Little Busters Season 1 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

Score: 7/10

Busou Shinki Complete Collection Review

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Score: 4/10

Mikagura School Suite – The Complete Series Review

So, see if you can follow me on this one. Mikagura School Suite is an anime based on a light novel series by the band Last Note. that was itself based on their own Vocaloid-assisted songs. Now not being full acquainted with the music scene in my own country, let alone Japan, I wasn’t actually sure what that meant, apparently it just means Last Note. (who have a full stop at the end of their name just to annoy people who use auto correct grammar) wrote the songs via a computer program, including the vocals being done by said program, and released them. They then wrote a light novel series “based on the songs” (which is odd because songs are short and don’t really open themselves up well for novelisation) then these light novels were adapted into this 12 episode anime series. Got that? Good.

The series at its heart is a light-hearted slice of life-style comedy, but with weird and super-powered things happening around the place. Slice of weird life? Anyway, our lead character is Eruna Ichinomiya, a hyper-active young girl who seemingly falls in love with pretty much any woman she sees, whether it be on her portable gaming system (that is clearly just a PSP, but you know, rights issues etc), in her head, or in real life. It’s nice that the fact the lead is a lesbian is not pointed out as weird or perverse, nor is it played up to give horny real-life teens some … imagery, it’s just… she’s your classic over-the-top horny teen who happens to like girls. It’s a rare act of maturity, in a series that’s anything but mature! Anyway, she has trouble picking a high school to attend until her cousin shows her a pamphlet of Mikagura Academy, featuring attractive student Seisa Mikagura in it, so that immediately “inspires her” to sign up for it. After a surreal test which includes a floating, talking cat (which doesn’t seem to phase her much) she is accepted.

What Eruna doesn’t realise, however, is that the school has a strange set- up: every student has to join a club and each club battles the others in over-the-top shonen-style battles with powers based on whatever club they’re a part of. Accommodation, food and other things are based on what club you’re a part of and where that club stands in the school rankings. During the battles each participant has three hearts appear above their head; once all three are destroyed, they lose. It’s like a weird Dragon Ball-esque version of Mario Kart’s battle mode. As amusing and occasionally really well animated as these fights are, they aren’t the focus of the show, and for a while in the middle they just don’t feature at all.

The focus of the show is seeing Eruna going from someone only interested in the fantasy girl on her not-PSP dating sim to slowly gathering a large group of friends that she loves hanging out with. That’s really the main story. There is a storyline about Eruna’s ancestors and hidden powers locked away and so on, but it isn’t given any real importance. Some of the friends she gathers have backstory, even tragic backstory, that adds a little to them, but once again it’s never really necessary, often being created so they can have a quick fight before going on to the next comedic adventure. Her group includes: previously mentioned stoic shut-in Seisa who slowly comes out of her shell; Otone Fujishiro who is similarly anti-social but quickly comes around; smiley and bubbly Himi Yasaka of the Calligraphy Club; Eruna’s perverted cousin Shigure Ninomiya and Kyoma Kuzuryu of the Art Club, who is blunt and intimidating, but nice when you get to know him. There are a few more, mostly from the Drama Club, but I’d be here all day.

The Opening is “After School Revolution” in which the music and lyrics were done by Last Note. themselves, but the performance comes from a trio known as Hōkago Rakuen-bu. There are three Endings, either done by all three Hokago Rakuen-bu or just one member of the trio, which are After School Stride for Episodes 1, 9, 10, 11 and 12, Paradise Fanfare for Episodes 2-7, and Naked Candy for Episode 8. Why a 12 episode series needed three endings I can’t tell you, but I guess given the origin of the series can be traced back to a band writing songs on a computer, it makes a sort of sense. The English dub is as accurate as you can get, the FUNimation cast do their best to match the over-the-top shouty rants that somehow don’t sound as bad when they’re done in Japanese, but in English… it tends to get old – and loud – fast. Still, several of the voice actors, some of whom also acted as directors or in script adaptation, appear in a set of episode commentary tracks for Episodes 9 and 10, which is a nice change from the usual clean Opening, Ending and trailers you normally just get (which are present here as well, for the record).

In summary, Mikagura School Suite is a perfectly fine distraction. For 12 episodes you get plenty of humour and crazy over-the-top reactions, plus you occasionally get a good super-powered fight thrown in. However, there are obviously many better examples of this kind of school-based slice-of-life comedy out there, so maybe this is for diehard fans of the genre who love to watch and collect them all, rather than someone dipping their toes into this part of the anime world for the first time. If you’re in it for the action you’ll be disappointed, but one look at the title and box art should have told you what you were getting! To sum it up, the show is fun in parts, slow in others, making it a solid show to watch; just don’t buy it expecting it to blow you away, instead buy it to have something to relax to for a few days.

Title: Mikagura School Suite - The Complete Series
Publisher: Funimation (via Anime Limited)
Genre: comedy, slice of life, action
Studio: Doga Kobo
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (Blu-Ray version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 7/10

When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace Review

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During a meeting at a High School Literature Club, the four members of the club, along with the niece of the club’s faculty advisor, find themselves suddenly granted supernatural abilities. Resident chuunibyou Jurai Andou is thrilled about the club’s newfound talents, including his own power to summon black flames from his hand, but is hopelessly outclassed by his peers: Tomoyo manipulates time, Andou’s childhood friend Hatako controls the elements, club president Sayumi can repair both objects and living things back to their original form and their advisor’s niece Chifuyu is able to create objects from thin air. Despite the fact that the origins of these powers remain a mystery, very little has changed for the club, with the everyday activities continuing, albeit tinged with the supernatural.

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The first thing I feel the need to get out of the way about When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace, the 2014 Trigger adaptation of the light novels by artist 029 and author Nozomi Kota, is that it has potentially one of the most misleading titles I’ve ever seen for an anime. It’s incredibly easy to look at an anime from Trigger, behind the madcap action shows Kill La Kill and Ninja Slayer: From Animation, with the words ‘Supernatural Battles’ in the title, and assume it’s going to be another crazy, over-the-top action anime in the same vein as their other shows. This would be wrong though, and if you’re looking for a supernatural action show, you’re going to be very disappointed. However, if you are looking for a brilliant slice-of-life comedy with a super-powered twist, you’re probably not going to get much better than this.

Ever since I first watched it whilst it was simulcasting back in 2014, Supernatural Battles has always had a special place in my heart. To me, it’s an overlooked gem, and whilst it’s not exactly one of my all-time favourite shows, it is still one that I reckon deserves way more attention than it ever got. A large reason why I think it’s a cut above your average slice-of-life fare does come down to the animation by Trigger. Despite being relatively new, Trigger has quickly become one of my favourite studios and I absolutely adore their energetic style, so to see them do a slice-of-life anime, a personal favourite genre of mine, is wonderful, and definitely makes it stand out from the crowd.

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The high energy animation not only makes it a delight to watch, but it also lends itself well to the comedy aspect too, which is another reason why I love Supernatural Battles so much; it’s hysterical. Comedy being subjective and all, it may not be for everyone, but I found the majority of jokes got at least a small laugh out of me, and a lot of the time, I’d be in a fit of giggles. The comedy is definitely stronger in the first half, before it decides to focus more on the romance and character relationships, but even then, there are laughs to be had throughout.

Of course, Supernatural Battles being a slice-of-life anime, the heart of the show very much lies in its cast of characters, which I really grew to love. They’re not necessarily the most complex or deep characters in the world, with each one getting an episode of focus and not much more. However, they make up one of the most instantly likable groups I’ve seen and are very fun to watch on screen. The male lead Andou might be a a little bit contentious, as I can see his chuunibyou shtick perhaps grating on some people after a while, but other than that, whether it be the adorable Chifuyu, the air-headed Hatoko or the somewhat tsundere Tomoyo, there isn’t really a character among the bunch that I didn’t enjoy watching immensely. If I did have to pick one weak link, it would be Sayumi, who can’t help but come across as a little bland and was certainly the weakest of the girls, and I’d have definitely have liked to have seen a bit more development for her. By far the best use of the characters comes when the show decides to introduce romance into the mix, with some great results. Whilst I can’t say I was a huge fan of having literally every single female character fall head over heels for Andou, I did find the love triangle between Andou, Hatako and Tomoyo to be really well done, and because I really liked both characters, it was a rare scenario where I actually didn’t know which girl I wanted to win.

inou-2The only real weakness of Supernatural Battles comes in the form of its story, which is to say, it tries to have one. Not that it’s impossible to have an anime that balances slice-of-life antics as well as a story too, and there are certainly some examples of it working, such as the first season of Full Metal Panic!, which has a great military action story as well as high school comedy shenanigans. However, the execution in Supernatural Battles leaves a lot to be desired. For a start, they only introduce the plot in Episode 8 of 12, and that whole episode feels incredibly out of place, almost as if it’s from a whole other anime entirely. Then, instead of expanding upon this story in later episodes, it’s immediately sidelined and almost entirely forgotten about, save for one or two throwaway scenes. I get that in the novels, the story is probably far better, but because of the restraints of only having 12 episodes to work with in the anime, if they knew they weren’t going to be able to do a sequel to expand upon the bits of story here, they would have been far better just dropping the plot altogether to put more focus on the characters, and flesh them out a bit more, rather than squandering screen time on a half-baked story.

Manga’s release of When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace features both an English dub and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles, and I’d definitely recommend sticking to the Japanese for this one. The dub really doesn’t work too well, and this is in large part to the lead, Andou. Not to discredit Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott, his English voice actor, but much like Love, Chuunibyou & Other Delusions, I just think that it’s very difficult to make a chuunibyou character work in an English dub. The only example I can really think of is Michael J. Tatum as Okabe in Steins;Gate, but he’s such a great, seasoned voice actor, it would be almost unfair to compare him to a new talent such as Mpinduzi-Mott. I also didn’t think that Chifuyu’s English voice actor, Sasha Paysinger, was the right choice for her role, as she really couldn’t pull off a voice that sounded like an Elementary School child should, so you end up with this weird, distracting dissonance when she speaks and a woman’s voice comes out instead of a child’s.

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By far the biggest crime committed by the dub, though, is that it censors. I’ll admit, I only sampled the dub in places, so I don’t know how common it is, however, one scene I did watch featured the dub going for a totally different gag than in the Japanese. Admittedly, I can see why they changed it, the joke was about a character being a lolicon, which could be a potentially touchy subject, but the joke was definitely changed for the worse. Personally, I thought the scene was one of the funniest in the whole show, yet in the dub it totally fell flat, not only making the joke far less funny, but also make a lot less sense. I am very much against dubs changing the intent of the source, a little interpretation here and there is fine to make things flow a bit better in English than they might have otherwise, but to totally change something like that is reprehensible.

In contrast to the dub, the Japanese voice cast is fantastic all around. Nobuhiko Okamoto (Blue Exorcist, Monthly Girls Nozaki Kun) is excellent as Andou, making for a convincing chuunibyou but the highlight is certainly Saori Hayami (Buddy Complex, Sound! Euphonium) as Hatako, who steals the show with an amazing performance in the now infamous Hatako breakdown scene, which might genuinely be one the best moments of voice acting I’ve heard in any show.

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Music for the series is handled by Elements Garden, who also provided music for series such as Bodacious Space Pirates and Love, Election and Chocolate, and whilst the music is nothing memorable or special, it gets the job done. Whilst the score might be pretty forgettable, I have a lot of love for both the opening and the ending of Supernatural Battles. The OP, OVERLAPPERS by Qverktett, and the ED, You Gotta Love Me by Kato Fuku, are relentlessly upbeat J-Pop songs that firmly lodged themselves into both my brain and iTunes playlist and are some of my favourite OP and EDs of any anime. I’ve adored the ED since the first time I heard it, and having it paired with some adorable chibi visuals make it an ending I rarely want to skip.

In Summary

If you disregard the half-hearted attempt at a story, When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace is a really great show. Not only is it immensely funny but you’ll also quickly find yourself endeared by its cast of characters and falling in love with Trigger’s marvelous visuals. This is a show that often gets overshadowed by the likes of Trigger’s bigger hits like Kill la Kill or Kiznaiver, but it is just as deserving of praise as either of those, and definitely deserves a watch.

Title: When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace - Complete Season Collection
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Supernatural, Slice of Life, Comedy, Romance
Studio: Trigger
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 9/10

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! Review

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Paradise Residence Volumes 1 and 2 Review

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Hatsune Takanashi is a girl of simple tastes; she like curry and her friends, but her real love in life is pudding. Hatsune has begun her new life at Kikka Academy, an all-girl boarding school atop a mountain, and she is looking forward to making some new friends and eating delicious food. With a grade schooler for a Dorm Mother, a mean rival who has weaponised soy beans, and a foreign exchange student who doesn’t fully understand how clothes work, her new high school life is guaranteed to be interesting to say the least!

Paradise Residence is one of the latest manga series from author Kosuke Fujishima, the man behind Oh! My Goddess and You’re Under Arrest!, and it’s a fairly enjoyable slice of life comedy, even if it does come across as a little bit forgettable.

Standing out from the crowd is something that I feel is very important in anime and manga, and in the slice of life genre in particular. It’s so easy for a slice of life anime and manga to become just another generic high school comedy, and become instantly forgettable. The best way to make a slice of life show memorable, of course, is to have a memorable cast of characters. The standout example of this has to be the classic Azumanga Daioh, a run of the mill manga on paper, but elevated by a fantastic cast of memorable – not to mention hilarious – characters.

While this is the best way to go about making your series stand out, you could also resort to to using a unique gimmick to pull in readers. Of course, this is less effective; the characters can make or break a series. However, it at least provides something original and fresh. This is where my biggest issue with Paradise Residence comes in; it doesn’t really do either.

Paradise Residence is probably the very definition of a generic slice of life manga and there honestly isn’t really a whole lot to say about it. Whilst there isn’t really a whole lot of story here, as you’d probably expect from a manga like this, it hits familiar story beats and doesn’t really offer anything original or interesting to people who are already familiar with the genre. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable. Despite its shortcomings, I managed to get quite a few laughs out of Paradise Residence, mostly due to its cast of characters. Again, I really don’t find them particularly memorable, and they don’t exactly get any kind of depth or development, however they’re the source of most of the laughs that I had throughout these first two volumes. The protagonist, Hatsune, makes for a decent enough lead, although I do feel that some aspects of her character do come across as a bit forced, like the whole pudding obsession. If I did have to pick a favourite character, it would have to be Stephanie, the English foreign exchange student. Whilst her gag of not really understanding clothes can come across as an excuse for some fan service at points, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get some good laughs out of me.

Fujishima’s artwork in Paradise Residence is fairly nice but nothing really amazing, serving the story well but not pushing the envelope. The character designs are somewhat unique looking, being quite different from Fujishima’s previous popular works such as Oh! My Goddess and You’re Under Arrest!; here the designs look more contemporary than his other series, which were more rooted in the conventions of the 90s. There is a decent amount of panel variety and it all flows well, with it never being hard to tell which character is speaking.

Something worth noting is that as well as coming with the first volume of Paradise Residence, Volume 1 also includes Paradise Residence Zero, a prequel manga that leads into the main series. Although it’s at the back of the book it’s probably worth reading first, seeing as the main manga references some events of the prequel. Also included in Volume 1 is a short story written by Kanan Norihara and seven pages of coloured artwork.

In Summary

Whilst it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, the first two volumes of Paradise Residence still make for quite an enjoyable read, providing a few laughs throughout.

Score 7/10

Title: Paradise Residence
Original vintage: 2014
Mangaka: Kosuke Fujishima
Published by: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, School
Age rating: 16+
Length (page count): 308 (Volume 1) 158 (Volume 2)