Review of Aggretsuko

Aggretsuko

Sanrio is a company that specializes in cute merchandise. Even if you haven’t heard of them, I am sure that you at least recognize one of their creations – Hello Kitty. Unlike the South Park character Butters, who enjoys playing Hello Kitty Online, I can’t say that I am a fan of said feline. It’s just too girlie and wholesome for a degenerate such as myself. From the Sanrio stable of characters Aggretsuko is much more to my liking. This ten-episode anime series has the adorable visuals of Hello Kitty, but is more geared towards an adult audience. It follows the misadventures of a twenty-five year old red panda, named Retsuko, who struggles to survive the drudgery of office life. When the stress of it all gets too much, she vents out her frustrations by rocking out to death metal tunes at the local karaoke parlor.

OVERVIEW

Retsuko is a character that I imagine most of my older readers can relate to. Every weekday, in order to pay the bills, she makes the rush hour pilgrimage to work. After escaping the packed subway she has to endure hours of tedium sitting behind a computer screen, number crunching balance sheets. Her boss is a literal sexist pig who does little at the office, other than practice his golf swings and pester Retsuko for cups of tea. I sympathize with her plight, although I can’t say that any of my co-workers ever bug me for a cuppa. When it comes to beverages the only thing I can muster is black coffee from the machine. Anyone foolish enough to ask me for a brew soon learns to never make such a request ever again. Evidently I am terrible at judging the precise amount of milk/sugar dehydrated members of staff want.

Perhaps life would be more pleasant for Retsuko if she had a backbone? Unfortunately for her she is too darn nice. She is the type of person who will visit a clothing store and buy a token pair of socks, rather than suffer the guilt of leaving the establishment empty handed. At work when things get hectic, rather than speak up for herself, she retreats to the restroom. There she counts up to ten, in order to regain her composure. Over the show’s ten instalments Retsuko makes passive attempts to flee the horrors of her company’s accountancy department. She tries to line up another job and also gets her buddies, from yoga class, to report Retsuko’s boss for harassment. When neither plan bears fruit she decides instead to find a man. Getting hitched will presumably unlock the shackles of full-time employment and reward her with a cushier housewife existence.

VERDICT

My rating for Aggretsuko is four stars. If you are on the fence, on whether to give this series a watch, I would suggest that you take the plunge. Aggretsuko isn’t a big time commitment, as its episodes clock out on the fifteen minute mark. The show’s sense of humour was right up my alley, as it is rather dry and sarcastic. I wasn’t expecting that from an anime whose visuals are so colourful. Viewers who work corporate jobs are likely to recognize characters who resemble folks that they know in real life. Examples include Tsunoda the gazelle, who is the stereotypical beauty that kisses up to the boss. There’s also Kabae – a hippo who spreads gossip and bores anyone, who will listen, with stories of her family. My favourite character is Fenneko the fox. She stalks co-workers on social media and has a delightful laugh, which she blurts out whenever her pals find themselves in compromising situations.

Despite loving the gags, art style and supporting cast I was a bit disappointed with Aggretsuko’s protagonist. Her meek personality makes Retsuko an easy person to pity, but I can’t say that I approve of someone who seeks romance just to secure an easy meal ticket. From a male perspective I had to cringe when she turns down nice guy Haida the hyena. He made the cardinal sin of mentioning that it would be nice to work with his hypothetical future missus, rather than become the couple’s sole bread winner. In the later episodes Retsuko instead opts to date an inconsiderate pretty boy who has zero charisma. Aggretsuko’s writers clearly know how the world works, be it office politics or the dating game. No wonder red pandas are an endangered species. When it comes to boyfriends they make terrible life decisions.

 

Review of Violet Evergarden

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Two weeks ago I signed up for a Netflix trial, in order to watch Castlevania season two. When posting my review of said series I asked readers what else I should check out on Netflix. My followers have good taste, so I was certain they would leave some excellent recommendations. A few of you suggested that I stream Violet Evergarden. Plot twist – I had already seen the series a few months ago, via less legal means. The series is so good however that I didn’t mind re-watching it again. On this occasion, to freshen things up, I decided to try out the dub version. For those of you who are unaware, Violet Evergarden is a thirteen episode anime based off an award winning light novel trilogy of books. Since its broadcast an OVA has been released and a movie is scheduled to come out early in 2020.

OVERVIEW

Violet Evergarden is a battle hardened orphan girl who was picked up by navy officer Dietfried Bougainvillea during one of his missions. He recognized that anyone who resembles Saber (from the Fate franchise) must be a kick ass warrior. Dietfried ends up gifting Violet to his younger brother Gilbert on his birthday. Gilbert is a major in the army and has recently been ordered to tour the front lines. Dietfried hopes that Violet will serve as his sibling’s bodyguard during the dangerous operations that are to follow. Unlike his bro, who treats the protagonist like a tool, Gilbert showers Violet with kindness. He teaches her how to speak, buys her gifts and makes the ultimate sacrifice in the war’s decisive battle. When Violet is placed in peril, Gilbert saves her and sadly perishes in the process.

Miss Evergarden didn’t escape from the incident unscathed. She lost both arms and had them replaced with mechanical appendages. After recovering from her injuries, Violet is placed in the care of Gilbert’s pal Claudia Hodgins (who is a bloke, despite what his first name may suggest.) Hodgins runs a post office and eventually hires Violet for the position of Auto Memories Doll. In the nation where this anime takes place, Auto Memories Doll is a title given to females who specialize in writing letters for others. Violet seems suited for the position because, as Ghost in the Shell has taught us, women with robotic hands are speedy typists. She hopes that putting people’s feelings into words will teach her more about human emotions. Eventually she may even learn what Gilbert’s final words to her “I love you” meant.

VERDICT

I am awarding Violet Evergarden a score of five stars. This series is a strong contender for best anime I have watched in 2018. Whether others agree with that assessment or not will depend on their patience levels. The early episodes are slow paced affairs that chronicle how Violet learned the tools of the trade and how she bonded with her new coworkers. After that the show settles into a more episodic format. Violet’s reputation rises, attracting work from across the land. She travels far and wide to help scholars transcribe ancient texts and assists royalty with the composition of love letters. Although there are moments that are sweet and funny, I would advise anyone who watches this anime to keep a handkerchief close by. Scenes of grief are never too far away in this show. The episodes about the sickly mother and the one about the drunken novelist, who is writing a play, will summon the onion cutting ninjas who we last encountered in Clannad.

Some critics have complained that Violet isn’t a likable lead, as she is someone who struggles with expressing emotion. That surprised me, given anime’s history. Last time I checked Rei Ayanami and Ruri Hoshino are very popular with audiences, despite having cold personalities. Violet’s demeanor is understandable given that she grew up as a battlefield slave. One of the show’s highlights is seeing how she begins to open up more, thanks in part to her interactions with others. Another positive in the anime’s favor is the stellar animation and artwork. That should go without saying though, given that beautiful imagery is something we all have come to expect from a production by Kyoto Animation. Whether it’s a blonde typist trekking across the picturesque countryside or half naked guys swimming in a pool, they really know how to make things look pretty onscreen.

 

 

Review of Dragon Pilot

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Back when I was a kid, I grew up watching several cartoons that featured transformable planes. In a way, Dragon Pilot is similar to those classic shows from yesteryear. The key difference is that instead of robots in disguise we get giant lizards, which morph into fighter jets. Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan is a twelve-episode anime created by studio Bones. At the time of writing it is available to stream exclusively on Netflix. I haven’t seen many bloggers write about this series. That’s a shame because the anime is rather good. Perhaps some viewers were put off by the art style Bones went with? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though. I rather like the retro/moe aesthetics. The dragons are cute and their human pilots somewhat resemble Mako from Kill la Kill.

OVERVIEW

Hisone Amakasu is a girl who has no goals in life. When deciding on what career path to follow she elected to join the Air Force. The reason? She spotted a plane zooming across the sky, from her classroom window, whilst in the middle of filling out a job survey. When the series begins Hisone is stationed at the Gifu Air Base, where she works in an office. One day she is asked to deliver some paperwork to a nearby hanger, by her commanding officer. There she encounters the titular Masotan, who happens to be a giant dragon. It turns out that dragons are real and their existence has been made secret by the government. To keep dragons out of the public eye they are outfitted with armor, which Hisone likens to cosplay, that is capable of morphing the flying lizards into aircraft.

During this chance meeting it is decided that Hisone should become Masotan’s pilot. Unlike other potential candidates, that Masotan has rejected, he deems the girl worthy enough to gobble up! Don’t worry folks. Aside from being terrified by the sudden ingestion, Hisone is not harmed. Dragon Pilots command their partners from the comfort of the creature’s belly. Once a mission is complete they release the pilot via barfing. Apart from being slimy, dragon gastric juices are capable of dissolving conventional clothing. Hisone is therefore given a protective skintight suit. Getting chosen by a dragon is a rare honor, so Hisone should feel chuffed. It is however later discovered that Masotan only devoured her because of the old school flip phone she carried. Antiquated mobiles are apparently a dragon’s favorite snack.

VERDICT

My rating for Dragon Pilot is three and a half stars. It’s a sweet show that should appeal to viewers who enjoy cute slice of life anime. There isn’t much in the way of story. A good chunk of the series simply chronicles how Hisone bonds with Masotan, her flight training sessions and the cadet’s interactions with other pilots. Her peers include a geek named Lilikos and Mayumi, a chubby gal who likes to spoil her dragon with grub. One problem that Hisone suffers from is that she is a compulsive chatterbox. She cannot control the urge to blurt out what’s on her mind, which sometimes causes unintended offense. Her big mouth plays a factor in angering roommate Nao Kaizaki, who retaliates by bullying Hisone in the early episodes. Hisone also has a strained relationship with a no nonsense pilot named Elle Hoshino. The two clash over how Elle treats her dragon like a tool rather than a partner.

The only reason I am not giving Dragon Pilot a higher score is because of the final three episodes. Although the series ends on a satisfactory, albeit slightly rushed, note I much preferred the earlier content. Like is the case with other animated comedies I have seen, screenwriter Mari Okada felt the need to inject some forced drama into the show’s finale. I personally didn’t care for the change in tone. Much of the humor vanished during the last arc, which sees the girls participate in an escort mission that will determine the fate of the nation. Hisone’s lighthearted romance with mechanic Haruto Okonogi also developed into a love triangle. Upping the ante even further is a last gasp revelation, which revolves around human sacrifice. Dang, that escalated quickly. I would have never vore-seen that the anime, about dragons who swallow live girls, would take such a serious turn.

Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side

What is it with Japanese creators and their ridiculously long show titles? Do you think they are overcompensating for something? This twelve-episode DanMachi spin-off follows the Loki Familia guild, on their journey through a dungeon infested with monsters. The fantasy themed story is pretty straightforward, aside from some mysteries that sadly remain unanswered by the time this cour finishes. Oh the joys of anime adaptations based on light novels that have yet to reach a definitive conclusion.

The protagonist of this tale is a stoic fighter named Ais Wallenstein. She resembles a less fleshed out Violet Evergarden. If you prefer girls with a bit more personality fear not, as she is accompanied by an emotional Elven sidekick (who secretly has the hots for her.) Sword Oratoria is a three star series in my opinion. Nothing special, but DanMachi fans who seek more animated adventures set in the same universe should enjoy it. For more information please click below to read MIB’s assessment of the recent UK home video release.

Sword Oratoria: Is it Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side(Cert 12)

2 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 303 minutes approx.

Release Date: September 3rd  

As the lengthy and cumbersome title suggests, this show is a spin-off from an existing series, featuring one of the characters from the fantasy comedy Is it Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? and giving them a moment in the spotlight. I’ve not seen the parent show but it would appear this isn’t an issue as the lead and her support cast are introduced as if this was a fresh series.

The titular dungeon is not, in fact, a vast underground lair where people are interred and subject to daily torture, instead it is the name given to the multi-level area beneath the Tower of Babel in…

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Thoughts on Berserk

This write up from Jeffrey Botah reminds me what an excellent series the nineties Berserk was. An exceptional rise and fall tale set in a medieval/fantasy world that should appeal to Game of Thrones fans. Highly recommended to anyone who isn’t squeamish. I would rank Berserk as one of my fave anime of all time, were it not for the inconclusive ending. Back when the movie trilogy came out I was disappointed to learn that it was just an abridged version of this story, rather than a continuation. One of these days I’ll have to check out the new anime. I just need to muster up the willpower to deal with its horrible CGI.

Jeffrey's blog

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(Possible spoilers)

Berserk. That shit is messed up and you know what? I’m fully here for (most of) it. It’s an anime that had been on my list for a long time and I finally got around to watching it. If I’m getting this right, there are two Berserk series and I watched the one from the 90’s so I’ll watch the other series at some point. Berserk is a story about a swordsman named Guts who pretty much on sights anything that moves, his supreme inability to control his sword erection earns the interest of a man named Griffith who forcibly recruits him into his group the Band of the Hawk, where the real story begins as they journey to achieve Griffith’s dream.

From the beginning, the anime didn’t even try to hide that it would have a dark tone and it tried even less to hide that it…

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Review of Trigun: Badlands Rumble

badlandsrumble

It’s great to see Full Metal Panic return to our screens after a lengthy hiatus. The gap between FMP content reminds me of the time when Badlands Rumble first hit the scene. This ninety minute animated film was released in the year 2010… over a decade after the Trigun series aired in Japan! You certainly cannot accuse studio Madhouse of rushing out a product to capitalize on the popularity of a show. This story takes place sometime during the events of the Trigun series (so it isn’t a sequel) and sees Vash tangle with a robber named Gasback, whose life he spared twenty years prior.

OVERVIEW

Badlands Rumble takes place in Macca City, a settlement where Gasback’s former lackey Cain is the incumbent mayor. Years ago, the pair had a falling out after Cain betrayed Gasback during a heist. You cannot trust anyone named Cain it seems… just ask Abel! Gasback has decided to pay back his ex-henchman by riding into Macca and stealing a pricey bronze statue that is situated there. As luck would have it, Vash the Stampede arrives in town just before Gasback’s raid is due to go down. Talk about bad timing. Vash has a sixty billion double dollar price on his head. That could well attract the attention of the multitude of bounty hunters, who are presently in Macca hoping to nab Gasback.

Vash isn’t the only one suffering from ill fortune. Insurance girls Milly and Meryl are back and this time round their employer has tasked them with protecting the abovementioned statue. If said sculpture is damaged their company will be out of pocket. Guarding the statue will be no easy task, as wherever Vash goes destruction usually follows. Upping the ante is the appearance of wandering priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood. This man of the cloth, who carries a rocket launcher fashioned after a cross, has been hired to be Gasback’s bodyguard. Wolfwood’s church services will be required, as a redhead named Amelia is currently pursuing Gasback with the aims of avenging her late mother.

VERDICT

My rating for Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a three out of five. Fans of the Trigun series are sure to enjoy this new Vash adventure. It’s an enjoyable space western that delivers in terms of cool gunfights and humorous slapstick, courtesy of its needle noggin protagonist. Viewers of the old show are sure to appreciate the movie’s upgraded visuals. Thanks to the higher production values, both the animation and artwork have received a substantial facelift. It’s especially noticeable, as Trigun never pushed the envelope when it came to spectacle. Compared to something like Cowboy Bebop, which came out at around the same time, the series lacked polish and has therefore aged less well.

I remember loving Badlands Rumble, back when I first bought the DVD, but have to say that I liked it less on a recent viewing. This second screening helped me identify how the script rehashes ideas from the series. A criminal who desires revenge on his old gang is reminiscent of the episode titled Love & Peace for example. Amelia also reminded me of Elizabeth, who appeared in episode six, as they are both beauties who seek vengeance against an outlaw. Given the movie’s place in the Trigun timeline there isn’t much tension, as we all know Vash will escape from this trial unscathed. I did however dig the moments that question Vash’s no-kill philosophy. Not murdering may sound noble, but as Batman has learnt, is it ethical to pardon those who will just go off to do more harm?

One thing I can say about watching Badlands Rumble is that it rekindled my dream of seeing a Trigun remake that sticks more faithfully to the manga. Full Metal Alchemist and Hellsing have proven that such a project could work. Given the time it took for this movie to get made though, I suspect that the wait for a new Trigun show would be longer than Vash’s full name. For those of you who don’t know, his complete moniker is – Valentinez Alkalinella Xifax Sicidabohertz Gumbigobilla Blue Stradivari Talentrent Pierre Andry Charton-Haymoss Ivanovici Baldeus George Doitzel Kaiser the Third.

SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online Review

gungaleonline

Sword Art Online is a bit like Marmite. You either love or hate it. There’s no disputing that the anime adaptation of Reki Kawahara’s novels is insanely popular. We recently got a movie and a third season is due out later this year. Despite all that, many of the bloggers I follow detest SAO with a passion. They dislike how the second half of season one played out and how protagonist Kirito is a Gary Stu of Rey (Star Wars) proportions. If you are a Kirito hater you’ll be pleased to hear that this spin-off series stars a completely new cast of characters. Viewers of season two will recognize the setting though – it’s Gun Gale Online.

OVERVIEW

Karen Kohiruimaki hates being tall, which I can understand. Height may be a desirable trait for males, but that isn’t the case for members of the opposite sex. Lanky girls can have a tough time finding a boyfriend, as guys are sensitive about size… and no, I am not talking about their junk. Asking your partner to crouch down, for a kiss, can be a tad embarrassing for us blokes. Although there is nothing Karen can do about her stature in the real world, she can at least experience being petite in VR games. The main reason why she elects to play GGO is because it permits her to control an undersized avatar named LLENN.

LLENN begins life in Gun Gale Online hunting down NPC monsters. Due to her terrible aim, LLENN’s weapon of choice is a close range submachine gun that she christens P-chan. The pink firearm occasionally sprouts cute eyes and utters words of encouragement to her. Weird. Anyways, one day during her wasteland hunts she bumps into a fellow gunslinger named Pitohui. The pair become friends and begin grouping together to partake in PVP action. After proving her prowess, in taking down players, Pitohui suggests that LLENN register for the upcoming Squad Jam contest. Little did LLENN know that Squad Jam would live up to its name, by placing her in a sticky situation where Pitohui’s life is on the line.

VERDICT

My rating for Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is a three out of five. The series is entertaining enough, but overall I would rank it as the weakest SAO title to date. My chief complaint with the show is its lack of story. The script tries to resurrect the SAO idea of “potentially fatal online game” with its finale, but for the most part the thirteen episodes simply chronicle LLENN’s performance in two battle royale tournaments. Due to the focus on competition, GGO feels like a sports anime. This sport however features brutal takedowns and inappropriate flirting, where opponents hit on a protagonist that looks underage.

Best girl without a doubt is Pitohui. She reminds me a little of Revy from Black Lagoon, as she excels at killing and is bat shit crazy. This bloodthirsty chick doesn’t respect truces and has a reputation for slaying her own teammates. LLENN is a far less interesting character. Just like Kirito, she comes across as plain and unbeatable. Despite being an MMO newbie she is able to defeat professional marksmen with a combination of agility and serendipity. Karen is the type of girl I would gladly group with in Overwatch. Would I date her? Nah. Climbing up a stepladder, every time I want a smooch, would get tiresome.