2015 in review

Happy new year everyone! There’s only a couple of hours left before 2015 ends, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for supporting my blog. Your views, likes and comments are greatly appreciated. Looking at the figures The Otaku Judge registered 23k hits this year, which beats 2014’s sum of 15k. That will be tough act to follow in the next twelve months, especially as I am such a lazy writer 😉 Hopefully 2016’s lineup of stellar games and anime will motivate me to post more regularly.

Anyways, for those of you who are fortunate enough not to work this evening (grumble, grumble) have fun. See you all in 2016!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Review of Chaika: The Coffin Princess

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Chaika: The Coffin Princess is an anime series based on the light novels penned by Ichirō Sakaki (whose previous works include Outbreak Company and Scrapped Princess.) Much like the aforementioned books, this series takes place in a fantasy realm populated with charming characters. Although not devoid of humour, when compared to the rib tickling Outbreak Company, Chaika’s script focuses more on action adventure rather than comedy. Both properties do however feature characters that dress in French maid attire. I’m not sure that anyone would hire the titular Chaika to dust their abode though, given how she creepily lugs a large casket on her back.

OVERVIEW

The dozen episodes contained in this season one set have Chaika roaming the land in search of her father’s remains. Chaika Trabant is the daughter of the kingdom’s former emperor – a tyrannical sorcerer named Arthur Gaz. When the Gaz Empire was toppled Emperor Gaz was slain and hacked up into eight pieces, with each body part being entrusted to one of the heroes who helped vanquish him. Yuck, that’s gruesome stuff – although not unusual for a medieval punishment (I understand that Scottish legend William Wallace suffered a similar fate.) Dismemberment is not a pleasant thing… perhaps I should have warned you readers not to snack whilst perusing this review. Sorry!

When viewers first meet Chaika it soon becomes apparent that the albino princess has not made much progress in her macabre scavenger hunt. Chaika has ventured into some woods and, much like a chap who refuses to ask for directions, she is completely lost. She ambles about; going round and round in circles, until she eventually bumps into the angriest My Little Pony I have ever seen. Thankfully for the pale protagonist a wandering saboteur named Toru Acura rescues Chaika from falling victim to unicorn assault. After escaping from the forest unscathed Chaika hires the services of Toru and his sister Akari Acura. Despite lacking a sense of direction the petit royal does at least have an abundant supply of silver to recruit mercenary assistance.

After a while the abovementioned trio become a quartet, thanks to the addition of Fredrika – a sassy lass who has the ability to polymorph into different forms. Together they travel across the Six Nations seeking the eight fabled heroes who protect the decomposing prizes that Chaika desires. It’s a race against time as Chaika has “siblings” of sorts who also share the same goal. Who knew that rotting limbs were so in demand? They are almost as sought after as limited edition Amiibos! Heroes and Chaika’s relatives aren’t the only obstacle Toru’s band has to contend with however. The authorities have dispatched the Gillett Corps to foil Chaika’s aspirations. Said team includes a dashing cavalier, an animal tamer and a feline demi-human (sadly he’s a cat boy rather than a cat girl.)

VERDICT

My rating for Chaika: The Coffin Princess is four stars. Watching this series took me back to the days when I enjoyed lighthearted fantasy romps such as Slayers and Rune Soldier Louie. Part of the appeal is the amiable cast of characters who I can’t help but root for, even if their motivations are somewhat questionable. Reuniting the pieces of an evil wizard sounds like bad news to me – not to mention that Toru favours war over peace, as conflict improves his employment prospects. I can’t dislike Chaika however, as she is so gosh darn cute. Her manner of speech is adorable and (despite being the offspring of a tyrant) she is always willing to aid the needy. Cheering on the fugitives is also easy given that the government the Gillett Corps serve are anything but noble.

Overall the series provides the right blend of action and gags. There’s plenty of acrobatic sword fighting, courtesy of Toru’s Iron-Blood techniques, and Akari’s deadpan jibes never failed to amuse me. Chaika also contributes during combat via her enchanted sharpshooting. Much like in Outlaw Star, the firearms in this show are used for spell casting. Chaika saving the day via the use of magic is perhaps overplayed, but her power is limited due to the fact that firing a weapon without mana cartridges can rob a caster of their memories. Besides, how is Chaika winning through magic any worse than Voltron always triumphing over adversity thanks to his gigantic blade?

I can’t wait for season two based on this strong showing. Worryingly however I have been unable to locate any concrete news detailing when the next instalment will be localized. Guess I shall have to be patient. Translating the next season of “Coffin” Princess is after all a massive “undertaking.”

Review of Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest

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Everybody wants to rule the world, or so Tears for Fears proclaimed back in the mid-eighties. If you happen to agree with the ageing rockers, I would endorse satiating your global takeover aspirations with a game of Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest. Brought over to the west by the folks at Fruitbat Factory, this visual novel/strategy game hybrid asks players to command an army of anime hotties in a campaign to subjugate all of the Earth’s nations. Given that 2015 is about to come to an end, this could well be the final PS3 release I ever purchase. If that happens to be the case I can happily say that my relationship with Sony’s console came to a close on a very positive note.

OVERVIEW

The story of Eiyuu Senki begins with players assuming the role of an amnesiac chap who is crowned king of a Japanese province. His rule begins with a brief war to unify the country’s rival factions under his flag. Once in charge of Japan he sets his sights on conquering the rest of the world, in order to avert a global catastrophe predicted by his girlfriend. Using flimsy clairvoyance to justify the invasion of foreign lands? Sure, why not? It’s no less plausible than fabricating non-existent weapons of mass destruction as a pretext to snatch oil reserves. Seizing control of the planet won’t be easy however, as impeding your progress are a multitude of savvy generals including Chris Columbus, Tutankhamun and Napoleon. Don’t let their masculine names deceive you; in this game all of the world’s leaders are cute girls!

One of the most impressive things about Eiyuu Senki is the huge array of historical characters you meet during your travels. Enemy commanders can be recruited to your cause, once you occupy their territory, which I soon discovered is of paramount importance. A sizeable army is advantageous, as each general can only perform one action per turn… plus who wouldn’t want to amass a huge harem of sexy tactical geniuses? How effective your subordinates perform on the battlefield is determined by their attack, defence and speed stats – in addition to the number of soldiers they lead. Extra soldiers can be hired (to bolster a platoon’s might) via cash donations made to the squad’s female leader. Don’t do this in real life though. Handing over your wallet to a girl is a good way of becoming bankrupt.

Battles take place on tiny maps that are three rows tall and twelve tiles wide. The turn based combat reminds me a little of Fire Emblem, as the weapons your characters wield influence the strategy you employ during skirmishes. Characters who brandish an axe for example can only hack opponents within melee range, whilst warriors who fire cannons can blast foes cowering in the back row. Another thing worth noting is that bashing opponents with armaments they are weak against can inflict bonus damage. Arrows for instance wreck spell casters whilst katanas make mince meat of gunfighters. Makes sense really – Star Wars has after all taught us that projectile weapons are ineffective versus glowy swords.

VERDICT

My rating for Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest is five stars. No surprise really, given that it combines planetary domination with adorable waifus – a winning combination for anyone who grew up enjoying the Sid Meier Civilisation games and anime. The only aspect I can criticise the title on would be how text heavy it is. To unlock new skills the “King of Lust” you control needs to flirt with his attractive minions. This meant that a good chunk of my playthrough involved skimming through cut scenes of seduction rather than directing troops on the frontlines. Thankfully the clips in question are rather amusing. Some highlights of note include teaching Sex Ed to Alexander the Great and reading Nostradamus’ kinky novels, which feature tales of all male romance.

If strategy games are your thing, I can highly recommend unearthing your PlayStation 3 from storage to give Eiyuu Senki a go. It’s rather odd that Fruitbat Factory chose to localise the PS3 port of the game, given that the console is on its last legs. I would have preferred to play the Vita edition instead, particularly as the sprite graphics and anime portraits on show seem like a perfect fit for Sony’s handheld. Financially speaking, I also imagine that the PC version would sell considerably more copies via Steam. Either way, the game is worth checking out – providing that you can tolerate the excessive dialogue between battles. I suppose that is to be expected though, given that your army is exclusively female. No offence ladies, but I am certain that male soldiers are far less chatty!

So, I Can’t Play H Review

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So I Can’t Play H is a twelve-episode anime based on the light novels penned by Pan Tachibana. I’m surprised that the property isn’t an original animated series or at the very least a manga adaptation. Books are after all predominately made up of text. So I Can’t Play H’s main appeal however are the visuals on display… and by visuals I mean the bouncy boobies jiggling onscreen. Yes, this is another smut filled cartoon imported to the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment. The release will feel right at home in MVM’s titillating catalogue, which includes the likes of Ikki Tousen and the company’s recently announced acquisition Monster Musume.

OVERVIEW

The H in So I Can’t Play H presumably stands for Hentai (the Japanese word for pervert) which is rather apt given that protagonist Ryosuke Kaga is a colossal perv. He isn’t shy about announcing to the world how much he adores the fairer sex; although to date he has made no attempt to court his childhood friend Mina Okura. Strange given that Mina possesses a huge pair of knockers that are just asking to be groped. Although I don’t condone molesting ladies you can’t blame guys for wanting to touch Mina’s melons – be it because they are so irresistible or because breasts that big surely produce a gravitational field, which will pull any roaming hands within orbit towards them.

One day Ryosuke returns home to find a crimson haired beauty standing outside his residence. Being the classy gentleman that he is Ryosuke invites the stranger into his abode, where she can shelter from the downpour responsible for drenching her tight white top. Once inside the redhead, named Lisara Restall, reveals to Ryosuke that she is a grim reaper seeking an elusive human known as The Singular Man. Desperate to complete her quest, but unable to remain on the mortal plain without a power source, she reluctantly makes a temporary contract with Ryosuke. The pact permits Lisara to replenish her dwindling energy reserves by draining Ryo’s life force. Don’t worry folks; Ryosuke’s vitality is fuelled by his unquenchable libido, so he has plenty of energy to spare!

VERDICT

So I Can’t Play H is a series that can roughly be divided into three parts. The first few episodes focus mainly on comedy. By harnessing the power of Ryosuke’s lust, Lisara is able to overcome tentacle monsters and fellow grim reapers – including her cousin Quele Zeria and a blonde rival named Iria Fukumune (who uses the magical equivalent of silicon to augment her modest bosom.) Around the halfway mark the series transitions into an action show that sees Ryosuke venture into Lisara’s dimension on a rescue mission. The concluding three episodes take a more romantic approach to storytelling, with Ryosuke being forced to pick between Mina and Lisara. The choice he makes literally ends up being a life or death decision.

My final rating for So I Can’t Play H is two stars. If this weren’t a new UK anime release, which I am obligated to review, I would have dropped the series after a few episodes. The combination of exposed nipples and busty beauties from the underworld make the show sound like High School DXD. Sadly however this imitator is inferior to DXD both in terms of gags and supernatural battles. Strip away the eye candy and there is little left to recommend. Unlike the chest size of the supporting cast, everyone’s characterisation is flat. The action sequences are equally unimpressive and just serve as an excuse to inflict wardrobe malfunctions on Lisara’s garments.

Needless to say, So I Can’t Play H won’t earn a spot in the guilty pleasure section of my anime DVD collection. There are far better ecchi shows out there for otakus to salivate over. If I were to adopt an A to F grading scale the series, much like Mina’s bra size, would be an F.

Review of Samurai Harem

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Sometimes a series would be better served by sticking with its original Japanese name. Samurai Harem (known as Asu no Yoichi in its native land) suffers from the same problem as Cat Planet Cuties – the silly title bestowed upon it, by the English language localisation team, is so goofy that some viewers will avoid it purely on the moniker alone. Thankfully I am not one of those people. It shall take more than a daft name to dissuade me from watching an anime! I am after all the sort of person who will watch a cartoon even if it happens to feature a bloke cross dressing as a magical girl.

OVERVIEW

One thing I cannot criticise Samurai Harem on is the accuracy of its title. The series does indeed feature a samurai and a harem of cute girls. This tale, based on Yū Minamoto’s manga, is however set during modern times rather than the Edo period. Yoichi Karasuma is the titular samurai, who has spent his seventeen years of life training how to bash skulls with a wooden sword. After surpassing his father’s skill with a Bokken, Yoichi is ordered to travel down from his mountainside stomping grounds to the city, where he can continue his training at an acquaintance’s dojo.

The trend of anime parents abandoning their offspring is alive and well in Samurai Harem. No surprise then when it’s revealed that, in the absence of their parents, the dojo Yoichi is staying at is run by a quartet of sisters. Hilarity ensues as Yoichi struggles to acclimatize to city life and cohabitate with four attractive girls. The honourable ronin, who has previously only interacted with woodland creatures, cannot help but become overly stimulated when in the presence of the busty Ikaruga siblings. His knack for inadvertently traipsing into female changing rooms and accidently grabbing boobs doesn’t help matters either.

Ibuki Ikaruga is the eldest sister and Yoichi’s prospective love interest. She admires the protagonist’s prowess with a hickory blade, even if his perverted antics never fail to make her blood boil. Competing with Ibuki, for Yoichi’s heart, is her younger sister Ayame Ikaruga. Ayame suffers from an inferiority complex, which has made her envious of Ibuki’s superior school grades… and also her sis’ more ample bosom. Fanning the sexual tension flames is the aspiring manga artist Chihaya Ikaruga. She loves pitting her sisters against each other, as the resulting fireworks serve as good inspiration for comic book plotlines. The last member of the Ikaruga household is ten-year-old Kagome. She’s cute, a proficient cook and from the bunch is R Kelly’s favourite character.

VERDICT

My rating for Samurai Harem is three stars. It’s a funny series that doesn’t make an effort to subvert the expectations conjured by its uninspired title. Although the series has no chance of cracking my top-five anime shows of 2015 it would be disingenuous to say that I didn’t find its twelve episodes to be amusing. Like other harem shows there is a bit of eye candy on display, but when compared to other examples in the genre the fan service on offer is rather tame. If anything Samurai Harem may disappoint pervs seeking a saucy harem cartoon because it is too wholesome. The script instils the importance of family bonds and when given the choice Yoichi would prefer to resolve conflict through diplomacy rather than force.

Delivering gags is Samurai Harem’s chief focus. Although a multitude of characters are smitten with Yoichi none of the relationships develop into anything substantial. On the action side of things, despite being fronted by a swordfighter, the series is surprisingly lightweight on martial art duels. Over the DVD’s dozen episodes Yoichi battles a delinquent, a couple of surf ninjas and a girl who transforms into an adroit fighter whenever she is disrobed. None of the aforementioned opponents pose much of a challenge however and are dispatched with little fanfare. The structure of the series is reminiscent to Rosario Vampire, as the bulk of each episode consists of harem hijinks with a few minutes reserved at the end for vanquishing the villain of the week.

A year from now I will struggle to remember Samurai Harem, but it did at least make me laugh for the short time it lasted. I wonder what other generic show titles the anime industry will come up with next. My money is on High School Romance, Teenage Mech Pilot or Amorous Tentacles (you must be over eighteen to watch that last one.)

Maid Sama! (Collection One) Review

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When it comes to coffeehouses Japan easily trumps the rest of the world. The land of the rising sun is after all home to maid cafes – establishments staffed by attractive cosplayers who serve scrumptious omelettes decorated with adorable ketchup art. Over here, on the other hand, we have Starbucks – a tax dodging conglomerate frequented by hipsters who have a taste for overpriced swill. Maid Sama, a twenty-six-episode anime based on Hiro Fujiwara’s manga, happens to star a teenage girl who works part time at a maid cafe. The series follows the young protagonist as she struggles to cope with academic duties, a demanding job and the unwanted attentions of her school’s number one heartthrob.

OVERVIEW

Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president of Seika High; a school were eighty percent of the pupils are male. Desperate to improve the standing of her ailing academy Misaki rules the school halls with an iron fist, taking a zero tolerance approach when it comes to dealing with unruly boys. Her distain for all things masculine may stem from the fact that Misaki’s family is debt ridden, after her estranged father abandoned the Ayuzawa household. In order to make ends meet Misaki makes a modest income by serving customers at Cafe Maid Latte. Thus far the student council president has managed to keep her occupation a secret from classmates, but all that changes when she crosses paths with Takumi Usui.

Takumi is Seika High’s resident heartbreaker. His dashing good looks attract babes, like moths to a flame, but to date he has rejected every confession of love aimed at his direction. His disinterest in girls ends when he spots Misaki at her workplace. Perhaps he is drawn to her feisty personality or maybe he just has a fetish for French maids… either way he becomes enamoured with her. The feeling isn’t initially mutual, but Misaki is forced to endure Takumi’s presence. If she doesn’t tolerate his shenanigans there’s a danger that he will expose her unusual hospitality career to everyone on campus. There’s no quicker way of losing the respect garnered as student council president than by revealing to the horn dogs in class that you spend your evenings wearing a frilly uniform and calling the patrons master.

VERDICT

It appears that Maid Sama is one of those shows that divide audiences. From what I can tell the series has a passionate fan base, but most of the online reviews I have read are negative. For what it is worth I think the anime is a decent romantic comedy. My rating is three and a half stars, as the contents of this first collection had me chuckling consistently. The only dud in the set would have to be episode nine’s unfunny parody of Japanese folklore. I think the series attracts ire from critics due to its lightweight storylines, although that’s a tad unfair given that in most comedies plot takes a backseat to laughs. Misaki participating in a sports festival, dealing with Maid Latte’s quirky theme days or fleeing from a quintet of admirers won’t win any literary awards but it does the job of setting up the scene for hilarious hijinks.

One thing that Maid Sama has over other romance shows is its protagonist. Misaki is nothing like the meek ladies you find in other examples of the genre. She’s a strong self-dependent woman who practically runs the student council by herself, in addition to supporting her family financially. Thanks to a combination of She-Hulk strength and Aikido training she also avoids the trope of being a damsel in distress that requires rescue from prince charming. Misaki does however push herself too hard on occasion, so it’s good to see that Takumi is always close at hand to offer friendly advice and support. He’s a pleasant chap so it’s easy to forgive how his pursuit of Misaki verges on stalking. To his credit Takumi has more chutzpah than other shojo males. From the offset he is very forthright in declaring his feelings to Misaki, although he does take his foot off the gas when he sees how uncomfortable the confession makes her feel.

Viewers looking for an animated rom com, that leans more on comedy than romance, could do a lot worse than Maid Sama. Buying this DVD collection is far more value for money than purchasing one of those extortionate caffeine rich beverages. As the saying goes, Starbuck lattes are like a whore. They both suck and they both empty your wallet!

Review of Blade & Soul

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You shouldn’t judge a book (or in this case a DVD case) by its cover. That phrase especially holds true for Blade & Soul – a thirteen episode anime currently available to buy in the UK courtesy of Animatsu Entertainment. Before watching the series I was expecting fan service aplenty, based on the bevy of beauties pictured on the cover art. My expectations were also influenced by the fact that Blade & Soul is based on a Korean MMO. For those of you not familiar with online gaming, let’s just say that South Korean titles have a reputation for starring unrealistically proportioned ladies (do a quick Google search on Scarlet Blade if you don’t believe me.) Surprisingly however Blade & Soul has a meaningful plot and avoids watering down its story with superfluous titillation… although worry not perverts – the comedic final episode does showcase some skin.

OVERVIEW

Blade & Soul follows the adventures of a former assassin named Alka, whose silver haired locks, lack of emotion and talent with a sword remind me a little of Claymore’s Claire. Alka is on a quest to avenge the death of her master (a wise sage who looks like the by-product of Mr Miyagi and a squirrel.) Unlike your usual revenge caper Alka isn’t fuelled by hatred, but is merely retaliating in line with the code of the sword that she devoutly follows. Alka’s target is a fellow fencer named Jin Varel who, aside from being skilled with a blade, is also able to control a deadly miasma. If you have any doubts on who to root for simply follow the cowboy hat colour code. Alka dresses in white so she is the goody whilst gothic Jin, who is clad in black, is the villain of the piece.

For the most part Blade & Soul is broken up into episodic tales. Viewers witness Alka travel across the land offering her services to anyone who needs them. The first episode for example has Alka protecting a village from the nefarious Palam Empire. Episode five on the other hand sees the heroine serve as bodyguard to a revolutionary who is attempting to sabotage a drug plantation. Anyone expecting stories were Alka waltzes in and saves the day be forewarned that Blade & Souls’ yarns often end in tragedy. The sadistic scriptwriters have no qualms about slaughtering innocents to get a reaction from their audience. Even the leading lady is not immune to the carnage around her. Although portrayed as a silent badass, Alka suffers a mental breakdown later on in the series when the atrocities she committed in the past begin to catch up with her.

Over the course of her journey Alka regularly crosses paths with a predominately female supporting cast. Where ever Alka goes bounty hunter Hazuki Jin follows, eager to claim the price on the protagonist’s head. Hazuki is a gunslinger that loves firearms and a good drink. Her favourite watering hole is an establishment run by Karen El – a refined blonde beauty whose dance moves have the unfortunate side effect of transforming her into an uncanny valley CG model. Last but not least is Loana Dan who leads a group of outcasts known as The Pleasure Gang. If you wish to join their ranks be aware that the gang’s dress code demands that you wear Legion of Doom imitation spikey shoulder pads.

VERDICT

My rating for Blade & Soul is four stars. A tad generous perhaps, but given that watchable video game adaptations are a rarity you’ll have to forgive me for being less critical than usual. The show also gets bonus points, as it finally gives me the opportunity to pen an anime review were the synopsis is free from the words “high school.” I think the series will appeal to fantasy fans and anyone who appreciates high-octane swordfights. Why anyone in the Blade & Soul universe would choose to carry a pistol is beyond me. This is one of those shows were everyone can gracefully evade projectiles from point blank range and bullets can easily be deflected with the mere swipe of a dagger.

I was impressed by how poignant Blade & Soul’s narrative is. Although I am not acquainted with the source material, I doubt the game’s story matches the anime’s quality. Writers seldom put effort into MMO scripts, as your average player would rather slaughter ten rats for a quest rather than read. My only gripe with the story would be how Alka becomes a dejected mess. A battle-hardened warrior turning into a crybaby due to the death of two acquaintances is a bit of a stretch. Similarly the manner in which some of Alka’s rivals switch allegiances on the drop of a dime could have been explained better. Those quibbles aside I really enjoyed Blade & Soul. Even the bonus fan service episode has merit, as it adds some levity to an otherwise sombre show. Now all we need is for someone to make a thought provoking Scarlet Blade anime and my faith in video game cartoons will be restored.