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.

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The Warded Man: Book Review

With the immense popularity of series like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and the entire subgenre of grimdark, traditional fantasy stories always seem to feel like they’ve slowly been going out of style.

For that reason, it was a real surprise that Peter V Brett’s The Warded Man, the first entry in his Demon Cycle quintet, plays against this more modern take on the genre; giving readers an absolutely wonderful page turner, with a couple of serious flaws.

Relishing in more traditional heroism, The Warded Man provides readers with a wonderful mix of classic and modern fantasy that never loses sight of what made the genre what it was once upon a time.

Set in a world where demons rise from the ground on a nightly basis, and the only defense against them are wards that manage to repel them, Brett opens this chapter with the heroic journeys of three distinctive youths.

Arlen, a boy whose tragedies push him towards an obsession with raining vengeance against the demons; Leesha, a girl whose desire for love and motherhood clash with her desire for freedom and an interest in herb lore; and Rojer, a toddler whose entire life is thrown into disarray when his home is razed by demons make up our points of view.

All hailing from hamlets and small towns, it’s interesting to see how Brett uses the traditional “farm boy becomes a hero” trope.

Between the three of them, each of our points of view provides a different angle to the concept, and even though Arlen is undoubtedly our lead he never overshadows the others.

The fact that Brett is also clearly an expert world builder doesn’t hurt either. The northern culture of what was once Thesa, separated amongst numerous hamlets and a few cities, breathes with a life that is usually only built up over numerous large tomes.

Even Krasia, the southern nation surrounded by desert and actively fighting against the demons while the rest of the world cowers, feels alive; even though we don’t spend as much time here as we could have.

It allows each of our character’s journeys to hold far more impact.

That being said, this book does suffer from a few serious flaws.

First and foremost is the way that Leesha is handled in the fourth and final act of the book.

After building her up as some sort of wonderfully skilled Herb Gatherer her entire storyline shifts to focus, unhealthily, on her sex life (or lack thereof).

It doesn’t blend as well and feels extremely forced compared to the how it was handled earlier in the story.

This also manages to drag down her character arc, binding her to other characters in ways that neither Rojer nor Arlen is bound.

Other than that, the pacing in the latter portion of the story also takes a hit.

Both the third and fourth acts feel a little off compared to the relatively smooth pacing that made up the first two acts. Arlen’s time in Krasia, while interesting, feels a little jarring of a time skip compared to any of the others that the novel contains.

Rojer also suffers a little from this as he comes into his own as a performer, despite his crippled hand. There are moments where things just don’t seem to move along nicely – coming across as far more choppy than smooth.

Leesha, on the other hand, has the most consistently paced portions of the story up until the end of the fourth act – and a decision that, while I like the pairing, I don’t like how it necessarily came about. From there everything just steamrolls into the conclusion.

That being said, this book delivers a full story with a beginning, middle and an end; all while setting up the framework for the rest of the series. Brett’s creativity and excellent usage of traditional fantasy archetypes makes this a definite read. Just be prepared for a little choppiness towards the end of the tale.

I look forward to delving into the sequel, The Desert Spear, in the near future.

The Warded Man by Peter V Brett Rating: 7.0/10

The Sherlock Holmes Exhibition in Edmonton is a blast

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Once again going out of their way to offer a thrilling exhibit centred on a pop culture icon, the Telus World of Science in Edmonton maintains their high level of quality.

With multiple exhibits having popped up over the years, including ones dedicated to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, among others, they’ve managed to bring science oriented experiences to some of pop culture’s biggest icons.

In this case, they’ve done themselves, and the world’s most famous sleuth, a great service as they put together what is quite possibly their best exhibit yet.

Mixing history; theatrics; interactivity; and legacy, this exhibit was fun from beginning to end.

Opening with a room focused on Arthur Conan Doyle, we’re given an opportunity to explore the background of the man behind Holmes.

Looking into Conan Doyle’s personal history, we’re given insight into his medical background, as well as the ways that this influenced the creation of Sherlock Holmes.

We’re also given an opportunity to explore some of his mindset and beliefs of the time, as well as being given access to see manuscript pages from The Hounds of the Baskervilles – a real treat – providing background to the character and setting the mood for the rest of the exhibit.

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Moving into the next room, we’re presented with a “train station” that provides a look at the science of the Victorian era, and also gave us the first major interactive elements of the exhibit.

Figuring out how bullet trajectory works, exploring some elements of Victorian botany, as well as being introduced to the concepts of the police at the time – among some delightful other experiences – this room served as a great prelude to the upcoming mystery.

Leaving the “station,” we move on to a wonderful little bit of fanservice in the form of an accurately recreated collection of rooms from the classic 221b Baker Street.

Filled up similarly to the early interpretations of Holmes’ abode, this room was a fun little distraction before we were introduced to the mystery that makes this exhibit more than just a collection of artifacts and information cards.

Set up as a murder/attempted suicide, we were tasked by Holmes himself, through audio recording, to seek out the truth that apparently seemed to be hiding right under the noses of the Scotland Yard.

Using notebooks given to us at the start of the exhibit, we were provided with an opportunity to examine the evidence gathered by the Scotland Yard and then go through numerous fun little activities in an attempt to come to our own conclusions.

From investigating blood splatters, to the possible addition of toxins into a seed, the interactive elements of the exhibit really shine through here.

With multiple devices and puzzles present to mess around with, and ever friendly staff willing to assist if one was to get truly stumped by a part of the exhibit, the mystery manages to be a compelling and enjoyable addition.

Once done with the mystery – a satisfying conclusion that expertly meshes together elements of everything that came before this room – we move onto the legacy of Sherlock Holmes.

With artifacts belonging to multiple iterations of the character, most notably from Guy Ritchie’s films and the television series Elementary, this section manages to give a good look at his prevailing influence on pop culture.

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The entire exhibit is capped off with a look at his legacy on forensics – a brief, but welcome look at how much investigations have changed from the 19th Century.

Overall this is an experience worth having. While the Telus World of Science in Edmonton has had many great exhibits in the past, this one was most definitely the best that they’ve had so far. I would highly recommend checking this one out if you’re an adult or a child over the age of 10. There’s a lot of fun to be had exploring the world and science of Sherlock Holmes.

The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes will be at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton until September. It’s the only stop it will have in Canada, so check it out if you can. For more information check out the website here.

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

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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.

(Season Finale) Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Streaming Review: Episode 12

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash has come to a close, and despite a somewhat rocky start, and some issues that persisted throughout the series, it has been a real blast and ends spectacularly.

Picking up right after episode 11’s events, with Ranta on the run from the Kobolds and the rest of the party planning to rescue him, we’re treated to an exceptionally strong finale that gives some complete closure to a few of the character arcs that we’ve been following.

Ranta, Mary and Haruhiro all have their character arcs, no matter how short or long, come to satisfying conclusions as the party works together to get out of the mines.

We see Ranta come to terms with his desire to live, and his regrets with the rest of the party (albeit in his usual crappy and perverted manner) as well as the payoff to this last minute push of character development – punctuated by his demon familiar and its constant taunting.

Haruhiro comes to terms with being a leader, and how he differs from Manato, tying up that arc for him, as he acknowledges how the party balances one another out, and what he needs to do in the position he found himself in.

Finally, Mary’s arc comes to a close through her shift in attitude towards the party as a whole, shown through some scenes with the whole group earlier in the episode and her moments with Haruhiro (they make a ridiculously cute couple by the way) towards the end of the episode.

All of this is wrapped around a conflict with Death Spots as it continues to hunt the party on their way back up the mines, ending with Haruhiro finally killing it after the two of them fall further back down into the mine.

It works really well, and leads into a series of conclusions and epilogues for the series that really tie everything up nicely and leave hope for the future of this party – and maybe a continuation if it does well enough.

That all said, there were a few issues with the episode that prevented it from standing out as much as the previous one. First and foremost, it felt a little lazy in its animation.

Still frames are used a lot in this episode, something that the entire series has been quite guilty of doing. It maintains character models, and allows the backgrounds to remain gorgeous, but it feels cheap in the finale.

Also, there are some animation flaws, particularly one where, while utilizing his exhaust ability, Ranta is seen with his helmet on; something that the opening of the episode makes clear is lost on the floor below them.

Overall though, we were treated to one of the best finales of this season and a real push for Grimgar to be one of the top series of the season, and another front runner for the overall year so far. I would love to see more of this world, whether through another season or the novels being licensed, but for now I’m just glad that they truly stuck the landing and made a great show that is definitely worth watching.

Episode 12 Rating: 9.5/10

Grimgar streams exclusively on Funimation.

Note: I’m not done with Grimgar yet, as I will be discussing the dubbed version of the series in a review once that has completed airing. Please look forward to it.

(Season Finale) BBK/BRNK Streaming Review: Episodes 11 & 12

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BBK/BRNK has come to a close, for the time being, and has actually left me quite excited about the prospects of where it could go in the future.

Picking up exactly where episode 10 left off, these episodes conclude the cast’s time on Treasure Island.

Going out with a bang, quite literally, these two episodes were an action packed finale that did a lot to make the series better than it has ever been before. It also does a lot to set up the character dynamics for the next season.

From the fights between the Russian team, Shizuru and Azuma, to the sudden, and violent, appearance of Entei and Reoko at the end of episode 11, there were a lot of well-constructed and exciting action sequences.

We got Azuma taking down the Russian Heart, Akihito and Zetsubi destroying nuclear warheads being fired at Treasure Island, a violent fight between Reoko and Oubu, and some utterly disgusting flashback violence.

Actually, the flashback that takes up a large portion of episode 12 was probably the best thing about these two episodes.

Finally divulging Reoko’s background with Migiwa and the reason for her hatred, it’s honestly hard not to side with her.

From being forcibly cursed to become Entei’s replacement heart, to being locked up for eight years by Migiwa, there was no reason for Reoko to turn out sane at all.

The fact that her crusade starts as an attempt to once again end war in the world, after all the other Buranki hearts stopped beating, only makes her progression more tragic as we reach the climax of the season.

Despite that, these two episodes suffered from the biggest issue that the series has had all along: character consistency.

Almost every single teammate of Reoko’s goes through a change in motivation as we delve into their leader’s background, and it reinforces the ridiculous amount of whiplash that characters have gone through in this story.

It also tries too hard to make Migiwa sympathetic through the usage of a short scene between her and Azuma where she requests that he save Reoko.

After all she had done to her friend, and the utter selfishness that she had displayed throughout all of episode 12’s flashbacks, it doesn’t feel earned; although I would hope that, if the writers would delve into it, they explore this fact in the next season through Azuma’s sister.

Overall, this was a great conclusion, but was hampered by the same issues that BBK/BRNK has faced since it started. I am, however, excited to see how things are handled in the next season, and cannot wait to find out how Azuma intends to save Reoko amidst the horrors that are about to be unleashed.

Episode 11 Rating: 8.5/10

Episode 12 Rating: 7.5/10

BBK/BRNK streams exclusively on Crunchyroll.

(Season Finale) GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There! Fire Dragon Arc Streaming Review: Episode 24

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With this, GATE comes to an end. Not with a whimper, or a bang, but a satisfying conclusion to the story we’ve been following for the past two seasons.

While there’s definitely plenty of room for them to return to this series in the future, and I definitely hope they do, things are final enough that it feels like we’ve been given a great run over GATE’s duration.

Following Itami as he goes to rescue Pina from Zorzal, we’re pretty much given a return appearance from every major character that has appeared in the series and a fluid finale that works off of the foundation that’s been set before it.

In specific, the return of Itami’s squad was wonderful. After the extremely limited screen time they received last episode, it was great to see them back together with their captain this episode.

It led to an interesting, albeit somewhat basic, break in of the imperial palace in order to rescue Pina; which included, among other things, Lelei and Rory fighting a giant ogre.

Actually, most of the events that occurred this episode were so widely telegraphed that the only real surprising thing was Itami skipping out on Pina’s ceremony, where she was officially made the empire’s crown princess, to attempt to go to Comiket.

It makes the series feel like it has come full circle, and nicely leaves us almost exactly where we started; except with the addition of Itami’s harem.

That being said, not everything in this episode works as well as it should.

For example, Prince Zorzal’s escape from the capital, and Tyuule’s despondent feelings over her “victory” all ring a little hollow, and feel far too open for a finale that did not announce another season to follow. Even for a series that is undoubtedly meant to boost sales of the source material, it feels far too open.

The other major issue was that everything came together too neatly and nicely for our heroes. They go to save Pina, and the emperor, and they do. There are no struggles, or issues, that are made apparent to the viewer; even the whole assassination subplot falls apart into nothing more than a distraction as Itami simply asks Zorzal to stop sending assassins after Lelei.

It feels cheap, and clearly shows that they may have spent too much time building up to this point, but doesn’t ruin the finale at all.

Overall, despite some hiccups on its way to its conclusion, GATE has been one of the more exciting series in recent years, and season two was a fitting continuation and conclusion to the series. Hopefully, with so many loose plot threads still hanging, we do get to see another season in the near future. If we don’t, I’m just glad that they managed to end it as well as they did. It was satisfying and definitely worth watching.

Episode 24 Rating: 8/10

GATE streams exclusively on Crunchyroll.