Photo Kano Review


Kazuya Maeda is a second year high school student who receives a hand- me-down camera from his father. Determined to pursue his new hobby and turn his social life around, Maeda joins the school’s Photography Club. However, new friends aren’t the only thing developing as he finds himself in a tangle of emotions with his female classmates.

One of the inherent issues when it comes to making visual novels into anime series is knowing how to go about adapting the multiple routes. In romance VNs especially, where each route has an entirely different romance, it can be tricky, since you can’t adapt them all. Or can you? Photo Kano is an anime adaptation of a 2012 dating sim developed by Dingo Inc, that attempts to solve this conundrum by simply adapting all of the routes. Whilst it isn’t the first show to attempt the omnibus format, it’s certainly a pretty rare approach, and the first anime I’ve personally seen to tackle it. Even though this method of adaptations definitely has its positives, I really don’t think it works too well.


When it comes down to it, Photo Kano is just far too short to really pull it off. At only thirteen episodes long, including four episodes of initial set-up, it leaves each girl with only one episode each, with the exception of Niimi who gets two. This means that the entirety of a VN story route, which I assume took hours in the game, is crammed into just a single 22 minute episode. Whilst all possible romances are explored, they’re done in a very rushed manner. I can’t help but feel if the show had stuck to just adapting a single route really well, whilst also exploring some parts of the other routes, namely the character development, it might have worked a bit better. With that in mind, the episodes themselves are about as good as you could expect a romance could be in such a short amount of time, although it’s still nothing special.

Another issue I took with Photo Kano, was with the titular photography element. I’ll admit, this is probably more of a personal issue than an objective one, but I thought the use of photography throughout the series was downright creepy. Maeda almost exclusively takes pictures of his female friends in states of undress and provocative poses, and the show has multiple sequences sprinkled throughout where it’s literally just sexy posing. The whole photography thing largely just feels like an excuse for Maeda, and by proxy the audience, to ogle these girls and it’s just inherently made me feel a little uneasy. I imagine all the provocative posing and such might be a selling point for some, but it’s not really what I look for when I’m watching an anime, and it comes across as more of a distraction than anything else.


Paired with the amount of general ecchi content in Photo Kano is a fair bit of ecchi comedy, and, for me at least, it just fell flat. It’s the same trite and overdone comedy you instantly imagine when you think of ecchi comedies, with people accidentally grabbing boobs or having a girl’s crotch land on the protagonist’s face. I’ll admit, I don’t really like that kind of humour, but even if you do, there’s nothing original here that you haven’t seen a million times before.

Character-wise, Photo Kano is right in the middle of the road. Characters do receive depth and development in their respective episodes, and whilst I think that this development would have worked far better if spread across a few episodes as opposed to one, they’re all reasonably fleshed out. Where I take issue with this series, is the fact that they’re generally quite forgettable. Even after watching it just hours ago, I genuinely struggle to recall all the girls and their stories. A large reason for this is that, after the episode where they’re the focus, the characters just disappear, being relegated to the background, with some not even appearing any more at all. Maybe if they showed up more often outside of their dedicated episode, they’d make more of an impression. As for the protagonist, Maeda, he’s also very bland, erring on the side of unlikable, especially after he uses his photographs to blackmail one of the girls he’s trying to court.


Perhaps the most disappointing element to me has to be in the animation. Not because it’s bad (I’ve seen worse before) but because of the pedigree of the studio behind it. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I’m a huge fan of Madhouse, and they always seem to deliver anime with distinct looks, but Photo Kano might be their worst show in terms of animation. It’s just generally quite bland-looking, as if almost any other studio could have made it. As I say, not bad, but Madhouse is capable of so much more than what’s on display here.

In all areas of sound, Photo Kano is also just kind of bland. MVM’s release only contains Japanese voices, and all across the board everyone is about average, with no standout or lacklustre performances. Mina Kubota’s soundtrack is probably about what you’d expect for a romance anime, and complements the confession scenes nicely, even if it’s nothing amazing. The OP and ED are probably the biggest offenders when it comes to blandness, so much so, in fact, you’ll probably forget them the instant after you’ve heard them.


Bonus features are the usual; a clean opening, a clean closing and some trailers.

In Summary

Photo Kano, aside from its out-of-the-ordinary approach to adaptation, is just really quite forgettable. It has the odd good moment, but anything positive is dragged down by the frantic pacing, bland characters and pandering fanservice. 

Title: Photo Kano The Complete Series
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Romance, Ecchi, Comedy
Studio: Madhouse
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2013
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 312 minutes

Score: 5/10

Autumn Anime Season 2016



Autumn Season 2016 – the leaves are falling and just as we finish watching and discussing Mob Psycho 100 or Re:Zero or Sweetness and Lightning, the anime studios are already tempting us with the next slew of goodies. And there’s so much to choose from these days! (Crunchyroll and Funimation, you’re spoiling us – but please don’t stop. We’ve been the poor relations for a long while in the UK, so it’s nice to get some choice.)

But how to decide which series are the duds and which the hidden treasures? The staff at Anime UK News are here to offer some suggestions of their own. We’re not infallible, of course, and personal tastes can differ wildly! We’re always very interested to know what you think too.


Going into this year’s Autumn Season, I wasn’t expecting to watch a whole lot of shows. I had one or two in mind, but after seeing what was cropping up on Crunchyroll, my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up picking up eight! Whilst everything I’ve picked up has been at least good, there are some definite stand-outs among the crowd.


My favourite from the season so far definitely has to be Sound! Euphonium Season 2. I’ll admit, it might be a little unfair to pick a show with a whole season under its belt as my front runner, when all the other shows only have an episode or two out, I just can’t deny how fantastic the first two episodes of Sound! have been, easily being on par with the first season. From the amazing animation from Kyoto Animation, to the excellent characters and drama on display in just these first two episodes, there’s no doubt in my mind that Sound! will definitely be somewhere near the top of my ‘best of’ list for the year, never mind the season.


In terms of non-sequels starting this season, the one that instantly grabbed my attention from the get-go was Flip Flappers. It was a little hard for me to grasp what exactly it’s about (I hope the second episode will shed some light on that) but, from a pure animation standpoint, Flip Flappers had my jaw on the floor. I haven’t seen an anime by Studio 3hz before, but their visuals rival the greats, and I genuinely couldn’t tear my eyes away from the bright colours and fluid action on display, it was truly a marvel. If the future episodes can match the level of the animation with character and story, then I think Flip Flappers will certainly be a contender for the best of the season.

Another show I’d be remiss not to mention would be Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou li Desu Kara 2nd Season. Both the first season and this current season seemed to fly under the radar a bit in terms of popularity and I definitely think both seasons are worth a watch. More akin to a Slice of Life Comedy than you’re regular magical girl offering, Desu Kara always manages to get a good laugh out of me, and at only 4 minutes an episode, there’s really no reason not to give it a go.

haikyu-season-3-imageWhen I first looked at this season, I didn’t think there would be much to catch my interest. However, over the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised in the vast quantity of good quality anime hitting
Crunchyroll. Thanks to the service picking up so much, so I’ve found myself watching quite a lot and already have some firm favourites that I can recommend everyone give a shot.

As IncendiaryLemon mentioned above, this season is a season full of sequels and so I’m happily watching the second half of Bungo Stray Dogs, Sound! Euphonium season two and most importantly (for me) the third season of Haikyu!. Bungo Stray Dogs continues to be an example of Studio BONES at the top of their game with some exceptional action scenes, animation and their fun blend of comedy that I always fall deeply in love with. Sound! is off to a worse start and hasn’t really gripped me but then I was never that fond of the first season, so I’m really only sticking with it because of Kyoto Animation and the hopes of things improving (they never did in Season One for me though…). By far the best of the sequels though is Haikyu! which promises to spread a 5-set game against Shiratorizawa Academy across the whole 10 episodes of the season. Usually I’d be worried about stretching one match across that many episodes, but with Production I.G at the helm and a wonderful first episode I’m just left with pure excitement for what’s to come. I truly believe that if any sports anime is going to pull this kind of idea off well it’s going to be Haikyu!.

As far as new anime goes my favourites are definitely Girlish Number, Izetta: The Last Witch and Yuri!!! On Ice. It seems as though Girlish Number is going to fill my New Game! hole by telling the story of cute girls doing cute things in an industry I’m really interested in learning about. The story is about a new voice actor, Chitose, who so far hasn’t had the chance to play any named roles, but her big break comes along by the end of the first episode and she finds herself playing a lead role! The first episode was full of good humour and digs aimed at anime adaptations of light novels, so I can see myself having a lot of fun with this. If nothing else I might learn something interesting about how the voice acting industry works.

izetta-the-last-witch-animeI think my favourite of my favourites has to be Izetta: The Last Witch. I’m sure many of our writers will pick this one as well because it’s pretty universally likable no matter what your tastes are. I love magic and witches so the show won me over on that alone, but I’m also aware that it has some of the Code Geass talent behind it and that intrigues me to no end. Set in a world currently stuck in a war with a feisty princess who wishes to protect her kingdom, it sounds pretty generic but trust me, it’s better than it sounds. The first two episodes have been busily setting up the world and cast, but pretty animation and a strong selection of characters has kept me on-board so far. If you watch nothing else this season then at least give Izetta a chance.


My final pick is Yuri!!! on Ice which tells the story of Yuri Katsuki, an ice skater who loses in the final of the Gran Prix competition and begins to question what he’s even doing with his career. After a video of a private performance back in his hometime goes viral on the internet, Yuri is suddenly visited by his idol Victor Nikiforov who wishes to coach Yuri! The first two episodes have displayed some captivating animation and so far Yuri and Victor are both interesting characters with a lot of depth to them. I’m writing about this one because it was a show I passed by originally (because I’m not that big on ice skating really) and went back to watch after seeing a number of friends really enjoying. I don’t want anyone else to miss out on trying this because they overlooked it the same way I did – trust me, it’s well worth your time this season.


Putting aside my annoyance about not being able to watch Kiss Him, Not Me!  (because, UK) and wondering if it’s worth signing up to Amazon Prime to watch one of the series I was really interested in this autumn, Ame no Funi, I’ve found plenty to watch and enjoy. For me the stand-out so far is Yuri!!! On Ice. That OP! Such a heart-stopping blend of animation and song! (Watching this reminds me how enthralled I felt when seeing/hearing the OP of Vision of Escaflowne for the first time.) Director Saya Yamamoto deftly blends humour with the poetic, artistic side of ice skating and those oh-so-naughty teases. But in spite of the comedic moments, there’s much that will chime with anyone who has ever striven to excel in the arts or sports; Yuuri’s utter devastation when faced with his own failure at the Gran Prix Finale competition will create a strong feeling of sympathy in many hearts and minds. I can’t wait to see where this goes next…


Another new sports anime is All Out! Which is all about the rugby! Coming from a rugby-mad household, I couldn’t wait to see this (with fingers firmly crossed that it wouldn’t turn out to be a damp squib like Cheer Boys!!, juggling too many characters and not enough animation budget). It’s early days yet but the distinctive manga-based character designs (and an OP that shows a realistic match in the mud and the rain) are encouraging. Facts about rugby have been fed in quite subtly, so if you don’t know the game, you won’t feel left out. Typical shonen hero, first year (and short of stature) Gion, proves almost impossibly stubborn and determined to join the team, unafraid to take on the truly intimidating captain Sekizan, even though he knows nothing of the game. His new friend, timid giant Iwashimazu, has his own reasons for not wanting to play rugby ever again but somehow you just know…  This has been a fun watch so far and is well worth catching if you’re looking for a sports anime with a difference.


ClassicaLoid and Nanbaka although ostensibly very different, the first based around classical composers and their music, the second about four prisoners whose unusual gifts allow them to break out of any jail in the world, are both as many technicoloured shades of crazy as the animators can splash onto the screen. I’m enjoying both – because I like crazy when it’s done with imagination and even affection – but, as a musician, I’m probably better qualified to talk about ClassicaLoid.  (I’m going to cheat by quoting the Crunchyroll blurb) :

Kanae and Sosuke are two high-school students living in the suburbs in Japan where music flourishes. One day, they encounter Beethoven and Mozart, two suspicious men who call themselves ClassicaLoids. The “Musik” they play have mysterious powers, such as causing meteor showers and summoning giant robots. Kanae and Sosuke’s daily lives suddenly turn chaotic! Adding to the commotion are the appearances of other ClassicaLoids such as Bach, Chopin, Liszt, and Schubert. What is the big secret behind their powers? And are they a threat to humankind, or could they be saviors?

The first episode, in which Kanae’s amazingly eccentric house, complete with pipe organ (originally her grandmother’s) is threatened with demolition, is satisfyingly over-the-top and gets the series off to a fine start. Different teams of musicians have been given the task of arranging music from the named composers and a theme from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony gets a full-on 70s rock orchestra interpretation worthy of Jeff Lynne or Rick Wakeman. Less successful, I feel, is the second episode’s rather perfunctory interpretation of ‘that’ theme from Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ (the one everyone knows) which hardly gets any airtime at all. But will this attract any new listeners to classical music? We shall see what happens when Liszt turns up next time (in this series, Liszt is a glamorous woman, not the 19th century musical superstar who had female audiences swooning in the aisles and throwing themselves at him). And who knew that Beethes was so obsessed with gyoza…?


Last but not least of my picks, March comes in like a lion tells the story of loner and seventeen-year-old pro-shogi player, Rei Kiriyama, and is a complete contrast to the other series I’ve mentioned. This is a Slice-of-Life show based on the manga by Chika Umina (Honey and Clover) and, although gentle in pace, has some striking imagery, wonderfully animated, as well as a touching depiction of a young man struggling to deal with loneliness. The lively family of three sisters (and their cats!) with whom Rei is beginning to interact provide a fascinating contrast to his solitary existence. One to watch for lovers of Slice-of-Life – and cats!

Cold Cobra:

I have to repeat what my fellow staff have said above in that I wasn’t expecting much going into this season. I was happy to find Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans once again able to be streamed straight to my TV via Crunchyroll, even if it is on a weeks delay. As a Gundam fan of over a good decade and a half I’ve been thrilled to see the property once again find its footing with another slice of war stories and drama mixed with giant robots shooting at each other. Fingers crossed this second half goes better than the second half of Gundam 00, which struggled to recapture what it created in its opening season a fair few years ago.


Continuing with the returning shows theme, I too am watching Bungo Stray Dogs, with its great mix of comedy and action. Lastly, the only new show on my personal “must catch every week” list: Drifters. I was interested in the idea of the plotline: a bunch of historical figures are plucked from their time periods the moment before they’re historically killed and forced to fight each other on two (or three, seemingly) sides. It was a good concept, and throw in the fact that it is based off of a manga by Kouta Hirano of Hellsing fame and I was in. The first episode has already seen a bit more humour mixed in with the expected gore, and some fine laying of groundwork that has me excited to strap in for the 12 episode ride to the end of the year.

I also feel I should given a quick mention to Part IV of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure story, Diamond is Unbreakable, coming to an end this season. While not a new or returning show, it’s a favourite and the fact that this is the home stretch feels like a big event for the season.

So there you have it, only three new or returning shows in this season, but three shows I’m very happy to continue to follow in the run up to the end of the year.

Publisher: Crunchyroll (streaming)
Genre: Action, Sports, Comedy, Slice of Life, Fantasy
Type: Movie
Format: Legal stream
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles

Trinity Seven


Arata Kusaga’s life changes when the sun turns black and his world (ours?)  – and his beloved cousin Hijiri – are swallowed up by the Breakdown Phenomen. Gifted with a grimoire by Hijiri, Arata sets out to find a way to undo the damage and save her. The answers lie in the Royal Biblia Academy, a school for magi with (of course) a pervy headmaster. There, Arata (who possesses the powers, it turns, out of a Demon Lord candidate) is told he must work with the Trinity Seven, nubile female mages who represent the Seven Deadly Sins. Or, to quote the official blurb, ‘seven beautiful female mages whose powers are intrinsically tied to the same sins that Arata has to master to put his world back together’. And so the mastering begins!


A well-written harem anime can be diverting and fun to watch. Think of Nisekoi – or Love Hina – or even a classic like Oh! My Goddess.  But Trinity Seven seems to be doing its best to press all the cliché buttons without bothering too much about …well, anything, really, except getting ticks in the relevant fan service boxes as soon as possible: hero’s hand on boob? tick; girls in swimsuits at the beach? tick; his magic makes the girls’ clothes fall off? (just like Negima!) multiple ticks! (It’s probably worth noting here that the manga by Akinari Nao (art) and Kenji Saito (story) on which this anime is based is rated ‘M’ Mature by US publishers Yen Press.)


Maybe this wouldn’t matter so much if the story had anything interesting or new to say in the mages and alchemy story realm, but it hasn’t; the magic system is pretty random, with fantasy bits and bobs thrown in together with pick n’mix from science fiction (Breakdown Phenomenon)  resulting in an odd blend of grimoires and paladins, codices, archives and demon lords. The characters’ names only serve to reinforce this impression: Lugh; Selina and Lieselotte Sherlock; Lilith. The series pootles along in this random way (dragon here! magic explosion there! more boobs!) until past the halfway mark when the plot suddenly belatedly kicks in and director Hiroshi Nishikiori (A Certain Magical Index) ups the ante. It’s well animated and looks like a fantasy but ‘looks like’ is no substitute for a decent plot and the creation of a convincing magic system, not just spouting of Latin, Greek and Hebrew names borrowed from countless other similar creations.



One of the main irritations with harem (or reverse harem) series is that, having paraded a sequence of potential partners for the main character, just like a Visual Novel, no real commitment is ever made, so the plot and characters never move forward or develop. The series is described as a ‘fantasy romantic comedy’ but surely a romcom demands a little more of its main protagonist, in this case, Arata, who rarely seems to want more from a relationship than to grab the nearest boob.



This impression isn’t helped in the US dub by relatively new VA Cameron Bautsch who goes for a salacious leer in the voice that enhances the jerk side of Arata’s nature; experienced VA Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kirito in SAO, Yukihira Soma in Food Wars) gives a much less obnoxious performance. In fact, this is one of those releases where I definitely recommend the sub over the dub, although there’s a wonderfully dry, deadpan turn by another unfamiliar (to me, anyway) VA, Christina Stroup as Arin Kannazuki, the mage who spookily resembles Arata’s missing Hijiri and persists in calling him her husband.


Oddly enough, one redeeming feature for Trinity Seven is the interesting and unusual soundtrack, supplied by TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND (WitchCraft Works); their main influence seems to come from the minimalist school, and maybe Thomas Newman (American Beauty). The striking OP is “Seven Doors” by ZAQ and the four (yes, four!) EDs are:


#2: “SHaVaDaVa in AMAZING♪” by YuiLevi♡


#4: “TRINITY×SEVENTH+HEAVEN” by Security Politti

The extras on this easily navigable Blu-ray are textless OP and EDs and four trailers for other Sentai releases (not all available on R2).

In Summary

If you’re a fan of fan service, then you probably won’t be disappointed. The music isn’t too shabby, with a strong OP and interesting selection of 5 EDs! But take away the music, the attractive character designs and the ecchi and Trinity Seven sadly seems little more than a rather ordinary and undistinguished fighting fantasy.

Title: Trinity Seven
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Fantasy, Romantic Comedy, Ecchi, Harem
Studio: Seven Arcs Pictures
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 5/10

Wish Upon the Pleiades Review

91dai5qkxsl-_sl1500_Subaru is a junior high girl who loves the stars. However, when she opens the door to the observatory to watch a meteor shower, she gets more than she’d bargained for. Instead of the usual room, she is greeted by a lavish garden and a mysterious long-haired boy. The garden soon disappears, and all that remains in an odd, bouncing blob which leads her through another magical door to a room occupied by magical girls. She soon discovers that the blob is a Pleiadian, one of a species of aliens who are trying to get back home. Subaru joins the group, which includes her childhood friend Aoi, as she and the others attempt to collect the pieces of the Pleiadian spacecraft engine and return the being to its home. However, they’re not the only ones after the engine pieces…


When it comes to Magical Girl anime as a genre, I’d still consider myself a relative newcomer. Barring shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Fate/Kaleid liner Prisma Illya, I haven’t really seen that many of them, however, I think I know enough about the genre trappings to know when a Magical Girl show is trying to do something a bit different, and Wish Upon the Pleiades does just that. Originally starting life as an Original Net Animation back in 2011, this full length anime is based on the 2014 manga spin off Wish Upon the Pleiades: Prism Palette, and offers a more character- centric take on the Magical Girl genre.


Make no mistake, if you’ve come to Wish Upon the Pleiades expecting the usual Magical Girl shtick of long transformation sequences and villain-of- the-week battles, you’re going to be disappointed, because it’s a very different show. I’ll admit, before I watched it, I was also expecting something in that vein, but Pleiades managed to beat my expectations by a significant margin, largely due to the quality of its characters. The best of the bunch is undoubtedly the main protagonist Subaru, who undergoes a significant amount of character development over the course of the show, both in herself and through her relationships with her childhood friend Aoi and the mysterious long-haired boy Minato. These relationships are very well done, with Subaru and Aoi’s relationship in particular resonating quite well with me, as it deals with growing apart and how people can change. This is a subject that I think a lot of people can probably find relatable; I know I certainly could. As for the other characters, they also each get their own episode to give them greater depth, however, I would have liked to have seen a bit more done to develop them. There is so much focus on Subaru, Aoi and Minato, I can’t help but feel everyone else is somewhat neglected after the one episode that has them in the spotlight.


Despite the fact that Pleiades is largely character-focused, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else to it. While it doesn’t feature in every episode, there is still a decent amount of Magical Girl fun to be had in a lot of episodes. It doesn’t really take the form of traditional action, per se, there aren’t really any fights, but the sequences of the girls trying to obtain the engine pieces are great, and the fact that there’s more to getting the pieces than just battling keeps it from getting stale, with the group having to think up different solutions as to how to lay their hands on the increasingly hard-to-get engine pieces.

I did find the story had some stumbling blocks though, particularly towards the end. The whole revelation about Minato was kind-of muddy, and not very well explained, which was a shame, because I feel they were really building to something great, but it just wasn’t executed well. Another sloppy execution of a good idea comes in the broad theme of change. This is something that is hammered home in almost each and every episode, yet it feels so vague and nebulous, I’m not entirely sure I could ever pin down exactly what they were going for with it, and the characters seem to go back and forth on if they have changed or if they haven’t or if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, and the whole thing just left me mildly confused. I also had this issue with some of the dialogue in the Garden scenes, where Minato almost always speaks in confusing terms, and this is done very deliberately, as even Subaru says she’s confused in the scenes themselves.


After the characters, I’d have to say that the highlight of Wish Upon the Pleiades has to be its animation. I might be a little bit biased because Pleiades does pander to exactly what I love in an anime’s art style, being full of bright colours and adopting moe character designs courtesy of Mai Otsuka, who also did the character designs for Non Non Biyori, a Slice of Life favourite of mine. Still, I don’t think that anyone could deny Pleiades is quite the looker, and it shouldn’t be surprising coming from Gainax, who also brought us classics such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann and Gunbuster. As far as visuals go, I also have to praise the use of CGI here. In most anime, the CGI always looks poor, not matching with the traditionally animated visuals, however in Pleiades, the CG is barely noticeable, only being used in long shots and never close up. To me, this is the best way to utilise CGI in anime, using it when the viewers are barely going to be able to tell it’s there at all. Although it isn’t strictly animation, I also adored the eyecatch art in this show, provided by the author of the manga, Anmi.  


Animatsu’s release of Wish Upon the Pleiades is Japanese audio only with English subtitles. The whole cast are pretty great, with not a weak performance among them. Natsumi Takamori as Subaru (Mei Misaki from Another, Azusa from Orange) and Houko Kuwashima as Minato (Kagura from Azumanga Daioh, Tomoyo from Clannad) give the best performances, but then they have the most emotional scenes. The soundtrack by Shiro Hamaguchi (notable for providing the music for One Piece and Shirobako) delivers a range of music that complements the visuals nicely. The OP and ED are decent enough, but neither really stands out as anything more than okay.

Extras on Wish Upon the Pleiades include a Clean OP and ED, as well as trailers.

In Summary

Wish Upon the Pleiades may stumble in its story in places, but the excellent characters and beautiful animation make this an easy recommendation for anyone seeking an out-of-the-ordinary Magical Girl anime.

Title: Wish Upon the Pleiades Complete Collection
Publisher: Animatsu
Genre: Magical Girl, Magic, Space
Studio: Gainax
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 12
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 8/10

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 26


Naruto Shippuden continues onwards with the 26th two disc “box”, this time containing Episodes 323 to 335. In the last set I complained (in a completely unsurprised way) that it was mostly filler, and uninteresting filler at that. Well, I’m happy to report that this set is the opposite. It’s non-stop manga adaptation episodes, with only a few flashbacks and little filler moments here and there.

To very quickly recap (as I have so many times!) the world of Naruto is in the midst of the Fourth Great Ninja War, fought between the Allied Shinobi and two rogue ninja and their army of immortal undead. This chunk of the story arc, a story arc I might add that is only just now coming to an end in Japan with episodes in the 470s, can be split into three separate storylines. The most important one focuses on Naruto and his allies Killer B, Kakashi and Guy, who fight the man in the mask we were all told was Madara, but found out at the end of the last set that wasn’t the case. The masked man, who I’ll call by his old name of Tobi for the sake of this review (his actual identity won’t come until the next set, sorry!) soon unleashes reanimated versions of the past Jincuriki, people who had tailed beasts trapped within them just like Naruto and Killer B had. This leads to a large-scale tailed beast battle that finally, and I mean finally, see Naruto and the Nine-Tails come to understand each other.


Elsewhere on the battlefield, Sasuke is on the hunt for Kabuto, the man who is reanimating all these past ninja, though for his own goals rather than to save everyone. On the path to finding him he comes across the reanimated Itachi, his big brother that he once swore revenge on for killing his entire clan, only to find out, after killing him, that he wasn’t so bad… or at least he had sort of good reasons for doing it? Well, anyway, they have no time to chat as they soon have to deal with Kabuto, who has absorbed a great deal of Orochimaru’s power. As this set closes out we start to finally see Kabuto’s backstory, after being a bit of a mystery since back in the original Naruto days.

Finally, the five great leaders of the hidden Ninja villages (known as Kage), team up to take on the real Madara, who, of course apart from being extremely powerful and skilled, is now immortal due to the whole reanimation thing. This fight has plenty of crazy, high-level ninja techniques on display, but has slightly less impact on the story as a whole compared to the other two plots.


“Niwaka Ame ni mo Makezu” by NICO Touches the Walls is once again your opening up to Episode 332, where it switches to “Tsuki no Okisa” by Nogizaka46 (who personally I find much better than Nogizakas 1 through 45). “Yume o Idaite ~Hajimari no Crissroads~” by Rake continues to close out the episodes until likewise ending its run in Episode 332, where it switches to “Black Night Town” by Akihisa Kondo. As per usual, the extras are trailers, clean openings and endings.


When I say Naruto, a lot of people will roll their eyes, and I completely understand that this show does go through (often very long) periods of dull, repetitive filler that mostly involves Naruto being a really nice guy. If someone asks me why I like the show, I’d gladly point them in the direction of this “box set”. Well paced, full of great fight scenes and some story threads that date back to the start of the original series get addressed and closed. It’s these sets of episodes that make me wish there was a “Kai” version of Naruto with all the filler removed, as sometimes Masashi Kishimoto can tell a good story and the anime team can show a good fight. This set is Naruto at its finest.

Title: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 26
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Studio: Pierrot
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2007
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 295 minutes

Score: 9/10

Your Name


Mitsuha Miyamizu is a young girl living in the countryside, desperate to escape her mundane village life and experience the wonders of Tokyo. Her wildest dreams seem to come true when she suddenly wakes up in a Tokyo apartment inside a boy’s body – a boy who just happens to have the ideal busy life with school, friends, a love interest and waiter job. When she goes to school the next morning, she discovers from her friends’ reactions that it was not a dream at all, whilst she was off parading around Tokyo, a boy by the name of Taki Tachibana was inside her body back at her village, interacting with her friends and family. Shocked by the sudden turn of events with seemingly no way of stopping the random body-switching days, the pair establish a few ground rules to cope with the sudden change and as they begin to learn more about each other, a drastic event threatens to tear them apart forever.

Director and writer Makoto Shinkai has been hailed as the ‘new Miyazaki’ in many publications and reviews, especially of late since Your Name topped the Japanese box office just 28 days after release, becoming the highest grossing non-Studio Ghibli and non-series- related anime film to earn over 10 billion yen. With the Western world’s limited scope for comparison when it comes to Japanese animation directors and Makoto Shinkai being a Ghibli fan himself, it’s easy to put two and two together. But what has struck a chord with Japanese audiences in Your Name? And is the ‘new Miyakazki’ tag warranted? Mr Shinkai already has a variety of films under his belt, as well as novels and manga. From the fantasy- driven Journey to Agartha to the more down-to-earth stories such as Garden of Words, there’s no doubt that he’s a talented storyteller, with Your Name not only exhibiting many elements of his previous works but creating a whole new heart-warming tale in the process for a new generation of anime fans.


At the core of this tale is the tried and tested ‘body switching’ trope which is a common device in fiction from literature to TV to films, the latter’s most famous example being Freaky Friday, where a mother and daughter swap bodies for a certain amount of time. It’s often played for comedic effect with the actors involved hamming up their physical and/or voice performance to convince the audience of the change, and by the end of the experience it’s the age-old lesson of ‘walking a mile in each other’s shoes’ to understand each other better. Your Name is ripe for such hilarious comedy as it’s a boy and girl swapping bodies but Makoto Shinkai avoids a lot of the trappings and recycled morals, instead creating something new and innovative. That’s not to say it avoids comical beats entirely, both protagonists are incredibly curious about their ‘new’ anatomy when they wake up in the opposite sex’s body, and whilst there is a recurring gag of Taki being very aware of his new cleavage, he doesn’t perve over it as other anime have done before. The comedy comes from a more natural and relatable place; for example, when Mitsuha is in the male body she’s completely comfortable talking with the older female Miki and oblivious to the change in dynamic between the pair, whilst Taki has to deal with the sudden new attention he’s getting from her and the brunt of the jealous male co-workers as a result. Another shake-up of the trope is the time the pair exchange bodies; a lot of body swapping stories have the infected pair stay in their respective forms until they learn their lessons, whereas in Your Name it happens at random intervals. Not only does this prevent the body swaps from becoming boring but allows for the characters to experience the aftermath of the previous day (with entertaining results) and appreciate the time they have in their own skins. Then when they suddenly wake up elsewhere, picking up pieces of someone else’s life for better or for worse serves as a perfect catalyst for some very emotional and tension filled scenes in the second half. Also, because the first switch happens whilst they’re sleeping, they naturally think it’s a dream and act spontaneously, believing that there will be no consequences for their actions. When the sequential swaps occur, they change how they handle their situation and work together as they go along. It’s a very humane approach to an overdone plot device.

Most body swapping stories avoid officially explaining how the actual process works; Your Name is no exception, starting the film with the very first time it happens and failing to  explain it later on, even when more fantasy elements come into play during the story. But among the likes of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the lack of scientific explanation does not detract from the enjoyment of the film; it’s an emotional journey that brings the audience into the concept and keeps them there, especially a third of the way in, when the first twist occurs. To avoid as few spoilers as possible: emotionally it hits you, as if a piano has been dropped on you, very suddenly and unexpectedly (considering the light-hearted lead-up) and in a lesser movie it would be unwarranted or too abrupt to carry forward, but this comes hand-in-hand with the change in focus of protagonist. The first third of the movie is mostly from Mitsuha’s point of view; a scenario born from a wish she makes on a whim as part of an expressive outburst, so as a result we see her having the time of her life in Tokyo and not thinking about the long term plans. Then it switches to Taki, who didn’t ask for the change and takes longer to accept his new weird situation. However, he’s more mature and it’s his desire to learn about the body he inhabits that brings the movie to a grounded space when he discovers more than he bargained for. The last third switches between the two and blends the two moods together, resulting in a rollercoaster ride of many emotionally charged highs and sudden stops for quiet moments that will pull on the audience’s heart strings for a glorious finale. The continuous up-and-down emotional spikes in the final act may have been stretched too far once or twice (the film runs to 107 minutes) but it’s to help wrap up the last elements of the story, rather than force another flood of tears from the audience. Building that heart-pulling connection however comes naturally, due to the protagonists; the two teens are very relatable in different ways because of her enthusiasm and his curiosity. They react naturally to an unnatural situation, and you want them to succeed in finding themselves and each other, as well as laugh along when the moment calls for it.


Animation is provided by CoMix wave Studios, who have produced most of Makoto’s work so Your Name looks very similar to his previous films. Although visually it’s not as striking as Garden of Words, the animation for the lead characters is where it excels; the body switches are revealed through body language and facial expressions before a single word is spoken. From the small hand gestures to big reactions; it’s the little details here and there that really bring the whole premise and emotional core of the story together.

Japanese rock band Radwimps provide the score with mixed results; although the actual score is delightful that ranges from low key, to playful, to heart-breaking when the movie switches gears, the vocal tracks are more of a distraction than an addition to the experience. The songs themselves aren’t bad but feel shoehorned into the film, as if the band were promoting an album rather than the movie. This is especially true of the opening track which plays over a mini-trailer edited opening that’s more like a music video than part of the film.

Your Name is a delightful movie, gorgeously animated, that takes a wacky, unbelievable concept and shapes it into a genuinely thoughtful story, filled with relatable characters and emotional highs. It’s one not to be missed when it arrives in cinemas.

Your Name will be screened as part of BFI’s London Film Festival 14th – 16th October. In cinemas across the UK from November 24th.

Title: Your Name
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Coming of Age, Drama, Teen,
Studio: CoMix Wave Studios
Type: Movie
Original vintage: 2016
Format: Cinema screening
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Running time: 107 minutes

Score: 9/10

Orange Anime Review

“I’m writing because I don’t want you, my 16-year-old self, to carry these regrets with you for the rest of your life.”

Regular visitors to Anime UK News will know that I’m a big fan of the Orange manga. I first stumbled across the manga thanks to Crunchyroll on a whim and a desire for a new romance story. As a result I fell in love with the series and now happily house the two omnibus volumes on my shelves. When an anime adaptation aired during the 2016 summer season I was the first in line to sample it.

As a general note this review does contain some spoilers, but I have tried to keep these to a minimum.

Orange tells the story of Naho Takamiya and Kakeru Naruse, and a love that transcends time. On a seemingly ordinary day, Naho receives a mysterious letter in the mail that’s supposedly been sent from her future self. This letter informs her that a new student named Kakeru Naruse will be joining her class and that Naho’s future self has a huge favour to ask: that Naho uses the letter as a guide so not to repeat her future self’s past mistakes, and to keep a close eye on Kakeru.   

One immediate request the letter puts forth is that Naho and her friends must not invite Kakeru out after school on that first day. Naho disregards its contents to begin with – I mean, how could a letter, let alone anything, be sent from the future? However, while Naho’s friends (Hiroto Suwa, Takako Chino, Saku Hagita and Azusa Murasaka) go ahead and invite Kakeru, it’s not until later that Naho learns the letter was correct all along and inviting Kakeru out led to something terrible happening. It was on that day that Kakeru’s mother committed suicide.

After that day, Kakeru doesn’t attend school for a couple of weeks and other things stated in the letter begin to happen. As Naho reads through the notes she sees that future Naho is asking her past self to ‘save Kakeru’, who is no longer with Naho and her friends in the future.

orange-shot-3The plot sounds a lot more complex than it actually is; it’s just difficult to explain. We flip between our cast in the past and the future (which is 10 years after Kakeru’s death) fairly frequently to show that Naho and her friends in the future have deep regrets about not saving Kakeru. They only realised after he died how depressed he was and the signs they missed, which leads them to decide to write the letters and attempt to prevent Kakeru’s death.

The explanation for how the letters travel back to the past is interesting, and makes some level of sense, but you’ll still probably want to shut your brain off concerning it. Orange’s explanation involves the characters of the future tracking down a black hole in the ocean in order to deliver the letters to the past. How they find the black hole, and how the letters actually reach their past selves, is never clearly explained. This might all sound crazy and off-putting but I think it doesn’t matter. After all, the time travel may play an important role for getting the letters to Naho but it’s not what’s most important.

What Orange is really trying to do is tell a story about living with depression and being friends with someone who suffers from it, which is something that the show does wonderfully. Kakeru’s behaviour is true to the way someone with depression might act, and so are the symptoms he shows in the way he reacts towards Naho and Suwa (the two characters that Kakeru becomes closest to). Kakeru wishes to always put up a happy front and not show anyone his pain because he believes they’d just laugh or not want to spend time with him anymore. It feels satisfyingly real and easy to understand while also drawing you into the story.

Although Orange is labelled as a shojo series, it doesn’t feel like one in the traditional sense. The classic shojo elements are present in that Naho and Kakeru have romantic feelings for one another, but Orange is sensible enough not to push those aspects in favour of the real crux of the story: saving Kakeru. Naho is shy and struggles to fulfill every request that the letters ask her to do but with the support of her friends she accomplishes a lot. Suwa has a strong bond with Naho and wants to do what’s right by her, and in the future deeply regrets not noticing how depressed Kakeru was. The series focuses on Suwa, Naho and Kakeru the most and sadly generally pushes Chino, Hagita and Azusa aside in favour of their development, especially early on. However, thankfully, they do get more focus during the latter half of the story, so even if you feel that they aren’t that interesting to begin with, I can confidently say that things do improve.

As much as I love this story, I do think the anime has some issues. Most of them are down to the animation (more on this below), but I also think that the characters don’t feel as real as they do in the manga. They’re not handled terribly by any means but my best example lies with Naho, who just comes across as more dim and clumsy than in the manga. It seems as if every time she makes a bad move, the show lingers on it for far too long. In the manga Naho’s very cute and, yes, she’s shy and makes mistakes by not always following the letter’s advice, but perhaps because we’re flicking through a book so much faster than watching an episode of the anime, it just flows much better.  

The remaining problems that I have with the anime rest with TMS Entertainment, the animation studio that handled the adaptation. They’ve done some really nice work for the backgrounds, which all look stunning and very lifelike, but this design choice leaves the character designs (which are very colourful and quite “anime” versus realistic) feeling out of place against the backdrops. It’s not just the art style conflicts that are an issue, though. There are also fairly major consistency issues with the cast either looking quite off-model, from shot to shot, or lacking facial features when at a distance. It isn’t even a case of this only happening in one or two episodes, it’s a problem that plagues the whole show. I was pulled out of the story fairly often just to wonder what had happened to Naho’s face! The studio also added in some random montages from episode to episode of everyday school life and the kids having fun together, which didn’t exist in the original manga and felt horribly out of place.

orange-7Orange’s music was provided by Hiroaki Tsutsumi and fares a lot better than the animation. Tsutsumi has previously worked on the music for Blue Spring Ride, Meganebu!, and Kuromukuro and seems to have a good grasp on the kind of tone Orange was looking for. It’s a soundtrack full of emotional piano tracks but also some very pop-y acoustic guitar-inspired scores that fit what a series like this really needs. Overall I have no complaints with the music, although it’s worth noting that the mixing on Crunchyroll was a bit out of whack and music was usually louder than the characters’ dialogue.  

Where voice actors are concerned we have a pretty good group that gave solid performances, but the best in the series are definitely Naho and Kakeru. Naho is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Zera in Fairy Tail Zero, Anri Sonohara in Durarara!!, Rize Kamishiro in Tokyo Ghoul) and is definitely the best of the lot, giving Naho some excellent emotion – especially during her exchanges with Kakeru. Speaking of Kakeru, he’s played by Seiichiro Yamashita (Nakagawa in Golden Time, Eita Kursunoki in Seraph of the End) who also gives a very emotionally driven performance that suits the character exceptionally well.

Overall Orange’s anime leaves me feeling a little unsatisfied. Due to the way the animation has been handled, and other mild niggles, I feel as if the best thing I can do is recommend that fans read the manga, which is so much better than the anime adaption was. The TV series isn’t a bad way to get into the series but I fear that would definitely leave you a little cold at the end and that’s just not how Orange should be.

Orange can be streamed in the UK on Crunchyroll

Title: Orange
Publisher: Crunchyroll (streaming)
Genre: Romance, Slice of Life, Shojo
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2016
Format: Legal stream
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Running time: 335 minutes

Score: 8/10

Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages Review


pokemon-and-the-clash-of-ages-bd I’m someone who has been a fan of Pokémon for as long as I can remember. I remember watching the TV show every afternoon and playing Pokémon Yellow at the height of summer, and since those years I’ve watched every movie, kept up with the TV series, and played almost all of the games. It’s safe to say that the series influenced my love of Japanese video games and animation, so when given the chance to review the latest movie, Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages, I jumped at the opportunity.

Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is the 18th Pokémon movie in total and the second to take place during the Pokémon XY anime series. This movie is centered around the legendary Pokémon Hoopa, who has the ability to summon objects, Pokémon and people through the use of its rings. 100 years ago Hoopa used to be extremely powerful, but after going on a rampage its power was sealed away into the Prison Bottle.

hoopa-1-1Flash-forward to the present day, the time period where the Pokémon TV series takes place. While Hoopa is playing around with its rings, now trapped in its ‘Confined’ form (a smaller, less powerful form), it has a chance encounter with Ash, Pikachu and his friends. As Ash gets to know Hoopa and his human family members, Baraz and Meray, he discovers that Baraz has been searching for the Prison Bottle that sealed away Hoopa’s ‘Unbound’ form (otherwise known as Hoopa Unbound). Baraz wishes to return the sealed-off power to Hoopa when the time is right, however an evil energy from the bottle possesses him and manipulates him to open the bottle and release the power within. The freed power ultimately leads to Hoopa going out of control and Hoopa Unbound needing to be sealed once more.

With evildoers Jessie, James and Meowth of Team Rocket sniffing around in search of something to help them capture Ash’s Pikachu, it’s not long before the Prison Bottle is broken in a scuffle. Unlike when the bottle was previously opened, this time Hoopa Unbound manifests as its own evil entity instead of merging with Hoopa’s Confined form. As a result Hoopa Unbound goes on a rampage and begins attacking the city. Both forms of Hoopa end up clashing and begin summoning many legendary Pokémon through their hoops to battle alongside them. Can Ash and co. create a new bottle to seal off Hoopa Unbound, or will Dahara City soon be destroyed from the battle?

For a Pokémon movie the plot is actually fairly interesting and easy enough for a newcomer to the series to drop into. Ash only ever really uses Pikachu so a knowledge of what he’s been catching in the XY anime up until now isn’t of notable importance, nor does the movie’s story have any relation to what’s been happening in the television series. It’s comfortably self-contained and easy to recommend if you’re someone who just dips in and out of the series.


However, if you’re more of a hardcore Pokémon fan like me then there are some stupid inconsistencies that will slightly nag at you. For example, some of the legendary Pokémon that Hoopa calls forth randomly Mega Evolve at one point, which just doesn’t make sense. In the video games and other media Mega Evolving a Pokémon must either involve a strong bond with their trainer or the Pokémon and their trainer must be holding a Mega Stone and Key Stone respectively. Neither of these things are true for the movie, so there was clearly some rule breaking going on.

The other problem I have is the inclusion of a Shiny Rayquaza. If you’re throwing so many legendary Pokémon into the mix then a Rayquaza would be fair game, but a Shiny variation? For reference, Shiny Pokémon are very rare colour swaps that are sometimes seen in the video games, anime series, and other spin-offs of the franchise. There was no reason for Shiny Rayquaza to be present and I’m slightly lost as to why they went for it beyond (maybe) Japan using it as an excuse for some kind of give-away for the games. There’s also the fact that the Rayquaza will listen to commands from Ash when in every other piece of Pokémon media it’s seen as a sort of god who listens to no one – yet suddenly it’s taking orders from a trainer it’s never met? Things just didn’t quite add up.

These mild problems aside, I have to say that I’m fairly impressed. With a run time of 76 minutes we managed to have some fairly impressive battles while also finding time for solid character development for the focus of our story, Hoopa. Hoopa by all means is a childish brat, who also has the ability to talk (which never goes down well in Pokémon dubs), but Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is a good example of how to do a Pokémon movie right. We’re not quite back to the days of the truly impressive stories the series had to tell (such as Pokémon 2000 and Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew), but it certainly does far better than the previous entry, Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction.

Where animation is concerned studio OLM (who have always worked on the Pokémon anime and also provide animation for Yo-kai Watch) have done a good job. There is often some questionable use of CGI but that has been present in the Pokémon movies for awhile and is evidently just the direction the studio moving towards. It’s not amazing animation but for a series like Pokémon, overall, OLM have given it all it needs on a movie budget.

Music has been provided by Shinji Miyazaki and sadly, the quality of the music is rather lackluster and overall quite generic. Most tracks are very action-driven and blend in too much to really be appreciated or scenes just have no music at all. The ending theme has been provided by Dani Marcus and is titled “Every Side of Me”, which is a different ending theme than the one used for the Japanese version.

The English voice actors do a good job, especially Sarah Natochenny (Stephanie in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s) who plays Ash. The only other shout-out I want to give in this department is to Lori Phillips, who plays Hoopa. Upon researching her name I was unable to find out about anything else she’s done but she certainly plays the Pokémon well.

This release comes to the UK thanks to Manga Entertainment, who have released it on both Blu-ray and DVD. There are no extras to speak of at all and the movie is dub only, like all of the Pokémon releases to hit the UK.

Overall I enjoyed my time with Hoopa and the Clash of Ages. As an existing Pokémon fan it’s an interesting watch despite some small issues and I think it’s not a bad starting point for a newcomer. We’re not quite back in the golden age of Pokémon but things are certainly looking up.

Title: Pokémon The Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages
Publisher: Animatsu
Genre: Shonen, Adventure, Fantasy
Studio: OLM
Type: Movie
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: English dub audio only
Age rating: PG
Running time: 76 minutes

Score: 7/10

30th Leeds International Film Festival 2016 Anime Line-Up Revealed!

2016 marks the 30th year for the Leeds International Film Festival and recently they have announced a whole bunch of films that will be screened across Leeds between 3rd to 17th of November 2016. Alongside these art house and cult titles are also some anime feature films; both new and old are included!

What’s in store? Let’s find out!


Continue reading “30th Leeds International Film Festival 2016 Anime Line-Up Revealed!”

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Season One Review


When most people think about Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, the first image that pops into their mind may be a bright red Duel Runner with its impossibly spiky-haired rider because, after all, a lot of people simply laughed, shrugged and dismissed this series based on four words: “card games on motorcycles”. However, you shouldn’t judge a card until you’ve seen its effect and the same rings true with Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s.

The third television anime series based on Konami’s best-selling trading card game, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s opens up with an introduction to “Satellite”, a run-down slum just a stone’s throw away from the luxurious metropolis of New Domino City. The two share a complicated co-dependence with each other, despite travel being prohibited and the clear class divide, with Satellite residents likened to vermin. Residing in an abandoned subway station with his friends, Yusei Fudo is unlike the peppy protagonists of Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s past in that he’s a stoic young man with one thing on his mind – revenge. Hailed as New Domino City’s “Master of Faster”, duelling champion Jack Atlas enjoys a celebrity lifestyle achieved through betrayal and now, Yusei wants to regain what he lost.


Now, before we go any further, there is one important rule to remember when watching Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s – don’t just suspend your disbelief, but leave it at the door. There’s no point asking why a children’s card game has a place in law enforcement, is outlawed amongst poorer residents or is important enough to resolve world-ending crises – it just is. There’s no denying that the series is a glorified advert for trading cards, but we just have to embrace it and enjoy the ride.

Manga Entertainment’s first Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s release contains a whopping 64 episodes spread across two major story arcs – the “Fortune Cup” tournament that serves to summon all our key players to the field together for the first time, as well as their battle against the villainous “Dark Signers” and their world-ending scheme.

This time is well-spent progressing the characters at a natural pace, with long-standing disputes being resolved, allegiances changing and individuals not only questioning their place in the world – but finding it too. The result is a largely likeable cast with believable story arcs that go far beyond the expectations of children’s television, with the most striking example perhaps being Akiza Izinski.

Possessing the ability to bring Duel Monsters and the damage they deal to life shrouded Akiza in a cloud of fear, with many labelling her a “witch” and driving her to seclusion behind the mask of the “Black Rose” – a chilling persona that takes sadistic glee in punishing those who would ridicule her. Although introduced as an antagonistic figure, over the course the season we learn of the scared flower behind the thorns and bear witness to the struggle with a cult she was led to call “home”. Akiza was easily the highlight of the series for me; her duels were often just as much a psychological battle as a trading card one and the instances where her psychic powers ran wild were some of the most atmospheric and visually striking of the series; the chaotic ecstasy on her face was incredible and her more sombre, reflective moments were the most emotional.

When combined with the series’ slow pacing however, this overexposure can quickly become a double-edged sword. Leo’s hyperactive and overenthusiastic attitude may be the norm for a young boy and bearable in small doses, but when a whole four episodes are dedicated to his duel and his sister’s frankly cringe-worthy escapades in the Duel Monsters’ Spirit World (talking monkeys are involved), it can start to feel like a chore. In general, duels are occasionally stretched beyond their natural length by periods of excessive monologuing with few cards being played and repetition of flashbacks.


Especially when taking the series’s age into consideration, I was impressed with the quality of both its 2D and CG animation. The addition of Turbo Duels (yes, the “card games on motorcycles”) adds a much-needed visual flare to duels, providing a more kinetic experience than just watching two people stand opposite each other (although those kind of duels still happen).

A few shots in the first season did look noticeably off-model and some CG movements were occasionally clunky, such as one scene when Jack Atlas effectively flops off his bike. The majority of the errors, however, were a result of 4Kids’ adaptation. On at least one occasion, the Japanese image of a card was replaced with an entirely different one, showing a Junk Synchron on Carly’s duel disk, despite the card being a signature of Yusei’s. There were a number of verbal snafus as well, with spell cards misidentified as traps on occasion and vice versa, as well as a surprising amount of misidentified monsters towards the end of the collection; which is especially unusual given that Junk Warrior has been used frequently since the very first episode.

As part of 4Kids’ now-notorious localisation process, it is to be expected that certain aspects will be toned down to match the target audience’s perceived sensitivities, but some of the edits here are borderline farcical. An example of this is when Yusei is injured following a duel and is carried away for immediate medical attention. Despite the obvious urgency from the rest of the cast, as well as visuals depicting bloodstains following his transportation and invasive surgery, the doctor performing the procedure is given lines diagnosing internal bruising! Now, I can totally get behind a world with soul-devouring trading cards, but life-threatening operations to treat internal bruising? Please.

Although the casting and vocal performances of the English cast leave nothing to complain about, the script’s over-reliance on quips can not only be annoying, but get in the way of characterisation. For example, whenever Crow duels with his Blackwing deck, you can bet that both he and his opponent will throw out any bird-related joke the writers can think of – which isn’t many, considering how many times I heard phrases like “birds of a feather”. I also wonder if one of the writers recently purchased a puppy when localising the earlier episodes and was just really excited about it, considering the number of random jokes about dogs that just felt out of place.

Ultimately, it would be foolish to simply dismiss Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s as a hollow product tie-in, because behind the trading cards lies an entertaining and heartfelt story that confidently speeds ahead of the series’ that came before it.

Title: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Season One
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Shonen, Card Game
Studio: Gallop
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2008
Format: DVD
Language options: English dub audio only
Age rating: PG
Running time: 1536 minutes

Score: 8/10