Keijo!!!!!!!! review

I’ve never quite figured out why I don’t like sports. Maybe it’s the physicality, or the fact that it’s thinly veiled exercise (shudder). Or maybe it’s because sports fans tend to be a bit WAHEY LADS LETS GET SMASHED ****IN RITE MAN GET THE **** OUTTA HERE YA [Rangers/Celtic/etc] *******S.

I think maybe the key thing is that I haven’t found my ideal sport. Well, now I have.

Keijo!!!!!!!! (and yes, it does have eight exclamation points) is the story of Nozomi Kaminashi, a young lady with fire in her eyes and a passion in her heart – a passion for the sport of Keijo, where women fight to knock each other off floating platforms in a big swimming pool using only cuts of chicken.

16966233710184a932e1c017b8b733c0a88e63c9_hq.gif

By which I mean breasts and thighs if ya know what I’m sayin’.

Nozomi wants to be the richest Keijo player in the world, in order to save her family from poverty. A noble goal… sort of.

In order to achieve it, she joins the prestigious Setouchi Keijo Training School (not a high school, they’re all adults in this series!), but she’s got competition – from her training partners, rival academies, and even her best friend (Olympic-tier judoka and Best Girl™) Sayaka Miyata.

30d5c2ea17a56a051fdb75c27febc380dbf3416d_hq

The real star of this show.

It’s a pretty standard premise, but one which is used effectively to tell an amusing, bonkers storyline. Part of the charm of Keijo!!!!!!!! is the fact that, like Kill la Kill, it uses standard shonen anime tropes to create something utterly ridiculous, but still engaging.

One of the best parts about the series is finding out what the next character’s “ultimate move” is during the numerous Keijo battles. Each one is more ridiculous than the last, and they have epically stupid names to go along with them.

Some examples: Nozomi’s “Vacuum Butt Cannon”; Rin Rokudou’s “Butt Gatling”; Atsuko Yoshida’s “Ass of Vajra”; and many more that I dare not spoil because they’re just too funny/hype.

keijo-is-mindfully-dumb-3

Okay, maybe just one more.

Though I’m particularly fond of Sayaka’s “W-Acceleration”, where she literally hikes up her swimsuit to go impossibly fast.

18d6827c08d10ecc474b453dafa62a3d.jpg

And that’s the thing about Keijo!!!!!!!! – even though it’s totally ridiculous, it’s also one of the shows I’ve been most hyped to watch every week. There’s an actual science to its stupidity. Much like Food Wars before it, Keijo!!!!!!!! is like the best parts of the WWE in it’s heyday: the world’s biggest, dumbest soap opera, where every week something happens that’s even more amazing than what happened the week before.

And much like Food Wars, the only way to properly explain is to just show, so here you go:

If I have one complaint, it’s that Nozomi and Sayaka’s roommates aren’t really given a fair shake in the plot. Kazane Aoba has one of the coolest abilities in the series but constantly gets shafted in her Keijo matches (twice through blatantly unfair shenanigans), and Non Toyoguchi – owner of the softest butt in the world – doesn’t really do much at all.

8a1eaaeb5bef4c02245471c245c3bbfda8669988_hq.gif

Still, no matter what she or anyone else does, they look good doing it. Keijo!!!!!!!! is animated surprisingly well for a series that likely wasn’t expected to have mass appeal. I love the bold black outlines around characters, it really makes them stand out.

maxresdefault

As if they needed any help.

Sound effects are punchy and add to the already sky-high hype level in matches, and the music is catchy too. While I watched Keijo!!!!!!!! with its original Japanese dub and subtitles (and it was superb) I do know that the English cast has been revealed, and it’ll be interesting to see how it works out. Nozomi will be played by Amber Lee Connors, who I’ve actually sort of worked with in the past.

In conclusion, is Keijo!!!!!!!! well written? No. And it’s definitely not clever. But you know what?

I still had a blast watching it.

NOT GUILTY

With one fell swoop of a hip, Keijo!!!!!!!! has blasted onto the scene giving other more popular series a run for their money, by avoiding the po-faced melodrama so many of them rely on. It’s not high art, but sometimes a little junk food is just what the doctor ordered.

Love, Chūnibyō & Other Delusions review

Everyone has something in their life that they’re not proud of. Some people were bullies when they were kids, some people have had relationships they regret…

Some people pretend to be supervillains until they’re 15.

Such is the lot of the interesting bunch afflicted by “chūnibyō”. But what is chūnibyō? Well, as with all odd Japanese, there’s a Wikipedia definition to help us out:

“The tendency of a character to pretend to be a made-up character from fantasy such as a vampire, demon, angel, wizard, alien, warrior or people with special bloodline, often imagining themselves to possess magical/super powers or cursed items. Characters with chūnibyō tend to have a unique manner of speech, dress in gothic clothing, and sometimes wear objects such as bandages or eyepatches to represent their persona. The term refers to 14-15 year-old children, but can also be used to describe characters who exhibit these traits regardless of their actual age. The term is believed to have been coined by Hikaru Ijūin in 1999 and was originally intended to describe things people who are pretending to be “grown-ups” in their second year of middle school.”

6348ae01e649f76ada35dd6a05576926.png

Yup.

Our hero, Yuta Togashi, was a chūnibyō, and the embarrassing memory of his time being the DARK FLAME MASTER haunts his every waking moment. To avoid any awkwardness in his transition to high school, Yuta decides to attend a school miles away from his home, where people won’t know about his sordid past. One problem – other people have a sordid present.

maxresdefault (1)

You see, our heroine, Rikka Togashi, is also a chūnibyō, except she hasn’t quite grown out of it. Worse yet, she and Yuta are in the same class at school, and even live in the same apartment building!

But despite the fact seeing her every day is like looking in a horrible window to the past, Yuta somehow feels obliged to look out for Rikka, help her out with her school club, and maybe even break her chūnibyō habits.

814131017642_anime-love-chunibyo-and-other-delusions-blu-ray-altb

Along the way they’ll meet a host of entertaining side characters, including a narcoleptic third-year, a spunky grade schooler and a class rep with a sordid past (don’t they all).

So begins an actually rather sweet love story, filled with the kind of care and attention we’ve come to expect from Kyoto Animation.

love-chunibyo-and-other-delusions-ep-11

The animation, naturally, is beautiful and fluid, with a myriad of small touches and visual flairs that give the scenes set in reality a warm, mellow feeling…

maxresdefault

Still cooler than most gangs.

…and the scenes set in delusions a loud, overzealous fighting spirit.

Chuunibyou-2Thumbnail-Takanashi-Rikka-Tyrant-Eye-of-Truth

Still cooler than Cyclops.

Indeed, one of the best parts of the series is when scenes take an unexpected turn to the outlandish – Rikka and her friends’ delusions are presented on-screen in a classic shonen style with plenty of flashy colours and explosions as they “battle to the death” with their “superpowers” and “weaponry”.

izoMEbyBBsXSd

Thankfully, the English dub is able to keep up with the silly tone of the series with such talents as Leraldo Anzaldua, Brittney Karbowski and Emily Neves in the leading roles.

Margaret McDonald is easily the highlight of the dub as Rikka, in a performance that I think actively improves on the original. While the Japanese dub offers the relatively clichéd squeaky-voiced character you’d cynically expect from the way she’s drawn, McDonald feels much more like a teenager with delusions of villainy. She clearly got into the role, and it pays dividends.

Chunibyo-Header-002-20150127

Plus her character drinks the nectar of the gods, delicious Mr Peter.

The weakest aspect of the dub, in my opinion, is Maggie Flecknoe’s performance as Shinka Nibutani. Unfortunately she just sounds a little too old for the role – a minor character with that voice could have been forgiven, but as a main cast member it ultimately feels a little off. That said, trying to sound like a teenager as an adult is a difficult task, so I can respect the attempt.

Still, overall, I have to give the series a positive rating. It’s really funny when it’s not making you embarrassed for the characters (while watching the first episode of the series one of my friends nearly cringed out of her skin), and has a lot of heart. And really, that’s all I ask of a KyoAni series.

Chuunibyou-12_18-Rikka-rope-final-moment-ending

Nah, I’m good thanks.

NOT GUILTY

A cute, funny, completely inoffensive romance story that never annoys, Love, Chūnibyō and Other Delusions will make you laugh, and maybe even cry – just a little. Bring on season two!

Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai_04_Rikka_Takanashi_1

Kill la Kill review

aka TOO MANY GIFS: THE REVIEW

You know what? Let me just stick this here:

NOT GUILTY

Cool, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you why Kill la Kill is FREAKING AWESOME.

Once in a while, there comes a media experience that reminds you what human creativity can accomplish. Kill la Kill is one such experience. Let’s have a little look into the behind-the-scenes aspects that make up the series.

3d2bd753a26a4d00b2483e3588ffdde8.jpg

L-R: director Hiroyuki Imaishi; producer Masahiko Otsuka; translator Tatsuru Tatemoto.

Kill la Kill was produced by Studio Trigger, a team created by ex-members of Gainax, a studio famous for such series as Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt and Gurren Lagann. The latter two were directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, whose first order of business as co-creator of Studio Trigger was to direct Kill la Kill.

Now, if you’ve ever seen Panty & Stocking or Gurren Lagann, you’ll know two things:

One, that Hiroyuki Imaishi is certifiably insane.

j2pue8e

Ladies and gentlemen, Inferno Cop.

Two, that Hiroyuki Imaishi is certifiably awesome.

giphy (3).gif

Ladies and gentlemen, Gurren Lagann.

Let’s just say the show was destined for greatness from the get-go.

But enough back story. Let’s look at why Kill la Kill kicks so much ass.

5b5.gif

No no no, “kicks”, not “whips”.

Kill la Kill is the story of Ryuko Matoi, a 17-year-old drifter who finds her way to Honnouji Academy, a massive, obelisk-like concrete monstrosity perched atop the top of a multi-tiered shanty town. It kind of looks a bit like the Tower of Barbs from Let It Die.

Kill-la-Kill-Honnouji-Academy-wide-shot.jpg

Ryuko is on the hunt for her father’s murderer, armed with one half of the weapon used to kill him – a giant pair of scissors! (just go with it)

Her mission brings her into conflict with sinister student council president (and full-time ice queen) Satsuki Kiryuin, and her elite four students, who lord over the academy and submit its students to gruelling exercises, armed with their transforming “Goku Uniforms”.

2191391_orig.gif

You see, each student has their own rank at the academy, from the incredibly wealthy and powerful three-stars, to the lowly no-stars, like Ryuko’s new best buddy, Mako Mankanshoku.

c6b11835c766a19cc51abe875693d44a

Regardless, Ryuko is no match for these uber-powerful uniforms, and is quickly dispatched by the forces of Honnouji Academy. But just when her mission seems doomed to failure, she bleeds on a pile of clothing and…

y8pisek

BAD TOUCH

..she gets accosted by a talking sailor uniform that desperately wants her to wear him. His name is Senketsu, and he’s basically an evolving Goku uniform on steroids. Thus begins Ryuko’s crusade against Satsuki Kiryuin, and to find out the truth about what happened to her father…

tumblr_nhf1ryl9nt1tdnwpwo1_500

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Ace, this is sounding dumber by the minute. Scissor blades? Caste systems? Giant structurally unsafe concrete towers? TALKING CLOTHES?” And you’d be right! But here’s the secret weapon up Kill la Kill’s sleeve.

Everything in the series is gleefully, giddily silly, and it knows it. Every aspect of the show, from the writing to the animation to the voice acting is oozing with a combination of over-the-top mid-90s anime cheese and a modern sensibility.

tumblr_mv70a53sih1r9b5wlo1_1280

Indeed.

In essence, Kill la Kill is a parody of shonen series of yesteryear, featuring a cast of big beefy boy and sexy girls with ludicrous “finishing moves”, “techniques” and motivations. Overly-revealing and sexualized transformation scenes evoke famous “magical girl” series like Sailor Moon, but with the added spice of attitude and knowing humour that Trigger is best at.

tumblr_na44g6tv2v1tdnwpwo1_500

No seriously guys, I like it because it’s funny. Honest.

It’s that sense of self awareness that raises Kill la Kill above the rank and file to a place where it can not only be appreciated as great entertainment, but as an indictment of modern anime itself. Far too many anime today focus on ensuring characters look perfect in every frame, every scene, every episode. Kill la Kill is far more inclined to throw consistency out the window in order to give a frame some more punch.

8d7

Character sizes warp and change depending on the situation, attacks launch their victims high in the air, through walls, other people, whatever stands in their way. Everything in Kill la Kill seems to be in a constant state of motion, like a small child who’s eaten too much candy and just can’t. Sit. Still.

rpphl6x

And the characters are great, too! Ryuko and her nemesis Lady Satsuki are easily two of my favourite lead characters now. Ryuko embodies what I love to see in my protagonists – a sense of barely contained bubbling rage occasionally bursting into action, while still being sympathetic. It’s badass.

1b8dc3aa2d710b296c23966ef03cd39fc7fdaee7_hq

And Lady Satsuki? Lemme tell ya, I’ll be her loyal servant any day, yanowataimsayin?

1984

I’m saying she’s very very scary please don’t kill me

Her ensemble of cronies, too, get a lot of fun moments. Everyone’s favourite Ira Gamagoori, aka MISTER LOUD NOISES is obviously a crowd pleaser, and very much a retro throwback character, though I’m personally partial to Nonon Jakuzure, the obnoxious band leader who fights with the power of classical music.

maxresdefault.jpg

For those curious, the English dub of the series features a slew of well-to-lesser known talent, who fill their roles perfectly in a spot somewhere between early 90s cheese and modern professionalism. It features all of the cliches of old-timey dubs (ALL YELLING, ALL THE TIME) but has a sense of razor-sharp wit and awareness that just makes everything fun and punchy.

vlmqbrx

FORCED SEGUE

Speaking of listening, the soundtrack of Kill la Kill is easily its weakest aspect. Not because it’s terrible, but because it’s mostly fairly unremarkable. That said, Before My Body Is Dry is a beautiful catastrophe of dubious English, edgy metal and a rap verse. I love it.

So basically what I’m saying is I’ll take re-watching Kill la Kill another eight times before I watch Attack on Titan again. Let me repeat my previous statement.

NOT GUILTY

NOT GUILTY

NOT GUILTY

A pleasure to watch from start to finish. Likeable characters, an engaging plot and stunning, if rough, animation make Kill la Kill one adrenaline rush you won’t want to miss.

01a

I Couldn’t Become a Hero, so I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job review

Work is hard. I think we can all relate to that, right? And it’s even harder when you’re not in a line of work you’re actually invested in. Days are long, the pay sucks, and the people you interact with on a daily basis make you want to scream.

Now imagine the job you REALLY wanted was to be a sword-and-shield wielding hero, but instead…

yuushaninarenakatta3

RETAIL, BABY

Such is the basic premise of I Couldn’t Become a Hero, so I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job, a title so unwieldy I’m going to refer to it from here on as Yu-Shibu (the official shortened Japanese title).

Yu-Shibu is set in a fantasy world in which magic exists, but is mostly used for banal, practical purposes like microwaves and televisions. However, with magic comes monsters, and the heroes who fight them.

yuushibu1

On the eve of his graduation from a hero academy, Raul Chaser discovers his dream is over – the Demon Lord has been slain, and the world has no more need for heroes like him. With no other place to go, Raul gets a job at a magic shop – Leon – and spends his days bored out of his mind.

yuushibu 2

One day, a young lad applies for a job at Leon. He’s an odd duck and, as it transpires, is actually the son of the Demon Lord! And he’s actually not his son, but actually his daughter! Actually!

tumblr_mwc251i8Zy1rmc8dco1_500

How did they ever tell?

Cue a fish-out-of-water story for the ages, as the Demon Lord’s daughter – Fino Bloodstone – attempts to fit in at Leon despite the fact she has no clue how to interact in human society. If it’s starting to sound like this is another The Devil Is A Part Timer, then that’s kind of appropriate.

HorribleSubs-Yuushibu-09-720p.mkv_snapshot_17.19_2013.12.01_22.44.13

The main difference with Yu-Shibu is in the overall message of the show. TDIAPT is all about Satan attempting to fit into human society by working his way from the ground up to conquer Earth, inevitably becoming more comfortable with the change of pace offered by a middle-management position.

Yu-Shibu, on the other hand, is about a guy who has been forced to abandon his dreams in order to work a menial job, when someone with infectious energy enters his life who gives him a new perspective and makes him appreciate what he has, rather than pining over what could have been.

5b5ccd116450290eb6058dc64f7151a127afb360_hq

And Yu-Shibu does this really well! After all, who wouldn’t want to live surrounded by all the weird and wonderful characters in the series. Fino herself is one of my new favourite heroines, and her relatively new seiyuu did a fantastic job – especially that evil laugh. Fino occasionally lapses into Demon-talk, casually discussing torture and other horrible things, which leads to some very amusing moments.

yuushibu2

The supporting cast is strong too, even if many of them do fall into the old character archetypes we’ve come to know and not exactly love. Regardless, I’m quite the fan of the employees of Lawson, a neighbouring shop to Leon, especially Lam.

[METRO-ZIA] Yuushibu - 05 [720p] [10Bit] [9EA9DEB4].mkv_snapshot_15.01_[2013.11.03_09.59.32]

Oh yes, sorry, my apologies.

Raul’s old classmate Airi Ortinet is also an interesting character, taken as a direct parallel to Raul in terms of employment and what she’s doing about her lot in life. Saying any more than that would be a spoiler, but trust me, it’s a nice dynamic.

843885

Really, of all the characters Raul is easily the weakest – but then I suppose he’s probably supposed to be the audience surrogate. He has a couple of heroic moments and saves the day in the end, but he’s still kind of boring.

1383325436980

You know, the kind of guy who would take his date to an Asda.

From an art standpoint, the series is very bright and colourful, and characters look quite good. The real star is the world itself, but it often feels as though they could do more with the setting. I don’t know, I see dragons pulling cars and yet all we’re shown tends to be magic TVs and microwaves. Spoilers, they look exactly the same.

yuushibu3

A fantastical world indeed.

The series also seems to have that oddly inconsistent animation that affected The Fruit of Grisaia – some scenes evidently have far more effort put into them than others and flow nicely, but it feels more like a nice surprise when it happens, rather than a disappointment when it doesn’t.

EC9

Oh, and in case you were wondering: yes, there’s fanservice in this series. What, were you expecting a gif or something?

kZkX66J

I would never be that tacky.

While for the most part a comedy series, Yuu-Shibu does become a lot more serious towards the end, and while some may argue that it’s somewhat jarring, I feel that it works surprisingly well. The villains have a decent motivation and reason to be there, and are suitably menacing, but they do come at the expense of some plot threads that are introduced but end up as red herrings.

1829d90afc807bbd23d6d167ded4a99d9bf1559a_hq

Like that time Raul silently vowed to murder Fino in her sleep while she ate a sausage, that was weird.

Overall though, I feel like Yu-Shibu is a fun little series that introduces some interesting ideas, populates itself with an interesting, likeable cast and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

NOT GUILTY

Charming, easy-going and funny, Yu-Shibu is a perfect anime to watch in between more serious shows. It’s a little disjointed towards the end, but the concepts will strike close to home for anyone who has ever worked a job they didn’t enjoy.

[horriblesubs] yuushibu - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.13_[2013.10.07_10.26.36]

Too real!

5 Months

Time flies! Two reviews coming soon. I’ve been in some stuff. Here’s the stuff I’ve been in.

Auburn Sunset

Auburn Sunset is third-person visual novel set in the fantasy world of Reflection.

Following the events of Demon Hunt, Cisaya is now on a journey to save herself from the Void Mark. With the legend of an ancient Demon Slayer on her mind, she travels to the Island of Talhe in search of the truth behind the demons’ curses and a cure for her own fading existence. Accompanying her is the crude, foul-mouthed mercenary, Nike Harbring, a mischievous river otter called Whiskers, and a full cast of residents from the island of Talhe.

This is a cool one – I play a posh guard fella named Jasper (who you can see in the trailer at 0:45) and get loads of great lines. The writing on this one is pretty great, and it’s on Steam Greenlight right now! Please drop a “yes” vote if you have a Steam account and are interested – the game will be free on release, so what’s the harm?

Koi & Kirai

16 years ago, the Yin-Yang kingdom was attacked, annihilating the majority of the Takahashi family and many innocent people. One year old Sapphire Takahashi’s life is left in the hands of his last living uncle Ikiri Takhashi and his eight month pregnant wife. Now seventeen, Sapphire is old enough to enter the annual two year ninja try-outs. He expects to try-out with his friends without any surprises, but he doesn’t expect to meet twin girls that awaken his demon side and give him an unusual desire to kill.

In which I play cocky pervert Kioshi Ayachi. Need I say more? The series is currently gearing up for the release of episode 4, so there’s plenty of time to catch up.

Encoded

Life for Patrick Copeland has not been easy since he was viciously attacked and left for dead one night. He barely survived, and the damage to his brain has left him with horrifying nightmares of the incident, unsettling hallucinations, and a scattered, unreliable memory. Without his patient wife, Marina, to keep him on track, he is certain he would not be able to go on in his condition. While the attack may have looked like an isolated crime, Patrick knows the truth about why it happened—his attackers were after the information of a humanity-changing genetic sequence that his father, a brilliant geneticist, left him before his death. After discovering the body of the woman that raised him, and the only other person to know about the sequence, Patrick knows his safe, quiet life is over…but he definitely wasn’t as prepared for the unraveling of everything he thought he knew about himself and the people around him…

I’m a baddie, a guy named Connor, in this one. While it’s a small part, it’s an important one. The final episode, episode 10, is coming soon, so catch up while you still can!

The Kingery

http://www.pendantaudio.com/shows/kingery

Welcome to the Kingery Road Resort and Casino, the galaxy’s premiere vacation destination. Stop by the casino, take a stroll down to Shenanigans or visit the famous Saley, Onks and Liddle for a trip you’ll never forget. Just watch your step, because if you cross the boss, the Kingery will chew you up and spit you out, a broken shell of what you once were.

I got the opportunity to work with the renowned Pendant Productions (they even have their own Wikipedia page!) on their long-running series The Kingery. I play Brother William Edders of the Church of Gorlock, and first appear in episode 804.

Monster Hearts

This one comes to us from old friend Shishi Beru, who you might remember as the creator of Candy High, which I was also in. If you saw it, you should know what to expect – bright, crisp art, unique ideas, and some tricky plot twists. I play Loyal, and if you like episode one, just wait till you see episode two!

That’s all for now, but if anything else gets released (these things take time!) I’ll be sure to write another update.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have Titans to slay.

Food Wars review

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time here on this planet, it’s that food rules. Stews, pastas, pizzas, pies; the list goes on. And anime rules too. But…what if they combined?

Soma Yukihira is just your average everyday teenager, pulling shifts in his dad’s diner between bouts of high school. He’s popular, his food is good, and his dad is a cool, if eccentric, guy. But one day, his life is shattered when his dad decides to travel the world cooking in fancy restaurants.

Soma, on the other hand, is sent to a new school. Not just any school though, he’s sent to the most prestigious culinary academy in Japan, if not the world.

maxresdefault

Though he initially faces harsh criticism and fierce competition – especially from the beautiful “God Tongue” Erina Nakiri – his charm and optimism see him through arduous challenges on his quest to become The Best There Ever Was™.

Erina_wins_against_Kiyoshi_(anime)

Many a sumo wrestler has tried, and many failed… miserably.

Yes, yes, it’s hardly an original concept when you put it like that – but much like Ben-To!, Food Wars takes a classic concept and injects it with a fresh angle. Instead of battling with swords and shields, the conflicts of Food Wars are settled by Shokugeki – formal cook-offs with high stakes to play for.

food-wars-shokugeki-no-soma-episode-1-11-47_2015-04-04_00-27-16

And it’s not like the regular school work is any less intense – regular gruelling tasks quickly separate the wheat from the chaff, and some chefs-in-training struggle to keep their heads above water, like innocent Megumi Tadokoro, who begins to learn and adapt with Soma. It’s a very natural friendship that works really well within the story.

fNwTIna.jpg

“Wow, my face is really soft!”

Soma’s living quarters are the Polar Star dormitory, which he shares with Megumi and a bunch of other zany chefs-in-training, all of which are too interesting to describe in a single paragraph – though special mention must go to Satoshi Isshiki, who just refuses to wear anything but an apron for no real reason.

shokugeki-no-soma-episode-4-20-02_2015-04-25_02-31-03

Pls no

They’re all very charming and likeable, but the real star of the show here is the food itself. If there’s one thing Food Wars does with a passion, it’s food porn.

8715d2485a1c711debafad1cd411b45d632357b7_hq.gif

Don’t be ashamed if you start to drool, that’s perfectly natural.

Approaching the kitchen with an anime mindset results in a scenes that combine semi-educational recipes with ludicrous spectacle. Cooking is never a simple affair in Food Wars, oh no. Characters cut meat like samurai, toss dough like acrobats and chop vegetables at warp speed, flinging ingredients to and fro.

Food Wars 8_zpsvtjwq2xd

I too like to cook stuff while playing an invisible keyboard.

And when the meal is completed, its never just a matter of eating – the food of Food Wars is quite literally orgasmic. Characters recoil and melt into hazy fantasies at the slightest whiff of the dishes in this series, from the sublime…

jHpLlKI

To the ridiculous…

Food Wars 10_zpsbarkmrvh

And all places in between. But none of this serves to weaken the series – it’s refreshing to see such a bright, breezy series with its head held high, revelling in the stupidity and using it to its advantage.

It’s also got some pretty sweet fanservice, just sayin’.

1442599714039

Ahh, nothing like a hot bath of… rice?

Food Wars is a rare example of excess leading to success. There are dozens of characters throughout the series, but they’re mostly given enough screen time to appreciate their individual traits and specialities. There’s a lot of needless fanservice, but it never feels too obtrusive. The series is 24 episodes long, but it doesn’t feel flabby. The art is bright and very “shonen” but never feels too juvenile. It’s pretty much the full gamut.

Shokugeki-no-Souma-10-f2

SPEED LINES! CHIBIS!

That being said, if I have one complaint about the series, it’s the final arc. Taking place during a cooking tournament, the last four or so episodes are just a stream of dishes shoved under the judges noses and foodgasms. It gets a little wearing as you wait for less interesting characters to have their turn and get to the main characters. And Nikumi.

lldshf

Because I favour practical cooking attire.

So all in all, I had a great time watching Food Wars. It made for a good palate cleanser after the god-awful My Wife is a Needlessly Long Title and means I can now safely approach something much darker in tone…

49ab383b85245282667ec40f169fd2c1fed6621a_hq

…Or not! Time will tell.

NOT GUILTY

Food Wars is a delectable experience from starter to dessert. Hilarious comedy, fun characters and a creative concept elevate this series above the rank and file. Bon appetit!

And because I realise I can never truly get across the insane magic of Food Wars through words alone, here’s a clip of one of the first recipes in the series:

My Wife is the Student Council President review

There comes a time in every human’s life where they have to stop for a moment, kick off their shoes and ask some deep questions.

What am I doing? Where am I going? Am I a good person? What’s next? Am I ready to take on a life full of responsibilities? Am I really okay with spending two hours of my life watching an anime series that isn’t very good?

No, no I’m not.

My Wife is the Student Council President is the story of a guy whose wife is the student council president. I know, surprising, right?

Well, technically they’re engaged. Well, actually their parents arranged their marriage. And our heroine moves in with him. And they have to hide the fact they stay together (really poorly) because reasons. God, doesn’t this sound like the best series?

lntcfzy1

What can I even say about this? I watched it literally hours ago and can barely remember anything about it. There’s very little build-up, and practically zero backstory to any of the characters – who, I might add, blow onto and off screen like a paper bag in an updraft.

gy5gksJEit10iB30Z4CPRxwei0R56U34.png

Pictured L-R: Protag Onist, Hoosy McWhatsit, Ui Somethingororher, Karen Yknowthatoneguy

I remember the main girl’s name is Ui, and the head of the school’s disciplinary committee is Misumi (I think), but hell if I know the main dude’s name or the other members of the student council. Karen, I think, was one of them. The blonde one with quad tails. And a snaggletooth.

damedesuyo_okusama_ga_seitokaichou_-_07_1280x720_10bit_aac_b46184a8_001_6188.png

I couldn’t even find a good picture of Karen, she’s in the show so little!

What I’m trying to say is that there’s really nothing holding this show together. How could there be, when the story is told in twelve 8-minute bursts, each one a different situation? Everything feels rushed, characters act and overreact to absurd degrees – “How can I marry this girl? Damn parents! I’m going to lick your breasts now!” – and there’s so many absurd choices and situations at play it makes my head spin.

damedesuyo_okusama_ga_seitokaichou_-_06_1280x720_10bit_aac_04cf2dbf_1_001_10452.png

Pictured: A guy who totally does not want to be in a relationship with this girl.

You’ve got the disciplinary committee leader who is utterly against relationships between boys and girls of the school (even in their time outside of school, which is a draconian strategy if ever I’ve heard one) but secretly has the mega-hots for Protag Onist; her sister, the school nurse, who practically rapes him in his sleep in one episode; Protag himself, who is so totally against the idea of relations with Ui but finds himself groping and… ahem… massaging her at least once per episode; and Ui’s mother and father who are both around 40 but look about 10 and who appear in TWO episodes.

2838.jpg

BUT SHE’S NOT, THOUGH

Sometimes it feels like Yamada’s First Time

My-Wife-is-the-Student-Council-President-2

And sometimes like the creators were out of their minds when they made this show.

okusama-ga-seitokaichou-06

 

Sometimes it’s genuinely funny…

giphy.gif

And sometimes it’s just weird and absurd.

My-Wife-is-the-Student-Council-President-Episode-11

Sometimes it’s surprisingly romantic…

fyG27K2.png

And sometimes it’s just not.

w98IeNy

Ui herself is the strongest link in the series, but again her character design is kind of all over the place. Her voice actress seems almost a little too deep for the character they’re portraying (which I actually like better than if they’d given her a squeaky voice) and her design incorporates her own snaggletooth, which seems vaguely out of place. She’s at least likeable, if a bit of an oddball – but everything unique about her character (that of an advocate of “free love” at the school) is abruptly thrown out of the window after the first episode. We barely even see her doing anything AS a student council president!

damedesuyo-okusama-ga-seitokaichou-01-1280x720-10bit-aac-d04133c5-mkv_snapshot_00-15_2015-07-03_20-44-50

Except tossing condoms out to the entire student body YES THAT DOES ACTUALLY HAPPEN

It also makes me mildly uncomfortable that they don’t play coy with the character’s age, considering we see many, many upskirts, cleavage shots and more besides before we are informed the character is, in fact, 15. Also, who gets made president of the student council in their first year of high school?

ikyacqb

This girl, apparently.

The art is nice, if not exactly ground-breaking, and there are a couple of funny scenes hidden away in there, but when your fanservice is borderline pornographic and STILL mediocre, you’ve got problems. Avoid.

GUILTY

My Wife is the Student Council President is about as emotionally and mentally stimulating as a Garfield comic. A mild smattering of funny jokes and at least one decent episode can’t save the series from bland, uninteresting characters, unremarkable fanservice and frankly preposterous circumstances. If there’s any consolation, it’s that that while it may be a waste of time to watch this series, at 8 minutes an episode it’s not a waste of MUCH time.

dQ4B7st.jpg

This show was greenlit for a second series.

VNVDVD: The Fruit of Grisaia

Hello all!

Today I’m going to be starting a new category of review, which I like to call Visual Novel versus DVD (or VNVDVD for short). For this, I’ll play a visual novel – or game of whatever genre – and then see how it measures up to its anime adaptation.

This time, we’re going to be tackling The Fruit of Grisaia.

The Fruit of Grisaia is the story of Yuuji Kazami, a high school student with a dark past newly transferred to Mihama Academy, a prison-like school attended by only five other people. And they’re all girls.

As Yuuji’s normal-ish high school life goes on, he gradually uncovers the reasons why these girls are attending the school. The branching routes of the visual novel consist of Yuuji wining, dining and refining them, romancing them and solving their problems along the way.

It’s a fascinating slow burn in each case, with each route skilfully blending heartbreaking, dark themes with uplifting, inspiring redemption. To say more would be a spoiler, but suffice to say I was impressed with the quality of writing and likeability of the main cast.

Amane Suou, the token boobie girl, treats her friends like family, acting as the mother of the group. She cooks for Yuuji, constantly makes passes at him, and is notably tall for a Japanese girl, at 5’6”. The game constantly mentions this.

119.jpg

Sachi Komine, the loyal-to-a-fault girl who dresses like a maid, is lovable in her mousy yet determined way, and gets some of the best lines in the game.

2015-09-20_00126

Makina Irisu somehow manages to avoid the “baby-faced and baby-talking girl” annoyances and actually ends up being a totally serviceable character, particularly when Yuuji takes her under his wing.

Irisu.Makina.full.1004174

Yumiko Sakaki, daughter of the man who built the school, is also surprisingly likeable despite the her tropey “icy rich girl” manner, and some of the best sight gags and moments in the game are directly tied to her, like any time her not-so-secret internet porn habits are brought up, or she tries to kill someone with a box cutter.

Sakaki.Yumiko.full.623648

And Michiru Matsushima – aka Best Girl™ – is 100% comic relief. She’s dumb, clumsy, obnoxious and absolutely hilarious to watch. Her sub-plot of being a fake tsundere with bottle-blonde hair is one of my favourite character traits ever.

194

Yuuji himself is also an interesting character. It’s clear from the get-go that he is not an ordinary student, with his encyclopedic knowledge of military protocol and extensive combat training, but despite being the badass that saves the day in most cases, the game manages to avoid making him an omnipotent Gary Stu. He’s arrogant, blunt and generally unpleasant to be around, but manages to knuckle down when the time is right. And hey, he’s the protagonist, so you gotta like it or lump it.

Grisaia.no.Kajitsu.full.1004183

That’s him in the back, looking all cool and stuff.

Even Yuuji’s guardian/superior JB and the principal of the school, Chizuru Tachibana, are fun characters, though I find Chizuru falls on the “annoyingly squeaky” side of things. JB, aka Julia Bardera, aka Yuria Harudera, is apparently German-Italian but speaks fluent Japanese, which is about as “anime” a character as it gets.

487

But hey, German efficiency.

Now, to the important details. The Fruit of Grisaia, taken as a visual novel, is extremely lengthy. Like, 50+ hours lengthy. I started reading it on the 22nd of December, and finished it around the 26th of January – and that’s reading it at least a couple of hours every day. That’s around 70 hours worth, likely more, that I spent going through every route.

The anime adaptation is 13 episodes long. Ohh boy.

tumblr_nczgqrsldt1r3rdh2o1_500

So, it’s time for the key question. How does the anime measure up? Well…

Not great, if I’m being honest. This was never going to be a perfect adaptation by any stretch of the imagination with so few episodes to cover so much. And yet, even knowing this, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

Let’s break down the series into component parts and see just how fairly it was constructed:

Episodes 1, 2 and 3: The “common route” of the game, introducing the main cast and some slice-of-life comedy.

Episodes 4 and 5: Michiru’s story.

Episode 6: Yumiko’s story.

Episode 7: Sachi’s story.

Episodes 8 and 9: Makina’s story.

Episodes 10, 11, 12 and 13: Amane’s story.

See the problem emerging here? In the game, pretty much every route is equal in length and complexity. In the series, Yumiko and Sachi have their stories told in roughly TWENTY MINUTES.

And if that doesn’t sound too bad – maybe they just cut out a lot of fluff? – then here are a few pictures, created by DeadlyFatalis for his own take on the series. Using Best Girl™ Michiru as an example, here is a list of all the scenes in her route of the game, marked with all the scenes they included in episode 4 of the anime:

cutcontent.jpg

Twenty five scenes, and the series covers three in one episode. To do this, it skips eleven.

And in skipping all this content, Yuuji basically becomes the perfect human being who helps these girls through their problem for no real reason other than the plot demands it. In the game, the reason is slightly different.

8VbAmeX

Yeah, something like that.

What’s more, the series adds an ungodly amount of unnecessary fanservice at seemingly random intervals. Now, I don’t have much of a problem with fanservice in general, but there’s a time and a place for such things, and it’s not “clumsily inserted whenever”.

qV7zcrG.jpg

In this scene, Michiru grabs a bag from Sachi. There are two pantie-shots for absolutely no reason.

At this point, I don’t really know who the anime adaptation is for. It doesn’t feel like it’s for newcomers, because so much is left out that the plot and characters feel incomplete and rushed.

It’s also evidently not for people who played the game, because all it does is make me annoyed by how much I know they left out.

Now, I’m being extremely harsh on the series. I acknowledge that it would have been exceptionally difficult to adapt this game, especially in thirteen episodes. But there were some things that I actually think it did pretty well! It’s kind of a “sweet sour” stance.

tumblr_ne28vtpJWp1slv5gyo1_500.gif

But mostly sour.

Firstly, the art in the series is great. They very faithfully recreated the characters and locations from the game, and it helps to be able to clearly see some scenes that were not fully shown in the game, such as Michiru before she was blonde, some fight scenes, and JB’s control room. Though I suppose “good art” is a prerequisite considering the source material, which included one CG I literally stopped to stare at for a couple of minutes, in awe of how pretty it was. And totally not because of what was happening in the picture.

gollythatspretty.png

What are you doing get out of there she’s gonna eat youuuuuu

All the original voice actors returned to play their parts in the series, and music from the game is used effectively, giving the series a comfortable, familiar feeling.

The animation itself, while mostly relatively basic, has some moments of impressive fluidity, and everything is presented in letterboxed widescreen. I’m not really sure how I feel about the letterboxing, but it does lend things a cinematic feel. I suppose with the game constantly using Dutch angles, it was only fair.

makina2

No seriously, look at the other pictures, 90% of them are at this crazy angle.

The series also takes several artistic liberties in order to tie together all of the stories, resulting in several scenes completely different from the game. Yumiko’s route in particular is almost completely changed – though I suppose they’d have to, to make it fit into one episode.

Now, here’s the most impressive and disappointing part of this analysis. Angelic Howl, the final arc of the series, which focuses on Amane’s story, is the longest by far and easily the best part of the series.

Spoilers are ahead, so be warned.

009

“Get back, spoilers! Back, I say!”

Amane’s backstory is that she was part of a high school basketball team who, while on a trip, crashed their bus off a cliff, leaving them stranded in the wilderness. The team band together in order to survive, but with help nowhere to be found slowly begin to succumb to starvation and madness. Amane is the sole survivor of this incident.

It’s an extremely long, detailed part of the game, but astonishingly the series manages to adapt it effortlessly, cutting out all the unnecessary fluff while still telling the story properly. It even surprised me by leaving in certain unpleasant details, such as the various skin afflictions, wounds and bodily functions the girls have to endure while stranded. Even the most shocking scene of all – in which the sole teacher and the captain of the basketball team, in a fit of madness, have sex in the forest surrounded by corpses, is left in, and the scene is all the more effective for it.

Grisaia no Kajitsu - 01 - Large 08.jpg

No, I’m not showing that. Principal Tachibana would be upset.

The finale of the series, loosely adapted from Amane’s route’s ending, while perhaps not as well written as the game’s, manages to tie together every heroine’s routes in such a way that is arguably better than the source material. It even manages to set up the characters for the sequel in a way the game could not. So my question is this:

Why wasn’t the rest of the series given so much attention?

I don’t like to throw out hyperbole, but The Fruit of Grisaia would undoubtedly have benefited from a 26-episode runtime. Angelic Howl proves that with the proper amount of care and time, the stories can be told efficiently without sacrificing important details.

But in the end, we got a Majikoi rather than a Steins;Gate. Sigh.

IWBqo8Q.jpg

VERDICT

While The Fruit of Grisaia remains an excellent and exemplary visual novel, the anime adaptation is a rushed jumble of scenes which only comes into its own in the final arc, too little too late. While a serviceable companion piece to the game, it only serves to highlight what could have been achieved with just a little more time and effort.

Matsushima.Michiru.full.481050.jpg

There were far too few Best Girl images in this article, so here’s one to end on. Aww.

 

Ace’s Games of the Year 2015

Happy New Year!

Ah, 2015. What a year. So much has happened in the past twelve months, it’s hard to know where to begin. The political climate has changed, wars have been waged, and humanity continues to stumble down the path to its inevitable destruction. Oh, and some video games came out! So let’s talk about those.

Please note that these rankings are entirely subjective and made in no particular order. I have, however, separated them into three categories: The Hall of Fame, in which I have placed my eleven favourite games of the year (Why top eleven? Because I like to go one step beyond. Hahaha references); the Hall of Participants, in which I have placed games I enjoyed very much this year but for whatever reason have not placed in the Hall of Fame; and the Hall of Shame, in which I have placed this year’s biggest disappointments.

So without further ado, let us open the pearl-encrusted gates into…

THE HALL OF FAME

Reserved for only the finest experiences of the year

Dying Light

This one came as a complete surprise to me. Hailing from Deep Silver, the creators of Dead Island (a passable zombie game) and Dead Island Riptide (a mediocre retread of a passable zombie game), it looked as if this would jump straight onto the bandwagon of “meh” games with nice trailers Deep Silver were in a habit of producing. But no! What was given to us was a fantastically fun fusion of Mirror’s Edge parkour gameplay and meaty zombie clobberin’, sandwiched between two pillowy slices of a reasonable story, with some genuinely creepy moments sprinkled in for zest (Screamer zombies… nuff said). On top of that, us poor folks in the UK who got the boxed version late received the season pass absolutely free, meaning the next – huge – expansion, The Following, will be absolutely free. I’m excited to see what the future holds for a game with such an admirable business strategy, particularly one that I don’t think got the recognition it deserved upon release.

743963

Hotline Miami 2

What is there to say about Hotline Miami 2 that has not already been said about Hotline Miami? It’s a winning formula – the plot stylings of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, a grimy 80s aesthetic and soundalike soundtrack by awesome synth artists like Perturbator and Carpenter Brut, and ultraviolence. It’s a walking paradox – ugly, yet beautiful. Short, bloody and confusing as hell, but made with such panache and confidence that it stands out as one of the best THINGS I’ve been exposed to in 2015.

games_hotlinemiami2

GOTTA GET A GRIP

Tales From The Borderlands

Oh, Telltale. We worried about you – stretching yourself so thin over two huge games. And while one suffered as a result, this one blew everyone away. Building off the established universe of Gearbox’s Borderlands series, TFTB manages to tie each story together in a meaningful way that doesn’t trample over existing plots (though it could be argued the previous games’ plots weren’t all that important in between blasting skags and raiders). Riotously funny, featuring an all-star cast of voice actors who all get stuck into their roles with charm and passion, and an ending that will make you grin from ear to ear, Tales From The Borderlands earns a worthy place in anyone’s game library.

2923797-right-stuff

Bloodborne

From Software are not a company to be taken lightly. With their pedigree of freakishly-hard-but-somehow-fair Souls series, there was every opportunity for them to rest on their laurels and pump out another sequel. But not From Software, oh no. In Bloodborne, From took all the best parts of Dark Souls and combined it with a new, gothic Victorian environment and a more exciting and active combat system, rewarding players who face their problems head on, while still battering newbies into a bloody pulp. And yet it’s somehow still hugely fun to play! The very epitome of the phrase “git gud”. What a horrible night to have a curse, eh?

Bloodborne-screen-04-ps4-us-10jun14

“Aw, crap, not again.” – Every Bloodborne player ever

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

We’ve come a long way since 1992. The global climate has changed, and World War 2 shooters have become passe, let by the wayside to make way for the “modern warfare” craze ushered in by Call of Duty. But sometimes, all we really need is a big shirtless muscular man with a big gun killing zombie Nazis and robotic dogs. 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order showed us that old-school shooters can be just as fresh and exciting as the new breed, offering a fantastic, well-told, pure single player shooter. There was no tacked on multiplayer, no fat to trim, just lean, mean raw gameplay. The Old Blood expands on the story of The New Order with great set-pieces, even more insane enemies, and a handful of cheeky nods to the elder Wolfensteins. It becomes the delicate icing on the already delicious cake offered by The New Order. Man, I’m hungry.

Desktop-05.04.2015-23.04.53.02.00_00_46_57.Still002

The Witcher 3

I love CD Projekt Red. There, I said it. They are quite possibly the finest example of how not to be Konami in the gaming industry today – focused purely on making the customer happy in achievable ways. Game is bugged? Patch it. DLC ideas? Make them free. Big expansions? Make them worth the money and have cool physical bonuses (damn I love Gwent). Considering the base game is already filled to the brim with gorgeous, fully-voiced, extremely ambitious content, it’s a wonder CDPR haven’t collapsed into fatigue. But no, they’re still going strong, and their next game, Cyberpunk 2077, looks even more exciting. All hail CD Projekt Red, the saviours of gaming, and all hail The Witcher 3.

W3-Hearts-of-Stone-new-romance

Fallout 4

I have seen a brahmin glitch on top of a house at least five times now and I don’t care. Fallout 4 is exactly what I wanted and more. It’s huge, filled with content, features great performances from its main cast, and gunplay that isn’t RNG based, which in my opinion was a godsend. Sure, a lot of sidequests are repetitive, and the plot kind of loses steam in the third act, but there’s no wasteland I’d rather wander with a faithful dog (or journalist) by my side.

Fallout 4_20151109125718

Piper is best girl.

Until Dawn

These days, it’s hard to be spooky, and even harder to make a good Quantic Dream-esque interactive movie-game. That said, holy crap did Supermassive Games deliver with Until Dawn. Beautiful graphics, mind-blowing performance capture technology that somehow manages to steer clear of the uncanny valley (or maybe not, it IS a horror game after all), and featuring a story that has genuinely surprising twists, Until Dawn is a jumpscare you won’t complain about to your friends later.

until-dawn-screenshot-03-ps4-us-07aug14.png

Mad Max

I am of the opinion that a game can be judged based almost solely on how good it’s shotgun is. And hoo boy, this one is a doozy.

A controversial choice, to be sure – Jim Sterling, thank God for him, dubbed Mad Max “Sandbox: The Game”, but for me it struck every note it needed to in order to make me nerd out in a big way. Maybe I’m just easy to please, but the opportunity to play as Max Rockatansky, beating the stuffing out of wastelanders and partaking in road wars, was too cool to pass up. And Mad Max doesn’t disappoint on that front, offering an authentic movie experience. The cars are loud, the crashes are meaty, and that shotgun? It epitomizes the word “BLAM”.

madmax_maxandmagnumopus

Metal Gear Solid V

Konami’s sins may never die, and MGSV may be, in many ways, an unfinished mess of a game, but it still stands tall as an example of excellent game design. The Fox Engine is a fantastic piece of hardware, capable of rendering huge detailed environments at 60fps without sacrificing fidelity, and MGSV utilizes this to great effect. Sneaking through and eliminating outposts feels so natural and fluid that MGSV isn’t just one of my favourite games of the year, it’s one of the best stealth games ever, period. It made me laugh, made me cry (for more reasons than one) and made me accept once and for all that yes, maybe David Hayter being replaced by Kiefer Sutherland wasn’t the biggest mistake they could have made in this game.

metal-gear-solid-v-the-phantom-pain-14-high-resolution-wallpaper.jpg

Persona 4 Dancing All Night

Not a day goes by without me thinking ’bout
The way the world stopped mid-motion
When you walked into my life and we connected
Like we shared the same mad potion
Couldn’t help but move
The threads of fate had spun us
Into each other’s lives by chance
All this energy’s got us inspired now.
We couldn’t stop it, just set it free, and
Dance!

Who saw this one coming? It’s so gleefully, wonderfully silly – something that has no right to work but dammit, it’s just so great. Great music, colourful graphics, a genuine sense of joy and good times, and more Persona 4 in general. If this is the way we’re saying goodbye to our favourite characters to make way for Persona 5, then I think I’m okay with that.

P4D-Naoto-PV_04-24-15

Naoto is best girl.

HALL OF PARTICIPANTS

For experiences considered for the Hall of Fame but were excluded for one reason or another

Life Is Strange
High school angst + time travel = weird writing + actually pretty good game.

Mortal Kombat X
Best fighting system in the biz in my opinion. Let down by awful DLC. Warner Bros strike again.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong
Cyberpunk is my jam, but like the previous Shadowrun I didn’t get around to finishing it due to the ridiculously difficult final act.

Soma
Bonkers undersea horror from the makers of Amnesia. Good spooks, interesting story and ideas, but ultimately not all that scary in the long run.

Grim Fandango Remastered
A true adventure gaming classic. But it’s just a remaster. Exempt!

The Escapists
A cute little prison break game with some nifty gameplay. Still haven’t finished it though, so it’s exempt from the Hall of Fame.

Resident Evil Remake
A cracking remake of an already classic horror game, a 9/10 easily from me – but it’s still a remake of a remake from 2002. Exempt.

Resident Evil™_20150120162117

Jill is best girl.

Apotheon
An unexpected Metroidvania-esque gem, but ultimately didn’t have enough to draw me in till the end.

Hand of Fate
A truly original game, and one I really need to get back into.

Resident Evil Revelations 2
A return to Resident Evil‘s golden age of good spooks, ammo shortages and running like hell. Nothing particularly spectacular, but I may have spent a little too much time playing Raid Mode.

Oddworld New N’ Tasty
A wonderful remake of the PS1 classic. Still a remake though – exempt!

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China
A serviceable platformer that somehow manages to be about thirty times better than Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Shovel Knight
A very fun platformer that harkens back to classic NES games. Originally released in 2014 though – exempt!

Ether One
A quirky little puzzle game with interesting ideas and great voice acting, slightly let down by atrocious framerate issues and confusing gameplay.

The Fruit of Grisaia
A consistently entertaining visual novel, and the first part of three. Unfortunately, this game was originally released in 2012 – exempt!

190

Michiru is best girl.

Yakuza 5
This one hurts to put in the Hall of Participants – no other game this year has quite “got” me like Yakuza 5. I shall say only this: fistfighting a bear is amazing. Shame this game is actually from 2012. Maybe step up the localization game, Sega?

http://gifs.com/embed/OYyG3p

Skullgirls 2nd Encore
A solid, satisfying fighting game with fantastic characters and sound production. Haven’t really played enough of it to put it in the Hall of Fame though.

The Fall
A really interesting puzzle/platformer/shooter. But there’s just not enough of it – this is just act one! Still waiting on part two guys, chop chop…

Steins;Gate
One of the best visual novels ever made finally gets an official English release in the UK. Just because it’s not in the Hall of Fame doesn’t mean it’s bad – just that it was originally released in 2009.

Danganronpa: Another Episode – Ultra Despair Girls
I love me some Danganronpa, and this game scratched my itch. Sub-par gunplay can’t hide the impressive graphics for a Vita game, and an excellent story which gives series favourite Toko Fukawa ample screen time.

Danganronpa-Another-Episode-1

Grow Home
An intriguing little almost-indie game from Ubisoft. Basic graphics belie a calming, addictive game, but I didn’t play enough to put it in the Hall of Fame.

Star Wars Battlefront
Yes, it was overhyped. Yes, it has its fair share of issues. Yes, EA’s business policies are perhaps not the best (A FORTY POUND SEASON PASS?). But the fact remains that Battlefront is an instant good time – fast action, nerd service up the wazoo, and simple mechanics. It’s also one of the few triple-A releases in recent memory that has worked properly straight out of the box, so I think that deserves some respect.

HALL OF SHAME

For the experiences that should have been good, but failed

Evolve

Left 4 Dead is one of the finest multiplayer experiences of the last generation of consoles. It was fast, fun, had direction, charismatic characters, and an attitude all its own. Most important of all, it was a rare breed – a multiplayer game entirely fun and playable on your own. Turtle Rock Studios, the creators of Evolve, also created Left 4 Dead, before they split from Valve. What could possibly go wrong with their spiritual successor? Er, turns out quite a lot. It’s almost as if they unlearned everything they used to great effect in L4D: boring characters, lifeless gunplay, frustrating mechanics, godawful framerate issues, rubbish stories tying maps together, no sense of progression, crap unlocks and, worst of all, boring monster gameplay. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SMASH THINGS AND MAKE IT FUN, IT’S NOT HARD. Never have I felt quite as betrayed and insulted by a game.

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die – and House Forrester, the main house of this game, never wins. Losing is not fun. And no matter what you do, you will always lose. Never has the phrase “Your choices will have consequences” seemed more cynical, more tacked on, than in this game. At least Tales From The Borderlands worked – guess we know where all the effort went.

The Order 1886

Quite possibly the only game I’ve ever sold within a week of buying. I paid £40 for this game, and received about £5 worth of content. Say what you want about Quantic Dream and the like’s “movies disguised as games”, but at least they actually had gameplay. The Order 1886 is a four hour game masked by lengthy cutscenes and mediocre cover based shooting, along with one of the most pathetic excuses for an ending in recent memory. Pretty graphics can’t save this one.

Battlefield: Hardline

Battlefield, at it’s best, is a shooter series so intense you can practically feel the dirt in your mouth during a particularly involved multiplayer session. The main series may have sacrificed plot integrity to focus on multiplayer and nicer graphics, but it’s anything but boring. Now take that, remove the big explosions and vehicle combat. Remove the great feeling guns, and instead have pea shooter pistols. Make the plot even worse. That’s Battlefield: Hardline. Released at a time when police-civilian relations were already rather fragile, this crooked cop deserves to be locked up, and the key conveniently lost.

Batman: Arkham Knight

This game is practically the definition of the word “disappointing”. It’s a solid enough game – it’s part of the Arkham series, for goodness sake – but it’s utterly, painfully by the numbers. The plot isn’t all that interesting, the awesome new Batmobile sections soon becomes a slog through endless boring tank battles, the antagonist is utterly predictable, and the FORTY POUND season pass consists entirely of skins, lifeless fifteen minute missions, and MORE TANK BATTLES. And this isn’t even going into the wretched PC port, which didn’t even work properly on release, was removed from sale on Steam and then rereleased. The rerelease also does not work. Ridiculous.

Zombi

How do you make a zombie game boring? Port a Wii U game that ran poorly on it’s home console, and make it run just as poorly. Remove all the things that made the Wii U version unique, and change literally nothing else. This game is 5 hours long.

Dishonored: Definitive Edition

Hey guys, maybe our remastered game should run at a steady 60fps and maybe include some kind of incentive for people to buy it? No? Okay then…

Just Cause 3

Just Cau[LOGGING INTO SQUARE ENIX SERVERS]se 3 would hav[LOGIN FAILED]e been a lot better if Square Enix hadn’t implemented a ridiculous on[LOGGING INTO SQUARE ENIX SERVERS]line DRM sch[LOGIN FAILED]eme for a single player game, and hadn’t wri[LOGGING INTO SQUARE ENIX SERVERS]tten t[LOGIN FAILED]he story like a sodd[LOGGING INTO SQUARE ENIX SERVERS]ing 8-ye[LOGIN FAILED]ar-old. Stick to Mad Max.

So there you have it! The best (and worst) of 2015, in my opinion. Now, being primarily a console player, I’m sure there are dozens of games I’m not giving their due – Undertale being one that I’m sure will crop up time and time again – but maybe some day I’ll be blessed with the opportunity to play them. Until next time, that’s all folks. Good fortune to you in this new brave year of 2016, and may this year be just as filled with cool games.

97QwENP.jpg

WHY ARE YOU SO FAR AWAAAAY

Blood Lad review

Like a vampire from the crypt, I rise again! To talk about vampires! And ghosts! Blood Lad!

Blood Lad is the story of Staz Charlie Blood, lazy vampire gang leader and owner of the most 90s name in existence.

wenn21524613willsmith

Along with Trent Reznor and Will Smith.

Staz is the leader of a section of the Demon World, a parallel universe to our own which all supernatural entities call home. Staz occupies his time giving little thought to the management of his realm, instead opting to indulge his obsession with humans – specifically the Japanese, because of course – playing video games, watching anime and dreaming of meeting a real human.

tumblr_mpkz7dNQrB1ri2kwbo1_1280

I really liked Dra-Gumball, but I preferred the second sequel, Dra-Gumball GP.

As it turns out, his wish is granted, when Japanese high-schooler Fuyumi Yanagi unexpectedly finds herself in the Demon World. Staz, naturally, is overjoyed, but when an assassin attempts to murder him, accidentally killing Fuyumi in the process, Staz vows to bring Fuyumi – now a ghost demon herself – back to life, mainly so that he can be enthralled by her again. Because let’s face it, ghosts are pretty boring compared to humans, and they wear stupid triangles on their heads.

Blood-Lad.Fuyumi-Yanagi-Sony-LT26i-Xperia-S-wallpaper.720x1280

Now, now. Nothing to be embarrassed about – you can’t help fate’s cruel fashion sense.

Thus begins a tale of magic, mystery, sibling rivalry, and over-the-top fanservice the likes of which have… well, actually, all those things have been seen before. A lot. This is anime we’re talking about here.

[Orochi-FS] Senran Kagura - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.31_[2013.02.09_11.52.17]

Look, here’s one now!

Though it would be inaccurate to call Blood Lad a totally original series, it has enough personality that it is still very endearing to watch. Staz (played magnificently by Bryce Papenbrook) is lethargic, sarcastic and generally hilarious to watch, and Fuyumi (Xanthe Huynh) is entertaining as the viewer surrogate, reacting to the weird and wonderful events of the series as an outsider would. She’s also one half of the token fanservice team, usually finding herself in skimpy costumes because apparently we’ll lose attention otherwise. Oh, and she needs to keep consuming Staz’s magic-rich blood or she’ll disappear, leading to scenes like this:

Blood Lad - 07 - Large 05

Fuyumi’s failed audition for Mysterious Girlfriend X.

But the real strength in Blood Lad lies in the supporting cast. Staz and Fuyumi work as a main pair, but they’re not big contenders for a favourite character. Bell Hydra (Kira Buckland), who can control space and time to a certain degree, is a cheeky laugh riot, even if she does fall into cliché “unrequited love with the protagonist” territory, and some of the most creative moments in the series are directly tied to her. Most notably, she can teleport anywhere as long as she has a frame to pass through – and if she makes one with her fingers, she can spy on anyone from anywhere.

blood-lad-screenshot-2-600x337

No, no – more like a director sizing up shots.

Staz’s relatives are also entertaining. While his brother Braz (Johnny Yong Bosch) is a bit vanilla, delivering most of his dialogue in a bored drawl, sister Liz (Sherry Lynn) is the token adorable character, who forms an instant bond with Fuyumi. The episode focusing on their fledgling friendship is easily one of the best in the series.

3815456-2556367006-Blood

YOU DON’T MAKE FRIENDS WITH CHILDREN BY GETTING NAKED, FUYUMI

Then again, it’s not exactly hard to pick out the good episodes in the series, because there aren’t that many of them. At ten episodes (plus one OVA), Blood Lad‘s length presents its own set of problems. Many characters go undeveloped, like Staz’s rival, Wolf (Ben Diskin), and the bubblegum-blowing demon cop (whose name I can’t even remember, she was in the show so little).

3867205-1126669156-67946

Yeah, her. Beros, I think? Also, what would you call those? Shrousers? Trorts?

Worse yet, the series has no ending. Seriously, the show ends seemingly out of nowhere leaving several important plot threads hanging, and while the OVA episode begins immediately after the end of episode 10, it still doesn’t resolve any loose ends, and even serves to create more! In fact, the OVA episode ends teasing a fight between two characters, before rolling credits as if to say “Screw you, buy the manga.”

blood-lad-anime-freak

Staz watches the last episode of Blood Lad.

All in all, though, I can’t say that what we did get of Blood Lad was bad. Like a cheap advent calendar chocolate, it satisfies for a short time but leaves you wanting more. Animation studio Brain’s Base clearly put the work in – everything is colourful and flows nicely, and I especially like the scenes where the colours invert for emphasis.

hydra-bell-blood-lad-010

Which I couldn’t find a picture of, so here’s one of Bell instead.

But in the end, it all just feels like an extended advert for the manga, which makes this series incredibly difficult to rate. While I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching Blood Lad, I can’t recommend seeing it without a hefty preface warning: this series is an incomplete story, and will leave you wanting more. In fact, this has happened so many times that I’m going to revamp my rating process. So behold, the first ever rating of:

RELEASED ON BAIL

While Blood Lad impresses with its strong visual style and interesting characters, the extremely short ten episode runtime leaves many plot points left unresolved and taints the series with a generally slapdash feel. However, viewers who understand this should be able to enjoy the series for what it is.

xd6k3

Though it might still be a hard pill to swallow…