Review of The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat

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I wonder how many sexual deviants have been duped into buying “The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat” off iTunes by it’s somewhat misleading title. In Japan the word hentai means pervert, but here in the West the term is used to describe animated porn. Aside from some tame fan service moments, anyone seeking erotic gratification from this anime will be sorely disappointed. If harem comedy is your thing however it may well satisfy your funny bone (I said bone not boner you pervs.) At the time of writing this twelve episode series is available to download from the UK iTunes store as a subtitle only release. The story is based on Sou Sagara’s light novels and is animated by J.C. Staff (whose previous works include The Familiar of Zero and Shakugan no Shana.)

OVERVIEW

Like many teenage boys Yoto Yokodera has a healthy admiration for the female body. His love of swimsuits is so strong that he has joined the school’s track team, as it gives him the opportunity to glimpse at the girls training at the nearby pool. Aside from being a pervert, one failing that Yoto suffers from is a lack of willpower that prevents him from expressing what he truly feels. He’ll often go with the flow and accept what others suggest rather than state his real opinions on a matter. In order to address this weakness Yoto decides to make an offering to the statue of a feline deity that reportedly has the power to grant wishes. Like the nineties horror flick Wishmaster warned… be careful what you wish for.

The Stony Cat succeeds in stripping Yoto off his polite facade, but the unexpected consequence of his character transformation is that he can no longer resist blurting out what is on his dirty mind. One notable example has Yoto commenting, in front of a large crowd, how high school sweetheart Azusa Azuki is rather lacking in the chest department. The setup reminds me a little of the movie Liar Liar – although the animated cast’s goofy facial expressions cannot compete with the rubber faced antics of Jim Carrey. After seeing the drawbacks of his new tactless personality Yoto ends up nulling his wish, but that won’t be the end of his Stony Cat dealings. The remainder of the series has him contending with the effects of other people praying to the cat, which results in all manner of hijinks (such as Yoto becoming homeless and travelling back in time.)

VERDICT

Overall, The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat is an enjoyable anime despite not being particularly original. Like many harem shows its comedy relies on amusing misunderstandings, partial nudity and a predominately female cast who swoon over the main character. Yoto’s suitors comprise of Azusa, Tsukiko and Tsukushi. Azusa is the school idol with a reputation for turning down guys. Deep down she is actually lonely so when Yoto befriends her she begins acting like a clingy girlfriend. Tsukiko is the cute crybaby who loses the ability to express emotions after making a wish to become more mature. Her deadpan delivery makes her a good straight man for the show’s wacky gags. Tsukushi is Tsukiko’s well-endowed sister who spends a good chunk of the series trying to seduce Yoto, who she mistakenly believes is a non-existent lecherous twin brother.

My final rating is a three out of five. I wouldn’t say that the series is a must buy, unless you are a huge fan of quirky rom-coms, but throughout its duration the anime did succeed in putting a smile on my face. It’s good light-hearted fun with a fine mix of jokes and cute visuals. The final story arc, which deals with Tsukiko’s sickly mom, also proves that the script is capable of pulling at your heartstrings whenever the plot demands it. This “hentai” proved to be a pleasant surprise despite its lack of tentacle monsters. Although I could complain to iTunes that the title is false advertising, I’ll refrain from asking for a refund and keep it in my digital anime library.

Review of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

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Global warming? What a load of poppycock. If Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is to be believed, instead of sweltering temperatures, the planet is on course for an ice age. The chilly weather will get so bad that donning thermal underwear won’t suffice to stay warm. Mankind is therefore forced to abandon Earth and venture out into space to seek out a new home. Unfortunately for the human race the cosmos is populated by Hideauze – a hostile race of space faring calamari. In order to combat the squid like menace humanity have developed giant mechs known as Calibers, which have more than a passing resemblance to Zone of the Enders’ orbital frames. Will the flying robots turn the alien cephalopods into seafood or will humanity get buggered by tentacles? Only time will tell.

OVERVIEW

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is the brainchild of writer Gen Urobuchi, the talented chap responsible for Fate/Zero, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Psycho-Pass. The series follows the adventures of ensign Ledo, a young Caliber pilot who finds himself stranded on Earth after a run in with some unfriendly Hideauze. It has been many years since humanity abandoned their home world and in the interim the ice age has thawed transforming the globe into an aquatic planet, not dissimilar to Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. Earth’s native population survive by banding together into fleets that travel the waves in search of salvageable technology.

Ledo eventually allies himself with the Gargantia fleet that agree to provide him with food and board in exchange for him using his advanced Caliber to fend off pirates and assist with undersea exploration. The first half of the series is a fairly peaceful affair that chronicles Ledo’s integration into the Gargantia community and his growing relationship with Amy, a cute courier who delivers packages with the aid of a handy glider. Viewers seeking thrilling battles will be glad to learn that the action ratchets up in the show’s concluding half, which sees Ledo depart Gargantia in order to investigate the origins of the Hideauze and protect his new friends from a religious cult that worships a gigantic robot (much like Gundam fanatics do.)

VERDICT

My rating for Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is a four out of five. It’s a nice science fiction tale brought to life via high production values courtesy of Production I.G. Anyone checking out the series should however temper their expectations, as the opening episode gives the impression that the show is an epic space opera packed with interstellar battles. The story being told however is not that grandiose. For the most part the plot revolves around Ledo finding a new purpose in life, as he transitions from a society were humans are nothing more than disposable weapons to a community were the bonds of family reign supreme.

My only real complaints with the series would have to be the female character designs that are somewhat top heavy. Amy herself isn’t busty, but that doesn’t spare her from fan service moments in a swimsuit, belly dancer garb and being targeted by camera shots that creepily linger on her body. I also feel that a greater episode count would have benefitted the show, as the blossoming Ledo/Amy romance gets scrapped midway in order to wrap up the story. On the plus side, in addition to the thirteen episodes broadcast on TV, this collection includes two OVAs that flesh things out, by providing extra backstory and delving into the motivations of the show’s chief antagonist.

Faults with Gurren Lagann Ultimate Edition

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In news that should surprise no one, Gurren Lagann has become the latest Anime Limited release to be plagued with technical snafus. The hat-trick of complaints includes loose disc trays, frozen video during some episodes and delivery delays caused by Amazon not receiving sufficient stock.

Waiting a bit longer for your pre-order delivery to arrive is inconvenient, but not a big deal. Likewise a loose disc tray is embarrassing, as the Ultimate Edition was promoted heavily on its lush packaging, but no biggie as Anime Limited claim that they will replace the defective cases.

Harder to forgive is that three of the show’s episodes are affected with video glitches that cause the picture to freeze (for up to thirteen seconds) whilst the audio continues to run. Anime Limited has stated that these bugs were spotted during quality control, but they are unable to fix the issue. Nice of them not to reveal that titbit of information, when people were pre-ordering the set. In case you are wondering… no they won’t be replacing the faulty discs.

This latest hiccup follows on from subpar releases of Cowboy Bebop and Durarara, which both suffered from irritating anomalies. Anime Limited is presently replacing the Bebop discs in question although the Durarara replacements announced in January have yet to be honoured. It’s sad that such an unreliable distributor has premier titles like Kill La Kill on their catalogue. Mysteriously mainstream UK anime journalists continue to give Anime Limited products glowing reviews.

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit & Attack on Titan Games

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Fans of the recently released Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus won’t have to wait long to see the stripping ninjas strut their stuff once again. The chaps at Xseed Games have revealed that Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit will be landing on the PS Vita this November. The spin-off title sees the high school warriors forgo their usual martial art hijinks in favour of a rhythm based culinary contest. Judging from the announcement trailer, the game’s change in genre won’t come at the expense of Kagura’s infamous eye candy. I’m a little disappointment to see that half of the playable roster won’t be accessible without DLC, but on the plus side any online purchases you made for Shinovi Versus will be transferable over to the new game.

In shocking news, the Australian Classification Board has allowed a video game to be sold over in the land down under. An Atlus published Attack on Titan game has apparently been awarded a fifteen age rating. Many video games fail to find their way over to Crocodile Dundee’s homeland, so I assume it is safe to say that the anime inspired title should be coming to the US/EU too. Although details are scarce, it’s speculated that the game is Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind, a 3DS game that presently has only appeared in Japan. I’ll be interested in giving the game a go, although footage I have spied on YouTube suggests that the graphics are as hideous as the monstrous Titans.

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Review of Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus

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A fierce war is presently being waged and in case you are wondering I am not referring to the Middle East conflict. Anita Sarkeesian has militarized feminists against the gaming industry, which she accuses of misogyny. On the opposite side of the fence are gamers who have responded to the accusations with their patented immature trolling and in some cases reprehensible death threats. I’m disappointed to see so many people side with Sarkeesian’s biased opinions, but it’s hard to defend Japanese developers when, within the space of a few weeks, two games revolving around stripping have hit the market. Perverts everywhere rejoice! If Akiba’s Trip failed to satiate your thirst for pixelated boob fear not, because Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus has just arrived on the Vita.

OVERVIEW

The Senran Kagura franchise takes place in Japan where, unbeknownst to the general public, high school girls are trained in the art of Ninjutsu. These female warriors are broken down into two factions – Good Shinobi who use martial arts to protect the weak and Evil Shinobi who use their skills to take on assassination requests. The differing ideologies result in the opposing groups often butting heads, which can only be settled with a Shinobi Battle Royale. These contests involve rival academies squaring off in a series of duels, were it is agreed that the loser’s institution will be torched down. What a shame that I was never asked to defend the honour of my school during my student days. I would have gleefully thrown the fight just to see that horrible comprehensive burn.

Gameplay wise Shinovi Versus feels a lot like the Dynasty Warriors games. Levels involve decimating waves of unchallenging fodder until you are eventually allowed to lock horns with the far more competent boss character. The easy to learn controls allow players to go on the offence with weak/strong attacks and defend themselves via dashing, blocking and jumping. Combatants start a battle in their humdrum school uniform, but can switch over to a more colourful outfit by activating Shinobi mode. Whilst in this state characters can perform special moves that specialise in removing an opponent’s garments. Alternatively they can go frantic, which sacrifices their own clothing in exchange for a strength boost. Does going nude really make someone beefier? If so I suspect that Kate Upton can bench press more than an Olympic weightlifter.

VERDICT

My rating for Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a four out of five. I’m surprised by how enjoyable it is, given that I found its predecessor (Senran Kagura Burst) to be rather monotonous once the novelty of stripping wore off. I think the combat in this sequel is far more satisfying as the action has switched from a restrictive sidescoller to a far more open third person brawler. Graphically Shinovi Versus also trumps Burst by a wide margin. Although graphics do not necessarily make a good game, when your title is being sold on eye candy it is an important factor. The character models are gorgeous and the jiggle mechanics of their mammary glands is most hypnotizing.

One thing that impressed me about the title is the content on offer. The roster of playable characters consists of twenty students, who each have their own unique story. In addition to that there are a quartet of campaigns revolving around the Senran Kagura schools that span for five chapters. Completing levels rewards you with coinage that can be spent on a wide range of clothing, accessories, music and artwork. It’s even possible to gamble your income to acquire sought after lingerie! I’m sure many critics will dismiss Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus as shallow, but that’s unfair as its core gameplay is identical to the lauded Hyrule Warriors. Zelda is a prudish damsel who always requires rescue. The saucy babes of Senran Kagura fight for what they believe in. Out of those two who is the better female role model Ms Sarkeesian?

Review of Appleseed Alpha

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Appleseed Alpha once again sees Masamune Shirow’s eighties manga series get adapted into an animated feature film. The movie is a collaboration of eastern and western talents, which was animated in Japan and scripted/acted in the States. Marianne Krawczyk, whose writing credits include a plethora of video games, is responsible for penning the story whilst Shinji Aramaki returns to the Appleseed franchise, having previously directed 2014’s Appleseed motion picture and the 2007 follow-up Appleseed: Ex Machina. Both those aforementioned flicks were nothing more than mediocre and I am afraid to report that Alpha follows in the same vein.

OVERVIEW

The movie is a prequel that takes place prior to Deunan and her cybernetic partner Briareos enlisting as law enforcement for the utopian city of Olympus. Set in a post apocalyptic world, which is recovering from a Third World War, former soldiers Deunan and Briareos find themselves eking out a living as guns for hire in a ruined New York. During their latest mission the mercenary duo rescues a travelling Bioroid (synthetic human) named Iris and her cyborg bodyguard Olsen from being filled with lead by some unfriendly war drones. It transpires that Iris is on an assignment to decommission a weapon of mass destruction and given that Deunan/Briareos have nothing better to do they agree to assist the fledgling Bioroid on her noble quest.

Hot on the heels of our heroes are a pair of adversaries that include Two Horns the Big Apple’s current warlord (a cyborg blessed with the dialect of a ghetto resident.) The second pursuer is a nasty chap named Talos who aspires to conquer the globe by utilising the weapon Iris has been ordered to dismantle. Talos is the chief of the Trident group, which is composed of androids that resemble combatants from the Halo/Destiny video games. Ironically Appleseed Alpha and Destiny both look impressive on the visual front, but they both lack any meaningful substance when it comes to their plot.

VERDICT

My rating for Appleseed Alpha is a three out of five. Like the other Aramaki directed Appleseed movies it is mildly entertaining, but nothing special. Scriptwriter Krawczyk is clearly not acquainted with the source material, as aside from the main characters the film lacks any of the themes the Appleseed franchise is renowned for. Krawczyk is a video game writer and it shows. The movie’s weak storyline is just there to link action sequences together, much like how cut scenes chain together a video game’s levels. The cast’s characterisation is so bland that I felt nothing during the finale’s emotional outcome (but then again I am a heartless monster who doesn’t even weep during a Bambi screening.)

On the plus side Alpha’s visuals are stunning, which is a relief after the ghastly CG employed in the Appleseed XIII series. Instead of going for a 3D anime style, as used in Appleseed: Ex Machina, Alpha opts for a photo realistic look akin to that found in Final Fantasy: Advent Children. The computer rendered animation is especially impressive during the latter half of the film, which is packed with thrilling action. The explosive gunfights, Deunan’s destructive use of power armour and the satisfying duel between Briareos and Talos’ female lieutenant almost make up for the story’s shortcomings. I can’t recommend purchasing Appleseed Alpha, but if you appreciate Hollywood blockbuster like action it may be worth renting or borrowing from a friend.

Review of Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed

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Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is the follow-up to Akiba’s Trip – a 2011 PSP title developed by Acquire Corp, which sadly never got a release outside of its native Japan. The game is a fun brawler boasting light RPG elements, anime style visuals and a quirky sense of humour. It’s a blast to play, but much like Compile Heart’s Monster Monpiece it’s not something you would want to load up in public. As the subtitle suggests, Akiba’s Trip features more shedding of garments than a burlesque club or celebrity selfie. Somehow I suspect that Anita Sarkeesian and her feminist cronies won’t be amused.

OVERVIEW

The game is set in Akihabara, a geek utopia that caters to shoppers seeking manga stores, video game outlets and cafes serviced by cosplay maids. The nerdy district is presently in a pinch as the populace is being hounded by Synthisters (a vampire race that drains life force instead of blood.) Like most Nosferatu, Synthisters have an aversion to sunlight. Although they can tolerate a small amount of UV rays, they are toast should their entire body get exposed to light. With that in mind protagonist Nanashi and his merry band of Akiba Freedom Fighters set off to strip the evil undead down to their underwear. Administering garlic or brandishing a crucifix may also be effective, but who cares when forced nudity is more fun.

One area in which Akiba’s Trip shines is its faithful recreation of Akihabara. Players familiar with the area have commented that patrolling this virtual representation feels identical to walking through the actual place. Everything from the street layouts and buildings plastered with colourful advertising billboards is authentic. It’s even possible to visit genuine retailers such as K-Books and the Gundam Cafe. Sadly the Akihabara simulation is marred with some technical niggles. Firstly the map is fragmented into small zones that require brief loading screens to traverse. Shame that the developer didn’t opt for making one huge Grand Theft Auto style metropolis. Another issue I had was that pedestrians would frequently materialize out from thin air. Seems like the engine struggles to render NPCs, although I suppose they may be ghosts. That would explain the “undead” reference in the game’s title.

VERDICT

I would describe Akiba’s Trip as a fun button basher. The unchallenging combat consists of nothing more than targeting an opponent’s head, torso or legs until they sustain sufficient damage to disrobe. The action doesn’t get monotonous though, as the skirmishes don’t last long and are interspaced with amusing cut scenes. Anyone concerned about sexism need not fret as the enemies you assault come in both gender varieties. Aiding Nanashi in battle is a selection of beauties that include a quiet vampire, childhood friend, anti-social sister, pop idol and a busty businesswoman. Interacting with your companions increases their affection towards the perverted hero, which ultimately determines what ending you unlock.

My final rating for Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is a four out of five. Looks like we have a new entry for my gaming guilty pleasures list. To anyone concerned about the title’s subject matter I would suggest putting your worries aside and giving the game a go. The combat is so goofy that you cannot take it seriously and the stripping itself doesn’t feel sinister or sexual. Defeated Synthisters simply dissipate into the air whilst human opponents flee in embarrassment after being reduced to their birthday suit. The game isn’t a huge time investment either, as it can be completed in a few short hours. Despite registering a hat trick of completions, I still intend to replay the game to earn more trophies and use the attire I have sequestered to enhance Nanashi’s wardrobe. Ironically playing dress up is one of the main appeals in a game that revolves around stripping.