Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 6 Review

is-it-wrong-to-try-to-pick-up-girls-in-a-dungeon-volume-6The first five volumes of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon? (or Japanese abbreviation DanMachi as I’ll be referring to it now) have proved to be a fascinating read full of wonderful adventures. That said, I’ve been eager for a brand new adventure; something uncharted and full of surprises – in other words, something the anime didn’t adapt. Thankfully that’s what Volume 6 of the light novel series is here to do and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

This volume is set just a few days after the end of Volume 5, with Bell taking a few days off from exploring the dungeon to recover from the battle with the 18th floor boss. As tales of his adventure spread throughout Orario, it’s not long before our hero is the centre of attention, but not every adventurer is happy with the ‘Little Rookie’. As Bell, Lilly and Welf celebrate their safe return from the 18th floor battle, Bell has a run-in with members of Apollo Familia, which leads to all kinds of trouble! Conflicts between Familia are never a good thing but this time Bell’s rash judgement could cost him everything he holds dear.

What started out as a simple bar-fight quickly escalates as god Apollo, who has taken an interest in Bell, declares that he won’t forgive Hestia Familia for the harm caused to one of his own. He informs Hestia that the only way to gain forgiveness is for Bell to join his Familia instead! After a swift refusal from Bell and Hestia, Apollo sets a plan into motion to force Bell to join him – including the kidnapping of Lilly and the destruction of Bell’s home!

After Bell and Hestia are chased through the streets of Orario and reach the realisation that Apollo will stop at nothing to obtain Bell, Hestia agrees for the two Familia to face one another in a war game to settle things once and for all. Outnumbered and with their back to a wall, can Hestia Familia really make it through this crisis or will Bell soon be the newest recruit of Apollo Familia?

For a volume that never once sees Bell set foot inside the dungeon, it’s certainly full of action and excitement. The first couple of chapters set up the overall arc while also tying up loose ends from the previous volume (including confirmation that Bell, thankfully, hasn’t levelled up again) but also offers the chance for some fine character development. Apollo decides to host a meeting of the gods but bends the rules so that every god can bring one member of their Familia to the party. It’s entertainment for the gods and an excuse for them to show off, but for mere humans like Bell it’s perhaps the most nervous he’s ever been! Fortunately he’s not alone in his awkwardness and it’s not long before he stumbles across Aiz, who is also feeling out of place. With some interference from Hermes, the two get the chance to dance together (as depicted on the front cover) and it is the most adorable scene I have had the chance to witness from this series.

This is a volume that focuses on Bell and Lilly more than anyone else, so I’m glad that author Fujino Omori still found some time to fit in development between Bell and Aiz. Their relationship hasn’t really progressed since previous installments but I think it’s safe to call them friends now –  and reading through their interactions is always satisfying. Bell is still terribly shy and awkward around her, while Aiz is as quiet and clueless as ever, but that actually works remarkably well for the two. If anything, I haven’t found myself wishing that they’d get over their shyness as I usually would be with other characters at this point.

I won’t say too much concerning the war game as we’re fairly far through the book when it takes place but I do want to mention how well written all of the action scenes are. It’s not the first time Bell has fought against other adventurers – as there is always someone looking to pick on our hero – but it is the first time that the battle has been notably significant to the plot. I was surprised that the action held up as well as it did, given that there are no monsters to fight, but Omori has done wonders to capture the readers’ imaginations.  

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Omori’s writing has improved a great deal from where he first started with Volume 1. I blasted through this volume in a couple of sittings, which is unusual for me with anything that isn’t a manga, and that’s purely because of how easy it was to become completely engrossed in the story. I’ve commented in the past that DanMachi is likely my favourite light novel series and I think I finally understand why it is. DanMachi always feels like I’m right in the middle of the action with Bell. Even while he was dancing with Aiz I could feel just how embarrassed the poor kid was! None of the other fantasy genre light novels I’ve read or am currently reading draw me in quite this much and the fact that DanMachi does is purely down to Omori’s abilities to create these scenes and characters.

The illustrations for this volume were also handled very well by Suzuhito Yasuda, as they usually are, but were more interesting to look over than the previous volume. My favourite image on offer is definitely that of the front cover, but there were also some nicely drawn shots of Welf that I’m fond of. Overall it seems as though Yasuda’s art is improving volume by  volume and he’s starting to have a good handle on the scenes that really deserve depicting.

It’s amazing that, for a series set around exploring a dungeon, a volume in which we never once set foot in the dungeon could be so engrossing! It’s also refreshing to read a story that the anime didn’t cover (hopefully in a Season 2 though?). Considering that we were offered some solid character development for all of Hestia Familia I can definitely say that I’m satisfied with what I’ve read. My excitement for the next volume is already building and if you’re someone like me who has loved Bell’s adventure up until now, then Volume 6 is definitely both worth your time and a fine example of the series at its best.

Title: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Publisher: Yen Press
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Action, Comedy
Author(s): Fujino Omori (Author), Suzuhito Yasuda (Illustrator)
Type: Light Novel
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Book (digital edition available)
Length: 272 pages

Score: 9/10

Haikyu!! Volume 3

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This is the third month in a row that I’ve gotten to review the
Haikyu!! manga for the site and I’m still loving every second! Volume 3 features some notable changes to the Karasuno team but these are for the better. With the third season of the anime due to begin at the start of October this is the perfect time for some volleyball fun and I’m happy to say that the Haikyu!! manga hasn’t disappointed me yet!

Volume 3 kicks things off by introducing a new character, Yu Nishinoya, who is a second year student at Karasuno High. Usually Nishinoya plays the role of libero in the volleyball team but he’s been absent due to being suspended from school for a week (which explains why we haven’t met him yet). Nishinoya is short, which gives him a lot of movability for the role he plays and leads to great joy for Hinata when he discovers he’s an inch taller! Having Nishinoya back surely means great things for the Karasuno team, but the situation isn’t quite that simple. Karasino’s libero declares that he won’t be rejoining the club if the team’s ace won’t return too!

The ace is a position held by Asahi Azumane (another new character being introduced this volume), who left the team after an extremely difficult match that Karasuno faced before Hinata and the other first years joined. The job of the ace is to break through the opposing team’s wall of blockers and score points wherever possible, but during the match in question every move Asahi made was completely shot down. Ultimately Karasuno lost the match, which Asahi feels is all his fault rather than that of the whole team and leads him to believe that the team would be better off without him.

While Nishinoya is stubborn and refuses to officially rejoin the team, he does practise alongside Hinata, who regards him as a ‘senpai’. When Hinata and Kageyama learn about the situation with Asahi they go to introduce themselves and try to convince him to rejoin the team, which eventually leads to a passionate speech from Hinata that triggers something in Asahi’s heart. Will it be enough to bring him back to the team?

This volume also introduces a potential coach for the team in the form of Keishin Ukai, who used to play for the Karasuno team while he attended the school. He’s also the grandson of the previous coach Ukai, who was famous for his brutal practises but produced a brilliant team in his time. At first Keishin isn’t interested in the role and flat-out refuses each time club advisor Takeda asks him to consider the job. However, after hearing that Karasuno will be holding a practise game with the previous coach’s old rivals, Nekoma High, he finally gives in and agrees to take a look at the team.

While this volume is packed full of new character introductions, it still finds time for some volleyball as well as more development for Hinata. After learning about the responsibilities and fame associated with being an ace, Hinata begins wishing he could be an ace as he reckons that his current role, a decoy, is extremely boring. Some harsh yet encouraging words from Kageyama hit home and convince him that, despite not having the flashiest title, he can be the very best (like no one ever was) when paired with Kageyama.

I think it’s safe to say that Haikyu!! is still a very strong shonen series. The characters introduced in this volume are all genuinely likable and have their own story to tell, as well as a reason to be on the Karasuno team. Placing the focus on Nishinoya, Asahi, and Hinata does mean that we don’t see much of the other cast, and Tanaka is notably absent for most of the volume except for the odd panel, but what’s important is that I wasn’t left feeling like it mattered. A story about a sports team is always going to have noticeable absences; it’s just common sense that a weekly series won’t feature the entire cast all of the time. However, the characters in Haikyu!! are all so interesting that even if we lose some of them for a volume, I’m just as happy with those being focused on, and mangaka Haruichi Furudate has a knack for making everything just work.

On the whole this is yet another volume that has been beautifully handled where artwork is concerned. The characters’ eyes especially are very captivating, which is interesting because the way Furudate draws eyes is very simple: they’re just ovals with pupils, highlights, and pencil lines from side to side. Furudate is so skilled at conveying such deep and powerful emotion from these simple designs that it’s breathtaking, and I really admire how much skill this must take to pull off. In the back of the volume there is a four-paged short story that is drawn completely in pencil sketches rather than being inked over, and I have to say that even for a rough extra it looks wonderful.

Character designs for this volume are also very nice because while Nishinoya, with his blond streak and very pointy hair, looks like he belongs in a shonen manga, we also have Asahi, who is more of the gentle giant of the series. While his design doesn’t exactly stand out, he’s still rather unique in appearance. There are a couple of off-model shots when characters are in the background of smaller panels, but considering the fact that this is a weekly series in Japan it’s not too unusual and I certainly wasn’t bothered by it.

Overall Haikyu!! continues to be a fantastic read and with the third season of the anime on the horizon it’s a nice way of keeping my excitement for the series intact. I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with Haikyu!!, but these monthly releases are making sure I definitely won’t.

Title: Haikyu!!
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Comedy, Drama, School, Shonen
Author(s): Haruichi Furudate
Type: Manga
Original vintage: 2012
Format: Book (digital edition available)
Age rating: Teen
Length: 192 pages

Score: 8/10

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Review

beck-dvd Regular readers of my reviews will be familiar with the fact that I am a big music fan. I listen to a lot of different types of music, as well as play the guitar myself. It’s safe to say that music is something deeply ingrained in my life and me as a person, so I’m always really excited when an anime falls into my hands that is focused around music. The latest example of this is Anime Limited’s release of Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (henceforth known as Beck) which I’m here to review today.

Beck is a series from 2004 based around Yukio Tanaka (better known as Koyuki), a 14-year-old teenager who doesn’t feel like he has a place in the world. After meeting 16-year-old guitarist Ryusuke Minami, thanks to Ryusuke’s dog named Beck, Koyuki is inspired to try his hand at playing the guitar and soon discovers a passion for music. Will this newfound fascination finally give him a place in the world?

As Koyuki gets better at playing the guitar, Ryusuke begins to acknowledge his talent and enthusiasm and gradually integrates him into his band, which he called Beck after his dog. Together with the other band members, Tsunemi Chiba, Yoshiyuki Taira and Yuji Sakurai, the five boys strive to hit it big in the world of music.

beck_3What the show offers is a very realistic look into what it means to learn a musical instrument and also the harsh realities of the industry. It’s something that most music anime wouldn’t normally bother dealing with because they usually have some other driving element to them (comedy, romance, fantastical plots, etc.), but for Beck being real is its bread and butter. For the most part I liked what Beck was trying to do but there are huge flaws here, too.

Connecting with this cast was not possible. I’ve been in Koyuki’s shoes, struggling to learn chords and complex scores while wondering if I’d ever be able to pull them off (“maybe I wasn’t meant to do this”, “maybe it’ll never come to me!”) but equally being overjoyed when I finally accomplished my goals. The problem is that whenever Koyuki finally worked his way past a problem, I never really cared. He’s an extremely bland character that I never grew fond of, so even though I could relate to his situation, I felt nothing. The same can be said for the band as a whole. All of the members face musical challenges throughout the show but not once did I find myself caring because all of them felt uninspired and plain. They struggle so hard and face so many problems together to actually get anywhere in this cut-throat industry but I really couldn’t stay engaged in the show at all and spent the majority of my time outright bored.

beck_7I think part of my problem rests with the fact that I’ve watched Kids on the Slope, which deals with similar issues much better. That series doesn’t involve the main character actively learning an instrument because he already plays piano, nor does the group want to go into the music industry, but there was just so much more depth and chemistry between the characters than what Beck offers. I will admit that Beck’s on-stage performances are very good but that’s the only time this cast meshed well, which is such a waste when we spend so much time with them off-stage.

While I’m making comparisons, there is also the Fuuka manga series (which has been confirmed to be receiving an anime adaptation) that suitably handles a very similar idea to Beck. In Fuuka the main character, like Koyuki, doesn’t really have a place in the world but he meets a girl named Fuuka and is inspired to start playing the bass. Thanks to that, he joins a band with Fuuka and some friends and they try to make it in the music industry. Even without animation and actual music to back it up I find Fuuka much better than Beck. This is largely down to the fact that the characters are simply that much more interesting. I really like them! Whereas with Beck I’m almost certainly not going to be remembering anyone.

beck_6Some blame for my dislike of the anime also stems from the animation. The series is handled by Madhouse and overall doesn’t look too bad for its time. However, characters are often off-model if shown at a distance and the show has a very annoying habit of lingering on shots that are obviously there for symbolism but don’t actually work. That said, the show does make some good usage of CG when instruments are being played, resulting in a realistic effect. It’s definitely convincing to watch and makes me happy to see because I can always understand the chords that Koyuki is going for. Unfortunately the CG combined with the age of the series, as well as the way it was produced for DVD back when originally released in the US, means that there is a recurring visual issue with the opening song. It’s not a massive issue but the opening can look mildly pixelated at times around the characters, making it quite off-putting. Thankfully this problem is limited to the opening as the ending and series itself all seem fine.   

Of course this is a series based around music and in that regard Beck hasn’t done too badly. The series is musically centered around covers of famous songs (especially from English bands like The Beatles) and these do sound rather good. I’m a big fan of bands who heavily indulge in guitar driven tracks, and so the rock music Beck played always felt right to me. There isn’t a great deal of original music on offer but what there is tends to be memorable enough. It has a good groove to it and as the series progresses you can tell it has been built around the idea of displaying how much Koyuki has grown as a guitarist.

The opening for the series is ‘Hit in the USA’ by the band Beat Crusaders, who also provide the the second ending theme titled ‘Moon on the Water’ – a song that Koyuki learns and occasionally plays throughout the show. The tracks are usually sung completely in English and have a proper pop-punk feel to them that has obviously been inspired by western music and fits with the tone of Beck. The ending used for most of the episodes – only changing for the final two or three – is ‘Above The Clouds’ by Meister (currently going by the name The Brilliant Green). It appears that Meister have also been heavily influenced by English music, most notably The Beatles.

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I’d like to say that the voice actors for the series are notable but unfortunately, both in the dub and original Japanese, they really aren’t. In the original Japanese track the majority of the cast are swapped out when the characters are required to sing, which generally isn’t too disruptive but makes it difficult to truly become attached to any of the actors. The English dub certainly isn’t groundbreaking either but it does the job. It also loses a few points purely because so much of Beck revolves around the fact Ryusuke and others can speak the English language, so in scenes where Koyuki (being Japanese) is meant to be feeling a bit lost listening to them it just doesn’t work as well. However, the dub doesn’t change voice actors for the singing, so that’s a point in its favour.

This release comes to the UK thanks to Anime Limited, and it is worth noting that this is the first time the series has been released in a complete form in the UK. The previous release of Beck stopped at episode 18. This release is DVD only due to the fact that the blu-ray master for the series just wasn’t that good and from what I’ve seen of the DVD I’m inclined to agree that Anime Limited made the right idea skipping it. This set contains the full 26 episodes with their dub and original Japanese audio. The only extras to speak of are clean opening and ending themes.

The biggest problem I am left with concerning Beck is that it took real effort to push through it. I genuinely love music and yet I have not been this bored with an anime in a really long time. I don’t usually like saying this kind of thing, but I think Beck was probably a better series back in 2004 than it is today because the likes of Kids on the Slope have aired since. It’s down-to-earth and very realistic which certainly works, but with no chemistry between the cast I just don’t care about what’s going on – especially not for 26 episodes. I really wish I was sitting here writing something else but sadly, as it stands, I am struggling to recommend Beck. Perhaps the best I can do is recommend checking out the series on FunimationNow before purchasing.

Title: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad - The Complete Collection
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Comedy, Shonen, Music, Slice of Life
Studio: Madhouse
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2004
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 625 minutes

Score: 5/10

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

The Empire of Corpses Review

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Project Ito may seem like a studio name but it’s actually a synonym for Satoshi Ito, a Japanese science fiction writer who produced four novels before his passing in 2009. Most of his books have been translated and released in the UK, including his novelisation of Metal Gear Solid 4. In early 2015 it was announced that his three original novels would be made into anime films, each with their own animation studio and directors to bring the stories to life. Two of these films so far have been licensed for UK release: Harmony and The Empire of Corpses – not only was the latter’s original book released posthumously but it has not yet been released in English (however, a small sample can be read here.) Luckily each film is its own entity so they do not need to be watched sequentially.

Set in the late 19th Century; the great Victor Frankenstein’s technology to raise the dead has become common knowledge. Although the ability to bring back one’s soul has been lost, along with the location of his first creation, the ability to reanimate corpses has become the backbone of society the world over; enabling easily-controlled corpses to do work such as waitressing, carrying cargo to boats, and even serving as soldiers in wars. Dr John Watson is a growing expert in this technology and he has been scouted by the British Empire as an agent to locate Victor’s original notes; however, he’s not the only one searching for such information and many other parties are willing to do whatever it takes to get their hands on it.

To make it clear: the main character is John Watson from the Sherlock Holmes books, and besides Victor Frankenstein, there are also cameos from real-life adventurers, presidents and inventors from the same period (for example Fredrick Burnaby). There are characters from classic French and Russian literature such as The Future Eve and The Brothers Karamazov, and a lot more British icons that I won’t spoil. Basically it’s a buffet of characters that join in the worldwide journey to recover Victor’s notes and stop a ‘zombie apocalypse’ (not really, but it’s a similar situation). That premise in itself is crazy enough to be a comic book, or wacky fanfiction, but half the fun is seeing the characters in a new environment outside their norm and having the audience figuring out who’s who – because unless you’ve read the relevant British, American, Russian and French material to know all of the name-drops, you’re only going to get a few. If you have read them all, good on you! You’re in for a treat.

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Outside of the iconic names however, most of the characters are very different to their original counterparts to the point that many would question why they are even named the same at all. Fredrick Burnaby and the Frankenstein mythos are the closest to their originals; the former maintaining his adventuring spirit and battle prowess, the latter drawing the most heavily from its work in terms of story and mythology. The others have little to nothing in common, but for the majority of the time whilst the movie flows from one stunning location to another, and action scenes keep the pace going, it really doesn’t matter because the characters are interesting in their own right regardless of what material (or country, in terms of the real life people) they come from. John Watson, for instance, is still a doctor but not the post-war Veteran kind, and he doesn’t show any physical health issues until close to the end of the film. However, he maintains his astute senses and curiosity about the unknown. It’s also a breath of air for the character that he’s able to shine alone; John Watson and Sherlock Holmes often come as a package deal for several obvious reasons, but it’s a great idea to let the character stand on his own, allowing him to take charge for once rather than just being in Sherlock’s shadow. We don’t need more Sherlock and Watson stories when we’ve got tons already, but we could do with more Watson tales; especially this one.

Adapting a text-heavy source to a visual medium often has lots of complications and issues, and these do not start to become apparent until the second half of the movie. The opening scenes are very engaging and set the tone fantastically, explaining the alternative history that has unfolded. The worldwide journey from England, to India, to Russia, to Tokyo to America not only gives the animators opportunity to really stretch their skills but also creates an epic feel to the whole movie. However, two thirds of the way into the film the characters start to play a cat and mouse game, merely chasing the villain to catch up with him before he does untold damage. That equates to jumping back and forth to locations we’ve already visited, a lot of action scenes with characters breaking into monologues over the top of them, hastily-paced character development and exposition to keep the movie going. It’s clear that there was so much material and world building going on in the original novel that there was simply no room to fit it into a standard movie running time. Enough is explained here and there to grasp the themes, character motivations and understand mostly what’s going on but there are many unanswered questions left at the end. For example, why does Hadaly have the unique powers she exhibits in the second half? What was the full extent of Friday’s and John’s relationship? How did they meet and come to reanimate corpses together? Why did the US president Ulysses Grant want the notes for himself? It’s clear a lot was cut from the source material and some of it was squeezed in to explain plot threads, but a large chunk of it could have been saved if they had dropped the constant travelling back and forth in the latter half. Credit to the production crew for not just having the movie all set in Japan, but the locations for the big finale and the previous fight scenes leading up to it could have been set anywhere so leaving it in one place would have saved a lot of ‘travelling’ animation and unnecessary scenes.

Despite the grand finale battle being weighed down by a lot of exposition and unanswered questions, the heart of the story – Watson’s mission to save Friday – remains strong even after repeated watches. Friday never says a word but you can see how much Watson adored his friend even after he’s long gone; Watson’s constant calling after him, the way he looks at him like he expects his friend to suddenly jump back to life, and the tiniest moments from Friday that give Watson hope to go on are really touching, and make the final scene at the very end all the more potent and heartbreaking.

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Wit Studio (the animators behind Attack on Titan) handled the visuals for this film and it does not disappoint. Aside from the aforementioned welcome changes in locations outside of Japan to set the film, the characters are designed marvellously with the corpses’ dead-eyed look and fractured movements making them appear just human enough to be recognisable but creepy enough to make the viewer wary of them whilst they’re on screen – they’re not just zombies, they’re something more and seeing them moving around with other humans, mostly blending in, is a freaky world to consider living in. Also a big thumbs up to the excellent use of 3D animation for the group corpses that loiter around the film; a common complaint with 3D animation is that it often looks out of place or flat compared to the anime style, but here that works to its advantage. Take the opening scenes, where you have rows and rows of corpse soldiers for example; the 3D-animated corpses look odd to the eye, moving awkwardly and inhumanly, but that’s exactly what they are. It’s a genius move on the studio’s part. There is some use of 3D for the last battle, which goes from high science fiction into fantasy territory, but its implementation makes the finale look as glorious as the story builds it to be.

Yoshihiro Ike provides the music for the film, and, like the animators, he gets to work with elements from the various countries the characters visit to his advantage to create a sweeping score. The theme song ‘Door’ by EGOIST is a jazz-inspired slow number that fits very nicely with the heavy British backdrop and mood of the final scene. Speaking of British; applause goes to Funimation for giving the characters the appropriate accents from English to Russian that make them sound as diverse as they are in the story. Although the accents aren’t completely perfect and some actors struggle more than others (you can practically hear Jason Liebrecht’s mind working in overdrive to say the word ‘corpses’ in the English way) it’s great they’ve gone the extra mile for the film, rather than just having everyone speaking in an American accent.

On disc extras include movie trailers, promos for other anime properties including Tokyo Ghoul √A and Psycho Pass, and there’s also a Funimation short where four members of the English voice cast discuss the movie, its themes, the characters, and so on. It’s an enjoyable little watch but be sure to watch it after you’ve seen the film as it’s full of spoilers! The collector’s edition comes in a very nice steel case, complete with dual formats and an art book.

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To summarise it in more modern wording, The Empire of Corpses can be described as a ‘hot mess’; it’s very fast paced with too much location jumping, leading to abrupt character development and world building that looks amazing but isn’t explained fully in the context of the story. The name-dropping of real and fictional characters is often no more than that. However, that doesn’t mean the film isn’t a blast to watch; a thrilling, wacky ride bursting with passion and imagination with lots of lovely Easter Eggs to get whilst watching or discover afterwards. If the idea of British, French, American, Russian characters coming together in one big corpse-slaying army interests you, then check it out.

One last note; stay through the credits for an added bonus scene that includes many more glorious cameos which will either have you squealing in joy or scratching your head in confusion. But it’s worth the watch either way.

Title: The Empire of Corpses
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Horror, Action, Sci-Fi
Studio: Wit Studio
Type: Movie
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 120 minutes

Score: 7/10

HaNaYaMaTa Review

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Naru Sekiya is a terminally average 14 year old, with average intelligence, athleticism and talents. She had hoped everything would change when she started middle school, and her life would start to reflect the fairy tales she had grown to love, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Her average life suddenly changes, however, when she has a chance encounter with a mysterious blonde girl dancing on top of a shrine gate. Naru assumes this girl is a fairy, but it turns out she is Hana, a regular girl and a transfer student from America, who has fallen in love with Yosakoi, a type of dance, and intends to start her own club!

Adapted from the ongoing manga series by Sou Hamayumiba, HaNaYaMaTa is a Slice of Life anime from Madhouse, the studio behind such mega popular hits as No Game No Life and Death Note. Despite its modest popularity, I’d have to say that this show simply has to be one of the finest examples of a Slice of Life show I’ve ever seen.

If I had to describe HaNaYaMaTa in a single word, it would definitely be charming. The show just oozes charm from every facet of its production, from the cast of characters to the music, but where you’ll notice it almost instantly is in its art style and animation. Madhouse is one of my absolute favourite animation studios, not only due to the consistent quality of their output but because of the sheer variety of genres they tackle. Whether it be a gritty crime thriller like Monster, an over-the-top comedy like One Punch Man, or a long-running shounen like Hunter x Hunter, Madhouse is a studio which absolutely refuses to be pigeonholed, and manages to knock it out of the park no matter what kind of show they’re making, a trend which continues with HaNaYaMaTa. From beginning to end, the show looks absolutely gorgeous, and demands to be seen in high definition. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fairly unique but still cute character designs by Atsuko Watanabe, which help HaNaYaMaTa stand out from its peers.

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Whilst it looks brilliant, the animation is far from the only fantastic thing about HaNaYaMaTa, with it having one of the best cast of characters I have seen in a Slice of Life show for a very long time. With the majority of school club shows, the characters can come off as rather one-note, and can be lacking the depth found in more plot-driven shows. For the most part, I don’t really have a problem with this, seeing as the focus of a lot of these shows is often the comedy and the chemistry of the characters. Despite this, however, writer Reiko Yoshida, the scriptwriter behind several episodes of one of my all-time favourite series, K-On, as well as K-On The Movie, Girls Und Panzer and Non Non Biyori, does away with Slice of Life norms, devoting a hefty chunk of the running time to fleshing out the rather small cast of characters and giving them all personal conflicts that they work through over the course of series. Whilst the central conflict is about Naru trying to find a sense of self-worth, the show devotes episodes to developing the other characters too, and covers a variety of issues such as parental relationship issues and jealousy, and it makes the characters feel so much more real, relatable and ultimately more likable. It’s also through these developed characters that the friendship between everyone in the Yosakoi club also feels much more natural, with everyone relying on each other in their times of need. If I did have one complaint, it’s that Machi, the last girl to join the club, joins a little bit later than I’d have liked. By the time she appears, there are only a handful of episodes left, and it didn’t feel like she spent enough time with the group.

Despite the fact that it does deal with some fairly serious issues with its characters, that doesn’t stop HaNaYaMaTa from being an incredibly cheerful and happy show, that never failed to make me smile. Whilst this is due in part to some very well done comedy moments that got a good amount of laughs out of me throughout, mostly because of Hana and her boundless energy, it also has this unfathomable quality to it, that just made me feel overwhelmingly happy. I know it sounds silly, but I couldn’t help but sit there with a huge grin on my face throughout the majority of the show, and that’s something truly special.189

Manga’s release of HaNaYaMaTa includes both an English dub as well as the original Japanese audio. Whilst I think the cast do a serviceable job, I found the dub to be a little bit subpar. There are some good performances to be found here such as Luci Christian as Hana (Azumanga Daioh, Is This a Zombie?, Clannad) and Molly Searcy as Sari (Fate/Kaleid liner Prisma Illya, Girls Und Panzer, Brynhildr in the Darkness) but it is let down by some occasionally wooden voice acting. Whilst I don’t think it’s awful, and should be enough to please people who prefer dubs, I think I’d recommend the Japanese voice track. The original soundtrack is composed by monaca, who has also provided music for shows such as Wake Up Girls and My Teen Romantic Comedy Snafu,  and who has created a superb score that complements the show well. The opening is “Hanaha Odori Reya Iroha ni Ho” by Team HaNaYaMaTa, a group consisting of the seiyuus of the main cast, and is honestly one of the best openings that I’ve heard in a long time, being relentlessly catchy and will be lodged in my head for weeks to come.

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In terms of special features, this release is pretty standard, including a clean OP and ED as well as trailers for other Sentai Filmworks releases.

In Summary

HaNaYaMaTa is wonderful in every meaning of the word, having an excellent cast and beautiful animation, which makes it an absolute must for any Slice of Life fan, and, even if you’re not, is still well worth checking out.

Title: HaNaYaMaTa Complete Collection
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama
Studio: Madhouse
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: U
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 9/10

Fairy Tail Zero Review

Fairy Tail Zero mangaThe Fairy Tail manga has long been one of my favourite shonen series. Like with all long running manga though, I always get left feeling that there are more stories to be told in the universe than just the ‘main’ story we read week to week. Thankfully the Fairy Tail Zero manga is here to help fill one such gap.

A certain story that I’d always longed to be told from the Fairy Tail universe was the origin of the Fairy Tail guild itself. We already knew that the first guild master was Mavis Vermillion, but just how did the creation of Fairy Tail come about? With this volume of manga we’re given all of the answers we could hope for and a few pleasant surprises.

Our story begins on Sirius Island (translated as Tenrou Island in the anime) where Mavis, as a child, lived with her parents. After her parents passed away she ended up working for the Red Lizard wizards guild and it’s during this time period that we’re dropped into Mavis’s life. One day the town is attacked by a rival guild known as Blue Skull and Mavis and Red Lizard’s guild master’s daughter, Zera, are the only survivors.

Flash forward seven years and we’re reacquainted with Mavis and Zera as some treasure hunters come to the island. The group of treasure hunters is made up of Yuri Dreyar (father of Makarov Dreyar), Precht Gaebolg, and Warrod Sequen (one of the ten wizard saints in the future) and to any avid readers of Fairy Tail will be familiar faces. The three have come to take the mysterious Sirius Orb, which is said to be worth a great deal of money. However, after meeting Mavis and striking a deal with her for the orb, they discover that it has actually already been stolen! Mavis determines that it was likely taken by Blue Skull during the attack seven years ago and thus the treasure hunters, along with Mavis and Zera, set out to find the guild in question and take back what belonged to Sirius Island.

As this is a single volume I won’t say too much more regarding how the story comes together because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do want to mention that Zeref has some level of involvement within the plot. Not only does Fairy Tail Zero tell the Fairy Tail guild’s origin tale, it  also shares the story of how Mavis and Zeref became friends. In fact this manga strives to wrap up a few different storylines in one volume and I’m happy to say that it does what it sets out to accomplish rather well.

While we’ve seen a decent amount of Precht and Warrod in the main Fairy Tail manga it’s nice to see a bit more of them when they were younger. The same can be said for Mavis, too, because while we’re fairly familiar with her now, it’s nice to see her humble beginnings and experience the adventure that left her wanting to create a guild: a place to come home to. As far as new characters go, Zera and Yuri are both great additions to the Fairy Tail cast and it’s easy to see that Yuri and grandson Laxus have a lot in common – including their usage of electric magic! Zera is mysterious and very quiet but she’s also much more grounded and down to earth than Mavis, so the two make for a good team.

Fairy Tail Zero has been handled by mangaka Hiro Mashima, who many will already be familiar with as he’s also the mangaka behind Fairy Tail itself. Due to being created by the original mangaka, it leaves Fairy Tail Zero with the ability to slot into the canon perfectly while also working as a standalone story. Mashima penned the 13 chapter story around the same time as the end of the main series’ Tartaros arc (the arc spans chapters 356 to 417 of the manga, which is roughly volumes 42 until 49) and in the back of this volume Mashima notes how more of Mavis’s story is told in volume 53 of the series.

Despite the fact that this story can stand on its own fairly well for readers without a deep knowledge of Fairy Tail, I think you’ll get more enjoyment out of Fairy Tail Zero if you can read it within the timeline that I’ve listed above. As it is the origin story of the guild, it obviously delivers a greater impact the more you know about the series, but I also feel that it’s quite emotional and enjoyable all on its own.

As far as artwork is concerned, I think that Fairy Tail Zero is a really good example of Mashima at his best. The action scenes aren’t quite as impressive as in the main series but the battles still flow very well. What stands out the most though is the emotion that all of our cast display and how this shines through in every panel. Mashima is a strong artist and pays a lot of attention to the small details, even in the smaller panels that are home to a single character. It’s that attention to detail that brings his world to life and makes even a somewhat barren scene looking over a small lake seem pretty special. In the back of this volume there is also an interview with the mangaka, which really shows us just how much thought and effort goes into making Fairy Tail what it is. For a big fan like me it was brilliant fun to read through!

Overall Fairy Tail Zero is a great addition to the Fairy Tail universe. Not only does it expand on some much loved characters’ stories, how the guild came to be and so on, it also gives us time away from our usual cast of heroes and leaves us with something I can proudly recommend to shonen fans. Existing fans of the series will get more out of it but I think there’s a story here for everyone and as a single volume it’s well worth your time.

Score: 9/10

Manga Quick Information

Title: Fairy Tail Zero
Original vintage: 2014
Author: Hiro Mashima
Published by: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Shonen
Age rating: 13 +
Material length: 270 Pages

Re:Zero #1Review

Re-Zero Light novel 1If you asked me which anime was being talked about the most from the Spring/Summer 2016 season then I’d answer without a doubt with Re:Zero. For better or worse the series has captured viewers and held them on the edge of their seats. Today I’m here to review the first volume in the original light novel series and find out if it holds my attention the same way as the anime does.

Re:Zero tells the story of a fairly average teenager, Subaru Natsuki. One day Subaru is magically transported from his local convenience store to a fantasy world. There’s no one in sight to inform him why he’s been brought there.  Surrounded by unfamiliar sights and sounds, just what has Subaru gotten himself into? Filled with determination to work out why he’s been summoned to this place (and to live his life like you would in a video game), Subaru sets out to explore this brave new world.

Okay, I know this all sounds very generic but stick with me. I promise by the end of this review it won’t feel quite as familiar as those fantasy stories you’re used to.

It’s not long before Subaru gets himself into a spot of bother with three thugs. Just when things begin to look their worst, he’s saved by a silver-haired girl, who introduces herself as Satella. Satella uses ice magic and has a spirit familiar named Puck, who introduces himself as Satella’s father and is quick to mention that he works from 9 am till 5 pm. It turns out that Satella has had something very important stolen from her and was in the process of searching for it when she encountered Subaru. As thanks for saving his life, Subaru agrees to help her find the thief and reclaim the item.

It’s not long before Subaru and Satella work out where the thief intends to sell off the stolen item, but when the two arrive at the tavern/storehouse they find that everyone inside has been murdered. Stumbling upon this gruesome scene ultimately leads to the deaths of Subaru and Stella as well by the hand of the killer (who was still lurking in the darkened tavern). In his dying moments Subaru wishes that he could have protected Satella and spent just a little longer in this world.

Unsurprisingly the story doesn’t end with the deaths of our protagonists. It turns out that Subaru has some kind of special ability that allows him to return from death, which he’s dubbed “Return by Death” as upon dying it sends him back to a designated point in time. Perhaps with this ability he can prevent the deaths of himself and Satella, while also helping her retrieve her stolen item.

Return by Death is an interesting ability and author Tappei Nagatsuki handles it rather well. You would think that reliving the same day multiple times over would become boring, especially in book form where there isn’t much to distract you from the fact you’re rereading the same situations over and over, but that’s simply not true here. The first time Subaru experiences the day over again, some things are very similar but they’re also different just enough to keep it interesting. However, as the plot progresses we get the chance to see a new plot line where instead of travelling with Satella, Subaru ends up becoming close to Felt (the thief) and comes face-to-face with the one who killed everyone at the end of his first ‘life’.

Nagatsuki has written Re:Zero from a third person perspective, which works very well for the drama and character interactions. I’d say it’s a shame that we’re not inside Subaru’s head but as he has a tendency to voice all of his thoughts aloud there wouldn’t be a notable benefit to writing the story from his perspective. I found this to be an interesting style of writing because it’s not one that I’ve personally stumbled across in my light novel collection (although when a good portion of my collection has been written by Reki Kawahara perhaps that explains some of it).

Re:Zero started life like a lot of popular light novels, in that it was originally a web novel that was later edited and published as a series. Some of the exchanges between characters go on too long and there is a bit of awkward wording here and there, which has no doubt resulted from the original web novel being rough around the edges compared to a professionally published book. That said, I think Nagatsuki has a good handle on how to write this story and future volumes will likely solve all of the problems in Volume 1.

Illustrations for the series have been provided by Shinichirou Otsuka, who currently doesn’t appear to have worked on anything beyond Re:Zero (at the very least I couldn’t find mention of anything online). Either this is the first (now major) work Otsuka’s produced art for, or the internet just cannot provide me with answers! Regardless, what we have on show for the first volume of Re:Zero looks very nice and character designs are suitably detailed. Volume 1 opens with various colour pages that showcase the characters which, I have to say, look a lot better than the fan-service- laden images we’d usually have for other series. It’s sad that none of the action scenes have been drawn in favour of a picture of each of the main characters, but hopefully future volumes can deliver. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of Otsuka’s work.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the writing and the story, so let’s talk about the characters now. It’s worth saying that Subaru is not going to win any awards for being a likable member of the cast. He’s annoying, doesn’t know when to stop talking, and more often than not I wanted to punch him. Having said that, Subaru has a good heart and his determination to do his best (despite really not having any redeeming qualities) is perhaps what keeps him from being a total waste of space. In a way it’s actually refreshing that Subaru wasn’t made to be a likable character. There are far too many series that try their hardest to make a lead that you’ll be rooting for from the start and I appreciate the fact Re:Zero hasn’t fallen into that cliché.

Satella, Puck, and Felt are all interesting characters whom I grew immensely fond of. Satella has a cold manner but inside she has a good heart. There is obviously more to her than what we see in this volume, and having watched the anime I know just where her story is going. Puck and Felt don’t get quite as much time in the spotlight as Satella but when they are present they, too, shine and leave me wanting to know more about them. It’s a good cast which is only going to grow to become even better as the story progresses.

For those of you who are watching the anime (as I am) it’s worth noting that the light novel handles itself better than the anime adaptation does in certain ways. To begin with, the light novel doesn’t spend as much time on how Subaru was in Japan one minute and then the fantasy world the next. Rather than dealing with his shock and surprise we’re dumped into the scene about 20 minutes after, where things have calmed down and Subaru calmly explains what happened to him. I found this a much better way of starting the story because it’s refreshing to not have the protagonist overreacting to every little thing in a fantasy world. Overall the light novel also has a much better handle on the flow of the plot due to the anime studio creating certain inconsistencies in the story. For example, in one anime scene Puck knows Subaru’s name despite not yet having met him in that life. Subaru is also a lot more tolerable in the light novel than I found him in the anime, which has got to count for something.

Overall Re:Zero Volume 1 makes for a good read and handles the ‘transported to a fantasy world’ idea in an interesting way that, hopefully, won’t become stale anytime soon. Subaru might not be the most likable character but his future in this world seems like it’ll make for an interesting story. I’m a huge fan of the anime and reliving the story through the light novels is something I’m very much enjoying.

Score: 7/10

Light Novel Quick Information
Title: Re:Zero
Original vintage: 2014
Author: Tappei Nagatsuki
Illustrator: Shinichirou Otsuka
Published by: Yen On
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Age rating: 13 +
Material length: 231 Pages

Karneval Volumes 4 & 5 Review

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Circus has rescued young Nai’s friend and protector Karoku from the clutches of the sinister organization Kafka at the Smokey Mansion – but to Nai’s distress, Karoku doesn’t recognize him. It seems that Kafka have been tampering with Karoku’s mind and memories, although no one at Circus is sure how to restore him. Gareki begins his new life as a student at Chronome Academy, sponsored by Captain Hirato. When Nai and Karoku manage to activate the old Circus ID bracelet, Gareki hears Nai crying out for help. Forbidden to leave the academy on pain of expulsion, Gareki finds himself suddenly transported far away. Has he been summoned by Nai – and, if so, can he find him in time before something terrible occurs? Whatever happens, his future prospects at the academy look bleak. Meanwhile, Kafka are planning revenge for Circus’s attack. Uro’s replacement, Ryuu, is determined to show utter ruthlessness to prove his worth to Kafka and orders his forces to kill everyone they encounter. A vicious battle ensues – and it’s far from certain who will emerge unscathed from this latest Varuga attack.

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Touya Mikanagi really gets into her stride here by seriously upping the ante in these volumes. The Circus combat specialists are forced to fight for their lives as they are ambushed by Varuga, leading to the summoning of ‘Silver’ Yogi, the sweet-natured combatant’s ‘other’ personality. And all the while, the hints increase as to the possible links between the biotechnology that has created the monstrous Varuga also being used in the creation of Nai.

In what begins as a typically frivolous, fun research trip to the Ancient Ocean Mermerai – where, for research purposes, the crew members are required to bathe naked in the warm waters to attract the Peranoa, native marine creatures – Yogi’s underwear goes missing. (Yes, it’s a wonderful excuse for fan service, but…) The thief turns out to be a cat. And the cat turns out to be connected to something – or someone – both sinister and sad. There’s the hint of a parallel with the underwear thief and Nai’s origins; although it’s not ever spelled out in so obvious a way, it gives the reader plenty to think about. And what begins as a farcical hunt for missing panties (no one blushes better than Yogi) turns into something far more dangerous.

As Karneval reaches its fifth volume in Yen Press’s English edition (Volumes 9-10 in the original Japanese) it raises an issue that has been intriguing and annoying me in equal measure. Some manga series which are serialized weekly/monthly manage to maintain a sense of onward momentum, pulling the reader along with the promise that the overarching plot issues set out at the beginning will be resolved and all the mysteries solved. But others dilly-dally along the way, going off down what turn out to be blind alleys and losing the narrative drive that is so important for sustaining reader involvement. I realize that this is often not just the fault of the mangaka; we see in series about the way manga is written and delivered from Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-Kun to The World’s Greatest First Love (okay, these are often emphasizing the crazy/humorous side of the process but nevertheless…) the very significant role played by editors in the final product we get to read.

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Karneval is published in Zero Sum, the magazine that has also brought us Loveless, Devils and Realist and 07-Ghost. All of these popular series have been made into anime before the manga was anyway near a conclusion – and this also seems to put the mangaka off their stride in terms of plot development (because why would you, when someone else – the anime script writer – has already finished it off for you or taken it in a different direction from the one you were intending?) Karneval’s strengths lie in its artwork and the character interactions, as young fugitives Nai and Gareki are rescued and then sheltered and educated by the eccentric and colourful crews of both ships of Circus. But the underlying mysteries are developing painfully slowly: who – or what – is Nai? Why was Gareki shipwrecked as a child from what seemed to be a sinister slave ship? Who was responsible for developing the terrifying genetically altered monsters called Varuga? Are Circus really the Good Guys? And how are all these issues related (as they most assuredly are)?

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(This cover image is taken from the French Ki-oon edition but is also used on the reverse of Volume 4 from Yen Press.)

It seems that mangaka are very much at the mercy of the popularity of their series (the magazines carry out frequent reader polls). If the series is popular, they’re encouraged to eke out the material as far as it will go. If its popularity starts to wane, editorial pressure is imposed to bring things to a swift (sometimes brutally swift) conclusion. This wreaks havoc for the mangaka in sustaining anything resembling a coherent, satisfying plot. So how well has Touka Miyanagi coped in what is (after all) her first major series (it’s been running for nine years now)? The good news is that she’s really developed as a storyteller. Karneval was full of good ideas at the start but the delivery was rather random at best. A shame, because this may have deterred some readers. But by now the story’s well underway and she’s much better at pacing the action and directing the reader to what’s really important without distracting them with fun but irrelevant stuff (like the charming rabbit and sheep crews on the two Circus ships). Well, most of the time, anyway.

The artwork is just as attractive as before and these trade paperback Yen Press editions are very handsome indeed, with the original colour splash pages and all the delightful extras (including, if you’re a seiyuu fan, the mangaka’s drawings of the cast of the drama CDs and the anime).

In Summary

If you’re looking for a fantasy steampunk manga with a likable cast of characters and an underlying mystery that needs to be solved, then Karneval is well worth your time – as long as you don’t mind the occasional meander down a plot side-street.

Score 8/10

Touya Mikanagi Yen Press 2016, translated by Su Mon Ha  OT c. 400 pages

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls Review

Attack on Titan Lost Girls novelBy now we’re all very familiar with Attack on Titan and the various characters that make up its cast. Today I’m here to review the Attack on Titan: Lost Girls novel, which shares two short stories about a couple of important female characters from this universe. I’ve commented in the past that I’m not a huge fan of the series, but despite that I’m always happy to read new stories set in its world.

Lost Girls is based off two mini visual novels that were included with the third and sixth volumes of the Attack on Titan anime Blu-ray releases in Japan. The novel has been written by Hiroshi Seko, who acted as a scriptwriter for the anime and wanted to share stories that fit in-between some of the anime episodes. Seko has also worked on the Seraph of the End and Ajin: Demi-Human anime. Lost Girls doesn’t just bring the two visual novels together though, it also includes an extra story and an introduction that explains where the stories take place within the timeline.

This review will contain spoilers for the Attack on Titan series due to the timeline of the stories, so if you haven’t watched the anime or read the manga through to the 8th or 9th volume then stop reading now!

As previously mentioned, Lost Girls is made up of three short stories. The first of these, titled “Lost in the Cruel World”, tells the story of Mikasa and Eren as kids. It’s set when Mikasa still lived with her family and Eren would visit her home with his father, who was attending to Mikasa’s mother’s health. At first the two didn’t really get along but slowly Mikasa and Eren became incredibly close – until his obsession with the Survey Corps and the outside world grew, at least.

Although Eren is present in this first story, he’s not the driving force behind it. “Lost in the Cruel World” very heavily explains the feelings behind a young Mikasa: how lonely she sometimes felt before meeting Eren, and how, after the two become close, she wishes to protect Eren from harm forever. I’ve always felt that our heroine was quite standoffish and found it hard to understand her feelings, but this offers a really good look into how her mind works. I’ve now come away appreciating Mikasa a lot more.

The second story, “Wall Sina, Goodbye” revolves around Annie Leonhart the day before her mission to capture Eren. This tale gives us the chance to live a day in Annie’s shoes as she works to solve the case of a young girl who has gone missing. I’m a big fan of mystery stories, so while I certainly liked the focus on Annie (although not as much as Mikasa) I was far more interested in working out the case. Despite the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of Annie herself, those who do like her will get a lot out of this story because it fleshes out her life outside the main canon.

Our final story is a very short affair, no more than 15 pages, that features a short interaction between Annie and Mikasa and gives a small insight into their feelings for one another. It also ties the previous two stories together rather well.  

Overall Attack on Titan: Lost Girls is a nice package. It’s well written and the scattering of artwork on offer (handled by Ayumu Kotake) fits nicely with the stories. It has to be said that the artwork is mostly very rough pencilled drawings with some watercolour effects in places. While it’s usually something that I’d complain about for anything else, with this novel I think the illustrations do well to compliment the raw emotions of Mikasa and Annie. Seko has fitted the stories into the timeline comfortably and now that I’ve read them I certainly couldn’t imagine Attack on Titan without these tales! I also want to quickly praise publisher Vertical for their work as this is the first novel I own from them and it’s nice to see that they’re doing such high quality releases.

If you aren’t an existing fan of Attack on Titan or have no interest in Mikasa and Annie then this really isn’t a novel for you. However, for those of you who are like me and like to indulge in all the universe has to offer, Attack on Titan: Lost Girls is a great read that gives solid character building and an all-round memorable experience.

Score: 8/10

Quick Information:
Title: Attack on Titan: Lost Girls
Original vintage: 2014
Author: Hiroshi Seko
Published by: Vertical
Genre: Drama, Action, Fantasy
Length (page count): 240