Dragon Ball Super – Episodes 82 – 87 Review

The “Universe Survival Arc” is well under way as we start our look at the near-enough sequel series to Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Super, currently available to stream for free at Daisuki.net. We’ve had slightly re-worked versions of the Battle of Gods and Resurrection F films, then a tournament between “our” universe, Universe 7, and nearby Universe 6, which had a lot of comedy in it, as well as introducing the idea of multiple universes to the franchise. We then got the return of Future Trunks and an evil copy of Goku known as Goku Black, which was more like a traditional Z story arc, with more dramatic stakes and large battles.

Now we’re here, and to give a quick, final sum-up of the story so far, Zeno, the “Omni-King” who’s God of every Universe (and a future version of himself from another, now destroyed timeline… don’t ask) have felt that the eight weakest universes of the twelve should be wiped clean from existence, but have been accidentally convinced by Goku to hold a big tournament known as “The Tournament of Power”, with the winning universe getting to survive, while the other seven are destroyed, plus the strongest fighter will also receive a wish on the planet-sized Super Dragon Balls. The tournament itself isn’t actually a tournament, each universe has 10 fighters, and all 80 combatants will fight each other at the same time in a battle royal, elimination occurring if they are thrown from the huge fighting arena.

Sound crazy? Yep. If there is one thing Dragon Ball Super likes to do, it’s play around with the previously small world of Dragon Ball and add to it. Right, now let’s look at this batch of episodes!

Episode 82 starts in the aftermath of an “exhibition match” between Universes 7 and 9, which has seen Goku victorious in the last of the three matches, winning it for Universe 7. Toppo, a overly proud superhero-like character from Universe 11 has jumped in front of Goku and challenged him, declaring that Goku is evil for causing this tournament in the first place. This is sort of true, Goku didn’t know Zeno was going to destroy eight universes before asking for the tournament and that this might save one, and he was also expressly warned not to “poke the bear” and talk to Zeno about the tournament in the first place by Beerus. It worked out well in that now one universe has a chance to live, but I guess Toppo still saw it as Goku’s fault. Goku looks like he’s about to win before Toppo declares he hasn’t used his best yet, which Goku also claims to be holding back (classic Dragon Ball!) but they’re stopped by the entirely untrustworthy Grand Priest. Toppo, also in classic Dragon Ball fashion, tells Goku that he isn’t the strongest person in Universe 11; a fellow member of the “Pride Troopers” called Jiren is far stronger. Goku is excited, and the Priest declares that the tournament will take place in a few days and they should get their teams ready.

The next five episodes are all about recruiting members for Universe 7’s team, with 83 focusing on the birth of Bulma and Vegeta’s daughter Bra, or Bulla, as the subtitles have it, matching up to the English dub version of Z… which makes more sense for English readers, I guess, even if it is just how Japanese people pronounce the word. Having someone say “Bulma has successfully given birth to Bra” might sound like the ramblings on a mad person, admittedly. Anyway, this results in Vegeta agreeing to participate, after previously backing out of the exhibition match due to the upcoming birth. It also has to be mentioned that Beerus’s Angel Whis … I don’t know, magicked Bra/Bulla out of Bulma instead of waiting for a natural birth. It’s a very weird scene…

Episode 84 sees Goku and Gohan recruit Krillin and Android 18 to the team, complete with an exhibition match between Goku and his old friend, which teaches Goku that the upcoming battle royal will be every man for themselves, and so he can’t expect to fight his chosen opponent one-on- one. A rare Goku fighting-related miscalculation, as opposed to a common Goku everything else miscalculation. 85 focuses on Goku checking in on Buu before scenes from the other universe’s Supreme Kais having a meeting that doesn’t really go anywhere, and then a scene with Toppo and his Pride Troopers in action. Finally, Episodes 86 and 87 focus on the first-time meeting between Android 17 and Goku, the former living in a secluded island fighting off poachers and saving the local wildlife… and then the two warriors have to fight off alien poachers in their flying saucer… Yep. Really.

A few criticisms have arisen from the last two episodes, namely Android 17 fighting on a par with Super Saiyan Blue Goku, a form said to be comparable to the Gods themselves, which is a fair comment, but after Golden Freeza did the same thing, I think it’s safe to say that the old “Power Level” debates and spreadsheets have been tossed out the window in favour of a mix of fighters beyond just Goku and Vegeta. Given how one-sided and Goku-based Dragon Ball GT was, I’m okay with this. The second one, and this is the one that annoyed me, suggests that Android 17 isn’t convinced to join the cause, not even when he finds out the whole universe could be wiped out if they lose “Oh well, if we all die at once it won’t be so bad”… I mean, from a “there won’t be anyone to grieve” sort of way that’s true, but… you know… may as well try and stop it…. Anyway, then he is convinced to join when he hears of the Super Dragon Ball wish because, *sigh*, he really wants a big boat to go sailing around the world with his family. Huh?! For starters, just save up your money and buy one. Or ask for one from super-mega rich Bulma as his fee for entering… or use the Earth Dragon Balls to wish for one. Plus, he’s spent two episodes talking about the “last Minotaurus” that he is protecting, why not wish for the species to become un-extinct instead? Selfish git!

It’s a shame because otherwise I really enjoyed this revisit to Android 17 and the first meeting between him and Goku. Also this features Goku admitting he’s not really a hero, and that he just likes fighting strong guys and the Earth keeps getting saved as an aftereffect, although he also admits that seeing innocent people being killed makes him angry. The quote about not being a hero is actually almost a word-for-word quote for a Toriyama interview from the lead-up to the Resurrection F movie, so it was an interesting moment to see it expressly stated by Goku himself. Top stuff. Episode 86 is spectacularly animated, particularly the fight between 17 and Goku. In fact, I’ll say it now: with this arc the animation has switched to a different team and method than the previous 70-odd episodes, and it shows in a positive light. The fight scenes in the Exhibition matches in the previous episodes were top-notch, and the fights here have been great too. Very fluid and the backgrounds have been nicely detailed, even if Beerus often comes off as looking more… oddly shaped.

Another little aggravating point in this recruitment mini-arc is that the intro, ad-break eye-catches and the ending all tell us who gets recruited, so the slow reveal seems a bit pointless. Plus why did Goku and Gohan think of Master Roshi as an option and yet still haven’t thought about Tien / Tenshinhan? They were impressed with Krillin’s new version of the Solar Flare, yet didn’t think about the man who invented the move in the first place! I only hope this is corrected in the upcoming episode that deals with Tien’s recruitment.

So there we have it. I think it’s clear why the mini Exhibition matches happened, after several episodes of between-arc “filler” (though not in the traditional manga-catching-up sense, but still in the self-contained, don’t-add-anything sense), going straight into these recruitment episodes would be a lot of talking and very little action. I’m excited to see the tournament itself and these episodes are at least giving focus to characters that haven’t had focus in a long time, so I don’t mind them… though I think the Android 17 stuff could have been condensed into one episode and not had aliens in it. I guess it’s one of those cases that if these six episodes came in a DVD/Blu-ray set with seven other episodes (as is the old norm) you probably wouldn’t notice so much, but one of these a week is just dragging out a mystery of “who’s going to be Universe 7’s team”, a mystery that was spoiled as soon as they debuted the new opening at the start of the arc…

Title: Dragon Ball Super - Episodes 82 - 87
Publisher: Other (please see review text)
Genre: Martial arts, Comedy, Science fantasy
Studio: Toei Animation
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2017
Format: Legal stream
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Running time: 144 minutes

Score: 7/10

In this Corner of the World heads to the Annecy 2017 Competition

This June distributor Manga Animatsu will be bringing In This Corner of the World, the inspirational and anticipated tale from acclaimed director Sunao Katabuchi (Mai Mai Miracle) to the UK Cinemas nationwide. To make it even more exciting, it has been announced that the film will participate in this year’s Annecy competition.

Continue reading “In this Corner of the World heads to the Annecy 2017 Competition”

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

Warning: Contains very strong language from the start.

“I wrote, I wrote to the- the Council of Churches and I said, ‘This fucking Bible… especially, erm, Paul,’ I said, ‘This fucking Bible really gives me the horn.’ And er, I wrote, you know … civilly to them at the World Council of Churches, I wrote, ‘Dear Cunts in Charge of Religion,’ you know, familiar, friendly, ‘Dear Cunts in Charge of Religion, your fucking guidebook or whatever the fucking thing is don’t half give me the horn. I get fucking horn, especially on St. Paul!’ And I got no reply whatsoever from that. Cunts! No wonder church attendance is dropping off.”
Peter Cook, from Derek and Clive: Ad Nauseam

I decided to begin this second AUKN review of Shimoneta with this quote to prove that you can create something that is incredibly rude and disgusting, but also funny. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s X-Rated Derek and Clive albums are some of the funniest things you can ever listen to, even though what is contained on them is utterly disgusting.

Incendiary Lemon’s review of Shimoneta pretty much covers all aspects of the plot and there is little reason for me to repeat it all again, so I would advise you to read his review first. If you already have, you will know that he talks about how 90% of the comedy is just saying something sexual and it is rubbish. I am inclined to agree. Most of what was featured didn’t make me laugh, but the moments that did were the ones that were incredibly ridiculous. For example, there is a moment where they talk about Otome, the artist in the erotic terrorist group SOX, drawing by sticking a pencil up her pussy. There is another where the lead character Okuma eats biscuits that have been made out of Anna’s “love nectar”.

This is where the problem with Shimoneta stands out. Some might say that the problem with it is that is too rude. I say the problem is it’s not rude enough! Those two jokes in the above paragraph to me are funny because they are so gross. The Derek and Clive albums of the 1970s still contain routines that are gross today, which is why they have lasted. To highlight a scene which Incendiary Lemon mentions, in which Ayame rolls around on the floor shouting: “Penis, penis, penis, penis, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina”, even I can make that funnier with a simple re-write, by changing it to “Cock, cock, cock, cock, cunt, cunt, cunt, cunt.” It means the same thing, but those words are more direct and impactful, making the shock of the rudeness much greater.

Any two-bit writer can make a scene in which a woman tries to rape a man, but it takes people like Pete and Dud to make a genuinely funny scene which involves a man trying to the break the Guinness World Record for producing the longest trail of snot, only for it to be ruined by his wife, and thus the man decides to break the Guinness World Record for kicking his wife in the cunt. It sounds horrific on the surface, but listen to it, and you won’t stop yourself from laughing.

This brings up the vexing question of censorship. You see, it has been argued by some writers that Shimoneta is an attack on censorship, and a reaction to recent laws in Japan concerning pornographic works. This is arguably a noble endeavour, even if you don’t like the sort of works coming out of Japan at the moment. Our laws on porn are messed up as well. Remember me mentioning the joke about the biscuits made out of Anna’s “love nectar”. If you don’t know, that “nectar” is her ejaculate. Under UK law, it is illegal to feature pornography featuring female ejaculation, but as it is OK to show it featuring male ejaculate, you can argue that UK porn laws are sexist. Britain may have made it an offence to possess erotic images of characters under 18, but you can go into a bookshop and buy a Penguin Classics edition of the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, which not only features extreme pornography, but sexual acts with people as young as four-years-old. So you can write a paedophilic sex scene, but if you try and draw the exact same thing, you would be committing a crime.

The problem, however, is that Shimoneta‘s attempts at humour let it down. Maybe if it was released as an OVA rather than a TV series, free of any possible issues broadcasters might have to offensive content, it might have worked better, but as it is based on a series of light novels and most of the anime adapts the contents of the books, I’m guessing not. If you are looking for a series which tackles the problems of censorship Library Wars does it better, mainly because it is not trying to be funny most of the time, being more dramatic and romantic.

There is also the other major problem when it comes to this sort of thing, which is that when you say you are against censorship of porn, you end up worrying that you end up siding with people you don’t want to be on your side. I’m not talking about people who might support paedophilia although obviously that’s an issue, but more like people who think that it is an attack on freedom of speech to deny them the right to say “nigger” in public.

I do know of people and news websites in this country whose views on freedom of speech and what should be said in comedy do infuriate me. I won’t mention who these people are, partly as a petty act of self-censorship to pointlessly annoy them, and partly, to reference Linda Smith, because I don’t want to give them the oxygen of publicity – or indeed the oxygen of oxygen.

But some of these people who claim to support freedom of speech do frustrate me. For example, I’ve seen people trying to compare Dapper Laughs, the comic who got axed from ITV2 for telling rape jokes, to Lenny Bruce, the American comic who in the 1960s was arrested several times for obscenity and died of a drug overdose. As far as I’m concerned, Dapper Laughs is no way comparable to Lenny Bruce, chiefly because Dapper’s material was so shit it doesn’t even deserve comparison. To quote Stewart Lee: “Who gets dropped by ITV2? That’s like being barred from a pub that’s already on fire.”

Now I should state that I think that comedy and indeed all art forms should be free to cover any subject, including rape, murder, drugs etc. One thing that annoys me, though, is bad comedians using freedom of speech to defend jokes that are just poor. Other comedians who have done material about rape and rape culture are brilliant. Adrienne Truscott for example, did a show at the Edinburgh Fringe about rape culture, naked from the waist down, in 2013. That year she won the Panel Prize at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality. In that same year, Bridget Christie won the main Edinburgh Comedy Award prize with a show about feminism, and has one of the best rape jokes I can think of: “My rape fantasies involve more prosecutions and longer sentences.”

In the world of anime, rape is also a strange issue. We protest if it involves two people, but we get less bothered when it involves a tentacled monster. It doesn’t stop outside commentators talking about it obviously, which did lead to the memorable incident when both the left-wing and right-wing press published articles attacking the release of Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend, and ironically increasing the sales of the anime by giving it so much free publicity.

What also annoys me is that the same comedians who use freedom of speech to defend their rubbish jokes often tend to be the same comedians who tell their hecklers to shut up. They are hypocrites. Hell, I’m probably a hypocrite too for my views, but at least I’m willing to admit the possibility that my views are askew.

Maybe what we need to do when watching Shimoneta is get more into the world that it is set in, with people constantly having to talk in bizarre euphemisms to discuss anything rude otherwise they would get arrested. It is probably through this language problem that we end up having the issue with the humour. To the people of this world, just saying “penis” is offensive enough, whereas saying “fuck” (which only happens once in the series) doesn’t seem to be needed as much. Is it possible to imagine such a setting really existing? I would say that it is, because people have lived through such a thing, there was a comedy that tackled it, and we have overcome it.

I’m talking about the time when in Britain it was illegal to be homosexual. The comedy that helped to tackle it was the 1960s radio show Round the Horne, which featured the characters of Julian and Sandy played by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, who spoke the Polari gay slang to get away with all kinds of things that if said directly would have got the BBC into a whole heap of trouble. In one sketch set in a music shop Sandy mentions that Julian is, “a miracle of dexterity on the cottage upright”, but in Polari a “cottage upright” is an erection in a public toilet. Polari appears in later comedies, like the 1970s sitcom Porridge, where characters would often tell each other to “Naff off”, but “naff” was Polari for a straight man who was not available for fornication.

You can compare the repressed Britain of the 1960s to the repressed Japan of the future. Here we see different groups of people trying to get away with what is seen by the government as perverse behaviour. The difference is that Round the Horne was dealing with a real-life situation and it managed to outlive it, the show ending in the same year the homosexuality was decriminalised. Shimoneta is set in a fantasy world and thus is harder to relate to. That is why it fails to live up to the rest comically, but it might live up to them in terms of a message about the dangerous of censorship.

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

Score: 5/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

Score: 4/10

Absolute Duo Review

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

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

None of these questions are answered in the anime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 5/10

Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry heads to UK cinemas this May

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

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

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

Spring Preview 2017

Spring Preview 2017

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

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

 

IncendiaryLemon

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

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

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

Ian Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

Rui

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

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

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

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

Cold Cobra

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

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

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

Paul

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

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

Sarah

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

The Royal Tutor

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

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

Tsuki ga Kirei

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

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

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

Demelza:

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

Sakura Quest

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

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

Anonymous Noise

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

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

 

Feature: The Soundtrack of Yuri!!! On Ice

AUKN Banner (Ian Wolf's Feature)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of the tracks are available to download from iTunes.

Nisekoi Season 2 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

Score: 7/10

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

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

Oh my.. Oh my…. GOODNESS!!

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