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

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.

 

Little Busters Season 1 Review

After being orphaned as a child, Riki Naoe shut himself out from the world. However, he was soon saved when he met a boy named Kyosuke, and was recruited into the Little Busters, a group of friends who spend their childhood fighting off evil doers and enjoying their youth. Now in high school, the close-knit group have decided to form a baseball team in order to commemorate Kyousuke’s last year before graduation. There is a problem, however; there just aren’t enough members! Now Riki himself must do what Kyosuke did all those years ago and look for new recruits for the Little Busters.

In my humble opinion, the biggest sin an anime can possibly commit is to be boring, however coming in a close second to this is when an anime has glimpses of greatness but is dragged down and marred by flaws, turning what could have been great into something lesser. Unfortunately, this is the best way to describe Little Busters, the 2012 adaption of the visual novel by Key, the company that also produced visual novels such as Clannad, and Angel Beats, which has to be one of the most frustrating series I have seen in recent memory.

What makes Little Busters so frustrating to watch it that it seems to constantly flip between really well-executed character-focused arcs and rather dull and generic Slice of Life fodder, and the gulf in quality between the two is really quite astounding, to the point where it kind of feels like two different shows happening at the same time. Whilst the more down-to-earth and lighthearted episodes aren’t necessarily bad, they are painfully average, and don’t really do anything you haven’t seen before. There are some rather unique scenarios, usually spurred on by a subplot where a member of the group receives notes promising to tell her ‘The secret of the world’ if she performs all the tasks given to her, such as to put on a puppet show for a group of kids or to save the cafeteria, but they still just generally feel like nothing special. This plotline initially feels quite important, and at first I thought it was going to be the main driving force of the series, but it ultimately goes without a resolution. Given this is the first of three seasons, however, I can forgive it, assuming that it does actually go somewhere later on.

Running in stark contrast to these episodes are the truly fantastic character-driven episodes, and it’s in these episodes where you can really see something fantastic trying to break through all the mediocrity. Unlike other shows of it’s ilk that normally only dedicate an episode to each character, Little Busters takes a good amount of time, normally about 3 or more episodes each, to really flesh out each of the highlighted characters and develop them greatly. What really signaled to me that these episodes were doing their job effectively was just how invested and attached I got to certain members of the cast, even in some instances bringing to the brink of tears. It’s incredibly rare for media to have such an effect on me, and it speaks volumes about the quality of these episodes, more so than any words I could write. One thing worth mentioning is just how dark these episodes seem to get. It caught me kind-of off-guard, but these backstories go into some fairly bleak subject matter, and given how light- hearted the general tone of the series is when not focusing on characters, it can cause a little bit of tonal whiplash going from, say, the cast having a fun sleepover to emotional and physical child abuse; however, it never feels overly jarring.

The only real downside to the great amount of focus placed on each character is that you get a lot of the cast left on the sidelines in terms of depth. At a ridiculously large 10 main characters, even 26 episodes isn’t enough to give them all attention, and when the character development for the others is so good, you can’t help but feel characters like Makoto, Kyousuke, Rin and Kurugaya get short-changed a bit. The biggest casualty is definitely the protagonist Riki, who is just about the blandest, most personality-void and dull lead character you can imagine. His sole defining trait is that he has narcolepsy, but this is never even relevant to the plot at any time and seems totally pointless. It is hinted that it has more importance than it seems, and might lead to something in the second season, but here it just feels tacked on.

Another element to Little Busters you can probably file under ‘Explained in Later Seasons’ are the supernatural occurrences. The majority of the series is based in real life, with nothing out of the ordinary, but every now and then, something supernatural will happen, with literally no explanation given. Given how rare something like that actually happens, it feels incredibly out of place given the nature of the rest of the series, and the fact that it’s never explained just exacerbates this feeling. However, once again, this will probably be tackled later on.

The amount of times I’ve had to say that something feels incomplete really paints a picture of just how unfinished Little Busters feels. This first season was definitely meant to be a launch pad, and you only get half the story. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make Season 1 alone a hard sell without its sequel, and even without seeing the second season, I definitely feel as if they were meant to be watched as a whole.

Little Busters is animated by J.C. Staff, the studio behind Toradora and Prison School, and is rather unremarkable to say the least, especially in comparison to some of their other works. There are some cute character designs courtesy of Haruko Iizuka, based on those from the Visual Novel, but other than that, there’s really not a lot here that another studio couldn’t have done just as well.  

MVM’s release of Little Busters features both an English dub and Japanese audio, and the English voice cast is just as much of mixed bag as the series itself is. There are some really great performances on display here, my favourite easily being Tiffany Grant (Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion) as Kud, who puts on an amazingly adorable Russian accent for the character, that makes her really quite endearing. I also was quite the fan of Brittany Karbowski and Tia Ballard too, as Rin and Komari respectively. The problems with the cast mostly come from the male side, with Shannon Emerick sounding positively bored and uninterested throughout the majority of the show as the lead Riki, and Greg Ayres’s gravely voice is, as always, is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

On the music side of things, Manabu Miwa, PMMK and Magome Togoshi all contribute to the soundtrack, which I was a pretty big fan of. Although there are a lot of differences generally speaking, there were many passages that reminded me of Persona 4’s soundtrack with its instrumentation, which is one of my favourite soundtracks, in terms of both games and anime, so is definitely a plus. Less good, however, are the OP and ED, ‘Little Busters~TV Version’ and ‘Alicemagic’ by Rita, as they both just come off as kind of unmemorable.

Special features on MVM’s release are the standard clean OP, ED and trailers.

In Summary

When Little Busters is good, it is really good, but when it’s not, it’s middling at best and plain boring at worst. Personally, I think the sheer quality of some of the characters make it worth sitting through the less fantastic bits, but frankly, your mileage may vary.

Title: Little Busters Season 1
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama
Studio: J.C. Staff
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2012
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 650 minutes

Score: 7/10

Heavy Object Part 1 Review

In the distant future, the nature of combat has changed. Wars are no longer fought with human combatants but instead with Objects, massive spherical tanks, impermeable to standard weaponry and armed to the teeth with the very latest in destructive firepower. However, all of that stands to change when Qwenthur Barbotage, a student studying Object design, and Havia Winchell, a radar analyst, are suddenly plunged into a battle of unwinnable odds when a plan goes awry. With nothing but basic equipment and their wits, the duo scramble to save themselves as well as the lives of their fellow soldiers from certain doom at the hands of an Object, changing the world’s perception of the behemoths forever in the process.

Normally, when you think about the mecha genre in anime, your mind generally jumps to shows like Mobile Suit Gundam, with giant humanoid robots tussling it out with each other with giant laser swords and the like. Honestly, it’s really quite disappointing just how rare it is to find a show that doesn’t fit into those preconceived expectations of what a mecha anime is. Enter Heavy Object, an adaptation based on the novel series from author Kazuma Kamachi, creator of A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, which might be the first entry into the mecha genre I’ve seen that I can call fresh in quite a long time.

Although the two series are very, very different in most regards, when it comes to the general premise of each episode, the most obvious comparison that comes to mind is Metal Gear Solid, to the point where I’m certain the first three episodes being set in Alaska had to have been some sort of reference to the first entry in the illustrious game franchise. Each short arc tends to centre around Qwenthur and Havia sneaking around a variety of locations, on stealth missions attempting to take out these nigh indestructible Objects on their own. It’s this general premise that made me really like Heavy Object, because whilst it is still a show all about mecha, the majority of the running time isn’t spent on watching the protagonists’ mecha dispatching Grunt mecha in increasingly similar and trite scenarios, but instead has the two lead characters having to think on their feet in order to save the day. Nothing against the likes of Gundam of course, but it is just really refreshing to see a mecha show that differentiates itself a bit from what everyone else is doing. The whole series also is just generally a lot of fun to watch, which is mostly due to two very likable and energetic leads, as well as a light tone and a genuine sense of adventure that is conjured up via the globetrotting nature of the series, as our protagonists go from the icy tundras of the Antarctic to tropical locales such as the Oceania or even naval battles in the Mediterranean.

One of the only real downsides to Heavy Object is whenever it tries to squeeze in attempts at ecchi comedy because it doesn’t work, as it rarely does. Any and all attempts at jokes of this nature fall flat, offering nothing really new or funny, and just being quite cringe inducing. There’s also this off-putting recurring gag (?) where Qwenthur and Havia’s superior, Frolaytia, seems to reward the duo’s efforts with a peek up her skirt, or the promise to stomp on one of them for sexual gratification. It didn’t really affect me too much, but I could certainly see it making some people uncomfortable.

The only other lacklustre element comes from the characters in general. Although they are fun and likable, as I mentioned, they are painfully lacking in any sort of depth. You can call Qwenthur the ‘Heroic One’ and Havia the ‘Pervy One’ and not be oversimplifying their characters at all. Havia does become a bit less of a coward later on in the series, and he does get one nice moment of character at the tail-end of one of the episodes, but neither of the pair ever receives anything really substantial. The only character who does receive anything of the sort is the Frolaytia, who gets a backstory at the end of this first half, that is surprisingly dark considering the tone of the rest of the series, but does work in fleshing out her character. I can only hope that the other main characters receive the same kind of treatment in the show’s second half.

There is also something of an attempt at a romance between Qwenthur and Milinda, the pilot of an Object in possession of the nation that Qwenthur and Havia fight for, but it’s incredibly half-hearted and barely even worth mentioning. Qwenthur and Milinda rarely have any screen time together, and when they do, the chemistry between the two is incredibly sparse. Again, perhaps this element will gain more focus during the show’s second half, but I’m not holding my breath.

Animation for Heavy Object is a joint effort between JC Staff (A Certain Scientific Railgun, Toradora, Azumanga Daioh) who handle all the 2D animation and SANZIGEN (The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Black Rock Shooter, BBK/BRNK) who focus on the 3D elements. Working together, the pair manage to create a fairly good-looking show, with some very impressive looking CGI that doesn’t look out of place like the majority of CGI in anime tends to.

Funimation UK’s release of Heavy Object contains both the Japanese audio as well as an English dub track, and, overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the dub. Led by Justin Briner (My Hero Academia, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Drifters) and Micah Solusod (Brother’s Conflict, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Soul Eater) as Qwenthur and Havia respectively, I think the two have a lot to do with how instantly likably the characters come across, which helps carry the whole show. The supporting cast also includes some good performances from the likes of Morgan Garrett, Alexis Tipton and John Michael Tatum.  

Keiji Inai and Maiko Iuchi both provide music for the series, which seems to alternate between a traditional orchestral score, electronic, almost dubstep-like music, and heavy rock, which make for a pretty great and varied soundtrack. The opening for Heavy Object is “One More Chance!!” by ALL OFF, which I was a huge fan of. It manages to combine heavy metal and J-Pop, which you wouldn’t really think would work well, yet it manages to be infectiously catchy. The ending is a softer sounding track, but is still really enjoyable, although I’m not sure exactly how well it fits with such an action heavy show.

Extras included on this release include a clean OP, a clean ED, trailers and commentary tracks.

In Summary

As long as you can put up with a bit of less-than-stellar comedy, the first half of Heavy Object delivers a large dose of unique and incredibly fun mecha action.

Title: Heavy Object Part 1
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Mech, Action, Military, Sci-fi
Studio: J.C. Staff, SANZIGEN
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 8/10

No-Rin Review

Idol-obsessed farm boy Kousaku Hata is devastated when his favourite idol and dream girl Yuka Kusakabe unexpectedly announces her immediate retirement at the peak of her career. Taking the news hard, Kousaku spirals into a depression, locking himself in his room, which his fellow students at the Tamo Agriculture school try to bring him out of. On the day that he starts attending classes again, Kousaku gets an unexpected surprise as his beloved idol, under the guise of Ringo Kinoshita, transfers into his class. Taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Kousaku decides to get close to Ringo, and uncover the reason for her early retirement.

No-Rin, a 2014 anime adaptation of the series of novels by author Shirow Shiratori, is a show that I suspect has the potential to be extremely polarizing. This might kind-of go without saying, given that comedy is normally very divisive, but No-Rin’s particular brand of sex-based humour is something that I could almost certainly see people turning their noses up at, or totally dismissing out of hand, and I wouldn’t blame them. Whether it be a character being lovingly nicknamed as ‘Tits McGee’ or a lengthy conversation about the phallic nature of Egg Plants (and that’s just Episode 1!), the comedy present isn’t exactly what you’d call highbrow, but I suspect it is the brazen and unrepentant sex jokes that made me love it a whole lot.

Yes, as much as it might make me sound as mature as a twelve-year-old schoolboy, I had a lot of good laughs whilst watching No-Rin. The gags I mentioned before are just the tip of iceberg when it comes to how far No-Rin seems to push the boundaries, and I was really taken off-guard by how far it goes at times, with some quite raunchy jokes that I dare not spoil here. Needless to say, it’s the biggest draw the series has, and if the humour doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, I’d very much advise you to stay far away. However, if it does sound like something that you might like, I could recommend it on the comedy alone.

However, despite the big focus on comedy, No-Rin actually tries to do a little bit more by throwing in a bit of romance too, which, whilst a good attempt, isn’t really too successful. Although I think that the protagonist Kousaku and Ringo have some good chemistry together and there are some genuinely sweet scenes sprinkled throughout, the way the show itself approaches romance and the less comedic elements in general, needs some work. The biggest fault is the fact that all the jokes seem to dry up whenever there is any kind of character or relationship development. I don’t just mean in the moment itself, which would be fine, but in the slightly more character-focused episodes, the jokes aren’t anywhere near as frequent as in the other episodes. This is especially noticeable in the last two or three episodes, where the comedy almost fades out entirely. Granted, I think that actually giving the characters a little bit of backstory and depth is good and might be worth losing a few jokes for, as it is an area that most comedy anime seem to totally avoid, so I have to give it props for that. However I just wish we could have had the best of both worlds, with a few more serious moments whilst not sacrificing the comedy. Another trap that the series falls into is that the ending is inconclusive and rather unsatisfying, but such is the danger of adapting from ongoing source material.

No-Rin’s animation is handled by Silver Link (Fate/Kalied liner Prisma Illya, Watamote, Yurikuma Arashi), who, as far as I’m concerned, might just be one of the most underrated anime studios currently active. Whilst they may not have the unique and distinct style of Shaft or the insane levels of detail of Kyoto Animation, their work is always high quality, and has a ton of energy behind it, and No-Rin is no exception. I also really love how the animation occasionally switches style giving it a lot of visual diversity. From an old school video game to a manga, even an impromptu tribute to Sailor Moon, Silver Link certainly cram in a whole host visual styles, making No-Rin a visually interesting series to say the least.

Funimation UK’s release of No-Rin comes with both and English and Japanese audio, and I’m quite a big fan of the dub for this series. Austin Tindle (Is This a Zombie?, Gonna Be the Twintail, Attack on Titan) voices the lead Kousaku, and does so with boundless enthusiasm, imbuing the role with the energy needed to make a lot of the gags work. In stark contrast to Tindle’s energy, Jad Saxton (Fairy Tail, High School DxD, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid) delivers an excellent low key performance as the nigh emotionless Ringo. The supporting cast is also great, including some relative newcomers such as Lynsey Hale (Seraph of the End) and Derick Snow (Prince of Stride: Alternative) as well as some more established voice actors such as Caitlin Glass (Full Metal Alchemist) and Morgan Garrett (Love Live Sunshine).

Music for the series is provided Akiro Matsuda (Sound! Euphonium) and Tomoki Kikuya (Hidamari Sketch), who deliver some pretty great and memorable tracks that do a good job of capturing the general atmosphere of the series. Similarly, the OP, ‘Himitsu no Tobira Kara Ai ni Kite’ by Yukari Tamura and the ED, ‘Mogitate Fruit Girls’, by Yukari Tamura and Kana Hanazawa, who are part of the Japanese cast, also capture the tone of the series, both being full of energy.

Special features on Funimation’s release include commentaries, promo videos, commercials, a textless OP and ED and trailers.

In Summary

No-Rin won’t be for everyone, but I loved its rather unique brand of crass humour and high energy animation. Even if the romance aspect falters a bit, it doesn’t stop it from being a brilliant, side splitting comedy.

Title: No-Rin
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance
Studio: Silver Link
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 8/10

Show By Rock Review

Cyan Hijirikawa has always regarded herself as nothing more than an ordinary girl in a mediocre world. She has great talent and skill at playing the guitar, but can never muster up the the courage to join her school’s light music club. However, after she decides to play her favourite rhythm game, she is suddenly sucked in and finds herself in a new world called Midi City, where music reigns supreme. Not all music is pure though, and an evil plan is in motion to engulf the whole city in darkness.

Adapted from the iOS and Android rhythm game developed by Geechs in conjunction with Sanrio, Show by Rock is a disappointing effort from the usually great studio Bones, that, whilst far from awful, is underwhelming at best, especially when compared to the studio’s prior work.  

At its heart, Show by Rock is attempting to be a music-based comedy show, and the reason I wasn’t a huge fan of it is because it isn’t particularly great at being either. Comedy, of course, is incredibly subjective, so whilst some may get a kick out of the humour here, it did absolutely nothing for me. I’m not sure I could put a fine point on what made the jokes fall flat, I’m usually quite the fan of physical comedy, which is essentially the show’s bread and butter, but I could count on one hand the amount of times I even so much as smirked, never mind laughed, throughout the 12 episodes, which is a huge sticking point in a comedy anime.

I could probably excuse the lackluster comedy if the series worked well as a pure music series, but even then it’s just plain mediocre. Take away the techno-fantasy setting, and you’ve got a paint-by-numbers plot that seems to lack any real momentum. There’s rarely anything interesting happening story-wise, as a typical episode mostly consists of the bands playing gigs or songwriting, with some melodramatic character stuff thrown in here and there. The whole fantasy element to the plot rears its head on occasion, but mostly stays in the background, as more focus is placed on the whole band thing instead, at least until the last couple of episodes. I feel that some kind of split between band show and action show might have worked better, or at least made it a little bit more interesting and fresh. This is teased a little bit in Episode 1, when we see Cyan defeat a monster with music, but this is something we don’t really see again until over halfway through. The one thing I will say is that I was never really bored at any point, and in a general sense it’s fairly entertaining, but it all just feels rather hollow, the kind of thing you’ll forget almost as soon as you’ve seen it.

As you might expect, the music itself plays a very important role and it’s yet another area that Show by Rock just fails to deliver on. Although it may be a little unfair to compare to other, much more popular shows, the only other music anime I’ve really seen are the KyoAni classic K-On and the global mega-hit Love Live! School Idol Project, which are both series I adore. Of course, there are a multitude of reasons why I love both of those, but the music is definitely part of it, with there being some genuinely great and catchy tracks that have worked their way into my regular music rotation. Even off the top of my head I could hum you some ‘Fuwa Fuwa Time’ or ‘Snow Halation’, but there’s nothing anywhere near that quality in Show by Rock. It’s all just kind of bland and none of it stands out as being something I’d really want to hear again.

One huge misstep in the music department is that Funimation decided to dub over all the music with English voice actors and it doesn’t work at all. Going back to the other shows I mentioned earlier, both of those have really good dubs, and I think part of the reason why they’re good is that they switch to the Japanese voice actors whenever there’s music. It’s fairly obvious that songs written in Japanese are probably going to sound better in the original language, but I guess the folks over at Funimation thought otherwise. Either way, the English lyrics are just plain cringe-inducing, and whilst the voice actresses are pretty good at singing, it just doesn’t sound right. I think a nice option would have been a choice between the English dub with English songs and English dub with Japanese songs, but sadly such an option is lacking.  

The choice to dub over all the songs in English, making it a less than preferable language choice, is made all the more disappointing by the fact that this actually isn’t a bad dub, music aside. Funimation pulled in some pretty great voice actors such as Caitlin Glass (Maki from Love Live!), Monica Rial (Tsubaki from Soul Eater), Alexis Tipton (Musubi from Sekirei) and Vic Mignogna (Edward from Fullmetal Alchemist) to name a few, and they’re all excellent here, with the possible exception of Monica Rial’s occasionally annoyingly high-pitched turn as Moa, so it just makes it all the more sad that the changes to the music hurts what is otherwise a very solid dub.

Despite having some issues with the insert songs performed by the bands, I thought the background soundtrack from composer Yasuharu Yakanashi was actually pretty good, being quite rock-infused, as you might expect from the show’s name. As for the OP, ‘Seishun wa Non-Stop!’,and ED, ‘Have a nice MUSIC!!’, they are both performed by the in-universe band formed by our protagonists, Plasmagica. I have mixed feelings about both because, whilst I generally can’t stand either of them in English, the Japanese versions are actually pretty enjoyable.

As well as music itself, a key element to making a great band anime comes from the band members themselves, but even then, Show by Rock’s cast is really nothing outstanding. Granted, the characters are probably the best thing about this show, perhaps barring the animation, but given I haven’t really had many nice things to say about it up to this point, that isn’t really saying a lot. The band consists of four members, Cyan, Chuchu, Moa and Retoree, and of the four, Chuchu is the only one I’d say is given any kind of depth, which comes in one of the best episodes of the series. The others are pretty fun to watch, but lack any kind of development at all, really. There are small things, such as Retoree wanting to make friends, and doing so via the band, but given she’s part of the band to begin with, and is already friends with the other band members before Cyan joins, it’s kind of moot. Then there’s Moa, who is an alien, a fact that is just about the only thing we learn about her, that genuinely adds nothing to either her character or the plot, and is never mentioned again after around the half-way point. That said, there is still some fun chemistry in the group, but everyone is just kind of forgettable.

If there is one thing I will give the series, it’s that it’s really good looking and well animated. Produced by Bones, who are responsible for hit shows such as Fullmetal Alchemist, Ouran Highschool Host Club and Soul Eater, Show by Rock is really colourful and vibrant, which is the kind of aesthetic that I tend to go for, although it might not be for everyone. An element of the art I instantly fell in love with was with Masaru Oshiro’s character designs, which are pretty unique and incredibly cute. Despite the fact that the animation is probably the strongest part of Show by Rock, even that comes with a caveat, this time being CGI. Now, for once, my complaint isn’t that the CGI looks bad, per se, in fact it’s actually quite high quality, but I don’t think it’s implemented well at all. Instead of blending the CGI with the traditional 2D animation, there are whole sequences rendered entirely in 3D, with a totally different art style to the rest of the series. It’s jarring and gives the show a pretty disjointed feeling, as it often switches back and forth from the CG to the 2D multiple times within an episode. Also, despite the quality of the CG, I actually think the character designs for the 3D sections, which feature anthropomorphic versions of the characters, are just plain ugly. 

Funimation UK’s release of Show by Rock is a no-frills affair, coming with a couple of audio commentaries and nothing more, even missing the usual clean opening and closing.  

In Summary

Whilst it can be fun sometimes, Show by Rock offers about as much depth in its story and characters as a puddle, and is largely just bland, forgettable and, ultimately, disposable.

Title: Show By Rock Season 1
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: Music, Comedy
Studio: Bones
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 5/10

Owarimonogatari Volume One Review

Who is Ougi Oshino? That is a question that has been on the mind of almost every fan of the long running Monogatari franchise, ever since the character’s first appearance back in Monogatari Second Season. There have been a few hints and clues about her (or him?) but the identity of the character remains one of the biggest mysteries that the show has yet to solve. However, that all looks as if it’s about to change. Owarimonogatari is the seventh entry in the monstrously popular series, that starts to shed a little more light on Ougi Oshino as well as delving into the backstory of series protagonist Koyomi Araragi and the events that shaped him.

Owarimonogatari starts off with the two episode arc Ougi Formula, which sees Ougi and Araragi trapped inside a classroom by an apparition. Working together, the pair quickly deduce that the room is an oddity created by a traumatic memory from Araragi’s first year of High School, when the former class president, Sodachi Oikura, trapped him and the rest of his math class in a classroom until they found out who was responsible for leaking answers for an exam. In order to escape from the classroom, Araragi must find out who the culprit is, something he and his class failed to do two years ago.

This opening arc is a brilliant start for the series, and is a fairly unique arc as far as Monogatari is concerned. The episodes are firmly planted in the mystery genre, which is something that the franchise has rarely dabbled in before, and I think it works really well. The mystery element does a great job of reeling you in quickly and keeping you engaged throughout. My only real complaint with how the mystery is handled is that I don’t really think the viewer has a lot of time to try and figure out the mystery for themselves, or is presented with many clues to do so. I often feel part of the appeal of mystery shows is to try and figure it out yourself, however, given the limited number of episodes, I think it can be forgiven. Story aside, these two opening episodes also do a great job of showcasing the fantastic visuals of Monogatari and why they’re so important. The majority of this episode is just Ougi and Araragi talking in a classroom, with some flashbacks thrown in for good measure. In the hands of almost any other studio besides Shaft (Madoka Magica, March Comes in Like a Lion, Nisekoi) this would have been incredibly boring, yet the visuals here are unlike anything you can find outside of the series as whole, and are downright mesmerising. It’s legitimately quite hard to tear your eyes away from the screen.

Following up on Ougi Formula is Sodachi Lost, another two episode arc, which continues on from where Formula left off, with Araragi confronting Oikura, who after being wrongly accused of being the one to leak the test answers and leaving school, returns after a long period of absence. Upon reuniting for the first time since their first year in High School, Sodachi immediately starts to berate Araragi, claiming she despises him for not recognizing the origin of his happiness. After the confrontation, Araragi confides in Ougi and determines that the key to Sodachi’s hatred of him lies in a shoe locker, back in his old middle school.

Whilst the unique, mystery-centric theme that ran through the first arc is still here, it is far more downplayed this time, focusing instead on the characters, as you’d expect from your more standard Monogatari story. Despite the name of the arc being Sodachi Riddle, I think that Araragi himself comes away with the most added depth in this arc, as we see flashbacks into his past. This is something we haven’t been shown before, with pretty much all of the arcs, aside from the currently unreleased (well, in the UK anyway) Kizumonogatari, being focused on the female protagonists, so to finally witness our male protagonist getting fleshed out is fantastic. I think fans who have read the Kizumonogatari book will especially love the connection to the opening inner monologue, where Araragi says friends will ‘lessen his intensity as a human’, as we see the direct cause of that here. As well as adding depth to Araragi, these episodes deliver a better introduction to Oikura too, although she gets far more attention in the following arc.

The third and final story arc on Part 1 of Owarimonogatari is Sodachi Lost. Whilst this arc is probably my least favourite of the arcs, that doesn’t mean it’s bad at all, I just don’t really think it shines as brightly as the preceding arcs. The biggest reason for this is that the first of the three episodes feels a lot like filler. All that happens in the entire twenty minute episode is that Araragi goes to Oikura’s house from school. That’s it. In twenty minutes. This is something that could have easily been accomplished in half the time, causing the episode to drag.

However, once you get past Episode 5, the next two episodes are sublime. This is the final arc in what you could call a loose trilogy that started in Ougi Formula, and it is certainly a satisfying wrap-up. Once again we dabble in mystery territory, in a much bigger way than the previous arc, Sodachi Riddle, and this is far better executed than Ougi Formula. This time around, the main mystery of the arc is presented at the end of Episode 2, giving you time between the episodes to try and figure out the solution yourself, as well as delivers plenty of clues before the solution is ultimately given to the audience. The only real issue I have with the story is the wrap-up, which feels a little too neat. Given that we never see a certain character outside of this arc, and this takes place before a lot of the events in Second Season, it’s kind of a given that said character was going to disappear before the end, or it would have created continuity issues.

Character-wise, it’s in this arc that Oikura gets a ton of depth and development, and she is pretty much the sole focus of the arc. It’s incredibly well executed, and it turns what was initially an unlikable, mean spirited character into one that you genuinely feel for, which is a pretty great accomplishment considering Oikura herself has only been in a handful of episodes (although I’d expect nothing less from Monogatari at this point). The only real disappointment, that goes for all three arcs, is that whilst Ougi appears in all of the stories, we still don’t get too much more information on her, despite her starting to take center stage a little more. I can only assume she will play a bigger role as the franchise goes on.

Although I did touch upon it earlier, I still feel the need to stress how amazing the visuals in Owarimonogatari are. The animation is the best that it’s ever been, and is still so uniquely Shaft, while incorporating other art styles, most notably a short sequence whose designs are clearly inspired by the Powerpuff Girls. This is Ken Naito’s third outing as an art director for the franchise, and he continues to do an amazing job.

As you’d expect if you’ve seen a Monogatari anime before, the Japanese voice acting here is absolutely stellar, and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s a large part of what makes the show work as well as it does. Hiroshi Kamiya and Kaori Mizuhashi, who voice Araragi and Ougi respectively, pretty much carry the entirety of the first arc alone, and then in other arcs we hear other familiar voices such as Yui Horie, Chiwa Saito and Kana Hanazawa. Marina Inoue, who voices Sodachi, is also excellent, and a good addition to the cast. Kei Haneoka returns for the third time to score the series, and creates a pretty great and memorable, soundtrack. Across the seven episodes in Part 1, we are treated to three separate openings, one for each arc, and they are all visual treats, as well as having some pretty good songs behind them. My favourite was probably ‘mathmagics’, performed by Oikura’s voice actor, but they’re all good in their own ways. As for the ED, Sayonara no Yuke, I found it largely forgettable, and the series has seen far better EDs.

MVM’s subtitle only release is, as as usual, fairly lacking in the extras department, featuring a clean version of all the openings and the ending.

In Summary

Whilst it isn’t perfect, this first half of Owarimonogatari delivers three unique and compelling arcs and introduces a fantastic new character, as well giving Araragi some much needed fleshing-out, all whilst maintaining that wonderful Monogatari charm.

Title: Owarimonogatari Volume One
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural
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: 175 minutes

Score: 9/10

Claymore Review

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.   

In Summary

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
Studio: Madhouse
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2007
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 650 minutes

Score: 8/10

Winter Season 2017 – First Thoughts and Impressions

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.

Demelza:

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.

Ian Wolf:

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.

IncendiaryLemon:

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.

Sarah:

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.

Rui:

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.

MARGINAL #4 key art

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.

Cold Cobra:

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.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 Review

Contains spoilers for The Heroic Legend of Arslan Episodes 1-13

After finding refuge from the Lusitanian forces in the fortress of Peshawar and reuniting with his allies Kishward and Bahman, Crown Prince Arslan, along with his small party, soon find themselves embroiled in a new conflict between brothers Prince Rajendra and Prince Gadhavi, who are warring to determine who will succeed their father as the king of Sindura. Realising that an alliance would boost his numbers and help him to retake back the Parsian capital, Arslan soon agrees to aid Rajendra. However, standing in the way of Arslan and the throne are villainous double-crosses, spies and countless battles. The young prince has come a long way, but will he fall at the final hurdle?

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is the latter half of the 2015 adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga series of the same name. A few months back, when I reviewed the first half of Arslan, I felt fairly lukewarm about it, having complaints about both the story and characters. However, since then I have actually warmed up to this show a fair bit, and having finished it, I can safely say my overall impression is largely positive.

Since it had been a while since I watched the first half, before embarking on the second half, I went back and rewatched the initial 13 episodes to refresh myself before moving on to the remainder of the series and I found myself enjoying it a lot more the second time around. In my review of the first half, my big complaint about the story was the fact that it didn’t really go anywhere and was rather meandering, and whilst I think that in terms of progress alone, not a lot does happen, the second time around, I really came to appreciate the politics within the series. Not only does Arslan show the politics between the warring kingdoms of Pars and Lusitania, but also the internal conflicts and struggles for power, which I found to be very enjoyable to follow. This focus on politics continues into the second half of the series, and is just as entertaining as it was in the first half, as we see the conflict between the various leaders within Pars debate whether Arslan is right in wanting to free all the slaves, as well as a power struggle amongst the Lusitanians as the Arch Priest Bodin battles the king’s brother, Guiscard, for power. It isn’t all just politics though, as we also get a lot of action in this half of the series, a fair bit more than in the first 13 episodes, and it’s just as good as it was before. Not only do we get some fantastic large scale clashes on the battlefield, but we also get a few sublime one-on-one confrontations, the best of which comes in the penultimate episode as we see Daryun take on Prince Hilmes.

If I had to pick one major flaw in the plot in Arslan Part 2, it would have to be with the whole Sindura storyline. Whilst it isn’t a bad arc in terms of pure entertainment value, packing in great amounts of the politics and action that I love about the series, it is ultimately utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things. After the arc ends, the characters are in an identical place to where they were when it began, and almost nothing has been gained nor has the story progressed in any manner. All that we get out of the 5 episode arc is a new character joining Arslan’s party, Jaswant, who is incredibly dull, and barely gets a few minutes of screentime after the Sindura story is finished. This entire story could have been cut with no real great loss to the overall plot, and I think the show would have been much better for it. Only adding to my annoyance at this pointless tangent, is that the ending of the show is inconclusive. Yes, there is a short sequel series, which I can only assume finishes off the story, but if the Sindura arc had just been excised, they could just as easily have finished it here.

Another big complaint I had in my review of Part 1 was with the characters, and unfortunately, my opinion hasn’t really changed. Even in this second half, we still see very little in terms of character arcs for most of the main cast. The exception to this is the titular Arslan, as we watch a fairly naive young boy turn into a suitable ruler who learns from his experiences on campaign. Barring that, the rest of the cast lack any kind of real depth or development. The biggest offender is Daryun who is entirely defined by his loyalty to Arslan. Admittedly, Daryun is somewhat of an exception, as the rest of the characters are at least likable and some, like Gieve and Narsus, are actually rather fun. In terms of new characters that show up in Part 2, my favourite is probably Alfreed, a tribe girl who is insistent on marrying Narsus. Not only is she instantly likable, she has some good chemistry with both Narsus and Elam, which adds some levity to what is otherwise quite a serious show. Another new addition is Jaswant but, as noted earlier, he is such a non-presence, he is barely even worth a mention.

Animation and music are consistent with the first half of the series, and, as before, I was quite impressed with both of those elements. Liden Films and Sanzigen continue to create some breathtaking battles that blend together traditional 2D and CGI animation, and the score by Taro Iwashiro is as great as ever. From Episode 14 onwards, we hear a new opening song from Nico Touches Walls (who provided the brilliant second opening song for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) which is quite good, and is probably on a par with the first opening, which, much like the show as a whole, grew on me upon revisitation. 

The English voice cast also remains quite stellar, and is, in my opinion, preferable to the Japanese. Not that there is anything wrong with the Japanese audio at all, but with a high fantasy series such as this, I simply think that the English language is more fitting considering the European inspired setting. Both the English script and voice cast do a fantastic job, with the kind of dialogue and inflections you’d expect from film and TV series in this genre outside of anime, and it really helps with the immersion. Leading the cast as the titular Arslan is Aaron Dismuke, whom you may know as Alphonse from the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist. There are also good performances from Jerry Jewell, Ricco Fajardo and Christopher Bevins.

Universal’s release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is just as jam- packed with high quality physical extras as the first part was, including 12 art cards, character cards, a double-sided poster and a 100 page booklet, which contains character information, artwork and interviews with the creative staff.

In Summary

Whilst the conclusion to The Heroic Legend of Arslan may not be perfect, mostly due to 5 episodes being wasted on a rather pointless side story, I found myself enjoying this second half, and the series as a whole due to the excellent action sequences, as well as the engaging political aspect.

©2015 Hiromu Arakawa, Yoshiki Tanaka • KODANSHA/ “LEGEND OF ARSLAN” Project Committee,MBS. All Rights Reserved. Packaging Design © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Title: The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2
Publisher: Universal Pictures UK
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Studio: Liden Films, Sanzigen
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

Score: 8/10