Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Devil Is A Part-Timer! review

Two ‘fish out of water’ stories in a row? In two days? Christmas has come early!

The Devil Is A Part-Timer follows Satan as he–

Wait, what?

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Yup, this is a series starring everyone’s favourite lord of the underworld, the devil himself, Satan. At the beginning of the story Satan’s busy doing his satanic thing, ruling the kingdom of Ente Isla with an iron fist and fending off heroes trying to depose him and his subordinates.

But one day, he can resist no more – the heroes find themselves victorious, and Satan finds himself and his closest general Alciel escaping through an inter-dimensional portal to the only world stranger than Ente Isla…

JAPAN!

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With no magic to use and no powers to speak of, they rent an apartment and knuckle down with their evil plan to dominate THE WORLD!

…by getting Satan a job at popular fast food joint MgRonalds. Well, ya gotta start somewhere.

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Satan (now known as Sadao Mao) actually does pretty well at his job, considering his lack of any obvious culinary skillset other than roasting his enemies with hellfire – he’s well liked by his boss, one of his co-workers has a massive crush on him and pretty much everything is going his way.

But it doesn’t take long for Satan’s past to catch up with him. It turns out he wasn’t the only one to come to Japan from Ente Isla, and he is confronted by the hero Emilia (here known as Emi). Thus begins a complicated and fragile alliance between the two, as they struggle to keep out of each other’s way and fail miserably.

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Eventually more heroes and villains make their way to Japan from Ente Isla to raise hell, and Sadao and Emi must team up to stop them from ruining the good thing they have going on. After all, if the world is destroyed, how is Sadao supposed to get his next promotion?

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It figures, then, that The Devil Is A Part-Timer has a pretty eclectic cast of characters.

Chiho, Sadao’s work colleague, is a bubbly young girl with a major crush on our dark lord hero. And guess what? He totally knows it, and actually goes on a date with her! Certainly makes an improvement from somebody

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But let’s concentrate on the GOOD character here.

Lucifer (or Urushihara) comes through the portal as one of the series’ first antagonists. Formerly one of Satan’s lieutenants, he attempts to defeat him in order to regain access to Heaven. Naturally, he loses, and ends up moving in with Satan and Alciel (now under the name of Ashiya). ‘Friends close, enemies closer’ and all that. Despite his initially fearsome entrance, he uses up all his magic in the battle and is forced to stay at the apartment in seclusion, playing video games and racking up the household’s already straining bank balance, which suits him just fine.

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Aside from the ‘not being able to fly’ thing.

And then we have the very formal and traditional Suzuno… but I’d rather not expose the entire plot of the series. Why?

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Nope, sorry, gotta move on.

Well, because it’s great! This series might sound like another ‘one note joke’ series like Cat Planet Cuties, but with the mad premise and great, likable characters it manages to keep everything fresh and funny.

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Well, whatever strategy works.

Much of this is due to the excellent voice acting of the entire cast. As Sadao, Josh Grelle, in one of his many roles of this nature (well, not as Satan, but you get the idea) fits right in, as does relative unknown Anthony Bowling, who gets some cracking lines as Satan’s excessively frugal and toadying sidekick, Ashiya. Felicia Angelle continues to impress as Emi (I told you she was going places!), and there are some nice little roles from some regulars – Alexis Tipton, Caitlin Glass, Monica Rial, Chris Sabat and Scott Freeman.

But by far the biggest surprises are Chiho and Urushihara. Chiho is played by Tia Ballard, in a similar-ish role to her Eris in Cat Planet Cuties and actually quite a lot of the parts she gets saddled with – bubbly, naïve, sqeuaky – but in this series, her performance is subtly nuanced, shows a lot of emotion and is just gosh-darn adorable at times. It’s by far her best performance that I’ve personally heard, and that’s high praise indeed considering her extensive filmography.

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Urushihara on the other hand, well. He’s snarky and a pain in the ass, but so was Blackadder. Hopefully I shouldn’t need to say more than that, aside from one minor detail:

He’s voiced by Aaron Dismuke.

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I know, right? I was surprised too!

Yes, that Aaron Dismuke, Kio Kakazu himself. Terrible singer though he may be, he absolutely nails Urushihara, and that’s really cool to see. The guy’s talented – he just needs the right roles to really shine.

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Jamie Marchi and Funimation had to create their own language for the Ente Islans to speak, made up of German, Russian and Italian dialects. The entire series sweats quality and thought from every pore, like a really fat guy on a treadmill, and unlike this sentence.

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“…what does that even mean?”

So, do I recommend this series? Yes.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

YES!

Is that even a question at this point? I’m offering you Satan, lord of darkness, working at McDona—sorry, MgRonalds, having to subsist on cucumbers and compete with ‘Sentucky Fried Chicken’. Why haven’t you already bought it?

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Seriously, go watch it right now. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

NOT GUILTY

Brilliant from start to finish, The Devil Is A Part-Timer is a breath of fresh air, packing its 13 episode run with laughs, great art and top-tier voice acting. An original concept like this comes along very rarely, and firmly belongs on your shelf. Thank you, Japan, you crazy kooks.

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Cat Planet Cuties review

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Would have put the opening credits here but for some reason nobody in the universe has put it on YouTube. So enjoy this picture instead!

Well, all that violence and child soldiery last time was a real downer. Let’s talk catgirls instead!

Cat Planet Cuties (formerly known as Asobi ni iku yo!) is a rather unconventional tale following Kio Kakazu, a young man whose main hobbies include reading manga, working in his high school’s film club and generally being a complete dork.

He spends most of his days engaging with his childhood friend and neighbour Manami, and his classmate Aoi, who makes no pretense to not have a huge crush on him.

One day, Kio meets a girl with cat ears and a tail at a memorial service for one of his family ancestors. The girl, named Eris, explains that she is an alien from the planet Catia, and that she is visiting Earth on a mission of good will and cultural exchange.

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But all is not well in the cosmos (is it ever?) and Eris soon finds herself pursued by alien fanatics, government agencies and a more dangerous foe than all of those combined – DOG ALIENS.

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Sexy, sexy dog aliens.

If that all sounds like something dreamed up in a confusingly erotic fever-dream, then you might want to stop drinking coffee. If it all sounds a bit weird, then you’re right.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain that catgirls are kind of a thing in Japanese culture. Hell, there was a tail shop at this year’s Glasgow MCM Expo, so it’s practically mainstream.

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What, you thought I was kidding?

Hence, it comes as no surprise that Japan and indeed Earth accepts Eris with open arms. Well, most of it does – pretty much as soon as Eris reveals herself, she is kidnapped. Here’s where things get complicated.

Turns out Manami is actually an agent working for the CIA, Aoi is also an agent working with the Immigration Bureau of Japan, and Kio’s freaking film group teacher is part of a fanatical group dedicated to ensuring first alien contact meets the expectation set by sci-fi movies. They are all sent to eliminate Eris, because ESPIONAGE.

Oh yeah, and Aoi is a mutant with the ability to teleport objects up to fifty meters away. Ooooookay.

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“Yeah, because teleportation is the weirdest thing in a series about sexy cat aliens.”

Anyway, once that situation is resolved, the Catians decide to form a temporary embassy on Earth and send a contingent of diplomats to discuss formal relations with Earth’s leaders. Since the Catians are entirely ignorant of Earth’s customs, they show up dressed like this:

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Also, did anyone else notice that the Catians and Dogisians have cat ears and human ears? Kind of a strange design choice, but I can roll with it.

But of course, the Dogisians (yes, you read that right) take issue with that, what with them having been there for hundreds of years before the Catians (in secret, because… erm.) and the plot unfolds from there. It’s all a bit silly really, but in a (mostly) good way.

That said, I surely don’t have to tell you that the humour is pretty predicable. Eris and the Catians are all clueless and confused and light-hearted and expose themselves seemingly at the drop of a hat and generally act nothing at all like actual cats, the little bastards. That’s not to say I didn’t laugh heartily several times during the course of the series, but there’s only so many times you can take a fish out of water before it suffocates, you know?

And the puns, jeez, the puns. There’s a bunch of them. They’re the sort of jokes your dad would tell. At a family dinner. After having too much to drink.

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“I’m so purrfect that whenever I meet a pretty girl, I whisker away! What do you mean ‘get out’?”

Among the dumb laughs and fanservice, however, there are some really nice moments that clearly come from the heart, or at the very least the lungs. I’d like to put in a special mention to the episode which guest-stars Caitlin Glass as an early model Catian assistant droid named Lawry, visiting Earth before she inevitably shuts down permanently. Throughout the episode, a running theme is that the Catians are rather preoccupied by a certain song, one which we don’t actually hear until the very end.

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And then there’s a fantastic moment where Lawry and Kio go to a lookout point and she begins singing the song – taken from an old-school anime called Captain Future – Lonely Spaceman. As the song goes on, the entire cast joins in – even the ‘villains’. It’s a really sweet, touching moment that comes completely out of left field. Sure, Aaron Dismuke’s singing sucks a fat one, but it’s the thought that counts.

It follows, then, that the English dub of the series is, for the most part, on point. Tia Ballard does a good job being adorably clueless as Eris, if maybe a little too high pitched for my tastes. The other Catians, with regulars like Anastasia Munoz (in a role before her big break in Jormungand) and Cherami Leigh, come across as appropriately silly, and Colleen Clinkenbeard is cool as a cucumber, positively oozing dog puns as Janes, the leader of the Dogisians.

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And she has a shower scene, because of course she does.

Brittney Karbowski does her thang as Manami, as does Monica Rial as Aoi. Again, nothing earth-shattering, but absolutely functional. Their little conflicts over Kio’s affections give them a little space to show some depth, at the very least.

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Let’s take a second out here to talk about Kio. Kio is quite possibly the worst thing about this series. He is without a doubt one of the most dense, oblivious protagonists of any anime I have ever seen. When I mentioned how cool it was that Akatsuki from Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero was a competent Badass™, rather than an “ooh-err missus” wet blanket, I was being truthful. Wet blanket protagonists in harem comedies are annoying as hell and in general add nothing to any of the proceedings. Kio luckily doesn’t fall into that specific trap, but certainly stumbles over it into another, almost worse trap – one that he immediately forgets is there and walks into again once he recovers.

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“Holy crap! A hot girl in my bed! I better get her a blanket, she’ll be getting cold!”

Here’s a summary of a typical scene between Kio and Manami:

“She likes you, dummy!”
“What? Of course she does, we’re friends!”
“She wants to be more than friends!”
“Like, best friends?”

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If that little exchange didn’t make your fists tighten a little with rage, rest assured that they will around about the eighth time it happens. So can somebody tell me why, exactly, these girls are fawning over Kio? Aside from the fact there aren’t really any other substantial male characters in the cast except Ernest Hemingway?

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And let’s face it, given the option…

This isn’t helped by the fact that Aaron Dismuke, though I’m sure he tried his damnedest, just doesn’t click with me. I thought he was by far the weakest voice in the cast, and I don’t normally go out of my way to mention something like that. Sorry Aaron, you’re cool and all, but this time it’s a no from me.

To wrap this up, I enjoyed Cat Planet Cuties – to a point. It benefits from a relatively short run of 13 episodes, so it doesn’t outstay its welcome, it’s genuinely funny at times and the voice acting and animation is pretty decent. That said, it doesn’t bring a lot new to the table, features one of the most frustratingly dull and oblivious protagonists ever, and Eris, charming as she is, is severely under-utilized to make way for the Manami/Aoi/Kio love triangle (which, as we’ve already established, isn’t exactly convincing).

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Yeah, somehow I doubt that.

Still, if you like improbable, goofy plots and a healthy dose of fanservice, you could do a lot worse than Cat Planet Cuties.

NOT GUILTY

Cat Planet Cuties doesn’t really being anything new to the table, but makes up for its generic characters with an off-the-wall framing narrative and some legitimately sweet moments. Just remember to turn your brain off at the door.

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