Eden of the East – Complete Collection Review

Eden of the East was undoubtedly the big hit of 2009, and now you can own the whole series and the films in one rather lovely Blu-ray box. Before looking at the set itself, let’s have a quick reminder of the series, or a general synopsis for those who have yet to take the plunge into the world of Eden of the East.

Eden of the East is brought to you by Production IG and Kenji Kamiyama, a winning combination that has previously produced the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series. Within the opening episode we see young and impressionable girl Saki Morimi on a trip to the US and encountering a naked man waving a gun around who later reveals his name to be Akira Takizawa, although he only knows this due to a passport he found. He has amnesia, and, in true Jason Bourne fashion, goes back to his place only to find guns, various passports along with a mysterious phone he had on his person (well, had in his hand…)

Saki and Takizawa soon travel back to Japan, which is still recovering from a series of missile strikes, the first of which mysteriously managed not to kill anybody, though that wasn’t true for the latest strike. Without going too deep into the storyline, Takizawa is one of 12 “Selecao”, a group of seemingly random people who have been given a “”Noblesse oblige” phone in which they can use to contact someone only known as Juiz and order anything, literally. From assassination to missile strikes to asking to suddenly own a business or a building, with the only catch being they’re limited to 10 billion yen and they must use this power for the betterment of Japan. If they run out of money or they’re judged to have misused the power of the phone, they’re killed by “The Supporter”, who is one of the 12, but which one is unknown. When “Mr. Outside”, the shadowy leader of this game, deems someone to have “won” it, the other participants will be executed.

It all seems rather heavy, and it is, but the story is handled so well mostly because of the lead characters. Both are charming, pleasant, realistic (within a very unrealistic contest) and their feelings for each other are very sweetly played out across the series. Saki has several friends and family members, most of whom run a small business called “Eden of the East”, which hosts a website where someone can tag any person, building or object with a description and other people can see these tags through their phone’s camera. Seems unconnected, and it is, but it does come in handy as the plot progresses. Each one of these side characters again feels very real; it’s only the Selecao that come across as over-exaggerated or a caricature.

The animation is beautiful. The character designs are unique and endearing, the scenery and backgrounds are extremely detailed and busy, and the few bits of CG used for cars and some phone-related screens are perfectly integrated. The background music isn’t exactly memorable, in fact I can’t actual think of any, so that’s one negative, but it’s pretty tiny in comparison to everything it gets right. Even the English dub is good, with Saki and Takizawa retaining their sweet and gentle voice and excitable teen voice, respectively, although like a lot of dubs they miss the mark when they have to voice a sudden “outburst” of anger or panic, complete with comic facial expressions. It’s a very Japanese thing and hard to dub, so it’s understandable and it doesn’t actually happen that often in the series.

The opening of the series as it broadcast on TV was “Falling Down” by Oasis, which is surreal to hear a British band from when I was growing up doing an opening, but very fitting… and also expensive to license, apparently. It features as the opening for Episode 1, and that’s it. Episodes 2 – 11 have “Michael ka Belial” by Saori Hayami instead. Oasis probably just charged too much per use to do anything more. The ending theme is “Futuristic Imagination” by Japanese band School Food Punishment.

As stated at the top of this review, this set not only collects all 11 episodes, but also the two continuation movies, King of Eden and Paradise Lost, which is good because they effectively serve as Episodes 12 and 13 in that the plot isn’t resolved until the final film. In fact King of Eden barely stands on its own, it’s continuing on from episode 11 and ends in a cliffhanger that gets resolved as Paradise Lost starts. It really is safer to say it’s a 13-episode series, it’s just that Episodes 12 and 13 are a lot longer and have a higher budget. It’s also interesting that the compilation film, Air Communication, is included as an extra on the King of Eden film disc, although it’s Japanese with English subtitles only. Obviously there is no need to watch it when you have the 11 episodes it condenses in the same set, but it is nice that it’s there given it’s the “Complete Collection”. I’m surprised it’s not listed in the extras section on online webstores.

Speaking of Extras, it has plenty to tuck into, including several interviews with key staff and voice actors, trailers, TV spots and textless opening and closing, though only the second opening, obviously. As for physical extras you get a nice rigid box, a thick series booklet, art cards and some stickers. A very nice thing to have on your shelf.

So should you invest in Eden of the East? Yes! Absolutely. There was a reason that was the talk of the (anime-related) internet back when it aired, and even the films, which didn’t really stand well on their own when they were released, are perfectly fitting here in the one box. It tells an interesting mystery and techno thriller while simultaneously telling a well written and acted love story. If you’re already a fan of series then you can replace your stand-alone Manga discs and get the whole series and films in one box complete with nice physical extras, and if you’ve never brought or watched the series before, then here it is, settle down and enjoy a proper modern classic.

Title: Eden of the East - Complete Collection
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Mystery, Psychological, Romance, Thriller
Studio: Production I.G
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2009
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 455 minutes

Score: 10/10

Review of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions – Heart Throb

“Paging Mr. Delusional. You’re wanted at the front desk.” – ‘Johnny Delusional’ by F.F.S.

Things are going perfectly normally for Yuta Togashi. Well, as normal as they can be when his delusional girlfriend has now moved into his flat.

Chunibyo Rikka Takanashi is still being her odd self: wearing her eye patch to cover the eye that has a gold contact lens in it, which she believes controls her magic powers; wearing Heelys; fighting with an umbrella; and supposedly being able to open train doors simply by thrusting her arm at them when the train arrives at the station. Rikka parents are away, hence the reason why she is currently living in Yuta’s place. He is looking after the flat while his parents are away working in Jakarta.

Most of the episodes in this second series are stand-alone stories, continuing to focus on the characters in the “Far Eastern Magical Napping Society – summer thereof”, including Rikka’s fellow long-haired chunibyo Sanae Dekomori; ex-chunibyo Shinka Nibutani, who is still desperately trying to escape her past; and the incredibly sleepy Kumin Tsuyuri.

Across the series we see Yuta date Rikka at an aquarium where she has fun with dolphins and makes several references to H. P. Lovecraft; Yuta end up having to dress as a magical girl after getting a lower test score than Rikka; Shinka attempt to run for Student Council President by successfully convincing Sanae that she was her chunibyo idol and Kumin challenge another school to a napping competition.

However, there is also a new addition thrown into the mix. Rikka gets a visit from a chunibyo from another school: someone claiming to be a “magical devil girl” called Sophia Ring SPS Saturn VII, although her real name is Satone Shichimiya. She was a friend of Yuta’s back in middle school. Indeed, it was she who inspired Yuta to become a chunibyo in the first place. After a rough start, Satone becomes friends with the rest of the gang, although Rikka is worried that Satone will take Yuta away from her and becomes jealous. As the story progresses, we realise that Satone does in fact still have some feelings for the boy she still refers to as “Hero”.

The second series still has plenty of the features that made the first one so enjoyable, the main one being comedy. There are plenty of comic moments in the show, mostly visual. These range from Shinka making Sanae gag by making her eat cheese, Yuta managing to pull off his magical girl look, and Kumin trying to get her friends ready for their competitive napping. There are also some funny scenes caused by anticipation. For example, there is the way that Shinka’s chances of becoming Student Council President are horrifically scuppered by Sanae, who thinks she is being helpful. Then there are some odder moments, such as when Yuta discovers that Rikka has spent all of her allowance in a few days meaning she has to survive on almost nothing for a month, which leads to Yuta disciplining her by spanking Rikka.

The artwork is also great, especially in the “battle” scenes in which Rikka and her friends believe they are in a fantasy world and are using gigantic weapons to duel. The visual aspects in these scenes are wonderful, giving it a true fantasy feel while also mocking it.

Satone’s appearance in the series brings a new element to the show, creating a love triangle between her, Rikka and Yuta, although deep down you know that the relationship between Rikka and Yuta is not going to falter. She is still a fun character, nevertheless, but I am saddened by the fact that Makoto Isshiki has seemingly taken a back seat in this series. Most of the series sees him getting new jobs and trying to win over Kumin, but in the end a guy falls in love with him. I must confess that the way that a gay guy is just plonked into the show for comic relief did make me feel uncomfortable – although not as uncomfortable as Isshiki, I admit.

Extras in this collection include an OVA episode, a selection of four-minute anime shorts called Chunibyo Lite!, and textless opening and closing. The Opening, “Voice” by Zaq, and the Closing, “Van!shment Th!s World” sung by the four main female voice actors under the name of Black Raison d’être, are both OK, but nothing truly exciting.

If you enjoyed the first series, then Heart Throb will not disappoint you.

Title: Review of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions – Heart Throb
Publisher: Animatsu
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Studio: Kyoto Animation
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: 12
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 8/10

Streaming review of Yuri!!! On Ice, Episodes 9-12 (Crunchyroll)

WARNING: Contains spoilers

Link to review of Episodes 1-8.

“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.” – Matt Groening.

Having finally reached the end of the series, waiting to see what would be the outcome of Yuri Katsuki’s progress through the Grand Prix, and the nature of his relationship with coach Victor Nikiforov, my overall reaction is one of… well, I don’t really know to be honest. I’m not ecstatic, nor am I as disappointed as I thought I was going to be. However, by the time I had finished writing this piece, I think I finally cracked it.

The eighth episode ended with Victor flying from Moscow back to Japan after Yuri K. learns that Victor’s beloved poodle Makkachin has been rushed to the vets when it was found choking. Thus Victor’s old coach, Yakov, who is also Yurio’s current coach, agrees to serve as Yuri K.’s temporary coach while Victor is away. In the end, Yuri K. gets third place in Moscow with Yurio coming second, and first going to the rather overbearing Canadian J.J. Leroy. Yuri K. then returns home, with Makkachin perfectly well.

The scores for both Yuris are enough to take them to the grand final in Barcelona, with the tenth episode being told from Victor’s viewpoint rather than Yuri K’s. This episode, mainly serving as a run-up to the main competition, has what I think is the best scene in the series. While much has been made of the kiss scene in episode seven – a scene which Crunchyroll has nominated for a prize in their first ever “Anime Awards”, for me the single best scene in the whole of Yuri!!! On Ice occurs when Yuri K. decides to get a good luck charm for the final. This charm is a pair of gold rings for both himself and Victor, which they both wear. As a result, it is seen as deeply symbolic in terms of their relationship. When they meet the other skaters people think they are married, but Victor just says they are engaged.

The final two episodes cover the grand final itself, with the competitors being the two Yuris, J.J., Yuri K’s friend from Thailand Phichit Chulanot, Victor’s friendly Swiss rival Christophe Giacometti, and Kazakhstan’s Otabek Altin who becomes friends with Yurio. In the first half of the competition, the highlight is when J.J. cracks under the pressure, which for me is a good scene because you can finally start to sympathise with him. At the end of the episode, however, Yuri K. says to Victor: “After the Final, let’s end this.”

This remark clearly upsets Victor, and the final episode is partly about whether or not Yuri K. and Victor will continue working together. As to what happens in the final round, well, I don’t want to give away the critical details, but I think it is safe to mention the things that occur after the contest is over. One is is a gala exhibition in which Yuri K. and Victor are skating together – something fans of the show are saying is a big deal because two men skating together in a competition is something that never happens. The other thing is a message to the viewer: “See you NEXT LEVEL”, indicating the possibility of a second series.

As I said, I was expecting to react to the ending in one of two ways: anger or joy. In fact, anger was my reaction when I logged onto Crunchyroll to watch the last episode. For starters, I needed to update my Adobe Flash Player, so I thought, “Oh God, I’m now going to be behind everyone else watching it.” What I didn’t notice while I was updating the software was that everyone else was angry because Crunchyroll hadn’t put the episode up at all. They were nearly 20 minutes late putting up the most anticipated finale of the season and people were understandably furious. I admit it is a bit of a ‘first world problem’, but as the main anime streaming website for most people, you expect Crunchyroll not to have these issues.

In terms of watching the finale itself, I think I have finally reached my conclusion as to the proof of whether Yuri and Victor are a gay couple. I think there actually is conclusive proof – but again, not the sort of proof I was expecting. It comes at the top of the episode, following on from Yuri K. saying he wants to end it all. As he explains, I think I see the true indication that Victor loves Yuri – Victor cries. For all this time, I was hoping to see something happy to indicate their love, but in the end, it was something that was sad. The idea that your relationship might end, the possible heartbreak, is for me the final indicator. If the kiss is the initial spark, and the rings the visible sign of love, then the tears are proof that you don’t want it to end. I have been saying all the time that what I wanted was text rather than subtext – but in end, I think the subtext did actually pay off. If there is a second series we might get text then, but for now, I think everything’s OK.

That crying scene overall speaks volumes to me. All the time it has been the kissing and the verbal indications, yet what love really is, when you get down to it, is emotional. As I said in my previous review, I’ve been in a long distance relationship with a genderfluid American for six years. The one thing we have never been able to do is meet in real life. If and when we do, it will be a glorious, passionate moment, but when he no doubt gets on the plane back home and returns to his everyday life, I know I will cry bitter tears. As I write this passage out, I am even on the verge of tears knowing that this moment might never even happen, because we still might never get to physically encounter each other.

This show has put me through so many emotions: love, frustration, joy, bewilderment, and finally anger – not at the show, but the way people are debating it. Yes, there will still be people arguing about whether Yuri K. and Victor are gay, battles between zealous fans and haters, but for me the most annoying and tedious have been the rows on the AUKN forums between Rui and IncendiaryLemon, which even on the day of the finale have still raged on, because of the show being nominated for awards. I did end up posting on the forums a message that included the phrase: “Won’t you two get a room.”

If there is a second series, I really do hope we get to see the relationship between Yuri and Victor flourish, and I do think that if we see that fully uncensored kiss I would put it up to 10, but I would also really hope that Rui and IncendiaryLemon bicker less.

Title: Yuri!!! On Ice
Publisher: Crunchyroll (streaming)
Genre: Shonen-ai, Sports
Studio: MAPPA
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2016
Format: Legal stream
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Running time: 100 minutes

Score: 9/10

Ouran High School Host Club Review

 ouran-al-cvr

*** This is an edited/revised version of our original reviews of Ouran High School Host Club which deals with the content of the series: story; script; music etc. posted to celebrate the new Collector’s Edition (as yet unseen) from Anime Limited.*** 

‘Maybe you’re my love!’

Studious Haruhi Fujioka has won a scholarship to the prestigious Ouran Academy which caters for the sons and daughters of elite Japanese families. Desperately searching for somewhere quiet to study, Haruhi stumbles upon Music Room 3 – and the dazzlingly good-looking members of the Ouran Host Club. Inadvertently breaking a horrendously valuable vase, Haruhi is told that the only way to pay the Host Club back is to become a host and entertain the young ladies of the Academy. There’s one slight flaw in the plan which Tamaki Suou, the ‘king’ of the Host Club, hasn’t quite realized: Haruhi is a girl. But when was gender confusion ever an impediment to a good story in anime and manga? One thing is certain: Haruhi’s presence will change the lives of the six privileged young men and maybe her own, too – and, in the process, afford viewers many hours of genuinely engaging and amusing entertainment.

ouran-1b

Based on Bisco Hatori’s witty 18-volume manga, Ouran takes shoujo manga stereotypes and wickedly satirizes the hell out of them. So we have the inevitable swimming pool episode, the beach episode (swimsuits and muscles galore!), the high school ball at which the best female dancer will receive a kiss from Tamaki, and even an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ dream-fantasy. Add in plenty of themed cosplay, so that the boys can charm the young ladies of Ouran Academy with their good looks and romantic compliments, and you have all the ingredients for an engaging watch that charms as well as amuses the viewer.

ouran-1-b

Ouran is, above all, the story of a likeable – yet very atypical – heroine, whose off-screen comments on the antics of her fellow hosts is often a weary, ‘Oh, good grief.’ As well as the magnanimous (yet oh-so easily wounded) Tamaki (the one who dreamed up the idea of running a Host Club), there is cool, calculating Kyoya Otori who looks after the finances. Then there are the identical twins Kaoru and Hikaru (first years, like Haruhi) who like nothing more than to cause mischief – and the tiniest seventeen-year-old ever encountered in anime, the blonde, cake-loving, bunny-hugging Hunny (little pink flowers dot the screen whenever he appears) with his constant companion, the strong, silent Mori. In fact, true to its shoujo roots, Ouran is bursting with flower imagery: from red roses and cherry blossom, to the white lilies that appear when Haruhi encounters the forceful girls of the Zuka Club at the all girls’ school, Saint Lobelia’s Academy. But it takes Renge, a raving otaku who jets in from Paris to claim Kyoya as her fiancé (because he resembles her favourite character in a dating sim) to first label each of the Host Club members. Kyoya is the megane, Hunny is the Boy-Lolita type, the twins play up to the girls’ fujoshi tendencies by acting out steamy twincest moments, etc. etc.

ouran-1-bb

Another target for satire is the wealthy students’ utter lack of knowledge about ordinary life. When sent to buy coffee, Haruhi astounds them all by returning with a jar of instant ‘Hescafe’: a complete novelty. “Isn’t that where the beans have already been ground?” enquires one customer innocently. And the boys constantly refer to Haruhi – in her hearing – as a commoner, without even realizing that this might be construed as hurtful or insulting.

ouran-2-a

If Ouran were just a series of parodies, its freshness would soon pall. However Bisco Hatori, whilst having fun at the characters’ expense (especially poor Tamaki, whose grandiose ideals are so often deflated) also invests them with believable and sympathetic back stories. So we gradually get to learn more about what makes them all tick. Haruhi learns from one of the girls that the twins have changed since he/she joined the Host Club. “Because of you, the twins are having fun.” And she, the hardworking honours student, also begins to open up and enjoy herself. Perhaps, as the opening song suggests, there may even be the possibility of falling in love? Tamaki is certainly very smitten with Haruhi – although, being Tamaki, he confuses his feelings of romantic attraction with those of a father for his daughter. Suddenly the ‘king’ of the Host Club starts acting very paternally towards the newest member, trying to protect her from prying eyes and amorous advances. The independent and self-contained Haruhi finds this behaviour extremely irritating indeed; she already has a father! (And thereby lies another tale, as the Host Club soon find out…)

ouran-1c

Faithful to the manga, both in content and in Kumiko Takahasi’s character designs, Ouran looks superb. We get frequent amusing glimpses inside ‘The Theatre of Tamaki’s Mind’ and manga-style captions and thought bubbles often give insights into what’s really going on in the characters’ heads. The prestige Ouran Academy itself is a grandiose vision of pastel-coloured architecture based on famous European buildings (the clock tower looks uncannily like Big Ben) and its lofty halls are filled with crystal chandeliers.

ouran-1-1

As well as looking good, Ouran sounds wonderful, with excellent casts in both the US dub and the original Japanese version. Caitlin Glass makes a believable and likeable Haruhi, although Maaya Sakamoto makes her a little sweeter and less world-weary in tone. Both Mamoru Miyano and Vic Mignogna excel as Tamaki, delightfully conveying his volatile shifts of mood, one moment capricious and full of himself, the next insecure and wounded, sulking in a corner. Add to this an inventive and tuneful orchestral score that makes use of the catchy opening song ‘Sakura Kiss’ to great effect (if you recognize one of the more dramatic themes, it’s because composer Yoshihisa Hirano was also responsible for the score for Death Note.)

ouran-1

In 2006 when the anime series was made, Bisco Hatori had not finished the manga, so the ending here differs and is in some ways less satisfying than the mangaka’s more developed conclusion. But this shouldn’t in any way detract from the viewer’s enjoyment.

Anime Limited have brought out a new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition, filled with goodies: a 32-page booklet and 2 sticker sheets inside. The extras comprise: Actor & Staff Commentaries, Ouran High School Host Club Manga Pages Presented by Viz Media, Outtakes Parts 1 & 2.

ouran-al

We should point out here that, even though we’ve yet to see this brand-new Collector’s Edition, Anime Limited have confirmed that they have used the new Funimation Blu-ray materials and there should be no issues of image stretching as encountered by some viewers with the original DVD release back in 2008.

In Summary

Ouran High School Host Club might be based on a shoujo manga, but it should appeal to any anime viewer, male or female, who’s looking for a light-hearted comedy with a wicked sense of humour and sympathetically drawn characters. The ideal series for sharing, maybe? Highly recommended.

 

Title: Ouran High School Host Club
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Shoujo, Slice of Life
Studio: BONES
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2006
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 625 minutes

Score: 9/10

Streaming review of Yuri!!! On Ice, Episodes 1-8 (Crunchyroll)

yuri-on-ice-1

“Galocher – to kiss with tongues.”
“La galoche – an ice-skating boot.”
– Definitions from Petit Robert, France’s most popular dictionary.

It seems that in France ice skating and kissing go hand-in-hand (I know neither of those definitions involves hands, but it feels weird referring to it as “foot-in-mouth” because you keep accidentally thinking of “foot-and-mouth” which is a very different area), so perhaps many a French fujoshi and fudanshi may have been watching in awe last week when they (kind of) got what they finally wanted – a sports anime where the central characters were both gay and in a relationship, as indicated by what has probably become the most talked about scene in anime this year. But to reference another gay icon, Kenny Everett: “I’m giving away the plot! Go and see it – it’s all done in the best possible taste!” Let’s stick to the chronology before we get to the big moment.

The “Yuri” in the title is a bit confusing. Firstly, it is not “Yuri” as in “lesbian manga”, this is guys we are talking about – and it’s guys in the plural as there are two Yuris. The first is 23-year-old Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki (who for the purposes of this review we shall refer to as Yuri K.), who is pretty talented in his sport but recently has been in a slump. He doesn’t cope well under pressure and as a result has slipped down the rankings. The other Yuri is a Russian figure skater named Yuri Plisetsky (later referred to as Yurio), a 15-year-old with natural talent and a punk-like attitude. This is made clear at the end of one tournament when Yurio finds Yuri K. hiding in the gents, upset, and tells Yuri K. to quit the sport.

Yuri K. does unofficially leave figure skating, distancing himself from his coach and returning to his hometown where his family run an onsen. During this time, Yuri K.’s hero, 27-year-old Victor Nikiforov of Russia, wins his fifth consecutive Grand Prix Final. Yuri K. decides to visit his local skating rink, where he performs Victor’s winning routine in front of the rink’s owners (and his childhood friends) the Nishigori family. His performance is perfect, but there is one problem: the triplet children of the Nishigori family record Yuri K.’s performance, then post it online, and the whole thing goes viral.

yuri-on-ice-2

The fallout from this is pretty dramatic. While Yuri K. tries to relax in the family springs, he gets an unexpected visitor – Victor Nikiforov – who saw the clip and was so impressed that he demands to be Yuri K.’s new coach. As a result Victor moves in and makes the shock announcement that he is having an ‘off’ season. When the press track Victor down, Yurio then arrives on the scene and tries to take Victor back to Russia, because Victor has promised him that he would coach him for his senior debut. To sort out the problem, a contest is held at the rink and whoever does the best out of the two will be coached by Victor. Yuri K. wins with a routine based on the theme of “Eros”, and thus Victor does become Yuri K.’s coach, with both Yuris promising that they will win the next Grand Prix.

Thus Yuri K. and Victor begin their competition, facing off against fellow Japanese competitors and challengers from overseas. After qualifying to represent Japan in the Grand Prix, their first assignment is in China where Yuri K. is able to perform under huge pressure. Despite his nerves, he is able to skate wonderfully, to the delight of the crowd and Victor especially, which leads to the big scene referred to earlier, which occurs at the end of the seventh episode. After the end of his routine, Victor and Yuri K. rush to each other, arms open wide, and as a close-up indicates, with their lips very close together. However, just before you see anything, Victor’s arm blocks the sight of it, although the reactions of just about everyone watching the event in the stadium and at home seem to indicate that what actually happened was that these two guys kissed – and as if that is not enough, the next assignment will see the duo in Russia taking on Yurio.

Obviously the main talking point of Yuri!!! On Ice has been the kiss scene, but before we talk about this, let’s look at the ups and downs of the show so far. Dealing with the negative points to begin with – first, there is annoyingly little explanation of how figure skating works. One of the problems with sports anime is that it often covers sports that many people don’t know the rules to, and thus they have to explain what certain things are: this is down in Haikyu!! and more recently All Out!!, but Yuri!!! On Ice (which at least does come top in the list of the sports anime that overuse exclamation marks) don’t explain what all the fancy jumps are, which for me has always been one of the major put-offs of any of these sports in real-life. It would be nice if the show explained the scoring system or told you what a “Salchow” is – for anyone wondering, it’s a jump where you start off from the back inside edge off one foot.

Another issue comes from the fact that much of the time rather than getting on with the plot, you are seeing all the other competitors doing their routines, which again is a problem given the lack of explanation in some of the terminology. All you can really judge the characters by is their passion as explained in their internal monologue, and whether or not they fall down at any point. As a result, you kind of care less for some of the minor characters because often you don’t know what is going on.

yuri-on-ice-3

On the plus side, there is the overall quality of the animation, as well as the impressive soundtrack – not just the opening and closing music, namely “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka and “You Only Live Once” by Wataru Hatano – but also the incidental music, such as the tracks the skaters perform too. But for me, the main plus point is the diversity. Anime is often a closed shop when it comes to characters of different ethnic backgrounds, but Yuri!!! On Ice is able to make up for this. Not only is the central relationship between someone from Japan and someone from Russia, but we also have characters from China, Thailand, Switzerland, Canada, Italy, South Korea, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, and the main American skater is Hispanic. Perhaps this is not surprising given the director of the series, Sayo Yamamoto, is the same woman behind Michiko and Hatchin, which is set in Latin America.

If you want a more detailed argument, you are probably best reading the posts on the AUKN forums by our reviewer IncendiaryLemon, who dropped the series after six episodes, and editor Rui. I can assure you it is about ten minutes of your life you will never get back (sorry guys).

But now it is time to finally discuss the key moment. The one that has got so many people talking over the past week: the scene at the end of the seventh episode in which all the evidence suggests that Yuri K. and Victor kissed. If you look at some of the social media websites, in particular the more American-dominated ones like Tumblr, you will see post after post explaining how, even though you never actually see the kiss, it definitely happened.

You can see people drawing lines behind Victor’s arm showing that if it wasn’t there you would have clearly seen the two kissing each other; you can look at the claims that the reactions of everyone watching the moment are a clear indication that nothing other than a kiss would have proved that shocking; you can even examine the claims that the show references actual real-life gay figure skaters: namely footage of a young Victor shows him wearing the same outfit as Johnny Weir, an openly gay American skater who has reportedly faced much prejudice in his career, which I find amazing – in the sense of finding figure skating to be a homophobic sport, when it comes across as one of the glitziest, showy, camp sports around. These are people dressed in sparkly suits, dancing around and in Yuri K.’s case being taught by a ballet teacher. To a figure skating layman like me, if you were to ask me about homosexuality in figure skating, I would have said that I was less surprised that openly gay Weir was facing discrimination and more amazed at the fact that Torvill and Dean were married to each other. The only sport I can think of as being camper is an all-male cheerleading squad (I can’t watch Cheer Boys!! without regrettably sniggering).

yuri-on-ice-5

However, despite all this and all the support that this scene has, my reaction has been one of frustration. Part of this is partly due to my own background – I’m pansexual and have been in a long-distance relationship with a genderfluid American for six years, as of 1st December. As someone who is pansexual, a fudanshi, and a fan of all these sports anime that appeal to someone of my personal tastes, I’m frustrated at the fact you don’t see the actual kiss yourself, on screen. You go by everyone else’s reaction. Because you don’t see the kiss, you still have that tiny seed of doubt in your head that the kiss didn’t actually happen. I’m 99.999% sure the kiss did occur, but that 0.001% is horribly getting to me. I don’t want to go by what everyone else sees – I want to see what is actually going on, and share in the reaction of the characters at the same time as them.

One of the problems is the pressure to accept that the kiss just happened. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and the other social media outlets, you sometimes get the feeling that if you say that the kiss didn’t happen the immediate reaction is fans will accuse you of homophobia, or will say that you wouldn’t feel like that if it was a straight kiss or perhaps a lesbian kiss. One article I’ve read concerning Yuri!!! On Ice was on Anime Feminist where Amelia Cook writes:

“Since the episode aired I have seen raw, vulnerable reactions from LGBTQ+ fans openly stating how deeply it affected them to see queer subtext made text, how they hoped it would be seen by young people who aren’t yet old enough to feel comfortable with their identities, how much seeing such a moment would have meant to them at that age. Why on earth would anyone in our fandom actively seek to reduce such an impact?”

Well, maybe it is because of my age (I’m 30), or maybe it is because I’m British and our country has had a troubled history concerning gay rights – yes, we now have gay marriage, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that homosexuality was legalised; it wasn’t until 2003 when Section 28 which banned teaching anything positive about homosexuality in schools was finally lifted; in Northern Ireland there is a big row over a Christian bakery refusing to bake a pro-marriage cake for a gay couple, bringing up debates on gay rights and freedom of speech on both sides – but I don’t think we have reached that far yet. Yes, it has made a great impact, but the impact is still a little short for me. Mind you, in terms of gay rights we Brits are still further ahead than the home countries of the main characters. Japan only recognises same-sex partnerships in some areas and with no legal standing, while Russia’s negative attitude towards gay rights is pretty well known. Cook also writes:

“Victor’s arm obscuring where his lips meet Yuri’s cannot possibly be an artistic decision; either we see them kiss or there was no kiss. Disagree? Prove it. Never mind that obscuring a kiss is completely consistent with the show’s storytelling style so far, leaving deliberate information gaps and inviting viewers to read between the lines. Pics or it didn’t happen.”

I’m sorry, but I genuinely don’t think we’ve reached that point yet where simply implying that a gay kiss happened means the characters are certainly gay. That is a future step, the one beyond, that the next wave of anime might take us. But what Yuri!!! On Ice can do is take the next immediate step and actually show an on-screen kiss, uncensored, beyond all doubt, showing that these characters are definitely a gay couple. Now it should be highlighted that the eighth episode also features kisses, but one is of Yuri K. blowing a kiss to the judges, which, while not that romantic is certainly fun; and the other is another blocked-off kiss in which Victor kisses Yuri K.’s skating boot, which is not as exciting as flesh-on-flesh contact and thus not really any further indication of anything romantic – unless it turns out that Victor has some form of foot fetish.

yuri-on-ice-4

I wish to say that I bear no animosity towards anyone, in particular to Cook whose article makes many great points and I would urge people to read at their leisure. What I am trying to say is this: it is good that we seem to have a canon gay relationship in a relatively mainstream sports anime series and that these characters appear to kiss. It would be great if we could actually see those lips meet, for the characters to declare their love and their relationship openly, to rid my and indeed anyone’s mind of that 0.001% of doubt.

Let me put it this way: in a year that, let’s be honest, has been pretty shit for just about every decent human being concerned, one of the ways that I would definitely be cheered up would be to see Yuri K. and Victor do a kiss on screen. It doesn’t have to be a big kiss. It’s doesn’t have to be a galoche, it can be a simple peck. But I do want it to be one where I and everyone else in the 3D world can clearly see happening.

For me, personally, I would be ecstatic if I saw it. It would be for me, personally, not just the anime event, but the TV event of the year, because after years of being a fan of all these sports anime like Free!, Haikyu!!, Kuroko’s Basketball, DAYS, All Out!!, Cheer Boys!!, Yowamushi Pedal, Prince of Stride and so on, it would be great not to have to simply imply the characters are gay, but say that they definitely are, and that they love each other, no matter what hardships they may face.

Title: Yuri!!! On Ice
Publisher: Crunchyroll (streaming)
Genre: Shonen-ai, Sport
Studio: MAPPA
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2016
Format: Legal stream
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Running time: 200 minutes

Score: 8/10

Yurikuma Arashi Review

yurikuma_blu-ray_dvd_3d

“Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby.” – James Rollins

It rather rare to see a yuri anime released in the UK. I, for one, don’t recall ever reviewing one before so it makes for an interesting experience. It certainly becomes more interesting when a lesbian romance series features a surprisingly high number of murderous bears.

In Yurikuma Arashi (Lily Bear Storm) the world has undergone a dramatic change. A minor planet called Kumaria exploded and the resulting meteor storm showered the Earth. The result of this was that it made the bears on Earth intelligent, man-hunting killers, and thus bloody conflict between humans and bears took place. In the end, a giant barrier called the Wall of Severance was built to keep bears and humans apart. If a bear makes its way into the human side it is shot on sight.

It is possible for bears and humans to cross from one side to the other, but in order to do so they have to go on a Severance Trial before three male bears named Life Sexy (the judge), Life Cool (the prosecutor) and Life Beauty (the defence attorney). If one agrees to the terms they can cross, which normally means having to give up on the thing you hold most dear to you.

yurikuma_2

On the human side of the Wall, at Arashigoku High School, schoolgirl Kureha Tsubaki is in love with classmate Sumika Izumino. She also has a deep hatred of bears, her mother having been eaten by one. One day her class gets two new students: Ginko Yurishiro and Lulu Yurigasaki, who are actually both bears in disguise – admittedly not very good disguises due their habit of constantly saying “growl” at the end of each sentence.

Soon things start to go wrong for Kureha and Sumika. First, the flowerbed at school which they have tended so lovingly is vandalised; then when they tell the class rep Mitsuko Yurizono they narrowly avoid being hit by a brick. Then, worst of all, the following day Sumika vanishes.  Kureha gets a mysterious phone call asking whether her love for Sumika is genuine, and tells her to go to the school roof to prove it. She does so, rifle in hand, where she finds Ginko and Lulu in (chibi) bear form. What follows next is a Severance Trial with Ginko and Lulu in the box, the result of which appears to be some form of dream sequence in which they transform into beargirls and lick nectar from a lily growing out of Kureha’s torso, and you can’t help be feel that the lily stamens are meant to represent a penis. While this is a yuri series, the target demographic is seinen.

Anyway, after this Kureha wakes up in the nurse’s office at the school. She wonders whether what she has experienced is a dream and goes outside. There, behind the flowerbed, she discovers two bears eating a girl. She then learns that Sumika has been declared dead, but she refuses to believe it. Thus she attempts to prove that Sumika is alive, while all the time the human forms of Ginko and Lulu keep pestering her. As the series progresses, we learn that there are several humans and bears keen on Kureha’s past and future. Some are in love with her, some want her dead, and some think she is evil. The result will ultimately change the relationship between the humans and the bears.

yurikuma_3

There is an awful lot going on in these twelve episodes. For starters there is the romance. You have the relationship between Kureha and Sumika, then between Ginko and Lulu, then Kureha, Ginko and Lulu together, and then other characters become involved too. While there is a lot of nudity, it is never full frontal and don’t see anything untoward. There is hugging and romantic relationships, but anything more physical is normally just implied, like in the stamen-licking sequence.

Another recurring theme is that of prejudice. You obviously have the whole case of the bears and humans excluding one another, but in this series “exclude” can have many meanings, even going as far as murder and execution of those who stray outside of what are considered social norms. As the series progresses, we learn that Kureha is someone who is excluded by her classmates and frequently treated with disdain, and thus Sumika is treated similarly because of their relationship. Further on in the series, we see this exclusion has been dogging her for a long time, and ultimately the series is about the bears and the humans being able overcome the prejudices of human society with the power of love.

The artwork is probably the best thing about Yurikuma Arashi, partly because of the designs used, such as the chibi bears, but also because of the use of certain visual images to deliver messages to the viewer. A frequent one is that when one of the girls begins to form a new loving relationship with one of the others; it cuts to a shot of a white lily opening and someone singing the line: “the lily opens”. As you may have gathered, “lily” in Japanese is “yuri”, so it indicates the blossoming of lesbian love. However, when it is one of the bears who develops similar feelings, the shot is of a black lily and the line sung is: “The bear opens.”

yurikuma_7

Regarding extras in this collection, you have some episode commentaries, promos, trailers, and the textless opening and closing. Personally, I thought that the end song, “Territory”, sung by the actresses who play Kureha, Ginko and Lulu, is better than the opening “Ano Mori de Matteru” by Bonjour Suzuki. However, concerning these releases and others ones recently made from Anime Limited, I have become annoyed by the way Funimation have affected them. Namely, when you load the disc you have to sit through adverts that you can’t skip through. They must also annoy Anime Limited in some way because some of the stuff advertised is content they don’t sell. For example, the second disc advertises Michiko & Hatchin, which in Britain is released by MVM rather than Anime Limited.

The anime itself however is an enjoyable watch with many elements going for it. What would be really interesting, however, would be a release of a yuri title that is actually aimed at women.

Title: Yurikuma Arashi
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Girl, Romance, Science Fiction, Yuri
Studio: Silver Link
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 8/10

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! Review

61uz5pwtcyl

In the anime community, as a critic especially, one of the most frustrating experiences is when a show comes along that has a ton of hype behind it and gets critically praised by everyone, yet somehow, it doesn’t click with you. For one reason or another, you just cannot see what people see in a show. I think that everyone probably has at least one anime like that, and for me, the biggest one that comes to mind is My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Season 1. I was incredibly excited to watch it, given how highly everyone rated it, but was ultimately very let down by what I thought was a pretty mediocre, run-of-the-mill, slice of life anime. Even watching it a second time to prepare for the second season, I remained thoroughly nonplussed by the whole thing.

So, when I heard that the second season was supposed to be even better than the first supposedly was, I thought that maybe this time I’d get it, this time everything would click into place and I’d finally fall in love with this franchise like seemingly everyone else has. Well, after actually watching My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!, I’m starting to think maybe I was a little bit too harsh on that initial season…

ep02_capture_000045_1

Yes, despite popular consensus about this sequel being superior to the original, I genuinely thought it was far, far worse than what came before, and it made for one of the most painful anime viewings I’ve had in my entire life. I’m not sure what confuses me more about this, the fact that anyone in the production of this thought what they were doing was actually good or the fact that I’m apparently the odd one out for thinking this is awful. Carrying on from where the first season left off, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! shows the continued efforts of the Volunteer Service Club, including the cynical Hikigaya, the cheerful Yui and the ice queen Yukino.

One of the biggest changes between the first season and second season that is almost instantly noticeable, and is one of my biggest gripes with this series, is the huge shift in tone. Whilst I didn’t get many laughs out of it myself, Season 1 was, at its heart, a comedy, and was a fairly light- hearted affair most of the time, with little bits of drama here and there that kept things interesting between the characters. However, when it comes to Season 2, the majority of the comedy seems to have been totally thrown out the window in favour of cranking the melodrama up to 11. If you are looking to this for a laugh, look elsewhere, because you will find nothing of the sort here. Perhaps if you have some sort of investment in the characters from the first season, you’ll be able to invest yourself into the drama at play here, but as someone who didn’t even care in the first season, I can’t help but feel just utterly bored through each episode. I’m not even kidding, it felt like a chore to watch this, it felt like work.

ep03_capture_000031

Compounding the issue of the unending tedious drama is the dialogue. My God, the dialogue in this show is unbearable. This was an occasional issue in the first season, but here it rears its ugly head once again and it’s a million times worse than it was before. It is just layered so thick with pretension that it occasionally borders on unintelligible and half the time the characters open their mouths, I tune out because everything they say just washes over me. All the dialogue is written to sound deep and meaningful but really it does nothing but turn me off the show and make me instantly want to stop watching. I’m not sure if this is more of a personal issue, or I just don’t get it, but it genuinely ruined the characters for me. Nothing that anyone in this show says sounds like something an actual human being would, and as such, every single character loses any and all relatability. One of the few things I actually did like about SNAFU in its initial outing is that I could relate to Hachiman in some way, with his antisocial attitude, but here I just can’t anymore. The only real saving grace here is Yui, who is pretty much the only person who doesn’t just spout a bunch of overly complex nonsense and is probably the only vaguely relatable character left on this show.

Full disclosure here, I have not seen the entirety of SNAFU TOO!. I genuinely couldn’t stomach more than four episodes. To some people, this might invalidate the review, but after some of the shows I’ve sat through and reviewed, this should tell you more about the quality than any words I could muster.

ep03_capture_000040

If there is a single thing about this that is better than Season 1, it’s in the animation. Switching studios from Brain’s Base (Baccano!, Durarara!!, Spice and Wolf Season 2) to feel. (Mayo Chiki, Dagashi Kashi, Outbreak Company), SNAFU TOO! has a much cleaner, rounder aesthetic than the rather angular designs of the original, which honestly looks a lot better and more polished as a result.  

The voice acting in SNAFU TOO! is also pretty strong, with the great talent returning from the first season. Takuya Eguchi (My Love Story, Re:Zero, Gosick), Nao Touyama (Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There!, Kiniro Mosaic, The Devil is a Part Timer!) and Saori Hayama all return to reprise their roles and newcomer Ayane Sakura (My Hero Academia, Charlotte, Is The Order a Rabbit?) joins the cast too, although I can’t help but feel all of their talent is wasted given the quality of the material. Also returning is monaca to provide the music, which is pretty good, although it does feature a fair amount of recycled tracks from the first season. Given that the music was good in Season 1 too, I didn’t mind too much.

ep03_capture_000037

Animatsu’s release of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! is Japanese audio only with English subtitles and features a Clean Opening, Clean Closing and trailers.

In Summary

If you liked the first season of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, you’ll probably love this, but personally, I got far more enjoyment out of watching the seconds on my Blu-ray player tick by, so I knew how much more of the pretentiousness I’d have to suffer through before I could move on to something else that is less mind numbingly dull than this utter waste of resources.

Do you like this show? Please, let me know why in the comments. I am genuinely interested why people love this series so much.

Title: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!
Publisher: Animatsu
Genre: Romance, Drama, School
Studio: feel.
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 12
Running time: 325 minutes

Score: 3/10

Photo Kano Review

61uz5pwtcyl

Kazuya Maeda is a second year high school student who receives a hand- me-down camera from his father. Determined to pursue his new hobby and turn his social life around, Maeda joins the school’s Photography Club. However, new friends aren’t the only thing developing as he finds himself in a tangle of emotions with his female classmates.

One of the inherent issues when it comes to making visual novels into anime series is knowing how to go about adapting the multiple routes. In romance VNs especially, where each route has an entirely different romance, it can be tricky, since you can’t adapt them all. Or can you? Photo Kano is an anime adaptation of a 2012 dating sim developed by Dingo Inc, that attempts to solve this conundrum by simply adapting all of the routes. Whilst it isn’t the first show to attempt the omnibus format, it’s certainly a pretty rare approach, and the first anime I’ve personally seen to tackle it. Even though this method of adaptations definitely has its positives, I really don’t think it works too well.

1

When it comes down to it, Photo Kano is just far too short to really pull it off. At only thirteen episodes long, including four episodes of initial set-up, it leaves each girl with only one episode each, with the exception of Niimi who gets two. This means that the entirety of a VN story route, which I assume took hours in the game, is crammed into just a single 22 minute episode. Whilst all possible romances are explored, they’re done in a very rushed manner. I can’t help but feel if the show had stuck to just adapting a single route really well, whilst also exploring some parts of the other routes, namely the character development, it might have worked a bit better. With that in mind, the episodes themselves are about as good as you could expect a romance could be in such a short amount of time, although it’s still nothing special.

Another issue I took with Photo Kano, was with the titular photography element. I’ll admit, this is probably more of a personal issue than an objective one, but I thought the use of photography throughout the series was downright creepy. Maeda almost exclusively takes pictures of his female friends in states of undress and provocative poses, and the show has multiple sequences sprinkled throughout where it’s literally just sexy posing. The whole photography thing largely just feels like an excuse for Maeda, and by proxy the audience, to ogle these girls and it’s just inherently made me feel a little uneasy. I imagine all the provocative posing and such might be a selling point for some, but it’s not really what I look for when I’m watching an anime, and it comes across as more of a distraction than anything else.

2

Paired with the amount of general ecchi content in Photo Kano is a fair bit of ecchi comedy, and, for me at least, it just fell flat. It’s the same trite and overdone comedy you instantly imagine when you think of ecchi comedies, with people accidentally grabbing boobs or having a girl’s crotch land on the protagonist’s face. I’ll admit, I don’t really like that kind of humour, but even if you do, there’s nothing original here that you haven’t seen a million times before.

Character-wise, Photo Kano is right in the middle of the road. Characters do receive depth and development in their respective episodes, and whilst I think that this development would have worked far better if spread across a few episodes as opposed to one, they’re all reasonably fleshed out. Where I take issue with this series, is the fact that they’re generally quite forgettable. Even after watching it just hours ago, I genuinely struggle to recall all the girls and their stories. A large reason for this is that, after the episode where they’re the focus, the characters just disappear, being relegated to the background, with some not even appearing any more at all. Maybe if they showed up more often outside of their dedicated episode, they’d make more of an impression. As for the protagonist, Maeda, he’s also very bland, erring on the side of unlikable, especially after he uses his photographs to blackmail one of the girls he’s trying to court.

3

Perhaps the most disappointing element to me has to be in the animation. Not because it’s bad (I’ve seen worse before) but because of the pedigree of the studio behind it. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I’m a huge fan of Madhouse, and they always seem to deliver anime with distinct looks, but Photo Kano might be their worst show in terms of animation. It’s just generally quite bland-looking, as if almost any other studio could have made it. As I say, not bad, but Madhouse is capable of so much more than what’s on display here.

In all areas of sound, Photo Kano is also just kind of bland. MVM’s release only contains Japanese voices, and all across the board everyone is about average, with no standout or lacklustre performances. Mina Kubota’s soundtrack is probably about what you’d expect for a romance anime, and complements the confession scenes nicely, even if it’s nothing amazing. The OP and ED are probably the biggest offenders when it comes to blandness, so much so, in fact, you’ll probably forget them the instant after you’ve heard them.

4

Bonus features are the usual; a clean opening, a clean closing and some trailers.

In Summary

Photo Kano, aside from its out-of-the-ordinary approach to adaptation, is just really quite forgettable. It has the odd good moment, but anything positive is dragged down by the frantic pacing, bland characters and pandering fanservice. 

Title: Photo Kano The Complete Series
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Romance, Ecchi, Comedy
Studio: Madhouse
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2013
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 312 minutes

Score: 5/10

11Eyes – Complete Collection

11eyes-cover

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…

screen-1

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

screen-2

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.

screen-3

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

Future Diary – Part 2 Review

future diary part 2 cover

This review will contain spoilers for Future Diary – Part 1

The game to win the title of God is still afoot, and all major players seem to have their eye on eliminating Yuki Amano first and foremost. How does Yuno Gasai attempt to fix the problem? Drugging, kidnapping, stripping and chaining Yuki inside a large abandoned building, setting up traps around them so no one can get in, and waiting it out until all the other players have kicked the bucket. Yuki’s friends plan on rescuing him and getting Yuno far away from him as possible, but our pink-haired psychopath has other ideas which come into full view once the remaining players start dropping one by one.

In the review for the first half of Future Diary I barely mentioned the infamous Yuno, and there were reasons for that. One of them is mostly due to spoilers. Granted; the nature of her being utterly insane is not a spoiler as it’s very clear from Episode 1, but the way she gradually deteriorates over the first half of the series is. There have been series in the past that toy with the idea of a protagonist being a crazy love-struck borderline-abusive person but normally it’s played for laughs and eventually disregarded, or the ‘craziness’ aspect of said person’s character is ‘fixed’ in some fashion or another by the power of love (normally from the opposite sex). Future Diary plays with the latter early on when Aru Akise says that Yuki is Yuno’s only hope to maintain her grip on reality. But Future Diary doesn’t hold onto that for too long and instead goes full throttle with the logical path a crazy person in love with a clueless other half would take: straight up kidnapping and drugging them against their will. This happens just at the end of Part 1, and Part 2 picks up right afterwards.

In a surprising twist, Yuki finally realises that Yuno’s threats about killing others weren’t just a bluff and promises to never go near her again. In another series this would be the turning point for their relationship, with Yuno getting what she deserves (imprisonment or electric chair) and poor Yuki finding a way to move on from his traumatic experience. But of course, this is not what happens, for this is Future Diary where the writing quality is poor and cheap shocks take precedence over actual character development. So despite what happened to him, in the next episode Yuki ends up questioning whether to trust Yuno AGAIN when things get rough, and falling right back into her devilish grip. And it doesn’t stop there; in Episode 19 Yuki goes through a traumatic event that shakes him to the core, and results in the next episode completely changing his personality and motivations, making grand speeches and offing other players like his psychopathic girlfriend. It comes completely out of nowhere and feels really shoe-horned in as if he’s been replaced by a completely different character. Granted; brushing with death every day as he has over the past few episodes would cause a mental strain and eventually snap him, and if the series spent time weaving it into his past actions to see him slowly devolving it could have been a really tragic turn for the hero, but they don’t do that at all. It’s also incredibly rage-inducing when Yuki goes back and forth between whether to trust Yuno or not; there are at least four scenes where he says “You’re insane!” to her over these batches of episodes, like it’s the first time he’s seen her for what she is; dude, if you haven’t accepted it by now than you deserve to be stabbed by the pink-haired teen.

future diary part 2 image 2

The same whiplash effect also affects the plot and side characters. In a violent game such as this, where all players are meant (for the audience) to have an equal chance of winning, sudden story twists and ‘gotcha!’ moments are to be expected. Future Diary loves the execution of them but refuses to do the groundwork needed to make them work. There are plenty of scenes where a character suddenly pops out a major story twist that alters the course of the game or results in someone dying, but they come at the cost of making no sense within context, completely changing a character’s motivations or personality; having characters forget their powerful diaries within the moment, or sometimes all at once. None of the big twists have been built up over time or are particularly clever; rather they’re just ideas that the writers have thrown at the wall and gone with whatever’s stuck, without thinking about the lead-up. It’s all for shock value, and it ranges from groan-worthy to outright laughable.

Going back to Yuno; having her sent to jail and/or the electric chair would be suitable punishment for her crimes but in some odd way it’s a good thing she isn’t because she is, by far, the best character in the show. She’s the most active player and unlike the rest of the cast and plot she’s the most consistently written, having a clear arc across the series. There’s a reason her face is the most recognisable; yes, her wacky actions and bloodlust play a part, yet nevertheless out of all the characters, she’s the best written by leaps and bounds. There are plenty of twists and turns that she brings and then the plot throws back at her; however, they work because it’s clear that the writing from day one has been leading up it. Yuno also has the most volatile personality, so she is able to do wilder things to keep the plot moving without coming across as being out of character.

future diary part 2 image 1

While her character is handled steadily, the way the show (and other characters) treat her is not; it constantly flip flops between painting her as an irredeemable villain and victim of circumstance, while also one minute trying to sell her connection to Yuki as ‘true love’ and the next a horrible relationship that can only end in disaster. It doesn’t help that by the end the show turns itself on its head to try and make her awful actions forgivable. The ending itself, while providing a conclusion to the show for the majority of the side characters and the main plot, will most likely be widely disliked. It wants to have its happy and angsty cakes and eat them too, but can’t seem to get a solid balance to please everyone, much like the tonal imbalance of the show itself. The additional OVA that expands on the ending (Redial) is sadly not included in this set; in fact, the only extras are the clean opening and closing.

Future Diary belongs on the thin line between ‘so bad it’s good’ and ‘just pure trash’; its mileage will vary depending on whether you have the patience and sense of humour to put up with inconsistent tone, wild plot developments that come out of nowhere and badly written characters. Future Diary is a lot of things, but boring is definitely not one of them.

Rating: 5/10

Anime Quick Information

Title: Future Diary
UK Publisher: Manga Entertainment (Kaze)
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Action, Romance, Horror
Studio: Asread
Type: TV Series
Year: 2012
Age Rating: 18
Running Time: 325 minutes