Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Rolling Girls: First Impression

My winter impressions continue with The Rolling Girls.

The Rolling Girls
From the studio that brought us Attack on Titan comes The Rolling Girls, the winter season's Kill la Kill. Set ten year after "the Great Tokyo War," each prefecture in Japan is split into independent nations where the prefecture's "Best," which are representatives, battle for territory, and the prefecture’s armies are referred to as the "Mob." After the first two episodes set up the world, the series follows Four "Mob" girls from the Saitama clan, Nozomi, Yukina, Ai, and Chiaya, who travel around mediating battles between clans.
Despite the serious sounding plot, The Rolling Girls is anything but serious. Much like Kill la Kill, The Rolling Girls features over-the-top action, art style, and epically colorful battles. Basically, it is Kill la Kill with less fanservice and more color and moe girls. 
My favorite aspect is easily Wit Studio's style and the sense of fun throughout. All of the art is wonderfully colorful and the style is soft and appealing. It a pleasure to the watch from a visuals standpoint, and even if the series takes a turn for the worst in later episodes, it will be worth watching for the art alone. 
However, there is one big problem: the plot is incoherent and lacking in actual plot. The first two episodes provide information about the world and delivered entertaining action. The main plotline of the series starts in episode three, and while I hope more happens in future episodes, there is not a lot of the plot. With that said, I really hope that the series develops at least a competent plot and give the characters some development because it has the potential for being something incredibly fun!
If you enjoy colorful animation and Kill la Kill-esque over-the-top action yet do not mind an incoherent plot, give The Rolling Girls a watch. However, if you find the lack of plot troubling then just skip it or watch the first three episodes to decide for yourself.
Watch if you like: Kill la Kill, Colorful art, Wit Studio, 

More Winter Impressions:
Death Parade Episodes 1-3 Review
Winter Anime Impressions: Part 1
Winter Anime Impressions: Part 2

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter Anime Impressions: Part 2

My winter anime impressions roll on with my reviews for Tokyo Ghoul √A, Aldnoah.Zero 2, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Samurai Warriors.

Tokyo Ghoul √A
Tokyo Ghoul, the anime about ghouls, which are human looking beings that can only survive on the flesh of humans (and coffee). Tokyo Ghoul √A picks up after the abrupt cliffhanger of the first season. Tokyo Ghoul's first season started with three excellent opening episodes and then completely fell on its face throughout the rest of the series with dull characters and painfully over-the-top antagonists. It certainly had moments of intrigue, but it ultimately left me with an exciting concept without any finesse or entertainment with its execution. Apparently, the anime strayed from the manga, but as an anime only watcher, Tokyo Ghoul was just nothing special.
However, from the start of Tokyo Ghoul √A, one aspect piqued my interest: the manga writer, Sui Ishida, has taken the helm as story writer to take the anime in a completely different direction than manga. Now that the series is not following the manga, this "What If" type story poses some interesting ideas and it gives me hope that the series will end on a satisfying note. Maybe this idea of the mangaka writing an alternate version of the story could prove to be an exciting idea for future anime with either poor adaptation or not enough content.
With all that said, four episodes in, Tokyo Ghoul √A might not a great anime, but it is at least showing some promise. With the focus now on the "evil" ghouls, Tokyo Ghoul √A is showing another side of its world. For the first time since episode three of the first season, I am actually enjoying Tokyo Ghoul. Of course there are plenty of flaws, but it is a vast improvement over the first season's later half. Hopefully, the series will give more screentime to Kaneki, since his lack of presence is the only odd thing about the new season’s direction. However, the action sequences are actually fun to watch, and it seems that the series' violence is animated in a way to avoid censorship for the most part, which is appreciated. With that said, Studio Pierrot's animation is still dreadfully dull.
Well, so far so good with Tokyo Ghoul's second season. If you liked the first season, you are sure to be eating this one up (see what I did there?).
Watch if you like: The first season,

Aldnoah.Zero 2
After last season's shocking cliffhanger, Aldnoah.Zero 2 was one of my most hyped sequels of the winter, and while the outcome of certain things in regards to the finale are questionable, I am remaining open minded since the mind game mecha battles and high production value are making each episode entertaining to watch. With that said, my opinion of the series' first season has dropped slightly compared to my initial review, which you can read by clicking here. Even though the world Gen Urobuchi has created is incredibly fascinating, certain aspects of the plot and characters were not as good as I originally thought them to be. It is still one of the more intriguing sci-fi anime of the last year, and if you are a fan of mecha or Gen Urobuchi's previous work, you should definitely watch the first season. 
Anyway, season two is off to an interesting start. Slaine's actions seem questionable at first, but his character continues to shine for being one of the more complex strategist archetypes. On the other hand, Inaho is the classic stoic genius, although he seems like a little more interesting character in this second season.
As for the rest of the series, A-1 Pictures and TROYCA's animation is as stunning as ever, even if the CGI mechas are a bit jarring. Also, the score by Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill) continues to impress, even if it is not as amazing as the first season's score.
Basically, if you watched the first season, you should be watching season two of Aldnoah.Zero!
Watch if you like: The first season,

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 3: Stardust Crusaders 2
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure continues with part two of the Stardust Crusaders arc. The JoJo's series is one that I really need to get around to reviewing so that I can fully explain why its over-the-top absurdity works so well. However, since this is really only part two of the third arc in the series, I will focus it quality rather than try to give an oversimplified explanation of the series. However, if you enjoy epically muscle-bound dudes using cool shounen powers with plenty of humor, then give JoJo's Bizarre Adventure a watch, but know that the first arc is terrible compared to the rest of the series.
With that out of the way, part two of Stardust Crusaders continues the JoJo's greatness! Episode three was possibly the funniest of the series yet and the new teammate, Iggy, is hilarious! The series is a blast of weekly shounen awesomeness and I cannot get enough! If you watched the previous seasons, you know that you are going to continue watching this one.
Watch if you like: Retro anime, Shounen, Action, Comedy,

Sengoku Musou (Samurai Warriors)
A spinoff of the Dynasty Warriors video games, Sengoku Musou aka Samurai Warriors, is just like every other poorly executed samurai shounen anime that you have ever seen. It takes historical figures, like Nobunaga, and gives them colorful armor, bishounen features, and long flowing hair. The story is apparently set during certain era of Japanese history, and it assumes that you already know the history, which I do not for the most part. Even though I love to see a serious samurai drama like Akira Kurosawa's classic films, Samurai Warriors is, most definitely, not anything special. In fact, it is about as generic as possible. It is not incredibly over-the-top shounen, yet it is not grounded either, which makes for a painfully dull experience. The series is not terrible by any means, just so utterly dull that you lose interest in the story and characters. So, unless you are a fan of the video games, just skip Samurai Warriors. Also, having seen every non-sequel of the winter season, Samurai Warriors is the only one that was boring enough to make me drop it.
Watch if you like: Dynasty Warriors video game,

Have you seen any of these anime? What are your favorite winter anime thus far? Please below and let me know, and please check back tomorrow for my impression of The Rolling Girls.

More Winter Impressions:
Death Parade Episodes 1-3 Review

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Hobbit: High-Frame-Rate Discussion

After hearing how the 48fps high-frame-rate version of the first Hobbit film nearly ruined it in the eyes of most critics, 48fps (frames-per-second) has almost become a tainted word among the film reviewing community. In fact, high-frame-rate distribution of the Desolation of Smaug and Battle of the Five Armies was limited compared to the first film. However, when presented with the opportunity to watch the most recent and final entry in the Hobbit trilogy in 48fps, I decided to take it, and, to my surprise, the HFR (high-frame-rate) was actually impressive. 

While the first 15-20 minutes were jittery and noticeably faster, after my eyes adjusted to the higher frame rate, it actually improved the 3D's quality a great deal. Compared to the previous two Hobbit films, which I watched in IMAX 3D, the 3D combined with the HFR made the 3D, action sequences, and special effects far more realistic and clear. My prior experience with 3D was fine, but any scenes with a lot of fast movement became blurry to a degree. The HFR seemed to eliminate this issue almost entirely. The 3D popped and the action sequences were as detailed as I have ever seen, which made for a far more immersive experience (after the initial adjustment). However, the most noticeable difference is that the special effects and computer graphics are far more realistic and immersive. At many points the effects were so convincing that I did not know what was real and what was computer generated, and this brings me to the main point of controversy: Most critics say that the film uses too much CGI, and it compromises the experience. While I agree that more practical effects like the ones in the Lord of the Rings trilogy would have been much better, what we got in the film was exceptional and convincing CGI, at least if you are watching it in HFR. My opinion of the film differs so much from others, it as if I was watching a different film, and maybe the HFR made a difference in some respects. Regardless, I stand behind my review of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies being an exceptional film with many thrills and emotionally impactful moments. Also, if more 3D movies look this good in HFR, maybe there is a chance it will become more popular, although it is still not a biggest enough difference to the change the industry like 3D has. Did you watch the film in HFR? What is your opinion of HFR? And what do you think of the most recent Hobbit film? Please comment below and let me know, and do not forget to check out my review for the film by clicking here. 

Here is a video explaining the difference between 24 and 48 frames-per-second. 

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final entry in the legendary Middle Earth saga, or at least for the time being. Seeing my second most favorite franchise finally come to an end is saddening, and with a film with so much riding on it, does it disappoint?

As for the plot, by now, you all know the story, and if not, you really need to go watch the first two Hobbit films after watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Due to several factors, including the vast changes to the source material, being split into three movies, and An Unexpected Journey not being the same as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit films have received a lot of undue negativity. The first film certainly had its problems, but the Desolation of Smaug was an exceptional fantasy adventure that not enough people give credit to, especially how the Extended Edition improved upon an already strong film. Honestly, aside from those who are angry about the source material changes, I do not understand why so many people dislike the films, and this is especially true for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. In fact, it reminded me of critically acclaimed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in that it is the epic climax to an epic saga. However, it differs in how it raises the stakes, and, despite being a prequel actually had unexpected twists (if you did not read the book). Both are great movies, but the biggest difference is that almost everyone loves Deathly Hallows yet Battle of the Five Armies received a generally mixed to negative reception.

Having not read the novel, please remember that this is a review for the film as a cinematic experience, not an adaptation. 

Directed by: Peter Jackson
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Epic,
Release Date: 17 December 2014
Running Time: 144 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13

The Good: Thorin's descent into madness, Most impressive battle sequences since the LOTR, Bilbo and Thorin's friendship, Shockingly emotional moments, Rarely noticeable CGI, Romance almost kinda works, Suspenseful and intense action, Strong performances across the board, 

The Bad: Alfrid receives a bit too much screentime, 

Plot: 9.7/10- Having already been set in motion by the previous film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies fulfils on the epic conclusion that we all deserved and expected. The film's themes of the corruption by power and greed provide continue throughout, which is portrayed by the struggles of the characters.
Battle of the Five Armies’ pacing is perfect. The film never dragged, and there were enough plot developments during and between the action sequences to prevent the film from being pure spectacle. The only minor issue with the plot is that the film could have used at least ten more minutes to wrap everything with a little more finesse. However, what we got was satisfying enough to leave me fulfill leaving the theater. 

Characterization: 10/10- Thorin's descent into madness provides compelling conflict to drive the plot forward, and his character arc is one of the best and most compelling aspects of the film. Bilbo is such a likable character, and he receives many opportunities to shine throughout the film with a character arc that is well executed and satisfying. Bilbo’s friendship with Thorin is another highlight of the film because it makes you even more invested in the plot and characters of the film. 
For me at least, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has the hardest hitting emotional moments that I have seen in a movie live-action film in a very long time. Throughout the film I was shocked by how much I cared for these characters, and it makes the action sequences all the more suspenseful and intense.

Gandalf is not featured in the film as much as the previous two, but his absence is not much of a negative to the film, although Bard the Bowman receives more screentime than expected, which turned out great.
Everyone’s most talked about part of the movie is the romance between Kili and Tauriel that was set up in the previous film, and the payoff is surprisingly effective. It is not necessary, but it works, and I am fine with it being in the movie.
As before, aside from Kili, Balin, and Dwalin, the rest of the dwarves are almost one big character without much individuality. Considering their lack of involvement in the previous films, this is not a detriment to the film by any mean.
My only issue with the characterization, and one of my only issue with the film in general, is that Alfrid, the Master of Laketown's advisor, receives far too much screentime than his character deserves, and some of his scenes somewhat clash with the more serious nature of the battle sequences. 

Action: 10/10- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ action sequences features the best large scale battles since the LOTR. Almost every scene is filmed with skill, and despite the abundance of nearly nonstop action, it never becomes stale or redundant. Also, we finally get to see three of Middle Earth's resident bad*sses do battle, with a certain wizard's scenes being the most impressive of the trio.   

Acting: 9.9/10- Martin Freeman and Richard Armatage are the standouts among the expansive cast, and their performances are a large part of the reason why the characters’ drama is so compelling. Ian McKellon, Luke Evens, and the rest of the supporting cast all give top notch performances, which is expected from a Middle Earth film.

Special effects: 10/10- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ special effects are a vast improvement over the previous two films. Many times, you cannot even tell whether what you are seeing is computer generated or real sets and people in makeup. Of course, certain scenes are obviously CGI, but it blends well with the rest of the film. 
After reading other opinions, it seems that others felt that the effects and CGI blatant, and maybe watching the film in 48fps and 3D made the effects less noticeable, because I am very critical when it comes to anything animated and the film is near the top of my list of best CGI ever put to film. If you did not see it in 48fps, maybe that is why your experience was different, so be sure to check back tomorrow for my discuss about the high-frame-rate version.

Soundtrack: 9.7/10- Howard Shore's score is not as noticeable as his previous work in the franchise; however, it is still fittingly epic and makes the battle sequences more exciting. 

Humor: N/A- Aside from one scene with Alfrid, the film is nearly humorless, and the lack of humor works out for the best.

Entertainment Value: 10/10- As a Middle Earth fanatic, the film is pure entertainment for me. Not even for a second did the film lose my attention.

Overall: 9.9/10- Even with two incredibly inconsequential flaws, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is an emotional and thrilling ride that more than satisfies as, presumably, the final entry in the Middle Earth saga making it the strongest entry in the trilogy.

Closing comments: Even though I have liked other films more than most fellow critics, like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Thor, I know and admit that there are a few notable flaws in said films. However, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' flaws are so minor that I do not understand in the slightest why anyone, aside from those predisposed to dislike the film, would find it anything less than a high quality film. 

Recommended for: Anyone that watched the previous films, 

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: First Reaction

As is the trend now for me, I am the last person on planet earth not to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, but waiting to go see the film in High-frame-rate and 3D was more than worth it! Unlike the previous Hobbit films I generally avoided all reviews and opinions of the film prior to seeing, so as to prevent my opinion from being influenced by others. Having now seen the film, I will go read and comment on everyone's reviews and Best of 2014 posts, after finishing my review, so if you have reviewed the movie, please leave a link in the comment below.

I will say that the one advantage of seeing a movie extremely late is that there are almost always very few people in theater and therefore not many annoying distractions, which was, for the most part, the case. Aside from one guy crunching on some nachos, the theater was quite! In addition to my review tomorrow, on Thursday, I will be discussing the 48fps version of the film and how much of a difference the higher frame rate makes.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Winter Anime Impressions: Part 1

My impressions of the winter anime continues, and despite everyone's initial skepticism, it is actually shaping up to be an incredibly strong season. For today's impressions, I will be reviewing, Saekano, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, Absolute Duo, and Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha.
Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend)
Do not let the fanservice in the first episode fool you, Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata, translated as Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, or Saekano for short, is an ingenious commentary on Otaku culture and the harem genre that follows Tomoyo Aki, an Otaku, who, after encountering Megumi Kato, the most beautiful girl that he has ever seen, in a situation reminiscent of a dating-sim, decides to create his own dating-sim with Megumi being the basis for the main character. To create the game, he enlists the help of Eriri Spencer Sawamura, his half-foreigner childhood friend who obviously has feelings for Tomoyo, and Kasumigaoka Utaha, a cold and stoic literary genius, who is also the most popular girl in their high school. However, Eriri and Kasumigaoka are closet Otaku and famous for their doujinshi and light novels. When Tomoyo meets Megumi Kato again, he discovers that she is "not MC material," in that she has absolutely no presence and almost blends into the background, he but hopes to turn her into the model “character” for his game.
Thus far, Saekano a brilliantly written and witty series that points out the problems and tropes of anime, most often the harem genre. To sum it up, Saekano is to harem what Gekkan Shoujo Nozuki-kun is to shoujo. The series features many meta-jokes, with it even breaking the fourth-wall at times. The characters are even self-aware archetypes that frequently reference how their situations are similar to anime, light novels, ect, and the dialogue between the characters is written with so much wit that it is almost like that of the Monogatari franchise at times. 
After the first episode, or rather "Episode 0," which takes place towards the end of the story before rewinding to where it all begins in Episode 1, Saekano does not feature any fanservice, setting it apart from other satirical and commentary anime like Outbreak Company. Episode 0 literally opens with the four female protagonists discussing the wrongs of fanservice in anime while featuring fanservice shots, which makes for amusingly meta-opposing ideals. The rest of the episode parodies the cliché of the harem with each girl making a move on the male protagonist. However, after Episode 0, the following episodes feature zero fanservice with it focusing on the meta-humor and surprisingly interesting characters, so this is one of the only harems without much fanservice and that is a refreshing change of pace.
A-1 Pictures' animation is expectedly impressive with appealing character designs and detailed background art. At times, the movement of the characters looks oddly rotoscoped, but that seems to be fixed in recent episode.
Providing the brilliantly witty dialogue and commentary continues throughout the series, Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend has all the makings of a harem anime that actually breaks the mold to create something smart and well written. After watching the first three episodes of Saekano, I cannot recommend it enough to any Otaku, especially those interested in meta-commentary on the industry. 
Watch if you like: Meta-humor, Satire, Harems, Otaku comedy, 

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!) 
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!, aka Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, takes a typical magical girl anime and switches the gender of the characters to all high school boys, and the results are hysterical! Bouei-bu Love features the typical plot of a mahou shoujo anime with a magical animal, in this case a Wombat, giving the group of characters special powers to fight evil with the “Power of Love!” Bouei-bu Love is 100% pure parody of the mahou shoujo genre. From the characters' questioning why they must shout their magical powers in English to the absurdity of a transformation sequence when it features a guy instead of a girl, Bouei-bu Love is wacky satire at its finest. Surprisingly, after the first episode used a lot jokes about the genre, I entirely expected that the series could not keep up the laughs in the following episodes, and yet episodes two and three are just as funny. In addition, the innuendo and blatant corniness makes everything even more hilarious. Anyone that has seen mahou shoujo anime like Sailor Moon should find the jokes in Bouei-bu Love a blast, especially if you are a fan of the genre!
Of course, being a parody, Bouei-bu Love is obviously lacking in characterization and story. Each character is a humorous archetype and their reactions to the absurdity of the situation and magical girl tropes are certainly entertaining, but nothing special. 
As a satirical parody of mahou shoujo genre, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a success. It makes you laugh at the insanity of what is happening and if you are familiar with the tropes, you will enjoy it even more. However, if you do not find the first episode funny, the series is just not for you.
Watch if you like: Comedy, Mahou shoujo, Wackiness, 

Absolute Duo
In Absolute Duo's world, certain people have the ability to summon a Blaze, a weapon that is the manifestation of the user's soul. Typically, Blazes are offensive weapons like swords and hammers; however, Tōru’s Blaze is a shield, which sets him apart with the other Blaze users. To learn how to use a Blaze, Tōru goes to a special academy for Blaze users, and in the academy, every student must team-up with another student to form an "Absolute Duo," as they work together to graduate from the school while sharing a dorm room. Being an ecchi/harem, of course Tōru is paired with the white-haired and shy bishoujo, Julie Sigtuna. 
Among the season's ecchi anime, Absolute Duo manages to set itself just ahead most of the pack. While the set up is as clichéd as they come, Julie is not the typical archetype for the main harem girl. She is shy and cute, and much like Chaika from Hitsugi no Chaika, she sometimes speaks in adorable broken Japanese since she is from Eastern Europe. Julie also references Norse mythology since Tōru's name sounds similar to Thor, the Norse god of thunder. With all that said, Absolute Duo is still a trope filled ecchi/harem with several random tropes, like the bunny-ear-wearing teacher, and medium fanservice throughout. Unfortunately, after featuring high quality animation in last season's Fruit of Graisa, Studio 8-Bit's work on Absolute Duo, while above average, is nothing special. The character designs are simple yet effective and the action sequences are surprisingly entertaining though. 
Three episodes in, Absolute Duo is riddled with the flaws of a typical ecchi/harem. However, it is just amusing enough to keep me watching; granted, I am a completionist, so I do not drop shows easily.
Watch if you like: Ecchi/harem,

Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha
The anime opens with Toujo Basara's father telling him that he is going to remarry and that his two new step-sisters, Mio and Maria, will move in with them. However, as events unfold, it turns out that Mio and Maria are not normal girls, but rather the daughter of the Demon Lord and her succubus! To the girls' surprise, Basara is not a typical high school student either. In fact, he and his father are members of a hero clan that fight monsters and other supernatural beings. With his father going overseas, Basara decides to take girls under his protection as other evil clans try to take Mio's Demon Lord powers, and that is the set up for Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha, aka The Testament of Sister New Devil.
Thus far, the series is an entertaining watch. As is now becoming the norm, the main character is not an oblivious oaf, but rather a variation of Fruit of Graisa's scarred protagonist, except with a lot more humanity and less stoicness. Mio's character design is much like the redheaded vixen, Rias Gremory, although she is far shyer and more easily embarrassed than Rias, and her succubus companion, Maria, seems like a familiar archetype, although I cannot remember the term typically used.
Production IMS' animation, while not amazing, is above average and generally appealing to look at, with the magical powers being colorful.
Of the winter's ecchi anime, The Testament of Sister New Devil stands just above the rest in its genre. It might not be particularly original, with it featuring elements reminiscent of the infamous Highschool DxD, but the world and characters are just charming enough to make it a fun ride. Do not expect anything groundbreaking or original, but if you want to watch a fantasy ecchi series then this is the one for you. 
Watch if you like: Ecchi,

What winter anime are you watching? Are you interested in any of the series that I have reviewed today? Please comment below and let me know.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Death Parade Episodes 1-3 Review

To kick off my winter anime impressions, I am reviewing the one anime that everyone should be watching, Death Parade. 

"Welcome to Queen Dekim," a bar where two people mysteriously appear, not knowing why or how they arrived. A white-haired bartender, Dekim, greets them with the statement, "From here you two shall begin a battle where your lives hang in the balance." The two people compete in a randomly selected game, ranging from darts to an arcade game, where their fates hang in the balance. However, not everything is as it seems as the true nature of the Death Game is slowly revealed often resulting in a thrilling and emotional ride from beginning to end.
Based on the Death Billiards OVA, Death Parade is a series that takes the concept presented in Death Billiards, and after watching Death Billiards, Death Parade became my most hyped anime of the winter season, and it does not disappoint.
Death Parade's first episode is one of the best pilot episodes of any anime that I have ever seen. It is suspenseful, shocking, emotionally gripping, and thought-provoking. Everything from Madhouse's stunning visuals to the voice actors' performances made the first episode a truly intense experience. Throughout the first episode you will begin to question which character is in the right and the motivations for their actions. Despite having seen the OVA, which reveals the concept, the big reveal in the first episode still gave me chills. In fact, if you have the choice, watch the pilot episode of Death Parade before watching the Death Billiards OVA for the maximum experience. 
Episode two provides a different view on the events of the first episode as it essentially tells the viewer the entire setup and reason for the series. Despite not being suspenseful and gripping like the first episode, it provides the necessary exposition and set up, so that the following episodes can focus on the individual stories. However, at the end of the second episode, even more layers are added to the complexity of the first episode. 
Episode three takes an entirely different angle to the format of the series with a more calming tone, opposed to the thriller of the first episode. However, the payoff is still effective.
From the beginning, Death Parade reminded me of another episodic series with a white-haired main character, Mushishi. Much like Mushishi, Death Parade features an episodic structure with each episode focusing on new characters with themes of the human condition. Of course, Death Parade is thrilling while Mushishi is calming, but if Death Parade's episodic writing holds up throughout the series, we are in for one of the season's best anime. 
Madhouse's animation is absurdly high quality with realistic character designs and detailed background art, even the touch of 3D animation blends well. Also, the opening song, "Flyers" by Bradio, is easily the best of the winter season, while also being misleading to the series tone (watch it below).
With its insanely high production values, riveting drama, and thought-provoking themes, Death Parade is an absolute must-watch that everyone should be watching! 
Watch if you like: Drama, Supernatural, Suspense thrillers, Episodic stories, Stunning animation, Mushishi,

Have you seen Death Parade? Do you plan to watch it? Please comment below and let me know.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) Review

More fall anime reviews continue with Your Lie in April!

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April)
From episode four onwards, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) was an early standout as one the season's premiere anime. 
After the death of his mother, piano prodigy, Kousei suffered from a mental breakdown that prevents him from hearing the music as he plays and makes him view the world in monotone, which leads him to quit playing the piano. However, after his childhood friend, Tsubaki Sawabe, introduces him to Kaori Miyazono, a beautiful and free-spirited violinist with a style that reflects her personality, Kaori's music helps Kousei see the world of music in color once again. What follows is the makings of a beautiful drama with elements of romance and a touch of comedy.
No better word decides Kimi no Uso than beautiful, simply beautiful. Even though the first three episodes did not have me hooked, episode four the introduce story elements that would be the driving force of the entire series. More than halfway through the series, Kimi no Uso is one of the most compelling dramas since Nagi no Asakura and Golden Time. Despite using some of the most standard romance cliches, like the childhood friend, the series manages to set itself apart with a surprisingly dark backstory that is all too realistic and believable that covers a topic not often discussed in anime. Even though the series is a romance, the romance element is not the main draw, but rather the drama between the characters and Kousei's struggle to play the piano again. Kousei's struggle is also surprisingly emotional. In addition to the dark drama and romance, Kimi no Uso throws in some humor. While it is misplaced in the first few episodes, the humor actually makes the characters and world feel real. Even if someone has a tragic past, life can still be fun and humorous at times, and the humor in the series, for the most part, reflects this sentiment. 
What makes the drama and characters even more compelling is the presentation of the series. Being a music anime, Kimi no Uso's pieces of classical music played by the piano and violin, my favorite instrument, are charged with emotion and simply stunning to behold. To complete the package, A-1 Pictures' animation and visual symbolism is positively sublime! From the character designs to the visual style, A-1 Pictures are at the top of their game. Throw in one of the best opening songs of the year and you have one of the most stunning visual and audio experiences of the year. Providing the series does not take a complete nosedive in the next final episodes, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso should turn out to be one of the best anime of 2015, so expect to see an in-depth review when the series ends.
Watch if you like: Drama, Classical music, Stunning animation, Romance,

More Fall Anime Reviews:
Fall Anime Review: Part 1
Fall Anime Review: Part 2
Fall Anime Review: Part 3

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron: A Discussion about Trailers

This is going to sound crazy, but I have not watched the new Age of Ultron trailer, but hear me out. The first Avengers film had an incredibly exciting trailer that showed us a glimpse the World's Mightiest Heroes finally coming together on the big screen for the first time. However, there was one problem; it showed a relatively big spoiler for the film: the Hulk catching Iron Man as he is falling. Sure, it might have been the big effects shot, but did we really need to see it? The trailer did more than enough to make everyone hyped, so that one clip only served to spoil a big moment, and that is exactly what I am trying to avoid the problem again. Right now, I know everything that I want to know about the movie, and obviously I am going to see it in theaters, so what's the point in watching the trailer? On the other hand, even though I am obviously going to see the Star Wars film, right now, I want to know more, which is why I plan to watch its trailer when it comes out, and the same goes for Ant-Man. Unlike Age of Ultron, I do not know enough about either Star Wars or Ant-Man.  However, for something as big as Age of Ultron, I want to watch the movie knowing as little as possible so that I can have the best experience possible. Other movies have had trailers that spoil way too much, to the point of even ruining the movie, so my policy with certain movies is complete avoidance. What is your opinion of avoiding trailers and the spoilers that are contained within them? Are you also angry that studios release trailers with such big spoilers? Please comment below and let me know!

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gugure! Kokkuri-san Review

Gugure! Kokkuri-san, possibly the funniest anime of 2014, maybe ever....

Gugure! Kokkuri-san follows Kohina Ichimatsu, an expressionless elementary student, who lives alone and proclaims herself to be a doll, and she only eats instant cup noodles. 
"One day, she plays the Kokkuri game by herself and summons the fox spirit Kokkuri-san who, upon seeing her unhealthy lifestyle, takes it upon himself to become her guardian and raise her properly." What ensues is a hilarious series full of wacky antics, hysterical characters, and a surprising amount of heart.

The Good: Hysterical from beginning to end, Unforgettable characters, Fun art style, Surprisingly emotional ending, Hilarious movie and anime references, Superb voice cast, Insanely entertaining, Clever comedy, Fittingly wacky opening song, Brilliant foreshadowing,

The Bad: 

Plot: 8.5/10- Gugure! Kokkuri-san's premise is certainly out there, even for an anime, and yet it manages to take its wacky concept and make it work. Where the series' plot excels is in that among the absurdity, there are several episodes that feature stories with a surprising amount of emotional weight and tragedy, while still retaining the superb comedy. Not every episode is like this, and even the tone of the sadder storylines is still rather lighthearted, but it is effective to adding another layer to what could have been a pointless comedy.
*Possible Major Spoilers* However, what rises the series above most other comedy is how it foreshadows a certain element that is not revealed until to the end, and yet, even after the reveal, it is not entirely obvious, so you have to actually think about to fully understand. In retrospect, there is a lot of foreshadowing in almost every episode, and yet you do not realize what it is trying to say until the end, which is just brilliant. Among comedy, few have better endings. *End Spoilers*

Characterization: 9.1/10- Much like the summer's premiere comedy, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kunGugure! Kokkuri-san's main source of humor comes from the entertaining interaction between the characters.
Kohina is the elementary student, who proclaims that she is a doll. Kohina emotionless-doll persona is a large aspect of her character, since she almost never shows any emotion, but rather causes trouble for Kokkuri-san, which, in turn, creates humor. As a character, Kohina does not necessarily change; however, Kohina is the centerpiece to which the rest of the cast revolves around, so the lack of true development is not an issue.
The titular character, Kokkuri-san, tries to be a responsible guardian to Kohina. He continually conflicts with Kohina, which has hilarious results! Of the characters, Kokkuri-san is easily the most well developed, thanks a certain plot point at the end.
The other two main cast members are Inugami and Shigaraki. Both of these characters produce a lot of humor through their interaction with Kokkuri-san and Kohina. In addition to those characters, the series features many side characters, who are usually introduced in one episode that heavily features said character and then are used later in the series in a smaller capacity for hilarious effect.

Acting: 9.5/10- The series' features my favorite Seiyuu (voice actor) from 2014, Daisuke Ono, who also starred other series like Barakamon, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Black Butler, and obviously, he is fantastic in the role of Kokkuri-san! The rest of the cast is perfect for their roles as well, with each playing off of each other to great comedic effect.

Animation: 8.0/10- TMS Entertainment's animation of the series is quite good overall. Being a comedy, there is not a lot of need for fluid animation, but rather humorous expressions, and it hits the mark in that respect. It also uses bishounen character designs well.

Soundtrack: 7.1/10- Despite being a comedy, there are several tracks that are quite good.

Humor: 10/10- Gugure! Kokkuri-san, along with Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, are the funniest anime that I have ever seen. Only Gekkan has made me laugh more while watching it! Of course humor is subjective, but Kokkuri-san’s perfect blend of slapstick, parody, and wacky humor produces a ton of laughs! In addition, there are quite a few references to movies and anime, including a few Hollywood classics that everyone is bound to catch. Also, it almost never relies on fanservice humor.

Opening and Ending: 8.5/10- The opening theme, "Welcome!! DISCO Kemokemoke," performed by the voice actors, is a fittingly wacky and hilarious song for the series, and the ending, "This Merry-Go-Round Song," is a very good song on its own right.

Entertainment Value: 9.9/10- The anime's sense of humor never ceased to entertain! 

Overall: 9.0/10- Gugure! Kokkuri-san is a comedy anime done right. While your personal taste in humor will decide whether or not you will find the series entertaining, thanks to the varied cast of characters and surprising character depth at the end, Gugure! Kokkuri-san is a unique and unforgettable comedy that will be among my favorites for years to come.

Closing comments: Hopefully, a second season will come, because we all need more Gugure! Kokkuri-san!

Recommended for: Comedy fans, Parody fans, Fantasy fans,
To read more of my anime reviews, you can click here.
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