Review of Re-Kan!

“I see dead people – behind my girlfriend’s back.” – Matt Kirshen

Hibiki Amami is a very friendly girl who is about start her first year at Hanazuka Public High School. On the way to her first day at school another student, tsundere Narumi Inoue, spots her walking across the road – or rather, trying to cross the road as some sort of invisible force is dragging her back. Inoue helps Amami, and when she looks down at Amami’s leg she sees it has hand prints on it. A reflection in a nearby mirror reveals some sort of ghostly figure crouching down by the leg.

The answer to what is going on is this: Amami has a sixth sense (in Japanese, “re-kan”) and is able to see dead people, ghosts and all kinds of spirits. She has been able to since birth and inherited the ability from her mother Yuuhi, who died when Hibiki was born. Hibiki was thus raised just by her father Asahi, a man so easily frightened that his hair turned white with fear shortly after he met Yuuhi.

Hibiki Amami, on the other hand, has become incredibly friendly with all the ghosts she has met, helping those spirits in need, providing them with offerings when needed. These spirits range from Hanako, a girl who haunts the girls’ toilets at the school; the Roll Call Samurai who died of hunger and begins protecting Amami as soon as she fed him; a perverted cat who is constantly trying to look at girls’ panties; the Earthbound Spirit who is bound to a sign in the town’s park; and the trendy (for the 1990s) Kogal Spirit who gets friendly with Amami after possessing her in an attempt to making peace with her mother.

While Amami is perfectly friendly to these ghosts, Inoue is utterly petrified of them or anything supernatural. Despite this, Inoue ends up being placed behind Amami in class and thus comes into close contact with spirits that at first only Amami can deal with – the spirits also including that of Inoue’s grandmother who is constantly following her.

Soon however, Amami and Inoue make friends with other people in their class who become involved with Amami’s supernatural escapades: there’s Kana Uehara, who runs a supernatural blog and is able to see the ghosts whenever she photographs them on her mobile phone; Uehara’s childhood pal Kyoko Esumi, an ex-delinquent who used to beat up troublemakers near to where she lived; Makoto Ogawa, a seemingly normal girl apart from her huge collection of scary zombie dolls; and Kenta Yamada, an overly-cheerful boy who is often on the rough end of Esumi’s anger – a fact not helped by the fact that his older brother is a cop who once had a “thing” for her.

The most noteworthy thing about Re-Kan! is that, although it is a comedy, it is possibly one of the saddest comedies around. Because all the stories involve ghosts, many of whom are recently departed, often the stories are about helping the ghost get into heaven. This often means interacting with their still-alive family and friends before the ghosts bid them a final farewell. These are pretty dark subjects for a comedy show.

Most of the actual comedy comes from Inoue’s over-the-top reactions to anything ghostly, or Yamada’s general idiocy which normally sees him get clobbered. However, the comedy often ends up coming second to the tragedy. Nowhere seems to refer to Re-Kan! as being tragicomic, but to me that is the best description for it.

Most of the action is focused on the characters and it is the ghosts who make for the more interesting viewing, especially in the later episodes as a rivalry appears to develop between the Roll Call Samurai and the Kogal Spirit for Amami’s affections, but all the way through there is good stuff from the duo, especially the way they relate to Amami. One of the best sequences is Amami making some knitted gifts for her ghost friends, the oddest of which is a knitted lavatory seat cover for Hanako.

The artwork, however, is slightly peculiar, and you can tell it is just by the cover of the DVD/Blu-ray. The odd thing is that although Uehara and Esumi’s hair covers one of their eyes, you can still see the eye that covers it. I don’t know if there is a technical name for it (if there is let me know), but this seems to be a thing that is happening pretty frequently in anime: namely, that if something blocks a character’s face, the face will still be visible and thing that is blocking it either disappears or has no affect. For example, in Haikyu!! the net will suddenly have a huge hole in it if the character is directly behind it, or in Free! if Rei Ryugazaki’s in profile, the bit of his glasses frame that would normally cover his eyes suddenly vanishes. For now, I’m referring to this as “face space”, but as I said, if there is a proper term for it, let me know.

The contents of collection are limited. There is no English dub, and the only extras are textless opening and closing, but neither of them, “Colourful Story” and “Kesaran Pasaran”, both performed by the voice actors who play Amami and Inoue, are that memorable.

Re-Kan! is a decent enough series, but remember that it is not a laugh-a-minute show. But it will vary from viewer-to-viewer. What do you re-kan? (Sorry, couldn’t resist making the pun)

Title: Review of Re-Kan!
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Comedy, Supernatural
Studio: Pierrot+
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 6/10

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

Nobunaga the Fool Part 2 Review

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Episodes 14-24  

The warriors of the Western and Eastern Star battle on to determine who will be the Saviour King to rule them all and to bring about the coming of the Holy Grail. Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc, cursed on the Western Star for hearing voices and being a witch, has fled to the Eastern Star with Leonardo da Vinci and allied herself with Oda Nobunaga. But after Jeanne is captured by her onetime Western Star compatriots, Nobunaga sets out to win her back. King Arthur sends the mighty Alexander and his forces to attack the Eastern Star and Nobunaga finds himself on the losing side. Jeanne begins to doubt whether he really can be her Saviour King after all…could he be the King of Destruction instead?

Another (not entirely dissimilar in concept) anime Drifters has just begun streaming, also featuring Oda Nobunaga among other famous warriors taken from history but adopting a more Berserk-influenced, grimdark tone – and playing with its illustrious cast with much more imagination than in this anime.

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The character designs are attractive and the concept of pitting heroes from Western and Eastern history and mythology against each other is, if not very original, intriguing. So why doesn’t Nobunaga the Fool work? The glaring problem is the writing. The characters may look attractive but they are one-note and impossible to relate to (except, possibly, the conflicted Mitsuhide). They spout wooden dialogue. And the US dub is much, much worse than the subtitles; Clint Bickham usually turns in a better script than this. I hoped, as the action shifted to the Western Star, that with the introduction of new characters, such as Alexander, Cesare (Borgia, not to be confused with Caesar) and Machiavelli (female), matters might improve, but they are just Villains. They are Bad.

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The writers also seem to have it in for Jeanne d’Arc who is subjected to some unnecessarily gratuitous torture scenes (hence, I guess the 15 rating). Jeanne could have been an interesting, multi-layered, proactive warrior, but here she’s just the voluptuous poor victim girl, whose main role seems to be needing to be rescued. (The project that this was a part of also spawned a play and – apparently – an online novel in Japan. You have to hope that more care was lavished on the writing, especially the dialogue, for these than on the anime.)

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So, if the characters are mostly unlikable cyphers, what about the famous mecha? Again, the CGI (used for the mecha battles) combines uneasily with the 2D backgrounds and character designs. And it’s hard to care about the outcomes of the mecha duels when the characters inside the machines come across as little better than machines themselves. If only as much care had been lavished on the script as on the colourful artwork for stills and landscapes.

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New Opening Theme “Breakthrough” by JAM Project sounds too bland for a series about warriors battling inside giant mecha with a deeply inappropriate tinkly intro which also features on the menu and sounds more suited to a romantic comedy. (Check out the brilliant OP for Drifters “Gospel of the Throttle (Kyouhon REMIX ver.)” by Minutes Til Midnight to see how it should be done.) New Ending Theme: “RAN” (蘭; Orchid) by ASUKA is quite inoffensive but, again, just not right.

Extras comprise textless Opening and Closing songs and four trailers.

In Summary

I had hopes – given the involvement of Original Creator Shoji Kawamori (Vision of Escaflowne, Aquarion) – that this series might improve in the later episodes, but this is not the case. Perhaps if I had been unaware of his involvement, the expectations might not have been so high and the resulting disappointment less great.

Title: Nobunaga the Fool Part 2
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Action, Drama, Mecha
Studio: Satelight
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 4/10

Review of Haibane Renmei

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“When you were here before
Couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so very special”

– “Creep” by Radiohead

Fantasy series Haibane Renmei (Charcoal Feather Federation) is one of the few anime series to be adapted from a dojinshi (fan work) manga. In fact, the anime superseded the original strip which was never completed.

The anime follows a group of beings called “Haibane”, angel-like people with small feathered wings who have halos made for them. We meet the main character while she is having a dream about falling from the sky. She then wakes up inside a giant cocoon, which she breaks and frees herself from. As it is custom for Haibane to be named after the events that occur in the dream before they hatch, this Haibane is named Rakka, meaning “Fallen”.

Rakka is welcomed by more Haibane, who live in the abandoned “Old Home” school inside the walled city of Glie. These other Haibane are Reki, an artist who also acts as a teacher to child Haibane; Hikari, who works as a baker; the mechanically-minded Kana; librarian Nemu who is the oldest of the group; and Kuu, an outgoing Haibane who is the youngest of the central gang.

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Rakka then learns more about the area around her and about her species: the Haibane have no idea as to who or what created them; they are forbidden to leave Glie, or even to touch the city walls; all of their clothes are second-hand; they have no money so transactions are made using special notebooks that are given to them by someone called “The Communicator”, a masked individual who is the only one who can talk to the Toga, the only group who enter and leave Glie, and even then they only communicate via sign language. Although the Haibane are a different species, the humans of Glie treat them well.

At first, Rakka gets to know more about her friends, working alongside them in different jobs and learning more about the environment around her, but things change when one of their group disappears. Rakka learns that Haibane can leave the world by taking the “Day of Flight”, when they have overcome the various trials their time in Glie has put them through and can leave the city skywards, never to return.

This is normally the fate of all the Haibane, but Rakka comes to learn that one of her main group cannot do this. There are some Haibane who have no memory of their dream inside the cocoon, and thus are born with black feathers on their wings, a sign that they are “Sin-bound”. This particular Haibane needs to remember their dream; otherwise it is impossible for them to have the Day of Flight. Rakka also discovers that some of her feathers are turning black. Could it be that she too is somehow Sin-bound?

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The main appeal of Haibane Renmei is that it clearly stands out against most of the anime releases we tend to get in the UK. This is a rather slow-moving and for the most-part genteel drama. The music alone is enough to suggest that, with the opening theme being a quiet instrumental piece. That is not to say that it is dull. There is still a fair bit of excitement in some scenes. There is the moment when Rakka’s wings hatch, which is a pretty grisly sight. There is also a big sequence in which Rakka falls down a well and injures herself. She is later saved by the Communicator, but also later gets into more trouble. You might find yourself wandering off at the odd occasion that might be a bit too slow, but overall the pacing is fine.

You will also find plenty of stuff to keep you entertaining on the DVDs as there are plenty of extras. These include textless opening and closing, trailers, commercials, various art galleries, a special version of the ending and an interview with the creators of the show.

In terms of a downside, it would be that because the original story was left unfinished we have no idea of what the true end is. However, the original creator, Yoshitoshi Abe, deliberately has elements of the story that were meant to be left for the viewer to interpret themselves. What was the exact meaning of Rakka’s falling dream, for example?

If you are getting a bit worn out by the usual anime releases you see, Haibane Renmei might make for a nice change of tone for you.

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Title: Haibane Renmei
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Studio: Radix
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2002
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 7/10

Nobunaga the Fool Part 1 (Episodes 1-13)

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“Will you find your own way or will you be pulled by the winds of the Dragon Vein Vortexes?” Leonardo da Vinci to Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc

Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc (the one who hears voices) is whisked away on a space ship by Leonardo da Vinci and Admiral Magellan from their home, the Western Star, to the Star of the East. There she sees in the carefree young warlord Oda Nobunaga (nicknamed ‘the Fool’) the potential to be her long dreamed-of Saviour King, the one who has haunted her dreams. But as if Nobunaga doesn’t have enough troubles dealing with the other warlords vying to take control, back on the Star of the West (ruled over by King Arthur) one Julius Caesar has also set out to conquer the Eastern Star and to gather the Sacred Treasures that will enable King Arthur to find the Holy Grail. Or something.

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‘Samurai warriors battle giant robots in a war of epic proportions.’

So proclaims the poster for this release – and that’s exactly what it is. No more, no less. Famous Japanese warriors (mostly) from the Warring States Era line up against famous historical figures from a far wider time period representing the West: King Arthur, Leonardo da Vinci (who plays a leading but ambiguously manipulative role) Julius Caesar, Brutus, Magellan, Hannibal… and Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc (Kaguya, one assumes, after Princess Kaguya who travelled from the moon to earth in the Japanese legend). Leonardo da Vinci crosses to the Eastern Star, bringing Jeanne, technological wizardry and a set of Tarot cards which he makes Jeanne draw from time to time and which seem to influence the events (and the episode titles as well): ‘The Fool’, ‘The Lovers’, ‘The Wands’ etc.) rather as, in Vision of Escaflowne, a ‘fate alteration machine’ and heroine Hitomi’s pendant influence what happens to the protagonists. Although forced to dress as a young male retainer, Ranmaru, Jeanne shows little of the feisty warrior nature you’d expect from ‘the Maid of Orleans’, blushing like a love-smitten schoolgirl around her crush, Nobunaga. Eventually, Nobunaga finds himself facing a formidable rival: Julius Caesar, who has allied himself with some of Nobunaga’s enemies and also has designs on Nobunaga’s sweet-natured sister: Princess Ichi. 

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Original Creator Shoji Kawamori has a truly formidable and amazing CV: having created The Vision of Escaflowne and Aquarion, not to mention many of the Macross outings and designed mecha for innumerable other anime series, including Transformers and the Nirvash for Eureka Seven. It was difficult, therefore, given his impressive creative background, not to expect great things from Nobunaga the Fool – and he certainly delivers mecha in plenty. But in spite of all the energetic battles, with and without mecha, something is missing. The whole premise (famous historical figures from East and West battle for supremacy) must have seemed a blast at the time but somehow the people fail to come to life, remaining two-dimensional in the least complimentary sense of the word. A whole bundle of ingredients are thrown into the mix: fan service; mecha; attempts at humour that misfire; magical jewels; prophecies… And the ghost of Escaflowne haunts proceedings but without the musical genius of Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi to enhance the drama, not to mention the flaccid pacing and some tired, predictable plotting, it’s a lacklustre affair. The characters are not endearing; Nobunaga often comes across as an arrogant, petulant adolescent with a big mecha, and Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc mopes around, sighing (inexplicably) over him.

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The Sentai US dub is one to avoid. The dub script is awkward and even unintentionally funny in places. And the performances!? Scott Gibbs is, to be fair, not really any worse than most of his fellow actors in the dub but I expected better from the voice of Mikorin in Nozaki-kun! Of the original cast, Mamoru Miyano seems, at least, to be having fun in his swashbuckling portrayal of Nobunaga.

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The music, by experienced composer Masayu Yokoyama, is perfectly adequate (although I wonder if he was required to work with a temp track taken from Escaflowne for the battle sequences?)  He’s done far better with Arakawa under the Bridge, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and many more. The best music/image moments come with the stirring OP#1: “FOOL THE WORLD” by Minori Chihara  and the beautiful concept artwork (harking back to Aquarion) for the ED which hints at an early vision of what the story might have been rather than the pedestrian version they ended up with.

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In Summary

It’s a little sad when the best one can find to say about an anime series is that the artwork in the ED is truly gorgeous! But Nobunaga the Fool is disappointing, especially given the talents of the team working on it.

Title: Nobunaga the Fool Part 1
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Action, Mecha, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Studio: Satelight
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 6/10

Review of Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, Series 2

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Ian Wolf’s Review

“There are poisons that blind you, and poisons that open your eyes.” – August Strindberg.

Continuing on from where the previous collection ends, our heroes Shino Inuzuka (trapped in a never-aging 13-year-old body) and Sosuke Inukawa (who can shapeshift into a dog) are still tracking down the holders of the eight beads.

Among these people are Daikaku Inumura, a maker of dolls, who has designed a doll which to Shino looks disturbingly like the woman who in the past tried to murder him; and Shinobu Inue, a boy who at age 12 was spirited away and hasn’t aged in 10 years, making him 22. Shino also continues to battle against Ao, Sosuke’s ‘shadow’ who has taken Sosuke’s bead. This culminates with all eight bead holders finally uniting.

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As well as this, Shino ends up teaching some children and becomes friendly with a blind girl name Kaho, looks after a cat spirit, and has a re-encounter with Dosetsu Inuyama, the man followed constantly by a god-like snow spirit. Dosetsu is looking for his long-lost sister, who could well be a close friend of Shino’s.

Overall, this series has felt a bit lacklustre. There have been some interesting moments, mainly comedic ones such as the relationship between Dosetsu and the snow goddess, but overall there is nothing in the show that sustained enough interest to make it worth watching.

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The main problem is that this anime is an adaption of a manga that is still being written, which in turn is a loose adaptation of an epic 19th-century novel that is over 100 volumes long. The anime does finish slightly open-endedly, indicating that there could be plans to write more. Knowing that is enough to indicate that the story is not going to told in full and that you are going to be sold short in at least one respect.

The series thus feels rather disappointing and not worth the effort. The only real benefit of the Hakkenden anime is that it makes you want to read the original novel it is based on. The only problem is that it hasn’t been released in English, although the are reportedly plans to do so.

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Title: Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, Series 2
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Fantasy, Supernatural
Studio: Studio Deen
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2013
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 3/10

Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East Series 1 Review

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Ian Wolf’s Review

“Why attack God? He may be as miserable as we are.” – Erik Satie.

If you are familiar with Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, then probably the first thing you might know about it is that it is an adaptation of a gigantic 19th century novel series written over a period of 30 years. After that, the second thing you might know about it is that this version is based on a manga, still currently being written, by Miyuki Abe, the creator of the controversy-ridden yaoi series Super Lovers (which in my opinion people rather overreacted to, but that’s a matter for a different review).

Five years prior to the story a village was attacked. Only three children survived: 13-year-old Shino Inuzuka, Sosuke Inukawa and Hamaji. They are saved by Rio Satomi, one of the Four Sacred Beast Houses who is able to control the spirit of a large wolf, and who also works for the Imperial Church that rules the land.

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Moving to the present, the three survivors are now taking shelter in a parish church, but things are not normal by any means. Shino’s arm now harbours a living sword named Murasame, who can turn into a crow and speak with humans. Because he lives in Shino’s body, Shino is now cursed and thus doesn’t age, meaning he is now an 18-year-old trapped in the body of a 13-year-old. Sosuke meanwhile has the power to shapeshift into a wolf. The Imperial Church learns that Shino is in possession of Murasame and wants him, but he refuses to hand himself in. Thus the Imperial Church kidnaps Hamaji, leading Shino and Sosuke to travel to the Imperial Capital to find her.

While in the city they meet Rio, who asks them to complete a task. Shino and Sosuke happen to be in possession of a sacred bead each. There are eight sacred beads in the world and Rio wants Shino and Sosuke to find all the bead holders for a reason he does not fully explain. However, they agree to the task partly to keep Hamaji safe, which she is, under the protection of Rio and his assistant Kaname Osaki, who has feelings for her.

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So far Hakkenden has been OK. Part of the time the story does drag a bit, but when the action kicks in it does so in a lively way. There is plenty of blood spilt, whether it comes from sword, arrow, animal attack or demonic possession. Two of the most interesting characters are military policeman Genpachi Inuki and ex-soldier turned innkeeper Kobungo Inuta, who are also immortal demons. The plot, while at times a bit slow, does occasionally have its moments. One entertaining story follows a train passenger who is constantly accompanied by a “Snow Princess” who makes everything around him cold.

However, there is a major problem in that this story is based on a work that is so long. Currently, two series have been made of Hakkenden, but the manga is still being written. It is hard to imagine how the manga can conclude satisfactorily.

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Concerning the extras, there are two episode commentaries, and textless versions of the opening “God FATE” by Faylan and the superior ending “String of pain” by Tetsuya Kakihara.

The series is all right so far, but it is probably best to wait to see the second series before making a full and proper judgment.

Score: 6 / 10

Anime Quick Information

  • Title: Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East
  • UK Publisher: MVM Films
  • Genre: Fantasy, Supernatural
  • Studio: Studio Deen
  • Type: TV series
  • Year: 2013
  • Running time: 325 minutes

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Part 2 Review

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This review will contain spoilers for Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Part 1

With his contract to Saber ripped from him by Caster’s Rule Breaker Noble Phantasm, Shirou is now officially out of the Holy Grail War, but he refuses to let Rin continue to fight on alone. Although badly injured and not standing a chance against the other masters and servants, he tails Rin and her servant Archer to the location where their battle with Caster is taking place. Little do they know that Archer has his own agenda and a secret that will change their lives forever.

The second season of Unlimited Blade Works picks up right from where the first season left off, but despite there seemingly being no break in time between them, there are a few obvious changes in atmosphere and production. Luckily, the animation is not one of them.

Firstly; there’s a shift of focus from both Rin and Emiya, to just Emiya. Somewhere between seasons Rin has stopped being the assertive, powerful and competent mage she was introduced as; now she’s mostly a side character to make way for Shirou Emiya’s arc, which is the entire focus for this season. Despite the sudden jump in power and ability that Emiya has gained between seasons, he still remains the weakest link in the series and sadly his story development in these 13 episodes does not help.

The main conflict is this: Shirou Emiya wants to be a hero of justice, a man who saves all lives at the cost of his own without sacrificing anyone else, which is of course impossible to do as not everyone can be saved and some might not even want to be. Archer shows up as a result of these ideals taken to the extreme; he shows Emiya that the only thing that clinging to these flawed ideals will do is make him an emotionally and mentally broken man, cursing the day he was born and wishing to undo everything. Emiya is shown exactly what the fruit of his labour will bring, and how unhappy it’ll make him and those around him.

So what does Emiya do? He decides to continue holding onto these ideals just as before. Why? Because… I don’t know, he’s got nothing else better to do, apparently. I’m not saying that I did not watch what happened, I’m saying that there’s no solid reason for Emiya to continue down this path. Despite the fact that Emiya and Archer talk for three episodes straight about what the ideals are, how flawed they are, why they bring about destruction and why they must be nipped in the bud, and then again just before the final battle, Shirou decides to do what is equivalent to a child sticking his fingers inside his ears and shouting ‘la la la I can’t hear you!’ when a parent tries to tell them off. Instead of repeating the same conversation over and over we could have had Emiya pointing out a more positive outlook on Archer’s memories, focusing on those who are living instead of the hordes of corpses we keep getting shown (which horribly is mostly piles and piles of black people) or Emiya recognising that just knowing his future is enough to change things like other time-travelling narratives tend to suggest. But we get nothing; we’re not presented any decent, strong upside to Emiya continuing down his route; he comes to the conclusion that because in this very moment he feels no regrets and he still likes the idea of a hero of justice, he’ll continue on. Instead of accepting his limitations and changing his unnatural view on life into a healthy one, it falls to the people around him (mostly Rin) to help him not become the broken man he might turn into.

What a horrible message to land on, and what an awful position to put the poor girl in; Shirou can monologue all he wants in this show but nothing warrants this dim-witted attitude. If the show painted it as a terrible tragedy, it could have been a sad but effective continuation of Fate/Zero. A man’s sacrifice for the one boy he could save ends up turning him into someone just like him but worse; a man who wants to save everyone but ends up only bringing death. Sadly, the series wants us to think he’s being ‘noble’ – sorry, I’m not sold.

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The other reason these episodes differ from the first set is that, despite the first season trying very hard to tie itself with Fate/Zero whilst also maintaining the bridge for new fans to hop on by introducing new magical terms and techniques clearly, these batches of episodes give up on both entirely. They do try in the beginning with two episodes deviating from the visual novel to give backstory to Caster, and Illya has her own episode to wrap up her arc (abruptly, but it still tries) with links to the tragic end her parents had in the prequel, but from then on no attempt is made to clue the audience in on, for example, what Gilgamesh’s Ea (large black sword) is, or what makes Saber come to an emotional closure in episode 22 when all she’s done for the past few episodes is stand around and watch Emiya fight. Even the reveal of important Servants’ identities are blurted out and swiftly explained in throwaway dialogue with next to no impact; say what you want about Sailor Moon Crystal, despite most audiences knowing the Moon Princess, it at least they tried to make the reveal a big deal, given that it had a huge influence on the characters and the audience. Unlimited Blade Works, however, doesn’t feel the need to because, as many Type Moon fans would say, it was already covered in another route, which we don’t see here. Saber’s character arc was in the Fate route, so in Unlimited Blade Works she takes a back seat. This would be understandable if you were playing the video game and went through one route straight to the next but we haven’t. At best the audience knows next to nothing about her and won’t care much, at worst the Fate/Zero fans will desperately want to know why the poor girl ends up being a pawn for the Emiya family.

This is where we reach the true problem of Unlimited Blade Works; it’s not an effective adaption of Fate/Stay Night. (I’m going to deviate a bit to explain why, but bear with me…)

Adapting a story from one medium to another has been done many times over; from book to film, from comic to TV series, from video game to big screen, etc. And yet there’s no one sure way or foolproof equation for adapting from one to the other seamlessly and without error; each story and every medium has its own pros and cons to consider when adapting, and that’s without taking into consideration the fan expectations. For example, when adapting a book you have to consider its mountains of text; the detail that went into the world building, the characters’ inner monologues and descriptions of locations. For video games it’s the interactive element; how do you get around the player immersion and present the story just as effectively without a controller involved? Visual novels have a combination of these strengths and weaknesses, especially Fate/Stay Night which had three routes with their own character focus and stories to tell; there were pages and pages of dialogue and the player was experiencing it all from Shirou’s point of view.

So when adapting the story, especially from a text-heavy medium to a more visual one such as television or cinema, you have to consider the following;

Who is the adaptation being made for?

The obvious answer seems to be ‘for fans’ but that’s where a lot of more niche attempts such as Vampire Academy and the more recent Warcraft film fail to break bank, because an adaption can’t just be for a small minority. You can’t expect everyone who loved the original story to cross over to the new medium to experience it again in a new way. For example, the first Star Wars film has probably been seen by an extremely large majority worldwide; however, not every person who has watched the film has gone on to read the books, or to play a video game version of it, or to listen to the radio drama. Having an audience follow the story in the same medium (film, in this case) is a big ask in itself, but asking them to pick up a comic book would be a stretch. So despite fans wanting it to be for them, the answer is that it has to be for a general audience; the more people (whether they liked the original story or not) that come to see the new, more accessible version, the better. Aim broader and hope the fans of the original will follow suit.

How much of the story do you adapt?

Again, the temptation is to answer ‘all of it’ but sometimes it’s just not logically possible; a scene where characters think of a scheme then talk to their opponent to fish information can work wonders written down, but visually it’ll be incredibly boring. Trying to cram an entire video game backstory into one movie will only result in being incredibly rushed and making little to no sense. The Harry Potter franchise split the last book into two films to avoid this problem, while Game of Thrones is a TV series spreading each book across its own season because George RR Martin knew squeezing each book into the restricted time of a movie would be intolerable.

Does the adaptation work on its own?

Imagine if The Lord of the Rings movie did not have the opening scene explaining all the different rings, why the ‘One Ring to Rule Them All’ has a special pull to it and the villain’s motivation for wanting it. Imagine if you had to read the book first before watching the first film to understand what’s going on; not only would you be incredibly confused and frustrated, but the movie trilogy would have nowhere near the amount of fans it has now. Luckily, The Lord of the Rings explains its mythology, the world and character motivations clearly, so non-book-readers can understand the story and become attached to the characters without needing prior knowledge.

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Now that all that information is laid out, let’s put these questions to Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works.

Who is the adaptation being made for?

This adaptation fails to pick an audience and stick with it. At first it was Fate/Zero fans, then it wanted newcomers, and then Fate/Stay Night fans. Aiming for everyone is fine but you have to remain consistent, which this adaptation does not. Where it matters most (the approach to the climax and the actual climax itself) it’s clear it sits firmly in the ‘fans only’ club and no one else applies. Which is a shame considering how welcoming the opening episodes were (remember the first two double-length episodes?)

How much of the story do you adapt?

Because of the nature of the three routes, adapting just the one with no additional material from the other routes would be detrimental to anyone outside of the game fans. In the Visual Novel, Fate served as an intro, Unlimited Blade Works was middle ground, and Heaven’s Feel is the final conclusion. Studio ufotable did include some anime-exclusive scenes to help connect the dots when it needed to for the side characters and villains but it does not take cues from any other route. Which is why Saber is mostly cast away and does not get a fitting continuation from her development in Fate/Zero, why Sakura disappears after episode 8 and is not seen again until the Epilogue, why Shinji gets away with his horrible actions and seems to learn nothing as a result in the end, and the less we think about Kotominei’s final unfulfilling moments the better. The 2006 Fate/Stay Night anime was flawed but at least it did try to add depth with arcs for all the characters, giving weight to the right moments and padding out the revelations (such as the connection between Rin and Sakura) to make the story more than just Shirou and Saber’s love. It didn’t always work but at least it tried to be its own story, without relying on outside knowledge to support its weight.

Does the adaptation work on its own?

The answer is a resounding no. The anime falters at deviating from the source material to make the big character reveals and emotional payoffs work. The world building is hastily explained at best or just ignored at worst; as previously mentioned most characters outside of Shirou and Rin are half baked or not developed at all, and the main conflict by itself is not deep, interesting or resolved strongly enough to carry itself through all 26 episodes.

Before we wrap up let’s throw in a few positives. The animation is still really good; it’s not as polished as the first half but it still glimmers with effort. The same can be said for the action scenes; although they rely a lot on recycled set pieces (the Unlimited Blade Works desert world and Gilgamesh’s glowing sword powers) but they’re well-choreographed regardless. The score by Hideyuki Fukasawa also packs a punch; Type Moon fans will get a kick out of the new version of Emiya’s Theme especially. The new opening theme by Aimer, ‘Brave Shine’, sounds very different to the previous opening; like an early 00s rock anthem. Kalafina return with the ending ‘Ring Your Bell’, which sounds like part 2 of ‘Believe’, using similar chords and chime sounds but with a more uplifting vibe to the song.

DVD extras are sadly restricted to clean opening, closing and promo trailers. The OVA ‘Sunny Days’ (animating the alternative ending to the original game route) is not included here.

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Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works had a great start and heritage to work from with all the right elements to make it a superb masterpiece, but instead its poor writing and rigidity in deviating from the restricted POV of the original Visual Novel shackled it before it could take off. It all looks and sounds impressive but in the end, the dialogue and main character who never learns turned the whole journey into wasted noise. It’s for fans of the original game only, I’m afraid.

Score: 5/10

Anime Quick Information

Director: Takahiro Miura
Number of discs: 3
Classification: 15
Studio: MVM
Release Date: 25 Jul. 2016
Run Time: 312 minutes

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2 Review

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2 Review

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Honoka Kousaka and the members of µ’s have successfully saved their school, Otonokizaka High! The girls try to go back to their normal school lives but their peace doesn’t last long when a second Love Live! is announced. Given a chance at redemption, all the members of µ’s must pull together, give it their all and sing their hearts out to claim their victory. However, with the graduation of the third years drawing close, the future of µ’s grows increasingly uncertain, a fact that weighs heavy on the hearts and minds of all the girls.

Love Live! School Idol Project is a franchise that continues to take the world by storm, and after watching the first season of the anime, it wasn’t hard to see why. The first season was not without its issues though, however minor they may be. So, with that, I am overjoyed to report that the second season improves on the the first in almost every way and is a spectacular experience that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

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As much as I loved the first season of Love Live, I did have one criticism and that was the story. It wasn’t completely lacking, there was an attempt to have a plot, but it was very underwhelming. At best, the story of the school’s closure felt like a reason to get all the members of µ’s together, rather than a story you actually cared about, and often disappeared into the background. This was highlighted by the fact that the announcement the school was saved didn’t even feel like a big deal. Granted, this was very understandable; after all, it had to introduce and establish nine different characters and their relationships. Since the first season got all the character introductions out the way, the story in Love Live! Season 2 is given the spotlight and easily outdoes its predecessor, having a plot that is almost as great as the already fantastic characters.

This time, the story is centered on the Love Live! event, a school idol competition, and the show remains focused on this throughout. Not that the show doesn’t spend time on other things, but the story is very much at the forefront here, with every episode at least being partly dedicated to moving the plot forward in some way. However, what really makes it truly special is just how emotional it can get. The first season did attempt to be emotional at times, and granted it worked quite well, but Season 2 is on a completely different level. I found there were multiple episodes where I was fighting back the tears, with the biggest tearjerker being a particular episode set on a beach. I won’t spoil anything, but needless to say, if that gut punch of an episode doesn’t make you at least well up, I’m not sure what will! I think a show making me feel so emotional is quite a rarity; I could name all the shows that have done on one hand, so that speaks volumes about just how effective both the story and characters of Love Live are. 

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Despite the fact the story has been put front and center this time around, that doesn’t mean that the characters have suffered because of it. The characters were definitely the best thing about the first season and they are equally excellent here. A small complaint about the first season was that, due to the short length of the show, not all of the characters really got a time to shine, and this is an issue that the writers took no time to fix here. Almost all of the characters that I felt got lost in the shuffle last time get their moment to shine here, including some fantastic episodes focused on Nico and Nozomi. However, the best character-focused episode, and one of the best episodes from both seasons, is the Rin-centred Episode 5. Of all the characters from the first season, Rin was the one I felt got short-changed the most, so having an episode all about her was wonderful, and it naturally follows on from a small scene from Season 1 and greatly expands upon it. The chemistry between the colourful cast of characters is back here in full force and ultimately remains the most powerful draw of the series as it creates some wonderful comedic moments and is generally a ton of fun, making Love Live an absolute joy to watch.

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As with their re-release of Love Live! Season 1, Love Live! Season 2 contains both the English and Japanese audio tracks and both casts do an absolutely superb job once more. All of the English and Japanese voice actors return from the first season and it’s honestly hard to pick standouts from either cast as they all do so well. Despite how good the voice acting was before, it is topped here by an emotional couple of episodes towards the end which sees all the voice actors on the absolute top of their games. Of course, it goes without saying that the music is also just as fantastic as in the first season. Again, I think that the amount of enjoyment you’ll get out of Love Live! will likely depend on how much you do like the music, but, if you do like J-Pop, you’ll find a lot to love here. The OP, “Sore wa Bokutachi no Kiseki”, is just as great as the opening from the first series, and the ED, “Donna Toki mo Zutto”, is also enjoyable, once again being sung by different arrangements of µ’s based on the episode.

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Animation is once again handled by Sunrise, of Gundam and Gintama fame, and they continue to do a really spectacular job, with the show continuing to be incredibly colourful and energetic. The exaggerated facial expressions that I loved from last time also return in spades, giving us such gems as Umi’s now infamous poker face. The slightly awkward CG animation during the performance scenes is still ever-present, however, and isn’t really an improvement over the last season, which is a little disappointing to see. However, CGI aside, Love Live! continues to look great.

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In Summary

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2 is the ideal sequel series. Not only does it take the weakest part of the first season and turn it into one of its biggest strengths, it also includes everything that made the original so fantastic to begin with. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, but, most of all, it will make you fall in love with Love Live! all over again.

9/10

Directors: Takahiko Kyogoku
Format: PAL
Number of discs: 2
Classification: U
Studio: MVM
DVD Release Date: 20 Jun. 2016
Run Time: 325 minutes

Kamisama Kiss Season 2 Review

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It’s not easy being a human and a Land God – but seventeen-year-old Nanami Monozomo is doing her best to do a good job. After all, she owes so much to Mikage, the kami who passed his role and shrine on to her before disappearing. With the shrine, Nanami also inherited Mikage’s fox-familiar, the beautiful but disdainful Tomoe…but as they have grown to know each other better, it seems that they have developed feelings for one another. Strong feelings. And it isn’t good for a yokai to fall in love with a short-lived mortal, as Tomoe already knows to his cost.

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When Nanami is summoned to the gathering of the gods at the Divine Assembly at Izumo Shrine, it’s her chance to become accepted – but things don’t go as planned, right from the start. She is awarded the tricky task of ensuring the gateway to the Netherworld (Yomi) stays shut by the presiding god of Izumo, Okuninushi. Thank goodness she has Mamoru, the adorable little monkey/monkey-boy familiar given her by the wind god Otohiko. Because her kindly heart means that she risks everything by entering the Netherworld to help a young man Kirihito, little realizing that she may never be able to escape. And even if she does, rescuing Kirihito will create unforeseen repercussions that she could well come to regret.

Back home, Nanami encounters a little tengu boy, Botanmaru, in desperate need of help. He’s come looking for the missing heir to Mount Kurama as he may be the only one who can dispel a terrible miasma which is spreading over the mountain. The patriarch of the tengu, the Soujoubou, is seriously ill. But where is the runaway heir? Of course, he turns out to be none other than Nanami’s classmate and pop idol, Kurama. But can Kurama be persuaded to leave his glamorous life and return to his remote mountain roots?

A series like this could so easily have failed to transcend its shoujo stereotypes (instead of beautiful boys, there are beautiful yokai, kami and shikigami). Yet Nanami’s indomitable (yet likable) character, the diverting (sometimes terrifying) range of creatures and gods from Japanese mythology that she encounters, and, above all, the will they, won’t they? nature of her relationship with Tomoe makes this a very watchable anime.

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Two main story arcs are resolved in these twelve episodes – but the third overarching plot which creates such a tantalising and dramatic opening to the series (showing us Tomoe in his original wild fox spirit form on the rampage with another yokai, Akura-Ou) is still evolving, suggesting (one can but hope!) that another series will follow. There are plenty more volumes to adapt. Mangaka Julietta Suzuki has said that the manga will come to a close this summer (2016) so – fingers crossed! – we may still get a final TV season. (Although there is a four-episode OVA set in progress 2015-16, but it’s not been made available for the UK market. Yet. Pretty please, MVM?)

 

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The series is visually appealing with character designs faithful to the mangaka’s originals and gorgeous eye catches (when they’re as striking as this, they don’t seem an anachronism). Director Akitaro Daichi brings all his experience from Fruits Basket and he was also responsible for the script and storyboarding in some episodes; is this why it all flows so well as a narrative?

The US dub script is witty and, on the whole, an excellent option to the original (although the reference to the wind god Otohiko as ‘he/she guy’ is not the most sensitive of translations.) The US cast seem to relish their roles, with stand-out performances from Tia Ballard (Nanami) and Michael J. Tatum (Tomoe), Tia Ballard beautifully capturing Nanami’s wide range of feelings. The original cast are as convincing as ever, of course, with Shinnosuke Tachibana (Medici in Sekko Boys) as Tomoe and Suzuko Mimori (Umi Sonoda in Love Live) a delightful Nanami.

One of the pleasures of this immensely likable series is the music, – and not only the soundtrack by Toshio Masuda (Naruto) which is especially effective when underscoring the suspenseful supernatural elements. Every now and then an OP comes along that’s not only charming and catchy but boasts wittily choreographed animation that fits the song perfectly. “Kamisama no Kamisama (God of God)” (sung by Hanae, who sings all the Kamisama Kiss songs) is one of the best I’ve come across in a long while. (Although the metaphor of being spun around in a washing machine is er…unusual.) The Ending “Ototoi Oide” (Come Another Day) is a quietly reflective song, showing the main characters thinking about those dear to them. There’s an insert song in Episode 6 for the tengu turned pop idol Kurama (as in the first series); kudos to Sean O’Connor who sings (once more) very convincingly in the dub. I don’t often like the US equivalents (naming no names) but – personally – I think he makes a better alternative here to Daisuke Kishio as a singer.

Extras include two commentaries by the US cast, textless songs and a US trailer.

Irresistibly charming and fresh, Kamisama Kiss maintains a delicate balance between humour (Nanami and Tomoe disagree, usually quite violently), heartache (Nanami and Tomoe think longingly about each other) and supernatural peril (the Netherworld, evil yokai, angry tengu), all of which combine to make this an engaging watch. Recommended.

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The US dub script is witty and, on the whole, an excellent option to the original (although the reference to the wind god Otohiko as ‘he/she guy’ is not the most sensitive of translations.) The US cast seem to relish their roles, with stand-out performances from Tia Ballard (Nanami) and Michael J. Tatum (Tomoe), Tia Ballard beautifully capturing Nanami’s wide range of feelings. The original cast are as convincing as ever, of course, with Shinnosuke Tachibana (Medici in Sekko Boys) as Tomoe and Suzuko Mimori (Umi Sonoda in Love Live) a delightful Nanami.

One of the pleasures of this immensely likable series is the music, – and not only the soundtrack by Toshio Masuda (Naruto) which is especially effective when underscoring the suspenseful supernatural elements. Every now and then an OP comes along that’s not only charming and catchy but boasts wittily choreographed animation that fits the song perfectly. “Kamisama no Kamisama (God of God)” (sung by Hanae, who sings all the Kamisama Kiss songs) is one of the best I’ve come across in a long while. (Although the metaphor of being spun around in a washing machine is er…unusual.) The Ending “Ototoi Oide” (Come Another Day) is a quietly reflective song, showing the main characters thinking about those dear to them. There’s an insert song in Episode 6 for the tengu turned pop idol Kurama (as in the first series); kudos to Sean O’Connor who sings (once more) very convincingly in the dub. I don’t often like the US equivalents (naming no names) but – personally – I think he makes a better alternative here to Daisuke Kishio as a singer.

Extras include two commentaries by the US cast, textless songs and a US trailer.

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Irresistibly charming and fresh, Kamisama Kiss maintains a delicate balance between humour (Nanami and Tomoe disagree, usually quite violently), heartache (Nanami and Tomoe think longingly about each other) and supernatural peril (the Netherworld, evil yokai, angry tengu), all of which combine to make this an engaging watch. Recommended.

Score: 8/10

Anime Quick Information 

  • Title: Kamisama Kiss Season 2
  • UK Publisher: MVM Films
  • Genre: Fantasy , Comedy , Romance , Shojo , Supernatural
  • Director: Akitaro Daichi
  • Studio: TMS Entertainment
  • Type: TV series
  • Year: 2015
  • DVD Release Date: 13th Jun. 2016
  • Running time: 300 minutes
  • Classification: 12