Anime Limited had teased about a surprise inclusion to their planned screening of A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) for the Glasgow Film Festival and now it has been revealed!
Yesterday Crunchyroll announced on social media that sports anime Yuri!!! On Ice won the “Anime of the Year” award in their inaugural Anime Awards, meaning that it won all the awards it was nominated for; seven of the fourteen prizes overall.
However, the victory has also resulted in angry comments from some who regularly use Crunchyroll, with people taking to their forums to complain about not just YOI winning this award, but the whole of the awards, and have accused fans of the series of rigging the poll.
When the awards were launched Crunchyroll users complained about the quality of the shortlist, saying that having four nominations in each category (apart from “Anime of the Year” which had eight) was not enough, although later during voting it was revealed that an “Other” section was created to allow any nomination.
After the rest of the awards were announced, most of the complaints were directed at the fact that Crunchyroll users thought YOI won awards it did not deserve, in particular the award for “Best Animation”, and referencing stills from the show which featured what they claimed to be poor quality animation. They also highlighted the large amount of votes cast in categories in which YOI was a nomination in comparison to those in which it wasn’t nominated, and many claimed that those such as fujoshi and people on social media sites like Tumblr were actively encouraging people to vote as many times as they could in the open poll, effectively accusing YOI fans of cheating. Others said that the timing at the end of the year meant that YOI had an unfair advantage over shows broadcast earlier in 2016 as the series was fresh in people’s memories.
However, other Crunchyroll users have also defended the awards, saying that none of the evidence the attackers have used to argue that there has been vote rigging has been conclusive, and have some have accused those of attacking the awards of just moaning that their favourite shows didn’t win.
Crunchyroll themselves have said on Twitter that: “We had very strong anti-cheating methods that gave us results in line with true audience sentiment” and that, “we had some surprisingly complex ways to fight multiple voting that worked based on multiple tests.” At the time of writing, although Crunchyroll announced YOI as the winner of the “Anime of the Year” award, they did not say how much by or where the other nominations finished. Nor has Crunchyroll said if there will be changes to the way the awards are run for next year.
A full list of the other awards can be read here.
“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” – Dale Carnegie
Before starting, it should be pointed out that this Yu-Gi-Oh! GX boxset has many of the same problems as the sets for the original Yu-Gi-Oh!: yes, you do get a lot of episodes (52), but you can only have them in the English dub provided by 4Kids (now 4K Media Inc.); there are no subtitles, no DVD extras, the scene selection is rubbish, some of the accents used in the show are dodgy, and if you didn’t like the voice actors in the original show then you should also know that they reuse the same actors here. GX also has problems of its own, with the animation at times being so poor it is laughable. There are some unusual translations from Japanese into English, if you find the catchphrases of the characters annoying you will be annoyed in almost every episode, and the least said about the song in the opening titles the better.
However, when it does something good, it does it well indeed, and the characters and scenario do give it some credit.
GX is set a decade after the original events of Yu-Gi-Oh!. By this time, Seto Kaiba has created his own institute, Duel Academy, to teach the best young duelists all about the “Duel Monsters” game. The series follows Jaden Yuki, who on his way to the entrance exam literally bumps into Yugi Moto (not that you see his face), who gives him a card for luck: a “Winged Kuriboh”, whose spirit Jaden is able to hear.
At the exam, he manages to pass by beating one of the teachers in a game, the ugly and pompous Dr. Crowler, who instantly dislikes him for beating him. Jaden moves in to the school, but is put into the weakest of the three student bodies, “Silfer Red”, which has the fewest resources. He shares a room with a friend he makes on the day of the exam, shy and nervous Syrus Truesdale, and gluttonous dunce Chumley Huffington who has failed to graduate twice. There are all looked after by the eccentric cat lover Prof. Banner.
At the beginning of the series, most of the stories concern Crowler trying to get Jaden expelled, often using students from his top student body, Obelisk Blue, to do his work. Among the students in this class are Chazz Princeton, who thinks all of the worst performing students should be kicked out and thus hates Jaden; Alexis Rhodes, a more kindly student who forms an interest in Jaden and whose brother Atticus is missing; and Syrus’s older brother Zane, the best duelist in the whole school. Aside from them, there is also the middle student body, Ra Yellow, whose main student is Bastion Misawa, a genius with the top grades who also became friends with Jaden at the entrance exam.
The second half of the series is the more interesting, with the plot concerning a group of villainous duelists, the “Shadow Riders” who want to get their hands on three destructive cards, the “Three Sacred Beasts”, which are kept at the Academy. The cards are locked away and can only be accessed by seven keys, which are given to Jaden, Chazz, Zane, Alexis, Bastion, Crowler and Banner. As the story progresses, they find themselves having to take part in the “Shadow Games”, and one of the people controlling the keys appears to be a traitor.
Let’s get onto the negative points first. Most of them have been covered in the first paragraph, but concerning specifically this collection there are some that stick out. For example, when it comes to the animation one scene in which Alexis walks is just done by shifting her animation cell up and across until she is off-screen. Nothing is done to realistically animate her movement. Meanwhile, the attempts to translate everything so it is understandable to American kids take some odd turns. For example, there is a scene where the characters eat rice balls, but these are translated into “stuffed pastries”. I personally have no problem with the catchphrases used in the programme, like Jaden’s “Get your game on”, although I suspect others will find them tiresome, especially with egotistical Chazz telling his fans to chant “Chazz it up” repeatedly. The opening title song though is just rubbish.
But as I said, it is not all terrible. There is plenty to like about GX and the main thing that makes it likable is the characters. Jaden is a loveable idiot; Syrus is timid but approachable; Chumley has his own artistic talents; Chazz has an ego, but is dependable when it counts; and Alexis is kind and loving. Then you have the plot itself. When I first came to it I thought that the idea of having an entire school devoted to a trading card game would be rubbish and it would be mainly about trying to plug the game, but you don’t sense that when you are watching it. Perhaps it is that if you have already seen the original Yu-Gi-Oh! you have already created a sense of expectation around it. You know that it is not going to be the most enlightening anime you have ever seen, and you know that this show would not be here if it wasn’t trying to sell you the game, but because you know this, you know that you should treat the series as a bit of fun – in the same way you would treat the game itself as a bit of fun.
As I have said before, this show is not as bad as other titles concerning trading card games, primarily because the manga came first and the game followed, rather than the series being created just to promote the game. Even the fact that GX is a sequel doesn’t make it as bad as some other series in my view.
Another thing I’ve said before, is that I think that because you know that these series have so many faults, the best way to watch it is to turn the anime into a game itself, and to watch it as a drinking game, which again I have done. This time, I watched the third disc consisting of nine episodes, and again selected three key phrases on which I would drink every time I heard them mentioned. In this case I went with “Life points” because you are always going to hear it; “Elemental Hero”, because Jaden plays with a deck consisting of these kind of cards; and “Winged Kuriboh”, the card Yugi gave Jaden. Here, I heard “Elemental Hero” 39 times, “Life points” 10 times and “Winged Kuriboh” five times, getting through around 2½ pints of beer in the process, although I know I would have got through more had I picked different phrases.
Is GX better than the original series? No, but it is fun and entertaining in its own way. Also, if you are annoyed by the fact you can’t listen to it in Japanese, there is a way to get around it: watch the series on Crunchyroll. The entire series is available to watch in original Japanese on the site.Title: Review of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Series 1
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Gaming, Fantasy, Non-School
Studio: Studio Gallop
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2004
Language options: English dub audio only
Age rating: PG
Running time: 1075 minutes
In a world where mankind coexists with a deadly race of demonic predators known as Yoma, a young woman named Clare works on behalf of an organisation that trains young female Yoma halfbreeds into warriors. These warriors are named Claymores after the gigantic swords they carry on their back, and although they are shunned by humanity, they are deemed a necessity. After a routine mission killing Yoma in a small village, Clare meets Raki, a young boy who lost everything in a Yoma attack, and decides to take him under her wing, despite her dangerous line of work.
Claymore, based on the manga of the same name by Yagi Norihiro, is a series that I feel occasionally gets treated a little bit unfairly. With its protagonist wielding a large sword, the supernatural medieval setting and elements of tragedy, comparisons with the massively popular 90s classic Berserk are pretty inevitable, and that is a high standard that it simply cannot live up to. When you nix the comparisons, however, and take it on its own merits, Claymore is still a very enjoyable show with a lot to offer.
Despite the fact that I did end up liking Claymore a lot, I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t really offer a brilliant first impression. Going by the first four episodes alone, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that the whole series is going to be a somewhat formulaic affair, with each episode not having much more to it than Clare going to a new place and killing a few Yoma; rinse and repeat. Whilst these initial episodes do offer important nuggets of world building and lore, such as how exactly Claymores work and the rules of the organisation they work for, there isn’t really a whole lot to them. This changes from the fifth episode onwards, however, which is where the story really starts, or at least, where it starts to get interesting. Whilst the general focus is still on monster slaying, it’s from here where they start varying the situations and upping the ante which prevents things from getting stale. Also aiding in keeping things fresh are the variety of creature designs for the more powerful Yoma, known as awakened beings. To put it plainly, the designs for the awakened beings are really cool- looking and unique, which is something I really appreciate.
As you might imagine with a central premise based around killing monsters, Claymore is incredibly action-centric, which is a bit of a double- edged sword. On the one hand, the fights on display here are excellent, with a ton of memorable and bloody battles that will probably be the main draw of the series for most viewers. On the other hand, I think that there is such a thing as too much action, so when you’re watching the episodes back-to-back, all of the action can get a little bit draining. There are a few episodes where the pace slows down a bit, and we get a break from all the fighting, giving us insight into the characters’ histories and their motivations for becoming Claymores, but these are few and far between.
One thing I did like about Claymore was the ending. As many anime fans know, adaptations of ongoing manga or novels can often suffer from unsatisfying endings due to the source material carrying on past the anime, not leaving much room for closure, but this isn’t really the case here. Well, it sort of isn’t, anyway. Although the anime’s ending is incredibly open, I feel as if the main through-line of the series had a somewhat satisfying conclusion. It isn’t perfect, but given that the manga didn’t end until seven years after the series, I think the writers did the best they could with what they had.
Claymore’s protagonist, Clare appears stoic and rather dull at first but from Episode 5 onwards, we find out a lot more about her and her motivations for becoming a Claymore. This adds some depth to her character as well as making her more likable. Unfortunately, Clare is just about the only fleshed-out character in the whole show.
The supporting cast largely consists of Clare’s fellow warriors, but they are all rather forgettable, being mild variations on ‘badass action girl’ and not a whole lot else. We do get some brief insight into these characters, but it isn’t much. Given that there are 26 episodes, and the insane amount of action, I think it’d have been nice to have seen some of the more drawn-out battles shortened in order to give some supporting characters like Helen or Deneve a bit more backstory or development.
Of all the characters in Claymore, there was only one that I actively disliked, and that was Clare’s companion Raki. I find it somewhat hard to pinpoint exactly what I disliked about him, but I think a lot of it may have been down to the awful performance of his English voice actor, Todd Haberkorn. This is somewhat surprising to me, because I know Haberkorn is actually a good voice actor, and I didn’t mind him at all in others shows I’ve heard him in such as Sword Art Online and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, but here he just comes off as incredibly whiny and obnoxious, and his voice just grates on my ears. Thankfully, he’s only in about half the show, disappearing whenever Clare has to go off and fight Yoma, but when he was on screen, he did nothing but irritate me. Another complaint I have about Raki is his relationship with Clare. Despite only knowing her a short amount of time, he quickly becomes borderline obsessive over her, which just doesn’t feel natural given that the two characters haven’t exactly been together long, and have very little in the way of chemistry.
Todd Haberkorn’s rather atrocious turn as Raki aside, the rest of the English dub for Claymore is very solid, with an almost exclusively female cast full of great actresses you’ll likely recognize. Among the cast are Cherami Leigh (Digimon: Digital Monsters, Fairy Tail, Psycho Pass), Caitlin Glass (Baccano!, Love Live!, Danganronpa: The Animation), Jamie Marchi (Free!, High School DxD, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt), Monica Rial (Assassination Classroom, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Full Metal Panic) and, possibly my all-time favourite voice actress, Laura Bailey (Persona 4: The Animation, Code Geass, K-On, Soul Eater). As well as a great voice cast, I also found Masanori Takumi’s score for the series to be brilliant, combining traditional orchestral arrangements with some kick-ass hard rock and metal tunes when the action gets going, that really pumps you up. The only real let-down, musically speaking, comes from the rather forgettable opening and ending tracks: ‘Raison D’etre’ by Nightmare and ‘Danzai no Hana~Guilty Sky’ by Riyu Kosaka.
Animation for Claymore is handled by a favourite studio of mine, Madhouse, who have produced many excellent shows such as The Tatami Galaxy, Death Note and HaNaYaMaTa. Whilst Claymore isn’t one of their most distinctive or unique looking productions, the animation here is still great, and it really comes into its own during the action sequences. Anime Limited’s release of Claymore is the first time the series has been available on Blu-ray in the UK, after being previously released on DVD only by Manga Entertainment. Being produced just before the era of HD anime, this Blu-ray release in an upscale, meaning that it doesn’t look quite as nice as new anime, but still looks quite a lot better than the DVD release before it, despite some banding issues when things get dark.
As per usual for Anime Limited, this new release of Claymore on Blu-ray is a treat for collectors. As well as coming in a high quality rigid box with a gorgeous digipak and art cards, this release also includes a 100 page artbook, full of character art, backgrounds, and, my personal highlight, art of all the Yoma that appear in the show. On-disc extras are also plentiful, including numerous commentary tracks by the English dub cast, as well as interviews with the Japanese staff, TV spots and, of course, a clean opening and ending.
Claymore is not a show without its faults, but the excellent action sequences, top-notch animation, and awesome soundtrack more than make up for any shortcomings it may have, and is well worth a watch.Title: Claymore
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Shounen
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2007
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 650 minutes
Aldnoah.Zero, the entirely original anime by Gen Urobuchi of Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero and Psycho-Pass fame, reappears in its second season, but does it make good on the shocking end to Season 1?
Before we get to that, a quick recap: Thanks to an ancient hyper-gate that connects to Mars found on the moon, humanity creates a new Kingdom on the red planet named Vers. Vers gains a new type of power known as Aldnoah and soon decides to attack Earth, but the resulting battle ends in the gate and a good half of the moon exploding. The “Orbital Knights” of the Vers Empire that remain after the attack settle on several large space stations in the debris belt and a ceasefire is agreed on. In Season 1 we saw that peace get broken when an assassination attempt on Princess Asseylum of Vers, set up by the Count Saazbaum of the Orbital Knights so they can have a valid excuse to start attacking Earth, drives the two sides into war. The war ends up including some students, one of whom, Inaho Kaizuka, is a natural at fighting in a Kataphract (this series’ name for mechs), as well as dedicated Asseylum follower and Earth-born member of Vers, Slaine Troyard, who was caught in the middle of the war when he discovers the Princess with the “Terrans” and finds out about the assassination plot by his own master.
This lead to the big cliffhanger at the end of the season where Slaine kills Saazbaum after he shoots the Princess dead, then in turn shoots the injured Inaho at close range in the head. A shocking ending and it makes you wonder who, if any of them, are going to survive as the plot picks up 19 months later…
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Well, sadly, it didn’t really capitalize on the shock value. Inaho survives sans an eye, which is fair enough, he’s the main character. The Princess is still alive though in a coma-like state, which is alright I guess, though seems a bit of a backwards step (and unsurprisingly she wakes up about halfway through the series). Then it turns out Saazbaum is still alive! The lead villain lives and is saved by Slaine, who wishes to climb the ranks of Vers under him, so long as he saves the Princess’s life. Really makes you wonder why create such a great cliffhanger if you’re not going to do anything with it? Especially since Saazbaum ends up being killed a few episodes in anyway.
So we then get a blonde-haired antagonist who starts climbing his way up an off-Earth military with the goal of killing the one who wronged him (once he gains enough power) having a rivalry with the Earthling teen (a naturally gifted pilot) who has ended up in the military due to chance. This rivalry is set in stone after a girl they both loved is (seemingly) killed in front of them, and they blame each other for it. In other words, it’s Amuro vs. Char from Mobile Suit Gundam. I’ll give them credit in that by the last few episodes it’s a bit different, but it hovers far too close to the mark for me. I always take a few similarities to Gundam as being fine, it pretty much created the “real Robot” war type anime so some connections are expected, but the first half of this series felt far too familiar.
The ending too is a bit flat. I won’t tell you everything, but the season overall feel as if it starts going round in circles, refusing to give anyone but Inaho and Slaine something to do, and then it picks up before suddenly – and flatly – ending.
MAJOR SPOILERS END HERE
Storyline aside, the mix of CG and traditional 2D animation is still okay, sometimes jarring, but both, for the most part, are fine. I still love the Orbital Knights’ Kataphract designs. Some in this season have crazy X-Men powers that they try their best to explain with actual science, which is doubly enjoyable. The background soundtrack is largely unchanged from Season 1, including a remix of the great second ending theme from that season, apparently called “MKAlieZ” (the original ending song being called “aLIEz”). The opening is “&Z” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:mizuki (bloody hell, can’t they shorten that down a bit?) and the ending is “Genesis” by Eir Aoi (that’s more like it!), although Episode 23 (or S2 E11) is “Harmonious” by Sora Amamiya.
The 12 episodes are once again spread across four Blu-rays, each containing three episodes. That’s still crazy to me, but as I said in the last review, it’s so weird that there must be a technical or other-region disc-authoring reason for it. Also, once again, it’s Japanese with English subs by default, if you want to hear the English voice track (which is fine, though unspectacular) you have to set it in the Set Up menu each disc. The extras are clean openings and endings, plus a few trailers. The usual jazz. You also get a nice artbook along with it.
So, Aldnoah.Zero Season 2. Well, it’s not as good as Season 1. For a start it feels as if the first 6 or so episodes have no clear focus, then the next few pick up, leading to a rather flat and rushed finale. That being said, it’s nice to look at and pleasant to listen to. If you want a flashy mech anime to watch over a few days, all 24 episodes of Aldnoah.Zero will do the trick, though you’ll be in for a roller coaster ride of a plot, with highs and lows, and ending on a flat bit when you get off (which in terms of a roller coaster is good, but a storyline, not so much)Title: Aldnoah.Zero - Season 2
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Action, Mecha
Studio: A-1 Pictures, TROYCA
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: 15
Running time: 300 minutes
Kokoryuu Kaguya’s high school life takes a turn for the unexpected when he’s struck by a bolt of light while waiting for a bus. Then he’s accosted by Mao-chan, a pink-haired, rabbit-eared girl who claims to be from the moon. Next minute, he’s fighting for his life against a murderous ogre that’s taken over the body of one of his fellow high-schoolers. It’s only then that Kaguya undergoes a life-changing transformation. Later, Mao explains to him that he – like her – is one of the Battle Rabbits, a force established to defend humanity from the ogres. Kaguya realizes that his father was killed by just such an ogre.
Battle Rabbits is the new manga from Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara (Ameichi), whose first major collaboration, 07-Ghost, won many admirers (including me). 07-Ghost was made into a 25-part anime TV series (still available on Crunchyroll) and ran to 17 volumes. So I had great hopes for their new series (originally published in Zero Sum, the magazine that has also brought us Loveless, Saiyuki and Karneval). However, as with Bisco Hatori’s new series, Behind the Scenes, sadly, those hopes have not been fully realized. The problem? The story is presented to the reader in full-on, ‘hit the ground running’ fashion – not a bad thing, in itself, if it can be fluidly delivered. But it’s all over the place. The concept of Battle Rabbits who come from the Moon to protect the Earth is wonderfully daft and the sight of the dashingly handsome warriors with their cute bunny ears is distinctly moe. Mao, the bunny girl Battle Rabbit who becomes Kaguya’s companion, even – annoyingly – says ‘desu’ at the end of every sentence. Are Ameichi gently sending up the whole fantasy action genre?
Volume 2 is a distinct improvement on the first. Kaguya learns more about his role as the bearer of the golden Rabi-Jewel and is put through a harsh shounen-style training by Battle Rabbits Earth Force Defense Commander Hijiri who, it seems, has been watching over him for some time. We get to see Kaguya’s difficult and painful childhood, which makes him a more sympathetic protagonist, but by the end of the volume, the golden Rabi-Jewel cracks in battle and it seems as if his life is over. Which is when he finds himself on an endless staircase (very familiar to readers of 07-Ghost) talking with a black-garbed, fair-haired man wielding a death-scythe. Yes, to all intents and purposes, it’s Frau. Is all finished for Kaguya before he’s achieved his aims, protected the earth and avenged his father?
Volume 3 brings answers – not as straightforward, of course, as Kaguya (and the struggling reader) could wish. Unfortunately, it becomes clear that neither the two mangaka nor their editors were sure which direction was right for the story and the downside of this is their failure to build up Kaguya as the viewpoint character. Too many needless digressions into other characters are annoying when the main character has not been given enough time to let us relate to him (a large part of this volume is taken up with the backstory of another battle rabbit and his little sister). This exudes a rather tired vibe, as if the mangaka were being forced by their editor to take the story in directions they hadn’t intended. A major plot twist occurs in the very last pages which seems promising after all the digressions and confusing background material piled up in the preceding pages. And more names from 07-Ghost are tantalizingly yet frustratingly dropped into the mix. I suspect that there’s a lot of foreshadowing embedded in the text but because of the clumsy way that the story is being revealed, it just adds to the confusion.
Battle Rabbits looks good; the character designs are attractive and distinctive and the action scenes are thrillingly (if sometimes confusingly) depicted. The translation by Jill Morita flows smoothly and each volume of the Seven Seas edition boasts two glossy colour images. Ameichi’s quirky sense of humour is allowed to show through sometimes with some cute chibi designs and one 4-koma strip per volume.
So why the disappointment on this reader’s part? Well, it’s difficult for any writer to follow up on a very successful title and 07-Ghost was deservedly very successful in the josei fantasy/action field, inspiring a 25-part anime series. However, 07-Ghost was set in a fantasy world with a dark, compelling and well-developed mythology/belief system and Battle Rabbits labours under the disadvantage of being set in the present day. This ought not to present problems (Harry Potter, after all, is set in the real world too) but instead of this being helpful, the story has to keep stopping to explain the many fantasy elements that intrude – and the whole warriors from the Moon set-up ends up feeling awkward and underdeveloped. There are allusions to Japanese moon mythology: the rabbits, Tsukuyomi (the Japanese moon deity), Kaguya’s name (as in the recent Ghibli film The Tale of Princess Kaguya, in which the moon princess visits the earth) but much more intriguing yet frustrating are the appearances of familiar names from 07-Ghost. Will these characters make more than a brief appearance? There’s only one more volume to go as the series was brought to an abrupt end, presumably because it didn’t do well in reader polls in Zero-Sum.
Battle Rabbits is drawn with all Ameichi’s considerable skill and flare but the story it tells is all over the place and lacks focus. Nevertheless, if you loved 07-Ghost, you’ll definitely want to give it a try.Title: Battle Rabbits
Publisher: Seven Seas
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Josei
Original vintage: 2015
Age rating: T 13+
Length: 180 pages
Episodes 349-372, may contain spoilers.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha.
We continue the “Thriller Bark” arc where we left off, with the Straw Hats battling against all sorts of ghosts and ghouls. The crew have come to realise that Thriller Bark is not an island but the world’s biggest ship, captained by one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea: Gecko Moria, who plans to rule the sea without lifting a finger, by getting other people like Dr. Hogback to do the work for him.
Moria has the power of the Shadow-Shadow Fruit, allowing him to control his own shadow and steal those of others. Thus it was he who stole Brook’s shadow, and he has now also stolen the shadows of Luffy, Zoro and Sanji, who will also be destroyed if they come into contact with sunlight. Moria has been inserting shadows into corpses, made stronger by Hogback, in order to create a zombie army. In the case of Luffy, his shadow is put into the 900th zombie, a giant called Oars. Perhaps somewhat fortunately, the zombies still retain some memories of the original owner, so when Oars first awakens, he is too busy looking for meat and his straw hat to do any of Moria’s bidding.
The Straw Hats also have one other advantage when Brook reveals the zombie’s greatest weakness: salt. If a zombie consumes salt, the shadow will leave the body and return to its owner. Thus the Straw Hats start to look for salt in order to return the souls of their crewmates back to their bodies. Brook also reveals what his one great ambition is: to return to see his one last crewmate. As it happens, this crewmate is someone that Luffy and some of the Straw Hats are already familiar with: Laboon, the whale who kept hitting his head into Reverse Mountain back when they entered the Grand Line.
However, there are more pressing matters to deal with. Brook and Zoro duel with a samurai zombie who has Brook’s shadow; Usopp faces Perona, the controller of the ghosts that make people negative – but he has the advantage as he is already the most pessimistic person in the world; Chopper and Robin deal with Hogback and learn just how greedy he was in the past in terms of whom he loved; Nami comes out of a coma just before she ends up being married to someone she doesn’t know; and a group of friendly pirates whose shadows have also been stolen help Luffy fight against Oars by feeding him shadows – 100 of them, turning him into a nightmarish hulk.
The best bits of this collection are the ongoing battles that the various characters face. This all eventually comes down to a battle between the Straw Hats and Oars, who ends up being controlled by Moria himself. Moria is able to get inside the zombie’s body, with the torso as a kind of cockpit. Thus Oars turns into some kind of undead mecha. It is interesting to see how each of the crew is able to use their strengths to combat the creature, even if not all of them are that motivated, as evidenced in a funny sequence where Franky encourages his fellow crew members to grab onto his body as if he was a mecha – although Robin refuses because it looks stupid, annoying everyone else.
Some viewers however, might be annoyed that one of the episodes is almost entirely in flashback, and could arguably be called a clip show, when Luffy and some of the others recall the time they met Laboon. Although watching it does make you appreciate how far One Piece has developed visually: the difference in aspect ratio, the way the animation has developed and so on.
However, the really annoying point is that there are only a few episodes of the “Thriller Bark” arc left, but this collection does not complete the story. You think it would have been better to include some more episodes in these collections, but instead we have to wait for the next one to see the very end.
In terms of the contents of this collection though, there is a textless opening, episode commentaries, and interviews with English dub voice actors Christopher R. Sabat (Zoro) and Eric Vale (Sanji).Title: One Piece, Collection 15
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Shonen
Studio: Toei Animation
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 1999
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 563 minutes
Seraph of the End is a title I’ve been especially fond of since Weekly Shonen Jump started publishing the manga in English a few years back. When the anime aired back in 2015 I regarded it as one of my favourites for the year, and now I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and rewatch the second half of this series.
As a general note, this review contains spoilers for both parts of Seraph of the End. If you missed the review of Part 1 written by my good friend and coworker, Joshawott, you can find it here.
This part of the series kicks off with Yu and his comrades being sent on a mission in Nagoya, however this is after the higher ups interrogate Yu to determine if he’s working with vampires. Part 2 ofSeraph of the End is heavily dedicated to exploring the relationships between Yu and Captain Guren and Yu and Mikaela, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of time for some fun vampire hunting. This part also gives us some focus on the vampire society and works to develop them as characters.
The mission Yu and his team are sent on with Guren and other members of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army is to kill numerous noble vampires, who have been spotted in the area. It’s a life-or-death mission and sadly it doesn’t always go to plan – but thanks to our team’s misfortunes, we’re given some remarkable action sequences as the humans fight for their lives (more on those in a minute). On the flip side, the new perspectives on Mikaela and the vampires leaves us to ponder if they’re really the bad guys in this world, especially as it becomes clearer that the Imperial Demon Army is up to no good.
While I usually wouldn’t go too in-depth into the end of a season, I want to talk about a couple of episodes closer to the end of this set because they really made the series for me. Episode 21 sees Mikaela finally find Yu and his team and features some truly stunning animation as Mikaela storms through hordes of enemies to reach his long-lost family. The scene is set to a remix of the first ending for the series (“scaPEGoat” performed by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh), and between that and the way the camera pans in and out, the sequence looks fantastic. I’ve watched a lot of anime byStudio Wit but I think this scene stands out as some of their very best work to date. It’s animated, choreographed and executed extremely well and I cannot praise the scene enough for the lasting impact it left on me as a viewer.
The other episode I want to talk about follows directly afterwards . It’s titled “Yu and Mika” and largely focuses on an exchange the two have, in private, away from the battle raging on elsewhere. It’s the first real interaction the two have had since Yu escaped from the vampires as a child and at this point, after suffering a mortal wound which requires human blood to fix, Mikaela is struggling with the decision to remain as he is or become a full vampire. The two argue and bicker and the conversation flows so naturally, and is filled with so much emotion, that it really stood out to me and remains one of my favourite episodes. I’d usually talk about voice actors later on but today I’m going to break my usual trend and mention that Miyu Irino (Koshi Sugawara in Haikyu!!, Ritsu Kageyama in Mob Pyscho 100), who plays Yu and Kensho Ono (Takato in Charlotte, Slaine Troyard in Aldnoah Zero, Phichit Chulanont in Yuri!!! on Ice), who plays Mikaela, both perform exceptionally well for these scenes. I rewatched the scene in English, French and German and none of those dubs even held a candle to the emotional weight that the Japanese VA’s put into their take.
Title: Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two
As previously mentioned, animation for the series has been handled byStudio Wit and looks really nice. Action scenes were always detailed and fluid, and even the scenes where the characters just stand around talking look great, thanks to some exceptional work on the backdrops. Wit have gone for a pastel-shaded effect for the backgrounds, so they always look very detailed, which it means any action scenes played out against them looks even better than usual. It creates a nice contrast between the smooth, neatly drawn characters and the messy, less detailed backgrounds. It’s a style I really like and would enjoy seeing more of from the studio.
The music for the series has been handled by Hiroyuki Sawano and is fairly impressive. It’s full of piano and orchestrated arrangements which really work with the tone of the series, but as mentioned earlier the track that I especially like is the remix of the previous ED for the series. I do have to admit that a lot of the music for Seraph of the End reminded me of the work of Tomoki Miyoshi, who provided the music for the I Am Setsuna game released last year, which is by not a bad thing but means that it didn’t seem as unique to me as it should have done. The opening for this set of the anime is “Two souls -towards the truth-” by fripSide and the ending is “Orarion” by Nagi Yanagi. Both tracks are rather forgettable but work within the context of the show (and at least the animation is very nice for both).
This release comes to the UK thanks to Universal, who have been nice enough to provide AnimeUKNews with a full retail set for our review. Thanks to that I have all of the extras for the release on hand, and what a nice collection it is! Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two is available on both Blu-ray and DVD and the physical extras include four trading cards, a poster depicting the art on the cover of the box, a set of 12 3D stickers (which, it has to be said, are really cute), four artcards, and, if that wasn’t enough, a 31 page booklet! The set is well, made with the trading cards and artcards being produced in a thick enough grade that I’m not too worried about them bending. The stickers being 3D is a welcome touch and although (as is usual with stickers) I don’t actually want to use them for anything, they’re at least more fun to look over than stickers normally are. It’s worth pointing out that the booklet contains a gallery of the end cards for each episode, which I like a lot.
Physical extras aside, this set also contains clean opening and ending videos, as well as aSeraph of the Endless bonus episode/special, trailers for the series, and music clips. My only real complaint about the release is that the box is top-loading and I know that many members of the community commented about this with the previous release. It’s something Universal are apparently looking into for future anime sets but at least in this case I’m glad it’s consistent with the previous release. It’s also nice that the spine doesn’t make it clear that this is a DVD set as my version of Part 1 is a Blu-ray, so despite being different formats at a glance you wouldn’t know any different.
Seraph of the End is a remarkable shounen series. While the season doesn’t conclude the whole story because the manga is on-going, it ends in enough of a satisfying manner that it’s easy for me to recommend. If you’ve watched the first half and enjoyed it then you certainly won’t be disappointed here – and if you didn’t then what are you doing reading this? Go and buy Part 1 right now!
Publisher: Universal Pictures UK
Genre: Action, Drama, Shonen
Studio: Studio Wit
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English/Dutch/French/German subtitles and English/French/German dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 265 minutes
Suddenly it’s 2017! As we sweep up the pine needles and polish off the last crumbs of Christmas cake, the first episodes of the new and continuing Winter 2017 series are appearing. Is this going to be as good a season as Autumn 2016? Which series are worth your time? (Especially if you made a New Year’s resolution to waste less time watching duds ‘in case they get better next episode’. We’re all been there!)
So, never fear; our writers at AUKN are here to share their thoughts and make recommendations. Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear what you think too.
The Winter season always tends to be quite hit and miss for me. I try a bunch of shows, drop the majority, and then gain a few favourites that are no doubt forgotten about by the end of the year. It’s a harsh time for new anime to be released, but I think maybe this season is different.
This winter marks the return of one of my favourite shows from last year, KonoSuba. If you read my review when the series finished (if not you can find it here), you’ll know that I am a huge fan of the anime and the first episode of Season 2 hasn’t let me down so far! Our quirky band of heroes have gotten themselves into trouble yet again and between their over-the-top reactions and the mock Ace Attorney court session, it’s clear that this season is going to be just as fun as the last.
Away from KonoSuba I’d have to say my favourite new show is Fuuka. It’s a series that tells the story of a young kid, Yu, who spends all his time on Twitter and not really interacting with the world. One day he runs into a girl called Fuuka who changes his life forever! At heart the series sounds like your usual slice of life affair, but I’m a huge fan of the manga and can safely say that it’s not as generic as it sounds. The manga eventually evolves into a heavy focus on music (something I’m sure regular readers will know I love), and between that and the very sweet love story it tells I encourage everyone to give it a chance.
While I’m here I’d also like to give a mention to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid which is the latest adaption from studio KyoAni. Despite my love for KonoSuba, I actually don’t like comedy all that much and so I was surprised to find that I could stick out a whole episode of this series and like it enough to want to watch more. The animation isn’t quite as good as the usual anime put out by the studio, but the story and heartwarming cast certainly more than make up for that. If there was anything that I could recommend to basically anyone, then I think Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is probably it. The series definitely had the best opening episode of the season, besides KonoSuba of course.
For me, the title to keep an eye on this season is the one that has been the most highly anticipated: the return of Blue Exorcist.
It’s been a while; the last outing was the feature film that premiered back in 2012, so it’s been five years since we last encountered Rin Okumura, the trainee exorcist who is still hoping to kill his father – who just happens to be Satan.
The last series finished with Rin’s family history being exposed to the rest of his classmates at the True Cross Academy, thus meaning that everyone around Rin now distrusts him due to his dad being their sworn enemy. Also, Rin is having trouble keeping his demonic powers under control. In this second series, things are made even worse when one of the members of the Knights of the True Cross turns traitor and steals a valuable artefact that in the wrong hands can spread disease. This means that Rin’s class have to travel to Kyoto to stop things getting worse, staying at an inn run by the parents of aggressive classmate Ryuji Suguro.
It is probably worth looking over the first series again as there has been such a gap between the two, but if you enjoyed the first one then the second series should provide you with plenty of action and intrigue.
The other series I would recommend, like Demelza before me, is Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. For the uninitiated, the story revolves around Miss Kobayashi, a systems engineer and secret otaku who gets drunk one night and bumps into Tohru, an injured dragon sleeping on a mountain. Kobayashi helps her, and suggests that she should come and stay. To her shock, Tohru appears the next morning, dressed as a maid and in a human body (if you ignore her horns and tail). Now Kobayashi has to try and cope with living with a mythical beast in her flat.
Having previously reviewed the manga I can say that there is plenty going for it in terms of humour. Fans of yuri may like it too, although people might be put off by fan service. For example, the first scene in which Tohru transforms into her human guise features some “boing-boing” sound effects as her boobs move. This might be surprising as the vast majority of the series has little objectionable content. I’ve enjoyed it so far, and I like the rather pastel-like art style they have used.
As with the start of the majority of seasons, the Winter 2017 was one in which I was looking forward to very little, by pure virtue of not having heard of any of the upcoming shows before. Despite this, however, the season is actually looking to be pretty good, at least going off the first few episodes of the series I have picked up thus far.
The only series I was actively anticipating in advance was Gabriel Dropout. I’m a huge sucker for Slice of Life comedies, and as soon as I saw the key art for this show, I knew I had to watch it, and its first episode didn’t disappoint. Gabriel Dropout comes courtesy of Doga Kobo, the studio that also produced the excellent New Game! last year, as well as a bunch of other great comedies such as Monthly Girls Nozaki Kun and Himouto Umaru-chan. The premise is a fairly simple one: a bunch of Angels and Demons are sent to a school on Earth in order to learn about human life, and antics ensue. Whilst the school-based SoL comedy isn’t exactly untrodden ground, the first episode managed to have me laughing throughout and has some pretty great gags, the funniest of which involves teleportation and which I dare not spoil here. Gabriel Dropout comes highly recommended if you liked any of the shows I listed above from Doga Kobo.
Another season highlight for me is Kyoto Animation’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Kyoto Animation is easily one of my favourite studios, with an astonishing track record of outstanding series such as K-On, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, Nichijou, and my personal favourite show of last year, Sound! Euphonium. Dragon Maid appears to be a bit of a departure for the studio, which tends to focus on high school-based shows, and it’s a change of pace that’s appreciated. The focus in this show is the titular Miss Kobayashi, an average office worker, who, in a drunken stupor, enlists a dragon to be her personal maid. Much like Gabriel Dropout, this is another comedy that had me laughing along for the entirety of its running time, and the art is brilliant, as you’d probably expect from KyoAni. Add in a smidgen of yuri teasing, and you have an anime that is certainly one of my personal highlights of this season.
Venturing out of the comedy genre, the anime that’s piqued my interest the most so far would have to be ACCA 13. Going by Episode 1 alone, it’s actually very hard to tell in which direction this show is going, as the majority of the episode was world building; however it appears to be quite unlike anything else airing this season, or at least that I have seen. The show is almost entirely dialogue based, not unlike something such as Monogatari, but yet still remains very engrossing. It also has a unique art style that instantly grabbed my attention, and is animated by another personal favourite studio of mine, Madhouse. It’s actually quite hard to talk about, as little has happened just yet, but if you are looking for something that isn’t a light comedy series with a bunch of cute girls in it, this is probably one to watch.
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
If you’ve read or watched the anime versions of Natsume Ono’s distinctive manga (Dead Leaves, Ristorante Paradiso) you’ll know that you’ll be in for a very different viewing experience in ACCA. Set in Dowa, a Ruritanian-ish European kingdom (check out those moustaches and uniforms!) it introduces us to Jean Otus, the vice-chairman of the inspections department. Nearly a century ago when a coup d’etat threatened the peace of the thirteen territories, the syndicate was set up to protect the peace. Nowadays, the members of Jean’s department are more concerned with the cakes they’ll be eating for their morning snack break, so maybe it’s not surprising that there’s talk of disbanding ACCA. But the king is not getting any younger…is this really the right time? Something sinister is probably underway…but what? Directed by Shingo Natsume (One Punch Man) the series has a distinctive, primary-coloured palette (and is faithful to Natsume Ono’s stylish character designs). ACCA is unusual enough to hold the attention – but not, so far, to engage the heart. Jean makes a curiously unengaging central character: enigmatic and cool, smoking expensive cigarettes… However, the next episode promises to introduce another central character, the motorbike-riding reporter Nino, and, as I have faith in Natsume Ono’s works, I’m intrigued enough to return to see what happens next. You’ve gotta love a series where the character profiles tell you each person’s favourite snacks! (Jean’s are white bread and strawberries, btw.)
The best anime drama for many viewers last year was the first season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and the second season Descending Tales has been hotly anticipated (certainly by me). Based on the prize-winning manga series by Haruko Kumota, this twisted and insightful tale of two proponents of the ancient story-telling performance art of rakugo battling the tide of twentieth century popular culture, was notable for its depth of characterization, voice acting and unique blend of music and visual art. We rejoin the story in the 1980s where Yotaro, the reformed yakuza turned professional storyteller, has taken the stage name of Sukeroku, in homage to his master Yakumo’s dead friend and contemporary. He’s also married – in name only – Sukeroku’s daughter Konatsu to protect her and her illegitimate baby son (father unknown, at least to us at this stage). Debts to the dead and a complicated web of feelings among the living overshadow the lives of the three main protagonists – and the dying art of rakugo underscores everything they do. Should it be allowed to die out as a historical irrelevance? Or can it be made meaningful to a more modern age and revived? The new OP, sexily, slinkily sung by Megumi Hayabashi, offers a striking and chilling foreshadowing of what’s to come. Not to be missed!
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the arrival of the third season of Yowamushi Pedal – the first time any episodes of this iconic sports anime series has been made available in the UK (someone will correct me if I’m wrong…) I’m delighted to be able to watch it at last, even if it means coming in late. Perhaps Crunchyroll will bring us the earlier seasons as well now.
I was dreading this season at first when Crunchyroll started off by announcing a selection of similar-looking school comedies. However, it’s turning out better than I thought. The best news of all is that hardly anything is locked away from the UK this time around, with the big villains of the season being Amazon for locking two interesting titles (Scum’s Wish and Onihei) behind their Prime paywall. The possibility that they might soon start charging even more for this service with the rollout of their premium Anime Strike subscription (US-only, for now) is worrying for many of us wanting affordable access to legal simulcasts.
Like the other staff members above, I’m very interested in the continuation of the absolutely sublime Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and also looking forward to seeing where ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. goes after that very stylish beginning. The biggest surprise of the first episodes I’ve seen so far has been Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which was much wittier than I’d expected from the premise and a real gem.
Another surprise for me was how watchable the first episode of this season’s idol title MARGINAL #4: Kiss Kara Tsukuru Big Bang ended up being. We had no fewer than three new seasons of big idol-related titles based on games aimed at the female audience last season, and in my personal opinion neither Dream Festival nor Magic-kyun Renaissance really succeeded in offering anything unique enough to dislodge the massive Uta No Prince-sama anime series from its throne. I was expecting MARGINAL #4 to fall by the wayside too – ever since its original debut as an audio series it’s been a direct attempt to cash in on a popular genre – but it neatly sidestepped direct comparisons to UtaPri by focusing on the boys’ silly school lives and idol careers rather than anything too complicated. It’s like an irreverent parody of K-On! blended with the flash of Love Live!, and the humour is so goofy that I think it’s going to work.
Like Rejet’s previous anime projects (Diabolik Lovers, Dance With Devils), MARGINAL #4 is mostly designed to promote the core series and the constant stream of expensive music/situation CDs which come out month after month, so even if the comedy starts to flag it’s a given that the concert scenes will continue to have great music. I’m a sucker for a good concert, and the hope that the (superior) senior idol group might actually be allowed to sing on-screen in a later episode will no doubt keep me pinned to the series all season long.
So my apologies go out to this season’s anime selection; I was too quick to judge at the start. My top titles this winter are all very different from one another so I can’t wait to see which of them still have my attention in a couple of months from now.
Well, like a lot of people here there isn’t a large amount of options screaming at me, at least not at the moment. The series that I’m most interested in is Chaos;Child, mostly because I really enjoyed Steins;Gate and remember liking the possibly overly-gory but nonetheless interesting murder mystery Chaos;HEAd, the series this is a direct sequel to. The first episode was actually a two-parter… sort of as the first half recapped the cases in Chaos;HEAd. The actual first episode is a good start; the unpleasant murders and the mystery surrounding them barely gets going, but in a good way. The lead character, Takuru Miyashiro, and his merry band of high school newspaper club members are a fun bunch, though maybe not anything groundbreaking in terms of character type. So lots of mystery in the air and things to reveal. It could be a great ride, or it could sort of slowly degrade into confusion and end in an unsatisfactory manor, which happens often when an anime is based on a branching paths visual novel. Fingers crossed for the former rather than the latter!
The return of Blue Exorcist and a second helping of Tales of Zestiria the X should provide some entertainment in the coming weeks, the previous parts showing some promise in their genres, but that’s it so far this season. Very bare, but that does tend to happen in the Winter season.
My final anime review of 2016 was none other than Fullmetal Alchemist Part 2, and so going into 2017 I wondered what title I’d be tackling first. Something fantastical set in an alternate universe, with heroes straight out of my favourite stories? Or perhaps a slice of life/romantic series to warm my heart in the cold winter months?
Well, actually, I was completely off the mark, and instead I’m here reviewing the harem series Invaders of the Rokujyoma?!.
Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? tells the story of Kotaro Satomi, who thinks he’s found a bargain when he moves into Room 106 of Corona House – only 5,000 yen a month in rent! With a part-time job at an archaeology site and a friendly landlady in the form of Shizuka Kasagi, Kotaro believes that he’s going to live out his highschool years peacefully and content. What he doesn’t know is that Room 106 is said to be haunted, and all who’ve lived there previously have ended up fleeing the scene, scared out of their wits. The place being haunted isn’t the only problem either, as suddenly strange females begin appearing one by one with desires to claim the room for themselves. It seems that Kotaro may have found himself in quite a predicament…
Kotaro is first visited by Sanae Higashihonogan, the notorious ghost haunting Room 106, who begins to fight with him over which one of them should live in the room. It’s not long before they’re interrupted by the appearance of a magical girl, Yurika Nijino, who wants to occupy the room due to the high levels of magical power within it. If that isn’t enough, Kotaro is then visited by Kiriha Kurano, who is a descendant of the Earth People and wants to take over the room as the first step in invading the surface. And just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, our cast is invaded by Theiamillis Gre Fortorthe (later shortened to Theia), an alien princess who wishes to claim Room 106 for herself in order to prove herself as a worthy successor to the throne.
After the room is almost destroyed during the squabbling over who should live there, landlady Shizuka goes into a rage and punishes Kotaro and the girls. After making repairs, she lays out a contract instructing that the debates over the room must be conducted peacefully. To determine who will obtain the room (without destroying it in the process) Kiriha proposes that they should decide through games.
I’d explain more about the games but by the fourth episode the series starts to move away from the girls wanting to claim the room and instead focuses on their daily lives, so I shall skip forward a bit instead.
Earlier I labelled Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? as a harem series, and while that’s true, it’s not the kind of harem series that I usually dislike. As the girls spend time living with Kotaro they all become fond of him, but it’s not played up to an extreme level as in some other anime. While the girls are fond of Kotaro, only one of them truly appears to have any romantic feelings towards him. It makes the whole thing a lot more watchable for me as I’m not usually someone with a lot of patience for a series such as this, and it ends up being fairly enjoyable for what it is.
The series is split into arcs focused on each of the girls, taking a deeper look at their reasons wanting Room 106. This does mean that if you don’t like one of the girls, their set of episodes will be fairly uninteresting (for example, I wasn’t fond of Theia and therefore I found her episodes boring) but it gives Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? the chance to develop its characters fairly well. I haven’t come away from the anime feeling like I didn’t know any of the main girls and, actually, while they were all very one- dimensional in personality (we had the clumsy one, the quick to anger one, the smart one…) they weren’t a bad cast. I even managed to become quite fond of Sanea!
The anime is based on a light novel series that is on-going in Japan and currently sits at 23 volumes. As the anime is only 12 episodes, it will come as no surprise to anyone that it doesn’t really have a satisfying conclusion. There is a lot more to this story than what we get to see in the adaptation (the final episode makes this quite clear), and it does feel throughout the shows run that two semi-important characters are pushed to the sidelines: Harumi Sakuraba, who is the president of the school knitting club that Kotaro is part of at school, and Kenji Matsudaira, who is introduced as Kotaro’s best friend. Despite the two being large parts of Kotaro’s life, it feels asif we never get to know them properly. In some respects I feel like this could be because Sakuraba becomes more important to the plot in later volumes of light novels, but I think in Matsudaira’s case the issue really comes from the series introducing him as a ‘best friend’. Had he simply been dubbed as just a friend, I might not have noticed his absence so much.
The series was handled by animation studio Silver Link (who I’m quite fond of for their adaption of Strike the Blood) and their work here is passable. Character designs and the overall style is smooth but I can’t help but feel that the anime was a low budget affair. It was aired in Japan in July 2014 but despite that, the animation looks a good couple of years older, which is a shame as some of the battle scenes dotted throughout the story were animated much better in comparison. It’s not bad animation but it’s nothing special either.
Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?’s soundtrack is provided by Ryosuke Nakanishi, who has also provided soundtracks for High School DxD, Kuroko’s Basketball, and Sakura Trick. While the work on display here didn’t really stand out and certainly isn’t memorable away from the series, it’s not a bad soundtrack within the context of the show. The opening is called “Koukan win-win Mujouken” by Heart Invader and is a fairly generic song both musically and in its animation. The ending is “Love is Milk Tea”, which is sung by the voice actresses Aoi Yuki and Ayana Taketatsu. This seems odd to me as the two only had minor roles in the series as Kiriha’s servants/battle drones but as far as the ending itself goes, it’s certainly a nice piece.
Speaking of voice actors, I’d like to drop a mention to Eri Suzuki (Hikari Kohinata in Amanchu!, Chinatsu Kuramoto in Flying Witch), as I really enjoyed her work as Sanae. The character is quite emotional and flips into various different emotions quickly but she’s also a lot of fun and very energetic, which Suzuki gets across wonderfully. The other voice actor of note for me is Yuichi Nakamura (Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Gray Fullbuster in Fairy Tail, Guren Ichinose in Seraph of the End), who plays Kotaro. I always find it fun when such a prolific actor does a series like this and gets to let loose with a slightly less serious character than those they’re usually cast for. Nakamura provides a fun performance, even if it might not be as intensive and interesting as some of his other roles.
This release comes to the UK thanks to MVM Entertainment, who have released the series on both Blu-ray and DVD. The release contains all 12 episodes in Japanese with English subtitles and the only extras to speak of are clean opening and ending videos as well as a scattering of trailers. This release is subtitle only as an English dub has not been created for the series.
Overall Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? was an enjoyable start to my year. It might come from a genre of anime that I’m not a huge fan of, but it manages to be interesting enough so as not to matter. The series may not end in a satisfying manner but it’s a fun ride all the same, so it’s worth checking out if you like this kind of thing.
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Harem, Fantasy, Comedy, Slice of Life
Studio: Silver Link
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes