Anime I Watched Recently – 21st July 2018

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Darling in the Franxx

Anime has no respect for child labour laws. Darling in the Franxx takes a leaf from the Eva playbook, in that it employs youngsters to pilot giant mechs. The adolescents use these bots to protect Plantations (mobile human settlements) against attacks from subterranean beings known as Klaxosaurs. Voltron has taught us that it takes multiple folks to control a robot and the same is true in this twenty-four episode series. Just like in Pacific Rim, a pair of people is required to operate the titular Franxx. Specifically, the machines are steered by a boy and a girl. Why? Cos it’s the perfect excuse to ship characters together!

I enjoyed Darling in the Franxx quite a bit, even if the last few episodes got a bit chaotic and weird. The action scenes are enjoyable to watch, providing that you can get over the unconventional mech designs. Robots with cartoony facial features look weird to me… and this is coming from someone who grew up watching the Gobots! Just like Evangelion, this isn’t a basic mech show were the heroes simply beat a monster of the week. As the plot progresses expect some twists and for conspiracies to unravel. There’s a bit of romance too, between protagonists Hiro and his horned co-pilot Zero Two. She’s a literal man-eater, who has a reputation of devouring partners after three missions.

RATING: FOUR AND A HALF HORNY WAIFUS

Lostorage conflated WIXOSS

The fourth instalment of a J.C. Staff production concocted to promote a children’s card game. Just like its predecessors, Conflated features high school students who duel each other by commanding diminutive ladies (called LRIGs) with the aid of a deck. Poker has got nothing on this high stakes game. The penalty for defeat is amnesia and in severe cases losers may even get erased from existence. New to this series is the ability to summon two LRIGs onto the field. Another rule worth mentioning is that the vanquished must surrender their LRIG to their opponent. Kind of like marbles then, only that instead of handing over a glass sphere upon defeat you have to give up a cute waifu.

In terms of story Conflated is arguably the weakest entry in the WIXOSS franchise. The script rehashes ideas from past seasons and lacks the big WTF surprises we have come to expect from the series. All that said I still enjoyed the anime. It was neat seeing the heroines of seasons one and three interact with each other. The finale also does a fine job of wrapping up a show that started its life way back in 2014. Recommended to fans of Madoka Magica, as both shows share some narrative similarities. Also might appeal to former Yu-Gi-Oh viewers who seek something with more depth and less crazy hairstyles.

RATING: THREE AND A HALF TRAP CARDS

What more information on these shows? If so check out…

Anime Q and A’s assessment of the first fifteen Darling in the Franxx episodes.

Jon Spencer’s retrospective of the WIXOSS series.

Uma Musume Pretty Derby

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Sorry guys, I am burnt out on writing full-length reviews. Blame the hot summer weather for sapping all my enthusiasm! From now on I think I’ll just type out brief summaries on the stuff I have watched recently. To make up for the lack of detail the posts will include a link to a more detailed review from a fellow (more talented) blogger.

We’ve had female warships, female felines, female consoles and now the time has come for female racehorses. Uma Musume Pretty Derby is a glorified advert for an upcoming mobile phone game. Thankfully, unlike most anime based on a video game, this one is pretty (derby) entertaining. Part sport show and part “cute girls doing cute things” series, this thirteen-episode P.A. Works production follows a clumsy gal named Special Week. She has travelled from the countryside to the big city with the aims of fulfilling the promise she made to her mother – become the best horse girl in Japan!

The show offers a nice mix of comedy (were Special Week and friends “horse” around) and serious sport drama. Pretty Derby also has pop idol component to it, were winners celebrate their victory by dancing on stage. The scriptwriters however seem to forget about the idea after the first few episodes. One cool thing I discovered, after watching the series, is that the characters and story lines are all based off genuine Japanese racehorses. Haru Urara, a minor character that always finishes last, for example is named after a mare who has never won a race. The poor girl has lost more competitions than England has lost World Cups!

FINAL SCORE: FOUR CARROTS OUT OF FIVE

Check out the Yuri Nation’s opinion of the anime by clicking HERE.

Build a Harem

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Alfredo Pasta, a talented blogger who writes about Spaghetti and anime, has nominated me for the “Build a Harem” challenge. Be sure to check out his excellent site by clicking HERE. Said challenge demands that I form a quintet of anime ladies. Okay, let’s get to it then. To make things interesting I’ll avoid picking anyone from last year’s Five Flaming Hotties lineup. Here are the rules by the way…

The ‘Build A Harem’ Tag Rules:

  1. Link back to the original post on Anime Q and A so they can check out everyone’s picks!
  2. Use the ‘Build A Harem’ logo somewhere in the post.
  3. Make sure to mention the person who nominated you too!
  4. Pick 5 Anime Characters (any show & any gender) that would be in your ideal harem if you were the main character of a harem anime, explain a little bit as to why they are your picks (if you want).
  5. Make sure each character you pick falls into some of the following harem character types: Childhood friend, tom boy/girl, genki girl/boy, loli/shota, trap, tsundere, yandere, kuudere, dandere, etc. (If there’s a character you’ve picked that doesn’t specifically fall into one of these types or falls into multiple types that’s fine too!
  6. Nominate 5 people to participate in this tag!


ELSIE (THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOW) THE KLUTZ

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The World God Only Knows is a hilarious show about a gamer that has to seduce girls, in order to liberate them from demonic possession. I enjoyed most of the anime, but have avoided the third season thus far. As someone who loved the manga I suspect the series finale will frustrate me, due to all the content that was cut out. Elsie makes it into my harem, as she is a rare example of a clumsy character that isn’t annoying. Her fondness for fire trucks is cute and I approve of her cleaning skills. That’s something I look for in a love interest, as I loathe doing housework.

ESDEATH (AKAME GA KILL) THE SADISTIC ONE

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Akame Ga Kill has a large cast of wonderful characters. Shame then that most of them get needlessly killed off for pure shock value. Esdeath, the villainess who manipulates ice, would make a “cool” addition to my harem. Many harem shows include a token violent girl in the group and they don’t come more bloodthirsty than Esdeath. I guess you can’t be a pacifist when your moniker includes the word death in it. Thankfully I should be safe from her cruelty, as she is surprisingly romantic towards main characters.

CHISAKI HIRADAIRA (A LULL IN THE SEA) CHILDHOOD FRIEND

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A Lull in the Sea is an exceptional anime that I highly recommend to drama fans everywhere. The series starts out with undersea inhabitants transferring to a school on the surface world, before transforming into a romance show that boasts the messiest love triangle I have ever seen. Out of the show’s many childhood friends Chisaki is the most mature, both mentally and physically. This girl from the sea comes equipped with some nice floatation devices on her chest. Later in life she studies medicine, so she ticks the nurse fetish box too.

MORIOKA MORIKO (RECOVERY OF AN MMO JUNKIE) QUIET GIRL

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Out of all the females mentioned in this post Moriko is the one who resembles me the most. Shy, thirty year old, introvert who barely speaks pretty much sums me up to a T. Providing we could ever pluck up the courage to start up a conversation, I think Moriko and myself could easily bond over our shared passion for online games. As someone who has previously suffered from Warcraft addiction I however suspect that the relationship would trigger an MMORPG relapse. Must resist the urge to re-subscribe and level up my Paladin.

SHANA (SHAKUGAN NO SHANA) TSUNDERE

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Shakugan No Shana is a series I have mixed feelings about. The first season was brill, but it went downhill from there. Season two suffered from a rushed finale, after wasting too much time on filler, and the plot of series three made no sense. My misgivings aside, protagonist Shana is worthy of joining my harem. This petit Flame Haze looks great with either black or crimson hair. Despite being a no nonsense swordfighter she has that tsundere charm of getting easily flustered. When embarrassed she is known to yell out “Urusai! Urusai! Urusai!”

All right, the five gal quota has been filled. This challenge was tougher than I initially thought. Anime is packed with likable women, but selecting ones that fit the traditional harem archetypes wasn’t easy. I’ll conclude the post by inviting other bloggers to name their harem of fictional animated characters. The famous five I elect are…

Death Metal Florist

John Jr.

Man in Black

Raistlin0903

WeeaBro Derek

Omega Labyrinth Z Banned in the West

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Right now I am enjoying the Muv-Luv visual novels that recently got released on PlayStation Vita. The highly acclaimed trilogy came to the system courtesy of a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign. Muv-Luv starts out as a high school harem rom-com, in the first title, before transitioning into a sci-fi mech adventure in the later sequels. If you are interested in downloading the games be sure to manually search for them in the PSN store. Sony’s inept European staff never bothered to list either VN on their New Release listings. Guess they really hate anything that publisher PQube brings out.

Case in point, earlier this week it was announced on PQube’s website that Omega Labyrinth Z won’t be getting a Western localization after all. A handful of prudish nations (including Australia the kings of censorship) refused to give the dungeon crawler an age rating, thus barring it from being sold in their retail outlets. The rest of the world was however expected to get the game at some point this year. Unfortunately for RPG fans Sony has scuppered those plans at the eleventh hour. A press release from PQube reveals that Sony has effectively banned the game in the US and EU…

“In the case of Omega Labyrinth Z, while PQube has worked with all relevant age rating bodies in their respective territories, PQube must respectfully comply with the wishes of the platform holder and have therefore withdrawn any future plans for Omega Labyrinth Z’s European and North American release.”

When I say Sony I mean their European and America branches, because the game came out last year in Japan without incident. Shame that said Asian version doesn’t carry English subtitles, because that would have allowed prospective buyers to import it. Thank you very much Sony Europe/America for policing what grown adults can buy. You are okay with profiting from games that revel in graphic murder (God of War) but heaven forbid that an eighteen year old gets to play something that features cute cartoon girls. Better not tell them that their Crunchyoll app already allows people to view ecchi content on their machine.

I feel bad for PQube because they must be out of pocket, after going through the expense of translating a game they can no longer sell. Meanwhile the folks at Sony have accelerated the death of their handheld with this decision. Banning games is not going to help the lifespan of a system that is starving for new releases. One thing that concerns me is the signal that Sony has sent out. Game publishers are hesitant to localize niche games because they aren’t big sellers. I suspect in future even fewer quirky titles from Japan will reach our shores. The risk is too great when the threat of a potential Sony ban hangs over their heads.

Review of Jurassic World

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Back, when I was a wee lad, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I could even rattle off their scientific names, which is a wonder given that these days I cannot even pronounce the surnames of foreign footballers. My love of prehistoric creatures was replaced with robots however, once the Transformers cartoon came to my attention. I briefly rediscovered how cool dinos can be when I watched Denver the Last Dinosaur… um I mean the original Jurassic Park. Sadly, the sequel movies weren’t very good. Over two decades after Steven Spielberg wowed audiences with the first film, a wild Jurassic World has appeared. Can it revitalize the franchise? Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

Our tale begins with two youngsters (Zach and Gray) preparing for a trip. Aside from their suitcases, the boys are carrying the (emotional) baggage of their parents getting divorced. Hopefully visiting the Jurassic World theme park will help to get their thoughts away from such depressing matters. If you ask me Disney Land would have made for a more fun vacation, but I guess they got free tickets because their aunt is the park manager. Auntie Claire won’t have much time to spent with her nephews though, as she is busy working on a new attraction. In order to keep attendances up, management have genetically engineered a lizard that is deadlier than a T-Rex. What could possibly go wrong?

In news that should surprise no one, the above-mentioned Indominus Rex escapes from its enclosure. Owen Grady, a raptor trainer played by Chris Pratt, is tasked with capturing the beast before it begins to chow down on tasty customers. Pratt cements his place as a creditable Hollywood action star with this performance. He kicks arse in the movie, but isn’t able to emulate the charisma seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Part of the reason is that he doesn’t have funny sidekicks to banter with. Owen is instead paired up with redhead Claire, for a shoehorned romance that lacks chemistry. If you ask me, Owen had a closer relationship with the raptors. Who can blame him? No one likes gingers.

VERDICT

Overall, I think this movie does enough to save the series from extinction. I wasn’t ever bored, even if the two-hour running time was a little excessive. The hunt for a bloodthirsty dinosaur didn’t need to be padded out with a military subplot, which revolved around the creation of chimeras. One thing that I found daft was that Claire spends the entire film wearing high heels. Not the best choice of footwear for someone who is constantly running away from danger. I guess no matter what, life… um style finds a way. Midway during the film actress Bryce Dallas Howard unbuttons her blouse. I suspect the move was to get viewers to stare at her cleavage, rather than her ridiculous shoes.

My rating for Jurassic World is a three out of five. It lacks the magic and suspense of the original, but is entertaining to watch (which is more than I can say for the last two movies.) The dinosaur effects are decent and help to mask how bland the human characters are. I didn’t feel anything when people got gobbled up. On the flip side there were moments were I felt sympathy for the wildlife casualties. These included the passing of a mortally wounded Brontosaurus and the scene where a juvenile Triceratops is assaulted. Sniff, poor dinosaurs. When I finish this review I’m going to watch a cartoon to cheer up. How about The Land Before Time? It looks cute, so I am certain it is devoid of any heart-breaking tragedies.

Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Lucasfilm’s output has increased dramatically ever since the Disney acquisition. There was a time when you would have to wait years for a new Lucasfilm release. Nowadays the studio churns out Star Wars flicks with the frequency that EA brings out a FIFA game. For the foreseeable future cinemagoers can expect to see a mainline Star Wars movie or a prequel spin-off on an annual basis. Rogue One was the first Star Wars prequel, under the Disney banner, to come out and following on its heels is Solo: A Star Wars Story. Over the course of 135 minutes this feature film chronicles how the titular smuggler met Chewbacca and how he got his mitts on the iconic Millennium Falcon.

OVERVIEW

Solo is an intergalactic heist adventure directed by Lord and Miller. Um, I mean directed by Ron Howard. The duo responsible for the hilarious Lego movies were axed from the project, as they allegedly didn’t stick to Jonathan Kasdan’s script. Shame, because the pair’s comedic flair could have bolstered several lines of cringey dialogue. Anyways, moving back on topic. Solo sees Han and Chewie team up with a veteran criminal named Tobias Beckett (played by Woody Harrelson.) The trio have been hired by the Crimson Dawn syndicate to steal some precious coaxium fuel. If the group can successfully pull off the robbery they shall be rich beyond their wildest dreams. Should they fail however, they shall be killed quicker than Captain Phasma in an action scene.

Joining the abovementioned rogues are Han’s childhood sweetheart Qi’ra, along with L3-37 and Lando Calrissian. L3-37 surprised me by being the film’s funniest character. She is a parody of modern day social justice warriors (so much so that feminist money grubber Anita Sarkeesian recently bashed the bot on Twitter.) Just like a rabid SJW, this mechanical lady trumpets the cause of racial equality – in this case rights for androids. Donald Glover meanwhile takes the award for best performance with his portrayal of Lando. Glover has more charisma than Lando has capes and that is saying a lot. In one scene viewers see that the future head of Cloud City needs an entire wardrobe just to store his collection of dashing capes.

VERDICT

My rating for Solo: A Star Wars Story is a three out of five. It’s better than the underwhelming trailer suggests, but lacks the magic and grandeur one expects from this franchise. The movie feels more like Firefly than Star Wars. All that said Solo was more fun to watch than the disappointing Last Jedi. I dug the action sequences, even if the drama is somewhat hamstrung by the story being a prequel. No matter how precarious things get, given the tale’s place in the Star Wars timeline, you know that at the very least Han, Chewie and Lando will escape unscathed. Alden Ehrenreich’s acting was a mixed bag. I never bought that he is Han Solo. He was however a likable enough protagonist and had good onscreen chemistry with his hairy sidekick Chewbacca.

I reckon that the movie would have benefitted from a trim on the cutting room floor. The straightforward plot didn’t need to exceed two hours in my opinion. For the most part the story is predictable, although there are a few neat twists in the final act. I was especially surprised by the identity of Crimson Dawn’s true mastermind. Fingers crossed that said villain will appear more prominently in a future prequel spin-off. Given its well-publicised production troubles Solo turned out more entertaining than it deserved to be. I wonder how this version of the film compares to the vision Lord and Miller had in mind. Sadly we shall never know as the directors were Lego… um let go.

Review of Deadpool 2

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There is no sign that the superhero movie genre is dying. Perhaps it is immortal, thanks to regenerative powers, just like Deadpool. Speaking of Deadpool, the merc with the mouth is back in a sequel to one of the most successful R rated flicks ever. In this follow up to the 2016 hit, Deadpool abandons the life of an assassin and becomes an X-Man instead. Correction. He becomes an X-Men trainee. Wade Wilson’s inaugural X-Men mission doesn’t go well though, culminating in him shooting a care worker in the head. The murder lands him in the slammer, where he grudgingly befriends a tubby teenage mutant named Firefist.

OVERVIEW

James Cameron recently moaned about the number of superhero movies that are coming out. If you ask me he is just bitter, because Marvel characters love to rip off his ideas. Deadpool 2 for example shares more than a passing resemblance to the Terminator. In this film Deadpool is tasked with protecting a youngster from a time travelling cyborg. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The cyborg in question is a chap named Cable, who is played by Josh Brolin. Cable has set his sights on Firefist, as the obese mutant is responsible for the death of his family in the future. Why must overweight people cause so much pain? I still haven’t forgiven Israel’s Eurovision singer for harming my ears with her terrible music.

In order to take down Cable our masked hero assembles a team that he dubs X-Force. Poking fun at political correctness, Deadpool explains that X-Force is more progressive than X-Men, as their moniker is gender neutral. X-Force’s ranks include Old Spice muscleman Terry Crews, an invisible bloke named Vanisher and an alien called Shatterstar. Their screen time pales in comparison to Domino, who happens to be the group’s sole female recruit. Domino, who is portrayed by Atlanta actress Zazie Beetz, possesses the powers of cleavage, crazy hair and good luck. In some ways she reminds me of Fortune from Metal Gear Solid 2.

VERDICT

Deadpool 2 is the type of movie I suspect I will enjoy more on repeated viewings. The script is so packed with jokes that multiple screenings will be required to catch all the gags. I also think that my opinion of the film was affected by overly high expectations. Still who can blame me? Deadpool was my favourite release of 2016 and prior to watching the sequel I kept hearing from acquaintances how funny it is. To be honest I didn’t laugh during the first forty minutes, of this two-hour feature. Part of the reason is the tragedy that befalls Deadpool in the first act, but it must also be said that I didn’t find the meta quips and pop culture references to be all that amusing either.

Thankfully things pick up once Deadpool forms X-Force. I found the scene were the team parachutes down, to rescue Firefist, hilarious. The action ramps up from that point too. I was impressed by the fight choreography that director David Leitch (of John Wick fame) brought to the table. Josh Brolin’s performance was also excellent. The man behind Thanos worked well as the straight man to Ryan Reynolds’ zany Deadpool. Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Akin to Guardians of the Galaxy, this film knows how to enhance a scene by utilizing nostalgic tunes. Overall I enjoyed the original Deadpool more, as it had a tighter story, but Deadpool 2 still holds up as a solid continuation to the series. My rating is three and a half Chimichangas out of five.