Double Feature: Death Parade 1+2

I dub thee, Gindecim!


Death Parade’s one of those shows that, I am very tempted to write “you guys all know the premise”, because it feels so very familiar. And yet, off the top of my head, I’m having a difficult time pinning down a specific series or movie that adheres to this plot.  Like little phantom memories that elude me from childhood. So feel free to add your own parallel at the bottom.

This is the QuinDecim.  It’s the gateway between the living world and the “afterlife”, for lack of the appropriate term.  Naturally, it’s a night club. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the religious symbolism to you.

Our bartender, Decim…well…someone saw Mushishi and said “That’s it! Ginko is St. Peter!”.  That’s his job here.

Takashi and Machiko are a wed couple, in fact, on their honeymoon, when they find themselves in the QuinDecim.

Decim tells them quite calmly that they cannot escape, and must play a game where they stake their lives.  The game is darts, because…shuttup.  Presuming the guy to be a serial killer of some kind, Takashi and Machiko capitulate for now.

Ah, but the twist! The dartboard is drawn with various organs and body parts.  When a dart strikes the board, the opposing player will feel pain in that region.  But a helpful hint from Ginko…I mean Decim (this is so confusing with a different Ginko in this season) tells them they’re free to totally miss the board. Which they do happily. Until the final two darts, and you see the betrayal coming from 30 seconds into the episode. It comes in the form of overhearing a conversation on their wedding day regarding “Matchi”, who’s clearly having an affair because all women do in bathrooms is high five each other about who they’re cheating on their husbands with.

So Takashi “slips”, and Machiko (probably legitimately) hits the very edge of the board. Machiko tells Takashi that she’s carrying his baby, so please be super not careful to hit her in the uterus.

So Takashi hits Machiko in the uterus. Not that this matters, as Machiko has finally realized the truth: They’re already dead, this is so much pomp and circumstance. Decim agrees, this is arbitration to decide who gets sent to Heaven, and who gets sent to Hell. Continue reading


Yuri Kuma Arashi: Act 1

With 31 flavors of lesbian.


I was originally going to just catch up this series one by one in the traditional manner like a beast. But…it had to be THIS show. Only now, at the Ep. 3 mark, is the form of the series taking shape. And even then, it is JUST the shape, the shadow on the wall as the pieces assemble together.

Which is, to be sure, a serious weakness in this first act. And it comes down to intent. One phrase was used in the marketing of Yuri Kuma Arashi that raised eyebrows and palmed faces the world over.

“Intellectual fantasy”.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of symbolism as a story-telling medium (not as a narrative tool, that’s different). Saying your piece is “intellectual” is often an easy screen to hide behind because, duh, it’s not SUPPOSED to make sense! It’s SUPPOSED to confound you and make you wonder who’s dick got blown to get it on the screen! Just as often, it’s an easy defense screen to hide behind, “It’s intellectual, you dope! You wouldn’t need it explained if you were who it was MEANT FOR!” like certain anime whose title rhymes with bill la bill.

Yuri Kuma Arashi may not be this type of show exactly, but you’re probably driving through that neighborhood to get there.

But, it’s still early. Perhaps it won’t be this bad looking back. Perhaps there will be a Madoka effect where the most seemingly innocuous, distracting conversation takes on a whole new shade on second viewing.

And in that vein, I will describing things as they appear from hindsight, not as the information is originally delivered, because that would be two episodes of me saying “Then X happens…for some reason.”

Some years ago a planet exploded, raining fragments on the earth that caused bears to rise up and begin preying exclusively on humans.  Because of this, Humanity has begun to build, well, what the Funimation dub has chosen to call “the Severance Wall”, but it could just as easily go “Extinction wall”…again, TOO MUCH SYMBOLISM to determine which translation works best for now. So I’m going with the guys in a somewhat official capacity.

We are in the land of Yuri. Is it all of Humanity? Or a bubble universe where this small town of Yuri is what constitutes “Humanity”? Hard to say. I mean we SEE a map of Japan in news broadcasts but then why is the world this…weird way? But in this world every girl has a “Yuri-” name, as either given or surnames. Every one, except one of the protagonists BUT I’M GETTING TO THAT! The entirety of Humanity is female, and every girl is a lesbian it would seem.

Again, this is just what’s on screen. But hell at least Sakura Trick ACKNOWLEDGED (and later, showed us) fathers and other male attachments. No such luck yet in this series. So it’s confusing.

But not only that! Apparently there are STILL social pressures about BEING lesbians…for some crazy reason.  I have two theories about this, one hilarious and one glare-inducing, but I’ll get to them. For now, just keep that nugget of info to yourself. Continue reading

Ore Twintails ni Narimasu: Episode 1

Falling down! Do you know how long it’s been since we had that trope?!


I’m having a difficult time deciding right now if Twintails is being self-aware, or plain old Pythonesque with its absurdity.  I do enjoy myself an absurdist series, Baka to Test and InuHasa are my favorite anime comedies.  And I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with just being goofy.  For example, Yahtzee has often lamented that modern games are gritty-gritty, even in their concept if not art and game play, I believe the example he used was a game of a lasagna chef fighting giant frogs, or something.  I dunno, I’m working off memory here.  But you know how I know he’s right? There is a cute Smash Bros parody called Smash Kingdom, and at one point the villains are discussing adding new villains to the roster, when who comes in? The Eggplant Wizard. You know, the bad guy who fought Kid Icarus.

And just the idea of it is really, really off-putting.  Media has been conditioned to be “real”.  Because the closer you get to “live action doable”, the more “legitimate” you are, so the sentiment goes.  We have this Pavlovian response to things now.  How do you sell the idea of an Italian plumber fighting a giant turtle lizard thing to rescue a princess NOW?  Frankly you just don’t.  And the fact you have that gut reaction to the old chaotic days of the NES and it’s goofy games says a lot about where we’ve ended up.

Bringing this whole thing around to Twintails, this is what really informs my reasoning regarding this show.  Call it flimsy justification if you like, but I do WANT to like this series, and it doesn’t bother me if the show is necessarily silly in its stakes.  Now I don’t think it’s really EARNED that affection yet, as I said, because it often feels like its trying TOO hard.  But this could be an effect of the pilot, growing pains perhaps, but on the whole it’s off to an okay-start.

Meet Soji, a kid with a fetish for the twintail hairstyle. It’s orientation day and he spends the first assembly looking around at all the girls of the appropriate hairstyle.  His best friend, Aika, will be playing the role of twintail tsundere for this series.  We get some “goofy” first day jitters gags, nothing really good.  Scratch that, I do like the gag of how Aika and Soji “talk” to each other without talking.  It’s good exposition on just how long this pair has been together that they anticipate each other’s thoughts, and rather cute in its delivery.

But going to Soji’s family restaurant is where the action begins, along with Soji’s mom trying to get him laid. Kind of tired, but, frankly, every time a mom tries to tell their kid to get hitched, you really SHOULD be replacing what they say with “get laid!”, if only in your head. Continue reading

Double Feature: Madan no Ou to Vanadis 1+2

Savor it while it’s…not rotten.


Some quick observations about Madan no Ou to Vanadis:

I do like the OP. The animation feels rather genuine, as if someone actually cares about the product they’re putting out. (Or maybe it’s comforting because the last battle ballad we had here was in Blade and Soul)

So far, Vanadis has been holding its harem cards pretty close to its chest.  The cliche elements are still there, but they aren’t as obvious as in Inou-Battle, so that’s something.

The horses in this series are ENORMOUS. Jeez.

So we open on prologue. Skipping that.  We meet our hero, Tigre, most skilled archer in the land.  He’s the lord of this province, Alsace, and for whatever reason is fighting a battle against one of the Vanadis, Ellen, of Zchted.  I’m gonna be throwing around a lot of names here, because it’s…well we have to learn this Japanese overnight.  Alsace lies in the kingdom of Brune, and it’s really unclear why we’re having this little war yet, other than the penile compensation reasons.

Tigre is captured in the battle and brought to Zchted.  Yeah I just skipped a lot of opening exposition. It hurts my brain.  Ellen wants to take Tigre on as a hostage, it seems.

Now, I know that the protocol for such relationships is very different from the concept of a POW today, but I really find it odd during all this stuff that Tigre, not once, really considers that by teaching Zchted soldiers how to be better archers, he’s ultimately making them more efficient at killing his countrymen.

We have some harem anime antics involving Tigre catching Ellen bathing and her daring him to look, because all women secretly want to be watched while they bathe by strangers.  But one of Tigre’s retainers, Bertrand, arrives quite suddenly to tell us the bad guys are invading Alsace.  And they are ARE WE SUBTLE ENOUGH IN BEING EVIL bad guys, too! Because if there’s anything that tells engaging storytelling, it’s arbitrary black and white sides.

In a moment that actually works, as Tigre tries to sneak out to defend his homeland against the invaders, despite his “contract” of sorts as a prisoner, Ellen confronts him, and he begs her to allow him the use of her forces to defend his home (which, right now, is across international borders).  Ellen is so amused by his audacity, she consents.  And I admit it’s a pretty good moment for Ellen. And she quickly turns it around on Tigre that he must swear Alsace over to her banner.  So essentially, from her end, she’s setting out to conquer it before the BAD GUYS do, and for Tigre, he wrests an agreement from Ellen that the people of Alsace will remain relatively self-determinant, only the international border will now be crossing them. Continue reading

Double Feature: Inou-Battle 1 + 2


Watching this series, one thought enters my brain over and over again.

Welp, that’s definitely Trigger.

I mean this in good and bad ways.  Take Arms, for example, whom we last met in Gokukoku no Brynhildr.  They have an identity, inescapable and universally recognized. The theme is tits. Or examine Gainax, who struck gold with Evangelion and have spent the last 20 years desperately trying to recreate that notoriety.

Trigger hits a note in…okay what the hell, we’ll do the full title for the bookends, Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de. Much like The Doctor regenerating, there is enough similarity here to see the identity beneath, but enough has changed to make it feel like you’re not just watching KILL la KILL again. There’s a definite form emerging.

Unfortunately, that form is kind of the worst aspects of the last series.

For example: Still frames.  These work for small numbers of characters, one or two, because usually they’re talking and we’re focused on their expressions, reactions, whatever.  In large crowd scenes, we, as an audience, give it a pass because it’s less about the detail so much as conveying the concept of “many people”.  We don’t think less because the stadium is full of colored ovals with smaller colored ovals on top, because that isn’t the point. The point is to express 10,000 people just died when the demon fired eye lasers into the stadium.

Inou-Battle hits the uncanny valley as far as still-frames go.  A crowd of 5-6 people is too many to animate in a life-like manner without breaking the budget, but too few to accept that everyone is background scenery.

There are generally minor points for me, but they stick out here because Inou-Battle is just so…slow. Continue reading

Double Feature: Tokyo Ghoul 1+2



Bleach and Naruto’s newest sibling left a rather good taste in my mouth. Not…you know what I mean. We’ll be covering the first arc here (more appropriately: Whatever arc ends after episode 11 or so).

A lot of the premise relies on one thing: Your knowledge of the generic Vampire mythos. That’s basically what we’re getting here.  Only instead of Vampires, even the cute cuddly ones who don’t HAVE to kill you to feed, we have the Ghouls, a race that lives in Humanity’s shadow and eats their flesh.

In this regard it’s kind of silly. Most vampire stories in the modern day have acknowledged that yes, animal blood should be a substitute for vampires even if they don’t prefer it. Because, logically (as logical as you can approach the topic), there’s little difference at the nutritional level.  Tokyo Ghoul throws that out the window.  Only Human flesh satisfies these creatures, and we know that because there is no attempt to whitewash their actions, and even those we see who are very keen on blending into society don’t use alternative food sources. As close as we can get with science, there should be little to no difference in pig flesh or Human flesh, or any kind of raw meat.  And yet this is not an option. This even leaves aside the fact that the only reason creatures eat is to acquire carbon. The primary decider of your diet is your teeth and intestines, not the type of carbon in front of you, be that plant or animal form. Most creatures who can eat both, will eat both.  And as the family dog shows, even if they shouldn’t, they’ll eat the “wrong” type all the time.

In short, I feel like we’re being led by the nose through the pretext of horror, when we all expect this to devolve into standard shonen beat-em-up style soon enough. So why go through the effort of forcing it?  Maybe I’m just being overly picky here because there isn’t a lot of supernatural bent to this stuff yet, not really.  The speculative element is the race of Ghouls, but aside of that? It doesn’t appear to have a lot of occult trimmings. Thus, it seems to be approaching from the more “scientific” angle, so I’m probably feeling harsher for that.

Getting to the episode proper, our teaser is brief, a female Ghoul feasting on someone she’s just killed.  She’s approached by another Ghoul, who’s here to take her out.  Well before the old guy can report back to the Camarilla about how awesome a job he did…she totally kicks his ass and escapes, saying she really doesn’t have time for these little games.

Well you’ve got my attention. Continue reading

Black Bullet: Episode 1

If I were a cynic…


Late adolescent hero and his loli companion, with female entourage comprising the staff of his company? Has all the warning lights right?  How could a show with these qualities possibly rise above pointless fanservice and obnoxious harem bullshit?

We open on the year 2021, the outskirts of Tokyo…

Science fiction is going to have an identity crisis in a few years when 2020 is no longer “the far off future”.

We’re in a sort of refugee camp, and the residents are watching fighter jets overhead.  One explodes and from the clouds emerges a giant red eyed bug.  The refugees panic, calling it a “Gastrea”.  And it’s definitely desperate, the military doesn’t even check its fire as the fighter jets fire down onto the Gastrea when its above the refugees, probably catching a few in the crossfire.

There’s a small boy here, though, Rentaro, and he hears…a memory? To survive no matter what.

Pretty good scene, but you can’t fool me show of lolicon and lame humor!

The OP is nice…it’s kind of…kind of my impression what J-Pop would sound like if the world was much more depressing.

Ten years later, Rentaro is entering a building. He’s something called a “civil officer”  The police, or, security or something, have deduced that there’s a Gastrea in the building complex, and it’s apparently policy to not engage without these civil officers. Buuuut it seems the grunts wanted to be heroes, and two of them haven’t been heard from since they screamed from the room.

Rentaro is met by a man in a smiling mask, who says he was also after the Gastrea, but he’s also the one who killed the officers, who have been reduced to blood-splattered corpses on the wall. After a brief skirmish where he kills the remaining officers, Rentaro manages to snap the guy’s neck…but like all good Batman villains, he just snaps it back into place. He praises Rentaro, whom he refers to as “Satomi-kun” after asking for his name.  He’s still using the family name, almost like a teacher.  It’s just a speech quirk that adds some depth to his character by breaking out expectations that he’d just call him “Rentaro”.

This guy’s interesting. But I see where you’re going show, gonna focus on the loli butt grabbing and pantyshots too much to bring this guy back before the finale. Lame. Such a promising villain, too.

Speaking of, we see our loli running through the streets, whining about her fiance Rentaro.

Oh yeah, bring on the shit show. I’m ready. Continue reading

Double Feature: Gokukoku no Brynhildr: Episodes 1+2


All we need is a puppy…


You’ll recall I dreaded this series.  I have never been a fan of “socially awkward boy and his magical female companion” series.  I could not tolerate Witchcraft Works.  People told me there was parody or subversion somewhere in there.  Well, I think I watched a different Witchcraft Works from these people because I need to break out those tiny brushes to scrape away the sediment to find it.  Going to need a Vidocq-level microscope to show it to me, I’m afraid.

“Gokukoku no Brynhildr”, or “Brunhildr in the Darkness” does give some strong indications it might be shooting for more, though.  I can’t entirely put my finger on it…but I don’t have the same sense of dread I had with the aforementioned Witchcraft or any of the other siblings in this field.

Perhaps I have become desensitized to this crap.  I am not ruling out the possibility that I have gone insane.

Or, upon further research into the show, I discovered what may be the reason.  The creator of this series (though not the script writer) is none other than Lynn Okamoto.  If that name is not familiar to you…it’s the Elfen Lied guy. Yeah. In fact this project is something of a tribute band to that work, as it is an Arms production, and you can see a lot of similarities in style to that series.

Elfen Lied, as we all know, is a rite of passage for any true anime fan. Once you’ve seen it, it cannot be unseen.

Don’t worry though, we aren’t QUITE on that level.  It may actually justify a comment made by the creators of KILL la KILL that “the edgy creators of 10-20 years ago have lost their edge”.  Especially for…fucking ARMS, for cryin’ out loud, the studio that gave you La Blue Girl, Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai, and Queen’s Blade.  This is like Justin Bieber just going J-Metal one day on a whim. This is a tame, tame series.

At the moment.  Sorry. I need a disclaimer whenever the firepower might be brought out when we least expect it, and we are all kind of totally expecting it now, right?

Whatever the reason, heart or shoes, I’m finding myself enjoying this one.  And there’s plenty of room for it to slip up and piss me off, so this will be a true throw of the dice.

So we start our lead character, Ryota, talking about his childhood friend, whom he used to call Kuroneko.  She died, it seems, because they went on a stupid journey across what I think is a dam, and fell.  He blames himself for grabbing her hand when she reached for him.  He survived (somehow) but she didn’t. He never even knew her name.

This sense of guilt has followed him into his junior year of high school, where he studies to be a researcher at NASA.  Wait…NASA? Kind of dating yourself here, show. For shame.  How will you be relevant in six months? Continue reading

Knights of Sidonia: Episode 1


I had the strangest experience with the first episode of this science fiction-mech series about a post-apocalyptic universe.

I laughed my ass off for about ten minutes straight.  But this did not occur until two days after I had seen the pilot.

I was attempting to give my anime friends a quick blurb about it, when I crafted this wholly accurate sentence, “The dorm monitor is a talking bear with a robot arm”.

Realizing that this was dead serious, I completely lost my composure, almost waking up my wife in the process.  And thus I knew it had earned its place in our line up.

But not just for itself.  “Sidonia no Kishi” shares lots of common elements, it would seem, with Black Bullet, another show we’ll be getting into.  And yet they approach their subject matter from completely different angles.  Comparing and contrasting may be in our future…maybe. I’ll give it another week or two.

But Knights of Sidona wins by being a science fiction piece, and there is no doubt that it is.  And despite my blog name having origins in a camp sci-fi show, I haven’t REALLY gotten to explore the genre in great detail.  Knights offers me that opportunity, so here you have it.  It’s also combined with mecha, and I still feel bad not having  a good “comfort zone” series to test my boundaries.  So this also happens to help fill that role, a mixed blood series to ease my temperament, if you will.

Judging by a lot of the imagery and themes involved, along with one not entirely subtle nod, I think it’s safe to say this series is inspired, at least in part, by Battlestar Galactica (which, if you haven’t heard, is getting ANOTHER reboot).

You may be familiar with the premise, as Ron Moore’s version was quite popular some years back. But in case you aren’t: Humans created AI called Cylons. They rebelled, and after a back and forth conflict, the Cylons retreated into uncharted space with a tenuous peace treaty with the Human colonies.  At the start of the series, they’ve broken the treaty, and nuke the entirety of the Human race, some few thousand survivors escape with the only Human warship left, the Galactica.  They are pursued by the Cylons, trying to find refuge at a lost Human colony called Earth.

Knights of Sidonia takes that initial concept, and runs it to its most extreme conclusion. That this chase after the essential extermination of the Human race just keeps going and going, with no safe haven to be found.  There are obviously some changes, the big one being Earth isn’t a haven, but the seat of Humanity wiped out during the apocalypse.

And the enemy is not robotic, but biological.  This is mostly just a reflection of the times.  AI was a pretty big issue. It dominated science fiction from the late 60s to the 1980s.  2001: A Space Odyssey had HAL9000, there were the Terminator movies.  And even the original Battlestar Galactica itself.

Today, our fears are less that technology will overthrow us, and more directed at the biological.  Super viruses, zombie apocalypses, these are what our doomsday scenarios look like these days in media.  So thus in Knights we have a reflection of that, with an organic menace decimating the Human race, rather than robotic. They’re made of tentacles because….it’s Japan. Continue reading

Blade and Soul: Episode 1



Can you feel it, Rookie? That scent in the air…a threat to your sanity like you wouldn’t believe. Laugh, laugh it up now. But soon, Rookie, soon…

Spring is coming…and with it horrible fanservicey shows like this one is destined to be.

Kidding aside, I did not think that this pilot was all bad. That ALL bad, it isn’t. Yet.  Some intrigue and world building (sort of) that I will at least be creatively entertained as a writer. I’m sure there is going to be some poignant imagery here that sets my brain off on another tangent.  And for all the flaws here the art is not one of them.  But again, my art standards are silly low (and art is not choreography).

But the big question that remains to be seen is will the rules of the universe be explained, or are we assumed to have played the game?  Ah, that will be what determines if this “universe building” was anything of the kind.

We open on DRAMATIC ESCAPE! A white-haired woman is running from faceless goons.  Naturally, the woman whose face we can see is a ninja and fights with blades, while the dirty soldiers use guns like cowards that stir ire in our prideful Japanese sensibilities.  Don’t worry, she kills them all righteously.  How do I know? This show is not trying to be deep enough that she MIGHT have a checkered past.

We are then treated to a civilian (we can tell because he’s wetting himself) being killed by a…Andre the Giant? He uses this red-ethereal…wolf thing to just decay and destroy the poor sap.

That…that was pretty cool. Horrific, and mysterious.  But again, this is where that “if they bother to explain it to the layman later” thing comes in. By the end of this series I want to look at this scene and understand exactly what happened, you know, within reason.  If I am still as confused, well, that’s writing quality worthy of Machine Doll.

The big guy is chastized, sort of, by some woman in an outfit that screams “Ooo I’m femme fatale, BE IMPRESSED.”

She’s shushed though by someone in charge, apparently their commander.  Her voice is nice, very serious, yet that hint of being tired of watching children with monster powers all day. They’re inspecting the dead bodies from before.  I guess the guy who just got…devoured? was a witness and we couldn’t have those? Even though all he saw was dead soldiers?  Or maybe they assumed him guilty and killed him without trial. I AM THE LAW! Continue reading