Category Archives: Reviews

Garo Review: The Big Roar

8/10

If you’re talking about the season’s most under-appreciated, you’re sure to have mentioned Garo somewhere in your conversation. No one expected an anime series that could hold itself together, much less walk on its own legs. The series does not aspire to be more than what it is nor does it condemn itself to its own confines. That is exactly what Garo does – and it does so beautifully.

Essentially, Garo is a story about good versus evil. There is nothing special nor wholly new about it, but that is where the show keeps it tight. The series takes us to a fantastical but horrific world of plagues and demons and the protectors who fight against them. We follow Leon, a young Makai Knight, struggling to discern between two ethos: a desire for revenge or the duty to protect. Its narrative may be sorely lacking and at times questionable but it does have an ample amount of intrigue and cleverness. All in all, Garo unfolds a pretty decent and solid story – a tale of discovering one’s duty and purpose.

One of the more striking things about Garo is that it handles the ideals it holds impressively. While they are thriftily given, the ideals never stray too far. Instead of being pretentious and overzealous, they are humble and, more importantly, relevant to the story, something not all anime series can easily grapple with. In the event of introspection, realization, and declaration, the characters never spew out random, nonsensical lines just to sound cool. They say the just right thing at just the right moment while placing importance in saying with simplicity.

The character development during the most part of the series is focused on Leon. His wasn’t a grand, 180 degree turn. It was rather kept simple. The rest have their fair share but it would take only one or two episodes for their development to be completed. At the very least, these characters weren’t used for unwarranted fan service. Though archetypal, each of them remain distinct and memorable.

The art in Garo does well in portraying the setting. The Knights are ornate and flashy but not overbearing; the Horrors are terribly grotesque. I would say it’s all fitting. The music does a superb job in keeping the scenes exciting. The animation especially in the fight scenes are an outstanding feat. The choreography is neat and elegant, fluid and energetic – something one would not totally expect if they’re only seeing Garo at surface level.

To sum it all up, Garo comes as a surprise. It may lack the intricacies and refinement that adorn the bigger anime shows but behind all that it is one daring and remarkable effort.

Shirobako Review: The Little Anime That Could

10/10

One phrase that would perfectly describe Shirobako is simply ingenious. Surprisingly, the series has cleverly put together a lot of elements into one stand-out show. Aside from being an exposition of how anime series are made, it also tells us a cute and charming story all while boasting a splendid cast of characters and vibrant, dynamic designs.

The art in Shirobako is lovely. Although vibrant and dynamic, it is never flashy nor exaggerating. It is clean-cut and simple but more than enough to bring the story into fruition and to distinguish one character from the other. The sound is also kept simple, evoking the right feeling at the right moment. Shirobako couldn’t ask for anything more fitting. The theme songs fit perfectly with the story too: inspiring yet also fun and relevant.  All in all, Shirobako exercised its liberty pretty well regarding its production.

The giant cast of characters actually does not pose a problem for character development and, in general, for the series. During their respective screen times (no matter how little they had), they are well flesh out. The realism they portray is an exceptionally rare feat. They are not archetypal and overblown. All of the characters, especially the five girls, possessed and displayed certain realistic qualities that break free from the confines of typical slice of life anime. The series was careful to not be intimidated by the size of the cast and to handle it with finesse.

We follow the lives of five girls as they struggle to live their dreams in the anime industry and an unlikely animation studio fighting against all odds to produce quality anime. It is a tale of of the creative process, professionalism, teamwork,  and finding one’s motivation. It is amazing to point out that Shirobako‘s core story is incredibly simple yet satisfying. The side stories are also quite enjoyable.

But what makes Shirobako stand out is how it is able to masterfully and effortlessly incorporate the core story, multiple side stories, and a brief but informative look into what goes down in the anime industry into one seamless and fluid narrative without ever losing focus. It is never overblown with the unnecessary. All these elements are treated with careful balance – something not all anime series have – that underlies the show’s ingenuity.

Shirobako is an anime that is “just right”. It breaks one’s expectations without betraying them. You just have to enjoy it as it is as you learn countless things about life, careers, and, of course, anime. The series is a force to be reckoned with and I could easily recommend it to anyone, especially to those in need of a surprise.

Fullscreen capture 3282015 53440 AM.bmp

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! Review

8/10

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a parody on the mahou shoujo genre. The elements it mocks are obvious and the characters actually acknowledge it – unlikely heroes flashily transforming into their ridiculous costumes with out-of-this-world powers battling monsters-of-the-week while upholding their valiant virtues of love and friendship. As a quirky deconstruction of the style, the series manages to pull it off with as few hitches as possible.

Even the construction of the episodes is a parody. It is all in the episodic nature of the monster-of-the-week ploy, leaving a few hints of the over-all plot until unveiling it, albeit slowly, in last few episodes, and, of course, the all-too-grand climatic final episode. It’s not worth enjoying if it is taken too seriously. After all, Boueibu is just a bunch of boys randomly given powers of love to save the Earth from hatred.

The design and animation could have been more flashy – as flashy as Sailor Moon and Free! combined. At the very least, it could be described as fitting to Boueibu‘s identity as a parody of a genre. The surprise, however, is the music. I expected something decent at best but I was amazed at the remarkable effort given to the sound.

Boueibu is what one would call a “basic” anime. While it is “basic”, it nevertheless captures our attention with the charm of its characters and the wit of the script. The combination of the two elements is refreshing despite being only a cover-up for the series’ identity as a parody with nothing else to work on save for the fact that it has magical boys instead of magical girls. It unexpectedly leaves you rolling on the floor or facepalming while laughing at its ludicrousness.

There is an irony in Boueibu in that one would have to take it seriously in order to realize that it’s not to be taken seriously. It serves as an example to the anime audience to remind them of how one can still enjoy a series without taking it too seriously. It doesn’t need you to think about ulterior motives or predict courses of action. Boueibu only requires one to pay attention.

It doesn’t stand out too much but at least it does. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a half lighthearted and half gut-busting comedy and I easily recommend it to anyone who seeks such.

Amagi Brilliant Park Review: Definitely Not a Fairy Tail

7/10

To be honest, I only considered watching Amagi Brilliant Park because it’s Kyoto Animation. But what kept me watching is my love for theme parks.

I really thought Amaburi would be an exposition, showing its viewers true-to-life behind the scenes and nitty-gritty aspects of a particular object (in this case, a theme park) – something like Shirobako with anime making – plus an added fantasy in the side. I suppose it is that kind of anime in its own way. Only, most of the elements you encounter are improbable. It’s a fantasy anime, no doubt about it.

Amaburi‘s art is its most dazzling feat. It’s nothing less from KyoAni. Its visuals are colorful, vibrant, and fluid befitting that of a theme park. KyoAni hasn’t innovated its character design that much but it still packs a punch in Amaburi. Kanie’s, for example, can put the Iwatobi boys’ to shame.

Where the series suffers the most is the story. The first two episodes give us a trajectory. The setting may be cliche in its execution but it gave us a clear goal.

Afterwards, the succeeding episodes are loaded with filler stories that may or may not make sense and only give the slightest intent of ever reaching that goal. They may give us an inkling of what is needed to run a theme park but they’re nothing more than run-of-the-mill antics with a touch of the improbable. I honestly think KyoAni could have done a better job if they put a little more thought and effort in building the fillers.

The overarching story is put back in focus in the last five episodes. The series manages to save itself as it slowly unfolds a cute, charming little story amusing enough to keep me watching until the last episode. It is the biggest plus side after that mess of a middle. Save for a few plot holes and open-endings, I can say that Amaburi ended well enough.

(c) Kyoto Animation
(c) Kyoto Animation

With its characterization, Amaburi keeps it simple. But with its diversity of characters, development was disordered. For some characters, you’ll see them grow as the series progresses and for the others, there is almost no development at all.

It hits most of what we can expect from an effort by KyoAni – consistent visuals, top-notch character design, and a whole lot of fan service. After Free! and Kyoukai no Kanata, I would have asked for more. But with its variety of scenes, AmaBuri proves how versatile the studio is.

All in all, Amagi Brilliant Park is a roller coaster ride. It takes you up and down and through the unexpected and ends abruptly enough for you to want more. It may not be the best of what KyoAni has to offer but it is a good addition to their opus. I would recommend this to anyone looking for lighthearted entertainment.

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Mushishi Zoku Shou Review: a Japanese Masterpiece

10/10

I have forgotten now how I came to watch Mushishi Zoku Shou. But whatever that reason is, I surely don’t regret it.

It may be appalling at first how it may seem slow-paced or even stagnant. Looking closely, we’ll realize that it is this stillness and calm that give Mushishi its distinction, making it worthy to be called a masterpiece.

After all the action and drama that anime can flaunt, Mushishi gives us a refreshing retreat, a break from the hustle and bustle of trite anime antics, and presents to us its own brand of action and drama enveloped in its unique and perhaps unpredictable storytelling.

Mushishi 1

We follow Ginko, the main character, in his travels across Japan where he meets people affected by mushi, strange, ethereal creatures that coexist silently with every other living being. Interacting with different mushi even unknowingly has its implications and Ginko, as a mushishi, offers his help to those troubled by mushi to the best of his ability. The setting itself offers a horizon of opportunities. It is a captivating feat that each episode can be the darkest of tales reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe (Fragrant Darkness, Lingering Crimson) or even the most lighthearted of stories (Banquet at the Forest’s Edge). The story fills out every edge of possibility and leaves room for even more.

The slow movement and breathtaking scenery are what absorb you and even more so when its superb musical arrangements come in to accompany it. Its masterful direction bring out the best of each scene – the deep-rooted characters, the intense emotions, the over-all mood (you’d have to take a closer look to see this). Mushishi couldn’t ask for a better production.

The whole experience takes you to a time when man and nature treated each other with respect and lived together in peace and harmony. With each episode told in a way that closely resembles the fable of Aesop and the parables of Jesus coupled with its magnificent art direction, Mushishi gives us an experience evocative of the ways of Shinto and Zen embedded in classical Japanese culture.

And yet, Mushishi never tries to be grandiose and flamboyant in its ways. Its simplicity is its most favorable trait and it is in there that you will find its grandeur. “Mabaw nga kalipay” (“simple pleasure”) is what we’d call it in Cebuano. It is not laden with complications and twists but that makes it all the more entertaining.

Among the anime series I’m watching this season, Mushishi Zoku Shou stands out the most and is easily one of my favorites in my limited repertoire. I would very much recommend the series to anyone and everyone, especially to those with an open mind.

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Psycho-Pass 2 Review: I Guess It Can’t Be Helped

This is my first published review. If there is anything of concern to you regarding this, please do notify me. I’ll gladly accept comments and suggestions.

XXX

6.5/10

With a dystopian setting comes a down-with-the-system plot. This is true for a lot of cases. It is not that it is the end-all and be-all of all dystopian fiction. It is that if you want to move forward and present things in an uber-philosophical manner, this is the way to go. Psycho-Pass is no exception. And it incorporates this not once but twice (and with the possibility of a third time.)

Let’s cut to the chase. Psycho-Pass 2 is not as spectacular as it aspired to be although it tries (desperately). I can’t say I was disappointed either as I didn’t have high expectations for it. I was definitely brought in by the hype but the first season reminded me of how any follow-up can fall short (especially when the first season fell short itself).

A lot of viewers say that the second season is a carbon copy of the first. Not all of that is true. Like I said, dystopian settings don’t have much to go around with. When it wants to have a brooding and thoughtful tone (everything Psycho-Pass aims to be), the choices are limited. I can forgive the second season for having the same themes as the first simply because of Kamui.

Kamui may seem unoriginal at first. He and Makishima have the same goals about society. However, Kamui sets off having more drive and resolve to bring down Sibyl (or at least change it or know about its nature) although it kind of flipped over towards the end. Although not as charismatic as Makishima, he presents legit questions regarding the system. Somehow, I find him more likable than Makishima who only flaunted his educated humanist ass to put off other characters (and viewers). But both are unique in their own way and there is no reason to compare them.

Akane in this season is not as challenged as she was in the previous. If I were to say something nice about her, it would be that her development was decent enough, giving her more self-understanding and the ability to think outside the box. But that’s just it. So much potential is wasted for our beloved protagonist.

The same is true for the rest of the characters. In the end, they were nothing more than mere accessories the whole series can do without. They provided enough amusement the series can do well without. For instance, Ginoza, who received the full brunt of character development in the first season, was put in the backseat and casually thrown out the window. The characters relationships were not outlined and explored to their full extent as much as they tried to bring them out and the story never did anything to address this lack of trajectory.

Despite all its faults, the story provides enough twists to keep me watching when, to be honest, it was 80% all talk. It didn’t need all the blood and gun service and car chases to mask the lack of action. This leads me to conclude that the animation never did anything to make things better. I guess it can’t be helped.

I hoped that it would be smarter than the first season as I hoped that the first season would be smart. It aspired, tried, but never did it transcend itself. I sit here, pondering over the many things that could have made the whole series better. Psycho-Pass 2 gave only so much that in return I can give it a “good enough”.

 

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XXX

What do you think of Psycho-Pass 2? Leave a comment below!