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Also dropped: Soul Eater, Rokka no Yuusha, Ping Pong

Continuing from the last post, some more things I dropped recently:

Soul Eater: Not my cup of tea. I think I’ve outgrown shounen action shows or something, because the violent action in the first few minutes didn’t thrill me in the least, and then the attempts at… humor? with Maka’s dad or whoever just made me roll my eyes. I turned it off before the halfway mark. I’m not going to bother reading the manga or any summaries either. Tsugi!

Rokka no Yuusha: Meh. Not interested. I made through the whole of episode 1, which is more than I can say for the other two shows in this post, but that’s about it. The fast pace of the first episode was good – demon revives instantly, party starts to come together, all good, but the dense rash main character and the coy (but really strong, honest!) princess didn’t interest me enough to make me want to continue. One episode is enough.

ping-pong-episode-1Ping Pong: The main character’s voice and attitude turned me off completely. I know he’s supposed to sound bored and lifeless, and I’m sure hundred of voice actors were auditioned and several takes were made in order to get him to sound like a dead fish, but he just rubs me the wrong way 100%. I’ve heard good things about Ping Pong so I might read the manga where I don’t have to deal with any annoying voices and the super slow pacing. The anime, though, is not for me.

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Dropped: Giant Killing, Joukamachi no Dandelion, Non non Biyori

Regular readers of the AnimeFangirl blog should be used to the system where I try one episode of a series and then drop it like a hot potato. Being an avid anime watcher for over 15 years ensures you develop a nose for shows that won’t work out and can quit without wasting too much time. As a bonus this also frees you up to cope with your ever-growing backlog -_-;; The latest shows on the chopping block:

Giant Killing: I like sports shows/manga about the sport at the professional level, but something about this lazy rogue ‘unconventional’ coach rubbed me the wrong way. The art and the voices were low-tier as well, but I am vaguely interested in this rags-to-riches story so I might read the manga sometime. Things take so long to develop in the anime and so much time is spent just talking and arguing that I’m bailing out now.

non-non-biyori-screenshot2Non non Biyori: Cute show. Lovely environments. Really makes you want to up and move to a village in the Japanese countryside, it’s so beautiful. So much so in fact that it actually feels like pro-countryside propaganda, to be honest. But the bigger problem is that there are tons of “cute girls doing cute stuff” slice of life shows out there and Non non Biyori doesn’t have anything special going for it besides the gorgeous scenery gimmick. It’s also really, really slow even by slice of life show standards. It was a nice watch, but one episode is enough.

Joukamachi no Dandelion: Too many characters. Too much going on. Too many ‘wacky’ incidents. The main character is annoying. The premise is all kinds of messed up and yet not very interesting at the same time. The royal family lives in a normal neighborhood? There’s nothing normal about their lives with all those cameras and magical powers and flying! So why not just let them live in a palace already? And the whole ‘game to decide the next king’ gimmick is stupid. In fact it’s just a dumb show all around. I don’t think I even finished the first episode. Next!

grimgar-of-fantasy-and-ash-vol-1-452923.2

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar anime review – Pretty nice

I’ve watched my fair share of “hero taken to a fantasy world” kind of shows and generally enjoy the genre, but it does tend to get kind of stale after the 10th “Hero of the World” iteration. I heard Hai to Gensou no Grimgar was a different, grittier take on the trope, all about what would really happen if a bunch of regular people were thrown into another world and had to survive without all the modern amenities and protections we’re used to, so I gave it a try. And you know, it was actually pretty good.

BlurbGrimgar of Fantasy and Ash (灰と幻想のグリムガル Hai to Gensō no Gurimugaru?) is a Japanese light novel series written by Ao Jūmonji and illustrated by Eiri Shirai. The story follows a group of people who suddenly find themselves in a fantasy world with no memories from before their arrival, and chronicles their struggles to survive and make a life for themselves. (source:Wikipedia)

First, before you get scared off, Grimgar is not that dark a series. The darkest take on the trope I’ve ever seen is Now and Then, Here and There (recommended watching if you’re feeling too happy and just want to be pissed off), and Grimgar never gets quite as unhappy as that. Nevertheless it does chronicle the likely struggles of a bunch of regular teenagers who have never even killed a chicken before and who now have to fend for themselves in the wilds of a new world by killing sentient, highly intelligent monsters and living off the proceeds.

Positives

hai to gensou no grimgar volume 1 coverI liked that Grimgar wasn’t that dark and still contained plenty of fantasy staples like magic and skills and a super-talented main character who overcomes great odds etc etc. I’m cool with that kind of thing, especially since nothing comes easy to the party so it feels like they deserve everything they eventually get. The show also ends on a highly positive note and is very well-wrapped up so unlike most light novel adaptations you don’t feel like you have to go out and get the books to get the full experience, even though the show does make you interested enough to want to do so.

Other positives: the watercolor-like backgrounds are lovely and a nice, mellow change from the often-garish colors of other fantasy series. The action sequences are not as good as the better ones from Sword Art Online or even Yes It’s Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, but it’s still clear and easy to follow even when things get hectic. The fights keep you on edge a bit because the rookies are so raw that anything can and frequently does happen in that world. It’s also nice that the characters have to deal with everyday stuff like buying food and getting clean underwear. It’s good for people who like slice-of-life and immersion into fantasy worlds.

Negatives

Now for the stuff that wasn’t so good. The voice-acting isn’t very impressive. It’s a strike against those who insist on how wonderful Japanese VAs always are. The MC’s voice was too deep and too impassive, Manato’s voice was too screechy and piercing, Ranta always sounded like he was trying too hard, the other characters weren’t very memorable. I don’t remember anything about the music either. The fanservice episodes and excessive discussions of bust-sizes and other vulgar topics was also something I could have done without. The long sequences where people just stand around while some annoying high-pitched singer warbles about nothing important weren’t necessary to the show either, IMO.

hai to gensou no grimgar manatoThose minor nitpicks aside, the main negative of Hai to Gensou no Grimgar (for me) is that far too much time is spent talking about stuff that doesn’t really interest the viewer. Especially at inappropriate times like in the middle of dungeons (they pay for that at least once, but they don’t learn their lesson). I’m like “Can’t this wait till you get back home where it’s nice and safe?”

But really, they just like to talk. Talk talk talk about their feelings. Tell me how you feel. I feel this, we feel this, feel feel feel. I get it, I get, but you really don’t need to spend 10 minutes in one episode talking about your depression, then 5 minutes in another episodes going on about the same thing, and then again in another ep, and on and on. It could be faster paced, is what I’m saying.

But there’s no perfect series, and I think Grimgar did pretty well keeping a balance between being upbeat and being realistic. It’s a great watch for anyone who likes fantasy, other worlds, tragedy, slice of life or straight up action. Or a fun combination of all these like Hai to Gensou no Grimgar.

haikara san ga tooru vol 1 cover

Haikara-san ga Tooru manga volume 1 review

I enjoy older shoujo series, but there are so many of them my backlog just grows and grows. Still Haikara-san ga Tooru is one of the more famous and popular old shoujos, so I was going to read it sooner rather than later. The recent announcement of the remake of the anime gave me the impetus to finally get off my butt and actually read it. Or read volume 1 anyway, I’m not sure if I’m going to read much more than that.

SummaryBenio Hanamura lost her mother when she was very young and has been raised by her father, a high-ranking official in the Japanese army. As a result, she has grown into a tomboy — contrary to traditional Japanese notions of femininity, she studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in often outlandish-looking Western fashions instead of the traditional kimono, and isn’t as interested in housework as she is in literature. She also rejects the idea of arranged marriages and believes in a woman’s right to a career and to marry for love. Benio’s best friends are the beautiful Tamaki, who is much more feminine than Benio but equally interested in women’s rights, and Ranmaru, a young man who was raised to play female roles in the kabuki theater and as a result has acquired very effeminate mannerisms.

haikara san ga tooru shinobu benioThe tomboy Benio is forced to marry the lieutenant Shinobu, who is from a wealthy family. At first Benio doesn’t get along with the distinguished way of life at all. When Shinobu is sent to fight in Russia, Benio makes her own way… as an emancipated woman in Tokyo of the 1920s!

Well first off, most summaries claim that Benio marries Shinobu, but actually she just moves into his house as his fiancee to undergo training so that she becomes a more suitable bride. So they’re merely engaged as of volume 1 anyway.

Furthermore, Benio isn’t as much of a feminist icon as people make her out to be. Again, at least in volume 1 anyway she’s not particularly interested in doing girly stuff like sewing, but neither is she all that into pursuits like kendo (also the sake drinking incident was just a one-off). It’s just the only thing she knows how to do because of the way she was brought up, and she’s painfully self-conscious of her lack of femininity, especially compared to her friends.

Additionally it’s her friend Tamaki who has the strong convictions about only marrying for love (but surely the fact that Tamaki is in love with Shinobu has nooothing to do with it, oh no sirree). Benio is more confused and conflicted about it than adamantly opposed.

01_053That’s why she doesn’t run away and try to make it on her own when the topic of marriage comes up but rather goes along with it in the silly hope of being so difficult to work with that Shinobu’s family will cancel the engagement from their end. Instead she ends up winning everyone over and being won over in turn by Shinobu (even though she’s supposed to be trying to get him together with Tamaki. It’s complicated) and everything goes on as normal for a shoujo manga.

In short, Benio comes across as a regular teenage girl who just wants to have fun and do her own thing and isn’t quite ready to grow up yet. I thought I’d like her more than I ended up doing, but she’s so immature, naive and impulsive that I got annoyed at her more often than not. Going to Shinobu’s house and being difficult was a bad, childish idea to begin with, and she doesn’t go ahead with it anyway because deep down she really does want to be cultured and feminine so what’s the point of the childish rebellion? Teenagers!

And she insists she doesn’t like Shinobu one little bit (me neither) and yet her heart pains her at the thought of being parted from him… urgghhh, typical shoujo heroine, urrghhh. She’s cute, but nothing extraordinary. I was hoping for something more unusual from Haikara-san ga Tooru, but it’s just the usual “tomboy falls in love and softens up” story. At least in volume 1.

Will I continue to read the other volumes? I don’t know. It’s not as interesting as I was hoping for. I’m not that interested in Benio or her wacky hijinks. And I hate smug, suave leads like Shinobu. He’s basically Mr. Perfect so of course all the ladies can’t help falling in love with him but he’s slowly gaining feelings for wild, unconventional Benio (who as I’ve said is not that wild or that unconventional) blah blah blah.

I dunno… Okay, most likely volume 2 is where things will get more interesting when Shinobu is conveniently removed from the scene and Benio is free to “make her own way as an emancipated woman” as the blurbs say. Let’s give it one more volume and see.

sword art online kirito and asuna

Sword Art Online Season 1 anime review (spoilers)

Sword Art Online is one of those anime shows you watch just to see if it lives up to the hype. And there is a LOT of hype about SAO, both positive and negative. The bad seems to outweigh the good, but having watched it for myself I can say it’s neither as bad or as good as fans and haters try to make it out to be. The first arc of the show is pretty good, the second half is pretty bad and together you get a decent show that is worth a watch, at least.

Premise (taken from Amazon): In the year 2022, a next-generation game known as “Nerve Gear” has been developed, making Full Dives into a virtual dimension possible. “Nerve Gear” The world’s first true VRMMORPG. “Sword Art Online (SAO)” has generated worldwide buzz, and on its official launch day, one player, Kirito, immerses himself in its virtual world. But Akihiko Kayaba, the developer of SAO, proclaims the following to all players. This game is inescapable unless all levels are cleared. And in this world, “Game Over” is equivalent to death in the real world.

sword art online dvdThat’s a description of the first ‘Aincrad’ arc, the best part of the show simply because of the tension created by the “death is final” condition in the game. As time passes in the game you get genuinely worried for the bodies of the players in real life, and many of them do indeed die from starvation or because a well-meaning parent takes their VR equipment off without knowing it will fry their brain. It’s actually surprising more of them weren’t lost to carelessness, but we’ll let some things slide for the sake of fiction.

People say Kirito is a boring Gary Stu, which I do see later on in the show, but in the beginning he doesn’t come across all that badly. In a game where the weak die for real, of course your main character has to get strong in a hurry. He’s bit colorless, yes, but a good sort just trying to do his best in a bad situation. I was rooting for him to make it out alive.

The problem began, as it always does, when he got involved with a girl. Asuna. For the record I like Asuna too. It’s just their “romance” that was hard to stomach, both from a moral and a regular viewer point of view. It’s not that surprising to see teenagers jumping into relationships with each other, and in a world where you might die at any second it’s not that strange that they’d jump for a little human companionship, but still! The more SAO tried to portray the Kirito-Asuna lustfest as “sweet” and “romantic” the more I cringed within.

I still finished the show, though, because the ‘romance’ aside it wasn’t that bad. I was especially pleased by the unexpected ending to the Aincrad arc, which I suppose I won’t spoil for you even though I’ve already spoiled everything else. I heard people complain that it came out of nowhere, but that’s precisely why it’s so good! It’s an RPG world so you expect things to go the RPG way, then boom, something out of left field. Really cool.

sword-art-online-oculus-rift-virtual-realityAfter that the Elfheim arc where Asuna is a damsel in distress needing to be rescued was a bit of a letdown. More than a bit, it was just bad. That’s where I started to see the Kirito as Gary Stu thing in full force, because even though he was in a new world, somehow he had all his skills and all his abilities and he was so cool and he was saving everybody and everybody thought he was so awesome etc etc blah di blah. Yeah, that was boring. The villain was also so comically evil and incompetent that I thought for sure someone more capable was pulling the strings behind him. But no, it was just poor writing made worse by one of Takehito Koyasu’s hammier performances. And the awkward “romantic tension” between Kirito and his cousin only made things worse.

sword art online battleIn a nutshell, Sword Art Online is good when it’s portraying online RPGs and their battles, tensions and mechanics. The action sequences are fairly exciting in the Aincrad arc where one wrong move spells death, and battles are still quite interesting later on even when we know there’s no chance Kirito will lose. When it comes to any kind of human relationships, though, the writing just sucks and is flat-out painful to watch. It’s still a decent show which wraps everything up well enough that I feel no need to watch Season 2. I’d give it 7/10 for the first half and 4/10 for the second arc. That’s 11/20, just slightly above average, which is about what the show deserves.

It would have gotten a higher score if they had spent more time exploring the world and thereby exciting my imagination about how things actually work and what it would really feel like to being in that virtual world, but the months and years just pass away at a blistering pace and before you know it Kirito is level 99 or whatever, before you know it he’s in love with Asuna (or thinks he is anyway) then this, then that, it’s all kind of sudden. A watchable show nonetheless, but not quite worthy of all the fuss it’s gotten. Or worthy of all the hate, as I said earlier. You won’t go wrong watching it, just don’t expect too much and you’ll be fine.

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