Fernando Leonel Alba
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About meAnime and progressive rock/metal fan
I listen to other genres, play videogames and watch movies from time to time too.
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But in the last year, almost all, if not all short length shows received very poor ratings, meaning not even these people were giving them good ratings. Natsunagu! is the only one I watched besides Heya Camp so I’m here to comment about this peculiar case. What is strange about the poor reception this show received is that is about a sad waifu, thus it would normally get a good reception.
Compared to most other short length anime that I watched (Fastening Days, Sengoku Choujuu Giga, Pupipo!, Ani*Kuri15, Bikini Warriors, Digital Juice, the first IGPX, Inferno Cop, fucking Teekyuu, fucking Urda, fucking Pupa, fucking Abunai Sisters, fucking Master of Torque, fucking Netsuzou Trap, and lots of specials or extras of normal lenght series, usually with chibi art styles) it has a sort of plot with continuity, somewhat likeable characters and is even decently animated, so what happened?
The set up of the story is pretty stupid, no one would buy that the protagonist and her online friend would change their addresses but not their cell phone numbers and she even talks to the screen to tell the viewer that she had not other option, why? It’s not explained, it happened that way only to begin the plot, nothing else. And she didn’t even got her actual address, just a drawing, to make all of this even sillier.
Personally, I also have problems to buy all of this because I am from a generation where you would normally make friends from face to face, in the real life, and even then I’m not the type of person that considers every person they talk to as their friends, but I recognize that younger people that grew up in the digital era and make lots of online friends they talk to every day could relate to the conflict and buy the premise, unlike me.
Anyways, after the first episode the protagonist travels to a somewhat faraway place that suffered an earthquake in order to meet her online friend she met on a videogame without even knowing what she looks like and along the way she meets other people and ask them if they know about her and where does she lives. She temporarily lives with them, gets to know them, becomes their friend and gathers information regarding her friend along with them until she finds her.
Leaving aside the crush a young girl has on an older policeman (which I find weird), the people from that prefecture remind me of the cast of Flying Witch, all of them are kind and friendly, most of the time they are happy, very nice people to tag along and the main girl has cute interactions with them, nothing more, nothing less.
Eventually all that travel is rendered meaningless because the show hints a tragic ending that doesn’t happen, and the two final episodes change the tone from a relaxing and happy one to a melodramatic one with the two girls screaming at each other before getting the most simple and underwhelming resolution there is. What happened to the girl wasn’t that big of a deal and even if you can say that it was, all it took was for the protagonist to cheer her up for two episodes (about 8 to 10 minutes) and tell her that everything is gonna be fine, and that’s it, that’s how everything was resolved. Lame, what a waste of not so much time.
Visually, the show looks and sounds cute and relaxing, as it should, and there’s really nothing else to say about these aspects, the voice acting is fine, the soundtrack, whenever present, and especially the ending song, warms you up, the backgrounds are beautifully drawn, everything here is ok.
Now, the main issue of the show is not the crappy resolution, but rather that it failed at what it was trying to achieve, it’s a promotional series done by the Kumamoto prefecture itself, which is why is visually pretty and all of the characters are very likeable, but the thing is, you don’t get to see much of the places themselves, because the main conflict wasn’t allowing that, thus it fails to capture the attention of potential turists.
And I even find it to be kind of insulting to the victims of the actual earthquake that happened in the real place, imagine everything they might have lost, and this series chooses to represent them with a girl that didn’t lost much, and whose depression goes away with extreme ease and just by talking to a girl she barely knows, if I were one of them I would find this to be even offensive.
In the end, Natsunagu! is unexpectedly beautiful to look at and it gives you a calming and relaxing time for 9 episodes (the first was stupid, the last two were painful to watch) but it fails at everything that tries to do and its own messages backfire to it because of their poor handling. It is still among the better short lenght shows that I watched, because most of what I watched are complete garbage, but it has nothing to do against Heya Camp, which aired at the same time, and even less against Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko, which I consider to be the only worthy short length anime I’ve ever seen. Honestly, the best thing you will get out of it is the awesome cover.
But I think that at least we can all agree that it’s a much better disaster series than Japan Sinks, man did I hate that dreadful show.
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TL; DR: PROS: -Interesting concept, pretty great and very fleshed out protagonist, decent main girl, reasonable and understandable logic, good directing and visual representation of the subject matter, anti escapism message.
CONS: -Underwhelming villain and side characters, erratic pacing, rushed and convenient outcomes.
VEREDICT: Positives and negatives are equaled.
Despite being fairly ignored, ID: Invaded has a rather good rating wherever you find it and is not really surprising since it feels uncommon for its time, nowadays isekai with harem vibes is the trend and here we are with a murder mystery show about chasing criminals in their subconsciousness in virtual worlds.
On a personal level it is also a show that you get to enjoy and understand more when you rewatch it and it will always be engraved in my head as a reminder that you should not write something about a show you don’t remember all to well or else you end making shit which you can’t back up too well once you are confronted about it.
On paper it combines elements from three highly regarded anime such as Paprika and Psycho-Pass with bits of Ghost in the Shell. What it misses from those anime are the mind fuckery visuals and directing to convey an anti escapism message from Paprika, the dynamics between the main duo as well as the memorable antagonist and the sociopolitical themes from Psycho-Pass, and the excused infodumps for detailed explanations of how everything works from GitS, thus coming off as an imitation of the three. And I’m not fan of two of them, which means I didn’t like this show either.
Actually there’s an anti escapism message presented by the protagonist running away from his tragic past in the well and some of the criminals hiding their real reasons behind made up ones, but it all gets lost under the mystery and the cases up until the end. And although the system used in the series as well as the security it uses are explained, they still feel like incomplete explanations with boring visual presentations.
Despite having a similar main duo of rookie police/detective and former criminal now used as an agent as Psycho-Pass, the protagonists here don’t interact with each other well into midway in the show and thus don’t influence each up until the end. Well the girl wants to enter the virtual worlds just like the man but is not because of him, she’s curious about it from the very beginning.
Up until that point you have them both solving seemingly episodic cases on their own, and I’ll give credit to the show for showing the minds of the criminals as destroyed places such as a whole city burning or…whatever that first world on the first two episodes was, basically showing how messed up they are, even if they are nothing compared to the dream sequences of Paprika.
Another thing I’ll give credit to the show for, is becomming full psychological, promoting an anti escapism message as well as a message about not giving up on life despite how hard it might be and even blending reality and subconsciousness near the end, but not exactly at the end thus making it feel unimportant as a certain mecha show did. Also, unlike Paprika, the finale here doesn’t feel like something that just came out of a fighting shounen.
Another mini plus is having the balls to show violence without censoring and without being too edgy or gruesome, it keeps the dark and serious tone while exploring the subject and without becoming sensationalism or a spectacle.
In my older review I wrote this:
“Now, despite having an explanation for how that works, what I don’t understand is how do you have a device to enter the minds of criminals who you don’t know where they are in the real life, nor do I understand why would anyone connect people to a messed up mind without having any form of security in order to protect them that isn’t just disconnecting them, which in turn surprises me that it doesn’t have any secondary effect on said people.”
There’s an explanation but the issue lies in its fundamentals, the mechanism seems possible but what is lacking is the definition of what are these crime particles anyway and how are they actually detected.
An element that will feel weird at first, like in every science fiction show that has a society that seems to be just like ours but with advanced technology like a mind being seen as a sort of hollogram and a machine that can detect particles, is that is hard to accept such things in our present time and day and how convenient they are. I can still kinda overlook all of that, since we need a premise to make the show start.
As for the security, there’s the memory eraser in the virtual world, which otherwise offers nothing in the real world, and thus the real people. Again, GitS was much more detailed in this regard.
I also have issues on the fact that the mechanism treats people with suicidal thoughts or sudden killing intentions and serial killers equally, I guess other people with different points of view regarding crimes and human rights as well as people from different countries with different justice systems and different penalties will feel different about it, but this is my review. I have a similar complain with Psycho-Pass, and I have it here as well, in that show it was questioned and somewhat explored, but here it is not.
Another minus in the show is having the same silly monologues of “I’m the great detective” whenever they enter these mental worlds, doing it once or twice would be fine but when you have the characters doing that all the time it comes off as silly, even more on a series that tries to be serious and dark as this one. Did I mention that they also have simple looking avatars that are way less cooler than how they look in the real life and that they also have silly quirks and personalities while they are there?
Anyways, during the first half of the show you have these people solving episodic cases which seem to be unrelated with the others at first and entering the minds of these criminals who the viewer never gets to really know something about, besides how messed up they are and their sadistic or emotional reasons behind their murders. And the agents can die and revive how many times they want in there so there aren’t really much consequences. Supposedly, every death has an impact on their real bodies but nothing major ever happens in the series regarding that, and their memories reset with every new logging so here we are with a circular pacing where they repeat the same thing, with the same silly monologue, often making the same mistakes, before finding and capturing the criminal with clear but not that anticipated resolutions.
Eventually all these seemingly unrelated cases are tied together through a same mastermind that manipulates people to turn them into criminals, so the main mystery is built on the background from the beginning, just with a slow pacing. And the show has the same issue as Erased, there’s no point in trying to build a who could it be mystery when you have one clear suspect, who in turn lacks screentime and presence throughout the show.
Unlike Erased though, the responsible and how was he hiding and what are his motives once he’s found out are found and explained in details, and it has nothing to do with killing people because of illusionary spider webs. But his reasons aren’t really much better, he’s a typical villain with a God complex and a morbid sense of justice. Light in Death Note was cool because he was explored, questioned, had a clear counterforce and ends up paying the price in different ways.
The villain in Paprika had somewhat pretentious monologues about the body supressing the mind before getting crazy and turning into a monster. Shogo Makishima had pretentious monologues as his excuse for making the people revolt against the system and he also had a clear connection to the main protagonists of the show, he was also killing people himself in ruthless ways and all of that made him a very memorable antagonist. And do I even need to talk about the antagonists in GitS? They had all of that as well as his political and philosophical ideal explored. This guy here have none of that and thus come off as a very forgettable and unimportant villain.
And the logic behind this worlds within minds change completely at the end when the show changes its rules completely with absent or rushed explanations and convenient outcomes, all of a sudden there are wells within wells, minds mixing with each other, more than one brilliant detective, effects from reality affecting the virtual worlds or viceversa, and more stuff like that. All of which ultimately leads to the resolution in a somewhat unsatisfying way. I still give it a pass, because the whole mechanism is almost brand new so it makes sense for them to not exactly know all about it, but if the show was actually longer it could introduce these just discovered aspects without feeling like the rules are being rewritten in convenient ways.
The resolution itself is not bad, it’s actually ok in terms of themes, the system they used is somewhat questioned and seen as bad but neccesary for good reasons, just like in the anime it takes inspiration from, where the status quo in maintained at the end. Rather, the problem lies on the rushed and convenient way it unfolds and how they captured the main villain.
At least there’s a very fleshed out protagonist, showing his mentality and how he’s slowly affected by everything, as well as his tragic backstory, and being a former agent and later on a criminal himself, it makes sense for him to know about all sorts of stuff regarding crimes in both their makings and their solvings, and he comes off with very reasonable courses of actions, thus he’s a capable and well established character. He can also be ruthless, which is rare for a protagonist nowadays. He’s so good he can use pissed coats with a serious expression and still remain cool.
The main girl is an oddball, despite being a moe looking petite girl with a pink hair clip, she’s actually 23 years old, is very curious about the mechanism, is actually smart, wants to look even in her own subsconciousness and even threatens or kill people at times, yet she also blushes when she gets kissed and have more moe traits in her. Thus she comes off as a kinda weird character that is kinda all over the place yet serviceable as a plot device and as an atypical legal loli with actual personality. As for the rest? Who cares about them? Outside of the main villain they do their job fine as plot devices but otherwise offers nothing in terms of characterization. They get to relate to the others in some ways but that is still not very looked into.
Visually speaking, the show has good looking backgrounds with creative directing and acceptable effects, and no real quality drops, and the actual animation is also well done, even better than expected for this type of show. The problem lies in the awful CGI and the horrible character designs, I already complained about the avatars but the actual designs suffer from bad in-between that constantly makes them go off model and when you are constantly watching at close up shots of deformed faces, it becomes very distracting, not on par with Magatsu Wahrheit or Japan Sinks, but still pretty bad.
The sound is good in every aspect, good sound effects and good music that sets up a good atmosphere and there are good insert songs with surprisingly good english. Both the opening and ending are fine, especially the latter, but they aren’t exactly memorable. The voice acting is well made, with every seiyuu fitting their characters just fine and there’s a very well made distortion effect for a certain virtual character, but seriously, having Kenjiro Tsuda as either a fucked up villain or a typical tough cool guy when he is not voicing a villain is used so much these days, it’s getting old by now, he may have sucked balls when he started as Kaiba and Aoba in Naruto, but at least he had more variety. It’s not bad, but it feels typical and unimpressive.
As a whole, I see nothing in this show that wasn’t already present and equally or better presented in the anime I compared it to and even if it stands out from being different than the trends of today, Winter had lots of episodic or semi episodic mystery shows at the same time (Pet, Kyoukou Suiri, Jeweler Richard, the last episodes of Babylon), so even in that regard, it is nothing special, nor it feels like it, and for that it won’t really be remembered. It’s not exactly bad, and it’s better than its contemporaries from the same season, but nothing that can’t be missed either.
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Another reason to pass on this anime is the studio in charge of it, it’s pretty new and they did nothing of value as of yet, heck, the more famous work from them is Miru Tights, a short episodes comedy dedicated completely to a fetish.
Something that caught my attention while playing the game is that the setting was more medieval than the anime, which combines fantasy elements with an european like setting with contemporary technology and clothes (not present day technology and clothes of course). Combining that with how different Leocadio looks in the game made me think that the anime was going for its own completely different story, well that’s because I don’t know german and thus I didn’t know that the Zuerst in the title means the first or beginning, meaning, it’s actually a prequel to the game.
Anyways, Magatsu Wahrheit combines several elements from other shows of its season and year to grab attention, is based on a mobile rpg just like King’s Raid, it has an european like setting and messed up nobels like Moriarty the Patriot and a dual protagonist focus, just like…well, many other shows from this year (Moriarty, Deca-Dence, Runway de Waratte, BNA, to name a few).
Its downside, I have to admit, is not being exciting, it plays out like a mystery instead of an action adventure and thus it has a lot of talking and investigation which are not going to thrill many viewers.
On top of that the visuals are nothing like in the PV, they are weak in the beginning and downright pathetic towards the end, making it even duller to watch, the setting is pretty good looking, the backgrounds are well made, but almost everything else in the visuals falls apart completely. The character designs are terrible despite standing out a little from the norm, they lack detail, shading, lightning, they are not even completely drawn at times, and the qualily drops are making things worse, the characters barely look good because the artwork is weak and the in-between is poorly made and keeps giving them deformed faces in all of the episodes, especially the second and third to last.
The motions are ok in the beginning, there’s a good fight in the first episode with a good choreography, but as the episodes goes on, they become worse and worse, the movements are very sloppy even in moments in relaxation, so just imagine how bad they are whenever there’s action.
The special effects are overall ok when it comes to shots and magic but I have to admit that there were pretty looking moments such as a certain thing beneath the Capital and the explosión in the last two episodes which reminded me of Watchmen, blowing up everything and even showing the horrors of having people being dragged on by it. In general, the last episode is better animated than the rest, but not by much.
I really should stop talking about the sound when I have nothing to say about it, voice acting is ok, nothing particular about it except for the fact that the distortion effect for the monsters is good, but there are at least 4 soldiers voiced by the same guy and his voice is weird and his acting not really convincing, sound effects are pretty good and impactful, the music is fine too, the ending is fine and the opening is pretty great, too bad modern audiences don’t seem to be very fond of instrumental or opera openings, don’t miss the 8 minute full version of it by the way, it has different sections and it’s completely different from the minute and a half version.
The big plus of the show is having a conflict which is interesting yet simple on paper but multi layered on execution, here there are monsters appearing near the city and villages and killing people, the military have to take care of them on the Capital of the Empire and the Diet orders that every city has to protect itself however they can, thus they are unable to protect other places, which obviously makes the citizens and villagers unhappy and hostile towards them.
There is a group of rebels that want to help the people to take down the monsters, there are episodes showing how the monsters attack the different places, as well as some episodes showing people about to die from a decease which they also try to find a cure for, there is the Diet that controls everything and they lead some sort of plan to take the Empire and they are also making experiments with people and turning them to monsters, with the idea of it being a next step in human evolution or something generic like that and the series does not shy away from showing some of these people losing control and attacking others, including their loved ones (like in Fog Hill of Five Elements) without censorship and there are double agents and traitors on both sides, which are of course shown investigating or plotting.
All of the above as well as the way they are connected and the cause of it all is shown with a proper pacing and without much exposition, despite featuring lots of terms from the games, it’s nothing like other videogame adaptations where there are lots of exposition through talking nor complicated explanations of complicated terminology, everything is shown by the characters’ actions and interactions and the world building.
Another plus is how neither side is shown as completely good or bad and how most if not every character seems to have their own agenda and doing something both on their own and as part of a group all the time. There are evil nobles like in Moriarty that rape their maids, get them pregnant, mistreat them and even lead them to suicide (this reminded me of Journey of Elaina by the way), as well as others that are part of the rebels and genuinely want to help the people. There are soldiers that are messed up in the head and are shown as ruthless and sadistic, and they like to torture, kill and beat others, as well as good soldiers that genuinely want to protect the citizens and becomes allies with Headkeeper once they learn the truth.
There are characters such as the father of the red haired girl who seem clueless to the whole thing but they are actually doing something behind the scenes with also good reasons for doing so. And as I said earlier, there are traitors and double agents on both sides, that makes neither side to have complete advantage over the other nor be incompetent and there’s a somewhat high level of tension because of it.
Another good thing is having two protagonists and having the narrative jumping between both of them and showing what both of them are doing all the time. Leocadio begins as a naive soldier with an idealized vision of the military and his learning about the shady and corrupt side of it, before deciding to practically turn against it, kill a superior, and stop the plans of the corrupt government alongside Headkeeper. Innumael is a normal worker who gets dragged by the whole thing by accident in a mostly believable way, beginning as a coward who only cares about his safety (which is understandable) before actually becoming a proper member of Headkeeper and wanting to help others, kinda like the protagonist of Akudama Drive, even becoming a wanted criminal in a similar way. Showing a bit of their backgrounds, their families, how they get involved in the conflict, the change in the interactions between the two of them as enemies at first and allies in the end was also a nice way to flesh them out.
I have to admit though, that aside from them, every other character that seemed to be important at first gets a secondary role or disappear in the second half. The red haired girl is the prime example of that, she seemed to be a central part of the conflict at first, even showing a bit of her everyday life when they get back to the city, and then she gets kinda tossed aside in the final episodes, there’s a blonde guy who disappears after the fifth episode before sniping someone in the head in the last episode out of nowhere. There’s a kid that we never see again and so on. At least every death feels important because the show follows what everyone does most if not all the time.
This has to do with the weird pacing the show has, it may feel slow in the beginning because it is not exciting but that was allowing for mostly everything to make sense and feel organic and believable with proper build up and treatment.
That, and the fact that the amount of episodes was unknown until the show was two weeks to end, made me think that the series was going to be at least a two cour show ending in March of next year but that wasn’t the case, the series clearly speeds up in the second half and it starts using silly resolutions such as last moment saves from characters appearing out of nowhere with lazy explanations or the rebels easily infiltrating different places and posing as soldiers. This, alongside the book from the second episode and some unexplained things in the last episode, such as Leocadio’s seconds of power and Innumael’s plot armor, among other things, affect a little the credibility of the whole thing.
With that said, there’s some sort of excuse for all of that, which is basically the Diet playing around with them because their plan was practically unstoppable and because they were basically setting a trap for them and capturing them for their experiments, yet I feel like Headkeeper should have known that, if that thing was beneath the capital, then the real light would appear there, making the explosion near the end somewhat avoidable. That’s why the finale will feel weird and unsatisfying, aside from being incomplete, it could have been avoided, and will definitely feel rushed, heck, the PV showed a fight between the two protagonists which never happened, so there’s definitely stuff that was cut off from the main series.
That said, the finale is uncommon and somewhat refreshing for the side that wins in the end, as well as anticipated early on, but it’s definitely not a good one. Being a prequel to the game is not an excuse, for all the criticism Rogue One can get, the ending made sense for sending off the events of the original Star Wars and felt satisfying for everything that happened in the movie. Heck, in anime there’s Gundam the Origin which is an amazing prequel to the original series and fits almost perfectly within the timeline while still having a solid ending for its own story.
In the end, Magatsu Wahrheit is basically the Deca-Dence of its season, a somewhat worth watching show, especially for being based on a videogame, with a mostly decent plot and a mosty decent cast of characters that was overlooked by many (if not most) people that sadly didn’t last more to tap all of its potential. I thought it was going to be the best show of the year but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as it could have been if it was longer and better paced. Being better animated and a little more exciting and memorable instead of making me rewatch it from the beginning once I finished it in order to write something about it definitely would have helped too.
And now, a little breakdown of each aspect for a little more justified rating
VISUALS - 4/10
Well made backgrounds and effects but very bad artwork, character figures and motions.
SOUND - 8/10
Good music, very good sound effects and acceptable voice acting.
STORY - 6/10
Interesting and well presented conflict with proper pacing and logic in the first half but not so much in the second, with a pretty bad finale.
CHARACTERS - 7/10
Proactive and well established cast of characters that stay relevant throughout most of its duration with very fleshed out and evolving protagonists, but some of them are completely forgotten by the end.
VALUE - 3/10
Mostly unknown and very forgettable title. Rewatching it definitely helps to notice some things that can go unnotice on a first watch but it’s something most people would not do for the show is frankly not exciting and on top of that it’s pretty badly animated.
ENJOYMENT - 7/10
What can I say? It was the only show from its season that I actually liked, especially during its first half, and I also liked it the same if not even more when I rewatched it a second time.
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If you are like me and thus are accostumed to japanese anime, the artwork will feel different and refreshing, yet very polished, there are some intances where the character figures don’t exactly match the backgrounds but they are a few and not very noticeable. The character designs resemble traditional stories a lot, and most characters are tall and muscular manly men and without any facial repetition amongst them, giving it a more than welcomed retro feel to it. The backgrounds are beautiful to look at.
The most important and well known aspect of the show in this regard is obviously the actual animation, which is very weak when the character talk, walk or do simple movements in general, the mouth and eyes movements are kinda sloppy and the same applies to every other bit of body language. On the other hand, during the action scenes, when the show needs to have good and fluent motions, it’s simply spectacular, every single motion is practically perfectly made, and what do you want me to say about the special effects? They reminded me of those used during the most impactful scenes in Demon Slayer, which is always a plus.
There’s also very good camera work, following every fast paced action scene perfectly, unlike, let’s say, Dragon Super Broly, where the camera becomes really crazy at times and don’t let you keep track of some action sequences.
So, great and distinctive artwork, great character designs, mostly good animation and superb special effects which constitute a perfect mix of awesome martial arts with epic super powers. There are some things that could be more polished but as a whole the visuals are an impressive job, especially with very few people working on them.
The sound design is not as good, the music is ok, a generic traditional chinese soundtrack which fits the story and setting well and when it comes to the voice acting, well, I have to admit that I’m not familiar at all with chinese voices and voice acting, but what I heard here felt just right, every character had a fitting voice and good interpretation behind in every scene, from the comical to the tragic ones. The sound effects on the other hand are pretty weak in both the relaxing moments as well as those when there are fights and they make those scenes lack quite the impact.
Even when the show cares mostly about the action, there’s a serviceable plot with serviceable characters behind, nothing groundbreaking of course, it’s just some guardians that can use the elements as their powers that fight against demons that threatens humanity, so it’s basically a combination of The Last Airbender with Demon Slayer, only with manliness and epic fights taken from Asura’s Wrath.
The first episode really lowers your expectations because is mostly silly comedy with wacky facial expressions, which reminded me a lot of Golden Kamuy, but then the second and third became a lot more tragic and serious without ever losing that tone. The power scaling in the show seems to be pretty high as the first demon alone was able to fight toe to toe against the protagonist, and he was incapable of saving most of the people from the village.
And the many deaths shown here weren’t just for showing the horrible powers of the demons, as there are enough scenes with the villagers to make the audience somewhat care about them when they die, although obviously not the point of getting emotionally attached to them, for they lack lot of screen time for that, and the way they die is genuinely tragic and almost heartbreaking.
The demons seem to be evil and kill humans just because at first, but as the last episode reveals, is actually a revenge against them for a horrible thing they did in the past, which in turn was not something done for sadistic pleasure, there’s a very good cause regarding a mortal decease behind that course of action. Very good conflict and very well presented with an appropiate tone.
Now for the negatives which prevent me to rate the show a little higher at least for now, the characters are serviceable as plot devices but none of them have much information revealed about them to let you get emotionally invested, and the plot, on top of simple and straightforward, is just a prologue, a kind of demo for more episodes to come if the small group of people working on it decides it’s worth it to keep going. That’s why it has no actual ending despite hyping you with the different agendas everyone has and the invasion of, I have to say, way less interesting demons, seemingly about to happen.
Besides that, it was a very serviceable promotion that did its job way better than, let’s say, Burn the Witch, for presenting an actually interesting conflict, with a serious tone, and mostly amazing visuals. I really want to see how the story continues, if it does, and if you happened to read this and know more about chinese series that you think are equal or better, please feel free to come to my profile and reccomend them to me, especially if they are similar to it.
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To its credit, it’s a really easy watch and there are enough things happening in each episode to maintain the average viewer hooked if they don’t think much about what is happening and honestly, if more comes out, I’ll definitely watch it because I want to see what happens next.
Visually is serviceable, the artwork is ok, the character designs are akin to those in My Hero Academia although not as creative or unique, the backgrounds are simple but well made. The effects aren’t bad at all but the show abuses a lot of using a certain filter with a certain color for when a character is having internal thoughts, depending on the person, pink for the protagonist, blue for Kyoya and such, and gets tiresome rather quickly. It also does the same as Moriarty the Patriot and about every anime with dark overtones that comes out today, it splashes red all over the screen for when a murder happen or it’s about to happen and it also gets tiresome because it looses impact the more it’s used, overuse work against intention.
As always, I have nothing to say about the sound, both music and effects are serviceable and have enough impact but are not exactly memorable, both the opening and ending are fine, voice acting is also serviceable but nothing special.
Now that all that filler is over, we can talk about what really matters here and say that Munou no Nana relies heavily on having similarities with other works and subverting expectations, to the point of being able to fool unexperienced viewers into thinking it’s original, without adding much (or nothing) on its own.
The premise, the first episode and the first promotional material (both videos and first poster) makes you think that it will be a literal clone of My Hero Academia, with his own version of Deku, that has a very similar design, the same personality, and is equally bullied. He is also presented as someone with seemingly no powers and has a very similar name to the actual protagonist of the show, further making you think that it will be about him. And then the episode is about to finish and the series changes completely.
Basically, all of the above was brilliant marketing, making you expect something derivative that cashes in on a popular series, and then proceeding to give you something completely different, which is basically like Danganronpa by having a school student trying to kill all of their classmates. It was also lucky to come out close to the very similar flavor of the month (despite being two years old) videogame Among Us, thus being seen as the anime version of it.
Anyways, so we have this girl going around, gathering information about the powers each student has and then killing them off. The good thing is how each ability has actual weaknesses that the protagonist can, and does reasonably take advantage of, making her seem smart, the bad part is that every other character is so dumb and fall on her traps and schemes so easily that it kills the illusion that you are watching a well thought out series about murders and how the culprit is gonna do it and how is she going to get away with it.
My first real issue with the show, aside from the dumb characters, is how lucky the protagonist is that no student here is strong, I mean seriously they all have very specific powers that makes her act in a certain way in each episode, and lets her plan something specific in each episode (something pretty convenient) but they are otherwise very weak and are taken off easily. They are supposed to be the saviours of humanity that fight against dangerous enemies but they otherwise die the same way every normal person would do, and don’t receive any training in the school that is supposed to prepare them for doing that in the future.
And I just have to point out how convenient it is that everyone buys her lies about her fake talent, it has an in story excuse, since every power has its strenghts and weaknesses, but when the protagonist comes with a different excuse of how it worked or didn’t just when it was needed, and everyone eats that crap everytime, it becomes unexcusable and a clear sign of bad writing. It also abuses it a lot, doing it once or twice would be convenient but acceptable, but when is overused like this, it becomes unacceptable. In JoJo, Joseph can guess what his enemies think and that conveniently throws his opponent off a little, enough to give him time to come out with another plan, but it’s not abused as much and is presented as dumb in a series with an over the top tone, here it’s presented in a serious manner and that only makes it lame.
Anyways, having a character going around killing other characters in each episode in somewhat convenient ways with very convenient outcomes would get formulaic and boring very fast, which it does, and thus the series introduces a main antagonist who looks like a combination of Bakugo and Todoroki and sounds just like Gray Fullbuster from Fairy Tail. What I’m trying to say is, this character was planned to be the one to confront the protagonist from the get go.
From there, they play a Kira and L cat and mouse game where they know exactly what the other does and are constantly trying to make the other look like the culprit (in case of Kyoya) or themselves innocent (in case of Nana). But just like with everything thus far, everyone around them is so dumb they don’t believe what Kyoya says, even if it makes sense to the most part and is often supported with actual evidence.
On top of that, these people are acting all friendly when they live in a world where something is supposed to be out there ready to kill them on the spot. Heck, even when they are getting killed off each day, they still don’t suspect their classmates (especially the students who just transfered) and still act all friendly, just like in Danganronpa. Bad shows copy even the worst aspects of other bad shows it seems.
I’ve seen people defending the show saying that is understandable for the characters to be this stupid because they lack the information the viewer has, which is true. I’ll expand on that later but now I’m gonna say that, just like it happens with Moriarty, having a Mary Sue protagonist in a series about murders and cat and mouse game kills all the tension and makes the show very dull to watch.
And Nana is not even consistent in that regard, for example, Moriarty is a Gary Stu but at least is presented as such in his own series, he is more consistent than Nana, who constantly messes up yet still gets away with it simply because the script says so and everyone else is seriously dumb, instead of doing that with actual wit.
Even if someone still manages to defend the show in this regard, there are instances where someone else than Kyoya finds out about Nana but doesn’t expose her for stupid reasons. It makes sense for the necrophile girl to remain silent but what valid excuse does the guy able to seen the future has for not doing so? Why he wanted to fuck Nana, that’s why, Such stupid reasoning and it made him look like a one dimensional ugly bastard rapist you would find in a doujinshi instead of a shounen series. No, there are no valid excuses for this episodes, the show is just lazily and badly written.
And I also have to point out how having an inmortal antagonist who is also mentally unbreakable ruins all the tension and fun even further.
A common criticism about the series, which I agree with, is how Nana kills the only guy with the capability of nullifying others’ powers, who would be helpful later on, and constantly keeps doing something similar, killing off characters that could be helpful if used against others. I mean, the first guy was already kinda exploitable if you think about it, try to put him against his bullies and convince him that those fuckers are the enemies and done. But oh well, if he’s exactly like Deku then he would consider his bullies as his potential boyfriends, I mean best Friends, so it would be pointless.
Still, for an agent that is supposed to have been trained her whole life in stealth and assassination, as well as someone that is constantly acting like someone she’s not, Nana sure rushes to kill off everyone instead of trying to manipulate them against the others, which would make the series less formulaic and tiresome and actually somewhat smart, and not leave her exposed every single time.
Another issue with the show is the mood whiplash, as it’s constantly throwing random silly comedy in the middle of serious moments that are supposed to be suspenful and intense, doing it once or twice would be forgiveable but when it happens all the time it becomes a serious problem. And it’s not because the series is a shounen, Moriarty is a shounen series as well and it never trashes its tone like that by throwing stupid comedy just because.
Even Kyoya, who’s supposed to be the serious and smart character and counterforce of the protagonist, has silly quirks such as wanting friends, crack jokes in inappropriate moments and even wanting to play with Nana’s hair, what a way to kill the characterization of even the only actually interesting character of the show.
The theme present in the show basically comes to down to discrimination based on previous events, just like in Moriarty, the other muder mystery show of the season, and just like that series, it fucks it up in its presentation for the same reason, it presents the conflict in a simplified good vs. bad way. Only one side of the conflict is explained and it gets really hard to accept their ways of reasoning and acting when they have innocent high schoolers being killed off for doing absoultely nothing, it’s completely one sided, victimizing and unjustified that it ruins the whole theme exploration.
And finally there is the issue of the nonsensical setting, it’s almost impossible to accept that no one finds it strange that there’s only one school to train the future protectors of mankind, and it’s located on an isolated island in the middle of nowhere, even My Hero Academia is better in that regard. The show tries to excuse that by basically turning the setting into a Battle Royale clone midway, but that only makes things worse. Are you telling me that all of humanity agreed to send kids on an isolated island in hope of everyone killing each other? Talk about a one sided conflict. And you are also telling me that this has already happened before? And no one found it strange how all the future saviours of humanity died together on the same island? Many times? Hello? And it also turned the show from something with pretences of intelligence to a generic death game you can find everywhere these days in both anime and western entertainment since the success of Fate/Zero in 2011 and The Hunger Games in 2012.
Heck, now that I think about it, another strange thing is how no one finds it weird that the stories about the enemies of mankind are basically legends for there has not been a case since forever and are you telling me that only the talentless people know about the incident in the past? How is that possible? Are these kids taught different history depending if they have abilities or not or what? Even when they go to the same school before the latter are sent to an isolated island?
I don’t even understand how do these kids even have families back in their home, if this school has been doing that since who knows when, their parents should all be dead as well…or that would be the case if it was genetic as in My Hero Academia, but it’s not. And that only raises the question on how do these people even get their powers from, it also makes me think that perhaps their parents themselves sent their kids in order to get killed on that island and that only makes it worse.
Finally, aside from the characters being dumb, only two of them have background stories, one is Nana herself and is just a generic revenge plot past, and the other is Michiru or whatever that dog girl is called, and is a generic I helped someone once and began doing it ever since type of past, boring. I can give the show credit for developing Nana a little by becoming genuinely attached to her, and not only because of her healing powers, but it comes to down to being reluctant at first and then attached to someone just because they are kind, with yuri overtones included.
No, her actual development is slowly wanting to know the truth behind all things and even that is nothing much.
In conclusion, Munou na Nana is a show that you can easily watch if you just accept everything it throws at you at face value but the moment you start thinking about it, it falls apart completely, the setting makes absolutely no sense, the themes are rarely explored and when they are, the presentation of them is pathetic, the plot is full of conveniences to the point it becomes unacceptable, the tone is a mess and the characters are absolute garbage. And I will still torture myself to watch more of it if it gets more seasons because I want to see how the plot unfolds, even when it takes all of my stamina to not fall asleep while doing so.
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Whether you like the show or not, I think we can all agree that it’s completely nonsensical, it lives and dies purely by the rule of cool, it cares mostly about its style and very little about its substance. The setting combines elements from different cyberpunk stories, it partially takes the executioners and authorities from Psycho Pass, as well as their ideologies, it partially takes the public executions to please the people from The Running Man, and its aesthetics are very close to those of Cyberpunk 2077’s, even if it came out earlier.
Combine all of that with a Suicide Squad tier of plot and characters and what you get is essentially a schlocky ova from the ‘80s, stretched to last for a whole one course series. The good thing about the show is being self aware and conscious about that and never trying to be really serious or deep. Its crappy writing support that idea. The fact that the episodes are named after movies and more of them try to imitate their basic plots in a simple and schlocky way is a clear indication of that. In specific:
-In Se7en the criminal responsible for the most gruesome murders is freed and pursued, like in the movie, minus the detective work and the religious overtones.
-In Reservoir Dogs, the gang is altogether and discuss the next course of action, like in the movie, but replacing the more elaborated narrative and the outcome with action.
-In Mission: Impossible the heist kicks in and is full of plain stupid action, like in that silly franchise.
-In Speed, the gang gets on a train at full speed and confront the executioners, like in the later half of the movie of the homonymous film.
-And The Shining becomes a slasher film with a character finally losing the little sanity he had left and chasing other around and trying to kill them, obviously missing a lot from the movie of the same name.
I won’t talk about Dead Man Walking, Brother, City of Lost Children and Death, for they have major plot points that I can’t spoil, as well as Black Rain because I don’t know a movie like that, and War Games because, outside of the hacking, the plot is completely different to the one in the movie and of course Akudama Drive because is it not named after a movie and it’s also the last episode.
Ok, there are some classic themes from sci-fi stories such as:
-An oppressive and incompetent government, people raising against it because someone made them realize that and the authorities breaking their own laws and going full tyrannical;
-A civil war with ever growing technology that destroyed the surface and even the moon in the past and made some parts of Japan completely uninhabitable;
-Experiments with artificial humans, all of them more or less clones of each other, some of them leaving the labs and slowly getting emotions;
-The search for immortality or eternal longevity by a mad scientist and the replacement of bodies in order to live and remain as a computer with one and only conscience that combines everyone’s, before entering in one or two inmortal bodies and more stuff.
All of the above is presented in such a superficial, dumb and over the top way, it’s impossible to take any of that seriously. They are just background excuses for the mindless action to happen.
The first episode alone is an indication of bad writing, everything happens through accidents and conveniences, with the unnamed protagonist bumping into all these crazy people and events by accident just because she was pursuing a cat.
Then you get six or so episodes dedicated completely to the action, the group almost never stops going from one place to another and blowing away everything in their path while killing every random person they encounter, except for the executioners who are so powerful, two of them can deal with 5 top level criminals and boy do we get some great fights here, combining hand to hand combats with different martial arts between Brawler and Master and all sorts of crazy weapons, to Courier’s super advanced motorcycle, to Doctor’s drugs and poisons, to Hacker’s drones and Cutthroat’s…well, he’s a living weapon himself.
This non stop action makes the show entertaining and spectacular on one hand, while setting a proper tone, but in the other it makes the crappy writing too obvious, outside of the nonsensical action and all the plain impossible stuff that happens, spending half of the show in just mindless explosions, forces the series to reveal its plot twists so close to each other to the point it looks like the show is pulling them out of its own ass.
There are other unexplainable things such as:
-The blown out moon;
-A train that for some reason still goes to an uninhabitable place;
-Why and how is every common citizen just walking around in a city full of superhuman criminals that runs around at will;
-How is Swindler exposed as an Akudama when buying but not Courier at the beginning;
-The fact that outside of the first two executioners that have to be taking by five top tier akudama at the same time, the rest fall like flies;
-The way characters keep disappearing and reappearing out of nowhere, and so on and so on.
And there are also small segments of two chibi stuffed mascots explaining stuff in a silly voice at the screen with silly voices in a completely different art style, later revealed to be an educational show in this world but in ours is just an excuse for infodumps that are never even truly complete. Also, they are directly taken from the Monokuma’s Theater segments in the Danganronpa games after each trial.
The Danganronpa influences don’t stop there, every character carries some sort of title or class and does not have their names and backgrounds revealed before they start falling like flies, at least their interactions are somewhat important and affect them somehow.
The protagonist, posing as and later actually becoming Swindler is basically like Rock from Black Lagoon or Edamame from Great Pretender, the only normal person around here with some resemblance of morals as she tries to keep the damages at mínimum and becoming some sort of mother or older sister figure for the kids as well as being the person who helps them being more aware of their goodbeing and suffering, and how important they are to each other, as well as not treating their wounds as nothing and ultimately she’s the one that makes everyone around her to become a little more…human.
She can become a little preachy at times but for her type of character and her role, it’s somewhat excused. Well, just like the two examples I mentioned, Swindler slowly gets affected by everything that happens around her and by everyone she comes across, realizing things about the society she lives on and siding with the Akudamas before becoming a pure criminal herself, leaving the moral high ground behind and doing what needs to be done while still keeping her as the only somewhat human person around here. And she becomes a semi proactive character to the point of starting a riot.
The little sister changes as well but unlike Swindler, her change of behaviour is too sudden, she begins as a mostly silent, almost a shrine maiden type of character who is always behind her older brother’s back and she becomes like a…like a little Swindler. It happens from one specific episode to the next which makes her development completely unbelievable.
The only other character who has some development is Hoodlum, a minor criminal who just like Swindler, gets involved in all of this by accident and survives by lying his way before he gets influenced by his “brother” Brawler and grows some balls because of him.
The rest are never truly explored, they are just character archetypes with no information about them and remain as such until the end of the show or until they die:
-Hacker is just your typical nerdy genius better with advanced technology than the whole government;
-Brawler is just your typical thick headed tall and muscular guy who solves everything with his fists and puts strenght and manliness above everything else;
-Courier is just your typical serious and estoic guy who just wants to get it all done as fast and effective as possible;
-Cutthroat is just a typical psychopath that kills for silly reasons and the more the show goes on, the more he goes full slasher film antagonist, especially when he becomes Swindler’s stalker;
-And lastly, Doctor is a take on the mad scientist type of villain in the form of a typical bitchy woman who seduces naive young men and then plays with them and their lives however she wants in order to get what she wants before ruthlessly killing everyone.
One look at their designs and you understand these characters completely and know exactly what to expect from them, and maybe even how they will die, but I obviously can’t get into details concerning that, all I will say is that at least the show spends some time with them before killing them in an epic or ironic way, unlike in Danganronpa where you don’t give a crap about who dies because you don’t see them much on screen, and their deaths are so silly and random you mostly laugh at them rather than being shocked or sad.
Now that I mentioned Danganronpa, did you notice how the cast here can be summarize as the batshit crazy version of someone from that franchise? Hacker is a criminal Fujisaki, Brawler is a sociopath Nidai or Owari, Cutthroat is just a male Genocyder Sho on steroids, and Doctor is a criminal Mikan. The only character who can’t be summed up this way is Courier and only because he’s so boring, there’s no character in Danganronpa that is that serious to compare him with, there are only Byakuya and Ishimaru but even they are completely different to this guy.
Heck even some designs remind me of the Danganronpa cast, Swindler looks like a fusion between Chiaki and Ibuki and Brawler is the child of Sakura and Hagakure, the only difference between this show and the Danganronpa anime adaptation is that here actual money or effort was placed in order to make these crazy designs justice and not whatever the Danganronpa anime was, where everybody was ruined, even Kirigiri, how can someone dare to ruin Kirigiri’s image like that? Unforgivable. Another difference with that show is that here there is not stupid pink blood…but there’s a lot of censoring.
Aside from the designs, the visuals are practically perfect as far as I’m concerned, consistent artwork during most of the duration if not the whole of it, detailed and well made backgrounds, fast paced action with ever fluent motions, and well made effects with well rendered CGI, outside of the stupid censorship present in later episodes, I have no complains here. It’s unbelievable that it was made by Pierrot, nobody would have expected that.
The digital coloring has the looks you would expect from this setting and with the people making it, very colorful but still with dark tones, it really is like watching an anime version of Cyberpunk 2077 but without all of the bugs and glitches and the drops in frames. After this, I don’t even want to see what Trigger is going to make based on the game, especially after the big disappointment it was in just a week after its release.
As for the sound, the music is kind of a letdown, neither the opening nor the ending stand out and I even already forgot them, and the soundtrack in the show goes completely unnoticed. The sound effects on the other hand are plain fantastic and immersive, is like watching a Hollywood action film. The voice acting is well done for this type of series, is just like it’s obviously not amazing by default, with all the silliness it has. Shotout to the almost unrecognizable voice of Megumi Ogata as Doctor, it was a refreshing performance from her.
Down to it, if you shut off your brain and tolerate these sociopaths, you’ll probably have a blast with this one, with all of its crazy characters and plot twists and all the non stop superbly animated action, I personally didn’t enjoy it much because at one point I wanted at least some downtime to learn more about the characters and take a breath from all the fast paced explosions and fights, but I can’t deny that I was expecting to see what crazy event was going to happen in the next episode when it was airing and was fairly entertained while watching it, had I watched this one ten years ago, I would have most likely loved it almost as much as I love Hellsing Ultimate.
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I didn’t make a review of Bleach because there is no point in doing that, since everyone and their mothers already talked about it both positively and negatively, but I will make comparisons between the two.
First thing to notice is how it takes place in a different country, nothing wrong in that, and it goes for a urban/contemporary fantasy and magic realism type of story, meaning the normal people is more or less aware of everything that happens (in one side), unlike in Bleach where neither the Hollows nor the Shinigami could be seen by people with weak spiritual energy…at first, something that changed completely later on.
This would be pretty interesting if said normal people would get a role in the story but as of yet they don’t do nothing of importance, heck, they are not even allowed to interact with the monsters, which here are presented in different form than they had in Bleach, as dragons. Another thing where is weaker than Bleach is having a much lighthearted tone.
Although Bleach has lots of silly comedic moments from beginning to end, the first episodes have a creepy atmosphere with a haunting soundtrack at times, something which was completely lost here.
For something positive, the Soul Society here works completely different, it no longer follows a military logic with clear borders that separates the japanese elite from the poor and miserable foreigners (cough) but instead works as some kind of company where the Soul Reapers are some kind of employees that hunts the hollows in pairs for credits.
Believe or not, this is a good thing, in Bleach, the Reapers sent on a mission could be a single soldier or both the captain and lieutenant of a squad which was kind of sily if you think about it. Why would you send a single person on a mission, or why would you do that with the two biggest authorities of a squad, leaving it behind without leadership and boy was the Gotei 13 lucky that they never received an attack at the same time. Also, I never understood why the captains have only one lieutenant and only one squad under their supervision. And the ranks were complete bullshit, with stronger people serving under weaker people at times. None of that nonsense is present here, as everyone has the chance to get a higher rank just by working a lot.
Also, the Gotei 13 is presented much sooner and they already began moving in order to capture some sort of legendary weapons/creatures which are seemingly going to be important later on. What I didn’t like is how the place feels like a school, is there really a need to have a school in everything, especially if it involves magic?
Anyways, the premise is more or less the same as in Bleach only less interesting because of the lack of a creepy atmosphere as I already said but also because the characters here are complete shit. The black haired girl is the only one who is completely serious about what she does and does not take bullshit from anyone, but she’s also so serious she’s just boring to watch. The blonde one is just Hiyori from the Vizards in steroids and man is she annoying.
And still not as much as the guy, he’s so stupid, he ruins any attempt at seriousness. And there’s also a yandere type of antagonist who has a crush on the blonde girl and just like with the guy, I was expecting for the moment both of them die on screen, which obviously didn’t happen because they are going to be main characters later on.
Another problem in the show is how the spells are totally boring, they are just light beams of different colors and that’s it, nothing like in Bleach where they had all sorts of shapes and functions and I need to point out how the characters keep pulling powers out of nowhere, in fact that is how the anime ends, leaving any sort of closure completely open for it is just a prologue which exists only to promote the manga.
That is another issue it has, it’s too short and silly to make anything feel important, and on top of that, since it clearly wanted to promote the manga, it skipped the pilot chapter which shows how the main characters get together and are connected, none of that is present here, which could have worked as a bit of their backgrounds.
It also feels uninspired, with the dragons flying around it just feels like you are watching something made by Hiro Mashima, and the two sides from the same city, which seem to work as some sort of parallel dimensions connected to each other (I’m only guessing, it’s never explained), is basically taken from Harry Potter, with the only difference being that the “muggles” know what happens here and can move from one side to another under certain circumstances.
I like how the legendary weapons/creatures are based on classic fairy tales, I’ll give it that, but even then it’s nothing I hadn’t seen done already in Read or Die, in a much more creative and fun way.
Ultimately, what everyone who watched this really cared for was the action and the visuals, and I have to admit that they are not bad, but when they are praised beyond the point they deserve, I have to point out how neither of these elements are that great either.
By comparison, in the same season, Majo no Tabitabi and Akudama Drive came out and Burn the Witch just pails before them. And in the same year we got the likes of Tower of God, Deca-Dence and Fog Hill of Five Elements, all of which are also far better and more spectacular than this show in these aspects.
Another thing that was praised about it are the character designs and I don’t understand why, Kubo knows how to draw his stuff but he also tends to repeat the faces of his characters a lot, in Burn the Witch, the black haired girl is basically a mix between Orihime and Bambietta from Bleach and as I said the blonde is an aged up Hiyori. The same thing can be said about every other character, they resemble the characters from Bleach a lot and the artwork lacking in details does not help them either. There is a character with a somewhat original design, but he has the same problem as Mirio from My Hero Academia, he resembles a famous character (Luigi) a lot and the chances of liking his design are gonna be divisive because of that.
The special effects are not bad but for a show where they throw magic left and right, they could and arguably should be better, the best things in the visuals are the backgrounds, the city looks really good. The motions are fine but nothing really surprising, again I feel like they could have been better and at times they felt kinda sloppy. They feel consistently fluent and fast paced but it’s mostly because of the camera work, which follows every movement the girls make with and without their brooms. And as I said, Majo no Tabitabi did it better.
I have nothing to say about the sound, the sound effects lack impact, the voice acting is one of the same you can hear everywhere, the music is alright but nothing really memorable.
And that’s it, there isn’t really much else to comment about it, it’s short, it’s just a prologue, it’s mostly silly and nonsensical, poorly written, it has trashy characters, it feels disjoined from the series it’s supposed to be related to, it feels derivative in some elements, everything it does has been done before (for better or worse) and it’s not amazingly animated, it also had the bad luck of airing in 2020, the anti hype year, and thus it didn’t caused as much impact as expected, but I guess it served to remind the audience that Bleach will get a sequel soon, let’s see if this one still retains its audience and manages to sell once that adaptation of a somewhat hated arc is over.
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Yet wherever I go this series has a rather good if not high rating, and it’s also very different from the works I talked about so far. The shows based on western properties I watched weren’t based on classic literature and the World Masterpieces Theater is highly regarded so why not giving this one a chance? The series set on London that I watched was a reverse harem with an amnesiac protagonist and silly supernatural elements thrown in just because while this one is a crime mystery with sociopolitical overtones. I didn’t watch Sherlock Hound but this one has humans and it is not focused and the action as the movies from the last decade.
So I watched the first two episodes and my suspicions were confirmed. To begin with something positive, the artwork is pretty well done and it practically has no quality drops, is very consistent in this regard. The backgrounds are beautiful to look at and resemble the time and place it takes place in pretty well.
The rest, however, is not as polished, the character designs are very generic and everyone is a bishounen which gave me serious fujoshi bait vibes. And boy does the series attempt to make everyone look young and attractive, just look at Holmes’ companions for Pete’s sake. Motions are serviceable for this type of story, nothing really wrong nor bad there. The effects are not bad but when a crime happens, the series uses a filter with this same combination of brown and red ever present in edgy anime nowadays when it tries to be thriller or horror and it fails miserably at it because there’s nothing scary nor much tension in it.
I don’t have much to say about the sound department, the music and sound effects do their work just fine and fit the setting, the voice acting is ok but nothing special.
Now, despite being promoted as a crime mystery, the series is not that, for there is no culprit to find and murder to resolve, you are explicitly shown who the responsibles are and how they kill their victims. It’s closer to a psychological thriller, where we see Moriarty taking advantage of people’s hatred towards evil nobles that constantly mess with their lives if they didn’t ruin them yet, and leads them to killing those bastards, that’s it. Moriarty is basically like Johan from Monster but since I didn’t watch that show, what reminded me of was the antagonist from Babylon and that made me want to drop the show before I even began the second episode.
Also, for a series attempting to tap into discrimination based on social status, the handling of such topic is completely ridiculous. Every noble we see on screen is the worst scum of the Earth, we’re talking about Akame ga Kill! level of characterization here, if one whole side out of two in a conflict is presented as complete garbage then the theme exploration is reduced to a simple good vs. bad type of story with clear sides because one of them is completely demonized while the other is always victimized, which is the most simplistic and silliest way of dealing with sociopolitical topics.
The only exception as of now is the oldest brother and only because he killed his whole family. It’s very hard to accept this killing for a greater good excuse of the protagonists when they sadistically plan ahead how to drive both the nobles and their killers mad and anticípate the deaths of the formers.
And don’t get me started on their backgrounds, completely ridiculous, victimizing and preachy. Aside from that, Moriarty is a Gary Stu, for he’s good at eveything, outsmarts everyone and plays with them however he wants, does absolutely everything he wants, and the police somehow don’t notice how many nobles are being killed or disappear so close to each other, nor do they search for clues and weapons used in the murders. If the protagonist has no competition whatsoever then there’s no tension at all.
I dropped the show on its second episode but picked it up again later on and I can summarize the first half of the series like this, simple exploration of a serious topic with a huge scale, horrible characterization, and tensionless episodic cases. Holmes appears in the sixth episode to make things a little more interesting, but the case on the cruise was easily the worst and most ridiculous of the bunch and even he couldn’t save it. The culprit wasn’t even doing anything until Moriarty started to drive him mad, like Freddy Quimby in The Simpsons, he was a horrible but innocent person, until he snaps and kills in an over the top way and gets exposed and killed rather stupidily.
Thankfully, the last 4 episodes are way better not only because they adapt A Study in Scarlet and some other case but also because they focus on the cat and mouse game Moriarty and Holmes play with each other, it is not Light and L but still alright to the most part, and they focus on how Holmes is slowly getting corrupted by Moriarty’s schemes while showing how ruthless the latter can be, if I can give credit to the show for something, is being consistent with this character so far, showing his manipulations and preparations in detail and how he never doubts when playing with the lives of people at his will, he’s basically a blonde Shogo Makishima. Also, finally some detective work.
Honestly, this dynamic between Holmes and Moriarty and the similarities to Death Note is what made me want to watch the second season when it comes out the next year, if the whole series was like that, I would have given it a higher rating, but when you spend 7 out of 11 episodes reminding me of series such as Akame ga Kill! and Babylon, then you leave me no choice. Oh, and it was still better than Talentless Nana, because it has a far more consistent tone. But that is a story for another time.
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The premise make it seem like it’s just a sports anime but no, it’s also a drama about a man who has to take care of his daughter all alone by himself because his wife died, it’s also a comedy that keeps throwing random things at screen, from a fake ninja who is pursued by agents, to a weirdly drawn parrot, to a gyaru who changes her language at times, to an acupuncturist drag queen, to references to fictional action movies and the list goes on.
It’s also a coming of age story since there’s a noticeable time invested in developing the protagonist’s daughter and how she deals with her dead mother, her absent father, the kids at her school that makes fun of her dad, the ninja’s weirdness and all that stuff.
This weird blend of elements is what gives it an identity and makes it memorable but at the same time is what makes it hard to gain and define an audience. Everything gets its fair share of time but nothing gets enough time on screen before moving on to something completely different.
If you just want to chill and be moved by Rei’s character arc, you have to wait until some episode decides to focus on that because in the middle you’ll get weird comedy and basic training, yet if you stick with it, you’ll get the best and most moving episodes this anime has to offer.
She’s basically like Rin from Usagi Drop or Hime from Kakushigoto, only a lot more mature than them despite all of them sharing the death of at least one of their parents. Her character arc reminds me of some Simpson episodes dedicated to Marge or Lisa where they accept everything that happens around them concerning their families the best they can before they snap, then they deal with the consequences of their actions and grow because of those events, with the obvious difference being that her development is not undone because this is not an episodic comedy. She also gets to find what she wants to do with her life which is basically follow her mother’s footsteps.
If you want to see an inspirational sports series, Joe’s arc is pretty well done for you, not only he practices a sport which wasn’t covered much in anime (right now I can only think of Ganbarist Shun! as an alternative, and it was a completely different series), but the show spends a fair amount in building a fading star type of story around him. At first, it seems like it was all due to an injury but as later episodes reveal, it has to do with his own regrets and traumas he can’t leave behind, until he does because he needs to regain his former glory in order to take proper care of his daughter.
On top of that, Taisou Zamurai does the unthinkable thing of spending time in his training, showing concepts and rutines concerning his discipline and the ever present risk of not being able to perform ever again if he makes a wrong move or gets permanently injured because of excessive training, this is what other shows such as Iwa Kakeru lack and what I complained about in my review about it.
The downside is that the actual sport is not shown in a very inspirational way, the training is mostly skipped, the matches are shown quickly, and the CGI models used in them are poorly made and even more poorly animated, this definitely does not make the gymnastics to look exciting.
With that said, we see him recovering and training in order to make a new skill that will give him more points in his competitions and it’s partially thanks to his interactions with Leo, the fake ninja who’s actually a dancer. This guy is the weakest main character for me, he’s just clowning around for most of the time, and his own story is not that interesting nor explored much, but as his role of someone who has a positive influence on Joe, and at the same time gets influenced by him goes, he makes a good plot device.
I don’t have much to comment on the comedy, it’s the type of random comedy I just can’t bring myself to like, it’s not the type of over the top humor that I hate (Nichijou, Asobi Asobase, fucking Pop Team Epic, stuff like that) but for a slice of life anime, this just puts me off. Whether if this is a negative or not, it’s entirely up to each person. One thing that I have to give credit to the show is not mixing any of this silly stuff with the dramatic moments, I may not like these elements, but at least the show does not suffer from tonal whiplash.
As I hinted earlier, the first issue with Taisou Zamurai is that it’s poorly animated, leaving the sport aside, the artwork and the simplistic character designs are definitely lacking detail and the models get deformed from time to time, both the backgrounds and the effects are also simplistic and the motions, even outside the gymnastics, are rather poorly made.
As for the sound, the voice acting is ok when it’s serious and mature and kinda bad when it’s silly and comical (except for Kappei Yamaguchi as that parrot, what a guy), so it stands somewhere in the middle, the soundtrack is mostly absent or forgettable, the ending is alright, the opening is not. I don’t understand why they went with rap of all things and even having these three voice actors who are not really good at singing and one of the characters hate (or pretends that he hates) the other two so what is he even doing there. The sound effects are very good to the most part, in both the daily life moments and the sport competitions.
But down to it, Taisou Zamurai’s biggest problem is it’s biggest strenght, having this silly comedy thrown at screen and blend of different genres in just eleven episodes makes the pacing very uneven, constantly changing things and tones and dragging the plot down before forcing it to go really fast in the final episodes, thus making the show feel both fast and slow at the same time.
If you want something rather unique, here you have an aging sportsman, as he is trying to get over the death of her wife in order to improve himself and be a good father, a little girl realizing what she wants to do with her life, as well as what she does in her school and her home, a breath taking dancer who runs away from the pressure of being amazing and pretends to be a ninja while he’s chased around the world by other performers, I think? I didn’t really understand what the hell they are, they look like they belong in Men in Black rather than here. And you also get a look at a rather unique sport.
In the middle, try to deal with an acupuncturist drag queen, Kappei Yamaguchi destroying his lungs while voicing a south american parrot, a grandma who runs a bar and looks like she belongs in Gangsta or Black Lagoon that also drives the car of another person like Irisviel from Fate/Zero in a road full of traffic, from a stadium to an airport and back again to the stadium, mildly cringy and mildly inspirational monologues taken from fictional schlocky action movies, and an undeveloped romance between a guy who can’t speak normally and a gyaru whose words can’t be understood 95% of the time she talks, even when she’s not changing languages just because she feels like it.
If you don’t mind any of that as well as poor animation, you get a mostly decently made story with mostly decently written characters, that got completely overshadowed by Haikyuu! As for me, if the show had one or two more episodes, its events were paced a bit better, and it didn’t have these weird elements and comedy, I would have rated it a bit higher, but I won’t since that wasn’t the case, yet I can still say that it is among the best shows from this year, even if that doesn’t mean much.
As for some recommendations there are:
-Ganbarist Shun! the only other pure gymnastics anime that I know of, but beware for it’s a school comedy with some ecchi.
-Igano Kabamaru, horribly animated, among the craziest and weirdest school comedies anime ever put on screen, staring an actual ninja.
-Usagi Drop and Kakushigoto (the anime versions of both of them), slice of life anime about grown men taking care of a little girl by themselves, way more simple but also way more focused.
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To be honest, the only reason why I wanted to watch it is because I saw the poster and the release date being in early October thus I decided that it was what I wanted to watch after finishing September.
So the first episode begins, plays and finish and there’s no fanservice! Sure some may like certain camera angles but they hardly count and are excused for the subject matter thus I don't consider them to be fanservice. Compare this show to Keijo or Harukana Receive and you’ll agree with me. Although that was a letdown for me, I have to admit that it was better this way, is a weird case where I was pissed because the show wasn’t worse than it actually is.
Ok, so leaving my hornyness (does that exist?) aside, that was a positive surprise I received from the show, it wasn’t ecchi crap, it actually tried to be an actual sports show with the same motivational train hard, make friends, have fun with them and win competitions type of story.
The negative surprise I received from the show was the completely unexpected gamer pandering, as the protagonist used to be a shut in neet who used to play games 24/7 during her late childhood/early teens until her parents sent her to another school where she joins the wall climbing club and instantly becomes good at it because she’s a pro at puzzle games, well at least there are parents that actually do something for their neet child.
Sorry but no, this excuse just doesn’t work, first, how does changing schools automatically makes a neet to become a social person and change her lifestyle completely? Second, for a girl that used to do nothing but play videogames all day, she already has some muscle before she even begins climbing; and third, she just started in this sport and can already compete toe to toe with someone who has been training and practicing her whole life, completely naive and unrealistic.
And is not that I don’t like what the show was going for, it went for a inspirational message of leaving videogames behind, working out and starting practicing a sport while still retaining the good things you got from them and learned because of them. Is just that the way it was delivered was, again, just too positive and unrealistic.
This is a problem I have with sports anime in general, they try to inspire the audience with their stories but make their disciplines look like a walk in the park, easy to get in minutes and master in hours when the reality is completely different, they don’t show nowhere near as much training and possible consequences as they should. Sure, the protagonists may lose from time to time and cry enough tears to fill a river but that’s about it. Everyone does things wrong in ther daily lives and cry from time to time, that make the shows relatable but can hardly count as inspirational, they are too idealistic, toned down and manipulative instead of having actual exploration of their disciplines and themes.
I mean, having Konomi succeed in conquering the wall while playing videogames in her mind literally makes it look like a game. These segments become another rather minor issue present in the episode and throughout the whole show, I found them silly but not a big deal, but others may find it too stupid and cringy to the point of dropping the show. It becomes even more of a problem when an even better girl reveals that she’s so good at wall climbing because she plays rhythm games and that ultimately led Konomi to repeat PA-PAPAN-PAPAPAN-PA in her mind in the final episodes, ugh.
Other more important issue has to do with the other characters’ backgrounds, none of them is as bad as Konomi’s but they are way too simple, rushed and presented in inappropriate moments such as the middle of a competition thus stailling the plot, and they all come down to I’ve been doing this my whole life and there’s someone I want to surpass, that’s it.
Another important issue is the very first scene of the show spoiling the ending…or is it? This was my second positive surprise from the show, it made it look like Konomi and Jun would be rivals competing against each other in the final episode but they actually become friends and that flash forward was actually showing the middle of the series, not the end of it, and it wasn’t what it looked like at first.
After that we follow the usual route of training, new characters introduced, character bonding, competitions and stuff and there are both good and bad things present in here.
The good part has to do with Konomi actually failing at climbing at first and even being afraid of it thus making it seem like she would grow organically as a better climber, while at the same time developing Jun a little, the only character who gets that in the series and the best because of it, even if her character arc is the typical cold tsundere who becomes more friendly throughout the episodes, before she fails horribly at something, gets traumatized, leaves, gets over it with the help of someone else and returns stronger with a better design (for me at least):
The bad part has to do with how much Konomi improved to the point of exaggeration, she moved from a rookie with potential to beating opponents who have trained and practiced climbling their whole lives and the whole scanning then conquering the walls in one second gets repetitive and unbelievable very fast, it was like seeing a battle shounen protagonist getting a huge sudden power up after just a few days of training, we’re talking about that level of overpowered.
The show tries to excuse it by saying she always had the potential because she used to do ballet but it’s not believable, she did ballet when she was a child before becoming a neet who plays videogames all day and night so no. At least she doesn’t really win, but in a way that feels cheap, and even then it was nowhere near as bad as what they did with Jun, holy crap was there really a need to treat her so miserably? At least it led to her character development and better design.
Speaking of which, truth be told, all the character designs in the show are…decent, they don’t really stand out from the lot that much, and some of them can become ridiculous when resembling animals, but there’s quite the variety in heights and proportions and all of them have their fare share of muscles for they have been training their whole lives. Oh and they are mostly dressed and are never sexualized, except for maybe a certain shower scene, but even then it’s short and you can’t really see much in it. Again, compare this show with examples such as Harukana Receive and Keijo and you will notice that this is the better show at least in both of these regards.
As for the rest of the visuals, they are also ok, simple artwork, good enough backgrounds, well made but kinda silly special effects, serviceable motions. The sound is also ok, voice acting is nothing much but sound effects and music, while not being anything to write about, are fine.
Eventually the biggest issue the show has is how rushed it feels in its second half, showing the outcomes while barely showing the matches, and having a very cheap finale, I mean come on how did they even win? They lost 2 out of 3 competitions, and then the show just…ends.
So in the end Sport Climbing Girls is a show full of both good and bad surprises leaning a little towards the negative: It doesn’t have fanservice (+) but it panders to gamers (-), it has a good inspirational message (+) but its crappy writing does not support it in the least (-), it seems like it spoiled its own ending (-) but in reality it doesn’t (+), a good chunk of its characters have their backgrounds revealed (+) but they are terribly rushed, simple, and even dumb (-), the main character is overpowered (-) but not really (+) but actually she is indeed overpowered (-), it makes her and her friends fail and not winning all the time (+) but does it in cheap and miserable ways before rushing the ending (-) and it has character development (+) but only for one of them, and it isn’t much (-).
Ultimately, for every step the show takes forward, something else was making it go backwards, essentially failing at what it was trying to do but not to the point of making it atrocious and it was still better than what I expected and is among the better really really bad sport anime with women released in recent years. Now, on to the moe hockey on ice anime that will be released next year.
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