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!

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!

 

Anime

Hi Score Girl Review

Netflix has a lot of anime guys.

 

Random statement to start a post off with, I know, but I didn’t realize how much anime there was on Netflix until I just decided to scroll down the page after watching something.  It’s crazy!  Like pretty much anything I’d want to watch is on here, pretty fantastic.  That’s pretty much what got me into watching anime again, if I’m being honest.  I tried getting on Funimation’s site to watch stuff, the site’s interface was too clunky for me to care, and the same goes for Crunchyroll.  I get not realizing blind people would want to watch anime (I don’t really but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt) but at least have your sites comply to the web accessibility it should and have some headings on there so your site isn’t a pain to navigate, geez!
But that’s a digression for another post.  Netflix has a lot of anime, it’s accessible, and that means I’m all over it~

 

So what was the first anime I decided to watch, you say?  Why, the topic of this blog post!  After reading the premise of Hi Score Girl, it instantly made me interested.  A romance that takes place around all of my favorite things, retro gaming and the 90s?  I’m all in!  But how does this show hold up in the end?  Let’s jump into this review and see!

 

I’ve decided to split my anime reviews into sections.  Headings are my brains best friend, and the best way I can write my thoughts down.  The three things I’ll be reviewing anime on is story, characters, and accessibility of the show.  What is that last category?  Well since I can’t review visuals, instead I’ve turned that section into Accessibility.  Things like how easy is the show to follow?  Does it have audio description?  So basically visuals, but from a blind point of view.

 

Now for   real, let’s get into this!

 

STORY

 

The story of Hi Score Girl is pretty simple at it’s base.  Haruo is a gamer, one of those crazily obsessed, kinda jerky gamers and Ono is the rich girl in school that is aloof, but surprise surprise also into gaming!  She escapes her daily struggles by venturing into the arcades, and is like, top tier amazing and Haruo can have none of that so is a jerk to her until they slowly grow a bond throughout the series, that of course leads to love.

 

The story is basic, but the plot beats are not.  This story takes place over a series of years, from their elementary days to high school and seeing the slow burn of their romance is just really sweet and charming.  The pacing never feels out of place, and seeing the story be related through the lens of the gaming boom in the 90s and early 2000s is really relatable if you grew up in that era.  It’s super nostalgic  hearing the characters talking about Final Fantasy IV, VI, and Chrono Trigger being released, being so happy that amazing voice acting is getting into games, and the running joke of the oh-so-many Streetfighter 2 ports.  That basically is the backdrop for the love story, and it works really well because both blend together perfectly, simply because both characters are into gaming, and the writing for both the accurate gamer depiction and the characters themselves just give the show and it’s characters really good chemistry.

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters are really well written.  As much as I think Haruo at times lends a little too much to the jerky gamer guy trope, it doesn’t detract from his character because we see throughout the story what lies underneath.  Ono is silent the entire show, but she is so expressive with her actions that it really doesn’t feel like it.  Koharu, although I was a tad annoyed a love triangle got into this show, is also a really well realized character and you feel for her also, and the way they do the love triangle trope subverts the trope quite nicely I think.

 

The supporting characters are really great as well.  Haruo’s Mom is the best, we need more single Mom’s in shows!  She’s just so much fun, and anytime she was on screen I enjoyed her being there.  There’s a really fun aspect of the show I don’t want to spoil if you haven’t watched it, that I’d count as supporting characters and adds a lot to the gaming aspect of the show that makes it feel like this is someone’s life we’re looking at, and it isn’t just a show.  Haruo’s school friends, Ono’s supporting cast…all just great additions to the show, and if I talked about them all individually we’d be here all day.  Characters are great, long story short lol.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

 

 

Netflix usually doesn’t have audio description for anime.  It’s one of those mysteries I’ll always wonder, “WHY?”.  But for Hi Score Girl, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had audio description for the episodes, maybe because they’re counting it as a Netflix Original?  Anyway, it helps the show so much.  Like I said earlier, Ono is silent the entire way through other than grunts and expressions, so having the audio description say what she was doing just added so much to the smaller moments in the series.  Having the narrator say what she was doing at any given point in time made her my favorite character, and I don’t think that would have happened if audio description wasn’t there.  I really hope Netflix continues to do this for anime, I think there’s a stigma on it where it would detract from the show but it definitely doesn’t and I mean…you can turn it off if you don’t like it XD


The rest of the show it was nice to have for sure.  It wasn’t intrusive on any of the scenes like it sometimes can be when there’s major action or something, they didn’t duck the audio for the show too much when they had to.  It really just added to the experience and I don’t think the show would have been as fun to watch without it.

 

CONCLUSION

 

If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed watching this show.  It’s full of sweet moments, humor, and gaming, and all of it meshes together to make a very fun slice of life anime.  I can’t wait to see what happens in season 2!

 

Have you watched Hi Score Girl?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Anime · Uncategorized

Why I Dropped Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card After the First Episode

I tried to like this, I really did.  I was a huge Card Captor Sakura fan back in the day, when it aired on WB simply as Card Captors.  When I saw there was a new series, and it wasn’t a reboot, and that there was a simudub, I figured I’d check out the first episode sooner rather than later to see if it was a series I’d want to watch the rest of.

 

Sadly, Card Captor Sakura:  Clear Card totally misses the mark for me.  I’m not sure if it’s my nostalgia glasses, or if the show is just disinteresting, but I do feel like there’s some of the magic from the original series lacking in this one.  I liked the old WB dub, but when I thought about it I wasn’t like “Ugh this isn’t like the original dub I grew up with!  Lame”.  I think the new dub is good, and matches the Japanese voices well.  Do I like Sakura being so high pitched?  Not really, but I get that that’s pretty much how she sounds in Japanese.  With that out of the way, what else would make me dislike this series?
I usually watch a show for 4 episodes before dropping it, but this one, I stopped after one.  The first episode was slow paced, but I don’t mind slow paced shows.  The action didn’t happen until the end, but it wasn’t enough to make me hop right on over to episode 2.  So what is it that bugs me so much about this series?

 

Honestly, when it boils down to it, Card Captor Sakura:  Clear Card just doesn’t capture the same magic Card Captor Sakura did.  In my opinion, Clear Card tries to capture the magic the original series did, while not realizing what exactly was so great about the original series.  Sure Card Captor Sakura had cute moments, had slice of life aspects, had magic, but at the end of the day it also was about different aspects of love, how different people dealt with relationships, and without that aspect of the show there, I think Card Captor Sakura:  Clear card just falls into the category of “Generic, fine enough but not interesting magical girl anime”.  Now granted, that’s my opinion about it after watching 1 episode, but I feel if a show can’t grab you after the first one, it isn’t doing its job right.
But what do you think about the show as a whole, was there something about it that kept you watching?  Should I give it another go because it gets better?

Anime · Cartoons · Uncategorized

Why You Should Give RWBY Another Chance if You’ve Dropped it

A group shot of Team RWBY: Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang

 

I watched RWBY a while ago, when volume 3 was the last volume out.  It had gotten my attention enough to give it a shot, but it took a lot of time to get there.  Literally, it was the end of vol. 3 that made me go “Oh, this show is actually interesting now” when volumes 2 and 1 just seemed like a generic hot chicks with swords sudo anime web series, tropy characters and all.
So because of that, I dropped RWBY.  I had watched the first four episodes of volume 4, and there was so little going on I got disinterested.  I was watching it when it aired, and I’m just not a watch an episode one at a time person.  I still would see people talking about how great RWBY was, and a friend told me volumes 4 and 5 were great and they had just watched them.  So I had taken about 2 years off from watching the series, since I was watching volume 4 when it was airing and a volume comes out once a year.

 

And man, waiting and binging volumes 4 and 5 was a great choice.  The show, although I see some people complain about the slower pacing, really reached a depth I didn’t think existed when in volumes 1 and 2 it was nothing but big fighting set pieces.  Volume 4 took the time to slow down, let the aftermath of volume 3 take its toll on the characters, and allowed them to grow, breath, and develop.  When the fights came into the picture, they had weight behind them, because the story had built to that point.  I can’t see the fights, and honestly would love for audio description to be added to the show, because there are huge chunks of just awesome music, no dialogue, and then I have to read the RWBY wiki for transcripts to see what happened in the stretch of the episode that has little dialogue.  They have a lot of show, not tell in the series:  which totally works, not knocking RWBY for doing that.  But those stretches of show not tell have no audio queue’s, and usually just footsteps for a few minutes with flashy sound effects that don’t really tell you what’s going on in the scene.  Like I said, you just have to deduce what happened, or look up what happened via transcripts.
I guess that’s also a big part of why I liked the slower pacing.  Less fights, meant more auditory going on because the characters were talking, and moving the plot along with dialogue.  And then, the fights had weight, and were a liiittle easier to figure out about half of what was going on.  Volumes 4 and 5 were both slower paced, and getting our heroes back together so the overarching bigger plot to take place with every character having grown through their trials in the volumes.
It was just…nice.  No other way to put it.  I felt a connection with the characters I hadn’t felt before, and didn’t see them as “The cool one, the one who’s a tomboy”  Characters that I didn’t even like before had arcs that made me like them.  If for some reason, you were turned off from RWBY volumes 1 through 3, but saw that there was a spark of something there that interested you decently, but not enough to want to continue watching, try watching volumes 4 and 5.  The show really starts there if I’m being honest, the first three seasons just feel like a prologue.
You an RWBY fan?  Did you like it from volume 1, or did it take a while to grow on you.  Would love to hear in the comments!

Anime · Uncategorized

Erased: A Mystery Anime, or a Coming of Age Story

Disclaimer:  Major Erased spoilers will be below!

 

There’s a reason why I generally don’t review anime, and it’s because I have a hard time talking about it other than “I liked this a lot!” or “It was ok/eh it sucked”.  But when there’s a certain show that has really interesting themes and some deeper topic I can dissect that isn’t just a straight up review, I tend to want to write about it.  I found that in Erased, so time to dive in!
Erased was super popular in Spring of 2016, and I had always planned to watch it but never got to it.  I watched it this weekend with a friend, and wow was it amazing!  I was watching on Twitter when the show was airing and seeing all the hype, and after watching it something in particular from seeing people talk about the mystery falling a bit flat stuck out to me.  I saw a lot of “The killer reveal was lame” or “The mystery wound up being blah” comments but after watching, I came to this conclusion.

 

This show isn’t about the mystery.

 

 

This show is so much more than a crime drama, find out who the killer is anime.  This show, when you look past the mystery, is about the connections we make as people.  Look at Satoru, pre-revival:  he was detached, just going through the motions of life because he had to.  Not working at the job he wanted, not knowing about his old friends, just a shell of a person.  When he hops back to 1988 the first time, he feels like he has to do everything alone because that’s just how he’s lived his life.

 

Jump back to 2006, and he’s changed a bit.  Willing to take Iri’s help, willing to go to other people.  It may bite him in the butt at times, but when he wants to go back, he goes back because he genuinely cares about the people in his past and wants to go back and set things right.  And, after going back, he is willing to take help from Kenya and his other friends because after banging his head against the wall trying to go alone, he realizes he can’t do it.

When I first saw that the timeline that was going to stick was the one where Satoru was in a 15 year coma, it seemed so bittersweet.  He had lost years of his life because of some jerk of a killer, but seeing how that effected his friends, how just living the life he had before the fact the way he did it in turn effected them.  Because he didn’t isolate himself like he did the first time through, they loved him enough, and were genuinely effected enough by his accident because of how much he cared for everyone around him, that it didn’t matter he wasn’t there, and was in his coma:  because he never was truly gone, he was always with his friends.  And in the end, that care, that love is what caught the killer, because they all still cared about each other, and continued to do so after the fact.  They were willing to help Satoru with anything no matter what, because he had fostered such genuine, sincere relationships with them before, and in the end, that is what caught the killer.  It had nothing to do with outsmarting him, but simply was boiled down to Satoru had friends who cared and wouldn’t let him do something of that magnitude alone, and the killer was the exact opposite.

 

The mystery in Erased is flawed, sure.  I figured out who it was within the first few episodes.  But the show isn’t really about that.  At its core, it’s about the subject of loneliness, and how someone thinking they’re better off alone is usually false.  It’s a way to protect themselves from getting hurt in the end, and lowering those barriers truly are what make your life worth living.  Because everyone is flawed, everyone is hurting, and no one should truly be alone in their misery.  You truly can’t live without caring for others, and in turn having them care for you.

 

I love this anime.  It’s a beautiful coming of age story, underneath the guise of a murder mystery.  The themes of self-worth, trusting others, and overcoming your insecurities is so prevalent in this anime that in the end I don’t even think the writers were focusing on making the culprit  unobvious.  It was more about Satoru’s journey.  It’s a great anime that if you haven’t seen, I highly recommend you do, it’s a lovely story.

 

Have you watched Erased?  Would love to know your thoughts about the series in the comments!

Anime

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Series Review: Fan Service, Fantasy, and a Lot of Fun

April was a rough month for me – a lot of things weren’t coming together, and there was a lot of stress involved.  I had read a lot of reviews about this show, and as a destresser I decided to watch it.  I was skeptical, because maid’s in anime are well, always known as fanservice moe fauter, but was it worth watching through this show, and  getting past the fanservice for some genuine entertainment and sweetness?
Yes, yes it was.  I will say that I waited until the series had completely aired – I don’t think it would have held up as well if I were watching this series over 13 weeks.  Watching it over 1 week, in blocks of 4 or 3 episodes at a time was a lot more enjoyable for me, because when I got bored or tired of the show I was able to stop and just go back to it the next day.  It definitely helped me with the destressing as well, because it’s just so darn cute!  The humor was funny, and the show genuinely has a sweet message to share, with an enjoyable cast of characters (mostly).  My main criticisms  with the show is it’s rather one note in its plots.  Like I said, if I were watching this week to week, I probably would have been tired of it.  It’s mindless, adorable slice of life fun and if you need something that will give you a chuckle and warm and fuzzy happy feelings, definitely watch this show.
Now for the things I didn’t like.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the show, I really couldn’t stand Toru!  The first episode almost turned me off from the show, because it just was playing up all the weird, pervy tropes I really don’t like that tend to rear their head in certain anime.  Toru’s selfish, possessive and pervy personality traits never quite go away (they do get muted a bit, but still) and it just makes an enjoyable show lose a bit of its charm.  Kana is entirely too cute, which I get people may like but I don’t care for.  But once again, I know that other people may disagree with that, I generally don’t like cute characters that are just there to be cute.

 

The supporting cast is great, minus Lucoa and Shota’s relationship.  I liked their interactions, but the boob jokes got a little old.  She was a late comer, but I think Elma was probably my favorite character.  I love myself a good comedic straight woman who also participates in the goofyness every once and a while.  The gag with her and food is also something I would do, so it was always funny to see XD

 

Criticizing this show for lack of plot is sort of unfair.  As I watched it, I kept on comparing  it’s format to Azumanga Daioh – just a lot of scenes taking place that go over a period of time that are funny, cute, and entertaining.  If you go into the show knowing this, I think it’s a lot easier of a show To get into because all in all it’s just some good fluffy fun.  If anything, just watch for the Christmas play:  hands down, my favorite story from the series.  I wish the entire episode was the whole play, because it was amazing and hilarious.

 

After I finished the show, I wasn’t exactly sure on my feelings about it.  But the day after finishing it, I genuinely missed visiting with the characters, and seeing what wacky adventures they were going to get into.  For all its flaws, it had that many more enjoyable traits, so if you need a great, humorous watch that is going to make you relax and bask in some mindless, sweet fun, then definitely give this anime a watch.  I recommend watching at least the first three episodes to see if you want to give it a chance though, because the first episode does not give a good example of how charming this show truly is.  I watched the English dub, and it does a great job capturing the characters!  That being said though, I only heard a tiny bit of the Japanese version, so some characters may be a bit more hyped up for American audiences (I have a feeling that may have been the case for Toru, correct me if I’m wrong in the comments).

 

Did you watch Miss Kobayashi when it was airing, wait to binge it like me?  Would love to hear how you liked the show in the comments!