Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist Review

In a world where dirty jokes don’t exist, and the mere mention of a sex organ can get you thrown in jail, a hero must rise as a symbol for all things lewd. The mysterious Blue Snow, proudly wearing panties over her face and armed with naughty images and a foul mouth, aims to overthrow the government’s strict oppression and bring back the art of filth! Tanuki Okuma, the son of an infamous ero-terrorist, has chosen to not follow in his father’s footsteps but instead lead a life of morality in order to chase his dream girl Anna Nishinomiya. However, when he has an encounter with Blue Snow, AKA Ayame Kajou, his plans are ruined, when he is entangled in SOX, Blue Snow’s new ero-terrorist organisation.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the farm-based sex comedy No-Rin, a show I enjoyed a fair bit, and which I praised for how far it was willing to push the envelope in terms of raunchiness. However, after watching Shimoneta: A Boring World Where The Concept of Boring Jokes Doesn’t Exist, I have quickly come to realise that being as lewd as possible does not make for a funny show, as, despite pushing things about as far as they can go, Shimoneta is an utter failure.

I’ll be totally blunt and to the point. I think that Shimoneta is fundamentally broken as a comedy series. When I talk about comedy anime, I normally like to add in a little passage about how, despite the fact that I either liked or didn’t like the comedy in question, others might disagree, such is the incredibly subjective nature of comedy; however I can’t help but feel that Shimoneta actually defies this. Although the setup is pretty good, parodying dystopian futures seen in the likes of Psycho Pass, it is completely wasted. I genuinely do not think it’s possible to actually think this kind of show is funny, unless you’ve yet to leave primary school. The main problem is that there actually aren’t any jokes here. I mean, the script-writers clearly thought they were writing jokes, but I think to qualify as a joke, you actually have to put an ounce of thought into the script. What seems to qualify as a “joke” in Shimoneta is simply saying or showing something sexual. That’s it. To give an example of what passes for comedy, there is a gag where Ayame simply rolls on the floor repeating the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ over and over. See what I mean? That pretty much sums up 90% of the comedy, and it is painfully unfunny.

Admittedly, there is a way to make that kind of comedy work, and that’s when the viewer doesn’t see it coming. For example, in Episode 2 of the slice-of-life comedy Eromanga-Sensei, there is a gag where you see a cute, innocent girl, who suddenly says “I love dicks”. It hits you like a freight train, and comes from absolutely nowhere, and I thought it was hilarious. In contrast, all of the characters in Shimoneta are acting perverted 24/7, so you’re always prepared to see something lewd, therefore it’s neither shocking nor funny, it’s just dull. Any kind of amusement you get out of the sheer profane nature of the series is gone by Episode 2, as you just become numb. Even when it keeps pushing the boundaries further and further, it cannot escape from the fact that sex doesn’t equal comedy. You actually need amusing, unique or bizarre situations for the sex comedy to work and simply having a character say “Cock-a-doodle pussy” or showing someone masturbating on a table, talking about “love nectar”, does not qualify as comedy.

Perhaps the most offensive part of Shimoneta is its portrayal of rape as funny. Yes, really. Throughout the series, protagonist Okuma is sexually assaulted on several occasions and almost raped, something that is played entirely for laughs. Not only is trying to play rape for laughs disgusting enough, but it doubles down on the awful stigma that sexual assault and rape against men is something not to be taken seriously, to a point where I actually find it genuinely offensive. You would never see a comedy series in which a woman is pinned down and blindfolded, whilst being straddled by a naked man in an attempt to forcefully have sex with them, yet here, with the genders reversed, it’s perfectly fine, apparently. Honestly, it’s reprehensible.

Matching up with the abysmal comedy in Shimoneta are the equally abysmal characters. The protagonist is your run-of-the-mill, dull as dishwater main character, and everyone else is a pervert. No kidding, that is it. I suppose that, technically speaking, Anna develops, in that she starts as morally upstanding before becoming a pervert, but her character doesn’t really change for the better, she just turns from a dull and bland romantic interest into a perverted romantic interest. Perhaps a greater variety of characters might have helped mix up the comedy a bit to prevent stagnation, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

If there is any kind of saving grace here, it’s exclusively based in the technical aspects of the show: the animation, voice acting and music. Although they do great here, it actually saddens me a bit that J.C Staff, the studio behind A Certain Scientific Railgun, Toradora! and Little Busters, had to work on such an awful project, and I’d much rather have had the team there work on something, anything, other than this. Funimation UK’s release includes both an English and Japanese voice track. Not to diss the English voice track, the couple of episodes I watched with it on seemed decent enough, but Shimoneta is certainly a series you’ll want to watch in Japanese (if at all), if for no other reason than wanting to avoid the embarrassment of knowing other people in the house can hear what you’re watching. I can’t really say that there are any noteworthy performances, all the actors do a good a job as can be expected, given the material, but again, it’s kind of sad that skilled voice acting talent was wasted on such a show. The soundtrack is also pretty decent, making it a standout feature amongst pretty much everything else in comparison. The OP and ED “B Chiku Sentai SOX” by SOX and “Inner Urge” by Sumire Uesaka are nothing brilliant, but fit the series relatively well.

Funimation UK’s (uncut) release includes the usual clean opening and closing, as well as some episode commentaries.

In Summary

If you’re a prepubescent boy who still finds the word ‘penis’ funny, you’ll get a kick out of this, but everyone else should stay well clear. Even by ecchi standards, this is a god-awful trash fire of an anime.

Title: Shinometa: A Boring World Where The Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi
Studio: J.C. Staff
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 18
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 4/10

Absolute Duo Review

Welcome to Koryo Academy, a high school where students are trained to be future peace keepers by utilizing the power of Blaze; the ability to manifest one’s soul into the shape of a weapon, like swords and chains. Tor Kokone, however, is an exception, as his Blaze doesn’t manifest as offensive weapon, but a defensive shield. This makes him an ‘Irregular’ and a person of interest for many females at the Academy including his Duo partner Julie Sigtuna, a silver haired girl from Scandinavia who happens to carry a tragic past, just like Tor.

Supernatural schools are a tried and tested genre that has been done to death both in and outside of anime, so what makes Absolute Duo stand out, if at all? Well, the power to manifest a weapon based upon what lies in someone’s soul is an interesting concept, as it can tell the audience a lot about a particular character if they conjure a small dagger or gigantic building-breaking sword. In conjunction with that fact, the power isn’t automatically ‘on’; instead people must take injections in order to awaken the powers AND level up to become stronger warriors. It makes you wonder how they came about discovering this Blaze power in the first place, and why constant injections must be taken; is it forever or only up till a certain point? The school issues them and trains them to become ‘peacekeepers’ – what does that entail exactly? Is there an ongoing enemy that multiple groups are trying to find ways to defeat or is it something else entirely?

None of these questions are answered in the anime.

Why a Blaze manifests as it does is part of Tor’s character arc, which gets a serviceable semi-conclusion in the finale, and the reason why English female Lilith Bristol manifests a gun is implied, but no other characters get enough screen time to understand why their Blaze is the way it is. All the injections the characters have are shown on screen and discussed as if the cast know exactly what they are but we are not given the proper context for the audience, and the whole ‘peacekeeper’ thing is never elaborated. The last part is especially a point of contention as we are introduced to other factions such as Equipment Smith, who use technology to supposedly help the world, as well as brief mentions of even more leaders and their groups in Episode 10 when they come together for a conference, but nothing is explained.

Compare this to a series with similar elements, RWBY: the web animation also has duos/groups assigned at the school for fights and each student is training to become a huntsman/huntress to fight a common evil, but the world is fully realised and the characters fleshed out in a natural, clear way that allows the audience to get the mythology and care about how the cast is evolving. Admittedly it may seem unfair to compare a Western web animation with a Japanese anime adaptation, but what I’m trying to say is that we learn more about the world of RWBY and its residents within just the first volume (run time 123 minutes) than the entirety of Absolute Duo anime (300 minutes). There are decent ideas scattered across Absolute Duo but it plays out as if the full story wasn’t fully realised before production was started, or at least the anime didn’t carry across said world-building from the original material effectively, if it existed in the first place.

Absolute Duo isn’t just a fantasy show, however, it’s also a harem, so despite it being a mixed gender school the show mostly focuses on Tor and his growing group of girls as they progress. Credit where it’s due; even though each girl gets a turn to be ‘saved’ by Tor, the females also get their own moments to shine in combat and show off their unique weapons, however brief that moment might be. Also, it’s interesting that some of the girls come from different corners of the world with the British student Lilith being the one who’s forward about her feelings, and Julie is the silent but deadly girl from Scandinavia (a made up Scandinavian country, but still it’s a part of the world that doesn’t normally gets representation in anime). You also have the martial arts expert Tomoe who gets phased out more as the series progresses and Miyabi, the shy one with genuine feelings for our male lead until she does a character 180 just to give the audience cheap drama for the finale.

The relationship that gets the most development however is between Tor and Julie as they are Duos, meaning that they have to fight, train, share a room and eat together. Due to their similar tragic backgrounds and the pair having genuine chemistry, their relationship develops the most naturally despite being heavily weighed down by tired tropes such as panties somehow ending up in Tor’s possession, him accidently groping her and so forth. Tor himself isn’t as annoying as some male leads in harem shows, instead he takes his situation in his stride and is not afraid to talk to the various women or be upfront about his feelings. This is refreshing, even though half the time with the flashbacks to his tragic past to reminds us why he’s at the school in the first place, he feels like a character that should be in a different series altogether, rather than a harem one.

So, if the harem is only somewhat passable and the fantasy elements are sub-par, is there anything that the series is truly invested in? Yes, fanservice. Although not as over-the-top as other series like Samurai Bride, the series is not ashamed to have many close-ups of breasts, panty shots mid-battle and throwing the male lead into situations where he gets to grope said girly-parts. All the females have larger-than-average boob sizes (aside from, interestingly, Julie) with clothing designed to cling to their chests like it’s hanging on for dear life and the female school uniforms are formed of a waist-hugging corset and mini-skirt to emphasize all the necessary body parts to focus on. Fan service isn’t automatically a bad element in itself, if that’s what you’re into, but you need the animation budget to make it worth your time and it really isn’t here to support it. The breasts are constantly perky and upright regardless of what the girls are wearing and they sometimes move independently, so they’re an annoying distraction rather than a fun quirk. The series also relies heavily on the ‘female trip and fall into male’ trick, but every time it’s executed poorly by making the girls seemingly trip over nothing to land on Tor in embarrassingly impossible ways and places; the anime would make them trip on a pebble from three miles away if it gets them to land boobs-first on the male. The fan service is cheaply done in all instances so it’s not recommended if that is what you’re looking for.

The animation across the series is overall average if you go in without much expectation but the budget had been spent on the wrong aspects. The opening animation has a lovely dance number between Tor and Julie that’s very elegant and promises things for the anime that do not follow through, and with three different ending animations to accompany the various songs, it’s clear that the budget went into them when really, they should have saved some for the fight scenes and fan service. The former especially as there’s plenty across the episodes but they range from badly choreographed to choppily edited, with some very odd hastily ‘cut-to-black’ moments thrown in for no apparent reason; all they accomplish is ruining the flow of the battles.

Atsushi Hirasawa provides the score and, despite his lack of experience, his offering is one of the highlights of the series. There’s a lot of calmer, easy-going pieces that seem to share similar chords to classical pieces such as Bach’s Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) and Ave Maria. Then the action pieces use more modern elements from electric guitars to techno effects. It’s an effective score overall and complements each scene nicely.

The DVD version of the series was reviewed; all 12 episodes come with the set and it includes commentaries for Episodes 10 & 12, clean opening/closings, promos, the US trailer and trailers for various anime such as Yona of the Dawn and Blood Blockade Battlefront.

Absolute Duo is the textbook definition of mediocre; it ticks the boxes it needs to pass off as a fantasy/harem high school show but fails to really try and make something of itself or provide a memorable experience. There are a few interesting ideas that could have blossomed in a better show, but as it is, it’s a series not worth investing in.

Title: Absolute Duo
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Harem, fantasy, action,
Studio: 8-Bit
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 5/10

Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry heads to UK cinemas this May

The Easter holidays have passed and we are a fair bit late on this one, but it’s a good recap to remind you folks that more anime is coming to the cinema! Don’t forget that very soon Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale- will be screened across nationwide in cinemas on Wednesday 19th April and Friday 21st April (aka this week) so keep an eye on that!

Today, we are pleased to confirm that Fairy Tail’s second major film – Dragon Cry, will be screened across nationwide in cinemas for the United Kingdom!

Continue reading “Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry heads to UK cinemas this May”

Spring Preview 2017

Spring Preview 2017

The return of Attack on Titan! Season 2 of My Hero Academia! Yet more Berserk! The Eccentric Family re-appears for more tanuki mishaps and mayhem! Rage of Bahamut returns, even more epic than before and – oh, wait. What’s that you say? You’ve subscribed to Crunchyroll and Funimation UK and the latest Bahamut isn’t on their Spring list? It’s only showing on Amazon Prime UK? And a raft of other promising, highly anticipated series are only showing in the US on Amazon Strike?

Just when we thought there was some hope of no longer being the poor relations in the UK when it comes to legal, accessible and affordable simulcasts, Amazon buys the rights of several of the eagerly-awaited Spring series. However, with so many long-awaited sequels on show and some intriguing new titles, there’s plenty to keep our writers at Anime UK News engaged and excited. They’re here to share their initial thoughts and impressions of the new Spring Season. Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts too…

 

IncendiaryLemon

To get the obvious out the way first, the show I was looking forward to the most this spring was Attack on Titan Season 2. Yes, it is the most generic answer anyone could possibly give, but it has been 4 long years since the original series first broadcast, and I have been desperate to know what’s in that basement! As someone who doesn’t read the manga, the wait to know what happens next after the first season left so many unanswered questions has been very painful, so I am incredibly thrilled to finally see the show back on our screens. The first two episodes certainly haven’t disappointed so far, with Episode 2 in particular delving into the backstory for Sasha, one of my favourite characters, as well as giving us the Titan- based action we all know and love. I’ve heard from manga readers that it’s all set to go downhill, but from where I’m standing, it’s looking pretty great at the moment.

Going from something everyone and their mother was excited about to something I’m pretty sure only I was, the new series of Berserk also started this season. Last year, when the adventures of Guts finally continued after almost two decades (as far as anime is concerned), the backlash was enormous, with most of the complaints being launched at the 3D animation, which I can certainly agree with. However, even if it does look pretty terrible, at the end of the day, it’s still Berserk, a franchise I have a ton of love for, and no matter how poor the animation, the strength of both the story and characters certainly salvage it. After the cliffhanger ending of the last season, Season 2 wastes absolutely no time getting straight back into the action, with Guts confronting a familiar foe and Farnese getting a horrific backstory. No matter the animation, Berserk remains as dark, twisted and brilliant as it ever was.

The third and final anime I wish to highlight for this season is another one that I don’t think many people were looking forward to, but in contrast to Berserk, I also think it’s one pretty much no one really knows about either: Hinako Note. Filling the ‘cute girls doing cute things’ void in my life this spring, Hinako Note is about the titular Hinako, who travels to the city after living in the countryside, and ends up living with three other girls in a secondhand book store. Together with Mayuki, Chiaki and Kuina, she plans to resurrect her school’s theater club in hopes of getting over her social anxieties. Honestly, there isn’t too much to say about this one given its nature and the fact that only one episode has come out at time of writing, but personally I found it to be a good mix of comedy and cuteness, and it makes for a good break between the gore, death and anguish of shows such as Attack on Titan and Berserk. 

Ian Wolf

We all know what the big series are going to be: the second series of Attack on Titan, the second series of My Hero Academia, and Boruto – the sequel to Naruto. However, there are some other series that are of interest. Two of these are titles whose original manga versions have only recently been released in English.

One is a title I have already reviewed for AUKN:  the clockpunk series Clockwork Planet. The series begins with the world having died, but then brought back to life by a genius engineer using only gears, so the whole world runs like clockwork. The series follows four people – mechanical otaku Naoto Miura; RyuZU, an automaton he manages to repair; Marie Bell Breguet, a genius technician; and her bodyguard Vainney Halter – who, after a month of meeting each other, become the world’s most infamous terrorists.

The series has already attracted comment from some people, but sadly this is about what some see as inappropriate content. For example, there is a scene in which RyuZU sucks Naoto’s fingers in a manner too suggestive for some, and thus it has put some people off. However, the setting and situation will hopefully outweigh these concerns.

The other series of interest is Anonymous Noise, a series revolving around music and romance. It follows a love triangle, at the apex of which is Nino “Alice” Arisugawa, a girl who loves to sing, but who spends most her time in public wearing a face mask. When she was younger the two boys she was closest to moved away from her: Momo Sakaki, her old next-door neighbour and Kanada “Yuzu” Yuzuriha, who loves writing music and hates his lack of height, to the point that he is constantly drinking milk in an effort to make himself taller. When Nino arrives at her new high school, she spots Yuzu playing guitar in the light music club and tries to reignite their relationship. It is not long before she also seems to spot Momo as well.

Having seen the first episode, I find that the series has several impressive features. First of all there is the music: the songs are credited to the band “in NO hurry to shout”, which is a fictional band that appear in the series. The songs that have featured in the anime have been good so far and I’m looking forward to hearing more. A collection of singles will be released on 19th April. The other big thing that impresses is the “camerawork”. There is a scene in which Nino has to perform with the light music club on stage as singer, and when she performs you cut to a view from the audience which looks like it is being filmed by someone on a cameraphone, dancing to the music. The camera doesn’t keep still and the image is slightly of poorer quality as you would expect, thus adding to the realism of the moment. Let’s hope it can keep the pace up.

Rui

I’m drowning in sequels! The follow-ups to Attack On Titan, My Hero Academia, Berserk and (saving the best until last) The Eccentric Family guarantee that I’ll be spending a lot of time on Crunchyroll this season, as all four were highlights of their respective seasons the first time around. If you’re not up to date on The Eccentric Family and like your anime to be both thought-provoking and unusual, it’s well worth checking out the first season on DVD/BD from MVM in the UK.

Amazon has snatched quite a few titles I might have checked out otherwise and some of the ones I want to watch most aren’t available in the UK at all (Natsume’s Book Of Friends, how I miss you) but overall the damage hasn’t been too bad. Yet.

In terms of brand new anime, the horrendously-titled WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us (hereafter SukaSuka for my sanity) is the pleasant surprise of the season so far. My expectations were rock bottom; fantasy light novel adaptations about cute girls with powers are a dime a dozen these days and it’s a genre that struggles to impress me at the best of times, but when I forced myself through the first episode of SukaSuka I found a lot more to like than I expected. The characterisation and world building are already getting me thinking! I rewatched the first episode with a friend after the first viewing and we’re both looking forward to seeing where things go.

Aside from that, I’ll definitely be watching the new Laughing Salesman, Kenka Banchou Otome and – if the excessive censorship is less annoying in future episodes – Seven Mortal Sins. Not a huge amount of completely new content has caught my eye this time around but that which has is plenty to keep me busy.

Cold Cobra

Well, okay so I’m also watching Attack on Titan Season 2, and there is obviously very little to mention there. I will mention My Hero Academia Season 2 in a bit more detail, as it is similarly glossed over, due to being an obvious pick. The original series took a lot of people by surprise due to its combination of western comics and manga, not to mention its lead protagonist Izuku Midoriya, who has to be the most likable character on TV at the moment. The first season got through the world building and character set ups, leading to a final few episodes of classic shonen action. This gives Season 2 the ability to jump straight into some more action and light-hearted jabs at comics and hero shows in general without having to build up the characters or introduce them. The first two episodes have set up another shonen classic of a tournament arc, which will be fun, and obviously lead into something bigger.

As this site’s resident Naruto reviewer it won’t surprise you to find out I’ll be watching Boruto as well. The first two episodes of the Naruto sequel have been good in a “seeing characters as adults” kind of way, but also kind of annoying in that Boruto is pretty much Naruto again, including rebelling against the adults, despite growing up in a family. I know, he’s mad that his father isn’t around much, but you’d think given his Dad has his face carved into the side of a mountain might make you respect him a bit more… Still, early days, and this is already better than most filler arcs Shippuden produced, though that might be the biggest damning with faint praise in the history of faint praise damning…

I’m sure by the end of the season there will be one or two other series that I’m not aware of at the moment added to the line-up, but even if nothing else catches my eye, I’m happy to have the three shows to watch, and on my TV via the one streaming service no less!

Paul

The Spring season of 2007 was legendary. 10 years on, I don’t think this season will meet those same high standards, but that’s not to say Spring 2017 is without interest. Second seasons for Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia are welcome, but I’m particularly pleased to see The Eccentric Family return. It’s a weird story, set in the smokey side streets of modern day Kyoto where any number of creatures from Japanese folklore are living amidst a bemused human society. It has a unique aesthetic and is clearly a passion project for the talented animators working on it, who are giving it their all. Based on a story written by Tomihiko Morimi of the fantastic Tatami Galaxy, his love of language is evident throughout as the characters trade dialogue like gun fire.

Somewhat more conventional but never the less entertaining is Re:Creators. Back when musical composer Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne) was relatively active, her participation in an anime series would be enough to pique interest, and the same could be said today for Hiroyuki Sawano, albeit his trademark style is totally different to Kanno’s own. His style is heavy and infused with adrenaline, and is going to play a big role in Re:Creators. The first episode’s action scenes were great: filled with the sounds of clashing metal and indiscriminating collateral damage. Reading up on it also introduced me to a new word: Isekai, which is a genre of (Japanese) fiction where characters are transported from one world into another, foreign world, albeit this is reversed in Re:Creators, with anime characters invading the real world.

Sarah

Much as I’m enjoying the return of My Hero Academia and AoT, I find that there aren’t as many truly different series this Spring Season to discover. I love coming across something quirky or unusual, a well-made series that draws you back in with its skilful storytelling. However, that said, here’s two new series that – thus far – are different from the over- preponderance of material based on shonen manga or light novels.

The Royal Tutor

The diminutive Professor Heine Wittgenstein arrives at Grannzreich Palace to act as royal tutor to the king’s four younger sons to prepare them as potential successors to the throne, should anything happen to the Crown Prince. Heine could be easily mistaken for a child. (This happens. A lot.) But appearances can be deceptive; in spite of his childlike stature, he possesses a keen intelligence and understanding of human nature. As each of the four princes: forbidding Kai, genius Bruno, proud Leonhard and free spirit, exuberant Licht are soon to discover…

I’d been enjoying reading the manga of The Royal Tutor by Higasa Akai digitally from Yen Press (the first of the paper volumes will be released in May) so was delighted when the anime TV series was announced! At first glance, with its bishonen princes and nineteenth century ‘Viennese’ setting, it might seem as if it’s nothing but a frothy confection – but don’t be deceived. (For anyone confused by its promotional material, it’s not a BL drama or an idol show; it’s something rather more subtle than that.) The design team recreate Akai’s distinctive graphic style rather well, using her chibi forms to amusing effect. But there’s also some shrewd character analysis on offer, leavened by welcome little touches of humour. It’s very different from anything else on offer – and well worth a watch if you’re seeking some relief from the constant barrage of action shows.

Tsuki ga Kirei

Akane is a gifted athlete and member of the middle school track team. A fellow third-year student, Kotarou, loves books and intends to become a published author. They say opposites attract…but, even though they both have spotted each other (there’s a wonderfully awkward meeting where both meet at a family restaurant, with their parents embarrassing them by insisting on chatting together) they’re both so shy that these first feelings of interest and attraction could so easily be blown away by the spring breeze, like falling sakura petals.

I was pleasantly surprised by this quiet little slice-of-life series, an original anime directed by Seiji Kishi (Assassination Classroom, Magikano) with attractive, water-colour designs and a surprisingly unsentimental style of storytelling (thus far!) Another welcome antidote to the noisier series. I just hope it isn’t spoiled by some tedious soap-style melodrama later on down the line.

(I’m also really enjoying sci-fi/alien encounter series KADO: The Right Answer – but feel tempted to wait a little longer before assembling any thoughts, critical or otherwise.)

Demelza:

I fall into the same camp as a few of my fellow writers in regards to some of the shows I wanted to watch being region blocked by Amazon. Most notable of these is Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon: Sword Oratoria, which is a spin-off to one of my favourite fantasy series and something I’d been greatly looking forward to watching. Despite Amazon having prevented me from watching Sword Oratoria and a few other anime, I’ve still found a lot to like this season with the return of My Hero Academia and the new whacky comedy Eromanga Sensei, but overall there are just two new shows that have seriously caught my eye.

Sakura Quest

Sakura Quest is the latest original series from studio P.A Works and, as a big fan of Shirobako, I knew I had to check it out. The show follows the adventures of Yoshino Koharu, a young girl who has been trying to find a job in Tokyo. One day she’s offered a role with the tourism board of the economically struggling Manoyama village where she will fill the role of being the “Queen”. With no other choice but to accept the job, Yoshino soon finds herself in Manoyama and does her best to bring this struggling village back to life.

I can’t deny that from the two episodes I’ve watched that Sakura Quest is a slow burner. The plot moves slowly and much like P.A Work’s  Shirobako anime, if you aren’t invested in the characters, then you’ll probably struggle overall. However, I think the studio has a knack for creating these kinds of stories and I like Yoshino and the friends she makes enough that I want to see this adventure through. It might not be as exciting as creating anime, but it’s certainly intriguing in its own way.

Anonymous Noise

The other series to have caught my eye this season is Anonymous Noise. If you’ve read any of my reviews or articles before then you’ll know how much I enjoy a musically focused show and Anonymous Noise looks to scratch that itch quite nicely. So far it has already outdone last seasons Fuuka anime by including more than one original song in an episode and having an incredibly likeable cast (the animation quality is pretty notably as well so far).

The first episode is a bit all over the place because the series is a primarily a shojo in nature and so trying to couple music with a suitably exciting romantic storyline, but I think the fast, action-packed nature of it all is also what drew me in so much. I’m not sure we’re looking at a ground-breaking anime that will change our world forever, but if you’re a fan of shojo series then I think you’ll find a lot to like. At the very least it’s a show well worth keeping an eye on, in my opinion, as the first episode easily captured my heart.

 

Feature: The Soundtrack of Yuri!!! On Ice

AUKN Banner (Ian Wolf's Feature)

“I was in a Little Chef once, and I read the menu, and it said: ‘Try one of our desserts. Go on, you only live once.’ And I thought: ‘That’s a bit of blow for the Buddhists, isn’t it?’ What a way to find out that everything you believe in is utter bollocks.” – Ross Noble

Earlier this week Yuri!!! On Ice, the hit anime series of last year – if both the Crunchyroll Anime Awards and the Tokyo Anime Award Festival are to be believed – made a slight return.

A new video (see below) promoting a forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray release in Japan was released featuring animation of Yuri Plisetsky and Otabek Altin performing a routine. It was intended to be broadcast in the show itself but never made it to air and is now being made available as an extra.

The music the characters are skating to is called “Welcome to the Madness” and is composed by Tarou Umebayashi, who was one of the main composers of the soundtrack along with Taku Matsushiba. Given this new footage it seems timely to look at the soundtrack of the anime in general (and when I say “timely”, I mean I was originally going to write about this when the anime went out, but I got distracted by other things, and thanks to this new clip I now have a decent opportunity to finally get to work on it).

Before we do, however, it is worth making a note that for once, the majority of the music for an anime has been made available in the west. It has always been an annoyance to me that so much Japanese music is not made available to legally purchase (even X Japan, the country’s biggest rock band, still haven’t released three of their five studio albums on the UK iTunes). But with Yuri!!! On Ice the entire soundtrack is available as an album, and the opening and closing themes are available as singles, released separately by their respective artists. It should be mentioned that not all of the music is available yet, because there are some background pieces not released, but most of the music is there.

Let’s start then with those opening and closing themes. The opening, “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka, certainly seems to encapsulate the series as a whole. It stands out from many other anime themes for several reasons. For starters there is the introduction played on the xylophone, which makes for an unusual choice of instrument and thus also makes the tune distinctive. Then you have the fact that the song is sung in English rather than Japanese, which again seems to be making a statement. It feels as if the anime is deliberately trying to reach outside Japan and gain an international audience by using English to attract foreign viewers. On top of this you have the unusual time signature for an OP which uses (I have been told by one of my editors, Sarah, who knows much more about these sort of things than I do) three beats in a bar rather than the standard four, making it arguably a waltz. This is fitting for a show that is about a form of dance, but on ice rather than a normal dance floor. Also, because you need two people to dance to a waltz, it makes for a possible connection between two people like Yuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov – although, as the opening title sequence also features Yurio, it does complicate things a bit.

Lastly you get to the sentiment of the song: “We were born to make history.” When you first listen, it sounds rather rousing, but as you watch the series progress, especially when the relationship between Yuri K. and Victor becomes ever more romantic, you then realise that the series itself is making history in its own way, by having what is almost universally considered to be a gay couple in a sport anime. The song suits the tone of the series, because it is jolly, stirring and moving.

The end theme, “You Only Live Once”, is performed by Wataru Hatano, who is one of the voice actors in the show, playing the role of Georgi Popovich, the Russian skater suffering from heartbreak after his girlfriend has left him. The song is sung in a mixture of English and Japanese, and indeed is the only track in this whole article that features some Japanese dialogue. The main chorus line is always sung in English, and the verses are mixed up in both languages. Personally I prefer the opening over the ending if we are just going on the songs themselves, but with the end animation the song seems to work better.

The majority of the music available comes from the album Oh! SkaTra!!! Yuri!!! On Ice Original Skating Collection, which contains the pieces that are used in the skating routines. When it was released it topped the Oricon Digital Album Charts, and came third in the CD charts too.

It begins with “Aria (Stammi Vicino, Non Te Ne Andare)”, or in English, “Aria: Stay Close to Me”, composed by Matsushiba. It is the classical track performed by Victor which Yuri K. later copies, which in turn is filmed and sparks the whole sequence of Victor coming to Japan to coach Yuri K. This track illustrates again a point made by the opening theme: the international nature of the show, because it is sung in Italian. Looking at the translation you see that it talks about two people who, “are blending together”.

Then we move onto the most famous of the tracks: “In Regards to Love: Eros”, composed by Matsushiba. This is the Spanish flamenco number that Yuri K. performs in all of his routines. Having watched the anime, in my head all I can think of now is Yuri skating. The other notable feature of it is that in a way it pans to the international aspect again, not only because it is Spanish music, but because there are no lyrics at all, so nothing hampers your enjoyment, regardless of where you come from. The same is true of the next piece, which is also the title track: “Yuri On ICE”, which Yuri K. performs in his free skate routine. In the anime, this is the track that Yuri gets his old friend Ketty Abelashvilli to compose for him, but in reality it is Umebayashi who composed it.

Then we move on to Yurio. First there is “In Regards to Love: Agape” by Umebayashi, which sounds more melancholy than the “In Regards to Love” track Yuri K. dances to, and arguably shows Yurio’s frustration with Victor. If Yuri K.’s pieces are international because there are no lyrics, Yurio’s track is is international because it is sung in a language that has no native speakers at all: Latin, and thus everyone is sharing in collective ignorance. His free skate track however, “Piano Concerto in B Minor: Allegro Appassionato” by Matsushiba, is a classical piece with no lyrics, performed by string orchestra and piano.

After this, we then get onto the other skaters in the show. It is also where we see a much wider range of musical styles. We start with young Kenjirou Minami and his jazz instrumental “Minami’s Boogie” used in the qualifying rounds, and then we move onto the Cup of China. We have Yuri K.’s old friend from Thailand, Phichit Chulanont, whose two pieces of music, “Shall We Skate?” and “Terra Incognita”, are tracks from a soundtrack of a fictional film, one in English and the other in an unspecified language. Chinese skater Guang Hong Ji performs to instrumentals: string track “La Parfum de Fleurs”, and then “The Inferno”, from a fictional action movie soundtrack. Then heartbroken Russian Georgi performs to the English song “A Tales of Sleeping Prince”, a sad track sung by an R&B singer; followed by American Leo de la Iglesia with “Still Alive”, which features a bit of rap in it. His song is also in English, but as he is American it does feel less significant.

Following on from this, we get to the final of the Grand Prix. The first track is “Intoxicated” sung in English, performed by the Swiss skater Christophe Giacometti, followed by Christophe’s free skate classical instrumental piece “Rapsodie Espagnole”. Next is the Korean skater Seung-gil Lee, beginning with “Almavivo”, a Spanish number with mambo elements; followed by Czech skater Emil Nekola and “Anastasis”, an electronic piece from a fictional sci-fi film; then the Italian Michele Crispino and “L’homme Armé” a fanfare from another fictional soundtrack, and then Crispino’s free skate track “Serenade for Two”, a ballad sung in English. After this is the egotistical Canadian Jean-Jacques Leroy and his own “Theme for King JJ”, which you cannot help but find infuriatingly catchy; followed by his slow free skate piece “Partizan Hope”. Then comes Otabek, starting with “Samarkand Overture”, an instrumental piece that pays tribute to a city in Uzbekistan, a country bordering his homeland of Kazakhstan; and then his free skate piece, a rearranged version of the second movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th symphony, with an added chorus singing in German.

Last are the two pieces for the final exhibition skate at the end of the series, the already mentioned “Welcome to the Madness”, and the finale to the album, “Duet: Stay Close to Me”, a version of Victor’s original theme, but with two singers now, and skated to by both Victor and Yuri K. Thus the album ends with a piece of music that bring the central couple together at last.

While I did say that the album has an international bent to it, the most commonly performed language across the tracks is still English. No surprise as English is the dominant language across the world, but still it shows that the anime is trying to reach out. Then it is mixed with Italian, German and Latin, as well as plenty of instrumental tracks. We also see a wide variety of genres of music played including classical, modern orchestral music, Latin American pieces, jazz, rock and pop.

Listening to the album, and appreciating it alongside the anime, the main theme that seems to run through the entire thing is diversity. You have not just the diversity of musical styles and languages, but you then have the diversity of the cast. It is a series set across different countries and featuring competitors from across the globe. Then there is the already heavily discussed diversity in terms of sexuality. Because of this, the joy with a soundtrack like this is that you will be able to find at least one track on it that you really like, one you will be able to enjoy again and again.

For me, my personal favourite tracks would be “In Regards to Love: Eros” for its role in the story; “Minami’s Boogie” for its swinging, fun sound; “A Tales of Sleeping Prince” for being the most emotional track; “Theme for King JJ” for being a guilty pleasure (the character is annoying but the tune is catchy); and the final “Duet: Stay Close to Me”, for the way it unites Yuri K. and Victor.

All of the tracks are available to download from iTunes.

Nisekoi Season 2 Review

Raku Ichijo, only son of the leader of the Shue-Gumi yakuza gang, and golden-haired Chitoge, only heir to the rival gang, have been made – unwillingly – to enter into an ‘engagement’ to bring an end to the rivalry between the two clans. But is Chitoge beginning to develop feelings for Raku? The sudden appearance of Hana, Chitoge’s formidable businesswoman mother, unexpectedly leads to Ichijo attempting to prove himself as her secretary. Can he make Chitoge’s wish to spend Christmas with her mother come true? And if he can, will this change the way the couple feel about each other? He still has not found the key to unlock his pendant – or the girl with whom he made that childhood promise ten years ago. And he still has feelings for sweet-natured Kosaki, the ‘girl next door’, not to mention orange-haired Marika (truth be told, she has feelings for him) and earnest bodyguard Seishirō… and now Kosaki’s younger sister Haru has just started high school and she won’t let Raku anyway near her beloved big sis…

And so we are treated to Marika’s parrot, the arrival of Seishirō’s rival Paula McCoy, the usual Valentine’s Day chocolate shenanigans, a swimsuit episode in which the friends clean the school outdoor pool, and an unexpectedly touching section where Raku’s infuriatingly upbeat friend Maiko reveals hidden feelings for someone at their school.

Raku makes an unusually likable protagonist for a harem series; he does his best, in spite of the many tribulations the adoring girls put him through. Their adulation (or love-hate) is expressed in so many increasingly ridiculous ways that it’s surprising he doesn’t snap and tell them where to get off. He is, after all, the son of a yakuza boss. But this is comedy la-la land and, in spite of the high school trappings of tests, uniforms, sempai and kouhai, Nisekoi is not striving for realism.

But what felt fresh and amusing in Season 1, begins to feel rather tired and repetitive in the second season. Nisekoi relies on the well-worn shtick of ‘which girl will he choose?’ with the all-important locket holding the clue. But as yet more girls are added into the mix, without any substantial progress in the main relationship, the series feels as if it’s spinning its wheels. It still looks a treat, with its bright colours and attractive character designs, and if you love the main girls (and their VAs) there’s a treat for you, as they all have their own Ending songs with kawaii animations to match. There’s even a spoof Magical Girl episode (#8) in which Kosaki becomes Magical Patissiere Girl.

Nisekoi benefits from a talented cast of experienced Japanese VAs (there is no US dub) with Kouki Uchiyama (Yuri Plisetsky in YOI) convincing and appealing as unfortunate hero Raku and a strong performance as Hana, Chitoge’s absent mother, from Megumi Toyoguchi (Winry Rockbell in Fullmetal Alchemist).

This review is about the DVDs (it’s also available on Blu-ray) and there are a couple of little issues that may bother some viewers. Four DVDs, with only three episodes per disc (and textless songs as the only extras). Subtitles in French or English (it’s from Kaze) – and they’re in white which makes them difficult to read against light backgrounds. Nice clear picture quality and sound but there were moments when I struggled to read the subtitles and keep up with the dialogue. Navigation is also a little clunky as you have to choose between French and English before you can proceed to the (always the same!) trailers which lead – eventually – to the main menu.

Tomoki Kikuya (Squid Girl, Hidamari Sketch) again provides the music which is appropriately lively. And I am indebted to the ANN database for the details of the many songs included in these twelve episodes! The main new upbeat OP, “Rally Go Round” by LiSA, accompanies a madcap bicycle-based sequence which soon escalates into flights of comic mayhem, setting an appropriate tone for this second series. The second, “Magical Styling”  by Kana Hanazawa (the VA for Kosaki Onodera) appears in Episode 8.

The cute Ending Themes, using the vocal talents of actresses playing the main female characters, are:

#1: “Aimai Hurts” by Nao Tōyama, Kana Hanazawa, Mikako Komatsu, & Kana Asumi (Episodes 1,3,6,9,12)

#2: “TrIGgER” by Mikako Komatsu/Seishiro (Episode 2)

#3: “Sleep zzz…” by Nao Tōyama / Chitoge (Episode 4)

#4: “Matadō Love” by Kana Asumi/Marika  (Episode 5)

#5: “marchen ticktack” by Ayane Sakura/ Haru Onodera (Episode 7)

#6: “Tōriame Drop ( Shower Drop) by Yumi Uchiyama/Ruri (Episode 10)

#7: “Crayon Cover” by Kana Hanasawa (Kosaki Onodera) (Episode 11)

Nisekoi relies heavily on the ‘will-they, won’t-they?’ variation on the harem scenario, teasing the audience (and the much put-upon hero) with many potential pairings as well as the main false ‘engagement’. By Season 2, patience with the ongoing audience-teasing is beginning to wear a little thin. All the little set-pieces are fine, but do they deliver any significant character development or advance the relationships at all? In summer 2016 it was announced by Weekly Shonen Jump that the manga (by Naoshi Komi) was building to a climax (shorthand for end) but the TV series is nowhere near anything so conclusive, leaving the viewer (well, this reviewer) longing for some proper plot resolution, not just hinting.

In Summary

Nisekoi still looks and sounds good and is a lively and colourful watch. But however fun spending time with Raku and the girls may be, this second season is little more than an entertaining diversion that doesn’t really deliver any answers to the underlying question. I guess we’ll just have to read the manga…

Title: Nisekoi Season 2
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Harem
Studio: Shaft
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 12
Running time: 290 minutes

Score: 7/10

My Hero Academia Season 1 smashes its way to the UK this May!

Just in time for the recent North American release and next month’s Australian release, Universal Pictures have announced plans to release the first season of My Hero Academia on behalf of Funimation for the United Kingdom. Compared to Universal’s previous anime releases (Arslan and Seraph), My Hero Academia will be matching the Funimation limited edition release.

Oh my.. Oh my…. GOODNESS!!

Continue reading “My Hero Academia Season 1 smashes its way to the UK this May!”

Shomin Sample & Selector Infected WIXOSS receive UK home video release changes

For the past couple of months we have seen Anime Limited release a number of titles, quite a fair amount of them were on behalf of Funimation UK. In some occasions we have also seen some odd changes being made, and today it has been revealed that another adjustment has happened.

A few days ago a number of anime fans spotted a removal listing for the upcoming release of Shomin Sample (to be released under Funimation UK). Some had fear that this discovery meant that the show may never see a home release at all, however this is actually not the case.

Continue reading “Shomin Sample & Selector Infected WIXOSS receive UK home video release changes”

Details of We Are X Steelbook release announced

Manga Entertainment have revealed the details and artwork of their release of rockumentary We Are X, about Japan’s biggest rock band X Japan.

The Blu-ray Steelbook cover features artwork depicting the band’s frontman, drummer and pianist Yoshiki, drawn by Italian-born American comic book artist Becky Cloonan, who is most famous for being the first woman to draw DC Comics’ main Batman series of comics.

The release also features the following extras:

  • An eight-page booklet.
  • A fan video of the song “Born to be Free”.
  • Live video performances of the songs “Forever Love” and “Kurenai”.
  • Extended interviews with all the current members of X Japan.
  • Deleted scenes.

The Steelbook, which is the first Manga Entertainment’s Mondo x SteelBook® line, is scheduled to be released on 22nd May. A DVD release is also out on the same day. The soundtrack to the film is out now on CD and download – and on the first week of its release it topped the UK Rock & Metal Chart, came third in the UK Soundtrack Albums Chart, and 27th in the main UK Albums Chart – making the soundtrack the first X Japan album to chart in this country. It also came fourth in Japan’s Oricon Albm chart.

Click here to read Anime UK News’s review of the film.

Finder, Volume 8 Review

Copyright: Finder no Mitsuyaku © 2016 Ayano Yamane

WARNING: This article covers an adult title and may cause offense. May also contain spoilers from earlier volumes.

“A photograph is neither taken nor seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.” – Henri Cartier-Renoir

There will some people who will be annoyed by the latest volume of Finder, but not strictly because of the contents inside the book.

Among those who will be annoyed are Digital Manga Publishing, who in 2015 went to all the effort to re-release the entire series via crowdfunding, which they did successfully, bringing out all seven volumes that had been previously been released in English, and then they ended up losing the entire licence to Viz Media who have now published the latest volume under their SuBLime label. This in turn leads to another annoyed group: people who will be frustrated that the new cover sticks to SuBLime’s house style, and thus doesn’t fit in with the rest of the books released by DMP under their June label. You also other changes, like changes of staff. However, new translator Adrienne Beck seems to have taken over the reins from Sai Higashi perfectly well. However, we can only really judge when we get access to the volumes DMP have already published as opposed to a brand new book.

However, these issues are merely cosmetic. Once you get into the book itself you see that SuBLime have taken the effort to try and produce a good product, as the eighth volume of Ayano Yamane’s yaoi crime series features bonus side stories and a colour poster. On the down side, in the review copy I was given one of the pages is nearly cut off a bit too much (e.g. part of the “u” in “you” is missed of the page). It doesn’t affect the story really and again it is a cosmetic issue, but it is a sign that when it comes to printing the book you do need some care.

The eighth volume of Finder again continues to follow the relationship between freelance journalistic photographer Akihito Takaba and crime boss Ryuichi Asami. This time, Takaba goes undercover in a club run by one of Asami’s subordinates, Shu Sudo, in order to find a woman who has gone missing. Takaba finds the woman, but learns that she grew up with Sudo and she drugs Takaba.

When Takaba wakes up, he is bound up and attached to crane in a remote warehouse. Sudo has kidnapped him, because he is fed up of Takaba being so close to Asami all of the time, and so plans to kill him using a knife to cut his throat, but not before having his own wicked way with him in the process. It is not long however before the cops show up to arrest Sudo, while Asami is lurking in the darkness protecting Takaba. Takaba and Asami return to their apartment and… well you can guess what they do… but when Takaba wakes up from a nightmare concerning the events that have just happened he finds that there is a blackout in the apartment. Then suddenly a bunch of armed men burst in to try and take both Asami and Takaba down.

Now, clearly this series is not for everyone. There will be people who will find some of the sex scenes objectionable because they are non-consenting and thus are arguably rape scenes. Not only that, but Sudo is also using a knife to threaten to kill Takaba, and thus there is blood in the scene too. However, there are plenty of other sex scenes in the volume that are less of an issue, between Asami and Takaba themselves. Even after writing a series which this year turns 15 (it has taken two-and-a-half years for this volume to be published following the last one), Yamane is still capable of writing some good stuff.

Aside from the erotic side of things, there is still plenty of actual action in this crime-driven story. When the apartment is invaded, Asami gets his gun out to deal with the attacks while Takaba arms himself with a frying pan. There is still plenty in the story to thrill you.

While there will be debate about whether DMP should have lost the license or not, we should be glad that the story is still accessible in English and that the tale itself has not lost anything that makes it enjoyable. But if you are still annoyed by the fact the cover style differs from the rest, then don’t worry, because SuBLime are going to re-release the earlier volumes too, with some extras of their own, with the first volume scheduled for July.

 

Title: Review of Finder, Volume 8
Publisher: SuBLime
Genre: Action, Boys' Love, Crime,
Author(s): Ayano Yamane
Type: Manga
Original vintage: 2002
Format: Book (digital edition available)
Age rating: Mature (+18)
Length: 216 pages

Score: 8/10