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

Busou Shinki Complete Collection Review

There is a saying that goes around about slice-of-life anime and how it’s often ‘cute girls doing cute things’. For this review of Busou Shinki I’ve decided to repurpose that saying to ‘cute robot girls doing cute robot girl things’ because while it looks like this series should be an action series (and you’d be forgiven for thinking this, judging by the cover art), it’s actually more of a slice-of-life tale.

The anime is based on telling stories about the Busou Shinki toys, which you can buy in Japan. These Shinki toys are small action figures which are always female and generally have the ability to transform into more mecha-like forms if the situation demands it. Despite being robots, in the anime the Shinki have a wide range of emotions and are generally always looking to make their owner, their ‘master’, happy.

In the Busou Shinki anime we’re introduced to four Shinki who all belong to high school freshman Rihito (last name is never given). These four – Ann, Ines, Hina and Lene – peacefully live out their day-to-day lives while looking after Rihito. The anime follows their adventures as they deal with the mishaps of daily life, such as Rihito forgetting an umbrella or his lunch. I wish I could say that there is an overarching story or an actual plot to be found, but sadly there isn’t. The series is very episodic. Apart from the first two episodes and the final two you could watch the show in any order and not really have any problems doing such.

It’s because of this episodic nature and the lack of a plot that I struggle to really recommend Busou Shinki. Admittedly I’m not someone who enjoys a series without an end goal of some kind, but even putting those feelings aside and looking at Busou Shinki objectively, it’s just boring. The series implies that Shinki can be, and usually are, used to battle one another in competitions, but because Rihito is against that kind of thing, we never see competitive battling in the anime. Had this kind of thing been included, I’d probably have been far more interested, especially as the action scenes that the anime delivers are often far more attention-grabbing than anything else it has to offer.

On the whole I don’t really know what Busou Shinki wanted to be. It’s clearly one big advertisement for the toys but beyond that it’s too boring to be a good slice-of-life, not funny enough to be a comedy, and the action is so sparse that labeling it an action series doesn’t really stick. If you really like the idea of robot girls looking after a master then perhaps you’d get something out of their daily adventures, but I think that audience is fairly limited. Ultimately it stands that the only thing Busou Shinki really has going for it is to be a moderately okay animated advert.


Speaking of animation, the series has been handled by studio
8bit, who are perhaps best known for their adaptations of Shonen Maid and Absolute Duo. Where Busou Shinki is concerned it’s difficult to get excited for the animation. There is a little bit of dodgy CGI, and even beyond that the colors are quite muted and limited for a show that was only released in Japan in late 2012. It’s not poorly animated but I’m not so sure that the quality is anything to write home about either. It’s firmly in the camp of being okay and nothing more or less. Also, it has to be said that although the Shinki are meant to be robots with the ability to transform, their designs are all fairly generic and not at all as interesting as the series would try and have you believe.

The music for Busou Shinki has been handled by Tetsuro Oda and on the whole is rather forgettable. The opening theme is “Install x Dream”, which is sung by the four main Shinki voice actors, while the ending theme is “The Sun’s Sign” by Azusa. Neither song will stick in your mind for long, perhaps like the anime itself. While there is nothing wrong with the voice actors for the series, they’re playing such stereotypical and bland characters that it’s equally hard to say anything notably pleasing about them. 


This series has been brought to the UK thanks to
MVM Entertainment, who have released it on both DVD and Blu-ray. The release is split across 3 discs on DVD and 2 for the BD and contains all 12 episodes of Busou Shinki as well as a 13th unaired episode. This release is sub-only as there is no English dub for the show and the only extras to speak of are clean opening and ending videos, as well as a selection of trailers.

Overall Busou Shinki isn’t a terrible series, it just suffers from being incredibly boring. I’m sure someone out there will get something out of it but a slice-of-life anime about robots that could be doing much cooler things (like battling) is just simply not for me. I walk away, not so much disappointed as wishing for my time back.

Title: Busou Shinki: Armored War Goddess Collection
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Slice of Life, Mecha
Studio: 8bit
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2012
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 4/10

Log Horizon Season 2 Part 2 Review

log-horizon-season-2-part-2-coverRecently I was given the chance to dive back into the Log Horizon series by reviewing the first part of Season 2. Now I’ve returned to finish the job by reviewing the second half of this fantasy anime.

This set picks up in a rather awkward place as it starts with Episode 14, which is centered around a new cast of characters. This includes a girl called Kanami, who used to be the leader of the Debauchery Tea Party – the famous guild that Shiroe was a part of. Back when Elder Tale was a game there were many different servers that players would connect to, directly related to where they lived in the world. For example, players who lived in China and connected to a Chinese server would in turn play the game in a location that was modeled after China itself. This was still true when everyone got physically pulled into the world of Elder Tale as well, therefore Kanami and her current party were in a completely different part of the world than Shiroe and company. Despite the characters being likeable, unfortunately, Kanami and her friends are only featured in this half of the season for just a single episode and then aren’t seen again until a brief appearance in the final episode.

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With the awkwardly placed Kanami-focused episode out the way we dive into the real meat of this season’s story, which is based around the younger members of the Log Horizon guild. Shiroe decides to send Tohya, Minori, Isuzu, Rudy and Serara (who is from the Crescent Moon Alliance) on a mission to collect the items needed to create a magic bag: an item that will allow them to carry a great deal of objects with them at all times. The quest is a simple affair and just involves travelling to a town and killing some wyverns, but as a viewer it’s fairly interesting because this is one of the first times we get to see the kids take on their own quest.

I will confess that none of the younger members of Log Horizon are favourites of mine, but this story is a solid one and gives all of them some good character development – especially Isuzu. Back in the real world Isuzu loved music and, like her father, wished to perform professionally, but sadly no one considered her skills good enough. This journey gives Isuzu the chance to play her music in the taverns of many different towns and villages. As she does, Isuzu slowly comes to terms with what music means to her. I’m sure many of you are already aware that I’m a music fanatic, so this storyline is perhaps one of my favourites from the Log Horizon series and is definitely the best featured within this set of the anime.

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The problem that I have with this half of Season 2 is that once the arc surrounding the kids is finished, we go into the next plotline without enough time to finish it. When we hit Episode 21, the story suddenly shifts gears toward what I consider a major plot point and then never resolves it. Perhaps the biggest issue is that around the 18-20 episode mark the series had run out of the original source to adapt. While Studio Deen very obviously knew what was coming (the light novels released since have matched the anime’s content) it’s still a prickly situation because the ending is just left too open, especially when there is a chance we won’t ever get a third season.

Away from the story,, Log Horizon fares pretty well. As previously noted, the series continues to be handled by Studio Deen and the animation works well for the fantasy setting we’re in. The changed character designs from moving studios (which I mentioned in my review of Part 1) may still bother you throughout the remaining episodes but, having watched Season 2 multiple times now, I had no issues myself. I’d also like to mention how satisfying the battle scenes were handled throughout this set and that they flowed remarkably well. Even though this series is filled with a lot of talking versus action it’s always nice to see that Studio Deen can handle the action superbly when necessary.

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The music for this set, handled by Yasuharu Takanashi, is pleasing to the ear and builds up the dramatics for the battles well. There were also a great deal of cheerful, upbeat tracks for the kids’ adventures that I grew fond of. I think Part 1 of this second season had the better soundtrack but I’m still pleased with what we have here. The opening and ending theme stay the same as the first part.

Voice actors do their jobs well for this set, too. It’s nice to hear more from the younger members of Log Horizon and while there are too many cast members to discuss I’d like to mention a couple. My firm favourites are Eriko Matsui (Nuba Suzuki in Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, Mio in Young Black Jack), who plays Isuzu, and Nao Tamura (Chika Amatori in World Trigger, Cosmos in Fairy Tail), who plays Minori, as both give very emotional and engaging performances that truly drew me into the world. Although the set does include an English dub, I didn’t sample it for this review as I have not watched the rest of the series dubbed.

log-horizon-s2-part-2-5This set comes to the UK thanks to MVM and contains Episodes 14 – 25, both subbed and dubbed, and is available on both DVD and Blu-ray. The only extras to speak of are clean opening and ending animations.

Overall I came away from Log Horizon Season 2 fairly happy. I’m disappointed that the ending is so open when the series has otherwise been fairly flawless in terms of tying everything up arc to arc, but there is certainly still good to be found here. Despite the ending I do highly recommend the season as, although this part isn’t as good as the previous one, it’s still really fun to watch.  

Title: Log Horizon: Season 2 Part 2
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Studio: Studio Deen
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 7/10

MCM London Comic Con October 2016 Anime Licenses Round-Up – Day 2

The second day of MCM London Comic Con has ended and both Manga Animatsu and MVM Entertainment have stepped in to reveal more new additions to their catalogue alongside Anime Limited. Here’s a round-up of all of the titles revealed for the second day of the weekend.

Continue reading “MCM London Comic Con October 2016 Anime Licenses Round-Up – Day 2”

11Eyes – Complete Collection

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11Eyes started off life as a visual novel, released on the PC in 2008, before eventually becoming a manga, then shortly after that, this 12 episode anime series. Originally airing in 2009, is this worth tracking down after seven years? … Not really, no.

The story starts off simply enough. Two school kids get randomly sucked into a parallel version of Earth that has a permanent Red Moon that they soon dub the “Red Night”, a hellish landscape filled with monsters. They are Kakeru Satsuki, a quiet shut-in type who had a pretty bad childhood and who only really opens up to the other student: Yuka Minase, whom he met at the orphanage they grew up in. During their trips to the Red Night they eventually meet up with several other students from the same school who have special powers, including Misuzu Kusakabe, an “Onmyoji” (someone who is trained to defeat supernatural beings) who can spawn swords to use, Yukiko Hirohana, a overly friendly girl who turns into a cold-blooded killer when she takes her glasses off, and pyrokinetic Takahisa Tajima, who is the old brooding anti-hero type who slowly becomes a member of the group. Oh and Kukuri Tachibana, who looks exactly like Kakeru’s dead sister…

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Throw in some “black knights” as antagonists and you have a pretty standard set-up for a Persona-style school life crossed with an other-dimensional fighting story here. The first few episodes, including the awakening of Kakeru and Yuka’s powers, are interesting enough, and the mysteries associated with the knights: the fact that they refer to the lead characters as “fragments” and a mysterious girl encased in crystal that they guard – are enough to sustain the series, for the most part. Sadly it all goes a bit downhill towards the latter half. So much so that I’m going to be uncharacteristically spoilery here, so…

SPOILER WARNING

Right, so the black knights are apparently the good guys who have sealed an evil witch in the crystal, and the lead characters have fragments of her power inside them that will free her if they make contact with the crystal. That’s why the knights have been attacking them as soon as they enter the dimension, which for the record is the witch trying to re-connect with her power. This is an interesting twist, if it weren’t for the fact that the lead characters kept asking them why they are there and why they attacked them. If they just said “we’re trying to stop the end of the world by preventing you coming into contact with an evil witch we have over here” that might at least give them pause for thought, rather than repeating “it doesn’t matter why we call you fragments” and then complaining that their numbers have dwindled and the end of the world is nearer due to the invaders killing them off. The knights keep it a secret to the very end as well; it’s a mage girl called Shiori Momono who actually explains it all to them.

Then it just gets worse. Yuka becomes a jealous mess for very little reason, lead characters are killed off left and right, and then some of them only happen in a future vision given to Kakeru through his special eye powers. Seriously, as Episode 12 starts it’s revealed that the entirety of Episode 11 was just a vision and didn’t actually happen… and then several characters are killed off anyway! At a guess, given that it’s based on a visual novel, Episode 11 was probably a bad ending you could end up getting in the game, so they animated it alongside the “good” one, but it wasn’t a good decision in terms of telling a good story. Oh, and as for Kakeru’s sister, that explanation is so confusing that Misuzu actually picks up a piece of chalk and tries to explain it to everyone with a diagram… in the show! It still only JUST makes sense, and I’ve watched a lot of twisty-turny sci-fi in my time…

SPOILERS END HERE

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So, there you go. Summing it up for people avoiding spoilers, the show falls off a ledge towards the end. It comes with an OVA that… is just bad. It takes the characters and transports them to a “Pink Night” instead of a red one, and in the Pink Night all their powers have turned perverted. Kakeru can see through clothes, when Yukiko takes off her glasses she becomes super sexually charged (towards other women!) and instead of swords Misuzu pulls out different… well… *sigh*, never mind, but it’s not very funny. It’s like what a 14-year-old would think is “adult” but when they reach adulthood they realise how wrong they were.

The series is split across two DVDs and there is only Japanese with English subtitles, so no dub. Intro “Arrival of Tears” by Ayane is a catchy tune, and “Sequentia” by Asriel is a good ending. In fact, the OST is actually one of the highlights of the series.

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So, should you buy 11Eyes? Well, it has some good fight scenes, not too much fanservice (apart from the OVA…) and a good soundtrack, but you’ll still be left with a rather muddled and sudden end, one that erases what was an admittedly basic first half. It’s okay. If you end up getting the series it will be something you’ll watch, then a few weeks down the line will forget you ever saw until someone mentions it, then you’ll go “Oh yeah! That one… man that ending… what was that all about?!”

Title: 11Eyes - Complete Collection
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Romance, Tragedy
Studio: Dogakobo
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2009
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 4/10

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun Review

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Cheerful high school girl Chiyo Sakura has fallen head-over-heels for the tall and handsome Umetarou Nozaki. Much to her confusion though, when she tries to confess her love to Nozaki, he hands her his autograph instead! As it turns out, the stoical teenage boy is actually a well-respected shoujo manga artist, who writes under the name of Sakiko Yumeno and, through a series of misunderstandings, Chiyo ends up becoming one of Nozaki’s assistants! Striving to get closer to Nozaki, Chiyo continues to assist Nozaki with his manga, meeting several of their quirky school mates and fellow assistants along the way.

Despite the romantic sounding premise, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, a 2014 anime based on the 4-koma manga series by Izumi Tsubaki, is barely a romance show at all, but is in fact a comedy and an excellent one at that. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Nozaki-kun has to be one of the most consistently laugh-out-loud funny anime I’ve ever seen. Despite some physical comedy gags, most of the humour comes down to the excellent comedic chemistry between certain duos in the show. Personally I got the most laughs out of seeing the well-meaning but somewhat dense Nozaki paired with the average girl Chiyo. If you’ve seen anything from Nozaki-kun on the internet before now, it’s probably the large swathe of Chiyo reaction images, and they’re even more hilarious in the context of the show and never failed to make me laugh. Outside of their shtick, there are an absolute ton of very funny and well written gags and some great visual humour too, including one incredible scene involving a bear costume that has to honestly be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. The off-the-wall supporting cast is also a comedic riot, with characters like Mikoshiba and Kashima not only being hilarious, but also acting as a clever jab at traditional shoujo archetypes, which I think shoujo manga fans will get a kick out of. It’s worth keeping in mind that comedy by its very nature is very subjective, so I think how much someone would enjoy this show would very much depend on their sense of humour, but, for me at least, I loved the comedy on display here.

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Even though I really loved the comedy in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, I can’t help but feel that the total dedication to the comedy aspect was also a fairly big hindrance in other aspects. Going into the show, I was expecting something akin to a romantic comedy, and if you read a description of the show, you might think that too, and whilst I suppose it is technically true, the romance here is severely downplayed. There are a handful of nice moments between Chiyo and Nozaki, but these moments felt spread out rather thinly, and a lot of the time, they were used to service the comedy rather than develop the relationship between the characters. I definitely think that the potential was there for the writers to go down a more serious route with the romance angle, but they never did, and that left me feeling rather disappointed. The same can be said for the characters in general, who, whilst likable and entertaining, can’t help but come across as pretty one-note and don’t receive any real development throughout the show, which is a shame because, again, I definitely think there was potential there that was totally ignored in favour of comedy. Now, despite my negativity, I’m not sure I can really fault the show for sidelining so much depth in favour of making the show funny, because, at the end of the day, Nozaki-kun is a comedy anime, after all; I just think that if they had made the show more balanced, it would have been far better on the whole, even if it wasn’t quite as funny. As Nozaki-kun is based off a 4-koma manga, I imagine much of the issues lie in the source material, which is written short form and likely lacks the depth to support a full anime adaptation.

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Animation for Nozaki-kun is handled by Doga Kobo, and honestly, I couldn’t really think of a studio better suited to the material. When it comes to Slice of Life comedy, Doga Kobo has produced a number of well liked shows including New Game!, Yuru Yuri and Love Lab, and Nozaki-kun is certainly at home with those shows. Not only does it generally look quite nice, Nozaki-kun has a wonderful sense of energy to it that makes the show very entertaining on a visual level.

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Both an English and Japanese audio track are included on MVM’s release of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and although the English dub is perfectly fine, I preferred the Japanese audio. Everyone in the main cast does a stellar job, with the stand-outs being Yuuichi Nakamura (Clannad, Hyouka, Karneval) as the titular Nozaki, whose monotone delivery leads to so many hilarious moments and Ari Ozawa (Gakkou Gurashi, Classroom Crisis, Active Raid) as Chiyo, who provides countless wonderful reactions. The soundtrack to Nozaki-kun is composed by Yukari Hashimoto, who also did the soundtrack for Toradora, and is quite good, complementing the show nicely.   

In Summary

Although it is lacking in the romance and character department, I can’t deny that Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is an incredibly funny comedy that never fails to hit its mark.

Title: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-Kun The Complete Series
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Romance
Studio: Doga Kobo
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: 12
Running time: 288 minutes

Score: 8/10

Log Horizon Season 2 Part 1 Review

Log Horizon Season 2 Part 1When I think of anime that play with the idea of humans becoming trapped in the world of a video game it’s usually Sword Art Online that springs to mind. However, there is another series I’m fond of that plays with a similar idea and that’s Log Horizon. After warming to the successful first season of the anime, I’ve been given the chance to review Part 1 of Season 2. Here’s hoping it’s just as good as I remember…

This season of Log Horizon opens with a major money crisis plaguing the city of Akihabara. Shiroe and the members of the round table have established that running the town of Akihabara is costing them far more money than they have and can gather, so Shiroe begins to concoct a plan to get his hands on more gold. This plan will see him and Naotsugu leave Akihabara to explore a dungeon that is said to have an endless supply of riches at the bottom.

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With Shiroe and Naotsugu out of town, it’s left to Akatsuki and the other members of the Log Horizon guild to keep an eye on things in the city. With Christmas approaching, Akihabara seems peaceful, but suddenly a serial killer appears who somehow manages to get past the system’s rules of no fighting in a town/city. With the system failing to stop the killer, Akatsuki must team up with the West Wind Brigade (led by Soujirou Seta) in an attempt to bring an end to this threat.

Log Horizon Screen 4
The first half of Log Horizon Part 1 is heavily focused on Akatsuki and the serial killer, who seems to have a hatred for adventurers. It’s a solid storyline and explores the concept of what happens when something or someone can bypass those rules and cause havoc in somewhere that is considered a safe zone. Of course, this is without mentioning that we already know from Season 1 that if someone dies the revival cost is the loss of some memories, and no one wants that to happen! I won’t go into great detail about how the rules are being broken, or about the killer, but trust me when I say that the reveal is satisfying to the viewer.

If the serial killer arc isn’t your cup of tea, then have no fear! We also get to spend some time with Shiroe and Naotsugu as they recruit the Silver Sword guild and a new character (and self-proclaimed idol) named Tetra for their expedition into the dungeon. This arc gets more attention toward the end of Part 1 but the glimpses we receive of their journey, between the chaos in Akihabara, are fairly interesting. Involving the Silver Sword guild also brings Demikas back to the front of our attention. You may remember him from nearer the beginning of Season 1, where he was causing trouble for Serara and was defeated by Shiroe and Nyanata. This expedition works for a more traditional showcase of what makes Log Horizon special too, and that’s Shiroe ordering people around while battling loads of enemies.

Log Horizon Screen 5

There isn’t a great deal to say about the other characters because, really, Akatsuki is the one who gets the most meaningful development. It’s nice to spend an arc with Akatsuki on her own without support from Shiroe. She has never been a bad character and the first season does give her a suitable amount of attention, but away from Shiroe, she begins to question herself and her abilities – which is interesting to watch for a character who appears so strong on the surface. If you’re not an Akatsuki fan though, not all is lost because watching Soujirou Seta – perhaps one of the strongest fighters in the show – become ever more vengeful as his guild members are struck down by the killer is also extremely satisfying.

The biggest change in Log Horizon Season 2 is a shift in animation studios. Although all of the staff moved from the previous studio, Satelight, to the project’s new studio, Studio Deen, the animation has taken a noticeable hit in certain regards. Character designs have changed drastically in some cases, the best examples being Nyanata and Crusty, but everyone has been changed slightly in one way or another. This appears to have been in an effort to make them closer to the original light novel designs (which I certainly don’t object to!), which I’m sure some fans may appreciate if they also read the novels. However, it is one of the biggest drawbacks of watching Season 2 off the back of the first. I haven’t gone back to the first season yet but if you’re coming into this straight from Season 1, and maybe haven’t seen the light novel designs, then you’ll definitely be thrown off for a few episodes while you adjust.
Log Horizon Season 2Away from character designs, though, Studio Deen have done a good job with the animation. The quality is consistent and very colourful, leaving a warm and cosy feeling when watching scenes involving Akihabara but also suitably striking for the battle scenes. I’m not sure I could say that this is the studio at their best but it’s certainly a better standard of quality than KonoSuba and overall works fine for what Log Horizon demands from it.

Where music is concerned, composer Yasuharu Takanashi, who worked on Season 1, provides a pleasing soundtrack for this season. Takanashi is the mind behind the music for Fairy Tail, the Naruto Shippuden movies, and this season’s The Morose Mononokean. Working on a hit shonen series like Fairy Tail has obviously made Takanashi extremely skilled at composing music for a series like this and that comes through in the scores. They’re never overpowering but always there to back up a scene as is required, and some of the more moving moments in the first part have some wonderful pieces to accompany them. Fans of the first season’s opening “Database” by Man with a Mission will be pleased to hear that it returns as the opening for this season. We do have a new ending however in the form of “Wonderful Wonder World”, performed once again by Yun*chi. Overall good stuff to be heard here!

Log Horizon Sceen 3As far as voice actors go, there is some really solid work here. The cast is too large to point out any examples of who’s done the best work, but I at least want to give a nod to Akatsuki’s voice actor, Emiri Kato (Yayoi Endo in Seraph of the End: Battle in Nagoya, Kyubey in Puella Magi Madoka Magica), who plays the character really well. There is an English dub on offer here but not having watched the first season dubbed (I watched it in Japanese as it aired), I don’t feel right saying a great deal about it. I personally prefer the original Japanese but what I watched of the dubbed version certainly doesn’t seem to be of a bad quality.

This release from MVM is on both Blu-ray (two disc set) and DVD (three disc set). Our review discs are on DVD and the overall video quality seems pretty good considering the format. Splitting the 13 episodes across so many discs has probably helped a lot in the case of the DVD release. The only extras on offer are clean opening and ending animations.

Overall Part 1 of Log Horizon Season 2 is a great watch. It retains the Log Horizon charm I know and love while also introducing new characters and enveloping us in some solid storylines. New character designs will definitely throw you off for a while but once you adjust to them, there aren’t any other problems present. I’m looking forward to revisiting Part 2 as the story begins wandering into some interesting territory. As far as I’m concerned, Log Horizon remains a pleasant and entertaining watch that’s certainly worth your time.

Score: 8 / 10

Anime Quick Information

  • Title: Log Horizon Season 2 Part 1
  • UK Publisher: MVM Films
  • Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
  • Studio: Studio Deen
  • Type: TV series
  • Year: 2014
  • Running time: 325 minutes

MVM to release Berserk 1997, Chobits and Ergo Proxy on Blu-ray to the UK this Q4 2016!

MVM Entertainment have gone to social media to announce their latest updates on their release slates. Their Q4 line-up has been rather quiet until now so it’s time for them to unveil what they have in store!

Back at MCM Comic Con London in May, MVM Entertainment already revealed they had plans to release Chobits on Blu-ray along with a couple others (Serial Experiments Lain, Tenchi Muyo! OVA Collection) but now they have two more titles joining the Blu-ray upgrade as well as release dates!

Chobits 1

Starting off with Chobits, the 26 episode TV series will be released as a complete series collection set for SRP £39.99 on 10th October 2016 with English & Japanese audio (with English subs). You can also stream the series on Funimation Now if you like.

Chobits Plot Synposis
A country boy from Hokkaido, Hideki arrives in the big city (Tokyo) to go to college. Instantly, he is shocked and amazed by the variety and prevalence of Persocoms: personal computers designed to look and act like animals or even people! Too poor to afford one of his own, Hideki is overjoyed to discover a discarded Persocom in a trash heap. However, this gift of fate turns into a mystery as his Persocom, Chi, appears to be able to operate without her OS… How real is real?

Berserk

Next up we have the classic 1997 anime adaptation of Berserk. The 25 episode TV series will be released as a complete series collection set for SRP £49.99 on November 21st 2016 with English & Japanese audio (with English subs). The franchise has already received numerous anime adaptations including a 2012-2013 movie trilogy (already released by Kaze UK) and the recent 2016 adaptation that’s available on Crunchyroll (with a future UK home release planned by Universal Pictures).

Berserk Plot Synposis
In the castle of Midland, a new king has come to power through treachery and violence. His demonic agents terrorize the citizens relentlessly, until the night when a battle weary soldier known as the Black Swordsman come to destroy them. However, his true motives and unrelenting grudge against the king are buried in the past – when a young mercenary named Guts joined the charismatic, graceful, and deadly Griffith and the Band of the Hawk.

Ergo Proxy

And finally we have the cult classic Ergo Proxy. The 23 episode TV series will be released as a complete series collection set for SRP £49.99 on December 12th 2016 with English & Japanese audio (with English subs).

Ergo Proxy Plot Synposis
The domed city of Romd is an impenetrable would-be utopia where humans and robots coexist, and everything is under complete government control – or so it appears. While working on a mysterious murder case, Re-l Mayer, a female detective from the Civilian Intelligence Office, receives a foreboding message that something is going to “awaken.” That night, she’s attacked by a deformed super-being.

All three TV shows MVM are putting out have already been released on DVD. Berserk and Ergo Proxy have been given HD Native remasters in Japan whereas Chobits is an upscale from Funimation. Images above for Chobits and Ergo Proxy are cover arts of the Japanese Blu-ray Disc Boxes and not the final MVM covers.

 

Blast of Tempest Complete Collection

blast of tempest collection

‘The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.” Hamlet, William Shakespeare.

Mahiro’s younger sister Aika was murdered a year ago – and since then Mahiro has been skipping high school, bent on revenge. His classmate Yoshino (who was in a secret relationship with Aika) goes to visit her grave, only to held at gunpoint by a glamorous young woman, Fraulein Evangeline (who may be working for the government) demanding to know where Mahiro is. Mahiro comes to Yoshino’s rescue – and, just in time, the two young men escape, only to witness the horrifying effects of the Iron Plague which is turning everyone to metal. Mahiro shows Yoshino a strange wooden doll through which he’s able to communicate with a young woman mage, Hakaze Kusaribe, so powerful that her mage clan has marooned her on a desert island. She is the protector of the Tree of Genesis, and has promised to help Mahiro find Aika’s murderer, gifting him with magic talismans – if he, in turn, will help her stop her brother Samon from reviving the Tree of Exodus and bringing destruction to the world. But Samon’s clan mages wield some very powerful magic – and they will do anything to stop Mahiro and Yoshino bringing Hakaze back.

blast of tempest a

Episode 12 ends on a note of high melodrama with the whole world at the mercy of the battle for supremacy between the Tree of Genesis and the Tree of Exodus. So the abrupt change of tone when we launch into Part 2 of the series comes as something of a surprise. Suddenly it seems as if we’re in a slice-of-life shoujo romcom with Hakaze, the Princess of Genesis, blushing like a schoolgirl over her crush on Yoshino. Hanemura, the new Mage of Exodus, is portrayed as a bit of a klutz at first – then the super sentai-style uniform he’s persuaded to adopt in his role of mage of Exodus takes us into yet another genre altogether. But, to be fair to the creative team, the second set of episodes works much better than the first – as long as you don’t ask too many questions and just sit back and enjoy the ride. This is because the plot issues are mostly resolved in the final episode (and how many anime series can you say that about?) leading to something approaching a satisfying ending.

blast of tempest b

By far the most interesting aspect of this story is the uncomfortable ‘friendship’ between Mahiro, Aika and Yoshino; Mahiro must never know that Aika and Yoshino have been secretly going out together behind his back… because Mahiro (in spite of all his protestations) is also attracted to his sister (who is not, as it turns out, related to him by blood, so that’s all right; no incest here, folks!) And yet Yoshino is the only one who has been there for Mahiro – the arrogant, outwardly self-sufficient rich boy – since the boys were in middle grade. This potentially poisonous and complex triangular relationship is frankly rather more compelling than all the ‘end of the world’ gallimaufry.

blast of tempest d

Why does Blast of Tempest, inspired by the Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, start with a quotation from Hamlet? And then continue (mostly) to quote from Hamlet? Well, the series is based on the manga Civilisation Blaster by Kyo Shirodaira (with art by Ren Saizaki) and Shirodaira is the author of that famously plot-twisty series Spiral.  At first the only element borrowed from The Tempest is the idea of the powerful magician cast adrift by a sibling and washed up on a desert island. But where Shakespeare’s mage is Prospero, Duke of Milan, his role of duke usurped by his villainous brother, here we have a young ‘princess’ mage, the most powerful of the Kusaribe clan, who is put in a barrel and set adrift on the ocean by her brother Samon. Later on we learn that Aika loved to quote from that play – and some (slightly clumsy) analogies come up relating to native islander/monster Caliban and his role in the play. But the parallels between the trio of brother (Mahiro), sister (Aika) and lover (Yoshino) and Laertes, Ophelia and Hamlet are quoted just as often and, arguably, are more apt. Is the outcome going to be a revenge tragedy (Hamlet) or a revenge/reconciliation (The Tempest)? At the end there is a final (and fitting) link to The Tempest… but you’ll have to watch it to discover what exactly that turns out to be.

blast of tempest c

Another intriguing (or baffling, depending on your point of view) issue is that of the music. Michiru Oshima (FullMetal Alchemist, Patema Inverted, Hal) is responsible for the fully orchestral soundtrack. This is both a bonus (she’s an accomplished composer) and a disadvantage (there’s sometimes so much going on in the orchestral score that it overwhelms the action.) Particularly affecting is the poignant theme that accompanies the preview at the end of every episode; this is Oshima at her best. But what’s this I hear? Something rather more ‘classical’? Why, it’s the third movement from Beethoven’s piano sonata ‘The Tempest,’ orchestrated, no doubt, by Oshima herself and inserted, perhaps, to remind us of the (thus far pretty tenuous) links to Shakespeare’s play.

blast of tempest e

The Opening Theme “Spirit Inspiration” by Nothing’s Carved in Stone is suitably loud, jangled and brash – with English lyrics.  But, for a show with such heavy emotional content (murdered sister, lost lover, family betrayal, the imminent end of the world…) what on earth is this cutesy little Ending Theme “happy endings” by Kana Hanazawa (who plays Aika) doing? It seems utterly out of place. The second Opening Theme is “Daisuki na noni (Even though I love you)” by Kylee with animation based on the attractive manga artwork by Ren Saizaki. The second Ending Theme is “Bokutachi no Uta (Our Song)” by Sako Tomohisa where the animation portrays the doomed lovers Aika and Yoshino, walking along as the seasons change.

As this release is subbed, we are treated to the original seiyuu, and very good they are, too, especially young male leads Kouki Uchiyama as Yoshino and Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Mahiro. The subtitles are so-so in quality, leaving something to be desired in the long passages of talky exposition (but then, that’s more of a complaint for the script writers who obviously forgot the old rule: ‘Show, don’t tell.’)

Extras: Textless Opening and Ending Themes; Trailers.

In Summary

Blast of Tempest is a very attractive series from a visual point of view with elegant character designs (the long hair of Fraulein Evangeline, Aika, Hakaze and her brother Samon is romantically Art Nouveau in the way it billows, and drifts in long strands across the screen). The mage duels are thrillingly orchestrated. The destructive powers of the Tree of Exodus and the Tree of Genesis are chillingly portrayed. But its strengths lie in the personal interactions of the main characters; when Hakaze tells Yoshino he should grieve properly for Aika, or when Mahiro and Yoshino are arguing, the series comes alive.

Score: 7 / 10

Anime Quick Information

  • Title: Blast of Tempest Collection Episodes 1-24
  • UK Publisher: MVM Films
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Studio: Bones
  • Type: TV series
  • Year: 2012
  • Running time: 600 minutes