Transformatively amusing – Gugure! Kokkuri-san

65665Title: Gugure! Kokkuri-san
Format: TV series
Genre: comedy, supernatural
Series Creator: Midori Endo
Series Director: Yoshimasa Hiraike
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: October 5 – December 21, 2014
Reviewed format: high def with fan subs


Synopsis:

Kohina Ichimatsu is an expressionless elementary school girl who lives alone, proclaims herself to be a doll, and eats nothing but instant noodles. One day, she plays the Kokkuri game by herself and summons the fox spirit Kokkuri-san who, upon seeing her unhealthy lifestyle, takes it upon himself to become her guardian and raise her properly. Thus starts Kohina’s new life of being haunted by various unique spirits.


Critique:

Once again, this year has proven that the best anime have been 4koma adaptations, such as Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun, & now Gugure! Kokkuri-san stands a top the list of the best anime series of 2014.

The premise is simple but clever but also tricks you into thinking that it’s going to be worse -in terms of hypersexualisation & fan service- than it really is. Whilst it does rely on a bit of both, it actually twists it around a fair bit into very humorous scenarios. This is seen especially when the titular Kokkuri first appears, panting & flushed when accidentally summoned by Kohina. This is meant to make that think that Kokkuri is a stalking pervert who’s been waiting for the lonely Kohina to summon him so he can devour her, body & soul. Where, in fact, he’s been following her around because of her odd behaviour & habit of referring to herself as a doll, which turns him into her over-protective, yet doting, guardian, who only wants to correct her strangeness so she can have a happy life.
kokkuri-san-10
Unfortunately, due to Kokkuri’s neat-freak & overly controlling nature, this means that he basically becomes a housewife -cooking every meal so Kohina won’t eat nothing but Cup Ramen & cleaning because Kohina doesn’t concern herself with looking after her huge yet strangely empty house.

Like all great 4koma adaptations, the humour is mainly derived from the various characters & their interactions with & reactions to each other. Kokkuri & Kohina more up the core of the series, with much of the perspective being from their point of view, but the ensemble cast is also utterly brilliant -even if they do bring in many of them late in the series.

The other great strength of the 4kmoa format is quick fire & running gags, which Gugure! Kokkuri-san does exceptionally well by being able to hark back to a joke in an earlier episode without making it seem like it’s just telling the same joke again & again like other (mainly American series) tend to do.

The one problem in talking about the jokes themselves & what makes so them funny &/or clever is that it’s like a child dissecting a frog: you don’t really learn anything & the frog dies.

What does make the jokes work however is how they are tailored or based around the various personality quirks & habits of the various characters, with the narrator often adding a little stinging tail to it all at the end.

Such as with the titular Kokkuri, who as mentioned before acts like an overprotective guardian and housewife but he is also exceptionally vain, demanding & prone to hysterics when overwhelmed by various situations or other characters. This often means that other characters, such as the sadistic Inugami, go out of their way to torment Kokkuri over his appearance (such as looking older) or getting him so worked up that his temper explodes & or he goes into an emotional melt down.

The other strong running gag in the series is Kohina’s claims that she’s not human but rather a doll. She talks in a semi-staccato almost robotic tone (another running gag is her getting dolls & robots confused & Kokkuri having to point it out). She is also incapable of smiling; whenever she tries to force a smile her face collapses, terrifying everyone around her. Only when something genuinely makes her happy -such as Kokkuri assuring her that he’ll always be by her side- is she able to show genuine emotion & her depiction changes from a stripped down semi-chibi form to a beautifully animated character.
Gugure-Kokkuri-san-gugure-kokkuri-san-37842385-1920-1080
Kohina’s other running gag is her utter addiction to Cup Ramen (the instant noodles that you cook in the bowl-like container by pouring hot water into it); doing anything in order to collect rare types or eat them without Kokkuri finding out. This usually means some mischievous on her part, such as goading one of the others in the house into distracting Kokkuri. Her desire to eat & obtain Cup Ramen shows a certain moral flexibility on her part but she’s a good girl deep down.

The most interesting aspect of the series though the gender fluidity of the characters. That is: how some of the characters can switch their genders at will. This is one of Inugami’s primary traits, since he/she’s a dog spirit who can’t remember their own gender when they died, so even though he primary has a male form, he changes to a female one whenever the mood takes him. Kokkuri, also being a spirit, has this ability but refuses to use it because he’s a pretty woman who’s good at housework, everyone wants to marry him. Unfortunately, he’s transformed into a woman because of a spell he found in Kohina’s family store house (one basically designed to mess with people). The humour of this situation is that they keep asking him how it feels to be a woman but he still retains his vanity from his male form, so he sticks with is usual beautification routines, but it also explores some ideas of male-female interactions & emotions.

The fem-Kokkuri that laughed a million hentai comics
The fem-Kokkuri that laughed a million hentai comics

There are also random side characters that are constantly drawn to Kohina & Kokkuri’s life. Which include the aforementioned gender-swapping sadistic dog spirit Inugami -who is utterly devoted to Kohina after a single act of kindness during his original life as an abandoned puppy; yet he’ll destroy or torment all who aren’t Kohina, especially Kokkuri who thinks Inugami is a demented pervert trying to seduce a child. They are joined by the shiftless tanuki (racoon dog) spirit Shigaraki, a NEET who was Kokkuri’s former roommate who is after a free place to live -targeting Kohina because she owned a large house but was unaware that Kokkuri already was living there. Shigaraki has a habit of bringing bad luck to houses he dwells in but this is actually from his stealing money to go gambling with, yet he has a soft side, as he often uses his winning to support the orphanage where the children of the homes he destroyed ended up. More whacky characters enter the mix later in the show, such as the doll obsessed cat spirit Tama who keeps stalking & trying to steal Kohina because she believes her to be a possessed doll.

Whilst this show is incredibly funny there are a few let downs & annoyances. Aside from a bit of random fan service, which isn’t so bad compared to other shows, you don’t get any sense of Kohina’s personal history or backstory. Especially she’s living all alone in such a huge house & why she wants to believe that she’s a doll so she doesn’t have to engage in normal human interaction. This is vexing because even if you have Kokkuri’s reasons for wanting to look after Kohina, you don’t know how/why she’s abandoned in the 1st place, which means that you’re still at a distance with the character. The ending is also left open, so there is no resolution for the characters & backstories outside of a token effort to conclude things.

After those few negatives, I’d like to end with one other great positive & that’s how cute the entire series is. Each of the animal spirits has a chibi animal form, with Kokkuri turning into a fluffy golden fox & Inugami turning into a tiny wittle purple dog in a suit! So Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!

cough

At any rate, even if I can’t really talk about the jokes, I can strongly recommend this series as something that is painfully funny to watch as well as being very clever in it’s visual gags. It’s a great series to watch if you are feeling low & just want to see something utterly silly to cheer you up.

fafuru fafuru!!!
fafuru fafuru!!!
Advertisements

Idolistic – Anime Critique: Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita

Futsū_no_Joshikōsei_ga_Locodol_Yattemita,_Cover_Manga_vol.1Title: Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita. (Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yatte Mita,  Locodol, Normal High School Girls Tried Being Locodols)
Format: TV anime
Genre: comedy, 4koma adaptation, shojo ai
Series Creator: Kotaro Kosugi
Series Director: Munenori Nawa
Studio: Feel
Series length: 12 episodes + OVA 13th episode
Original Airing dates: July 3 – September 18, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

In the town of Nagarekawa (“Flowing River City”), Nanako Usami, an ordinary high school girl, is approached by her uncle to become a local idol or “Locodol”, partnering with upperclassman Yukari Kohinata to form the idol unit, Nagarekawa Girls (Nagarekawa Garuzu). As the girls use their talent to promote Nagarekawa and their businesses, they are joined by Yui Mikoze, who acts as the local mascot, and Mirai Nazukari, who serves are Yui’s substitute.


Review:

To be honest, half way through the 1st episode when the fan service bikinis appeared, I really wanted to hate this series. I thought it was going to be nothing but hyper sexualisation, fan service & telling young girls that they can’t be anything except pretty little idols if they want to do something to help those around them. Then it did something surprising: it got really funny, really sweet & really cute before toning down the fan service & offering a good heart into what it means to live outside a major metropolitan area in Japan -especially in the ongoing economic downturn in Asia.

I was genuinely prepared to go on my usual anti-sexualisation, anti-misogyny rants, willing to write it all off when I began to see how funny a show it was. & it kept getting better with each episode, as they build on the characters, their tasks & lots of little running gags.

At its core, Locodol is about the things that you do to help out others &, in turn, support your larger community. For this, ordinary yet energetic Nanako is recruited by her uncle, who works in the local government, to become a Local Idol (shortened to Locodol) with the beautiful & mature acting Yukari. This causes Nanako to question her talent & worth, because she feels that she’s not good enough, always screwing up & obsessed over the little things -such as her hourly wage (being a government employee & not a real idol) & the weird tasks that they have to do in order to help promote their local town, Nagarekawa (which is entirely fictional, mashing up the typical feel of a medium Japanese urban-rural city).
Locodol-anime-trailer
Like many 4koma adaptation, relationships form the pivot of the comedy & narrative. But this time it’s not just the relationship between the characters but also their relationship with their hometown. The girl’s friendship grows as they work together more & Nanako is supported by the seemingly more experienced (in being an idol) Yukari. Although Yukari’s perception of their relationship goes a little deeper, as she seems to harbour a very open crush on Nanako. The backstory as to how this happened is exceptionally sweet & cute, adding a good bit of depth to Yukari’s overall background.

The idol unit also have to build a relationship with their odd mascot, Uogokoro-kun, both in & out of costume. In costume, Uogokoro-kun is a weird blue lump with a large fish strapped to its wide back. Out of costume, Uogokoro-kun is a diminutive yet busty 3rd year called Yui, who works many part time jobs & plays Uogokoro-kun in order to get over her own shyness, as well being one of the few people short enough to fit into the costume. Yet when clad in the bulky gear, Yui is still surprisingly nimble, which adds to the humour & on stage antics of the group.
10288959
The group is overseen by Nishifukai Saori, who seems like the very model of a manager but in fact she is a secret idol otaku & cosplay costumer maker. She also takes photos on the sly to post onto a fan of the idol unit blog that she runs -which are usually of Nanako in embarrassing or slightly compromising positions. Even though the girls were first upset by this (not knowing it was Saori taking & posting the pictures), they soon came to accept that it’s part of trying to be famous (which is a little creepy) but Saori did say that she’s talk to the blog owner (herself) about not posting the pics anymore.

Even with all these swirling relationships, the story is still mainly focussed upon Nanako & her overcoming her insecurities to do better. She’s a natural signer who wanted to be a national idol when she was a little girl but is bothered by the fact that she was only chosen for the role because of her uncle. Yet her tenacity draws people to her, as she struggles to do her best. Not only for herself but for the unit & the town as a whole -even if it means putting herself in embarrassing situations. Such as stripping down to her bathing suit during their 1st performance to get a bit of audience attention. Her panicking & over-thinking situations leads to much of the comedy in the series; as does her general clumsiness & her obliviousness to Yukari constantly making passes at her.

Another poor attempt  to initiate lesbianism.
Another poor attempt to initiate lesbianism.

Being a series about idols, there is a fair bit of singing per episode but not a lot of different songs. The seiyu all have nice voices for the Pop style songs they’re singing & the voice acting over all iver very cute. Especially when Nanako is on stage & always stutters her name to Nanyako (which people keep calling her, to her eternal embarrassment).

In the end, this is a little series with a lot of heart. I genuinely laughed out loud at a lot of the jokes & reactions (especially the expressions). As I said in the opening paragraph, I honestly thought that I was going to hate this series because it would be like other idol based series that girls that their only worth is in entertaining others & wearing skimpy clothing. I was glad that it went beyond that & was a clever, amusing series that was not without its flaws but, in the end, showed the beauty of a small town (in terms of its people & the animation used). Whilst not everyone will like it, you should fine some enjoyment in the humour. & if not that, it still has underage tits at times, so it has that going for it I suppose.

Like these, you fucking sicko!
Like these, you fucking sicko!

Possibly the Funniest Thing All Year – Anime Critique: Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun

Title: Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shoijo Nozaki-kun, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun)
Format: TV series
Genre: comedy, satire, romance, 4koma adaption
Series Creator: Izumi Tsubaki
Series Director: Mitsue Yamazaki
Studio: Dogakobo
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 6 – September 21, 2014
Reviewed format: high def with fan subs

manga cover featuring Nozaki
manga cover featuring Nozaki

Synopsis:

“High school student Chiyo Sakura has a crush on schoolmate Umetaro Nozaki, but when she confesses her love to him, he mistakes her for a fan and gives her an autograph. When she says that she always wants to be with him, he invites her to his house and has her help on some drawings. Chiyo discovers that Nozaki is actually a renowned shojo manga artist named Sakiko Yumeno. She then agrees to be his assistant in order to get closer to him. As they work on his manga Let’s Fall in Love (Koi Shiyo lit Let’s Have a Romance) they encounter other schoolmates who assist them or serve as inspirations for characters in the stories.”


Review:

Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun was a manga that I had heard of but hadn’t read because of the sudden, sad demise of mangatraders.com (scumbag hackers!) & unfortunately the anime almost passed me by due to lack of support from more well known fansubber groups (leaving us with groan Horridsubs & one unknown & undersupported subber group who dropped it half way through). But I’m really glad that I gave it a chance because it is one of the funniest anime I’ve seen in the last few seasons.

Battle of the eyes
Battle of the eyes

As I’ve previously written about, I’m a monstrous fan of 4koma/azumanga adaptation because of their punchy, quick-fire jokes & excellent character construction (because they have to build them strongly within such a limited on page space).  Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun really slams hard into the top tier of 4koma adaptations. Not above Acchi Kocchi or Azumanga Daioh but on the same level as the two seasons of Seitokai Yakuindomo & Working!.

What makes this series truly brilliant is the subversion of tropes, genres & roles. Upon the surface many of the characters do seem stock: the male lead ignorant of the female lead’s love, the devoted female lead, the pretty boy, the popular one, et cetera but it plays around with them so sweetly that I was in pain laughing at times.

Nozaki's OP animation frame
Nozaki’s OP animation frame

The male lead is Nozaki Umetaro, who is not only ignorant of Chiyo’s affections but of pretty much everything around him. He has a cold, stoic demeanour. Performing every action in a serious, deadpan fashion so lots of people are unable to understand what he truly means. What makes that so funny & subversive is that Nozaki is actually a shojo mangaka (a creator of romantic manga for girls) who is said by fans to know the true depth of the female heart, in all its anguish, passion & devotion. & the fact that he’s a mangaka isn’t kept a secret for the sake of the plot. He’s very open about but no one believes him because he’s so tall & scary looking, with a bad reputation of fighting (injuries actually caused by rushing to meet deadlines & such). The fact that he’s truly ignorant about all aspects of romance is what drives a lot of the humour around him, as he goes through complicated plans to come up with idea scenarios to illustrate -often at the expensive of the ever devoted Chiyo.

The various moods of Sakura Chiyo
The various moods of Sakura Chiyo

In many ways, Chiyo is very much the same as Nozaki yet fundamentally different. Where he is stoic & impassive, she is overly expressive -almost to make up for his lack of physical displays of emotion. She is at first confused at Nozaki’s strange behaviour but through spending time with him, so comes to be able to read his subtle shifts in mood. Yet she so often over reactions to situations -such as thinking he might finally be reciprocating her feelings or she’s totally oblivious to the negative traits of those around her -especially her close friend Seo. Despite always wanting to be around Nozaki & get him to understand her feelings, she’s far from clingy & annoying as a character. When failing to express what she truly means in her affection to the dense Nozaki, she goes to work for him -helping with the beta (no idea what it’s supposed to be but she does the inking for him mainly) on his manga. This is done so she can learn what he’s like & see if her feelings for him are genuine. She prone to near fetishising many of Nozaki’s traits & habits, such as getting people to pose like his drawing sitting position or praising another shojo mangaka for creating a character who’s exactly like Nozaki. But she does so in the sweetest possible way. She’s also marked by her petite figure (basically half the size of the towering Nozaki) & polka dot bowed ribbons in her hair, yet is never sexualised in any way.

Such a happy Chiyo face!
Such a happy Chiyo face!

Also by working with Nozaki, she becomes a little disillusioned on how he creates his manga & whom he bases his characters on.

Which brings us into the great subversion of the series, which was always the best for laughs.

the cast, figure out the names yourself, you lazy pricks!
the cast, figure out the names yourself, you lazy pricks!

As Chiyo spends more time with Nozaki, she gets to see how he comes up with his ideas & characters. Naturally, she thinks that he has some innate understand of romance & women but that becomes apparent that it’s far from the truth when he asks her to help out in enacting possibly scenarios for his manga. The best example is the romantic bike scene & how he tries to depict it in a romantic yet entirely legal fashion (you’ll get it once you see it). He drags Chiyo into it at first but then she comes to accept it as perfectly normal, wanting to continue it with him because she finds it fun after a fashion (even though it’s totally embarrassing). Similar with the situation with him making half a dozen bento to gauge people’s reactions to getting them, with Chiyo initially thinks makes her special until he sees him sharing them out with their other friends.

The friends are what make up the rest of the humour as well as some of the inspiration of Nozaki’s manga characters.

Chiyo is not pleased by this situation.
Chiyo is not pleased by this situation.

& surprisingly enough, he doesn’t try to model any of them on Chiyo.

In fact, all of Nozaki’s female characters are based upon his male friends for their strangely feminine traits.

Chiyo's reaction to Mokirin's self-inflicted embarrassment.
Chiyo’s reaction to Mikorin’s self-inflicted embarrassment.

This is especially true for Mimiko’s (Nozaki’s ordinary yet wilful heroine), who is modelled after the charming yet easily embarrassed pretty boy, Mikoto AKA Mikorin. Who is popular because he’s handsome & saying the right things to make girls lose their minds but he gets so embarrassed about saying them because most of his experience dealing with women comes from playing dating sims & his is incredibly shy by nature -using brashness to hide it. His embarrassed state serves as the basis for Mimiko’s flustered nature as well as his constant need for praise & attention.

The other character who serves as inspiration for Nozaki’s manga is Chiyo’s close friend, Seo, who is, frankly, a bit of a bitch. She’s not intentionally mean but she’s entirely tactless, oblivious to others, slovenly, greedy, ignorant of her emotional & physical surroundings & a bit of a bully. When Nozaki asks why Chiyo admires Seo so much, she reveals Seo’s amazing singing voice, which has earnt her the nickname ‘the Lorelei of the Glee Club”. Despite her amazing vocal talents, Nozaki finds her fairly insufferable to be around but finds inspiration in her taunting of his former basketball kohai Wakamatsu, whom Seo calls Waka after a basic misunderstanding of him trying to challenge her to stop traumatising him (which is her childish way of showing an interest in her). For his part, Wakamatsu, becomes inspiration for another female character because of his over worked nature & gentle temperament yet Nozaki hates himself for putting his kohai in situations with Seo just so he can get inspiration for his manga. Seo is also the cause of Wakamatsu’s insomnia as well as he’s cure, which makes more great comedy & inspiration for Nozaki, much to his personal regret.

How harems begin.
How harems begin.

The other great characters in the series are Hori and Kashima from the drama club. Hori illustrated the scenery & backgrounds for Nozaki because he lacks the talent to do so, in exchange for Nozaki writing original scripts for the club. Kashima is the mega-popular prince-like figure of the drama club, who is always surrounded in adoring female fans despite being a woman herself. No one really seems to care about her masculine appearance & attitude, except it she costs them the chance to get female attention for themselves. Kashima also often vies for Hori’s attention, admiring his amazing acting skill (while he stays off stage because of his short height), but everything that she does just serves to piss him off -so he usually hits her for it. I don’t like the physical violence against a female character aspect much but it’s not done out of vicious anger, just old slapstick style comedy. Kashima & Mikoto are also close friends, with Kashima calling him her fated rival, despite the fact that she smashes him in every aspect of their school & personal lives.

What I wish I could do to those fans who demand hypersexualised anime all of the time.
What I wish I could do to those fans who demand hypersexualised anime all of the time.

The other great thing about the series is the incredibly beauty animation. Rich, colourful & smooth designs -even for the most mundane background details are sweetly rendered. The character animations are also top notch. Great use of expression, cartoon conceits & action -reminding me of a lot of older style fast paced cartoons that I watched as a kid (Merry Melodies mainly). Great little visual gags & reaction shots -especially Chiyo’s confused & love struck faces.

The other sweet thing about it is that you feel the genuine affection that Chiyo has for Nozaki -especially in the last episode. The reveal as to how she came to love him & why she made her confession to him is left until the end. Which serves the story really well, because it’s hinted at but not dwelled upon. Love & affection is the core of this series, something which I felt more then in the genuine shojo romantic series Ao Haru Ride that’s also been screening this season (& will be reviewed later, once I finish watching it).

In the end, this is a series that I enjoyed immensely & will probably watch over & over again (though not as much as I have Acchi Kocchi -which EVERYONE must watch). The lack of sexualisation, the great characters & fast paced jokes has put it at the top of my list for the season’s selection. I highly recommend it if you want a good laugh, like a good satire or just want something unexpected & clever.

Plus it feels good to write a review that it’s 5 paragraphs bitching about hypersexualisation for bloody once (although will be doing that with another upcoming review, so having put that stick away yet).

Also keep an eye out for the running tanuki gag.

My expression when I realised that there wouldn't be any more episodes to watch.
My expression when I realised that there wouldn’t be any more episodes to watch.

Lustful Lascivious Little Lolis – Anime Critique: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!

64175Title: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!
Format: TV anime
Genre: fantasy, magical girl, comedy, parody
Series Creator:  Hiroshi Hiroyama
Series Director: Shin Onuma
Studio: Silver Link
Series length: 10 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 9 – September 10, 2014
Reviewed format: High def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Illyasviel von Einzbern is an ordinary elementary school student who becomes a magical girl when the magical Kaleidostick Ruby deems her a more suitable master than the sorceress, Rin Tosaka. Rin, who had been tasked by the wizard Zelretch to collect the seven Class Cards containing the spirits of Heroic Spirits from legend, finds that she is unable to change Ruby’s mind and must supervise Illya in completing the task of collecting the Class Cards. During Illya’s adventures, she receives a friend and rival in a girl named Miyu, the contracted master of the Kaleidostick Sapphire, which similarly abandoned its original master and Rin’s rival, Luvia Edelfelt.

After a series of battles, Illya and Miyu were able to collect all Cards and became good friends, while Rin and Luvia remained in Japan by the order of Zelretch. However, the appearance of Kuroe, a girl with a striking resemblance to Illya, soon complicates their lives as she attempts to eliminate Illya.


Review:

To begin with, it’s hard to criticise a series for (hyper) sexualisation when it’s a spin-off of an ecchi game/Visual Novel. Yet the original (& not terribly great) Fate/Stay Night anime wasn’t as sexualised as the Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya franchise is. What kicks F/klPI and its sequel series into low cheer is the hypersexualisation of lolis. I’ve already beat the drum over my extreme distaste for this with the previous season’s reviews but I just have to kick it again.

 PUTTING LITTLE GIRLS INTO SEXUAL POSITIONS, POSES, CLOTHING & VISUALISATIONS IS WRONG, DISGUSTING & PATHETIC! STOP PRODUCING PAEDOS & DEMAND FOR PAEDO RELATED MATERIAL, MEDIA INDUSTRY!

& don’t get on your high horses & say that it’s strictly a Japanese thing & we shouldn’t judge them too harshly for it. Have you seen Toddlers & Tiaras?! That shit makes you want to puke!

Anyway, anyway, the review, the review. . .

My general expression watching this series.
My general expression watching this series.

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! Is the direct sequel to last year’s loli-fest Magical Girl parody Type-Moon spin-off series, basically picking up right after the events of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya. There are still many plot threads to address from the get go, such as Miyu’s true identity, but that is all put aside for the introduction of Kuroe (Clo in the fan-sub, short for clone) -Illya’s doppelganger who is an incarnation of the Archer Heroic Spirit (it all makes sense if you know the main Fate/Stay Night series & characters). At first, Kuroe wants to kill Illya so she can legitimise her own existence but, with props to the writers for this, it actually goes deeper than Kuroe merely being a doppelganger, being back connections to the original Holy Grail Wars from Fate/Stay Night & why that battle never occurred within the Fate/kaleird liner universe.

Type-Moon always interconnect their stories with transdimensional crossovers, with various characters having different connections or incarnations. It comes from their Visual Novel/video game origins to explain their multiple endings & how they can all be canon. F/klPI is deep within this but you don’t need a knowledge of the tie in series to watch it.

The other thing that F/klPI2 has in it is lots of underage lesbianism. Because in someone’s mind the only thing hotter than sexualisation underaged girls is making them perform homoerotic acts as well.

More of the yuri stuff is more connected with Miyu’s growing romantic attachment to Illya, her jealousy over little actions & wanting to connect more to her -not only as a fellow Magical Girl but also as a firned. Where it crosses the line is when Kuroe deep kisses the other female cast members to drain them of their mana so she can power herself (mana = life energy for her). Part of me things that I can ignore it because it’s played off for comic value (Illya’s friends angry at her because they think Kuroe is her) but when they show Kuroe really going for it on Miyu, I really had to fast forward.

If this gets you off, you're one sick twisted piece of shit!
If this gets you off, you’re one sick twisted piece of shit!

To be honest, the comedy stuff is what kept me watching (that & my pathetic addiction to knowing what happens in narratives & solving loose plot threads). They play off a lot of the comedy on altering or playing up certain character traits. Like Illya’s adoptive stepbrother’s ignorance of the women around him, Illya’s near yandere affection for him (especially in the face of Kuroe) & her extreme reactions to what her magical want Ruby makes her do.

The act of a extremely lustful loli.
The act of a extremely lustful loli.

To be honest: the majority of the plot is focussed on Illya trying to protect her everyday life. She likes being a Magical Girl but this series falls more into the Mahou Madoka style of making a Magical Girl’s life as brutal as fuck. The previous series dealt with the life/death struggle that people with power on a mission must endure, so this 2nd series falls more into the trope of protecting one’s everyday mundane life but also protecting those whom you love. This plays out in the last two episodes, where the brutally powerful character Bazett Fraga McRemitz is introduced & Illya realises what her real duty is. Fighting on despite being drastically underpowered.

Unfortunately, that whole plot point won’t be resolved until next year, when Part 2 of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! is released. Which is a bit of a pisser but they are supposedly combining it with plot elements of the ongoing 3rd manga series.

In the end, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! has its moments & its connections to the larger Type-Moon omniniverse is a nice hook but it pretty much is a series for paedos because of the extreme hyersexualisation in some scenes. If you have issue with that, well: Come At Me, Bro!

That being said: I will probably watch the 3rd series just to know how it all ends & the series overall connection to the Fate/Stay Night universe but part of me would rather just wait for the upcoming new Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works anime which is out later this year.

So, paedos & Type-Moon fans feel free to watch but the latter better not mix with the former less bad things happen.

FateIllya2wei1a

Rain & Love are also beautiful – Anime Critique: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

Soredemo_Sekai_wa_UtsukushiiTitle: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (The World is Still Beautiful, the Still World is Beautiful)
Format: TV anime
Genre: fantasy, romance, comedy, supernatural
Series Creator: Dai Shiina
Series Director: Hajime Kamegaki
Studio: Pierrot
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 6, 2014 – June 29, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Nike, the fourth princess of the Rain Dukedom and one who holds the power to call forth the rain, travels to the Sun Kingdom to marry Sun King Livius for her country, despite her own reluctance. She soon discovers that the King, who conquered the world in only three years after his ascendance to the throne, is still a child. Furthermore, for trivial reasons, he has demanded that Nike call forth the rain, and when she refuses, he has her thrown in jail. The story follows the two who, while at first are a married couple only in name, gradually begin to establish an emotional bond with one another.


Review:

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii was a series that I came to without previous knowledge or the weight of expectations, so it was genuinely refreshing to watch because I didn’t have any preconceptions as to what it was going to be or what I may want from it.

soredemo_sekai_01_2

It’s also stands apart from the other recent anime series because it centres around a female protagonist with her own positive sense of Agency; who isn’t just there so we can stare at her tits & arse all the time (although that happens over the course of the series).

To avoid beating the usual drum at the beginning: the series is sexualised but it isn’t hypersexualised.

The difference being that sexualisation is pushing up character attractiveness & manipulating how we view them by embellishing sexual traits. Whereas hypersexualisation is focussing only on the sexual traits or putting characters in positions where they are only seen as sexual objects.

This is something that I’ll write about in a future article but to summarise: sexualisation isn’t great but pretty much everyone (regardless of gender & sexuality) does it in their everyday lives, so we excuse it. Whilst hypersexualisation generates unrealistic expectations & images, degrades all involved & renders so many narratives utterly useless &/or annoying.

Although there is a level of sexualisation in the series that many may (mainly men) may be uncomfortable with & that’s the sexualisation of the male protagonist Livi -who is barely a teenager, despite being the king of a vast realm.

soredemo-sekai-wa-utsukushii-03-02

This is honestly something that I don’t really care about -especially after all the loli lusting series from this past season (which was near fucking sickening in my limited online opinion). It wasn’t degrading, focussed more through Nike’s romantic lense. So whilst Livi is occasionally half naked, the screen doesn’t ogle or degrade him in any way. Only the way Nike sees him changes; from cruel tyrant & a child with an adult’s eyes to a loving companion & partner.

Nike is the most important aspect of the series & a well constructed character (until the last episode at least, where she gets all mopey without being in Livi’s company). She comes off as a brash, naive tomboy who reacts before she thinks but she is backed up by formidable magical & physical ability -being able to beat up at least 4 of Livi’s guards when she first arrives in the Sun King. She also reacts badly to challenges & has a desperate need to prove herself as worthy of Livi (at least not in the form of a superiority complex at least), so she rushes head long into several traps & assassination attempts but she often gets herself out of them or Livi comes to assist (not entirely rescue) her in her efforts.

Sordemo Sekai - 02 -9

Nike also has a very tender side; which is seen when she uses her rain summoning magic -a song based upon the emotions she feels & her appreciation for the beauty of the world around her. The Sun Kingdom is in a desert, so they have need of lots of water for Livi’s plans for modernisation, so that is one reason he threatened Nike’s father to send him a bride from the Rain Kingdom. Although while their relationship starts out as hostile, Nike’s feeling grow for her underage husband, making her magic grow as well.

Soredemo-Sekai-wa-Utsukushii-01-f1-640x250

Unfortunately, in my view at least, the song she uses to summon the rain is a touch annoying & amusing in how poorly it attempts to blend in English words with the Japanese. The voice actress does have a lovely singing voice, her mastery of English isn’t there. Not her fault, not her language, but kind of does show the uselessness of putting English words in songs for the sheer sake of having them in there. Plus, I do laugh more when Westerners put random Asian words into their songs & get them utterly wrong (looking at you, Wu Tang Clan!).

The other strength of the series is the humour & the supporting cast. Who bring a lot of the humour.

Mainly Livi’s valet (not a butler! Look up the difference!), Neil, who often has to force Nike to become more like a princess or chase Nike & Livi whenever they escape to have some fun. The three old advisors, who back up Livi’s claim to the throne through wisdom & force, are also very funny -making dirty jokes & comments that parallel the episode’s plot. But are best used when told that they aren’t allowed to go to the Rain Kingdom after they planned to go there with Nike & Livi to get more sweets for themselves & not do any work.

There are the usual tropes within the series about the notions of self-worth, mainly Nike wondering if she is the right match for Livi, whom she is growing more & more in love with, as well as the usual romantic stuff but overall I found this series very good. It was funny when it needed to be, with patches of strong drama & emotional interactions.

I do recommend it, especially if you want something different from the past season’s hypersexualised loli-fest!

soredemo-sekai-wa-utsukushii-0605

It would only be 3 episodes long if they took out the awkward pauses – Anime Critique: Nisekoi

Nisekoi_Volume_1Title: Nisekoi (Nise Koi, False Love, Fake Love)
Format: TV anime
Genre: comedy, romance, harem
Series Creator: Naoshi Komi
Series Director: Naoyuki Tatsuwa & Akiyuki Shinbo
Studio: Shaft
Series length: 20 episodes
Original Airing dates:
Reviewed format: HD downloads with fan-subs

 

 

 

 


Synopsis:

Nisekoi follows high school student Raku Ichijo, the son of a leader in the yakuza faction Shuei-Gumi, and Chitoge Kirisaki, the daughter of a boss in a rival gang known as Beehive. They unexpectedly meet when Chitoge hops a wall and knees Raku in the face. After she runs off, Raku realizes he has lost his locket which was given to him by his childhood sweetheart with whom he made a secret promise. After discovering Chitoge is a new transfer student in his class, he forces her to help him look for the locket. During the search, they begin to dislike each other.

Upon returning home, Raku learns that the Shuei-Gumi and Beehive gangs have agreed to settle their feud by pairing their leaders’ children. Raku learns that his girlfriend-to-be is none other than Chitoge. For the next three years, they must pretend to be in a relationship to maintain peace between the gangs. This turns out to be quite a challenging task, not only because of their hatred for one another, but also because Raku has a crush on another schoolmate, Kosaki Onodera, whom he secretly wishes was the girl who bears the key to his locket. Various developments complicate the situation, including Chitoge’s over-protective bodyguard, a female hitman, a girl who claims to be Raku’s fiancée, and the existence of multiple keys.”


Review:

There isn’t really much to say about this series, other then it finds a pretty cliched formula within the romantic harem comedy genre & goes Hell-Bent-for-Leather to stick to it.

Naturally, there are some changes to the formula, such as the central protagonist Raku not being caught in situations that make him seem like a pervert but still ends up in huge misunderstandings due to people not actually expressing themselves (which is actually an on going social issue in Japan & more & more in the West as well).

But the other hallmarks are all there within the harem structure: Chitoge is the tsundere who lashes out with violence when flustered but has a surprisingly sweet side to her, actually just wanting to be normal & fit in with her classmates (despite her mafia family); Kosaki is the sweet, quiet shy girl who has a distant crush on Raku but is too timid to say anything because she doesn’t want to be rejected or upset the status quo; Marika is the loud obsessive openly declaring her love whenever she can. The cast is rounded by the hitwoman Tsugumi Seishiro who gets easily flustered due to unknown emotions; Raku’s best friend Shu, who, because of his sharp observational skills, loves putting people in awkward romantic situations; and Kosaki’s stoic glasses wearing best friend Ruri, who’s constantly trying to push Kosaki into confessing to Kosaki into confessing her feelings to Raku, physically if necessary.
nisekoi-episode-9-12
As the series progresses Chitoge & Raku going from despising each other to becoming friends & then maybe something more. This is mainly through Raku genuinely being a nice guy & helping her out whenever he can, such as with trying to make friends with others in the class (which is hard because she has more limited Japanese language skills yet speaks in a complex fashion). But this kind of development is pretty basic & by the numbers. Same with Kosaki slowly coming to terms with her own feelings & the introductions of other “love interests” as the series progresses. Because it’s part of an ongoing manga series, some parts felt rushed whilst others dragged out too long & they added some twists far to late for such an oddly episoded series (20 instead of the usual 24).

Well, since there isn’t much plot to speak of, let’s talk about the visuals for a bit.

Nisekoi, despite having two directors, has the visual fingerprints of Shinbo Akiyuki all over it.

Shinbo, a very prolific director, is most famous for his work on the Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei & Monogatari animes -which brought to the fore his more unique & disjointed visual style.

Nisekoi is stung by so many of Shinbo’s now cliched hallmarks. Such as how female characters clasp their hands behind their backs & twist around to talk to camera (a feat that is physically impossible), linger external shots, scenes absent of people, sharp contrasting colours, characters staring at each other from either side of the screen with the eye focussed on the empty space in the centre of the screen & random non-sequitur animations.

Shinbo does add some interesting little visual gags. Such as every spit-take being depicted by little puppetry like cutouts held up by sticks yet these are really dwarfed by Shinbo’s typical and grating visuals.
horriblesubs-nisekoi-04-720p-mkv_snapshot_10-36_2014-03-10_21-52-53
Everybody get ready as I get out the old whacking stick for that old bugbear: hypersexualisation!

From his work on Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei & Monogatari, both Shinbo as a director & Shaft as a studio have employed especially degrading & stupid ways to depict & look at female characters on screen. Usually these are just the camera focussing on clothed chests or thighs as skirts flutter above them but Shinbo loves having his female twist into impossible & suggestive poses as they spout long monologues to the point it almost becomes like a bloody fetish for the man. He seems to be the anime version of Rob Liefield in terms of hypersexualised poses but with, you know, actually drawing talent & that.

Yet every anime that Shinbo touches is visually pretty & interesting, even if the content is disturbing or stupid. The man really knows how to control the mise-en-scene as well as challenging what is perceived as typical anime style. It’s not for everybody but he does bring an exceptionally amount of visual polish & interest to Nisekoi, more so then his other 2014 production Mekakucity Actors -which is just a basic rehashing of all his tricks from Monogatari.

In the end, Nisekoi is an extremely competent & visually pretty if very cliched series but it does at least stand above your average pathetic harem series (coughOnigaisenseitwinscough). If you don’t have much else to watch, there are worse ways to spend your time. But they said the same thing about the waiting room of the STD clinic too.

nisekoi-4

Surprise of the Season – Anime Review: KILL la KILL

Title: KILL la KILL
Format: TV anime
Genre: sci-fi, parody, comedy, ecchi, action
Series Creator:  Hiroyuki Imaishi
Series Director:  Hiroyuki Imaishi
Studio: Trigger
Series length: 24 episodes
Original Airing dates: 3/10/2013-27/3/2014
Reviewed format: download with subs
Killlakillpromo

Synopsis:

“Set at Honnouji Academy a fictional high school in Tokyo Bay set in Japan that is dominated by its fearsome student council, led by Satsuki Kiryuin. The council members wear special uniforms called Goku Uniforms that grant them superhuman abilities, which they use to oppress the rest of the school’s students and staff. Ryuko Matoi, a student wielding half of a scissor-shaped longsword, transfers to Honnouji Academy in search of the owner of the other half of the scissor blade, the person who killed her father, Isshin Matoi. Defeated by the council after interrogating Satsuki over the killer’s identity and whereabouts, Ryuko comes across a sentient sailor uniform she names Senketsu, who puts himself on Ryuko. Using Senketsu’s special abilities, Ryuko stands up against Satsuki and her henchmen, the Elite Four, to liberate Honnouji Academy from their iron grip and solve the mystery of her father’s murder. She befriends fellow student Mako Mankanshoku and lives with her family in the slums surrounding the academy.”

WARNING: A fair few spoilers to come!

To say that KILL la KILL was the surprise anime of the last two season is a massive understate.

Despite all of its flaws (which shall be addressed later) was an incredible stand out amongst many very good (& some very mediocre & beyond terrible) anime series from the past 24+ weeks. It was constantly engaging, witty, silly & appropriately dark when needed. Like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann before it, KILL la KILL parodied established genres & tropes exceptionally well but, unfortunately, does overstep the boundaries a bit -especially in regards to sexual tropes & imagery.

The plot is genitals out batshit insanity to the point that if you tried to describe it to someone who has no idea about anime, they’d walk away vowing never to watch any Japanese media.

The basis of it is: typical angry heroine Matoi Ryuko goes to the strange Honnouji Accademy to find who murdered her father, only to be confronted by the extreme weirdness of the students wearing Goku Uniforms, which grants them super human abilities. The academy is ruled over by the tyrannical Kiryuin Satsuki & her Four Devas (also translated at the Elite Four), who wish to use it as a staging ground to take over other school in Japan. After attempting to challenge Satsuki & being defeated, Ryuko returns to her ruined home & discovers the sentient God Robe Senketsu, who grants who super powers in exchange for drinking some of her blood. Now armed with a weapon to take on Satsuki, the Devas & the empowered students of Honnouji, Ryuko & her new best friend Mako seek to find the truth behind her father’s death as well as stomp as many heads in as she can. Only to find herself beaten & manipulated at every point along her journey.

That’s the start of it but it goes well twisted beyond that point.

The real & utter strength of this series is the fact that no matter how batshit insane the plot gets, it still keeps you utterly hooked through its humour, plot twists &, especially, its characters.
matoi-kill-la-kill
Ryuko is your typical action hero, angry at the world so she lashes out before thinking, but she goes through a lot of character development during her arc -coming to terms with who & what she is. Similarly, Satsuki begins like your typical arch-villain, found of posing & pronouncing but she has a lot of depth to both her character & motivation to het background. Because of how my brain works, I guessed one of the major plot twists very early but it still didn’t ruin any of the reveal. One reason for that is because even if the protangonist & antagonist do seem very stock, they are surrounded by crazy & interesting side characters.

Mako is Ryuko’s self appointed best friend (& possible love interest) who is always at her side. She is also utterly (intelligence wise) stupid & prone to spouting bizarre inspirational monologues along with equally bizarre physical gestures. Yet her utter stupidity, randomness & inability to be shaken by anything that she sees is what makes her so awesome to watch. She is the ultimate wild card whenever Ryoku finds herself on the ropes or despairing over another lose to Satsuki’s forces & plans. Reality has hold on Mako & that means that she can do almost anything to help support Ryuko in her battles.

The Four Devas also have a huge amount of depth to them, going beyond mere minion status to full characters.
KILL.la.KILL.full.1607773
They are each given time on screen to develop, especially Gamagoori Ira (Disciplinary Committee), by showing how they first came to serve under Satsuki (whom they all refer to as Satsuki-sama). They also seriously beat Ryuko over the course of the 1st half of the series, which subverts so much of the normalcy of anime narrative. They are never shown as true villains & stay true to their own personal goals whilst still loyally serving Satsuki. There are no usurpers in the wings or overly caricatured characters but there is a hell of a lot of parody on many conventions of character creations as well as very clever subversions of trope.

And then in the 2nd half of the series (eps 13-24) it truly goes insane as it is revealed that the true enemy of all humanity are living clothing called Life Fibres & that Senketsu was created for Ryuko (along with her special Life Fibre severing scissors) so she could successfully battle them. Also that the organisation known as Nudist Beach (they are all actually naked) was created by Ryuko’s father in order to help destroy the Life Fibres & save the world.

At that point, all attempts at logic & sanity are shattered -especially with the introduction of Satsuki’s mother, Ragyo, and her twisted pixie-like assistant, Nui. Who are the ones behind the Life Fibres & part of the reason that Ryuko is able to bond with Senketsu.

Unfortunately it is that bonding it is that bonding process that draws my ire & almost stopped me watching early on.

That is because the transformation is so hyper sexualised  (especially the Box Shot [won’t explain, watch the vid in the link]). The costume is intentionally revealing & plays into Ryoku’s character development but I still felt as though it was a huge step backwards for what could’ve been something more interesting &/or inventive. I know the how transformation is a parody of the old Magical Girl transformation but it still irks me for some reason.

At some point, pretty much every character is sexualised in some way (especially some of the men) but it still feels cheap. At least they actually play it straight for the most part & when they draw attention to it, they do it for the sake of parody & comedy (such as Mikisugi’s magic glowing nipples).

Everything in this series is turned up to the proverbial 11 (again, if you don’t get the reference you are way to young or a bit thick), especially the sexualisation of the body & the violence (blood flies everywhere in weird ways), which is both a positive & negative. Positive: adds to the parody levels well. Negative: a lot of people are too mentally ill-equipped to know that it’s a parody.

Yet despite all this excess & hyper-ness (or because of it) I utter adore this series. It has its fault but they can be overlooked because of all the great things that is does well.

Also a quick mention of the soundtrack. That is another thing that works really well. Especially the character leit motifs (the songs that play when characters appear or do an action). Many of the people who worked on the music also worked on Attack On Titan’s OST but they sound poles apart. My favourite track from the series is the transformation theme Until My Body Is Dry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNo0EhDhpBE

Basically, when it boils down to it, the extreme originality & oddness of KILL la KILL is the main reason that you watch it. It does to the Action & Magical Girl genres what Gurren Lagann did to the mecha genre (only better in my view).

It’s fun, it’s stupid, it’s (literally) genitals out insanity & you’ll kick yourself for not enjoying it.