Japesland – 7/10
Writing critical reviews is perhaps the part of blogging that I am least skilled at. My opinions constantly change, and as soon as I say or write something somewhere, I often immediately regret what I stated or how I stated it. If you follow our podcast, you may remember the episode where I praised Planetarian quite highly for being an excellent adaptation. A couple episodes later, you may recall me complaining about it being merely okay in a wave of other mediocre anime. Ultimately, I think that Planetarian falls somewhere in the middle.
For exploring topics otherwise untouched or only barely grazed, Planetarian gets top marks. For not botching the source material in what is normally a very difficult medium translation process, it gets top marks. For never distracting the viewer with poor visuals or audio, it gets top marks, too. Honestly, it’s quite a good anime, and since Kaze told me I had to give it a score *cough* 7/10 is pretty darn good, too.
Yet I just can’t distance myself from the source material. As good of an adaptation as Planetarian is, there’s something about writing designed for still images that just doesn’t translate into full-blown animated form. The original visual novel thrived off its unique vibes, easy pace, and the balance of internal narrative, conversation, and expositional descriptions. It’s not the disaster that most non-linear visual novels turn into in anime form, but as a consumer of the original and the adaptation, I just can’t help but feel that there’s something missing that keeps it from reaching the classic level of other VN adaptations like Clannad.
This is a stupidly cute fluff show about some teenagers experiencing their first love. That alone would make this show a nice, enjoyable side dish to pull up weekly when the main courses wear you out, but as I mentioned in my previous Secret Stars of Anime post, this show does have a little bit extra to it. The very fact that this show features a dating couple, where most shows stop at the confession (if it even makes it there), makes it a bit of a rarity in the anime world, and allow for a chance to look at some of the issues that can come up in dating relationships. The overall lighthearted tone of the show means it never delves too deep into those issues, but it still adds just a bit extra to this fluff show. The main issue is having to accept that the lead girl is very much a creep, stalking her boy, taking pictures of him secretly and taking stuff he’s touched for her own collection. While other characters keep her from taking it too far, and her inability to get jealous keeps her far from yandere territory, it is still something that might unnerve some viewers. Also, some subplots involving the male lead’s friends and possible romances within unfortunately get left squarely in “read the manga to find out more” purgatory.
Overall, if you are looking for a nice, fluffy show about an actual dating couple… well, I would first suggest checking out My love STORY/Ore Monogatari. But if you want more of that or want the awkwardness of first love mixed with the antics of a girl who might be just a bit too obsessive, Momokuri is worth looking at.
Emdaisy1 – 7/10
I didn’t really have any set expectations when I started this show. I’ve just developed an interest in vampire-related things, and this was a vampire-based anime, so I figured why not watch it? The premise is that there are seven servant vampires (or, servamps), each based on one of the seven deadly sins. They can enter into a contract with humans. As it turns out, many have, in order to take down the eight servamp. Our protagonists find themselves unwittingly bound by one such contract, being pulled into the “troublesome” events. It’s a weird if interesting plot premise. That being said, I really did enjoy the show. The cast is (in the latter half, especially) really entertaining. From the lazy, wise-cracking Kuro, to the stripping-inclined (think Grey from Fairy Tail) servamp Lilly (no stripping actually occurs, no worries), to the over-ambitious and cocky Licht. Despite the well-executed comedic moments, the show gets really deep at times (as in, I may or may not have cried towards the end a few times… ) tackling ideas on “bonds”, the meaning of “family”, and peoples’ drive (or lack of) to excel and improve. Some points were lost for the start of the show being really, really slow and somewhat disjointed-feeling; things don’t become too cohesive until episode 6 or so. Also, the ending, while rather feel-good, was highly anti-climatic and felt rushed. Finally, necessary insert of blood, gore, and violence warnings – this IS a show about vampires. It’s animated not live-action, but people do get brutally ripped to shreds. However, there’s no swearing and no sexual content (aside from one busty, but covered female character). If you don’t mind the following, I’d say this show’s worth checking out!
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! Love!
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE!
Annalyn – 5.5/10
I gave the first season of Cute High a 5, and I like this season more, so I figure it deserves at least a 5.5. This second season of magical boy parody has all the things I enjoyed from the first season—brainless fun and… well, brainless fun. But it also has a few new things: an OP with a bouncy, fun feel that made me nostalgic for Working!! and an adorable pair of villains. Nine of my twelve screenshots heavily feature the Beppu twins. They’re magic users who also happen to be universe-wide idols… and they’re stalking Yumoto’s older brother, Goura. Their motives and actions are as ridiculous as everything else, but their back story still makes some sense. Oh, and because of them, we get to learn more about Goura’s history as a magical boy, a fact that delights me.
There’s still some humor that I find a little on the inappropriate side, though I don’t remember it being as bad as it was in the first season. Overall, the production’s no masterpiece… but that’s the point. It’s not supposed to be beautiful. It’s supposed to be fun. Mission accomplished.
MRNewman – 7/10
Bananya is a short-form anime series (3 minutes each episode) about cats that live inside banana skins. The show is done documentary style with a narrator describing the critters as he watches them in their natural habitat (in the kitchen). It ends each episode with a more thorough look at one of the specific breeds of Bananya. That is the show. It is weird, quirky, and cute. It is also a show I was able to safely watch with my 5 and 7 year old; they looked forward to new episodes every week and were laughing constantly at the cat’s antics. Seeing a cat inside a banana skin hopping around, getting into trouble just like a normal cat, trying to sneak into a grocery store is surreal and amusing. The show is colorful and readily keeps your attention. The narration is amusing throughout the series in part because the narrator is taking the role seriously as though it’s a real documentary. Yes, it’s played for laughs at times, but his deadpan descriptions of the absurdity of cats living inside banana skins adds entertainment value. What was fun for me and the kids was seeing the banana cats try to avoid being seen by humans. The only human to see them is the narrator and while the humans suspect something is going on in their house, I highly doubt they expect banana cats to be hanging out and making messes. Overall, if you want a short-form series you don’t have to think much about but will make you smirk, check out Bananya. It’s fun, colorful, and safe for kids.
1.5;">Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu
The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance
Kaze – 4/10
Arslan Senki continues from the first season of the heroic prince out to save his country. I’m not sure why I bothered watching this when the first season wasn’t good and I already suspected this season would be even worse. As much as I want to enjoy something written by the same guy who penned Legend of the Galactic Heroes (hands down one of the best anime of all time, by the way), I just can’t deny all the glaring flaws this show has. Arslan Senki suffers from the trope of hero units, where a small group of main characters can somehow overpower any number of enemies. While, Arslan does occasionally lead his own army (always smaller than the foe), he has by his side a master tactician such that everything always goes according to plan. Combine this really boring writing with bad animation (never forget the flying horses of season 1) and art, and CGI that would make Japesland want to tear his eyes out, and there’s really not much this show has going for it beyond the awesome theme songs. It’s a real shame the antagonist spared our heroes last season by literally declaring “I want to make you suffer more” and then fleeing from a half-dead MC. Because that makes so much sense.
Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Aldermin
Aldermin on the Sky
Medieval Otaku – 8/10
If this show is not the best of the summer season, it at least takes second place. I might have rated this show higher if the characters were more than okay. (Yatori, pictured above right, and the antagonist introduced at the end of this season, Jean “The Sleepless General” Arkinex, are the best of them.) The show really shines in the battles, which feature great realism and keep the audience at the edge of its seat. Ikta Solork, our dark haired and lazy hero, wages his battles with scientific precision, keeping his own losses to a minimum while increasing the damage he does to his foes.
Both the war and political intrigues are very messy. The anime features the destruction of whole units, war of attrition, genocide, religious war, and cold-hearted realpolitik. Someone on Crunchyroll dubbed this show “WWI the anime,” and, despite the fantastic elements, that about sums up the feel of this show. The sword fight at the end of episode five, where Yatori dispatches about a dozen traitors–all the while targeting openings in their armor, has to count as my favorite scene not only from this season but even all year.
1.5;">Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru!
This Art Club has a Problem!
stardf29 – 7/10
This show surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. I knew going in that it would be at least an amusing half-hour a week, but what really got to me were the parts outside of all the comedy. While the male lead can get a bit annoying with his one-track mind toward 2D waifus, his interactions with the female lead are overall great, and filled with surprisingly sweet moments that suggest that maybe, sometime in the future, things will work out for the two of them. And that is not at all a bad place for a romantic comedy to be at. In addition to that, you have good comedy, a fun cast of side characters, and some nice montages of the group doing artsy stuff together, which gives the show a slice-of-life feel. Overall, this is one of the most underrated shows of the season and if you are in the mood for a nice feel-good romantic comedy, definitely consider checking out this show.
1.5;">Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV
Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV
Cutsceneaddict – 7/10
As its title implies, Brotherhood aims to introduce audiences to upcoming Final Fantasy XV’s four-man RPG party.
At a glance, the characters seem archetypal, but there’s a surprising amount of individuality built upon their cookie-cutter foundations. Brotherhood appears to be the start of a Square Enix trend in truly individualizing characters beyond their backstories, affiliations, and goals; and diving into the hobbies, interests, and struggles that humanize them. Yes, there are smatterings of political intrigue and more than a few flashy battles, but far more time is dedicated to not-so-fantastical things— like Prompto’s struggle with childhood obesity. Brotherhood navigates its darker moments well, but it’s at its best when the brooding curtain of destiny is stripped away and the cast is allowed to cut-up, rescue puppies, ruin frying pans, and pick the lettuce off of their fast food.
Animation capably handles the narrative, giving action scenes and sparse moments of violence more than a few effective angles, though nothing jaw-dropping. I was surprised not to see Ufotable or Studio Wit-level quality here, given Square’s reputation for graphics. On the auditory side, the franchise’s award-winning orchestral soundtracks continue to work their magic, and the voice actors give satisfactory performances (though the subs are another story; I’m pretty sure “itadakimasu” doesn’t mean “My favorite!”).
Brotherhood isn’t meant to be a stand-alone anime (and loses points when viewed as such). It’s a shameless teaser, but, as a teaser, it’s surprisingly effective. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, ending before it over-extends its ideas. It’s relatively easy to follow as an entry point, though loose plot threads float ever-so-obscurely in the background, implying that the narrative needs Kingsglaive and Final Fantasy XV (specifically the two released demos) in order to properly tie everything together.
Ultimately, Brotherhood achieves its goal in getting gamers invested in characters they will soon be adventuring some 100+ hours with; as such, I would consider it a success.
Look forward to our other reviews tomorrow and Thursday!