Review of Arakawa Under the Bridge

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Arakawa Under the Bridge is an anime series based on a comedic manga, written by Hikaru Nakamura, which has been going strong since late 2004. The show stars twenty-two year old Kou Ichinomiya who is the heir to the successful Ichinomiya Corporation. Kou attributes his success in life to following a philosophy of never being indebted to anyone. Just the thought of owing someone a favour is enough to trigger an asthmatic panic attack. I suffer from a similar affliction, every month, when I realise how much I owe on my credit card bill. Expensive anime DVDs and a low paying job are not a good combination.

Kou’s life is turned upside down, one day, when a group of kids takes off with his pants. You’d think with expensive mobiles being all the rage in Japan that thieves would rob something better than a guy’s trousers, but whatever. During an attempt to retrieve his slacks Kou falls off a bridge, into the icy depths below, and almost drowns. Thankfully a blonde bombshell named Nino saves him from a watery grave, although doing so puts Kou in the unenviable position of owing her his life. To square things off with his saviour Kou agrees to her demands of moving in with her and becoming her lover.

Escaping death and scoring a girlfriend may sound like a sweet deal, but as you may suspect there is a catch. Nino’s place of residence is a cardboard box located under a bridge… oh and she also thinks that she comes from Venus. As it transpires she’s not the only weirdo who lives under the bridge. There’s no trolls to be found (they all moved away to torment the internet) but there is a nut job who dresses up as a kappa, a guitarist with wears a star shaped mask, a chap who will only walk on white lines and a nun who in actuality is a gun totting scarred man. When it comes to homeless people Japan has other nations beat. That colourful assortment of characters sure beats the smelly winos, who push trolleys, that we get over here.

As you may expect, adjusting to his new life, as an under bridge dweller, is a bit of a culture shock for the wealthy Kou who has had a pampered upbringing. Slowly but surely he does however integrate into the community of oddballs and begins to develop genuine romantic feelings for Nino. He even ditches a promising career to become a riverside teacher, although his attempts to instil common sense into his students rarely bears fruit. By the end of the season he’s so settled into his new routine that he is willing to confront his father’s company, which is trying to boot his chums out of the area so they can redevelop the land.

My rating for Arakawa Under the Bridge is three stars out of five. I didn’t dislike the show, but it’s not something I would describe as a must buy. When it comes to anime I generally prefer shows that have a bit more story. What we get here however are episodes composed of a few short skits. The gags provide consistent light chortles, although I seldom burst out into a gut-busting laugh. On the plus side the wacky humour never goes so over the top that it becomes annoying, as can be the case with other shows. If zany animes are your thing it’s worth checking out and I would recommend it over something like the similarly weird Cromartie High School.

Review of Sekirei (Season One)

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When it comes to hobbies, watching anime isn’t as highly regarded as other interests such as playing sports. If you declare a fondness for Japanese animation it is not unusual to have people class you as a perv who drools over hentai (adult cartoons in case you didn’t know, it has nothing to do with chickens wearing neck garments.) It’s an unfair criticism as anime comes in all shapes and sizes. Scan the shelves of a stores’ anime section and you will find a range of titles including stuff for kids, comedy, horror, romance, science fiction etc. There’s some pretty deep stuff out there such as Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, Samurai X, Grave of the Fireflies… oh and Sekirei, which stars big breasted ladies tearing clothes off each other. Bah there goes the point I was trying to make.

STORY

Sekirei stars a regular student called Minato Sahashi who is struggling to pass his entrance exams to get into college. His world gets turned upside when the city he is living in gets selected by the mysterious MBI Corporation to host “a game” that pits one hundred and eight aliens called Sekireis against each other. Sekireis may look human (a high percentage of them are attractive females as the box art suggests) but unlike us regular homo sapiens they have unique superpowers, which are unlocked when they kiss an Ashikabi. As it turns out Minato is amongst the select group of earthlings who can grant Sekireis powers via smooching, so against his will he gets dragged into the alien conflict after a chance meeting with the lead heroine Musubi. Aliens duking it out until only one remains? This is starting to sound like Highlander… only with fewer swords and more boobs.

As the story progresses Minato bonds with Musubi and recruits more girls to his cause (or rather they force him to become their Ashikabi.) Much hijinks ensues as Sahashi’s harem bickers amongst themselves over who deserves Minato’s affections whilst at the same time battling for their lives against rival Sekirei. Normally when typing out a review I am wary of giving away spoilers, but there isn’t really much else for me to say concerning the show’s plot. It’s not that the series is shallow eye candy, although I am sure there are some critics who would accuse it of that, but that the set only contains the first twelve episodes which comprise season one. On my first viewing I was wondering where things were headed, in terms of story, as after seven episodes we were still being introduced to new characters.

With the ending in sight we get teased with some flashbacks concerning MBI’s origins, where the Sekireis come from and Musubi’s past, but it is nothing substantial. I guess those aspects will get explored further in the follow up once it gets translated and brought over to our shores. Although there is more to come from Sekirei at least the show avoids ending things on an unsatisfactory cliff-hanger. We get a short story arc in the last few episodes that revolves around Minato helping a fellow Ashikabi, who is in love with a weak Sekirei, to flee the city so they don’t have to take part in MBI’s deadly game. The self contained story is a good way of ending the season as it gives us some closure and show cases the abilities of the main cast ahead of their upcoming adventures.

CHARACTERS

Despite only having twelve episodes to play around with Sekirei manages to give a good amount of screen time to its large supporting cast. From the main characters Minato Sahashi comes across as a regular Joe who is thrust into a surreal situation. He’s not as colourful as the other characters surrounding him, but that works when you consider that he is the hero of the piece. He’s accused of panicking when things get tough, but despite that he does his best to protect his friends despite not having any super powers of his own. His morals are just so you don’t see him taking advantage of the girls throwing themselves at him. Even with heavy flirting he doesn’t make a move (be it due to shyness or convenient interruptions whenever things start to get saucy.)

Of the four main Sekireis Musubi, the good natured super strong lass, comes across as the lead female character. She is upbeat, cheerful and dedicated to Minato although a little naive. She doesn’t even seem to mind when the other girls make a move on Minato. Her chief rival for Minato’s heart is Tsukiumi, a powerful Sekirei who uses the element of water when fighting. When the series begins Tsukiumi is actually against bonding with anyone and even tries to assassinate Minato for a brief spell. Since joining his group her opinions on the matter have however changed drastically. She now considers herself Minato’s wife as she is the mightiest of the quartet. With such sudden mood swings can you blame us guys for not understanding women?

The other two members of Minato’s group are Kusano and Matsu. Kusano is in the show to satisfy the audience who like cute girls (quick someone call Chris Hansen.) She is the most timid girl in the troupe, but when push comes to shove she conquers her fears and helps out via her ability to command plants. The bespectacled Matsu on the other hand is more feisty, but keeps her distance when the action starts. For most of the series she stays home hiding from the MBI who is pursuing her. From the sidelines she supports the team through her computer hacking skills. She might be my favourite of the four ladies, as she loves to cause mischief and is the most direct girl when it comes to seducing Minato which leads to some funny scenes.

SUMMARY

It’s hard to judge Sekirei based on this first DVD as it is only the start of the story. After watching the first episode I had a feeling that this would turn out to be a rather mediocre anime. As the season chugged along I did however start to get more into it. The characters may be your typical anime stereotypes, but I still enjoyed watching their humorous interactions. I would give this show four stars and I eagerly await to see how things turn out. If the next season builds on what has been set up I think Sekirei could turn out to be a top tier show. If they go overboard with the quirky romance and neglect the plot surrounding MBI’s game the series could however degenerate into another of those forgettable harem shows.

Without a doubt Sekirei would be classed as a guilty pleasure as it isn’t something I would proudly declare to liking. The reason for that is the heavy fan service that features throughout the twelve episodes. I don’t mind a bit of eye candy every now and then, but this show takes the biscuit when it comes to displaying unrealistic female figures in needless bath scenes. Practically every fight has someone losing their clothing, which is distracting to say the least. How are you supposed to feel concern for the safety of your favourite characters when your eyes are drawn to the cartoon nipples on display? It’s all in good fun though and nothing hardcore (think of it like nudity in Carry on Films) but it’s something they may want to tone down in future editions.

Sekirei is promoted with the tagline “WARNING! Otaku wish fulfilment in the extreme. May feature occasional nudity and Japanese oddness!” It’s no secret that Manga Entertainment are trying to lure the teenage male audience with that type of marketing, but I feel the smut also scares away viewers who may actually like the mix of romance/comedy/action on offer. Sex may sell, but I genuinely believe that the story and characters alone could carry the show. On a totally unrelated topic, could someone please advise me where to buy a new DVD remote? My pause and zoom buttons seem to have worn out from overuse during my screening of the show. I have no idea why.

Review of Virtue’s Last Reward (3DS)

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Virtue’s Last Reward is a visual novel/puzzler developed by Chunsoft that is available to buy for both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. The game is a sequel to the DS title Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, which sadly was never released in Europe. I was originally apprehensive about buying VLR, as I feared that missing out on its predecessor would make its plot incomprehensible, but having taken the plunge I can report that I do not regret my purchase. I had no problems following the plot, despite being a newcomer to the series, and as it transpires the rock solid story ended up being one of my favourite video game tales in recent years.

Players take control of a college student named Sigma (I can’t imagine that’s a moniker that features highly in the list of popular baby names) who at the start of the game is attacked by a mysterious masked assailant. During the assault Sigma is rendered unconscious by knockout gas and when he awakens he finds himself trapped inside an elevator with a silver haired lass named Phi. Using their combined intellect the pair find a way out of the lift only to then discover that they are trapped in a futuristic facility along with seven other kidnap victims. It’s at this point that a talking bunny named Zero makes an appearance to inform the group that they have been selected to unwillingly participate in the deadly Nonary Game.

Said game involves having the kidnap victims split up into groups of three, comprised of a solo player and a two man team. The trio in question must then enter a sealed room and solve a series of fiendish puzzles in order to escape. Once that has been accomplished the real fun begins. Friends can potentially become enemies as the triad of chums is split up and forced to anonymously vote to either ally or betray. If the participants both select to ally everyone gets two points. If someone betrays and the other person picks ally the betrayer’s score increases by three whilst the gullible ally loses a point. In a case were both parties choose to betray no one gets squat for being an untrusting douche.

What is the purpose of these points you may ask? Points mean prizes… specifically the prize of freedom, as Zero has declared that the first person to hit the nine point milestone will be freed from the prison they find themselves in. To make matters even more interesting, anyone whose score drops to zero will be eliminated from the game courtesy of a lethal injection, administered via a bracelet that all the competitors are forced to wear. I don’t know about you, but I may have actually tuned into Big Brother if their voting sessions adopted similar rules to the Nonary Game.

Given that Virtue’s Last Reward is a visual novel a good chunk of the game involves reading text, which is more fun than it sounds thanks to the exceptional science fiction storyline. The narrative is interrupted whenever the player enters a room, switching the action to a puzzle game were you use the touch screen to interact with objects in order to suss out VLR’s expertly crafted puzzles. Some of the brainteasers were a little too taxing for a dunce like me, so I was grateful for the easy setting that offers hints courtesy of Sigma’s teammates. I found the puzzle segments to be fun although the finicky touch controls did frustrate me on occasion. If you don’t tap precisely on an object you may fail to interact with it. This happened to me several times, which resulted in me getting stuck as I was left thinking that a key item I required was just part of the background.

Virtue’s Last Reward is easily a five star game. Solving the puzzles is always satisfying and there’s plenty of content to explore, as the game boasts multiple endings. To view everything the game has to offer you’ll have to replay the game numerous times to see how your decisions impact the eventual finale. I liked how Chunsoft included a flowchart of the branching storylines, which allows players to skip past parts they have previously completed. It’s a real time saver when revisiting the game for another run. Even if puzzle games aren’t normally your thing I can still recommend Virtue’s Last Reward for its compelling storyline. Ingenious sci-fi packed with surprising twists are the “reward” for anyone who buys this gem.

Review of Sonic Generations (PS3)

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The year 2012 signaled the end of life as we know it, according to the Mayans, but it also marked the twentieth anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog. To celebrate this momentous event Sega released Sonic Generations, commemorating their mascot’s two decades of history. The spiky speedster isn’t as popular as he was during his Megadrive hay day, when he rivalled Mario for the title of best video game character, but Sonic still commands a loyal fan base that eats up his games, comics and cartoons. The question is whether Generations ends up being a fitting tribute for the blue blur or another disappointing title (as has been the case with some of his recent releases.) Let’s have a closer look and find out.

STORY

It’s Sonic’s birthday and the hog with an attitude is having a grand time partying it up with his numerous anthromorphic chums. All is going well until a shadowy entity dubbed “The Time Eater” crashes the party. The creature assaults Sonic and co sucking them into a time limbo known as White Space. Once there the modern day Sonic bumps into a younger version of himself. They decide to join forces and teach the Time Eater a lesson for disrupting their cake munching social event. Before all that however they need to rescue their pals who have been scattered throughout time (even the annoying Charmy the bee who no one likes.) Can the heroic duo save their friends, restore the time stream and return home in time to blow out their twenty candles? Only time will tell (no pun intended.)

A TALE OF TWO SONICS

Levels in Sonic Generations need to be cleared using both Sonics. Old school fans will jizz themselves with delight as controlling the young Sonic allows the player to experience game play that harkens back to the classic 16 bit days. What we get are 2D levels, with the benefit of modern day graphics, which have Sonic dashing to the end of a stage. As usual smashing badniks with a spin attack, and collecting more rings than Mr T and the Mandarin’s collection combined, is the order of the day. The rings offer the player some protection as sustaining damage whilst in the possession of some will merely cause Sonic to drop his stash of circular bands. Watch out though as impacting an enemy whilst ring-less will result in the loss of a life. The game touts the 2D levels as being easy, due to the simplified controls, although I am not sure I agree. The jumping mechanics felt a little off resulting in some instances were I would overshoot a platform or not gain enough elevation to reach a floor mere feet above me.

Anyone who has played the current generation’s Sonic games should feel right at home controlling the modern day Sonic. In the older Sonic’s levels the vantage point switches to a third person view, which has the camera positioned right behind the blue critter. The older Sonic has many moves at his disposal which add a new dimension to his stages. Some of his maneuvers include bouncing off walls, baseball sliding under narrow passages, the always useful midair homing attack and short boosts of speed that allow Sonic to wreck destructible obstacles that get in his way. Many gamers feel that Sonic hasn’t transitioned well to 3D platforming, but I have to say that I rather enjoyed the modern Sonic’s acts. Since the release of Sonic Colours it seems like Sega’s engine has addressed the camera issues that plagued earlier 3D Sonic games and I didn’t come across any bugs which made some other 3D Sonics unplayable.

GAMEPLAY

Sonic Generations is broken down into three sections which cover the triad of eras spanning Sonic’s gaming library. Each area includes three levels based on classic Sonic games that are accessed by leaping through a time portal. As you would expect the first third of the adventure covers the Megadrive games, kicking off with the place were it all started – The Green Hill Zone. The opening area also has a level from Sonic 2 and the Sky Sanctuary set during the Sonic & Knuckles expansion cartridge. The second zone has levels from the Sonic Adventure games and Sonic Heroes which I remember enjoying on the Gamecube. Things conclude with a sector based on levels from the current generation’s titles such as Colours, Unleashed and the reviled Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. I kinda wish they would have scrapped those later levels, as the titles in question are available on existing hardware, and given us more retro themed stages but whatever.

To clear an area and access the next part of the game players need to clear all the levels with both Sonics and acquire three keys. Earning keys requires that you complete one of the optional challenge missions, which involve anything from picking up a certain number of rings within a time limit to beating a ghostly Sonic doppelganger in a race. Some of the challenges can be fiendishly difficult to best, but as you have a broad selection to choose from game advancement shouldn’t be impeded just because you get stuck on a particular trial. As with most Sonic games you also have to collect chaos emeralds which you gain as a reward for defeating the game’s various bosses. All the guardian encounters are fun to play through and include the likes of Shadow, Metal Sonic and Sonic’s rival the chubby moustached scientist Dr Eggman.

SUMMARY

If, like myself, you are a Sonic fanboy I highly recommend Sonic Generations. It’s easily the best Sonic game on the Playstation 3 and just as good as Sonic Colours on the Wii. You’ll get a nostalgic kick out of revisiting the old games’ levels which have been given a modern day twist. Visually the graphics are super slick and the animation suffers no slowdowns. If anything I would say that it all moves a little too fast as I often found myself running over ledges, to my death, even though the pitfalls are clearly signposted. Sound wise the game is an auditory treat offering a combination of good voice acting and remixes of fan favourite Sonic tunes. My only gripe with the game is that the story is fairly short. If you are content with rushing through to the end I would probably suggest renting the game or waiting for a price drop. If you are a completionist however there is plenty here to keep you entertained. Trumping the challenges and unlocking all the secret content will keep you occupied for a while. Sonic is now twenty years old and this game proves to be a great birthday gift to anyone who has supported him throughout that time.

Review of Is this a Zombie? Of the Dead

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Is this a Zombie: Of the Dead is the second season of the Is this a Zombie anime, which is based on the Shinichi Kimura light novels of the same name. The series continues to tell the adventures of Ayumu Aikawa, a Japanese high school student, who has been brought back from the dead as a practically indestructible zombie. Ayumu’s only weakness of note is the sun’s rays, which wreck his complexion faster than that of a British tourist sunbathing at the Costa del Sol. Remember kids, use plenty of sunscreen when playing outdoors because lobster coloured skin is both unsightly and painful.

Adapting to life as a member of the undead is tough enough, but to complicate matters even further Ayumu finds himself having to adjust from living by his lonesome to sharing a house with three eccentric ladies. The trio of beauties in question comprise of a busty vampire ninja, the silent necromancer who resurrected him and a magical girl who is a genius when it comes to cooking omelettes (she’s egg-cellent at preparing that dish.) Culinary puns aside, one horny teen and three quirky gals is the perfect “recipe” for a comedic harem show. If that sort of thing tickles your fancy you can currently buy the complete season two set from MVM Entertainment for around fifteen pounds.

I approached this second season of Is this a Zombie with trepidation because the original series felt like it was running out of steam by the time it concluded. The early episodes were hilarious, but I began to lose interest towards the end due to the show’s weak plot. The only way I could see the creators sustaining the franchise would be by adding more girls to the cast, which is precisely what they did. In addition to Ayumu’s roommates, the female quota is increased by the introduction of Ayumu’s classmate Taeko and Chris, a mysterious gothic Lolita who is constantly plastered on booze. Sarasvati, the bloodsucking singer from season one, also makes a return. She’s still an ice queen, but she now harbours a crush for Ayumu after discovering that he has an irresistible hiney.

This all means that my fears have come to pass. What little plot the series had has been abandoned in favour of eye candy. As I mentioned earlier the first season’s storyline wasn’t great, but it was deeper than what we get here. To give some examples, the episodes we get involve a day frolicking at the pool, Ayumu living down the embarrassment of his classmates spotting him in drag, Ayumu trying to score a free dessert by charming the maids at a cosplay cafe and Ayumu using an invisibility spell to sneak into the girls’ physical examination. He’s there to find a cursed pendant and not to ogle the ladies who are getting their breast measurements done… honest!

So what did I make of the series? I rather enjoyed it! Normally trading away story for fan service would be a strike against a series, but surprisingly it works in the show’s favour. Discarding the dull plot has allowed Is this a Zombie to focus solely on its biggest strength (wacky comedy) making it all the more fun to watch. The set is also good value for money given that it contains eleven episodes, an OVA and commentaries from the English voice cast (which is a more substantial extra than most anime releases get.) My final score is four stars. Prior to watching season two I wasn’t too keen on sampling more of Ayumu’s antics, but after viewing this enjoyable instalment I have to say that I wouldn’t be averse to checking out a season three.

Review of High School of the Dead

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Summer is over and Manga Entertainment decided to end the season with a two disc release of High School of the Dead. With the cold weather setting in we can forget about spying real life babes in bikinis, but at least with can console ourselves with female animated fan service. Yes once again I am covering another exploitive anime, which will have feminists’ knickers in a twist. Perverts get ready to plug up your nostrils in anticipation of a lust fuelled nose bleed because this show is packed with skimpy outfits, compromising positions and bouncing boobage. I really wish I could talk about a more meaningful cartoon, but Manga is a business and they have to put out what sells… ah well at least this isn’t quite as saucy as Sekirei.

STORY

Zombies seem to be all the rage these days. In recent years we have been getting plenty of undead stuff in movies, TV and video games. As a gamer I feel that the level of animated corpses in games is starting to get silly. I can accept horror games featuring zombies, but even military shooters like Call of Duty or westerns like Red Dead Redemption are getting in on the act. High School of the Dead gives us an example of an anime following the zombie trend, although it doesn’t feel like a horror title. It’s an action packed ride with lashings of eye candy and teenage drama, but I wouldn’t class it as being particularly scary (unless you suffer from mammophobia.)

High School of the Dead takes place in modern day Japan at the start of a zombie apocalypse. It’s the usual fare of the undead rising up, feasting on the living and turning anyone they bite into a fellow walking cadaver with a taste for brains. The show follows a group of students trying to get out of their school which has been infested with zombies. Trying to skip school whilst avoiding attacks from cannibalistic undergraduates? Sounds like my time in comprehensive. Anyway, after just three episodes the party escapes the learning establishment and continue to fight for their lives in the remnants of their city. How will the youngsters fare in the outside world populated with not only zombies, but also hostile humans who will do anything to survive? You will have to watch and see.

CHARACTERS

The show’s male lead is Takashi Komuro, a typical high school student whose main character flaw is his indecisiveness. Ironically enough, despite his weakness at picking choices, he gets thrust into the role of group leader which permits him to grow as the series progresses. His love interest is his childhood friend Rei Miyamoto who we learn is dating one of Takashi’s friends. In the first episode Takashi is forced to kill his pal, after he gets infected, which naturally causes friction between him and Rei. The pair however have to patch up their differences and work together in order to escape the school. Unsurprisingly as things progress the two develop romantic feelings for each other (forget Barry White tracks, candles and a fireplace… an imminent zombie threat is all you need to woo a girl.)

Joining Takashi and Rei are Saya Takagi, Saeko Busujima and Kohta Hirano. Saya is the brains of the outfit and a bit of a brat. She thinks of herself as a genius and looks down on others, but after realising that intellect alone won’t get her through the crisis she becomes more of a team player. If Saya is the brains, then Saeko would be the muscle. A member of the kendo club, she has a knack for dispatching zombies with her godly sword skills. She normally comes across as cool, calm and collected, but towards the end of the series we learn that there is a dark side to her. Finally we have Kohta the geek who is an expert when it comes to guns. He starts off as a bullied nerd, but when the zombie menace allows him to utilise his firearm skills his confidence grows turning him to a gun totting badass.

OVERALL

Contrary to the image my reviews must be painting, I don’t seek out these ecchi shows. I actually avoided High School of the Dead for a long time as the impression I got was that the series was an Ikki Tousen style anime with shallow story only concerned with showing girls in various states of undress. One of my friends recommended it though so I was persuaded to give it a shot and after watching it I am glad that I did. Call me a hypocrite, but I enjoyed the show even if it is guilty of lacking story and exploiting the female cast. Maybe I am giving it a pass as this sort of thing isn’t exactly uncommon in live action B-movies that feature zombies.

High School of the Dead isn’t something that tries to emulate budget horror though. The vibrant artwork and crisp animation, that makes the action so exciting, oozes high production values. The voice acting, music and sound effects are also of a high standard. I wouldn’t class any of the characters as deep, but I still liked them. As mentioned before they do grow to cope with the situation they are in, be it Takashi having to stick to decisions made as group leader or Kohta manning up to protect those he cares about. The only character I disliked would have to be Shizuka, the school nurse, who tags along with the group. She’s a complete airhead, despite having a medical background, and only seems to be included to appease the audience with a thing for large breasted blondes.

Despite my praise the show isn’t perfect by any means. My chief complaint would have to be how it ends. After the fast and furious start we are treated to the whole thing concludes with a whimper. The last few episodes take place in a mansion owned by Saya’s parents. During their time at the estate the group is safe from zombies so the life and death struggle that made things so interesting is replaced with Saya whining about how daddy doesn’t love her. It’s an attempt to give her back story that doesn’t pay off. The final episode then comes and goes without a satisfactory ending. Our heroes continue on their journey and that is it. This sort of thing is fairly common with animes based on mangas, but it still stings after you get so invested into the world and characters set up in the show.

Plot points like a potential love triangle between Takashi, Rei and Saeko remain unresolved. Rika the sniper, who is introduced as Shizuka’s friend, appears in one episode protecting an airport and then vanishes without a trace. I presume she is important in the comic book, but given that she plays no part in the anime’s main story line you are left wondering what was the point of featuring her in the first place. When the ending credits roll we don’t even have a detailed explanation as to what caused the zombie outbreak. Fingers crossed that a second season gets produced, because like a flesh eating zombie trapped in an empty greenhouse, when I finished watching the whole thing I was left hungry for more.

Review of Attack of the Friday Monsters

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Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale is a downloadable 3DS game, which is part of the Guild series. For those of you who are not aware, the Guild collection of games is made up of numerous Level 5 published titles that are available to buy from the Nintendo e-shop. Other Guild games of note include the anime themed shooter Liberation Maiden and Crimson Shroud, a role-playing game that mimics the feel of a table top RPG.

Unusually for a video game, Attack of the Friday Monsters is set during the 1970s in the Tokyo suburb of Fuji no Hana. The title’s leading character is an eight-year-old boy named Sohta, who has recently moved into the area where his parents have opened up a fledgling Laundromat business. At first glance Fuji no Hana looks like a tranquil place, but the peace is shattered every Friday evening when monsters (akin to those you would find in Ultraman or Godzilla) turn up at the quaint town for a spot of giant lizard rampage. My sympathy goes out to the residents of Fuji no Hana. If flood insurance is pricey I can only imagine how much coverage for Mothra damage costs.

If I had to classify Attack of the Friday Monsters I suppose I would say it is an adventure game, given how it has some light puzzle solving elements. Interactive game play is however sparse. For the most part all you are expected to do is traipse over to the locations marked on your map to trigger cut scenes. As the story progresses we see Sohta run errands for his parents, mingle with the other kids in the neighbourhood and ultimately decipher the origins of the Kaiju creatures that are tormenting his home. The unusual tale of Godzilla like beasties is a joy to experience, probably because the Japanese developer had the good sense not to cast Ferris Bueller in the leading role.

Aside from interacting with the townsfolk, Sohta will occasionally be required to coerce his buddies into lending him aid, which can be accomplished by blackmailing them with incriminating photos… erm I mean beating them at a children’s card game. For those with an aversion to Magic the Gathering fear not, as the card game in question isn’t particularly taxing. For all intents and purposes it is a glorified, best out of five, game of rock, paper, scissors (lizard and Spock are omitted from this particular version.) Sohta starts his adventure with a modest deck, which he can improve by collecting the shiny Glims scattered around town. Accumulating sufficient Glims unlocks new cards, whilst duplicate cards can be merged to upgrade their rating (which is used to determine the winner in the case of a tie.)

My final rating for Attack of the Friday Monsters is a four out of five. I really enjoyed it, although giving it a higher score would be generous given that the main story can be completed in a couple of hours. Visually I dug the game’s hand drawn backgrounds although the 3D characters superimposed on them were less impressive. They weren’t ugly per se, but I thought that Sohta’s walking animation looked a bit awkward in places. The game’s highlight would however have to be its story. Western audiences may not relate to growing up in seventies Japan, but the way Sohta plays with his friends did remind me of simpler times when I used to goof about with my chums. The whimsical storytelling is reminiscent of what you would find in a Studio Ghibli film, which is high praise indeed.