Anime

Violet Evergarden Review [Minor Spoilers]

I had heard so much about this anime when it had first come out, that it was at the top of my list to watch when I started to get back into anime.  While the show wasn’t bad by any means, it definitely didn’t resonate with me like it did with others, and it has a lot more problems in it than I think people are willing to admit.
This review is going to be a general overview of my feelings about the show, because honestly I can’t really put how I feel about it into categories.

 

My biggest problem with Violet Evergarden, is how much it tries to hit the viewer emotionally.  It’s not that it just happens to be emotional while you’re watching, but that the show just feels like it’s trying so hard to elicit a certain reaction from you.  The plot itself is more on the melodramatic side in general, but sometimes you’re just like ok, I get what you’re going for here, can we move on?  The theming of the show is so hard hitting and heavy-handed that after about the halfway point of the show you’re just done with it.  You get what they’re going for, it’s fine, but you’re already halfway through the show so no way you’re going to drop it right?  It took me twice as long to finish this show simply for the format of the thing:  When violet was dealing with writing the letter of the week, and we saw different characters through her perspective, those episodes were super interesting and captivating to me.  It was a nice episodic setup that reminded me very much of Kino’s Journey, and it was really enjoyable to see Violet evolve because of these one off episodes.  Whenever we decided to not focus on Violet being a doll, and actually focused on her inner turmoil, and the obligatory war plot, was where the show lost me.

 

The overall plot of the show deals with a war.  We don’t get enough details about this war to really care, it’s more of a backdrop for the story.  But for some reason halfway through the show, we decide to ignore Violet’s journey and just…go to this war plot.  Like I get war is a major part of Violet’s backstory, and if it was fleshed out more that it was effecting her and that eventually she would have to deal with that I think it could have worked.  But what we really get is them mentioning it here and there, her backstory in flashback, and then this rather hastily done resolution so we can get back to what the show really wants to be talking about:  Learning how to feel emotions, and dealing with grief.  And although I said those more emotional episodes were heavy-handed at times, that is truly where the show shines and is most engaging.  So why throw in a subplot that only partially effects the characters?

 

This lack of focus is what makes the anime a bust for me.  If we had a different format, instead of letter of the week, then going into a bigger plot, it would have been a more cohesive show.  As it stands   it just feels like the show can’t decide what tone it wants to take, or what story it wants to tell and that’s where it falls flat.  I would have much preferred a letter of the week format that was more finely woven into the tapestry of the story, and then perhaps Violet writing letters would somehow lead to this war plot that would somehow get fleshed out.  Perhaps through Violet writing letters for some military?  Who knows, I just really enjoyed the letter of the week format, and would have preferred the entire show to be that way.

 
The characters are fine, the music and setting are gorgeous.  As much as I can take or leave Violet as a main character, her storyline and coming of age story starts and ends satisfactorily.  The English voice cast is amazing…like everything about this show is really well executed, and to that end is where it falls apart.  It’s just trying so hard to be so polished, so perfect, so emotionally moving  that although I liked about half of the episodes, after a certain point I thought any emotional beat was just being forced and overly dramatic.

 

I know a lot of people like this show, and that every anime isn’t for everyone.  On paper, I should like Violet Evergarden, but I’ve seen far better anime in this genre executed way better that actually moved me to tears because of its plot and characters, and not just because it was trying really really hard to.

 

I’m glad people can resonate with this show, and I’m sure plenty of people resonate with Violet and what she’s going through.  It just isn’t the show for me.

 

That review got a little rambly, sorry about that!  I guess I had more thoughts about this show than I realized, but it’s super frustrating to me to really want to like a show and it just not click with you.  Has that ever happened to you with an anime?
Have you seen Violet Evergarden?  I’d love to hear how you feel about it in the comments!

Video Games

Alt-Frequencies Review

Alt-Frequencies is one of those games that I really wanted to like.  The premise is super fascinating:  You’re continuously being sent back in a time loop that lasts for a few minutes.  Within that time loop, you can record messages from different radio stations, and send them to other stations to help get the word out about government conspiracies.  How successful you are at getting said message out is entirely up to how much you pay attention to the different stations, and the different characters’ lives while you try to break the loop with your puzzle solving skills.
At its core, Alt-Frequencies is a mystery puzzle game.  I played it on PC, but it originally was for mobile, so the concept was using the touch screen to record messages.  I believe this gameplay can still be done on PC, but the developers of Alt-Frequencies made the game accessible to blind players by making sure you can turn on a mode that only has you using your keyboard.  It also automatically uses your screen reader to read menus, and any non-narrated segments of the game.  This was a wonderful thing to find out and made me instantly buy the game, because we need to support indi developers that have accessibility at the forefront of their minds.  But with all of that aside, how does Alt-Frequencies stack up as a game?

 

GAMEPLAY

 

Like I said, the gameplay is rather simple.  You hit enter to record a message, the up arrow to send a message, the space bar to hear a message you recorded, and the left and right arrows to switch between radio stations.  When you hear something you think is noteworthy and want to send to another station, just record and toggle over to the station you want to send it to, hit up, and they’ll react in a way that clearly tells you whether or not you got the right message to the right person, or whether you need to try something else.  It’s decently easy to figure out what you need to be doing and who you need to take cues from in regards to the puzzles, but at the same time I had a bit of a hard time with some of the later puzzles because it wasn’t super clear who you needed to send what to.  I’m not sure if that’s just my lack of puzzle solving skills, but a teeny bit more direction in where to go would have been nice in the later segments of the game.

 

It would seem like the mechanics would get boring, but I thought for how simple they were they were well executed, and I found myself wanting to find out what was going to happen next in the story.  Speaking of story…

 

PLOT

 

The plot was interesting, but didn’t land it’s mark.  The game when you know what you’re doing lasts about 2 hours tops, and for as much as they were developing the political intrigue it needed more time to have the story be ended satisfactorily.  It felt like we had just gotten into the meat of it, and then it slammed the breaks and the story ended.  The ending itself is a bit obligatory too, and doesn’t really feel like what we were heading towards story wise is what was supposed to happen.  I enjoyed the game overall, but really wish there was more time dedicated to fleshing out the story.

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters and the radio stations themselves are the saving grace of this game.  The voice cast was really good at portraying their roles, and making me interested in what was going on for each radio station.  We have a small college station, jerky talk radio show host with more depth to him, big talk show duo and a few others I don’t want to spoil.  But as you go through the time loops, you can toggle through each station and hear how it’s effecting each person.  Do they buy into the time loop stuff?  Should they be doing something about it?  All of these emotions and plot beats are very well executed by the characters, and that’s why the length of the game is a bit disappointing – I really wanted to see more of a plot grow with the cast we got, and although you do see what all of them were doing in the final chapter, I just wish we would have gotten maybe two or three more chapters so the plot came to a better conclusion than we got.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Alt-Frequencies was still enjoyable to play overall.  If you want a short game just to play to pass the time, I’d say pick it up and give it a go.  It’s only $7.99 USD on Steam and I think for that price, you definitely get your money’s worth.  Even though I wanted more from the game, I liked what we got from it at the same time if that makes sense.  A solid 5 out of 10 for me, not annoyed I played it, but nothing that I’m wanting to play again any time soon.

 

You can pick up Alt-Frequencies here.

Anime

Lost Song Review [Spoiler Free]

I was in the mood to watch a fantasy anime after watching a lot of the heavier shows out there (Evangelion, Angel Beats, stuff like that) and when I was scrolling on Netflix, Lost Song’s description was interesting to me.  A magic system based on song, and a girl who wants to fulfill her dream of singing at the Starsong festival?  Sounded like my type of fun, adventurous, entertainingly tropey kind of fair.  What I got instead was a show that started out that way, and ended up in an entirely different direction all together.  Did this show succeed in trope subversion?  Or did it’s plot twists just make it fall flat.
…It fell flat.  Pretty darn hard too.

 

For more, let’s get into the review!

 

STORY

 

The story in Lost song follows two main characters.  Finis, a songstress who has the power to use songs, which work like casting magic spells in this world, who is being used to make sure one kingdom wins obligatory fantasy war.  Rin, a country girl, who also has the power of song, and wants to work her way to getting to the capital so she can sing at the Starsong festival.  Eventually, these two paths converge, and that’s pretty much the plot without spoiling anything major.  I thought the first six episodes of  the show did a good job of showing us the world Finis and Rin live in, and the problems they both had to face.  The show honestly plays out like an RPG for Rin’s plot:  Find new party member, learn new spell, run from soldiers, rinse repeat.  What I found far more interesting was Finis’ story, and her love story with Henry and I wish we would have seen more of this throughout the first half of the show.

 

It turns out, that there is a reason revealed in the second half of the show, that explains why we didn’t see Rin and Finis meet sooner, and it’s honestly a pretty good plot twist that I wasn’t expecting to happen.  How the show handled this after the fact however, didn’t really land at all, because to figure out why it was a good plot twist, I had to look for final episode discussions to see people explaining what the heck was going on.

 

The second half of the series was a confused mess of the show dropping this plot point, trying to explain it to us, trying to make sure it really really made sense and that it wasn’t a convoluted  mess (spoiler, it was) and the final episode’s epilogue, while sweet to an extent, leaves more questions than answers.  Plus, it leaves a ton of plot holes that I’m still trying to figure out after watching.

 

A good plot twist can’t drive a show.  I think Lost Song was really hoping that it would work, and that making this different than the average fantasy show would make it stand out amongst its peers.  This plot twist does the opposite however, and just makes Lost Song confusing and forgettable.  It wasn’t a bad ride by any means, but the show left no lasting impression on me and as of now the biggest thing I can say about it is “It was fine’.”

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters were your average fantasy tropes.  The valiant  knight, the sad damsel who can’t lift a finger to protect herself, the country girl with big dreams and a heart of gold…I’m fine with a story either being plot driven or character driven, and this story obviously was going for an impactful plot, but the black and white nature of the characters was a bit heavy handed at times.  The bad guys were 100% evil and got theirs, the good guys won the day, and the main characters fate is…a bit murky?  Honestly I can’t talk enough about how wonky the plot twist made the show.  The ending for a certain set of characters is really unclear, and I highly doubt that we’ll get any content telling us how their fate ended up ending up, for lack of a better term.  If the plot stuck it’s landing and was executed well this wouldn’t bother me too much, but since the second half of the series went off the rails, it just was more obvious that the characters weren’t really fleshed out.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

 

You can pretty much tell what’s going on at any given time in the show.  It’s a very what you see is what you get type of series, so other than there being sections where music is playing only and not knowing what’s happening, and one episode that has narration and visuals (but that whole episode is a confusing mess so I doubt watching it would have really helped), the show is clear to follow beginning to end.  No audio description for this one, but there is an English dub that is probably the best part of the show for me.  That and the music, the music is fantastic.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The best way I can describe this show is Ar Tonelico:  The anime.  It honestly hit a lot of the story beats as that game did, but the game spent more time fleshing out the world and characters so it worked way better.  If Lost Song was a 24 episode anime, or even 18, then maybe it could have done service to the story it was trying to tell.  As it stands at 12 episodes, the second half of the story feels jarring, rushed, and that our characters just had to go with it so the show could end.  I won’t say it was a bad show, but it wasn’t a good one and it could have been if the plot twist wasn’t just thrown in there to make the show more interesting.

 

I’d give Lost Song a solid 6 out of 10, and that extra number is for how epic the music is.  It’s really a 5 out of 10:  I don’t feel annoyed I watched it, but it didn’t leave any lasting impression on me.  If you want a nice show to pass the time with and aren’t expecting too much, then go ahead and give this one a watch.  The plot twist genuinely shocked me and was a really good concept, I just wish it was executed better than it was.

 

Have you watched Lost Song?  Let me know what you thought of it in the comments!