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 KonoSuba (Season One)

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Hurrah! I am now a Crunchyroll subscriber. Many moons ago I visited the site and was told that the service was unavailable in my country. That restriction appears to have been lifted now, allowing me to take advantage of a their fourteen day trial. Just as well because watching stuff over there for free is nigh on impossible, unless you have the patience of a saint, due to the constant barrage of adverts. The anime that took my Crunchyroll virginity is KonoSuba – a funny fantasy show about a Japanese shut-in, who is resurrected in a mystical land, after perishing in rather embarrassing circumstances.

OVERVIEW

In the first episode, of this light novel adaptation, teenager Kazuma Sato is given a second lease on life and transported to a magical kingdom. He hopes that his knowledge of MMORPGs will serve him well in this new land, but due to his puny stats he is only able to make a minimum wage via construction jobs. Although a career in adventuring is more lucrative, Kazuma is unable to complete any of the quests posted at the local guild. The one time he attempted to vanquish five giant toads it didn’t go well and culminated in his travelling companion Aqua getting slimed worse than Peter Venkman of Ghostbusters fame.

Aqua, by the way, is the rude goddess who gave the departed Kazuma the option of ascending into heaven or reviving in a world that is presently being hounded by the nefarious Devil King. Due to an afterlife legal loophole, Kazuma was able to drag Aqua with him into a nation where sorcery and medieval weapons are the norm. If Aqua ever hopes to return home she’ll have to aid Kazuma in accomplishing his ultimate goal of defeating the aforementioned demon monarch. Despite being blessed with divine healing magic, Aqua isn’t much help. She is cowardly, useless in a fight and extremely selfish.

CHARACTERS

Thankfully for Kazuma’s sake he is able to band together with more friendly, albeit unusual, allies as the series progresses. Megumin is the first person to answer Kazuma’s call for party members. She is a young caster who commands destructive Explosion magic. The ability to fire off a nuclear blast may sound handy, but the problem is that Explosion is the only spell Megumin knows. Even worse, whenever Megumin activates her signature move she collapses in an exhausted stupor and is unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. What a useless witch. Getting tired after one explosion is “bang” out of order.

Darkness is the next and final person to join Kazuma’s four-man group. Clad in armour, she is a blonde crusader – although the sword she wields is just for show. Due to terrible accuracy, which rivals the aim of a Rambo baddie, Darkness is incapable of striking any assailant… or even stationary targets for that matter. On the plus side Darkness is a courageous protector who willingly soaks up all damage directed at her teammates. The role of tank suits Darkness to a T, as she is a masochist who loves nothing more than being on the receiving end of physical pain and verbal abuse.

VERDICT

My rating for KonoSuba is four stars. As someone who enjoyed Slayers, I really dug the show’s mix of comedy and fantasy. It was fun to see whom Kazuma would face next, in his adventures, as the villains come in all shapes and sizes. The lineup of antagonists includes a slighted Dullahan, a runaway arachnid fortress and even flying cabbages. Natsume Akatsuki, who penned the source material, has created an interesting universe that borrows ideas from MMOs. Just like in a video game, KonoSuba’s characters acquire skills by levelling up. The first talent that Kazuma learns is the steal ability, which he promptly uses to pilfer panties. I’ll have to try that next time I roll a rogue in DnD.

KonoSuba isn’t perfect though. The early episodes could be better and the series doesn’t really click until Kazuma’s team has been fully assembled. I also thought that the artwork was inconsistent. At times the visuals are okay and on other occasions they look rough. Studio Deen continue to live up to their reputation of delivering erratic illustrations. I’ll forgive the scenes where characters go off model though, as no one expects masterpiece drawings from a comedy. Overall I had a grand time with KonoSuba. The first season only spans for ten episodes, but thankfully a new series is already out and available to watch on Crunchyroll (the website… as far as I know bread does not stream cartoons.)

The Wolf of Wall Street Review

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Clearly I have chosen the wrong career. Instead of dealing with stressful customers for chump change I could have become a stockbroker and earned millions by spending other people’s money. That’s the lesson I learned from watching Martin Scorsese’s 2013 hit The Wolf of Wall Street. Based on a book that chronicles Jordan Belfort’s infamous career, what we have here is a Scarface like rise and fall tale. Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, strikes it rich via unethical practices before squandering it all on hookers, booze and drugs. Perhaps things would have turned out differently had Belfort’s mentor not been a coked up loon whose strategy for success involves masturbating multiple times a day? What hogwash. If constantly spanking the monkey equals mega bucks then why am I always broke?

OVERVIEW

Jordan Belfort’s life on Wall Street didn’t start well, as his time at L.F. Rothschild came to a swift end on Black Monday. Not to be confused with Black Friday (that joyous date when you can murder shoppers for a discount television set or tacky Amiibo) the 1987 crash dubbed Black Monday saw global share prices plummet faster than Trump’s approval rating after a Middle East missile strike. Thankfully for Belfort the moneymaking schemes he acquired at Rothschild served him well when he decided to ply his trade in selling penny stocks to gullible clients. With his investments netting him a staggering fifty percent commission, Belfort amassed enough funds to found the Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm in partnership with his cousin loving neighbour Donnie Azoff (played by Jonah Hill.)

Most people would be satisfied with a mansion, family and healthy bank balance. Jordan Belfort wasn’t however and that greed is what ultimately led to his downfall. Stratton Oakmont’s complicity in money laundering didn’t escape the FBI’s attention and Jordan’s adulterous escapades eventually wrecked his marriage. In his defence though, I think most guys would divorce their missus to shag Margot Robbie. And shag her he does in scenes where we are treated to the sight of Harley Quinn full frontal nudity. You’d think I would hate this womanizer who bamboozles innocents, but thanks to a funny script and DiCaprio’s charm I couldn’t help but respect Belfort’s success. I do feel bad for the victims of his scams, but based on what this film shows many of them must share the blame for allowing themselves to be duped by glorified telemarketers.

VERDICT

I am awarding The Wolf of Wall Street a score of four stars. The movie is great, but it is something I would only recommend to mature audiences. I dread to think what kind of message this flick could impart on impressionable minds. Given the tame punishment Belfort received for his wrongdoings one could argue that conning people is worth the risk. A short prison sentence is a small price to pay for years of intemperance, were you indulge in prostitutes, fast cars, dwarf throwing and narcotics. One could leave this film with the impression that drug taking is not only harmless, but also a great way of enhancing your productivity. The adverse effects that illegal substances can have on your health are largely downplayed for laughs and if the film is to be believed overdosing on pills is no worse than chugging down a few Red Bulls.

Leonardo DiCaprio has come a long way from the Titanic days were Kate Winslet heartlessly allowed him to freeze in icy waters. Aided by a talented cast, he carries this movie and shows glimpses of the talent that years later would earn him an Oscar. Congrats Leo, the Academy finally acknowledged your greatness and all it took was eating raw meat plus a spot of bear buggery. Despite my low attention span I found that The Wolf of Wall Street’s three hours flew by. The opener detailing how Belfort amassed his wealth, the second act’s moments of debauchery and the finale were Stratton Oakmont’s board attempt to evade justice kept me glued to the screen. I could gush about this film all day, but will end the review now because typing this post has aggravated my sore wrist. It’s an injury I sustained from vigorous wanking… um I mean stockbroker training.

The Lego Batman Movie Review

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With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, I think we can all agree that dark Batman doesn’t work. Just like DC Comics stalwart Superman, I much prefer a lighter take on the character. Who doesn’t love the sixties charm of Adam West for example? When it comes to cartoons I think you’ll concur that Brave and the Bold is more fun than the grittier The Batman, which ran from 2004 to 2008. If you want a good laugh comedian Joel Schumacher has you covered with Batman & Robin – a hilarious parody featuring ice puns, costumes that have nipples and George Clooney flashing a Bat Credit Card. Now that Christian Bale has retired the cowl the time is rife for the Caped Crusader’s return to comedy, cue The Lego Batman Movie.

OVERVIEW

Set in a Gotham City, constructed out of plastic bricks rather than concrete, The Lego Batman Movie follows the exploits of a Dark Knight voiced by Will Arnett. After losing his family at a young age, Batman has become an anti-social vigilante who prefers to fight crime on his lonesome. Not that he needs help from anyone though. The film’s opening scene has him effortlessly defeating an entire rogue’s gallery of villains all by himself. Whilst singing along to a musical ditty, Batman is able to vanquish a group whose ranks include Catwoman, Bane, Riddler and obscure lackeys such as the Condiment King. Life is good for Bats. At night he basks in the glory of being a hero whilst during the day he relaxes by dining on microwave Lobster Thermidor and watching cheesy rom-coms.

The daily routine of Bruce Wayne is however shattered when he accidently adopts an orphan named Dick Grayson. Reluctantly, Batman is forced into mentoring the enthusiastic dork who eventually assumes the mantle of Robin. Even worse for Batman is that he finds himself with nothing to do after Gotham’s entire criminal population surrender to the custody of new police commissioner Barbara Gordon. Suspicious that the Joker may be plotting something from behind bars, Batman breaks into Arkham Prison with the intentions of exiling his rival to the Phantom Zone. Sending the clown prince of crime to another dimension, where he can do no harm, sounds like a grand plan… but the scheme spectacularly backfires, unleashing a terror that Batman alone cannot handle.

VERDICT

My rating for The Lego Batman Movie is three and a half stars. I dreaded reviewing this film because, despite finding it enjoyable, I didn’t love the flick to the extent that everyone else does. Instead of being a movie that everyone can enjoy, Lego Batman felt like a children’s film filled with gags that also pander to older comic book geeks. In that regard I have to say that I have seen funnier Lego animations on YouTube. Perhaps I would have liked the movie more had it been less heavy handed with its moral about the importance of friends and family. That sort of thing doesn’t resonate with a reclusive introvert like me, especially when I am the sort of person who prefers watching blockbusters alone in the comfort of my home rather than in a cinema packed with noisy kids.

One good thing Lego Batman does is handle its large cast of villains well. Unlike X-Men 3, which was ruined by an oversaturation of baddies, I have to say that the extensive list of evildoer cameos worked. Not content with featuring virtually every Batman criminal in existence, the movie even includes antagonists from Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Dr Who. The comedy is gold, resulting in 105 minutes of fun. Social justice warriors may disagree though. Theoretically they should detest Barbara Gordon being cast as an ebony girl. If not they are hypocrites because they previously loathed race changes in Dr Strange. In a similar vein critics of The Killing Joke may disapprove of Batman’s attraction to Barbara, because they have voiced displeasure about that ship in the past.

There isn’t any real romance between the two though. If anything the only sexual chemistry I spotted was between Batman and the Joker. During their exchanges if you substitute the word “hate” with “love” you have all the trimmings of a gay relationship. Holy fabulous couples Batman! Don’t be surprised if conservative Catholics begin to boycott Danish toys for covertly promoting same sex propaganda.

Review of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club (PC)

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Although when it comes to gaming I am more of a console/handheld player, I have recently decided to expand my gamer palette by trying out some of the PC doujin (indie) titles available to purchase through the Rice Digital webpage. My first port of call was a visual novel style adventure titled Cherry Tree High Comedy Club. What attracted me to the release was the unique premise were players are tasked with aiding high school student Miley, who dreams of following in the footsteps of famous stand-up comic artists, in establishing an after school comedy club.

In order to meet this goal Miley will have to use her powers of persuasion to attract at least five club members to her cause. Unfortunately for our heroine time is of the essence as there are only two months left before the school board closes registrations on new clubs. When the game kicks off Miley can count on the support of her best friend Harriet, but she will need to entice three others to sign up for her comedy group to get it sanctioned as an official school club. Oh and before you ask, no you cannot coerce fellow students to join via bribery or using Miley’s feminine wiles!

From Miley’s circle of friends there are a total of six potential candidates for the player to recruit. The targets in question include Viv the Swedish transfer student, Miley’s punk rock loving friend Cindy, May who owns a struggling candy store, Curtis the son of a famous comedian, Sara the shy lass who recently moved into the dorm Miley resides in and Tyler who has been accused of being a stalker due to his obsession with collating information on the female student body. The game plays much like the dating sims we seldom see outside of Japan, only instead of wooing love interests you are befriending chums with the purpose of getting them to join the club. As you interact with the six targets their friendship levels gradually increase from one (the lowest) to five (the highest.) Each level up rewards the player with a humorous clip or a cut scene that reveals some back-story pertaining to the characters in question.

If I had to compare this game to something else I would say that it reminds me a little of a watered down Persona 4, with simplified social interactions and no turn based combat. Like in the aforementioned Vita RPG, each day is broken down into morning, afternoon and evening. You are free to explore Miley’s town to find empty bottles that can be sold for cash, chat with friends or take advantage of the services offered by the various retail outlets you come across. Time passes whenever you perform a substantial action so the key to success is organizing yourself to balance out making friends whilst not neglecting important stuff like meeting homework deadlines (in the game I was a good boy and got my homework done ASAP, in stark contrast to my youth when I would leave it for the last second.)

Raising friendship levels simply requires that you travel to the location were your chum is hanging out and then speaking to them. It’s possible to engage in idle chatter or specific topics (such as video games, romance, travel etc.) If you happen to mention a topic your pal is interested in there is a greater chance that their friendship level will increase. You can also improve the effectiveness of your conversational skills by boosting Miley’s repertoire of knowledge, which is accomplished by reading books/magazines and watching TV/movies. Some of these activities don’t come cheap though so, if you intend to get your hands on a novel or buy a cinema ticket, be prepared to earn income by expending free time at your part time job sweeping the local shrine’s dusty floors.

In terms of localization I think the team that translated the game into English have done a fine job. I did spot a couple of typographical errors, I was surprised got past quality control, but they were minor typos that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game. One concern however is that I suspect the game’s dub has changed the story’s location to try to appeal to a western audience. Characters mention that they live in the States, but the school Miley frequents looks identical to what I have seen in high school anime shows – not to mention that Miley’s town has cherry blossom trees and even a Japanese shrine! I understand renaming characters with hard to pronounce Japanese names or tweaking gags that get lost in translation, but changing the story’s setting seems needless especially when you consider that the average player who would be interested in this game is likely to be a rabid otaku.

For a game put together by just one guy, I am impressed by Cherry Tree’s presentation. As per games of this ilk, well-drawn anime portraits and text boxes are used to put across the verbal exchanges between the cast. The in game graphics are made up of cute sixteen bit sprites, which should prove popular with anyone who grew up playing the Super Nintendo back in the day. The soundtrack is composed of various upbeat tunes that go well with the game’s cheery tone. The game’s script may not have any gut-busting laugh out moments, ironically for a story revolving around a comedy club, but the silly antics of Miley’s group will provide some chuckles.

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club proves to be an enjoyable game providing you know what you are getting into. If you are expecting a deep game were character dialogue is determined by Mass Effect style conversation trees, that influence the story, you will be disappointed. Those seeking a simple visual novel were you pick an action and then read the resulting consequences will however have a blast. My only real gripe is that it only takes three hours to run through the story. Some more content would have been welcome, but this is offset by the fact that there is some replay value to be had.

On my initial run I recruited three characters so I am now replaying the game to see if I can enlist the remaining three to the club. Once I’m done with that I’ll likely play the game again to try and unlock the best ending, obtainable by recruiting all six friends in one go (thankfully the repertoire boosts you earn carry over to a new game making things much easier on subsequent visits to Cherry Tree.) The game’s length shouldn’t be a huge concern either as it only costs a fiver. If that sounds too costly be aware that both Rice Digital and Steam, who sell the game, have sales from time to time. Waiting around for a comedy game discount may therefore be worth it as he who laughs last laughs best.