The Top Five Anime I Reviewed in 2017

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I didn’t have time to finish any games or anime last week, as my schedule was disrupted by the news that I had been selected to serve as a juror. Rather ironic, given the name of my blog! Anyways, as I have nothing to review this Sunday I might as well get the long overdue Top Anime of 2017 out of the way. I think this might be the first year were none of the listed shows form part of my DVD collection. The year 2017 has pretty much seen me abandon physical media in favour of consuming anime online, via services such as Crunchyroll. Gone are the days of worrying about storage space and I get to watch newer shows to boot.

5th) Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: This hilarious series shows what happens when the titular Kobayashi ends up cohabitating with a draconic housekeeper, who she met during a drunken night out. Anime with goofy titles aren’t rare, but in most cases shows with a silly premise lose their charm after a few episodes. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid bucks that trend thanks to its cast of quirky reptiles, who have migrated over to our world from another dimension. The interplay between the characters is great, as is Kanna’s cuteness and Tohru’s weird laundry techniques (which involve gulping down unmentionables.)

4th) Recovery of an MMO Junkie: Romantic comedies aren’t usually my thing, as they have a habit of dragging things out. Recovery of an MMO Junkie won me over however, by delivering its sweet tale in a concise ten episodes. The series follows a thirty-year-old NEET who ends up finding love in an online RPG. Unbeknownst to protagonist Morioka, the female healer she has a crush on is in fact a dashing businessman whom she bumped into recently. Can the couple transfer their relationship from the virtual world into the real one? Of course! We already know from SAO how easy it is to get laid in MMORPGs.

3rd) School-Live: Spoilers are not always bad. If it weren’t for other bloggers telling me about the first episode twist I probably would have given School-Live a miss, as it looked like a generic “cute girls doing cute things” series. The reality is that School-Live is a zombie apocalypse show and a darn good one at that. Presented through the eyes of a traumatised schoolgirl, who uses her imagination to cope with the stressful situation, the series continually shifts between being funny and downright heart-breaking. A school where the halls are packed with brain-dead violent beings? Sounds like my old comprehensive!

2nd) Erased: I can’t comment on the Netflix live action adaptation, as I haven’t watched it, but I can at least verify that the animated series is exceptional. Akin to classic TV show Quantum Leap, Erased stars a character whose consciousness travels to the past with the aims of averting a tragedy. In this case pizza deliveryman Satoru Fujinuma is whisked to the time when he was a young lad. There he has the goal of apprehending the serial killer responsible for killing his mom in the present day. What’s the moral of the story? Your childhood sweetheart won’t wait for you, but a homicidal maniac will.

1st) Death Parade: Move over Saint Peter. The true arbiter, who decides where the deceased end up, is in fact an emotionless bartender named Decim. When the pasty mixologist isn’t busy collecting creepy mannequins, he judges who is worthy of reincarnation via contests of Twister and darts. Death Parade is a thought provoking series, which will leave you pondering what the criterion is for determining a worthwhile existence. Like the cocktails that Decim serves, the script contains a mix of ingredients. There are offbeat episodes, romantic tales and stories whose outcomes will make your blood boil. Death Parade is a brilliant anime and you would be a dummy (like Decim’s mannequins) to miss it.

So there we have it. My favourite anime from the titles I reviewed over the course of 2017. What were your favourite shows of the past year? Let me know in the comments section below. I am keen to hear suggestions on what I should watch next. Animated entertainment is just what I need to perk up my spirits, after participating in a tense court case. Four hours, in a tiny room, deliberating a verdict is no fun. We couldn’t even step outside for lunch and therefore had to make do with a free cheddar roll. Talk about cheesy compensation!

Review of Super Mario Odyssey

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Bowser has once again kidnapped Princess Peach. Despite the best efforts of Anita Sarkeesian, the video game trope of damsels in distress is very much alive and well. King Koopa plans to force the monarch into an unwilling marriage, which I don’t understand. Given the choice, I would rather be wed to the sexier Rosalina. Anyways, when royalty needs rescuing who do you call? If you answered Special Forces you would be mistaken. Time to hire a plumber me thinks. Mario sets off on a globe trotting adventure to save Peach and joining him for the ride is a sentient piece of headgear named Cappy.

OVERVIEW

Gone are the days when Mario would dress like a racoon and devour mushrooms to acquire special powers. Mario Odyssey sees Nintendo’s mascot steal Kirby’s talent of mimicking enemies, which he accomplishes by placing his hat on their noggin. There are tons of foes that Mario can possess with this new mechanic. Some examples that stood out during my play through include giant dinosaurs, yellow taxicabs, amphibians that ribbit and turtles armed with frying pans. Cappy can also be tossed to grab out of reach coins or to destroy objects from a distance. Wreck stuff by hurling a hat? Bond villain Oddjob would approve.

In terms of gameplay Odyssey reminds me most of Sunshine and Mario 64. Thankfully the abovementioned Cappy is a better companion than that detestable FLUDD. Levels are open world affairs where you hunt down Moons, which are the power source of the craft that transports you across kingdoms. As expected from a Mario title the platforming is solid thanks to the responsive controls. I was however a tad miffed that certain moves cannot be activated in handheld mode. Said advanced abilities require that you shake the Joycons. A decade since the Wii’s launch and Nintendo are still pressuring players to strain their wrists with unwanted motion interfaces.

VERDICT

My rating for Super Mario Odyssey is a five out of five. In a weird way the game reminds me of Bloodborne. Both titles are games that I had little interest in playing, only tried because they came bundled with the console and ended up loving anyway. That’s a surprise because I am no Nintendo fan boy. My dad bought me a Megadrive, during the height of the 16-bit wars, so I was conditioned at an early age to revile Mario. Not even adolescent brainwashing can make me dislike a game with such creative stages though. Adding to the charm are the colourful graphics, which prove that the Switch doesn’t have to be a technological powerhouse to rival its competitors in the visual department.

The soundtrack is top notch too, with my favourite tune being Jump Up Superstar sung by Kate Davis. I estimate that it took me around twelve hours to complete the main story. That may not sound like much content, but fear not because there are plenty of collectibles to discover in the post game. If exploration isn’t your thing don’t worry because Toad is willing to point you in the right direction in exchange for some gold. Super Mario Odyssey is a title that every Switch owner should add to his or her library. Good job Nintendo. I tip my hat (or should that be Cappy) to you.

Review of Kakegurui

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I have never understood the appeal of gambling, which makes me wonder how I have managed to survive a decade working for online casinos. Gambling isn’t like playing a video game, were you part with cash in exchange for a good story or fun entertainment. In my experience gamblers only derive satisfaction from a big win. Why then trap yourself in a loop of spending cash to make cash? If you want to accrue money, squandering savings on games (were the odds are stacked heavily against you) is illogical. Watching a character stake everything on the roll of a dice can make for tense situations though, which is something that works of fiction like Kakegurui thrive on.

OVERVIEW

Hyakkaou Private Academy is the school where the wealthy elite sends their offspring to study. When you are set for life there isn’t much incentive to earn qualifications, so the students there spend much of their time gambling against each other. I thought that gambling was illegal in Japan, but I guess when you are rich the law doesn’t apply to you. In the words of Seto Kaiba – “screw the rules, I have money.” Those who get lucky at Hyakkaou will prosper financially and make connections that will serve them in good stead later in life. Unfortunates, who go into debt, however are branded pets and condemned to an existence of humiliation at the hands of their peers.

Kakegurui is a twelve-episode anime based on Homura Kawamoto’s manga. The series follows transfer student Yumeko Jabami, as she competes in games of Poker, Concentration and Janken. At first glance Yumeko appears to be a sweet and courteous young lady. Whilst in the midst of a match however her dark side manifests. Games of chance are her biggest pleasure in life and she is darn good at them, thanks to an exceptional memory and ability to read people. Her success catches the attention of the student council who proceed to challenge Yumeko for control of the gambling den that masquerades as a school. Will her luck hold or will she “bust” out… and no I’m not referring to the chest she exposes in the ED.

VERDICT

My rating for Kakegurui is four and a half stars. When it comes to gambling anime this series is leagues ahead of something like Rio: Rainbow Gate. Both those shows have a fair amount of fan service, but Kakegurui stands out because it has substance to go along with the aesthetically pleasing visuals. The encounters between Yumeko and the student council are thrilling affairs filled with suspense, strategy and mind games. The outcome of a match is never certain. Perspective Yumeko triumphs sometimes, in a rigged game, by noticing how her opponent cheats. Other times however Yumeko loses and is only able to recover by courting the aid of rivals that she has previously vanquished.

The eccentric cast is another reason why I enjoyed Kakegurui. Hyakkaou’s student body, for example, contains a one-eyed gunslinger named Midari Ikishima. She doesn’t care one iota about currency so when it comes to wagering she elects to stake her life in games of Russian roulette. The student council’s ranks also include a loli gamer, a pop idol and a masked vice president. Ryota Suzui, who Yumeko liberates from bankruptcy in episode one, is the only character I would describe as plain. In any other show he would be the dull male protagonist, but thankfully in Kakegurui he is just a sidekick. Enigmatic Yumeko is the star of the show and the chief reason why I eagerly anticipate the release of season two. This show’s gambling sequel bet-ter arrive soon.

The Top Five Games I Reviewed in 2017

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The year 2017 was a great time for video games. It was a little too great in fact. The sheer quantity of excellent titles, which came out, was so vast that I only managed to play a small fraction of them. Many releases that other sites have named in their best of year lists remain in my backlog unopened. Still, who cares about my first world problems? Below are the finest games that I managed to complete and review in the past twelve months.

5th) Miitopia: Nintendo has discontinued the Miiverse, but at least we can say that the franchise went out on a high note, courtesy of this casual RPG. Players assemble a party of real life friends and celebrities to battle the wicked Dark Lord, who is responsible for nabbing the faces of innocents. The game’s lack of interactivity (you only have direct control of one character) will put off some hardcore gamers, but I was able to overlook that fault thanks to the title’s charm and humour. Goodbye cute Miis. You shall be mii-ssed.

4th) Last Day of June: From a pure gameplay perspective, Last Day of June is arguably the weakest entry in this list. It compensates for its shortcomings however with an emotional, short but sweet, story. Players take control of wheelchair bound Carl, who attempts to save his fiancé from a fatal car crash by using mystical portraits that transport him to the past. The game boasts some clever third person puzzles, a beautiful soundtrack and graphics reminiscent of a Tim Burton stop-motion movie. Well worth the three hours it takes to complete.

3rd) Sonic Mania: After a number of recent flops, Sonic the Hedgehog returned to prominence in 2017 thanks to Sonic Mania. Indie programmer Christian Whitehead ended up overshadowing Sonic Forces with this effort. Mania delivers the look and feel of vintage Sonic that veteran fans have been demanding for years. It plays just like the classic Megadrive trilogy thanks to its excellent music, multi-path 2D stages and retro pixel graphics. Brilliant stuff, even if the dizzying sphere collecting mini-game still makes me nauseous.

2nd) Danganronpa V3: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Danganronpa V3 once again features sixteen trapped juveniles who are forced to compete in a death game by a beary demented teddy. Recycling the same plot for a third successive occasion should feel stale, but thanks to a quirky cast and some unexpected twists V3 remains just as captivating as its predecessors. This anime themed murder mystery is easily the best visual novel I read in 2017. Even if the big reveal at the end is a tad polarizing, don’t let that put you off. V3 is one of those experiences were the journey is more important than the destination.

1st) Persona 5: The phantom thieves steal the top spot. Even if the cast aren’t as likable as their Persona 4 counterparts, I still loved this stylish RPG. It’s ironic that in a year were I moan about lack of gaming time, I ended up getting immersed in a game were time management is of the utmost importance. Should I dungeon crawl to advance the story or socialize to unlock new abilities? Those decisions are what make Persona so enjoyable. Work may limit my gaming sessions these days, but when something this good comes out it’s amazing how one’s schedule can be rearranged to accommodate a 100-hour tour de force.

So there you have it, my favourite games of 2017. The top three pretty much picked themselves, but I had a tougher time filling in the final two slots. Chaos;Child, Fire Emblem Echoes and Monument Valley are honourable mentions that narrowly missed the cut. But enough about my selection, what were your best games of the year? Let me know in the comments section below. It will be a big help in helping me prioritize what to play next from my enormous backlog.

Review of King’s Game

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Great concept. Poor execution. That’s how I would summarize this anime adaptation of a Japanese cell phone novel. Wait, what? Cell phone novel? People actually write books on their mobile? Due to my stubby fingers I can barely type “hello” on a phone keypad, let alone an entire story. Bah, whatever. King’s Game stars a group of students who one fateful day start to receive text messages from an anonymous source. The texts request that each pupil perform a task within a specified time limit, or they will be executed in a most gruesome manner. Things start off simple enough, with orders requesting that the unfortunate teens kiss each other. After a while however, things escalate to the point were participants are expected to hack off their limbs in order to survive.

OVERVIEW

Transfer student Nobuaki Kanazawa is the protagonist of this sordid tale. In episode one we learn that in his previous school he participated in a King’s Game and emerged as the contest’s sole survivor. How he escaped with his life is beyond me, as he is a crybaby who regularly offers to sacrifice himself for the sake of casual acquaintances. The only time Nobuaki didn’t shed tears was during a 24 hour stint were the King decreed that anyone who sobs will be slain. Many of the show’s early episodes are peppered with flashbacks detailing the events that occurred in the previous King’s Game. The callbacks, to what transpired in Nobuaki’s last school, became so frequent that I began to wonder why studio Seven didn’t adapt that story instead and save this plot for a sequel.

Danganronpa has conditioned me to expect that, in these type of death games, the mastermind orchestrating the murders is one of the protagonist’s classmates. That wasn’t the case in King’s Game. Nor is the culprit a supernatural force, as was the case in the vastly superior Another. If you want to watch teens die in creative ways watch that show instead. The root of the King’s Game is basically influenza, which has somehow mutated into a computer virus. I’m not sure how a mobile phone Trojan causes people to spontaneously combust though. Nor am I sure why digital germs would demand that adolescents partake in sexual intercourse and race each other in a marathon. Malicious code has come a long way since the days when it would merely slow down your PC!

VERDICT

My rating for King’s Game is a one out of five. Battle royale shows can be compelling, as they show how different people react when placed in a life or death struggle. That only works however when the cast act in a believable manner. What ruins King’s Game is how brain dead everyone is. Despite being outnumbered, one villainous girl is permitted to run roughshod over her entire class. People calmly speak to their chums whilst on fire. A girl willingly saves the person who broke her hand a few seconds prior. Sweet and innocent children turn into complete psychopaths with no prompting whatsoever. Students dropping like flies, on a daily basis, don’t attract the attention of parents or law enforcement. I can suspend my disbelief when it comes to fiction, but only so far.

As you can imagine from a twelve episode series that has a huge cast, the characterisation is poor. King’s Game does the Akame Ga Kill trick of only fleshing out its characters moments before they die, in a vain attempt to make the audience feel sad at their demise. It didn’t work for me and the slog to the finale wasn’t worth it, as it all culminates in an unsatisfying “to be continued.” Wow, how optimistic. I can’t imagine this anime ever getting a second season. King’s Game is only worth watching with copious amounts of alcohol and friends who will join you in laughing at it’s silliness. The only thing I enjoyed about the show was the opening tune “Feed the Fire.” Coldrain’s rocking song is wasted on this series. The script is so weak I really can believe it was penned on a mobile.

The Otaku Judge: 2017 in Review

 

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There once was a time when WordPress would generate a report detailing a blog’s performance on the first day of every year. It’s a practice they sadly ceased in 2016, so it falls upon me to manually compile 2017’s statistics myself. To be honest I rarely check my site’s metrics, but it’s nice to look at the figures on an annual basis to see how The Otaku Judge fared in the past twelve months. Based on the comments I receive, readers seem to enjoy the yearly summaries so let’s keep the tradition going by crunching those numbers.

◙ Views: Last year my site received 22,741 hits. Not quite enough to beat the all time record of 22,846, but on the plus side it was over two thousand more views than I got in the previous year. During the course of 2017 the blog attracted the most visitors ever. Thank you to the 13,344 visitors who dropped by, be you long time followers, new subscribers or random perverts searching for cat girl porn (my most popular search term apparently.)

Top Attractions: If we only focus on 2017 posts and disregard things like the home page, the most popular reviews/articles of 2017 were…

1. Brave Dungeon: Just like last year, my most read post features the word dungeon.
2. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: One of the funnier anime I watched in 2017.
3. Five Flaming Hotties: I listed off my five sexiest anime ladies.

Sakura Dungeon topped the 2016 list and obscure 3DS game Brave Dungeon claimed the number one spot in 2017. I wonder if another dungeon crawler will keep this trend going in 2018.

Where did they come from: No change here. The United States, United Kingdom and Canada remain my biggest markets. For the first time ever India cracked the top four nations to visit my blog. Other places that my readers hail from include Australia, Germany, Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil.

Who are they: To finish off let’s mention my five most active commenters…

1. Raistlin0903: Reviews movies, TV and anime. He didn’t like the Last Jedi.
2. The Things I’ve Seen: A talented artist from Ireland who writes about movies.
3. Man in Black: Specializes in foreign films, anime and wrestling. Owns a pug.
4. Matt Doyle: An author who blogs about geek culture. Awesome cosplayer.
5. Jon Spencer: Aniblogger who covers games/movies too. Hat on question mark.

Happy new year to all my followers. Thank you very much for the support. In case you are wondering, I hope to release my Top 5 anime and games of 2017 in the not too distant future. A bit late perhaps, but it’s tough to write content when my job kicked off 2018 with twelve successive shifts!

Review of Rio: Rainbow Gate

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Rio Rollins is Howard Resort’s most popular croupier. Dubbed “the Goddess of Victory” she has the magical ability to bless gamblers, who visit her table, with good fortune. I wonder why her employer keeps Rio around, given the liability her winning touch must incur. Oh well, never mind. Rio: Rainbow Gate isn’t a show that concerns itself with logic. In addition to her regular duties, Rio competes in the MVCD tournament that pits casino dealers against each other. Winning a duel grants the victor a mystical Gate Card. Once a participant has amassed all thirteen cards the titular Rainbow Gate shall open, which could potentially answer the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Rio’s mom.

OVERVIEW

Proving that you can make an anime about virtually anything, Rio: Rainbow Gate is based on a fictional character that is used to promote pachinko machines over in Japan. The folks at studio Xebec didn’t have much material to work with so they have opted to entertain with humour and lashings of eye candy. Rio’s default uniform showcases her breasts and the garments she wears during Gate matches are even skimpier. Not to be outdone, the support cast includes a trio of bunny girls and some well-endowed ladies who are dressed in gowns that flaunt their ample cleavage.

Speaking of the cast, the show’s characters are nothing more than one-note caricatures. Rio’s protégée Anya Helsing is a klutz, whose sole standout feature is that she trips over in ever scene. Busty android Linda meanwhile hides her lack of personality by getting decapitated whenever onscreen. Just like the cast, the duels that Rio participates in lack depth. Blackjack and Roulette are games of chance, rather than skill, so the anime tries to spice up the encounters by pitting Rio against rivals who possess super strength, telekinesis and influence over probability. After a while the show gives up on casino games, opting instead to have Rio compete in a waterslide race and various virtual reality arenas.

VERDICT

My rating for Rio: Rainbow Gate is a two and a half out of five. I expect most people will detest this series. If you can forgive the weak storytelling however it can be fun to watch, in a “its so bad its good” sort of way. Thirteen episodes of mediocrity can be overlooked if you have a soft spot for corny gags and beautiful women. I think the series is at its best when it focuses on silly episodic tales, such as the time when Rio crossed swords with a KFC loving ghost. The script fares less well when it tries to add some drama to the mix. Perhaps the sombre story arc that sees Rio challenge a tycoon, named Cartia Goltschmidt, would have worked better if it didn’t hinge on a betrayal you can see coming a mile away.

Another thing that didn’t work for me was the finale. The way that Rio: Rainbow Gate’s conclusion plays out must rank as the most cringe-worthy/ridiculous thing I have seen in 2017. Given that I watched Wonder Momo a few weeks ago that’s saying a lot! I can only speculate that the series was performing poorly with audiences, so studio Xebec stopped caring and decided to go out full retard. If that were the case though, why would they end episode thirteen with some sequel bait? This anime has niche appeal. Gambling on a second season is a wager that not even the Goddess of Victory can help you win.