try to stop them, there is a battle and no real resolve. Then it happens in the next episode, just the detail change. We don’t seem to get anywhere in the series very fast. They could have skipped the middle 6 episodes.

The final battle was epic enough to be an exciting climax (my favorite part), but some things in the series seemed to be too quickly skimmed over. Sister Jill’s obsession with Honey (outside the Airborne Element Fixing Device) doesn’t make sense, it is nearly pointless. Where her actions stem from? I would have enjoyed it more had I known. There is more to her, but isn’t addressed in this incarnation of Cutie Honey. A quick search will revel the root of her evil.

Cutie Honey Universe isn’t all action, it has a bit of science fiction, fantasy, comedy, fan service (transformation scenes and clothing fails in battle) and yuri mixed in. All of these elements are mixed in but aren’t dominate enough to use for a recommendation if that would be what you are looking for.

Overall Grade: B

Dive!! The Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Dive!! The Complete Collection

Director: Kaoru Suzuki

Written By: Tōko Machida

Studio: Zero-G

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Dec. 11th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Sports, Drama, Comedy, Slice of Life

Age Rating: PG

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Tomoko Sakai has loved the sport of diving since he was a child, and there’s no place he’d rather be than the high board at the Mizuki Diving Club. Unfortunately, the MDC’s having hard time staying afloat financially and there’s a sinking certainty that the club is about to drown in a sea of its own debt. Fiery female coach Kayoko Asaki has a bold plan to throw the club a lifeline, but it’s going to require achieving something that’s almost impossible: get one of the club’s members on the National team for the next Olympics! Can this struggling group of young athletes pool their talents in time to resuscitate their club, or will they make the ultimate belly flop? It’s time to sink or swim as the whole team leaps for the gold!

Commentary:

Dive!! jumps into the deep end of the many sports and swimming anime that have littered the screen over the last few years thanks to the popularity series like Free and Haikyu!!. Most of the series that come out tend to be heavy on sports and drama and light on character development and substance. Dive!! on the other hand play lightly with the sport and focuses on the character development. This helps the short series rise to a level most don’t manage to find.

Being a serious fan of Haikyu!! I expect a sports anime to give me more that just cheesecake I want to care about these young athletes and really want to see then succeed. Dive!! manages to provide me with 3 characters that each have their own reason to compete and also have good reason to become friends. The fact that we don’t have the revenge rivalry amounts these 3 is great. They have their reasons to compete and go for the top, but they also see the best in each other. Often you find a team spirit that is only at the surface with some other deep seeded envy or unhealthy competitive nature lurking in the dark areas of the characters existence. Dive!! makes these young athletes friends before they become true competitors which helps them root for each other in a very natural way. That in itself would make the series work watching, but add that to full character development and you have a solid series that makes you smile more often than not.

Overall Garde: B+

I know you are asking why is it that I praised the series so highly and only give it a B+. The answer is simple, there series is just way too short. Everything seems to flow naturally through the first 10 episodes then like a flurry the story is wrapped up. There is a rush to complete that both disappoints and also lets these wonderful characters down. I wanted to learn more about all three of these main characters and get a better feeling of the struggles they each have to go through. In other words the series let itself down by being so short.

The rest of the production was solid from the animation to the voice acting. There were a few moments that I felt a softer tough with cell shading would have worked better, but they are not paying me to be a technical advisor so I guess that is just a personal issue.

If you enjoy sports anime and are looking for a quick fix then all I can say if Dive!! into it, you will walk away with a smile.

 

 

Hitorijime My Hero Anime Review

Title: Hitorijime My Hero Complete Collection

Director: Yukina Hiiro

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks

U. S. Release Date: 10-30-18

Format: Blu-ray /300  Minutes /  12 Episodes

Genre: yaoi drama

Age Rating: 14+

Overall Personal Grade: C

Synopsis:

Mashahiro is a student with things to deal with that makes life difficult. He often avoids being home since his mom often brings in her “clients” over to the apartment. Being lonely, he’s been getting involved with a bad crowd, and it is difficult to get out. One day, he meets a new friend, Kensuke, when they find a homeless kitten. They take it to his friend’s house and there Mashahiro meets Kousuke, Kensuke’s older brother. Now, through the years, Kousuke has been a guide and mentor to Mashahiro. This is what he always wanted and needed.

With the start of high school, Kousuke becomes a teacher at the boy’s school. It can be difficult to keep things professional when they all know each other so well. Kensuke begins dating an old friend while Mashahiro finds that his mentor wants their relationship to deepen in a different direction. Their student/teacher situations makes things complicated and Kousuke’s job may be in jeopardy if they pursue the forbidden relationship.

Commentary:

Okay, I’m not the target audience for this anime. Truthfully, the coercion and trickery to get their love interest to consent to fooling around and/or being in a relationship ruined it all for me. I don’t like the aspect of boy’s love/yaoi that includes the “You don’t know you want it, but I’ll force you to see that you do.” I know it is common in the genre, but it is such a negative way to enter into a relationship and I certainly wouldn’t want any of my friends to experience something like that. I prefer to see someone fall or grow into love instead of pressured or tricked. And do I need to mention, there is a reason student/teacher relationships are taboo.

Now, with all of that, I’ll focus on the anime and what and who it is intended for. Hitorijime My Hero is an average yaoi anime. I didn’t find anything really different or out of the ordinary. (Well, there is a moment when another kid in the gang questions why Mashahiro was able to get out, I would have like to have that explored.)  What it is and has is all standard characters and elements that boy’s love anime often does. Both couples that formed were already friends of sorts, and one falls for the other, who doesn’t seem to get the hint because they’ve not thought about a same sex relationship before. Through pressure on one side and embarrassment on the other, the challenged one begin to accept the new elements of their relationship. Things seem to settle down until the community and people around them begin to notice. So, it will be enjoyable to yaoi fans, but probably won’t be in their top ten.

The characters are personable and easy to invest in. Mashahiro has plenty to deal with, but took the opportunity when someone was there to protect and guide him. Kensuke is the enthusiastic friend who really cares and wishes the best for everyone. Kousuke is the sexy tough guy who expects everyone to do their best. There is a few other guys in the friend circle that help drive the humor and some plot elements. I liked the blue haired, “Why is he here?” guy. You know, the kid people generally don’t notice, and when they do, don’t know why or  how  he ended up with them.

I watched some of the anime in subtitled, mostly watching the show in English dubbed. I thought the voices worked most of the time and preferred the English.

Overall Grade: C

Hitorijime My Hero has lots of the elements that a fan looks for in a boys love/yaoi relationship drama. Nothing explicit, less than Junjo Romantica in action, but you get the idea.

Made in Abyss (anime review)

Title: Made In Abyss

Director: Masayuki Kojima

Studio: Kinema Citrus

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Oct. 23rd, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 325 Minutes / 13 Episodes

Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Grade: A-

Synopsis:

No one knows what’s at the bottom of the Abyss. No one who’s ventured that far has ever returned. What is known is that the Abyss is filled with strange creatures and priceless relics that have lured generations of fortune hunters into a diabolical trap. Because while anyone can descend into the Abyss safely, coming back up triggers a nightmarish series of transformations and madness. And the deeper you go, the less chance you have of coming back unchanged.

But when 12-year-old Riko receives a message that her missing mother might still be alive deep in the Abyss, she knows she has to go to her. She must go even if it’s a one-way trip for her and her robot friend Reg as they brave the ultimate darkness in Made In Abyss.

Special Features: Japanese Trailer & Promos, Kevin Penkin Interview, Jouel Event, Making of Made in Abyss 1 & 2, Music in Abyss, Clean Opening Animation, and Clean Closing Animation.

Commentary:

Made In Abyss is good, very good. It manages to take a simple adventure anime and turn it into something much deeper and provide a real mirror into what make us all so very human even when it is reflected in the form of a robot boy. Made In Abyss reminds me of why I like anime and that is simply the way the stories are more complicated than they seem and the overall outlook on the universe that surrounds us. We often just move through life without the wonder of what is happening around us and small things can be great wonders. There is a real symbiosis with life in Made In Abyss that is magnified by the abyss itself and there is also a metaphoric relationship between the abyss and life itself. The series gives us much to think about in a rather simple story telling fashion and also provides us with the escapist vehicle that take us to places very unexpected.

Overall Grade: A-

Made In Abyss does all this well, but the best thing it does is develop a few wonderful characters. Riko and Reg both are rich full wonderful characters that are very easy to like. Then we are given a few mysterious side characters that end up being something of a overwhelming positive support cast and finally we are introduced to Nanachi, an outstanding character that has such a tragic back story that it make you want to just hug her and hold her close.

The animation is lovely and very easy to watch even when it is giving us the brutality of the Abyss. There is a simple art design that is rich and colorful without being overbearing and allows for some of the hard edges to be just a little softer.

My real complaint comes with the overall story development and where we are left off. I guess this is a sign that I really like this series because I want to see more and am eagerly awaiting the films that will follow.

So, if you are ready for a great fantasy adventure anime then Made In Abyss will be a must have in your collection.

Frame Arms Girl: Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Frame Arms Girl: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi

Studio: Zexcs, Studio A-Cat

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Sept. 4th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Mecha, Fantasy, Action

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C+

Synopsis:

When Ao found the package on her doorstep, she thought it was a present from her father, but inside the box was something truly unexpected: Gourai!

A Frame Arms Girl, Gourai is a walking, talking, miniature artificial person with the intelligence of a ten-year-old human and a selection of snap-on weapons and armor. And the reason Gourai needs armor quickly becomes clear as two more Frame Arms Girls, Stylet and Baselard, arrive intent on testing Gourai’s combat capabilities! It seems that Ao has been chosen to help test a new toy line and the good news is that she’ll get paid for hosting her diminutive charges’ battles! Of course, since they’re mainly interested in fighting and gathering information, things are going to get awkward when they follow her to school.

Commentary:

Frame Arms Girl is taking off where Gundam Build Fighters left off. The big difference is that the Frame Arms Girls are anthropomorphic girls which has an even deeper history in the anime world leading back to Hand Made Maids and Chobits, but that is were the similarities end. The basic plot is simplistic and rather straight forward with not too many surprises. The one area that the series falls apart for me is the animation itself. The heavy handed computer graphics (CG) put me off right away. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s this style of animations was kind of cool, but with all the advancements in animation software this hard edge CG just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The thing about Frame Arms Girl that makes it special is the fact that it focuses on the younger female audience. Build Fighters brought girls into the mix and recognized the inclusion of girls in the genre, but Frame Arms Girl takes it to the next step and makes them the focus of the entire story. This is the star aspect of the entire series. Funny thing is that over the last few years I have come across more men who want to build these models and it almost seems as though the series has attracted a much difference demographic.

Overall Grade: C+

There is a lot that I liked about Frame Arms Girl, but it has to be the animation production values that stands out for me. The out dated  hard edged CG almost shut me down completely. The saving grace is the fun of the story and the fact that there is an honest attempt to include the younger female audience in the genre.

I really want to recommend this series to everyone because of the overall fun it brings and also to see how series can be more inclusive. I just find the overall endorsement to fail me because of the CG. If you enjoy bad CG and have a younger female viewer who would enjoy this story then you need to rush out and grab a copy. Frame Arms Girl is a minor hit for me and think it could find a broader audience if it had an english dub and better animation. If you are curious then you should defiantly check it out!

No Game, No Life Zero (anime review)

Title: No Game No Life Zero on Blu-ray

Director: Atsuko Ishizuka

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date:  Aug. 28th, 2018

Format: Feature Film / 105 Minutes / Blu-ray

Genre: Fantasy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

No Game, No Life Zero is the prequel movie to the anime series.

6,000 years before Sora and Shiro rocked the world of Disboard, black rain falls from the sky and multiple species fight a desperate battle for survival. Constantly caught in the crossfire between the more powerful magical races, Humanity is on the edge of extinction, always on the retreat. But amidst the chaos and destruction, one young man, Riku, has a vision of a better future. And the first step towards achieving that goal comes in a dead city, where he encounters Schwi, an exiled female android who seeks to know one thing: what it is to have a human heart.

The mysterious past of the world of Disboard is unveiled and the ultimate game begins in the spectacular prequel to the hit TV series!

Commentary:

No Game, No Life Zero manages to do something the series failed to do, win me over. The original series seemed to obsessed with Sora and Shiro relationship. In Zero it was exactly what it needed to be. It manages to setup the world in a way that makes sense. Of course you have to believe that gods are petty and could become fixated with ruling it all through war.

No Game, No Life Zero gives us rich full characters who care and are sympathetic by nature. Not weak and pitiful characters you want to hate from the moment you meet them.

Overall Grade: A-

I loved the concept and execution along with 90% of the animation production quality. There is still that pink and blue pallet that dominates after about half way through the film. The thing about pink is that it is by nature a psychotic color that does not impart clam and beauty, but rather nervous tension. Blue on the other hand does create a natural calm state, but when it is heavily paired with pink there is not much peace.

The characters of Riku and Corounne are very well written and easy to like. They provide us with a pair of humans that you want to rook for. Add a cold yet somewhat loving Schwi then you have a trio that makes sense. You want them to win and can only hope for the best.

No Game, No Life Zero is not the No Game No Life many know and love, but rather it is something better. It happens to be one of the best prequel anime movies I have ever seen. I only wish the series was this good.

Vatican Miracle Examiner

Title: Vatican Miracle Examiner: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Yoshitomo Yonetani

Studio: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Sept. 11th, 2018

Format: J.C. Staff

Genre: Mystery, Drama

Age Rating: TVMA

Overall Personal Grade: A-

Commentary:

Vatican Miracle Examiner contains episodes 1-12 of the anime directed by Yoshitomo Yonetani.

Miracles don’t happen every day. But when something impossible happens that seems to be the work of supernatural forces or higher powers, it’s the duty of the Assembly of Saints and their agents to investigate. Their job is to determine whether each incident is explainable via previously undisclosed information, a part of some plot to take advantage of the people’s faith, or a genuine miraculous event. Priests Josef Kou Hiraga and Roberto Nicholas specialize in unveiling the truth and unearthing secrets that others might wish to keep buried, but when they’re sent to Mexico to investigate reports of a virgin birth, they end up in danger of being buried themselves. Murder, demonic summoning and deals with the devil are just the beginning of a new war against the ultimate darkness.

Overall Grade: B

Vatican Miracle Examiner is one of a very short list of solid drama, mysteries coming out this year. It is also placed is world that is really rather foreign to the Japanese public and tackles a subject that is hard to understand for most Catholics much less the rest of the world. Vatican Miracle Examiner also takes us down a path that is dark any fraught with danger. It creates a mystery that opens the door for other forces to rule the day. I did find myself thinking back to Le Chevalier D’Eon.

The one thing that stands out for me is the well executed writing for the series and the lovely animation that helps draw us in while we hare exposed to the unnatural forces brewing. Even though I liked the production values I felt like it took on an almost shojo style of rendering that left me just a tad cold. I understand why things happen on a rather overall level but I did expect a fuller richer production value.

As for the character development I felt like we began to understand who we were interacting with, but because of the shortness of the series I came away feeling a little left out. All-in-all Vatican Miracle Examiner gives us a solid mystery drama that will not disappoint.