Alderamin on the Sky Streaming Reviews: Episode 5

Screenshot 2016-08-10 14.24.47.png

After last episode’s mix of heartfelt emotion and brutality that ended the episode, I had not expected to be finally delving into the backstory between Ikta and Yatori so soon.

However, to my great surprise and pleasure, this is exactly what we ended up with and the series is all the better for it.

Opening with Yatori reflecting on the events of the previous episode, and noting both how Ikta is a form of strength as well as a weakness for her, we organically slide into the story of how they had met one another and started to become the duo that they are in the present.

It’s handled expertly and really does a lot to characterize both of them by exploring where they originate from and how that has influenced their mindsets.

The fact that it is told exclusively from Yatori’s perspective is also a real perk to the episode. Finally giving her voice priority has elevated the story from just being focused around Ikta’s accomplishments and allows her to feel like more of an individual herself, despite the emphasis on her dynamic with him.

Other than the emphasis on Yatori’s character, we’re finally given a chance to actually “meet” Ikta’s family, as well as his mentor – the scientist Anarai Khan.

We are also shown the event that solidifies the relationship between Ikta and Yatori as they’re set upon by wolves while out on a geological survey.

The mixture of Yatori’s already highly skilled swordplay, as well as Ikta’s blossoming genius are melded together in a visceral attempt at survival against the pack of highly intelligent wolves.

It’s all handled exceptionally and, while ending on the information already known from Chamille’s haughty declarations in episode two about Ikta’s family, we’re clearly set up for this relationship of theirs to become something more vital to the progression of the story.

However, I cannot talk just about the story of this episode. The presentation on both the animation and audio fronts deserve to be acknowledged as well.

Madhouse went above and beyond here and provided something that was consistently animated and fluid in motion. Rather than relying on a lot of talking heads segments, the episode went for more active conversations and interactions between the characters.

Add in the effort put into their fight with the wolves, and everything on the animation front was exceptionally well done.

Then there was the audio. While the vocal work has been great from the start, this episode pushes it further to provide the difference between the young versions of the characters while also working to maintain enough similarities that they never feel too different.

At the same time, we’re also treated to an utterly gorgeous piano centric soundtrack for the episode. It sets the mood, and also enhances every scene it’s used in; going above and beyond what was to be expected.

Overall, the fifth episode of Alderamin on the Sky is the best episode of the series so far. Telling a self-contained story about the history between the two leads, it is a marvelous mixture of animation, storytelling and audio work that pushes it to the heights of what makes the medium great. The future of this series is looking bright.

Episode 5 Rating: 10/10

Alderamin on the Sky streams new episodes Fridays on Crunchyroll.

Qualidea Code Streaming Reviews: Episodes 1 – 5

Screenshot 2016-08-09 14.42.58.png

Qualidea Code is a mess. It’s not a mess on the level of last year’s multiple creator disaster Chaos Dragon, but it is a mess nonetheless. Whether it’s a lack of a straight storyline, or some uneven characterization, these first five episodes haven’t done much to instill a whole lot of confidence.

Yet, at the same time, there’s something oddly appealing about this one. Despite the first episode feeling like any other battle harem series opener, with the three cities of Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa being protected by their students in a post-apocalyptic environment, it has managed to be different from the norm at the same time.

Focusing on the heads and subheads of each of the aforementioned cities, this series treats itself a lot more seriously than some of these other action series do. This is primarily seen in the way that they’re attempting to tell a story mired in mystery and character depth; although the majority of the characters are too flat to support this.

In particular, these opening episodes have spent their time centered on Ichiya Suzaku and Canaria Utara – the head and subhead respectively of Tokyo.

The hotheaded loner who wishes to save the world with his own strength, Ichiya is about as stereotypical a lead as one can get, but as the first episodes move along it turns out that this series is primed to truly put him through the ringer.

By the end of episode three, Canaria, his subhead and childhood friend who he is clearly in love with despite his acerbic nature towards everyone and everything, suffers from overextending her powers, forcing Ichiya to seek assistance from his students and the other cities (and sparking a change in him). And then comes episode four’s bomb, when Canaria is killed in a post credits sequence (stick around post credits for most of the episodes, there frequently seems to be something).

It’s a great way to actively force a character to evolve and grow, but it’s just too bad that the writing and animation don’t do much to keep up with the potential of these first four episodes. Throughout it comes across as a collection of weak clichés backed up by what is most definitely A-1 Pictures’ worst work in ages.

However, as I’ve mostly avoided discussing episode five, there’s been a subtle shift now that the first third of the series has passed. With the focus shifted from Ichiya to the bubbly, yet troubled, head of Kanagawa Maihime Tenkawa, the fifth episode showed a huge leap in quality in both the writing and characters.

Unlike Ichiya and Canaria, who are your typical battle harem leads, or the head and subhead of Chiba, Kasumi and Asuha Chigusa, who are your typical – although a lot healthier than usual – anime siblings, Maihime and her subhead Hotaru Rindou immediately provide a level of characterization and writing that was missing in the earlier episodes.

As they deal with the aftermath of the death of Canaria, and how Ichiya has degraded almost completely from that, it’s handled with a deft hand that makes the characters far more convincing; despite the death flags being flown throughout the episode.

What has been amazingly consistent in this series has been the audio. The vocal work is top notch, I’m particularly fond of Soma Saito’s work as Ichiya, despite my tepid reaction to the character overall, and Aoi Yuuki’s always lovely as Maihime, but the real star is Taku Iwasaki’s soundtrack.

As the man who created the soundtracks for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Noragami and Soul Eater (among others), he has put together a great set of music that captures the mood of each scene here. While heavier on vocal tracks than previous soundtracks he has worked on, it manages to make this one distinctive.

Overall though, Qualidea Code has been a mess so far. Inconsistent, particularly in animation and writing, but brimming with potential, it still has time to redeem itself; especially after the great fifth episode.

Episodes 1 – 5 Rating: 6.5/10

Qualidea Code streams new episodes Saturdays on Crunchyroll.

91 Days Streaming Reviews: Episodes 1 -5

Screenshot 2016-08-04 15.06.26.png

Sometimes a series can start so strong that you hold nothing, but high hopes for it. This was the trap that 91 Days found itself caught in.

With an absolutely exceptional first three episodes, 91 Days set itself up to be a dark and thrilling drama that delved heavily into its lead character, Angelo, and his desperate search for revenge.

While that thirst for revenge didn’t diminish in the episodes following, pretty much everything else that made the start of the series so compelling faltered.

Following the story of Angelo Lagusa, now going by the name of Avilio Bruno, as he works towards achieving his revenge for the murder of his family, everything is set up perfectly for a grim and dramatic tale set during the Prohibition era of the United States.

It’s a period piece that is far different from what animation studios and teams attempt in Japan, and the first two episodes were spectacular. Introducing us to a wide collection of fascinating characters, and the underlying revenge drama that will follow through the story, we’re given plenty of time to get used to the world that we’re being thrust into.

From Angelo’s first encounters with both Nero Vanetti and the antagonistic Fango, to his first murder on his quest for revenge – and subsequent conundrum when he is almost caught in his lies – was paced perfectly and was done spectacularly.

From there things started to fall apart. While the next two episodes are far from horrible, there’s a noticeable loss of the oppressive atmosphere that had made the first two episodes stand out, and an indulgence in goofiness that has given me a bit of tonal whiplash.

Episode four suffers the most as it jumps into Nero and Angelo’s road trip, which consists of some good character building, but an utterly horrible villain-of-the-week with their nearly undying giant of a foe.

While levity can definitely hold a place in darker stories, the scenes at the auto camp with the children were wonderful for character development, the ridiculousness of the goliath-like monster was completely unnecessary.

Thankfully the series doesn’t seem to have remained there, as episode five delves back into a more similar tone to the first three episodes, but it still feels lacking compared to the earlier ones.

That said, the gang politics going on in the background and Angelo’s plans all continue to make this an enjoyable experience.

However, the dip in tonal quality of the story was not the only issue that was present. Sadly, after some pretty nice animation throughout the first two episodes, everything starts to take a dive from the third on.

Characters are consistently off model, or just poorly animated, the action is nowhere near as fluid as it had been, and the overall package just seems to be struggling.

It’s really disappointing as the series started out so strong artistically in the first couple of episodes. The murder of Angelo’s family being an extremely well animated sequence, as was his fight against Fango in the second episode.

The audio, on the other hand, does a lot for the benefit of the series. Whether it’s Tk’s impressive opening theme, or the voice work – which has been quite compelling despite the fact that this is one of those series that really needs a dub – this has been a definite highlight of the series.

Overall, 91 Days is an impressive, if not completely consistent, series so far. These first five episodes have been great at building up suspense, and making sure that this world feels like there’s plenty in store for our protagonists as the story progresses.

Episodes 1 – 5 Rating: 8/10

91 Days streams new episodes Fridays on Crunchyroll.

Alderamin on the Sky Streaming Reviews: Episodes 1 -4

Screenshot 2016-08-02 01.20.00.png

We’re only four episodes into Alderamin on the Sky, but it seems like it will be joining Re:Zero and Rokka of the Six Braves as a far different take on fantasy than is normal for light novel adaptations.

As someone unfamiliar with the original source material for this one, I cannot compare the two, so this will be purely focused on the anime and what it has presented.

And what a presentation it has been. Before I get started on the story, which is probably the most distinctive part of this series, I want to discuss Madhouse’s animation and audio efforts.

After the huge success they received with One Punch Man last fall this may look like a step down to some, but Alderamin on the Sky is a gorgeous series with some compelling character designs and a really interesting world.

Unlike the purely Western and Central European settings of many other fantasy series, this one takes a page out of Rokka of the Six Braves book and goes for something a little more tropical. It personally gives me a Mediterranean vibe more similar to Greece than anything else.

Character models can be a little hit or miss at times, but each of our leads and important characters are quite distinctive from one another so far, so even when the models are slightly off they’re still easily identified. It’s a pretty picture overall.

Then there’s the audio, which is used expertly to provide mood and atmosphere, without ever feeling overbearing.

Now, the story presented so far is where this series really shines. Over the first four episodes we’re given two smaller arcs, and they have done a fair amount to really set up the world that we’ll be diving into as the rest of the series progresses.

For starters, this conflict between the Katjvarna Empire and the Kiorka Republic has been efficiently used as a backdrop to the events that have currently gone on. Rather than thrusting us right into the conflict itself, it has been used to set the stage magnificently for a different story.

And this is where the characters come into play. Although we don’t know too much about all of them yet, the six who we’re introduced to in the first episode – Ikta, Yatori, Torway, Matthew, Haroma and Chamille – have been given enough information to make them worth following.

However, it is Ikta and Yatori who have really stolen the show so far. Through the first arc detailing their shipwreck behind enemy lines, and subsequent safe return to the Empire, to the second arc and it’s greatly enjoyable training exercise, these two have shown a sense of trust and camaraderie that is just begging to be explored.

Ikta’s the lazy genius, a character archetype that was far more common a few years ago, and is a great lead that reminds me of characters like Jalan Kendeth from Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War Trilogy. He’s flawed and lusty, but unintentionally heroic at the same time. It’s a great contrast that should work out well over the entire series.

At the same time Yatori is his complete opposite. Driven by duty and honour, she is a fearsome warrior that stands by the Empire unflinchingly. She’s his total opposite and yet a great support for him. Something that, at the climax of episode four, as she devastates the traitorous soldiers who attempted to kidnap Princess Chamille, seems to be Ikta’s role for her as well.

So far this series has been great, and is doing what Madhouse struggled with their adaptation of The Irregular at Magic High School; managing to blend world building, and a genius protagonist, together in a more tightly paced package.

Episodes 1 – 4 Rating: 8.5/10

Alderamin on the Sky streams new episodes Fridays on Crunchyroll.

Momokuri Streaming Reviews Episodes 1 – 4 (1 – 8)

MomokuriCapture_3_Web.png

I need to make something extremely clear before I start reviewing this series. As the manga is available on Crunchyroll’s manga service, I had been reading it before I ever found out that it was getting an anime. For that reason, I will be a little biased in its favour, and also a little harsher at times, due to the fact that I am quite inundated with the source material.

With that out of the way, let’s discuss this sometimes awkward, yet always quirky romantic comedy.

Momokuri is almost completely a practice in tonal dissonance. At some moments a completely cute and charming look at first love, and at others an indulgence in our heroine’s utterly creepy habits, this series has managed to pull it off quite well throughout these first four episodes.

And when I say four episodes, I mean eight. Unlike most other anime, Momokuri has decided to operate under an episode count far more familiar to viewers of Western animation.

Like series such as Adventure Time, where each half hour segment offers two episodes, Momokuri has taken the idea of loosely stringing together vignettes and put it to great use; its past as an Original Net Animation (ONA) that aired from December 2015 to February 2016 providing an easy framework to work off of.

While we are presented with a consistent story over these early episodes, we’ve just seen our protagonists Momotsuki and Kurihara become a couple and slowly start to feel each other out emotionally, the vignettes have been able to jump from one frame of time to another without ever feeling as if things are moving too fast.

That being said what really makes this series enjoyable so far has been the character interactions.

While Momotsuki and Kurihara are delightfully awkward together, it’s their interactions with their other friends and the rest of the supporting cast that make this series as enjoyable as it has been so far.

I’m especially fond of Sakaki, a tall, athletic girl who suffers a slight complex because she isn’t small and cute who has decided to protect Momotsuki from his girlfriend, and Norika, Kurihara’s sensible friend who tries to put a stop to her friend’s creepy habits.

For all the positive things I’ve said about the character interactions, the episodes have suffered slightly when they indulge in some of Kurihara’s creepier habits.

It can be quite off putting for some people, and does periodically diminish the cuteness of their interactions with one another.

On the artistic side, Momokuri has looked relatively simple, but has put that simplicity to extremely good use as it has been one of the most consistent looking anime I’ve watched in ages.

Satelight has been doing a great job on the animation here. Characters are always on model, and the designs are full of enough colour and vibrancy that they look great even standing still; or when still frames are used.

On the audio side, while having a relatively forgettable soundtrack (although the opening, sung by the voices for our leads, and the ending are both quite enjoyable) Momokuri excels with the vocal work.

Ai Kakuma, known for her work as Isuzu Sento in Amagi Brilliant Park, and Nobuhiko Okamoto, Rin Okamura in Blue Exorcist, both put in wonderful performances as Kurihara and Momostuki respectively, as does the rest of the cast.

Overall all the crazy and cute situations have managed to blend together well in these first few episodes, and if the series keeps up this sense of levity, it will definitely be a pleasure to review week to week.

Episodes 1 – 4 (1 – 8) Rating: 8/10

Momokuri streams new episodes Fridays on Crunchyroll.

The original manga can also be found here.

Summer 2016 Planned Anime Reviews

Hello one and all. It’s been a while since I last posted, and I’m terribly sorry about that.

After being utterly distracted for the past season, I’ve returned to cover a few series from the Summer 2016 Anime Season.

Weekly Streaming Reviews

Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak Academy – Future and Despair Arcs

Alderamin on the Sky

Qualidea Code

Momokuri

91 Days

Starting this weekend, reviews for the first few episodes of each of these series will be cropping up and then arriving consistently afterwards on an episode-to-episode basis.

As to the Spring 2016 season, I do have some highlights to share; series that I absolutely recommend checking out.

Here they are:

Spring 2016 Recommendations

Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World – 

Most definitely the best series of the spring season. With a great cast, compelling drama, and wonderful production values, this series goes above and beyond. Whether it’s Subaru and his genre awareness, or very human reactions and desires, to the supporting cast of, literally, colourful characters there’s a lot to like about the first half of this series. With plenty of hints towards more extreme events as the world opens up in the second half, this one has definitely earned its viewers and maintains them on a weekly basis. It’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of alternate world fantasy series, or just great examples of character development and drama.

Ushio and Tora Season 2

A fitting conclusion to one of the best shonen series in years, Ushio and Tora season two is a must watch for anyone who enjoyed the first season. If you haven’t watched the first season yet, then I highly recommend doing so as it is truly a great example of battle fantasy manga done right.

And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?

I was not honestly expecting anything from this one. Having only read a few of the early chapters of the manga adaptation, I was expecting this to just be a lighthearted comedy with a heavy dosage of fanservice. And while that was most definitely what this series managed to be, it also managed to intelligently delve into topics revolving around online lifestyles, internet safety and relationships overall. If you don’t mind heavy amounts of fanservice, and are interested in a comedy that provides some commentary on online gaming.

My Hero Academia

While ending right before the manga really started to hit off, the first season of My Hero Academia does a great job introducing viewers to the world of this awesome shonen series. With a great usage of the superhero idea, and an interesting world to use as a playground, this series managed to successfully set up the core cast that we’ll follow for the duration of the series. That’s probably what prevents this from being the highest recommended show of last season; it spends far too much time on setup. With another season announced though, this one is definitely worth watching so you can be all ready for when the next season starts.

(Season Finale) Myriad Colors Phantom World Streaming Review: Episodes 12 & 13

Screenshot 2016-04-10 19.03.58.png

First thing, I’m quite sorry about the lateness to this. Now that that’s out of the way, Myriad Colors Phantom World managed to be a much better series than its rough start implied, and finally gave us a solid multipart story for the finale.

With a new phantom, known only as Enigma, loose in the city, multiple power bearers are attacked and lose their abilities to this mysterious phantom. At the same time, Haruhiko, whose powers have progressed quite far even from episode 11, is approached by his mother; who wishes to reconnect with him years after leaving.

It’s a simple premise, and is not really the two part story arc I was hoping for after certain events involving Mai in episode 11, but works really well to end the series on a high note.

Haruhiko has his character arc come full circle, revealing a large portion of what his abilities can do, and new discoveries are made about Ruru as well – specifically that she’s a manifestation of Haruhiko’s repressed “freewheeling” side.

Actually, everything about this two part story arc is focused on Haruhiko, both to its benefit and detriment. While the girls all manage to prove effective – to an extent – in their fights against Engima (due completely to the increased level of teamwork that apparently cropped up somewhere along the line), they are also purely focused on progressing Haruhiko’s story at this point.

It’s a little weird after how ensemble the rest of the series felt – and how Haruhiko was essentially the one moving all of their stories along – but it does lead to some amusing moments and a pretty spectacular final battle.

Actually, all of the buildup to the final battle in episode 13 was pretty good. There were a few rough spots – brought out by the frequently awkward sense of humour this series has had throughout – but it was pretty awesome to be vindicated in discovering the connection between Haruhiko and Ruru and being presented with a return of his ability copying ability from episode three (wow, we last saw that a long while ago…).

As has been consistent throughout the series, KyoAni has presented some spectacular animation that is most definitely up there on the same level as anything else they’ve done. It’s awesome to see this sort of consistency, and it makes the series stand out in ways that the relatively cliché setting would have prevented on its own.

That being said, these two episodes suffer from some of the same mistakes that have plagued the rest of the series.

Primarily the fact that many of these stories have required some form of deus ex machina, or a usage of a “stupid stick” to justify some of the events going on. While amusing, having Albrecht fix up the access device, and subsequently hack into Alayashiki’s network, felt cheap – as if the series realized that they had wasted a lot of time getting to this point.

It also felt off how Koito knew that the company was covering something up about Enigma after the sequence where they had her searching the elusive phantom out. It was out of place and seemed like an awkward leap of logic.

Finally, there was the dinner sequence that capped off the end of episode 12. This sequence could have been amusing in any other situation, but it felt like a futile attempt to remind the viewer that all of these girls are invested romantically in Haruhiko – this is harem series after all.

This moment just felt completely forced and just didn’t work with the rest of what had been done over the series.

Overall, however, this season finale was pretty good. It didn’t have the same impact as it would have if the series had spent more time on telling a consistent story, but it was interesting to watch, and nice to get the shout-outs to earlier adventures. In total, this series has been decent. It’s most definitely not in the upper-tier of KyoAni’s works, but it was fun nonetheless. If they do decide to go ahead and adapt the next novels, there’s going to be some serious tonal change though. Whatever they decide to do, this was a worthwhile watch.

Episodes 12 & 13 Rating: 7.5/10 

Phantom World streams exclusively on Crunchyroll.