Monday, October 28, 2013

Anime Review: Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East

Last week I said The Eccentric Family was my last summer anime show to review and in a way I was right, I had originally picked this show up way in January, dropped it even though I liked it since I wasn't sure enough was going to happen, and then picked it up again starting in that weird week in-between seasons for something to watch. So it is technically a summer show, it was a split cour, it doesn't feel that way to me, although now I regret not watching it as it came out because of just how much fun I had. And just as a quick note, this story seems to follow a bit of a different interpretation of the Hakkenden than other stories seem to, I do recommend skimming the wikipedia page for it first and then the characters in show tell you what other stories are going to be plot relevant later on.

Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East

Summary: Five years ago the village where Shino, Sosuke, and their friend Hamaji lived was burned to the ground and they were it's only survivors, abet with some odd side effects. Hamaji is normal but Shino hasn't aged in those five years and Sosuke is able to transform into their old dog, this is in addition to the fact that the two of them already had the same birthmark and were both born clutching mysterious gems. They're living happy, content lives far from prying eyes but when they're summoned by the church all of their lives are about to get quite a bit more exciting and complicated.

The Good: The way I've been describing this show is that it feels a bit like a throw-back to a late 90s/early 00s show in a good way, like manga-group CLAMP's works before Tsubasa Reseviror Chronicles and xxxHolic. It's centered more around a theme than plot (friendship and camaraderie in this case*), although the plot will pop up when needed, it gets a little goofy and self-aware at times, but never in such a way that it seems to be winking at the camera, and I just had fun watching the characters interact and react with each other. Oh and it has long lost siblings, dark dramatic pasts, memory loss, a character outside the group who seems to be the most blase about everything going on, twins/clones/shadow-thing, and people losing eyes, it's practically a homecoming for CLAMP fans!** But I think that anime fans who just want a silly fantasy story, not something too dark or complicated to keep track of but something a little more than a monster-of-the-week series will enjoy this and despite the almost complete lack of romance (aside from two side characters and it was actually rather adorable to watch them realize they had fallen for each other at the same time I did) I'm rather surprised that the BL fans aren't all over this show with its 90% male cast. 

The Bad: As predicted earlier, no the story doesn't reach it's final conclusion in the series, something even the characters riff on, and given how tidy the last arc was in some ways I suspect that was an anime original way to tie the show up in case they couldn't get another season (having seen the DVD/BR numbers I don't believe one is coming). I will say it ties up the show well enough, it's the end of a larger arc, the characters have grown some, mysteries have been revealed (well, to the viewers anyway but again the characters in the show do pick up on when things don't quite seem right like suspiciously similar details in their lives), it's just a clear "and a few days later the story goes on" ending. I'll also note that I rewatched the first few episodes after I finished the show, since I had last seen them seven months earlier, and it does seem like the show needed it's first arc to really get a feel for the characters and the setting. At the time it didn't seem very rough, just fast paced as they tried to get all the introductions out of the way, but viewers who watch all 26 episodes in a shorter time frame might notice some oddly quick character development.

The Production Values: I will admit I was crushed when I checked out Section 23's stream of the show on hulu to see if they had translations of the OP/EDs and realized that the Engrish in the first opening was pretty terrible. I had been able to make out a few words and felt like it was walking that line between cheesy and cool enough to work for the show, nope not actually. Aside from that, I could never tell if one or two of the VAs were just plain bored or if their characters were supposed to sound this blase (I can imagine that a lot of gigs are probably "well, it's an okay show and it's a paycheck", not every show will be awesome after all) but all of the main characters sounded fine and the first ED really grew on me, especially with it's visuals. I do with the show had actually chosen a color scheme, it's the opposite of Samurai Flamenco because a lot of things seem overly bright and cheerful and just not tied together enough, but I'll take overly fun colors over too-subdued colors any day of the week.

In the end I give this highly fun and enjoyable show either a 3.5 or 4 out of 5 (I feel like it's not "good enough" for a four but I really enjoyed it!) and plan on picking it up at some point since Section 23/Sentai has licensed it. You can check out the show on either Crunchryoll or Hulu but only the Hulu stream has the translation of the afore-mentioned terrible Engrish (and weirdly enough Sentai hasn't translated the OP/ED for the second season, guess they'll do that later and maybe amend the streams?).

*the show really has a thing for pairing characters up, completely non-romantically, and I haven't seen a show set up so many parallel relationships since Star Driver and it's obsession with trios.
**no lie, some areas of the Clamp fandom have adopted the phrase "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye" considering just how damned often they started using that trope.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Documentary Review: Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

Well this is a rather appropriate review to remind folks that in November my schedule changes up a bit so I can talk just about manga which means that Friday and Saturday's normal reviews will be on Wednesday and Thursday this week and these will be the last tv/movie/anime/book reviews until December. I'll have more details up for any newcomers and long time readers on Friday.

In any case, this was shown on PBS recently and it's also streaming on their site but I don't know for how long so I'm advising anyone whose even a bit interested in this in going here and checking it out. It's three hours long but split into three, one hour long blocks so you can easily split up up over a few days, but then again this is coming from the person who finds watching documentaries fun anyway.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

Summary: The history of superheroes in America, from their conceptualization in the 1930s to the movie blockbusters of today, is discussed.

The Good: I really liked how this documentary was centered around how superheroes have changed as America has changed, it was suddenly quite clear why Superman is the way he is and I could even see where comics started getting "dark and edgy" and what those were a reaction against in some ways (the answer is the 90s and wanting to shock people by doing things "the big two" wouldn't let people do for those interested, not a terribly shocking reveal). I thought this was a pretty great way to structure it and now I understand more about past American culture in general.

The Bad: Well, given that this was only 3 hours to cover nearly 80 years of history it stands to reason that a lot of things seemed to be left out. I wish they had talked more about the female characters or women involved in comics, the story seemed to focus on the biggest, mostly male, characters for time's sake, although they did make sure to touch on that, the gay allegory with the X-Men, and minorities a bit. I was also a bit confused how they found everyone to interview, the creators and historians obviously made sense, and since they talked a bit about the superhero movies it also made some sense that they had screenwriters talking, but then they had some people who I believe were just the actors or had other minor roles in making the comics (like a colorist) and I wondered if they had run out of people to talk to or if they were bringing an important viewpoint that I just didn't realize. There are so many other things I wish they had also covered, superheroes in other countries now, webcomics, etc,)  but I do understand why they kept their focus as narrow as it was in most cases, although a bit less focus on just Marvel and DC's main characters (and really, it was mostly DC since they have Batman and Superman) would have been nice. 

The Production Values: I am happy to say this documentary looks perfectly fine, honestly if PBS had messed up "people sitting in front of a camera giving interviews" then I would have been rather alarmed. I was a little curious at their choice to show some scenes from comics while adding in some animation and having actors read the lines. I know why they did it, showing just text on screen while knowing the audience is going to read at varying speeds isn't a great idea, but the actors just sounded a bit off to me so I'm not sure that this was a much better idea.

So I'm giving this a hearty recommendation and a suggestion. To anyone out there on the internet who knows a lot about superheroes I have a proposal for you, make a series (blog posts, tumblr, youtube, whatever!) where each installment focuses on a different, more minor character from DC/Marvel and just talk about who they are, what stories they've been in, recommendations for a newcomer, and where the character currently stands. This documentary also showed to me just how much variety there is when you look at the extended universes of both of them but I have no idea where to start or even how to start and I can't be alone in that. And, given the number of nerds out there now, there must be someone who could pull off, or at least organize (a la Golden Ani), a project like this right?


Book Review: Adaption

Some people might be curious why, since I liked Malinda Lo's Ash and Huntress so much, it took me so long to get to her latest (as of reading, not as of writing) novel. Well two reasons, one libraries and two since this was of a completely opposite genre (modern day sci-fi with a tad bit of horror) I was a tad worried that it just wouldn't be good, plenty of people out there can write in multiple genres just fine and plenty of people don't do so well.  But when I finally came across it at the library I made sure to grab it because what's the worst that can happen? Get very freaked out by dead birds it turns out, reading this and When We Wake back to back was not one of my more clever moves.....

Adaption by Malinda Lo

I'm not 100% sure what is going on here but I do remember being turned off a bit by the cover and that was part of the reason I took so long to read it. I think I know which event the cover is trying to recapture but the problem is that it's completely the wrong color (because I guess dank green makes for a better sci-fi color than egg yolk yellow) which just makes me even grumpier about it.

Summary: Reese is in a less than ideal mood, having both embarrassed herself in front of her crush David and the two of them did poorly in their debate competition and that's when things get, odd. Airports across the country as shut down as thousands of crazed birds cause crashes and even on the ground things are tense as they attempt to drive home instead. And that's where things get even stranger for the two of them....

The Good: Well it turns out that Lo is one of the authors who can successfully tell a story in more than one genre, hurray! Once we got past the creepy birds part I rather liked the story, as someone whose used to stories throwing crazy plot twists out there* I was able to figure out what was going on but never felt like the reveals were too obvious or that the characters were being too dumb in order to draw out the tension. I liked Reese as a character and I liked her relationship with David, they both felt like nice ordinary teens where ordinary didn't mean unobservant or boring

The Bad: As mentioned earlier, this is hardly a bad thing but I do not recommend reading the early part of the book at night, or during periods of the year where there are large migratory bird flocks (which is right now, oops). There is a reason for the bird craziness and that I did have a bit of a hard time swallowing, what happened happened on such a huge scale that it was just a bit too much for my suspension of disbelief (there are one or two other reasons but I can't figure out how to talk about them while still being vague so I'll just mention that I had multiple problems with it). And I must express annoyance, since this has come up in a number of recently produced stories I've seen recently, not just here, about the characters having never heard of bisexuality before. Reese at least seemed completely unfamiliar with the term and it's just, well, you're telling me that she lives in a rather liberal part of the country, a few years in the future (ie, even more progressive on the social front), and has never heard that you can be something that's not straight or gay? In a fictional setting you must get the little details right to keep the readers believing in the story and, while Reese's confusion over her identity was understandable her initial reaction to it just wasn't**.

In the end I shall give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars for being interesting yet having just enough details not quite work for me to adore it. The sequel just came out last month and I will be on the look-out for it at my local library although I doubt I'll be able to get to it before the end of the year since these things do take time. 

*I mean, y'all have seen some of the anime I've reviewed right?
** I'll admit that it also bothered me on a more personal level since I'm not gay or straight, I'm asexual, which I hadn't heard of by Reese's age but I had heard about bisexuality (which I'm going to use for lack of a better term, even though pansexual might be more accurate in the end). So it was frustrating and left me going "really? Man you at least are something people have heard of, this is just frustrating!"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Manga Review: Wandering Son (volume 2)

Goodness it's been a while since I last talked about this series, and since I'm not sure if my current library system has volumes three and beyond it might be quite a while again before my next review. But at least all of this material is still new to me, I believe the material the anime covered started in volume 5 (ie, the ones that people who actually purchase the books are receiving now) so I still have a ways to go before I'm in familiar territory!

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako

Summary: Shuuichi and Yoshino continue to muddle their way through life as elementary school kids and deal with gender and sexuality issues that would confuse many a full grown adult.

The Good: I remember feeling frustrated after the first volume since something just seemed off and, when I looked online, found that many other people felt that way and that the story really hit it's stride around the third volume. Perhaps I just approached the manga differently this time, I don't feel like I did, but I felt like this was a much stronger, more interesting work with a firmer grasp of where it wanted to go and how to get there. The side characters were more interesting, I was able to follow the story better, I connected more with the character emotionally, it was great, I just have no idea why it changed so quickly!

The Bad: Having seen the anime I know that ultimately Yuki and her boyfriend Shiina are good people but, after a lifetime of being told not to talk to strangers as a child it still made me feel weirdly protective of Suuichi and Yoshino visiting them by themselves. Well, that and Shiina's actions, that felt almost out of character for this story and that was easily the biggest dissonance for me. I do wish that Yuki had been introduced differently, although I can't think of a way myself, but that's really a complaint I should have been making about the first volume, not this one.

The Art: Even though much time can't have passed between drawing the first two volumes I already liked the style here a bit better (it seemed more sure of itself, more polished) and it was easier to tell the side characters apart. In fact, the only compliant I have is that when I was looking up images for the review I noticed how odd the title looked and I'm a bit baffled by the word placement choice since I thought you never split up a word in a title. Although honestly I'm just as confused why I didn't notice it earlier, I must have had it piled under some other books when I wasn't reading it.

So I'm once again interested in this series and really hope it doesn't take me nearly two years to find the next volume, although I suppose in the meantime I could go rewatch the original show if Crunchyroll is still streaming it.....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Anime Review: The Eccentric Family

And now for the last summer anime review (well, sort of, I'll explain next week) I tackle one of the blogosphere's darlings, an anime based on a book written by Tomihiko Morimi (the author of the The Tatami Galaxy as well) which gave it an odd sort of nerd-cred in the circles I run in. This was one of the shows I was most excited for when the summer started and even though it didn't end up being my absolute favorite show I was pretty happy with it by the end.

The Eccentric Family (Uchoten Kazoku)

Summary: In the city of Kyoto there are many different kinds of people who live there. Humans of course but the city has also been populated by tengu and tanuki since ancient times and the three of them maintain an odd balance, even if the humans are barely aware of it. Yasaburo is a young tanuki from a tanuki family with a foot in each world it seems, masquerading as a human for fun, his teacher is a tengu (and quite possibly his crush, his master's former student), and he has deep ties to his tanuki family. But as with all families there are stresses there are stresses and problems with it and it seems like some of their problems have their roots far outside his family in the rest of Kyoto.

The Good: I'm finding it a bit hard to articulate why I enjoyed this series since I didn't like it for the usual reasons. There's no grand sweeping plot, a setting that is a character in it's own right, or characters who undergo deep, transformative journeys, although I'm sure people will argue with me on the last two points, Eccentric Family is in some ways a simpler series than that but to call it simple would be a gross misrepresentation. Unsurprisingly it's largely centered around the theme of family, both within Yasaburo's immediate family and the feud with his uncle and cousins, and watching his family change and begin to grow again, frozen as they were after his father's tragic death, is where I feel the show's true strength and heart lies. It's true that I enjoyed a lot of the whimsy in the show as well but since nearly every example I can think of involves Yasaburo and other members of his family I think that only serves to reinforce just how central the family is and if you don't like those characters or their dynamics then you're not going to enjoy the show.

The Bad: My only real complaint about the series is that I wish it had explained a bit more just what Benten is. We know she was born human, stolen by a tengu and able to use tengu powers but it's never quite explained how and, since the characters are a tad confused by it as well (ie, this isn't something we're supposed to simply accept is part of their world and move on), I was a bit surprised that the story didn't have a small reveal about how this happened towards the end. My personal theory on all of this was that she stole the teacher's powers (making him a human and her a tengu instead) but that's a wild guess on my part, not backed up by anything and I haven't seen anyone else out there with the same theory. I was also a bit sad that the titular family wasn't more, eccentric and filled with whacky hi-jinks as I expected, although I'll note that regardless the title is perfect, I merely expected something a tad bit different.

The Production Values: It was rather amusing to watch this show right after PA Works' spring show Red Data Girl and right before their fall show Nagi no Asukara because the art style is so different from what they normally do. There are no big eyed moe characters here with stunning landscape shots that have the same liquid feeling as a Ghibli film, everything here feels much flatter with less detail but you know what that's not a bad thing at all. To make it clear, this does not feel like a cheap show nor does it feel like the studio was trying to conserve resources after working on several shows in a row, in fact I can't really imagine this show being done in their usual style. I'm sure it would have worked yet I feel like the fact that they weren't going for a semi-photo-realistic style made the all important supernatural elements (which were more central to the plot than even those in either RDG or NnA) fit in better with the story, there was no obvious break where the mundane ended and the fantastical began because it all looked a bit mundane yet oh so slightly strange. As for the audio, I really wish I could have found a good subbed version of the opening to check the lyrics (since the song either starts off with "the world is interesting" or "the world isn't interesting" which is a rather large difference) but I liked the opening and ending regardless. All the voice acting seemed spot on too, the actors hit just the right high and low points for the characters and even though some of the situations were a bit absurd if you were to step back and think about them it was never the voice acting that drew you out of the situations.

For this show I'm going to give it 3.5 out of 5 stars and I'm also going to say that even though I'm probably in the minority, when comparing the two I do think that The Tatami Galaxy was a bit stronger. Of course, TG takes a favorite trope of mine, following a pattern to the point where it becomes mundane and then breaking/elevating it to the point where it becomes symbolic of something greater, which also means it was a bit more heavily plot driven by the end (as weird as that sounds) so of course that's going to give it the edge for me. However, this was still a good show and by far a more accessible one too which is certainly a good thing. There hasn't been an official license announcement for the show here in the US but, considering all but one of the episodes suddenly popped up on hulu with NIS America's logo splashed quite prominently on the page, it seems there will be one soon. In the meantime however interested parties can check out the show both on hulu and crunchyroll (which does have all the episodes still).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shorts Review: Coicent and Five Numbers

Got something that I haven't done in a little while for tonight. So about a few months ago I decided to go through the entire anime catalogs of crunchyroll and hulu and then organize my to-watch list for the foreseeable future and I came across a number of weird things. Series which most but not all of their episodes online, series split across multiple sites, that kind of odd thing and also I found a few shorts which had been licensed for the US and I neither had ever seen nor heard much buzz about. These two were picked up by Section 23/Sentai Filmworks and I have seen one or two reviews for either these titles or similar ones which left the reviewer mostly unimpressed. Generally this is a pretty good sign I shouldn't bother trying them out but, since it was only going to take an hour to watch both of them, I decided to go for them anyway and see what kind of off-beat, one-off stories Japan is telling these days.

Both of these are going to be free-form instead of structured due to their short runtimes, in this one a high schooler with his class, Shinichi, visits Nara as a school trip in the 26th century and apparently Nara has turned into a bit of a Disney theme park with parades and technology augmenting some of the more traditional attractions (like the ever-present and not exactly explained deer). Shinichi hopes to fall in love on the school trip and, well, that's where the story gets weird about five minutes in. The rest of the story seems to concern a girl whose a reconstruction of a girl from 2700 years ago, couldn't figure out if she was actually an android however, and um, somehow the two fall in love, a deer helps. Honestly this story feels as if the creators thought of a setting/visuals they wanted to use and then tried to string a story together later. The plot and the characters (both our lovers and villains) are thinner than tissue paper, it's paced much too quickly, and sadly I didn't think the CGI was particularly well done (it's from 2010 and I'm confused why it's all CGI yet the promotional pictures are traditionally drawn, same with Five Numbers by the way). With all that said I can't really think of any reason to recommend this to someone unless they want to watch something truly strange and random*.

Five Numbers
Five people wake up in a prison, having all done something worthy of getting a life sentence, and try to escape especially when they discover the truth behind their prison. Okay so we've all seen this story before, people trapped in a place with no idea how but must escape, prisoners trying to escape, and this one was actually kind of interesting and well done until the last five or so minutes, then it just got weird. Before that however it was paced well, revealed the character's backstories, set up conflict, resolved it in a way that made sense with the themes previously established, it just had a really weird ending and I want to look the writers/director in the eye and go "you did everything right up to that point and then you blew it? Come on!" Funny enough I wasn't going to bash the CGI here since I thought this was an older title but nope, this is from 2011 and while the characters move a bit better here the level of detail and shading is practically non-existent which, given the kind of CGI I'm used to as someone who sees a lot of American movies, made it look cheap and lazy.

For anyone looking to watch these, Section 23 has had them out on BR/DVD for a while now or you can do what I did and watch them on hulu instead (they're listed on The Anime Network's website but that's just an embedded hulu feed so non-USians/people without a proxy are out of luck there).

*Hell even then I'd probably recommend Kyousogiga instead but that's just me.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book Review: When We Wake

Took me a bit longer than I would have liked to get to this book, considering how big a fan I am of Healey's other works, but I got to it within the year which is an improvement for me! That said I was a little nervous about it, it's a completely different genre from her other books and my track record with YA science fiction is surprisingly spotty (occasionally I find books I've already read in the library and can't help but shudder and move on) but thankfully this was one of the better books.

When We Wake by Karen Healey

Summary: In the near future Tegan was an average Australian teen with family and friends she loved. And then she wakes up, horrified to find out that she was killed in a botched assassination attempt and, thanks to the forms she had signed donating her body to science, has now become the first person to be successfully woken up after 100 years of being frozen. And the world has changed in a lot of ways in 100 years but one thing that hasn't is that games of politics are still played and it seems like everyone wants Tegan on their side for less than savory reasons.

The Good: THIS is why I say that dystopias are an easy, lazy way of setting up a plot most of the time, while Tegan's new world can't precisely be called a dystopia (it doesn't have the all controlling government aspect) it is an even more deeply flawed and twisted world which makes it all the more realistic. So yes I am celebrating that this is a horribly depressing book, often when I read I think "so what point in this story would I want to live in, the beginning, middle, or end?" and here I wouldn't want to live in either of Tegan's presents, especially because of how horrifyingly real some of the things talked about (rising temperatures, first world countries dumping their pollution and garbage on third world countries and then blaming them for not having the resources to deal with it, etc). Moving on from that, I was happy to see that Tegan manages to have a best friend in here who is a girl and their not fighting over a romantic interest (I'm sad how rarely this seems to happen in fiction these days) and that ended up being my favorite relationship of the story (second to Tegan's relationship with the scientist who revived her). And that also sums up the world she woke up in, while it might be crap the social issues that plague us today have gone a long way towards being resolved and she sees this as the one bright hope in this brave new world of hers.

The Bad: While the ending is a bit ambiguous I was alright with that but I've now heard that Healey is working on a companion novel which retells the story from the point of view of one of the other main characters and I'm suspicious of it. Will this add anything new to the story or continue on past where this one ended? Which would indicate something was missing in the first place and, well, I rather like the ambiguous ending so I'm a bit worried at how this book plans to end. Strictly speaking this isn't a problem with WWW but I've known a few series, mostly anime, where a sequel has completely messed up the ending of the previous installment so I'm twice burned extra shy now. Other than that, some groups did come off as rather flat and it's a bit hard to believe that there seems to be so little activism/people weren't able to prevent what happened to the world (since there truly is some amazing technology in the works right now to prevent the world from becoming an overheated and polluted wasteland) but I'm a bit of an optimist so I'm supposed to question whenever someone creates a story with a bleak world and apathetic people.

So I give this book 4 out of 5 stars for being heart-breaking in a good way and something which caused me to need a lot of chocolate and cute fluffy things to read when I was done, that seems to be the trend with the 2013 books I've read this year (looking at you The Summer Prince). 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Manga Review: Moon and Blood (volumes 1-4)

Got another review from Emanga tonight, decided to get through as many of their supernatural titles as I had for the Halloween season. And hopefully everyone guessed from the title that this one has something to do with vampires, no werewolves yet oddly enough but regardless let's get to the review!

Moon and Blood (volumes 1-4) by Nao Yazawa

Summary: Sayaka is rather surprised one day when she finds that a previously-unmentioned friend of the family is staying with them and that he is her age, good looking, and a bit quiet. Kai's quiet, the readers find out, because he's a vampire and rather conflicted that he and his senpai are hiding out in Sayaka's house to feed on her family. But soon the two of them are going to have slightly more pressing issues to deal with when they find some vampire hunters from their past have tracked them down.

The Good: I'm not wholly sure if this was the end of an arc, the end of the story, or something else (I tried to find out but all i could find was a Vampire Knight fanfic) but I felt like volume 4 was a good stopping point actually which is usually my biggest problem when I review parts of a series instead of the whole thing at once. The characters figure out secrets, deal with some problems, the status quo is changed, and I was pretty satisfied when I finished reading. I'm not exactly sure where the story intends to go next but I can deal with a slightly ambiguous ending especially for such a short story.

The Bad: As a quick note, for some reason each volume is only 90-ish pages instead of the standard 120-180 length for a manga volume (I don't believe my downloads were missing pages since I wasn't confused by the plot) so it feels like you're only getting half as much manga as expected. Although I will admit the story fits the length well, I'm simply confused why it was split the way it was. Other than that, I hadn't actually spent a lot of time talking about the plot and that's because it's fairly basic, there's a girl, she falls for a new guy slowly, he's actually a vampire (and troubled over it of course) and since this is manga there are vampire hunters as well with which he has a tragic past. It's all done well, better than some examples I can think of, but for those who are looking for a new and really interesting vampire story should keep on looking.

The Art: For some reason Ai, out little girl vampire, reminded me a bit of Karin from Karin/Chibi Vampire but other than that the art styles are rather different, the art is a bit rounder and the cheekbones of the characters are much longer. Regardless, it works well, the characters look distinct from each other, the paneling flows well, everything has enough details that it doesn't seem like the manga-ka was rushed for time so I was fine with it.

In the end I give this 3 out of 5 stars for being an enjoyable read but not something I expect to revisit anytime soon. All four volumes are avaliable on emanga's website and it appears there is also a print version as well for some of the volumes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

TV Series Review: Dance Academy (season two)

Today I'm continuing with my adventures in Australian tv with the second season of Dance Academy. I suppose the real reason I watched this show is a lot like why I kept watching Heros of Cosplay, I love watching dance and wanted to be lazy and not have to search all over youtube or the rest of Netflix for it. Thankfully (practically) no matter what this show does it will always be better than HoC, although that doesn't mean that I liked what it did all the time....

Dance Academy (season two)

Summary: Tara and her friends return to the National Dance Academy for a second year of ballet! Or so they'd like to say, Kat failed last year, Sammy's dad is refusing to pay his tuition so he's working at a part time job to make ends meet, and second year also has some interesting additions that are sure to shake up the group's dynamics even more.

The Good: I really liked the character arc Abigail went through, it started in the previous season and here we can see her continuing to both pull herself out and be pushed out of the destructive tendencies  (both to herself and those around her) that she had grown into to be a more stable and better person and I really liked that progression. I only really noticed it at the end of the season, when the show slightly contrasts her and new character Grace, but I think the show has done a good job at showing how she's grown a lot yet still isn't finished growing by a long shot. The other characters have grown some, new character Ben goes through a lot of character development in just the first few episodes (I think to make sure the audience didn't just start hating him) but other than that the other characters feel like they've grown far less. There is one more season to the show (I asked around and some viewers confirmed that yes that was the end, no going on forever shows here!) so I'm hoping that the writers do have good ideas for how to end the show and have the characters grow even more by the end but I won't be holding my breath for it. I will say however that I like how the overall story is structured here, the season isn't tied around one large thematic idea or even one large plot point (although the dance competition does play a huge role) yet everything manages to feel cohesive. Each episode manages to feel like just an extension of the previous and it's a nice example of how to tie together a show by being mostly character driven yet when Plot pops up it doesn't change the tone of the story at all.

The Bad: My biggest problem with the show happened very close to the end and I'm going to talk about just in a footnote which will have some spoilers because it's One Of Those Moments and I need to articulate just why I thought it was a terrible choice*. That was my biggest problem with the season, although I was less than fond of all of the romantic subplots in the show. Everyone was so confused on what they actually wanted in a relationship, with whom they wanted in a relationship, and all of those different things that they stopped feeling like "teenagers who are confused by life and trying to work it all out" and more like "characters who keep changing their lives just to keep everything dramatic." I'm also on the fence about new character Grace, on the one hand I can see what the writers were going for with her character (horribly self-destructive and emotionally manipulative towards everyone she meets, both because of her life and likely would have been that way even if she had been happier) but I think it was how the characters continuously trust her (including Tara, guys speaking as someone who was one of the more "innocent" high schoolers out there it's hard to take parts of Tara's character seriously) that broke my suspension of disbelief. I also had some trouble with another new character, pro dancer/teacher Saskia, but both of those characters apparently will be returning in the third season so I'll reserve my final judgement of them until I can see where the show decides to end. 

The Production Values: Once again everything continues to look fine with no weird audio or video snafus. There was one point where Abagail was singing and I wondered if she was lip-syncing with another actress doing the singing (or just lip-syncing to a recording of herself, I would understand why the production team might choose to do either of those two things but there was something that was just a hair off in that scene which made me wonder) and it was a bit off-putting once or twice later in the season when the show used some music, which previously had only been used by a particular dancer for their piece and never anywhere else, in a different kind of scene and it gave me an odd feeling of dissonance. It was as if I was watching a movie and they played the theme for character A when character B was having an important moment, except this was the music character A had a dance choreographed to so you wondered why everyone else even had a copy of it. All in all those are nitpicks however, just about everything was perfectly fine.

So, for that ending I'm only giving this 2.5 out of 5 stars for being overly dramatic in way too many cases for me yet when the drama wasn't as large scale I did really enjoy the show and found myself watching episode after episode the way someone grabs a bag of skittles and then discovers they already ate the entire thing. I know that the third season just finished up in Australia and when it pops up on American netflix I will make sure to watch and get my review up as quickly as I can!

*right, prepared for major, end of series spoilers? Good, the short version is that a character is killed off less than five episodes before the end of the show. This character hadn't been sick previously or raised any of what some fandoms call "death flags", they were simply run over by a car off-screen and if it wasn't for the fact that they had the character film some more scenes with them (when the others were remembering them while mourning) I would wonder if the actor had actually died in real life. My problem with this is two-fold, one, this isn't the kind of show where people suddenly die. Yes people are killed in car accidents in real life, and in other ways, but we never see shots that focus on a how busy the streets are or how dangerous the characters lives are and this is fiction, not real life, you must foreshadow these things to make it seem as if the writer has control of their own story. Yes there were one or two references to death earlier in the season but only one of those involved the character who died, I wouldn't call it foreshadowing, so instead of feeling a great loss I just felt like the writers had lost it. Secondly, the show already had a huge number of dramatic plots running at that point. The competition, the Grace vs Tara rivalry that was bringing back stuff from the Tara vs Saskia conflict from earlier in the season. The tension with the school play which was also tied into the tangled romantic plots and, I thought, was supposed to be an interesting contrast with the musical that Abigail had become involved with. There was so much to work with that they could have easily filled up the rest of the season with it. I can understand them not wanting to have the season end exactly the way the previous season had (the dreaded trilogy syndrome) but I still don't think this was the right way to do it. Finally, and this is truly spoilerly territory, it does fall into this particular death trope which I really wish would, pun not intended, die already.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Anime Review: Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

In case people didn't see the message yesterday, due to trying to get everything watched in time for the anime round-up (nearly 10 shows in three days wohoo) I got a bit off schedule and I'm switching around the anime and the tv series reviews for this week. Since I alternate between shorter tv shows and longer ones this shouldn't be a problem again, especially since Manga November is coming up.

So, this was the show that got everyone's preferred form of underwear in a bunch back in January when a PV was released incensed the dudebros of the internet when it was announced as a real show for the summer. I was amused by it for sure but didn't think that I'd stick around much beyond the first episode or two. But yet, I tried a lot of shows over the summer and very few held my interest yet this was one of the ones I ended up truly liking....

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

Summary: When they were kids, Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and Rin were members of their swim club's swimming relay team but went their seperate ways during middle school. Now they're all in high school and fate seems to be conspiring to bring them back to swimming again, but can things go back to the way things were back then?

The Good: Kyoto Animation took their standard "cute girls do cute things" show set-up, replaced it with a guy and it turns out that it worked pretty well, hurray! Well, by worked well I mean "these guys don't feel like real highschoolers half the time because of the tropes involved but it was still fun to watch, hurray!" but that's fine, it's a rare anime that has a realistic depiction of middle/high schoolers anyway. And it's a rare example of a show that has quite a bit of fanservice but it's never creepy. Yes this is a show aimed at people who like guys and has them running around shirtless in close fitting swim trunks a lot of the time. HOWEVER, with the exception of one or two weird cuts (that were close ups of one guys crotch that no one seemed to like) the guys were never put into any compromising positions or made to feel like they were stripping just because of the camera, they felt like characters, not cut-outs just for the audience to stare at. And that's an important distinction, if you can do fanservice without fetishizing the character involved then you actually know how to write and make something that appeals to a much larger audience. I really do think that's why this one has attracted as large an audience as it has (I believe the preorders for the first DVD/BR were between 25-29k), even if cute guys aren't your thing but sports anime is you can truly enjoy it and not feel skeeved out every other scene.

The Bad: I found a lot of the elements of the last episode to be overly melodramatic. Yes this is a goofy, silly, campy-dramatic show, all sport shows are to a degree, but I felt like they started exaggerating one character's traits to an extreme to create more tension when none was needed. And then the other characters rewarded that drama-llama-ing, I felt like they could have reached the same conclusion without having to mess with the tone of the story so much and it did mean that I was grumpy at the finale which is the exact opposite of how you should feel about the end of a show. Other than that, I felt like there were one or two things the show didn't fully address but, since they've practically promised another season next summer, for the moment I won't be as harsh on it and just hope the next installment changes that.

The Production Values: I'm not sure I want to know how many hours of swimming footage the animators must have watched to make this show, I've seen a couple of blogs out there with actual swimmers (or friends of actuals swimmers who showed them the footage) who said it all looked rather spot on too which was pretty crazy. Yes some episodes look better than others, it's clear that they did spread the budget around a bit so that the big events got more money but through and through the show looks pretty great (there's also a lot of visual continuity in the details that I liked, like the character's shirts and setting changing in unison). Both the opening and ending songs grew on me (even the endings ridiculous graphics), although the voice actors for the boys did sound a little too old at times which was a bit jarring.

So for being fun I give this show 3 out of 5 stars and a recommendation if you like sports anime or if you just like staring at well-drawn men in anime, I'm not going to judge. The show is streaming on crunchyroll but somehow has not yet been picked up for a North American release, I'm betting there's an intense battle going on behind the scenes between the remaining American anime companies since, even though I doubt it'll be a huge huge hit (unlike Attack on Titan), I do think it will do well and it would be strange if none of those companies were even interested. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review: The Lost Sun

Quick order of business, due to trying watching all the fall anime shows at once in order to get that round-up out I'm switching the order of the tv series and anime reviews this week to give myself an extra day, glad that this week I can choose just which series I want to watch on which days now.

In any case, this is another book curotisy of Random Buzzers, haven't gotten one from them in a while, and it was funny since I entered, forgot about it, when to Otakon and thought "oh huh, guess I didn't win, damn I wanted that book." Which of course means that according to the laws of humor that the book was lying on my bed for me when I got back that weekend, hurray!

The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton

So originally I was going to say about the cover was along the lines of "it might be just me but there's something a little off here, I think it's the semi-transparent face against the woods that's not working" when I remembered, Soren isn't white! I don't recall the exact passages from the book but he's either black or biracial (and dark enough to not pass for white) and, well, that's not what you think when you look at this cover. So I suppose there's a bit of white-washing going on, lovely, haven't come across that in a little while.

Summary: Sorin Bearskin's father was a berserker, a warrior devoted to Odin and prone to fits of battle frenzy, and that's what he'll be as well, destined and doomed by his genetics. Soren fights this all the time but when he meets Astrid, the daughter of a powerful seer and a budding one in her own right, who not only needs his powers but doesn't fear them he finds himself going on a road-trip like quest with her to find a dead god and set the world back to rights.

The Good: What initially drew me to this book was the setting and it is quite meticulously done, it never feels like Gratton has merely replaced one part of our modern lives with something medieval (like, replacing phones with something magical) but rather like she spent a lot of time thinking about how much a different culture would have shaped this nation (so instead of court cases sometimes people get into ritual all out duels which is rather cool actually). Some of this pops up in the main conflict as well since instead of centering the story around some of the better known Norse mythological figures (Thor, Odin, Loki, etc) the story revolves around the disappearance of Baldur and I'm always baffled why he doesn't pop up more often in modern takes on Norse myths (considering that, if I recall correctly, his death helps trigger/triggered/will trigger Ragnarok) and appreciate that.* So for any fans of Norse mythology who are a bit tired of just seeing retellings such as the Marvel movies (or perhaps you aren't tired of those and just want me) then give this a shot, I'm looking forward to the next books just to see what happens next with the setting.

The Bad: This could very well be because I read the book in one sitting (not exactly because I wanted to, I was on a long train ride with nothing else to do) but there was something about it that just felt a little off. I truly did enjoy it, don't get me wrong there, but maybe it was how quickly I read the book that made it seem like everything was a bit too easy for the characters. I know why they succeeded when they did, the story makes that a plot point, and ultimately the real struggle in the book isn't Soren and Astrid's quest but rather Soren dealing with his past/future but I still wish that it had been just a little more difficult for them. And, saying this as vaguely as I can to avoid spoilers, I wasn't satisfied with how Soren's story wrapped up, like the rest of the story I felt like in the end it was resolved all too easily which made me wonder if the character's had had some major communication problems which is always a lame reason for a conflict.

So, great setting and world-building but the problems were resolved a little too simply at the end which was a tad frustrating. For that I give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars and can't wait to see what it does next!

*it also means that the title is a really awesome pun but apparently I'm in the minority for actually liking puns and wordplay

Friday, October 11, 2013

Comic Review: Off*beat (volume two)

Well I had a rather charming surprise at my new local library, they have quite a bit of manga! I'm starting to think that my local library was a bit crap for having so little (that or it was so throughly spread out between the branch libraries I never got a chance to see what they really had) and this library not only has manga but it has quite a few longer running series that I had always wanted to try and some older books like this one. I didn't think I'd have a chance to read this one any time soon since, to the best of my knowledge, Chromatic Press hasn't started selling new copies yet and I'd have to wait for those to trickle down into the libraries. I will note however that for some reason this particular book was missing some pages, I don't think I missed anything terribly important story wise, I wouldn't be reviewing it if I had, but if it seems like I did feel free to chime in in the comments!

Off*beat (volume two) by Jen Lee Quick

Summary: Tory continues to try and get closer to his neighbor and classmate Colin in order to figure out what exactly is going on in Colin's sometimes mysterious life.

The Good: In the effort of full disclosure, I'm having a bit of trouble remembering where volume one ended and volume two began which in one way is a good thing, it shows just how cleanly this story flows, but does mean this is going to be a shorter review. I'll admit that I liked this volume a bit less since it felt more like build-up, being able to read chapters from volume 3 immediately afterwards was a relief especially since it showed that Quick really does have a well plotted out story in mind. One thing I do remember liking a lot about this volume is how even though Tory is absolutely convinced that Colin is part of a secret government project the story presents it in such a way that as a reader I was never sure if he was right or completely crazy. I think that presentation was on purpose and that's something that's quite tricky to pull off correctly and I thought it gave the story an extra level of interest. 

The Bad: I'm so happy I don't have to say "and then it ends forever so we have no conclusion!" since that would be a pretty big negative against the series. The third series is already being serialized in Sparkler Monthly and picks up immediately from where the second volume ends and honestly that takes care of both my biggest problem with the series and that also starts rounding out the characters a bit more which was my other large complaint about the series. People will probably disagree with me but I just found Tory and Colin a bit too flat, Colin spent the first volume barely interacting so it was hard to see what his actual personality was (other than "quiet" and "a bit sullen") and Tory is so obsessive with his stalking that it's as if that one quirk defines his entire personality. Like I said, the third volume is definitely the start of the final act so both of those problems start to fade and that leaves me with no real issues with the series at the moment.

The Art: No big changes here from the first volume, Quick continues to draw in a style that looks a little rough but grew on me over time. I also feel a bit weird critiquing it since I started out reading her later work (Witch's Quarry) so I know that all the problems I have with this work (faces are a bit too similar, backgrounds can get rather simplistic and overly reliant on screentones) are improved upon in her other works yet I hope the art for the last volume isn't too different since a radical style change would be even worse. And, in writing this review, I just realized that the CP editions have new covers and just wanted to quickly mention that I like the new ones (with new logo) better than the old TokyoPop ones, much more focused composition.

So, if you enjoyed the first volume of Off*Beat you'll enjoy this one even more and then should run over to Sparkler Monthly to read the rest. Otherwise, if you're a fan of lite-BL stories where the relationship isn't the main focus then you should give this series a shot, I was pleasently surprised to see that it was as good as I had been told anyway.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall 2013 Anime Round-up

And it’s time to start another season of anime and the one that is usually the strongest for me, autumn! As was the case last season I don’t exactly have any continuing shows, I’m starting to get back into Space Brothers but it sounds like that show is past it’s prime and Doki Doki Precure was always up and down in terms of enjoyment so I’ve semi-dropped that one as well (although I’ve thought about picking it back up to watch raw so I can practice my Japanese, after all if it’s aimed at four year old little girls then the vocabulary shouldn’t be completely and utterly outside my range of knowledge right?). In any case, I’m also moving through as much of my backlog as I can while juggling new American fall tv shows as well and there are one or two series which I don’t mention here since I didn’t finish an entire episode (Coppelion is one since I tried the manga which didn’t grab me so I just gave up a few minutes into the first episode). But for those I did get through an entire episode or more let’s talk about those!

Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata)
Character stabs monsters with blood sword
I was pretty excited for this show, with the budget Kyoto Animation always seems to have I thought it would be awesome to see them do a full on fantasy show but the first episode was a bit of a let down. It was slow, felt like it had been adapted from a light novel in a bad way (just a lot of the same tropes character and plot wise, boring!) but once the action picks up in the second episode it seems to flow much better. The action scenes looked as amazing as I had hoped, the character interactions went smoother, and I already had a lot of the exposition out of the way which always helps. I was a bit unsure after the first episode but having seen the second episode I’m in for the long haul here and hope it gets even better.

Beyond the Boundary is on crunchyroll

Galilei Donna
Sisters suffer attempted kidnappings simultaneously
One of the two new noitaminA shows and the one I was more excited for going in and I liked it! It was a little bit of a rough start (that cold opening was not a good idea) but I liked all the design work and, aside from that opening, the action sequences flowed well too. It's the next few episodes that will make or break this show though, the premise has been mostly established so it's time to start fleshing out our lovely leading ladies and hopefully they'll be more nuanced than they were here (and explain the setting, I know a bit about it from outside material but that's it).

Galilei can be watched on crunchyroll

Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods
Girl is an oracle in training
The commercials for this series didn’t really grab me but since I tend to like slice of life style supernatural shows I thought I would give this one a shot anyway. However I’m going to have to go with my first instinct and drop this after all since the first episode was just a bit too clumsy. Things move too fast, the characters feel too flat with their constantly changing emotions, I just didn’t like it and I’ll just go find something in my backlog if I really want to watch soft, slice of life supernatural shows anytime soon.

Gingitsune is streaming on

Kill la Kill
Students fight with power of uniforms
One of the most hyped shows to premier this season and I have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, a lot of the time it's overly the top in an amusing fashion and it's fun to watch and the limited art (yes I'm saying it, it does have moments with wonderful animation but it's always made itself highly stylized so it can get away with tons of still frames and cheap effects that would make a 1970s show proud) looks cool. On the other hand it has our lead Ryouko in an incredibly revealing outfit (I can't think of many cons where that outfit would pass muster) and seems to take some pleasure in putting her (and one or two other female characters so far) in really sexualized positions with a ton of male gaze camera angles and I find it creepy, plain and simple. I want to like the show and I'm sticking with it for now but while I spend half the time enjoying it I'm spending the other half of my time completely skeeved out which isn't a fun combination.

KLK is an Aniplex title and can be found streaming on crunchyroll, hulu, and daisuki, although it doesn't start at the exact same time on each site and each site has it's own restrictions.

More adventures in mirror Kyoto
First off, I’m going to refer to this as the tv series, the original short that started it all as the OVA, and the mini-series from last fall as the ONA, got it? If not please refer back to these sentences as often as needed.
In any case, it’s baaaaaack, finally! I’ve been hoping for almost two years now that we’d get a full show based off of the OVA and it’s happening! Well sort of, last week was episode 0 which was just the OVA with an opening song and the show is scheduled to have 10 episodes, 2 recaps, and one special which I guess is what last week was. I’m a bit confused about the recaps though, originally I thought that was how they were going to work in materials from the ONA but since a good chunk of this week’s episode came from the ONAs I’m not sure anymore. In any case, that’s not actually a bad thing since this episode took the premise of the last ONA, added some scenes and voices to make what was going on clearer, and then expanded on it so newcomers and old fans alike are on more or less the same page for how Mirror Kyoto got started. The show also added in some interesting bits, when I think about it it didn’t actually add in a lot of new footage but by re-using the old footage and then having the characters actually confirm what fans had been speculating about (with dialogue) it feels like there was more added than there actually was yet I wasn’t bored at all. Basically what I’m saying is, you can be a complete newcomer to the story or already familiar with it and you’ll do fine, just watch episode 0 if your new and then hang on for the ride with the rest of it.

For some reason no one has licensed this show and I’m incredibly sad about it. However, I feel like it stands a good chance at being licensed eventually, much better than it’s chances of being licensed as a collection of OVAs/ONAs was just a year ago.

Log Horizon
Gamers trapped in game
This is not a new genre in anime and manga, although oddly enough it appears way more here than any other medium of fiction I can think of, and truth be told it’s not exactly like either of the two main things people are comparing it to (Sword ArtOnline or the .hack franchise in general) but rather a pretty even mixture of both of those. Heck, I’d argue it’s one third each of those and then the last third is where it becomes rather evident that the light novel’s original author was the same guy who wrote Maoyuu and I suspect that’s what the show will feel most like in the end, a show more about the mechanics about people being trapped in a game rather than trying to beat a quest or, erm, whatever .hack//SIGN was trying to do. I was okay with Maoyuu at points but honestly I still prefer the manga adaptation I read of it first (the lone time I have preferred the version of something with more boobs in it) and I just don’t think Log Horizon is going to keep my interest from what I’ve seen so far. The setting will probably be fairly standard for a game, the plot probably won’t have an overarching story like I prefer, and I didn’t really connect with any of the characters in the first episode, at this point there’s just no reason for me to come back for another episode unless I hear other people talking down the line and saying that it got really good.

Log Horizon can be viewed on

Nagi no Asukara (no idea what a good translation is)
Underwater kids attend school on land
I’m on the fence with this one, on the one hand so far it’s a story about a bunch of middle schoolers going through some major changes in life and being awkward about it and I'm not sure I want to see a show about middle schoolers falling in love with a bit of raunchiness in it  but on the other hand that’s a lot like what middle school is like so I can't exactly fault it for that. On someone else’s hand though, there are so many other good shows this season that I'm not sure I want to watch something that doesn't completely have my attention. So far I’m staying with the show because of it’s fantastical setting and because I’ve heard it’s going to be two-cour and I’ve love to see what PA Works turns the show into then, it does sound like it's building up to a larger story or at least into having some interesting overarching themes. And in a season of good looking shows it’s also quite pretty, I guess at this point I’ll keep watching and if I do lose interest I’ll be sure to check in on what other reviewers are saying at the end of it’s run to see if it’s worth picking back up.

Nagi no Asukara is being streamed on crunchyroll.

Samurai Flamenco
A "realistic" superhero
This show has big shoes to fill for me because it happens to be in the same genre as my favorite show of the year (so far, Gatchaman Crowds) but that show I think was even one of the best takes on the superhero genre in recent years and I even wrote a nearly 3000 word post comparing it to Agents of SHIELD yesterday so you can bet it's quite prominent in my mind right now. And does it work? Weeelllll, not really, no, not yet for me anyway. As summarized, the basis of this show is a "'realistic' superhero" in the completely opposite way that Tiger and Bunny did realism (there, I've named dropped all the important shows) with an ordinary guy dressing up as a superhero and trying to get people to do the right thing. My problem with the show is that I don't agree with it's philosophy at all, yes it is a problem that people jaywalk and smoke but the way you handled it wasn't right either buddy, you got into a fight with a drunk over that (and lost. And had your outfit set on fire, clearly you did this wrong). It's just, how am I supposed to take these characters seriously (or at least seriously enough to not feel secondhand embarrassment when one starts yelling at middle schoolers in a park to shape up) if it's trying to make a story based on such basic values? And speaking of values, I noticed this after I saw some other people commenting on it but compared to Galilei the coloring of this show is super basic, it's like someone chose a color, chose other colors that were all the same tonally and used them and made the show look really flat. That could be deliberate, some contrast between the real world and the colorful world of cartoon justice, and the basic values could be on purpose as well and the show intends to build them up later, it's got 22 episodes after all. But, going after just this first episode, I'm not impressed nor am I super excited by the show and that makes me rather sad.

Much like  KLK, Samumenco is licensed by Aniplex and streaming in their usual places.

Tokyo Ravens
Kid doesn’t want to become an onmyouji
In the effort of full disclosure, I’ve read some of the manga that was based on the same light novels that this anime was so I can’t really say too much about the story since I know how it’s going to go. I will say that I thought it was paced well, like most urban fantasy shows this one has a lot of general background to set up first to explain why the characters are in the positions they are (and there are a couple of key details coming next week) and I’ve heard rumors that this one will be two cour which is great since I really can’t figure out how it could end well after just 13 episodes. And as for the actual story, I get the same feeling from it that I get from Blue Exorcist actually. Not because of any particular details, they’re actually rather dissimilar in that regard and in the general premise, but they’re both supernatural shonen shows with a lot of action and a similar sized cast which has been done over and over yet they both just have a spark to them, in the setting and the visuals, that makes them interesting. Everyone is going to see a show or two at some point in their anime watching lives, it just happens, and if this show continues to be a solid show I’ll happily recommend both of them as less generic than usual supernatural shows that are fun watches (well, with the cavet that Blue Exorcists’ ending gets a bit weird, I’ve seen even non-manga readers comment on that).

Tokyo Ravens has been licensed by Funimation and is streaming on their new site (which be forewarned seems to still have some bugs, I haven’t been able to get a video to load in Chrome yet).

Unbreakable Machine Doll (Machine-doll wa Kizutsukanai)
Puppeter and raunchy doll start school
Every season there is a show I start against my better judgement, this the show this time around where despite the ecchi tag attached to it I was curious. However, while I didn't like those moments what really made me regret it was the CGI and oh ye gods, everything else this season looks perfectly, completely fine by comparison. Holy cow you’re supposed to bring your A-game the first episode and then have the budget vanish, I don’t want to know what this show is going to look like by the end. And the large amounts of exposition were handled almost as clumsily as the show tries to introduce you to a lot of background all at once yet everything still feels rather flat (the characters) and generic (the setting) so in the end I just couldn’t care more than one iota about the show and have dropped it.

Machine Doll is streaming on Funimation’s website who has also licensed it.

Valvrave the Liberator (part two)
We still have vampires piloting mechs
So, not much to say about this show so far since it picks up exactly where the previous season leftoff and doesn’t look to be deviating from the tone and characterization at all. So, if you liked the first season go ahead and keep watching this, alternatively if you watched the first season for it’s WTF value keep watching as well, that’s more or less why I’m here. As usual with sequels this is a terrible place to jump in so if you’re curious I recommend you check out my earlier review (especially since this show crosses the line at least once in a major fashion) and if that doesn’t have you running away as quickly as you can then you might enjoy the show. Also, while a lot of shows look great this season I swear that with the amount of action sequences in Valvrave (the first five minutes are almost solid action IIRC) I think this first episode had the equivalent budget of three Machine Dolls.

Just like last time, Aniplex is distributing the show in the US/Canada and has it streaming on multiple outlets, the same as Samumenco and KLK.

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta
Humans and yokai live in a town
So I’ve never seen the original anime for this show or read much of the manga (I started reading some and then felt guilty when I realized it had been licensed at one point in the US, given that I never see people talking about a license rescue for it here I guess that means it has next to no fans) but this reboot of sorts is supposed to be newcomer friendly so I decided to give it a shot. From what I can gather though, this show isn’t going to just retell the early part of the story and then follow the manga after the original anime diverged (a la Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) but is somehow doing side stories to sort of introduce new fans before joining up with the manga material that wasn't previously cover, is that right? I know that it’s connected to a series of OVAs that came out recently, (those two have similar art styles which are also closer to the look of the original manga than the first series, no idea if any of the voice actors have changed) although those are set farther down the line, regardless of all of that this first episode was just plain fun. It has some whackiness to it that I adore in supernatural series and after the way it gleefully barreled through the first episode I felt like I was starting to get a grasp on the characters and the basic politics of the town they lived in (although remembering everyone’s names might be beyond me at this point), loved the music during the more action-y scenes, and I’m certainly interested in what it’s going to do next!

While the first anime was licensed by Sentai no one has picked up this iteration for legal streaming, however I’m hoping we’ll have an announcement from them before the season is done.

So it's a bit of an odd season, it's jam packed with good shows but just about everything airs on Thursday for some bizarre reason. I also have a problem that I haven't had since the summer of 2011, fansubs. I have a one-or-none rule for fansubs (which I sometimes toe the line with Precure/older shows which I know will never be licensed at this point) yet there are two shows I really liked but are both fansubbed, Kyousogiga and Quartet. As it stands however, Kyousogiga is my baby practically with how I've dreamed of this full show for two years and it's even better than I could have hoped so far which means that, unless one of those two gets licensed, Quartet is going to have to go onto the back burner (at least that way I'll be able to hear from other fans how accessible it really is and what, if any, episodes I need to see from the original show to get my bearing). Otherwise this is what my schedule looks like:
Tuesday: Tokyo Ravens
Wednesday: BtB, Kyousogiga (which since it's fansubbed will probably be out Thursday instead)
Thursday: KLK, Galilei, Samumenco, Nagi, Valvrave

8 shows and a completely unbalanced week especially since my American tv shows also air on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Well, at least at this rate I'll have plenty of time to catch up with older shows as well! What's everyone else watching? Also, is it just me or does Nagi remind everyone a little bit of From the New World and KLK a tiny bit of Utena? Could just be the character designs for both of them but I know i'm not the only person for Nagi in any case....