Category Archives: Review

A Silent Voice review

A young man approaches the edge of a bridge. He has just quit his job, paid off all his debts and now, fully clad in a scruffy school uniform, is ready to jump to his death.

Just as he prepares to leap, a group of children setting off fireworks brings him back to his senses. But what was it that brought him this close to the edge?

The young man in question is Shoya Ishida, an 18-year-old high school student. At school, he struggles with depression, anxiety and loneliness.

But it wasn’t always this way. In middle school, Shoya was a precocious, popular kid. He and his friends liked to jump into rivers, wrestle, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

One day, however, everything changed. A young girl appeared. A girl named Shoko Nishimiya. A sweet, quiet girl, who wanted to make friends with everyone. There was only one problem.

She was deaf.

For some reason, this bothered Shoya. He probably didn’t even realise why, himself.

But slowly, over days and weeks, that bother turned to scorn, and that scorn spread to almost every member of the class. Shoya began to mercilessly bully Shoko – a girl whose only crime was being unable to hear.

Even then, in an effort to make everyone understand her, Shoko began to wear hearing aids. They were stolen, of course. Over and over and over again. But despite all this, she just wanted to be friends. No matter what they threw at her, what names they called her, that didn’t change.

But one day, Shoya took things too far. He tore a hearing aid from Shoko’s ear in the middle of class, causing her ear to bleed. And all of a sudden, the world turned against him.

The classmates who terrorised Shoko at his side turned their backs, denying any involvement. Their ineffectual teacher, formerly so laissez faire, flew into a rage. Shoya’s friendships, his middle school reputation, were destroyed in a single afternoon.

In high school, his former friends made sure to let everyone know that Shoya was an evil bully. Someone not to be trusted. Someone to be shunned.

And here we find the boy on the bridge, prepared to end his life. What now?


I normally don’t write film reviews. I don’t really know why that is – but in this case I’m prepared to make an exception to that (non-existant) rule.

What you just read is a brief summary of the first half hour or so of A Silent Voice, Kyoto Animation’s film adaptation of Yoshitoki Oima’s manga Koe no Katachi. What follows is a heart-wrenching, sensitive drama about one young man’s journey toward forgiveness and redemption not only from his victim, but also from himself.

A Silent Voice isn’t concerned with playing the blame game. In effect, the game has already been played, and Shoya has found himself guilty of all charges. In high school, he has become a sad, withdrawn individual who basically hates himself for what he did to Shoko, and in order to own up to his failings, tracks her down to make amends and, hopefully, become friends.

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In essence, rather than asking whether a victim can forgive their aggressor, the film is more about whether someone who has done something terrible to another person is able to forgive themselves.

But even to say that would be over-simplifying the plot. A Silent Voice is a film with so many layers it’s hard to fully explain. Much like the characters themselves, the film is filled with a storm of complex emotions.

Guilt. Resentment. Hate. Self-loathing. These are all topics addressed in A Silent Voice. But more stunning than the ideas it covers, is the fact that the film makes it clear than all people are capable of these feelings.

 

Shoya is not the only one involved in his search for redemption – his former classmates, too, have their own thoughts and regrets about that time in their lives, and those repressed feelings have as much to do with the plot as Shoya and Shoko’s relationship.

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A Silent Voice was placed in indirect competition with Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name – itself a stunning piece of storytelling – but really that’s like comparing apples to oranges. While Your Name was a fantasy romance adventure, A Silent Voice is very much grounded in reality, and tells a distinctly human story.

Thankfully, Kyoto Animation don’t disappoint, bringing their usual brilliantly animated charm to the movie. A Silent Voice is directed by Naoko Yamada, best known for K-ON! and something of an anomaly herself (female anime directors are few and far between), who brings a precisely executed emotional depth to the film in addition to its lush visuals.

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Of particular note is the use of chromatic aberration (aka the blurry, discoloured bits at the edge of a photograph). Some see it as a little overused, but I feel it adds a further element to the film, something somewhere between nostalgia and melancholy – almost like we as the viewer are watching the story unfold through the lens of an old camera.

Oftentimes, when we are looking at a scene from Shoya’s perspective, the camera is angled down at the floor or at chest height and almost every face is covered with a big X, symbolising his unwillingness to look people in the eye. Little details like this really make the film.

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Even the English voice cast has that little extra thought put into it. Though Shoko has relatively few lines in the film, in the English dub her part is taken by actress Lexi Cowden, who is deaf herself.

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But more importantly than the gorgeous visuals, and the plain but effective soundtrack, and the voice acting, A Silent Voice spoke to me on a personal level.

I was a victim of bullying at school. Maybe not as badly as poor Shoko, but it happened. I’d even say it was probably the lowest point in my life.

But even now, years later, I realised something. I had never forgiven my tormentors. Maybe I thought I couldn’t, or that they didn’t deserve my forgiveness. I was told they had “mellowed out”, that they were better people now. I didn’t believe them.

Some of them are married now. Some have kids. I didn’t care.

But they’re all human, and humans make mistakes. Maybe I just needed this film to remember that.

There are many more things I want to say about A Silent Voice. I’d say them, if I had the words to. Until I can think of them, you’ll just have to watch the film yourself. A Silent Voice is a…

MUST SEE

A touching, mature story of regret and redemption is brought to life in a vivid way by master animators Kyoto Animation. Come for the pretty art, stay for the emotionally complex story, and don’t you dare miss it.

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Amagi Brilliant Park review

I’ve never personally been a big fan of theme parks. Maybe I’m just an eternal cynic, but the second you realise Goofy is actually just poor sweaty Theresa in a big costume, the magic fades a little.

What we really need is a theme park with REAL mascots. Too bad that’ll never happen.

…Except in anime that is.

(And yes, I know that’s a memed-up version of the opening, but it’s the best I could find and pretty funny anyway)

Seiya Kanie has it all. He’s handsome, intelligent and basically great at anything he does. Too bad he knows that, and it makes him kind of a jerk.

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One day Captain Narcissist gets invited out to a theme park by mysterious, seemingly emotionless transfer student Isuzu Sento. Problem is, the park is a dump. The mascots are lazy, the buildings are run down and there’s no customers. Pretty much the only thing worth coming for is the croquettes…

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Are croquettes really popular in Japan or something? They seem to find their way into every anime…

As a first introduction to Amagi “Brilliant” Park, it’s not the best. So when Sento reveals she actually works for the park and wants Kanie to take over as manager, he’s less than enthusiastic.

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Yaaaaay.

Luckily, Kanie’s competitive spirit and tiny piece of morality are sparked when he finds out the employees of AmaBri are actually mostly refugees from a magical realm named Maple Land. – and not only that, if they can’t rustle up 250,000 visitors in three months, the park will close.

Now, the residents need guests to generate the magical energy which allows them to exist in the human world. Otherwise, they disappear. Or something. It’s not fully explained.

Point is, stakes are high!

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AND ONLY ONE MAN CAN SAVE THE DAY

Now, let me start by stating the obvious – this series is visually gorgeous. This is Kyoto Animation at work, and they do a great job of maintaining their pedigree. But what about the story?

Long story short, it works. It’s not anything that will set the world on fire, but it’s funny and sweet with a mildly cynical edge courtesy of Kanie. The story proceeds about how you’d expect – crisis, montage, resolution, bish bash bosh. It works!

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Correction: crisis, montage, resolution, obligatory swimsuit episode.

Of course, with the series set in anime Disneyland, there’s a lot of opportunity for some great gag material. All the mascot characters are (of course) real, and they all have their own motivations and personalities.

Moffle is sarcastic and grumpy, but loyal to the park. His interactions with Kanie make up a large amount of the show’s humour.

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Don’t moff with Moffle.

I also really enjoyed the Elementario fairies, and they even get their own episode! It’s one of my least favourite of the series, but still!

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Macaron and Tiramy, a sheep and Pomeranian dog respectively, play second banana to Moffle and fulfil something of a Larry and Curly role to Moffle’s Moe.

Oh, and they’re intensely perverse. So there’s that.

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You can’t trick me, I watched the series.

Come to think of it, considering KyoAni’s tendency to produce sweet, beautiful animation, it’s a little surprising to see so much fanservice in play, even if it’s relatively restrained compared to some series. Then again, their more recent output does tend to feature it more and more prominently…

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How low can you go?

Regardless of the cheesecake elements, the relatively unknown English cast used to bring this series to life do an excellent job. Kanie (Adam Gibbs) is satisfactorily standoffish, Sento (Molly Searcy) is just the right amount of deadpan, while still having moments of emotion for gags, and Moffle (Tiffany Grant) steals the show with what I can only assume was a throat-shredding voice.

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All in all, Amagi Brilliant Park is a solid series – easy to digest, colourful, and leaves you with a nice warm feeling inside. It’s the perfect summer afternoon anime, best enjoyed with a cool drink and an open window.

RECOMMENDED

While nothing about Amagi Brilliant Park is revolutionary or genre-defining, it’s a fun, light-hearted little series that knows exactly what it is and is presented to the high standard audiences expect from the venerable Kyoto Animation.

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WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

 

Prison School review

WARNING: This review features content that is Not Safe For Work. Though the text of the article is as PG as possible, it is impossible to discuss this series without mentioning and showing some of the more risque elements it employs. Enjoy the review!

In my last review, I talked a little about education and its role in society. But what is education without discipline? Have to keep the troublemakers in line, after all.

And what better way to dole out discipline than with an actual prison inside a school?

Such is the premise of Prison School, aka the most NSFW anime I’ve ever watched.

Kiyoshi Fujino is an average guy who just so happens to be one of the first male students of the renowned Hachimitsu Academy, which has recently become co-ed. To his surprise, he finds himself as one of only five boys attending the academy, outnumbered by over a thousand girls.

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I know, crazy right?

Naturally, the boys quickly become good friends and get stuck into their studies.

Their studies of biology.

Of female biology.

They immediately peep on the girls in the shower.

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Surprisingly, this turns out to be a terrible idea, and they are caught red-handed. The school’s Underground Student Council offers them an ultimatum: spend one month in the school’s underground prison or be expelled.

Thus begins their life of hard labour, punishments and torment at the hands of the sadistic USC, who endeavour to make their lives a living hell.

Prison School is one of the strangest animes I have ever seen. Though it utilizes a relatively realistic art style, the tone of the series is so over-the-top and overtly sexual it gives Kill la Kill a run for its money.

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Speed lines! Corporal punishment!

This topsy-turvy tone doesn’t always work, particularly when the characters interact semi-seriously. The main characters are mostly played straight, to contrast with the sheer insanity carrying on.

Kiyoshi is your standard protagonist – not too distinct or bland and definitely the most normal of the gang, though he does have an interesting thing going on with his kind-of-sort-of-girlfriend Chiyo.

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Shingo is Kiyoshi’s friend from his old school but kind of becomes a lying, conniving jerk with barely any plot relevance for half the series. He at least gets something to do later on when he’s interacting with his love interest Anzu.

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Gakuto is the funniest member of the group and easily the most endearing bar Kiyoshi, but his entire schtick is “I’m a Romance of the Three Kingdoms nerd”, and that wears a little thin early on. Still, he has more to do furthering the plot than anyone else, so he’s okay in my books.

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それ以上の生活のポイントは何ですか?

Joe is a guy in a hood who coughs. He likes ants. I couldn’t even fine a good image of him. Next.

And then we have Andre. He’s a big fat masochist with a tiny face and has a bloody annoying voice in the English dub (and this is Sonny Strait, the guy who played Korosensei in Assassination Classroom, a fantastic performance!), but he’s likeable for the most part. However, like Joe and Shingo he pretty much has nothing to do for a long stretch in the middle of the series.

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Let’s face it, the real reason to watch is for their interactions with the USC, who are far more interesting. Let’s compare, shall we?

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L-R: Meiko, Mari and Hana

Mari, their leader, is the daughter of the school chairman and can control crows, for some reason.

Hana is the karate champ who runs into a lot of awkward situations with Kiyoshi. Their… complicated relationship is one of the funniest aspects of the series by far.

Finally, there’s Meiko, the mascot girl of the franchise, and a good indicator of what to expect from the series. She’s huge, ridiculously powerful, dresses like a dominatrix and, much like the series, is inflated to an absurd degree. Armed with a riding crop and judo skills, she gives the boys a run for their money, even though she’s deathly afraid of disappointing Mari.

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Which is probably why she spends so much time working out.

At this point I suppose I have to wonder – is it right to criticise a series for being utterly crass and ridiculous when that’s clearly the creator’s original intention?

Prison School is, after all, about as close to the bone as anime gets – closer than Queen’s Blade or Seikon no Qwaser to that line of being “too much”.

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Sure, those series have their share of questionable plot devices, but did any of them feature a subplot where one character is obsessed with peeing on another character? Did any of them feature pant-pooping? Did any of them have haemorrhoid jokes?

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Still, I suppose you have to have some spice when the main plot is a mostly average prison break, the first arc or so of the manga. There’s not much else you can fit into 12 episodes, after all.

But this is one of the major problems – to me, the series ends right at the point things start to get really interesting. No spoilers, of course, but let’s just say I was looking forward to the OVA episode… which didn’t advance the interesting part at all. Sigh.

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Me, remembering Prison School doesn’t have a second season when My Wife Is The Student Council President does.

However, despite all the criticism I have for the series, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy watching it. It’s one of the few series I watched multiple episodes of in a work day, which is as good a recommendation as any.

The art style, as previously mentioned, is really great in an unnervingly realistic kind of way. The fact everyone looks relatively real adds to the comedy when their faces become distorted by whatever emotion they happen to be feeling. It’s also worth noting that the attention to detail in matching the anime to the original manga is exemplary.

The English dub cast is incredibly strong (with one aforementioned exception) and the series is genuinely funny, in a perverse, uncomfortable kind of way. I defy anyone to not at least let loose a chuckle at Meiko’s character design. I mean look at it, it’s absurd.

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See you when you get to the next paragraph in 15 minutes.

All in all, while Prison School is a laugh to watch, it’s still a series I can’t thoroughly recommend. This is definitely not entry-level stuff, it’s far too weird and nonsensical for newbies. However, at the same time, veteran anime fans may also turn their noses up at it for being too vulgar to compete with, I dunno, Evangelion or whatever the prevailing anime snob series is these days.

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“That scene where everyone congratulates the main character one after another changed my life!”

But it has its niche, and it’s fun for what it is. I certainly want a second series focusing on the more interesting arc seen briefly at the end of this season. I guess the best I can do is give it a rating of…

TRY IT

If South Park, softcore pornography and anime had a baby, it would probably look like this. Extraordinarily crass and borderline offensive but undeniably funny, Prison School definitely has niche appeal but is hard to recommend for anyone turned away at face value.

Oh, and they also made a live-action series. I heard it’s a pretty faithful adaptation.

Interviews With Monster Girls review

Education is important. As human beings, we are constantly learning new and amazing things about the world we live in that change the way we see our lives in the vast expanse of our universe.

In the midst of this discovery, we have to ask ourselves increasingly complicated questions.

Is this planet all we’ll ever know?

Is there life beyond our own out there?

Is there any truth to the legendary monsters of yore?

If there is, are they cute girls?

Such is the world of Interviews With Monster Girls, a rather charming anime released earlier this year.

Our hero, Tetsuo Takahashi, is a biology teacher at Shibasaki High School, where human students are living alongside recently discovered demi-humans (usually referred to as demis).

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It just so happens that Tetsuo has a real affinity for demis, and as a biologist wants to know more about them. So who better to give scientific answers than teenagers who probably don’t really know where they fit in the world, right?

Luckily for Tetsuo, there’s a whole host of perfect interview candidates at Shibasaki. We first encounter Hikari Takanashi, a lively vampire easily identified by her shock of blond hair and mischievous attitude.

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She is soon joined by Kyoko Machi, a shy red-headed dullahan…

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…and Yuki Kusakabe, a snow woman, the extent of whose ice powers is that her sweat freezes when she’s nervous.

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There’s also a non-student demi, Sakie Satou, the most powerful succubus in Japan who also happens to be a math teacher.

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Together, our hero and heroines seek a better understanding of demis for the betterment of all. Isn’t idle curiosity grand?

One of the best things for me about the series, aside from the absolutely wonderful artwork and animation, is the focus on the science of the demi-humans. Light as the overall tone may be, there are many questions that arise when using them as a plot device. How does a dullahan eat? Do vampires really hate garlic? How can Sakie possibly be so adorable? Who IS Best Girl???

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All. The answer is all.

The series is so pure and innocent it’s practically an anomaly in the grand crazy world of anime. The animation and art remind me of modern anime movies, with soft warm colours and bright, airy exchanges between characters.

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Even the swimsuit episode was innocent, which shows a huge amount of restraint.

That’s not to say the series never gets emotional. It’s been posited that Interviews… is something of an allegory for disabilities or chronic health conditions. I’ll leave this article by Peter Fobian to elucidate; but think about the special needs, as it were, that our heroines require.

Kyoko needs help in her daily life – a pillow to lay her head on during class, a harness for when she’s eating; Yuki is bullied because she doesn’t want to get too close to people in case she freezes them; and Sachie has to be extremely careful about what she wears and does in case pupils are exposed to her pheromones.

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And some other things.

It very much becomes clear that these young ladies really just want someone to treat them with respect. Curiosity may be Tetsuo’s main motivation, but he genuinely does care for his students, and maybe that’s all they really wanted – a friend to talk to in the big wide world that doesn’t quite understand them.

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Also interesting is the fact that the main character himself is a full adult. Too many series go straight to the standard shonen high school boy as a hero, so it’s nice to see a responsible (27-year-old, beefy) adult be in the limelight for a change.

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PHWOARR, amirite?

Despite this high praise, the series isn’t without its problems. A few plot threads go completely unanswered, like the sudden appearance of the succubus-specialised police investigator and his sidekick, a young man named Kurtz, who is supposedly the ultimate weapon against succubi. This statement is never clarified – is he an incubus? Secretly a girl? Does it matter? Then why bring it up?

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“Stop asking questions! Nothing to see here!”

Still, such issues are few and far between, and not really deal breakers. Overall, I thought Interviews… was funny, cute and generally pretty great. Full marks.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

One of the most pleasant slice-of-life series I’ve had the fortune of watching. Interviews With Monster Girls is smart, funny, thought-provoking and well worth watching.

 

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid review

Life can be pretty crazy sometimes.

Maybe you win the lottery, quit your job and renovate a boat in Zihuatanejo.

Maybe it snows and you get the day off work.

Maybe a dragon appears on your doorstep and becomes your housemaid.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the latest in Kyoto Animation’s long and storied history of anime production. Through KyoAni we’ve had such masterpieces as Clannad, Nichijou, K-On! and Sound! Euphonium. But does this new effort stand up to their usual gold standard?

Well, in short, yes it does. But let’s take a look anyway.

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A reaaaaaaaal close look.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the story of the titular Miss Kobayashi, whose first name is never revealed and isn’t really that important anyway. She’s your average worker drone: wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, sit in a cubicle for hours, get drunk, go home, go to sleep.

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Sometimes a combination of those things.

But one night, she adds “take a trip into the mountains” to her itinerary and happens upon Tohru, a wounded dragon from an alternate fantasy realm. After Kobayashi helps her out in a drunken stupor, Tohru swears a life debt to forever be her humble servant, and to that end gives herself the appearance of a maid cafe employee. Kobayashi, being a maid otaku, is both appalled and inspired, and decides to teach Tohru the ways of proper maidery.

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“Lol, I dunno that stuff.”

Now, what follows could have been a standard slice-of-life comedy with the addition of wacky dragons (of which there is a sizeable cast). It would have been fun, but not particularly stand-out. But that would be underestimating the source material and KyoAni’s effortless professionalism.

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Typical Kyoto Animation employee, probably (not).

Rather than focusing solely on the comedic aspects of the series (which are still there, and hilarious), Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid instead attempts to deep-dive the subject matter, giving equal parts laughs with musings on the human condition – episodes often touch on familial relationships, loneliness, isolation and feeling out of place in a big world.

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Kobayashi, though a relatively demure character, for the most part, is genuinely likeable, and has an interesting personality. She’s not particularly pretty, wears glasses and is content to enjoy a drink and sleep after a long day at work, which contrasts nicely with Tohru’s energetic need to please her.

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Later, when other dragons enter the picture, the ideas at play become even deeper. Kanna, the tiny “child” dragon allows Kobayashi the chance to try out a sort of motherhood, while Fafnir and Lucoa, well…

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Need I say more?

I rather enjoyed that most of the dragons are based on actual mythological figures – Fafnir is based on a dwarf by the same name who fell victim to his own greed, represented in the series by an unavoidable urge to open chests in video games. Lucoa is based on Quetzalcoatl, who was coerced by Tezcatlipoca to drink a bunch of liquor and “cavort” with his (or in this case her) sister – and Lucoa is always extremely embarrassed whenever anyone brings up her… indiscretions.

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Luckily, she’s currently more restrained.

The only real weak point in the cast for me is Elma. She’s introduced as a dragon from a rival faction to Tohru, and they have a short, humorous rivalry… and then she just makes cameo appearances in other episodes. She ends up working at Kobayashi’s company (despite not knowing how to use computers) and that’s touched on almost never. Maybe she had extra scenes in the original manga and they thought they weren’t important enough to include. Gotta make room for more Kanna, right?!

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Still Best Girl though.

Voice acting is solid all-around in the original Japanese, and from what little I’ve seen the English dub seems pretty decent (Garret Storms’ Fafnir is particularly impressive). Many of the cast are what I would call “B-list” Funimation – veterans of the company that just haven’t quite got their chance to shine brightly, but are definitely getting there. Jad Saxton, Felicia Angelle and Jamie Marchi are in supporting roles, keeping the newer talent in line, but the most interesting choice is Sarah Wiedenheft as Tohru. Wiedenheft is currently most famous for Huniepop and Love Live! Sunshine!!, and it’s nice to see someone getting what could be their big break so early in their professional career.

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All in all, there’s not much to complain about here – KyoAni once again provides the viewer with a solid, funny and even a little thought-provoking series that’s absolutely perfect to watch on a lazy afternoon.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Despite some characters not having much to do and a final episode that comes mostly out of nowhere, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a sweet, funny series that’ll make you smile from ear to ear.

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And an A+ among humans.

Oh yeah, and the opening and ending themes are just awesome.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

RECOMMENDED.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Still cooler than most gangs.

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

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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Nah, I’m good thanks.

RECOMMENDED.

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!

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Kill la Kill review

aka TOO MANY GIFS: THE REVIEW

You know what? Let me just stick this here:

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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.

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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.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Inferno Cop.

Two, that Hiroyuki Imaishi is certifiably awesome.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

RECOMMENDED.

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.

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Too real!

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.

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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™.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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To the ridiculous…

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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…Or not! Time will tell.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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: