Review of God Eater (Volume 1)

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Gods are tasty, but I couldn’t eat a whole one. I mean, just look at Thor. That guy is huge! In all seriousness though, no divine beings were consumed during the creation of this show. God Eaters are the warriors who protect Japan, in the year 2071, from creatures known as Aragami. These guardians of humanity charge into battle wielding God Arcs – a transformative weapon that can don the shape of a bazooka or colossal blade, depending on the needs of its user. Based on Bandai Namco’s video games, this first collection contains seven of the anime’s thirteen episodes.

OVERVIEW

Fans of the God Eater games are probably wondering how faithful this anime adaptation is to the source material. The answer to that question is I don’t know. Although I own God Eater 2 on PS4 I haven’t played it much. Monster hunting games sound like fun on paper, but I usually lose interest in them pretty quick. The endless cycle of farming bosses, for a 1% chance of acquiring materials I need to upgrade my gear, gets old really fast. One thing I can say however is that God Eater is one of the better shows based on a console title… even if admittedly the competition isn’t fierce in that genre.

Lenka Utsugi is the show’s protagonist. Over the course of this DVD set we see how he grows from a hothead rookie to a member of the elite First Unit. There’s action aplenty, as Lenka fights to protect his city from attack and participates in hunting missions. God Eater’s battles are visceral and gravity defying, but in terms of visuals the CG effects lack the polish of other Ufotable works. Sometimes character models look off and on other occasions there are noticeable animation blips. For instance, free flowing locks turn rigid in certain scenes. That’s what happens when you use concrete as a hair gel substitute I suppose.

Another thing that’s distracting about the series is the fashion sense of its cast. Lenka works for an organisation named Fenrir, who employ guards that dress in sensible military garb. The same cannot be said for the God Eaters though. All the guys look like they purchased their attire at Hot Topic. The ladies meanwhile have opted to go into combat braless. Russian beauty Alisa Illinichina Amiella has no shame, as she somersaults across the battlefield with no undergarments and a tiny top that barely covers her breasts. Given the proportions of anime women you’d think they would be well versed in the benefits of adequate chest support.

VERDICT

My rating for God Eater (vol. 1) is a three out of five. First impressions weren’t good, as the series is really generic. An insubordinate male lead that defends a walled city from carnivorous giants has been done before and done better. Thankfully it gets more interesting as it goes along. Regular flashbacks, which drip feed lore, helped to flesh out the narrative whilst the episodes featuring the plight of defenceless refugees succeeded in getting me emotionally invested. Alisa also surprised me by being more than mere eye candy. Her debut presents the character as an arrogant badass, but when denied medication in episode six it’s revealed that she suffers from Shia Labeouf levels of mental instability.

I had high hopes for God Eater, as the makers of Fate/Zero animated it. Sadly the series lacks Fate’s substance. All things considered though it is entertaining enough, especially when you consider its chequered production history. Back when God Eater aired on Japanese TV the release schedule suffered from more delays than a London Underground train. Not ideal, but somehow Ufotable have managed to salvage the anime. If volume two continues to improve with each instalment my hunger for a good video game cartoon will be satisfied, just like how a snack of Odin’s son satiates my appetite.

Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

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After a hat trick of subpar Spider-Man flicks New York’s favourite wall crawler returns with a reboot that successfully revitalizes the franchise. Sony’s partnership with Marvel Studios is sure to make some serious bank at the box office. Let’s hope that the alliance doesn’t come to an end with the release of Homecoming’s sequel. Prior to watching the movie I was concerned by how heavily Tony Stark featured in the trailers. Was the marketing team using Robert Downey JR’s wit to prop up another uncharismatic Peter Parker? Nope. Tom Holland nailed the role and is by far the best live action Peter Parker yet.

CATCHES THIEVES JUST LIKE FLIES

Viewers will be relieved to learn that Homecoming isn’t another rehash of Spider-Man’s origin. When the movie begins Spider-Man is already an established costumed crime fighter, who is on the cusp of securing a place on the Avengers team. His adversary, in this 133-minute feature, is a chap named Adrian Toomes (better known to comic fans as Vulture). Early scenes reveal that Toomes developed a flying suit by repurposing the alien tech left behind on Earth by the invaders who appeared in Avengers Assemble. Michael Keaton plays the chief antagonist. Birdman and now Vulture – Hollywood has seemingly typecast him as an airborne talent for superhero movies.

The majority of Homecoming’s story revolves around the Spider-Man versus Vulture feud. Can the masked protector of Queens stop Toomes from arming local hoodlums with extra-terrestrial weaponry? It’s a tough ask for anyone, let alone a rookie vigilante who has many personal commitments to juggle. Compete in a national quiz. Find a date for the homecoming dance. Help a bud with constructing a Lego Death Star. Peter has a packed itinerary, along with the added headache of keeping his superhero persona hidden from the gorgeous Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei.) What a beauty. Her husband Uncle Ben is one lucky guy… well apart from the whole getting murdered thing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a great film that captures the spirit of the classic comics. For better or worse, modern Marvel books also influence the movie when it comes to the subject of diversity. Every student in Peter’s school seems to come from a unique ethnic background. Parker’s love interest is black, his best friend is Hawaiian and Peter’s decathlon team includes an Asian. I’m not too bothered by the cultural variety, but it is worth mentioning. Right now Marvel is haemorrhaging readers in response to the company changing the gender/race of popular characters. If that sort of thing bothers you be forewarned that All-American meathead Flash Thompson is now a poindexter of Guatemalan descent. See what happens when you don’t build a wall?

VERDICT

My rating for Spider-Man: Homecoming is a four and a half out of five. On the web-head totem pole, Homecoming is right up there with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. It’s great to finally see Spidey portrayed by someone who gets both sides of the character. Tom Holland has no problem rattling off funny quips in the spandex, whilst also giving off the air of an uncomfortable nerd when out of costume. When it comes to visual effects Homecoming is easily the best looking of all the Spider-Man films. The action sequences are jaw dropping and even small details like the design of the suit impressed me. I think the expressive eyepieces are a nice touch. Thanks to them Spider-Man can emote without the need to unmask every few seconds (cough, Tobey Maguire, cough).

Usually I would conclude a Marvel cinematic review by lambasting the weak villain, but not so on this occasion. Unlike other MCU antagonists, Adrian Toomes is a well fleshed out character. In a similar vein to Dr Octopus and Sandman I can sympathize with his actions. Toomes isn’t motivated by greed; he just wants to provide for his family and employees. Dabbling in the underworld does however turn him into an intimidating crime boss who, when push comes to shove, will cross the line to safeguard his interests. The sad thing is that Toomes would have never gone down the illegal path had bureaucrats not ruined his company. All this could have been avoided had the government allowed Vulture to “carrion” doing business.

Review of Himouto! Umaru-chan

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Forget about fake news, what about fake people? You know the ones, folks who pretend to be someone else to fit in with the cool crowd. I am useless at hiding my geeky credentials (what with my stereotypical specs, acne encrusted skin and poor social skills) but the same isn’t true for everyone else. Your strict boss could be a closet brony for example! Umaru Doma, the star of Himouto Umaru-chan, happens to be one of those social chameleons. In public she portrays the role of model student – beautiful, great at sports and top of the class when it comes to grades. Away from prying eyes however she is a hardcore otaku who loves games, manga and unhealthy snacks.

SIBLING RIVALRY

The only person privy to Umaru’s secret identity is her long-suffering elder brother Taihei Doma. Anime fans know that parents do not exist, in the wacky world of Japanese cartoons, so the aforementioned siblings cohabitate alone in a modest studio apartment. Life at home is filled with feuds over Umaru’s refusal to do chores or anything else constructive for that matter. Taihei tries to lay down the law, but more often than not capitulates to Umaru’s tantrums. A few tears and some guilt tripping is all that’s required to coerce bro into buying her hamsters, the latest comic or a new console game.

On paper I should despise Umaru, for being a selfish brat, but somehow the series manages to make her likable. It’s tough to hate the protagonist, as her egoistic personality is the catalyst for much of the show’s hilarity. I also have a soft spot for the lead as her hobbies mirror my own. We look nothing alike though. She might be able to maintain a slim figure by guzzling carbonated beverages and sitting in front of a PC all day, but I certainly can’t. Perhaps her trim waist is the result of shape shifting powers? Whenever Umaru reaches home she transforms from a regular girl to a hoodie wearing chibi cutie.

CHARACTERS

Normally when an anime character shifts into an ultra deformed look no one acknowledges the change, but in Umaru’s case it appears that she genuinely does morph into a midget. Case in point – the time her shy classmate Kirie Motoba turned up at the Doma abode. When Kirie spotted the diminutive Umaru she was easily convinced into believing that Chibi Umaru is a made up little sister named Komaru. Then again none of the cast are sharp when it comes to identification. Umaru’s academic rival Sylphyn Tachibana for example doesn’t suspect that the buddy she hangs out with, at the local arcade, is Umaru sporting an eye mask!

Speaking of buddies, Umaru’s best friend is a buxom gal named Nana Ebina. Nana has a crush on Umaru’s brother, stemming from the time she migrated over from Akita to the big city. Taihei garnered her admiration, as he was the only person to make eye contact with her. Miss Ebina is oblivious to the fact that the locals aren’t mean; they just weren’t making eye contact as their gaze was squarely focused on her knockers! Other characters of note include Taihei’s trio of office co-workers. Takeshi the slacker with an Afro, German born Alex who browses for anime girls on work computers and Kanau the flirtatious manager.

VERDICT

My rating for Himouto Umaru-chan is a three and a half out of five. I wasn’t too impressed with the first episode, but the series gradually grew on me. Each instalment introduces a new character to the mix and it was fun watching them bounce off each other. In terms of structure the anime reminds me of The Comic Artist & His Assistants. Each episode is a chain of skits, which are low on story and high on amusement. I dug the funny anime references and could relate to the Doma brother/sister dynamic. Like most siblings they bicker a lot, but occasionally you’ll glimpse moments that show how much they value each other’s company. Their animated relationship is more genuine than the fake news CNN peddles.