Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 11, 12 and 13 FINALE

Episode 11: White Line

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Plot: A teacher is working late one night when she spots a young boy in a tattered school uniform drawing chalk lines on the yard. As she goes to investigate, she finds the boy has vanished, but the white line has been drawn into the school. Where does the white line lead?

Breakdown: This one’s pretty clever and unique. It’s not the creepiest or scariest story in the world by a long shot, but I enjoyed quite a bit, especially the ending, and it’s one of the stronger entries this season.

The art style this time around is kinda back to being a little more anime-ish, but not too badly. It’s also like the lines are much crisper and sharper than they usually are and like the coloring is fuller and more vibrant.

There’s no live-action shot this time around, which was weird, but the narrator was delightfully entertaining, especially at the end.

Episode 12 – Snow Hut

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And then he gets shot through the eye…..Oh sorry, that’s Saw II.

Plot: A young boy and his older brother decide to build a snow hut. As his brother goes off to get something for them to eat, the boy spots another snow hut across the yard. Oddly, this hut has no entrance, but it seems like there’s a small flickering light inside. The boy is curious to see if someone is in there, but some things are better left alone.

Breakdown: I wanna say this one works, but it kinda doesn’t because it’s one of those stories that I find sadder than scary.

The idea is fairly unique and the scene with the other snow hut is creepy, but it’s not creepy or scary enough for me to ignore the fact that I feel sadder for the fate of the boy above all else.

The live-action shot this time around was of the candle in the snow hut, and it’s pretty effective given that you see it from the hole in the snow hut, which does obviously lend itself to an easy jump scare.

The story is also one I can’t wrap my head around. Why is there some sort of snow hut prison out there? Who is in it, and why does it seem to need to have someone in it? The family seems to have no choice but to do what they seem to be intending on doing, but I don’t get it.

The art style this time around is a very scratchy almost sketchy or storyboard type of art style that I….think works in its favor? I can’t really decide.

Episode 13 – Underground Walkway

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Someone should’ve told him he’s in a horror anthology.

Plot: A college student gets caught in the rain and decides to take a creepy, unfamiliar underground walkway to the station. He learns that you don’t do that.

Breakdown: Really? After the awesome ending season three gave us, you end the fourth season with this? It’s not a particularly stupid or bad entry, it’s just very predictable and meh. Not to mention, you want to clock out the instant he enters the walkway.

Gee, an unfamiliar, dark, dank, creepy underground walkway with flickering lights and no one else but a freaky worker around who’s trying to direct you down an even creepier and darker walkway and keeps chanting ‘it’s only dark at first.’? I’d sure nope out of there probably before I even got beyond the entrance. Dude, it’s rain. Just deal with it. Go into a shop until it passes. Get on a bus. If the alternative is ‘creepy, dark, dank underground walkway I could swear wasn’t here before’ exhaust every other option first….and still don’t do that.

The art style is basically identical to Snow Hut here, which is fine, and the live-action shots may be some shots of the tunnel (it’s really hard to tell) and the shot of the footprints, which add nothing to the creepy factor.

Like I said, not the worst entry, but certainly a disappointing one, and definitely a disappointment as a season finale. They didn’t even do anything clever with the narrators this time around outside of change them out every episode, which would be more impacting if the opening showed them in a different area with different kids every time, but it doesn’t. They don’t even alter the end credits. Pfft.

I’ll be releasing the full Yami Shibai 4 review soon enough, but first, I just realized that they released Yami Shibai 5 this year. Yay!

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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9: Grinding Teeth

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Plot: An office worker and her girl friend are out on a trip to a foreign area. They explore many tourist spots, including one odd cave filled with Jizou statues that the locals seemed to avoid. That night, the woman developed a severe pain in her tooth and was forced to seek out a local dentist in the middle of the night to get it checked out. When she arrives, she finds that her toothache is much worse than anything she could’ve imagined.

Breakdown: This had much more potential than what it became. The setup doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s one of those instances where I wouldn’t care much if the scares paid off. They pretty much didn’t.

Teeth is one of the richest wells of easy creepy content. For some reason, a lot of people are creeped out when thinking about teeth or seeing detailed images of teeth or even thinking about going to the dentist. The sound of teeth grinding is also one most people cannot stand. It’s not particularly creepy, but it is one of those sounds that makes you cringe. These topics together can easily make for at least a creepy story.

Instead it basically falls flat and even seems kinda silly. The ending shot was unnerving due to the sounds and cliffhanger, but that was about it.

The live-action shot of the episode was of the dentist holding a pair of pliers as she was about to pull the woman’s tooth. That shot worked very well and added more elements of creepiness to it, but you quickly realize that the dentist is not the bad guy here. Though, honestly, she should’ve told the woman what was going on in order to prevent her from leaving.

All in all, another middle of the road entry.

Episode 10 – Calling Crane

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These two episodes side by side really highlight how this season’s art shifts drastically between stories.

Plot: Bored of mobile phone games, a group of three girls decide to play a creepy game they heard about at school called Calling Crane. You put a razor blade and a red string into a glass of water then write the name of a deceased person on a paper 49 times and turn it into a paper crane. Once you swallow the crane, you’ll be able to talk to the person whose name you’ve written on the paper. It’s all harmless. After all, it’s just a game….right?

Breakdown: Now this is a nice mixture between a classic setup (teenage girls playing a spooky game to talk to the dead) and some interesting and creepy elements that are new and original, for the most part.

Who the hell even thought up this game premise? Even for Japanese horror games, that’s weird. You have to swallow the paper crane? That’s gross and dangerous.

This episode doesn’t really take any turns you don’t really expect it to, but it is still some creepy fun made all the better by the visuals. The lines are much more detailed and made to look fairly realistic. The colors are also done in a very obvious watercolor method.

There are three live-action shots this time around. The first is a shot of the glass with a razor in it, the second is a shot of a broken glass with the razor and string sitting in the water, and the third was a shot of the paper crane. I won’t go into more details on the circumstances of these shots, but they definitely add to the creepiness factor, and I like that they amped up the amount of live-action shots for this one. Given the art style of the regular animation, it fits quite well.

I very much enjoyed this entry and hope to see at least one more like it before the season ends.

Five Numbers! Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: Four convicts all with life sentences awaken after being drugged to find themselves in an abandoned prison. It’s a race to get out…if they can.

Breakdown: This is a one-shot OVA that came paired with another OVA called Coicent which I will be reviewing later. Right now, let’s focus on Five Numbers!

Five people, four convicts with life sentences are stuck in an abandoned prison – no guards, no nothing. All they have is each other and a cat. There’s a woman codenamed R21 or Sting who was a gambler and possibly con artist, a man codenamed N35 or Pinch-Hitter who embezzled money and also holds a secret related to the situation, a young girl codenamed R12 or FlashTradeKiller who is a hacker who purposely caused the financial network to crumble, and a teenage boy codenamed N17 or Pokerface whose reasons for being convicted are not stated and me explaining who he is would be a spoiler.

There’s also an old man in the prison who is actually there of his own free will for also spoilery reasons codenamed Enplein or VO and his cat, Coupier. None of their real names are given and they refer to each other by their numbers which I believe are also supposed to signify their ages.

I can’t give too much away as I don’t feel this is one of those titles I want to go through beat by beat, but I will say that the premise is extremely interesting and the OVA has some very cool ideas. However, this is merely a one-shot which means there’s no real building upon these ideas, which is a real shame.

That’s not to say the OVA ends on a cliffhanger or anything. There are several twists thrown in that are pretty shocking, especially the one at the very end.

It’s just very disappointing that there’s not more of this. You can easily extend this premise out further into a very short OVA of like six episodes, but it’s over in one episode.

Bottomline: If you like short stories that are both interesting yet dark at the same time, you’ll probably enjoy this very much but wish there were at least a bit more to it.

Art and Animation: All of this is done in CGI, which is for the most part fine. It’s done in that kind of way that looks like it’s only half cel-shaded and outlined, which actually works really well. The character models are decent. They look kinda video-gamey though. Also the animaton for the humans is kinda stiff sometimes, but overall fine.

Music: The music’s also fine. The ending’s catchy and done in Italian for whatever reason.

Additional Information and Notes: Five Numbers! Was written by Dai Sato, who has done writing work on Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Wolf’s Rain. It was directed by Hiroaki Ando, CGI director of Steamboy and director of Gambo. It was produced by Sunrise and is currently licensed in the US by Sentai Filmworks.

Year: 2011

Runtime: 25 minutes

Recommended Audience: Eh, the ending is not a happy one. Though you never see anything happen on camera, it’s heavily implied that something severe is about to happen. Other than that, no gore, swearing, nudity, sex, or anything. 10+

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 5 and 6

Episode 5: Night Bus

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Plot: On a night bus trip with his friends, a teenage boy has to make a rest stop after getting a terrible stomachache. When he returns, he gets back on the bus but realizes that something is strange about the other passengers.

Breakdown: The strongest episode so far, though predictable after the midway point. This episode tries to skew back into mostly creepy and realistic territory and it works in its favor. This is also one of those stories where I don’t really need to know the backstory of the paranormal phenomenon for it to have a full impact.

Just as a tally, today’s live-action shot was the boy’s hand holding his phone, though the screen is still obviously animated. The art style is also getting notably more typical anime-style-ish, and apparently the narrator is changing in every episode. No idea why.

Episode 6: Guess Who?

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Plot: A young teenage girl finally gets up the courage to ask her senpai out on a date. They have a great time, but just as she’s about to gather the courage to talk about their relationship further as they wait for the train, she’s interrupted and he excuses himself for a moment. While she sits alone waiting for him, she realizes that they’re not the only two there.

Breakdown: Getting even better with this episode. This one is a bit more off-putting from the rest in a somewhat bad manner because it’s done in even more traditional anime style, particularly with the girl. Kinda takes you out of the kamishibai format, but it’s not too bad yet.

This episode is one of those stories where it’s both scary yet sad at the same time. It’s also very confusing. I’m going to lay it all out here for you so maybe I can get some different views, so be warned of spoilers.

A shy teenage girl gets up the nerve to ask her crush, known only as Senpai, out on a date to an amusement park. They have a great time all day and then sit at the train station as they prepare to go home. She wants to ask if he has a girlfriend, but gets interrupted as a train goes by. Senpai excuses himself to go get a drink, leaving the girl by herself in the empty train station. She spots a pale girl on the bench on the platform on the other side of the tracks. She gets up and walks toward the tracks and is just about to reach the edge of the platform when the train whizzes by, obscuring the girl’s sight. When the train clears, there’s no sign of the girl and no indication that she was hit by the train.

As she wonders what happened, her face is suddenly covered by a pair of hands and the voice of her senpai says ‘Guess who?’ She starts to get flustered by the physical contact and again attempts to ask him if he has a girlfriend. However, before she can ask, he presses his hands into her face, hurting her. She tries to pry him off of her when she suddenly starts forgetting who Senpai is. As she manages to sneak a peak through the fingers covering her eyes, she sees her reflection and realizes the girl from before is covering her eyes.

At this realization, the girl completely forgets everything about her senpai. She transforms to look somewhat similar to the creepy girl and completely forgets who she is as well before she disappears from the bench.

Some people in the comments theorized that this was a girl who died while waiting for her date, so whenever she sees young people on a date, she erases the girl’s memories of the boy and then kills them, but that doesn’t make much sense to me.

My first time watching this, I thought she really wasn’t on a date with anyone and was caught in a loop or something like that, mostly because we never see Senpai come back. However, that doesn’t bode too well with me either.

Not that Yami Shibai has ever aimed to make much sense. The ending is creepy to me, and the story as a whole is very sad if this was indeed an innocent girl who was tragically killed right before she was able to officially get together with her crush. I can’t even say ‘well, at least she was able to spend her final day having fun with someone she cared for’ because she doesn’t remember it.

This is also the first time where the live-action shots have actually worked in the show’s favor. This time, we see hands covering up the screen like we were the girl in the scenario experiencing and seeing what she saw. It was very effective, and also worked surprisingly well when they kept flashing back and forth between that style and the regular animation during the rest of the scene.

I, personally, really liked this episode, despite the confusing logic behind the ending. What’s your interpretation?

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 3 and 4

Episode 3: Sewing Shears

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Plot: A woman moves into a cheap new apartment and finds a talisman with sewing shears stabbed through them underneath the floor boards. She discards them, but everything has a purpose.

Breakdown: This one was completely cliché from start to finish. Find a creepy artifact in an old house and throw it away. Gee I wonder if that won’t piss off some spirit and get her killed.

They even throw in the fakeout dream for good measure. It’s here where the live action shots really start seeming silly. The shot of the talisman and shears were enough, but when she picks them up, it’s on the side of comically juxtaposed besides the regular art and animation, which does seem much less animated than it usually is. Considering this is basically an animated paper puppet show, supposedly animated using Powerpoint, that’s pretty damn bad.

I will say the spirit is a little creepy, but nothing too fantastical in design. Like many times over the course of this whole franchise, I’m really left wondering what the backstory is behind this whole thing.

Episode 4: Red High Heel

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Plot: A businessman has gotten out of work late and nearly ends up having to walk home when he’s able to hail a taxi. He finds a bright red high heel in the back and asks the driver if one of his last customers dropped it. The driver quickly tells him to throw it out the window. The man is confused at the driver’s request until he hears footsteps outside of the door.

Breakdown: This one was a little clever but disappointing. The twist surprised me a bit, but the ending was out of nowhere and the narrator’s laugh at the end was out of place and seemed awkward. What about that was funny? Or so scary you’d laugh at the audience for being scared? You literally tossed a dead body at our faces then laughed.

I think it would’ve been more clever if the driver was the bad guy. Say the woman was his last victim come back to haunt him because he’s really a serial killer. Or have her try to warn the businessman about the driver, then have the big end-of-story twist be the driver killing him or turning out to be a demon or something. What we got was a ‘twist’ that was really just a sad random circumstance that I guess the narrator thinks is funny. *shrug*

Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 4 Episodes 1 and 2

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I want eyeballs, I want liver, Meow Mix, Meow Mix please deliver

Episode 1 – Tongue

Plot: A man takes pity upon a dead cat in the road and moves it onto the sidewalk. He and some nearby boys decide to bury it and make it a proper grave. However, things tend to follow those who show them kindness.

Breakdown: First and foremost, holy shit people hate this season. I was pleasantly surprised to see this as a recommended anime on a streaming site and lo and behold the first page was tons of people saying what complete and utter garbage it was. I thought they trashed YS3 badly. There was nary a kind word about this season on that page.

But, hey, I pretty much liked YS3, so maybe I’ll like this season too.

Second, we’re back to having proper intros and the narrator. However, this narrator seems like a different guy and he has a different voice. This voice is deeper and more menacing, which I guess sets a better tone, but I think I have to get used to it.

He also narrates each and every bit of the story, which didn’t happen much in the first three seasons. I don’t know how many times he’ll do this and I’m not sure if I like it.

Finally, before the episode review anyway, the ED is somewhat bland but catchy. It’s a happy-go-lucky forgettable song that would fit in nearly any other anime and it contrasts a lot with the ED’s of the past three seasons. Hopefully they’ll do something creative with it over time.

New this season also is that, apparently, each short also has at least one clip in live-action. It serves no purpose; not even horror-wise.

Now onto the episode. I was kinda torn emotionally as the episode went on. I didn’t want this guy to end up dead because he did something nice for a poor dead cat. I was also disappointed that an episode titled ‘Tongue’ wasn’t creepier. However, I think the twist at the end was unexpected, albeit a bit confusing.

He is indeed being stalked by the spirit of the cat, but it turns out that it’s merely being used as a puppet by another spirit that is actually malicious. From what I could gather from the conversations, this was apparently the ghost of someone who died nearby where the dead cat was. Her spirit watched the cat get found and given a proper burial, but he didn’t find her and lay her to rest, so she got jealous and upset and attacked him for it.

It is clever, and I wish we could get a Side B to this story to get her view, but uh, if you were really murdered or left for dead or what have you, wouldn’t you have bigger bones to pick with whomever is responsible for your death rather than someone who merely buried a run over cat? Oh, hey, if can communicate with him, why not tell him where your body is and ask him to give you a proper burial?

Episode 2 – Fish Tank

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No. The answer is always no.

Plot: A boy and his friends break into an abandoned house and one of them finds a weird fish tank filled with murky water and plants. The house is abandoned, but is the tank?

Breakdown: So I guess the narrator is going to keep telling the whole story now. Still not sure if I like it or not. It both adds tension yet takes it away. They’re taking away the silent tension but replacing it with creepy story-teller tension. Also, this is more like what a real kamishibai would be like.

As for this story, it’s meh. Everything you expect to happen happens. Starting off with the ‘teenagers breaking into a creepy abandoned house’ trope is never a good sign, but the instant you see that tank you know that there’s some monster in there and you know it’s going to take/eat him.

They also sorta ruin the initial kill by having one of his friends go into the room (with the stool the boy used to look into the tank mysteriously back in the corner of the room) with him about to investigate a sound coming from the tank, indicating that he’ll be eaten then the other boy will be eaten too.

The creature isn’t even creative. It’s just creepified human arms.

Danganronpa The Animation Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: Fifteen teenagers are accepted into the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy for high school, but they soon find themselves drugged and sealed within the walls of the empty academy….well, empty except for a robotic teddy bear named Monobear who tells them that they’re completely trapped in the school and the only way out is to ‘graduate’. How do you graduate? Quite simple, really. You just have to get away with murder.

Breakdown: This is one of those anime that, when I saw the first episode, I really wanted to finish it as soon as possible….In a good way. This may seem….weird…but I actually like stories that involve people being trapped somewhere with a bunch of mysteries to solve and knowing that you can trust no one because they may want you dead for legitimate reasons. Most importantly, I love murder mysteries, and that’s really what this series is.

‘Danganronpa The Animation’ is an anime version of a PSP game of the same name. I’ve never played said game, but I really want to, especially give the fact that the trial format seems a lot like Phoenix Wright to a degree.

Only one person out of all of the students is allowed to ‘graduate,’ and the ‘get away with murder’ aspect is really only keeping the murder a secret from your fellow classmates. Monobear is allowed to know everything and pretty much does know everything due to the cameras that he has placed in nearly every room of the school. I should also mention that he has the students pinned pretty badly under his…paw.

Spoiler alert: The fish is the mastermind.

In addition to the cameras and everything being controlled and monitored through their school-issue PDAs (And the entire school being sealed like a fallout shelter), he also has several methods of instantly punishing students when they break rules. By ‘punish’ I mean ‘brutally murder’. Also, for a reason not stated until the ending, the police will not come rescue them nor will anyone else come looking for them. They are completely on their own with their only given option to kill someone and get away with it in order to leave.

Once a murder has been committed, the students will have a set amount of time to investigate the murder and examine evidence. Once Monobear feels enough time has gone by, or if he gets bored or impatient, the trial starts.

During the trial phase, Monobear’s role is to sometimes give other information or confirm some suspicions, but for the most part he just sits there watching the trial unfold until someone has been pegged as the murderer. The trials are interesting in that the students vote on who they believe is the culprit after deliberating amongst themselves. Naegi, our main character, is given three ‘verbal bullets’ (Objections to conflicting evidence or testimonies) to use during the trial, except on special occasions when he’s given six. He solves basically all of the cases because…well, main character. However, it’s up to everyone else to vote on who is actually the culprit.

The other interesting part of the trials is in the voting process. Here’s how it works; the students converse about who they think the killer is. After Naegi’s points, the students usually agree with his decisions, except on a couple occasions, and select the actual culprit. However, there is a very risky part to this trial for everyone involved that adds a lot of stress to the situation. If the vote is unanimous for a person who did not do it; the people who voted for the innocent person get sentenced to death. So not only does the killer have to worry about getting caught but everyone else has to worry about not catching the killer.

As a slight spoiler, I will say that this never happens. However, I don’t quite understand how this would pan out. Obviously, the killer would not be sentenced to death no matter who they voted for because that’s the whole point; to frame someone else for the murder or at the very least not deny it when someone else is suspected. If everyone else voted for that innocent person; that means you got away with the murder and would graduate. My question is what happens to the innocent person who was accused? They don’t get sentenced to death, do they? Do they get trapped in the school forever or do they really get killed for no reason?

If most of your classmates vote for the right suspect and a few people vote for the wrong one, the culprit is considered caught and the people who voted for the wrong person are saved by the others voting for the right person.

If the actual culprit is caught, the remaining students get to live but the killer has to die for getting caught. The punishment phase has an art style all its own with a mixture of CGI and cardboard cutout-like animation. It’s pretty cool, and some of the imagery gets very imaginative. Monobear has set up ironic and incredibly gruesome manners of death for the killers. I can’t really explain what they are because that would spoil the killers’ identities, but they range from really gruesome crazy to really weird crazy.

When the trial is over and the punishment has been done, the students go back to their lives in the school waiting for another murder to occur. If they go too long without murdering one another, Monobear will give extra incentives to ‘graduate’.

That is one of the iffier aspects of this series – visual aspects of the trials. It just seems weird to me that they included the Visual Novel-esque format for their trials. Everywhere else, the intros, clues, evidence etc. are fine but it seems weird to include it in the trials mostly because there’s no really point in showing us the ‘verbal bullets’ or the points where you may find contradictions in someone’s testimony. We aren’t usually given enough time to think about these and it’s not like we’re answering anyway – Naegi is.

I honestly don’t want to spoil this series because I really enjoyed it, so I’ll just be diving into short character descriptions before continuing with a few other points. I’ll also note that all of the characters in this series are labeled as being a ‘Super Duper High School (title)’, their main point in excellence that allowed them to enroll in Hope’s Peak, even if some of the titles are kinda silly.

Makoto Naegi – Super Duper High School Luckster: Naegi got into Hope’s Peak through a raffle, earning him the title ‘Super Duper High School Luckster’ as that was really his only notable trait beyond the fact that he’s really optimistic. To be honest, considering the nature of the school, he’s really anything but lucky. Naegi as our main character is a really good choice. He’s pretty bland, mostly to allow the viewer or player to project their own personality onto him, but also very likable. He seems to find good in everyone no matter the situation. Plus I love the hell out of that jacket. God, I want that jacket.

Sayaka Maizono – Super Duper High School Idol: The only person that Naegi seems to know out of this whole group, Maizono used to go to Junior high with Naegi, but he never believed she ever noticed him because he was so plain and she was, well, a super duper high school idol. However, she shows that she does indeed remember him and they become friends. They soon rely on each other even more in regards to their situation.

Junko Enoshima – Super Duper High School Model: Not much to say about Junko. She has huge pink pigtails and an attitude. You pretty much want her to die or know she’d have no qualms against killing someone.

Sakura Ogami – Super Duper High School Fighter: Sakura looks, sounds and acts like a very muscular guy. In fact, the only reason I questioned her sex at first was because she wore a sailor uniform like female high schoolers typically wear. Despite her appearance and her title, Sakura is actually a very kindhearted girl with a lot of honor. She quickly becomes friends with another female student, Asahina, and their friendship becomes a major point in the series. Sakura became one of my favorite characters.

Leon Kuwata – Super Duper High School Baseball Star: Leon has a pretty cool character design but a fairly forgettable personality….and might I ask whose big idea was it for him to be wearing a blood stain t-shirt in a murder mystery show?

Celestia Ludenberg – Super Duper High School Gambler: A goth character with one of those weird finger bands that are also blades. Celes remains fairly calm throughout the proceedings as she believes that they need to adapt to their situation to survive instead of playing into Monobear’s hands by actually killing people.

Aoi Asahina – Super Duper High School Swimmer: Aoi is a very strong yet sensitive girl. She tries to remain optimistic despite the horrible situation she’s in and finds great strength in her friendship with Sakura. Despite this, the numerous murders and deaths take a toll on her resolve.

Kyoko Kirigiri – Super Duper High School Detective: Kirigiri’s title is actually not given in the beginning like the others. She’s merely labeled ‘Super Duper High School ???’ until later on. This may be a spoiler, but not really. Kirigiri herself is a rather mysterious girl throughout most of the series. She’s constantly running off from the group to find evidence and explore the school for clues, causing many of her classmates to be suspicious of her during many of the murder trials. She’s quite obsessed with finding out who the mastermind is behind this school.

Kiyotaka Ishimaru – Super Duper High School Prefect: Ishimaru is one of the more entertaining of the bunch. He really, truly, seriously lives up to his title because he is obsessed with being a model student, rule follower, everything. No matter the situation they’re in, he wants to follow the straight and narrow. Ishimaru also has a really freaky character design. By all accounts, it’s insanely tame compared to the others, but dammit his eyes and eyebrows. Geez.

Yasuhiro Hagakure – Super Duper High School Shaman: Despite his title, he never does much in terms of fortune telling in the series. Hagakure is a very friendly individual, but also somewhat panicky and nervous and dear lord look at his hair. That is some hair right there. Damn.

Hifumi Yamada – Super Duper High School Fanfic Maker: Yamada is….something else. He’s the fat guy of the group and creepy to boot. He falls over himself to cater to the whims of people like Celes and comes off as a bit of a perv. He’s also an anime nut who has a thing for fanart of pretty girls.

Touko Fukawa – Super Duper High School Bookworm: Fukawa is incredibly annoying as she’s panicky, extremely paranoid and is constantly shaking and accusing people of things. She also never seems to have her own opinions as she’ll blindly follow quite literally any line of reasoning in the trials, causing her vote to switch back and forth whenever there’s a new point brought up. Doesn’t help at all that she essentially stalks and lusts over another character named Togami whom I’ll get to in a minute. She also harbors a secret that makes her much more entertaining and tolerable.

Byakuya Togami – Super Duper High School Scion: Kaiba—Excuse me, Togami is an heir to an extremely powerful corporation run by his proud Togami family. Togami is a very stone-faced individual who is constantly butting heads with nearly everyone. The only one he seems to get along with in the least is Naegi and that’s only because he seems to subtly respect Naegi’s deduction skills.

Despite this, they’re no where near ‘friends’. That also doesn’t change the fact that he’s an asshole. You know how I just explained how I find Fukawa really annoying? Well, he basically does nothing but throw really cruel insults her way and even I was feeling bad for her. Don’t feel too bad though as she turns everything Togami says into a compliment since she has a huge crush on him. Togami also never really gets better in his attitude as episodes go on, but he is just as determined as Kirigiri to find out who is behind this.

Mondo Owada – Super Duper High School Outlaw Biker: Owada’s also kinda hard to like and look at his ultra-Kuwabara hairdoo. Dang.

Anyway, as you’d expect from a gang member, he’s extremely abrasive and picks a lot of fights, even knocking out Naegi at one point. His anger is what first showcases Monobear’s true hold on everyone as Owada tries to attack Monobear, but his defense systems caused him to explode. Owada was unharmed because he threw Monobear before he exploded, but it displayed one of the primary rules of the school; do not attack the principal (Monobear). He gets better later on, however, as he finds a weird friendship or brotherhood in Ishimaru.

Chihiro Fujisaki – Super Duper High School Programmer: Fujisaki is a very timid and seemingly weak individual. She harbors more than one secret that will be both very useful and very devastating to the entire class.

Monobear: Monobear is a very entertaining antagonist. His design is also pretty cool. Half is a white teddy bear, the other is a black psychotic looking bear with sharp teeth. Monobear seems really entertained when a murder occurs, but gets bored easily when nothing is happening or when the trials are going on for too long. His mastermind controls nearly everything in the school. He has cameras practically everywhere and everything is monitored through electronic access. He also has guns and other booby traps placed in some areas of the school to prevent rule breaking. Despite being entertaining, he’s not a very impressive antagonist as it’s shown that it’s not necessarily difficult to make him lose his cool.

This series has many twist and turns and interesting cases as well as a very intriguing storyline. I greatly enjoyed the murder mysteries, the atmosphere and the mystery behind the school as a whole. Most of the characters are very likable and entertaining. Even the ones who got on my nerves didn’t manage to press their luck too much. Togami was really the only one who stayed on my dislike fully list because his damn pride and arrogance.

If there is one glaring flaw with this show, it’s the fact that, unlike other mystery shows like Detective Conan, you’re not given much of an opportunity to solve the mysteries with Naegi, which sucks. I mean, yes, almost every piece of evidence that Naegi uses to solve the crime is given before the trial, but there are some moments of unfair revelations in terms of using information that is somehow available to Naegi but not to the viewer. In addition, you’re just given the pieces of evidence and not given any hints as to why these items may be significant. I’m not saying hold our hands and walk us through everything, that takes away the fun of the mystery, but at least give us enough information to allow us to figure out why certain pieces of evidence are important.

While you may believe that being trapped in a school isn’t really grounds for murder, especially multiple and gruesome murders, it should be noted that Monobear gives the students several incentives to prompt them to commit these murders such as the promise of large amounts of money, showing threatening and real situations involving their loved ones, threatening to expose deep secrets and even placing a mole within the group who has been tasked to kill someone if no murders occur for long periods of time.

I honestly didn’t see the ending twist coming, and it was really clever. While I didn’t see it coming it did answer a question that I had nagging in my head about a very early death in the series. However, I will give points off for the ending a bit. See, I mentioned before that objections in this series are called ‘verbal bullets’ or just ‘ammunition’. Well, let’s just say the finale involves Naegi shooting bullets of literal hope at people. Cheesy as hell, but I’ll allow it.

Art and Animation: The art is wonderful and very stylized. Some character designs are a little too crazy for my taste and sometimes it really seems like they’re using character design to make up for lack of real personality, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the designs are really memorable and appealing. The animation is good. It feels visual-novel-y sometimes, but nothing super noticeable. The punishment sequences in particular is really done well. CGI is integrated very well in various other aspects of the series. As a final note, and I’m not entirely certain if this is the same in every version, but the blood in this series is ‘censored’ to be bright pink and it kinda distracts from the show a bit. Looks like everyone’s bleeding gel pen ink.

Music: The music is great. I love the OP and ED, and both are incredibly addictive. They also do this cool bit at the end that shows Naegi in a classroom and each episode that has a death includes one more person to the picture. They also add an 8-bit intro to the ending that’s pretty neat.

Bottomline: If you like murder mystery shows or video games, or if this sort of set up appeals to you at all, check it out. The ending cheese is really the only slightly major issue I have with it. I loved it, and I look forward to checking out the continuations.

Additional Information and Notes: Danganronpa the Animation was produced by Lerche, producers of Persona 4: The Animation and Kino’s Journey. It was directed by Seiji Kishi, director of My Bride is a Mermaid, Angel Beats and Persona 4: The Animation.

Episodes: 13

Year: 2013

Recommended Audience: Boy this plot sounds like Sesame Street doesn’t it? You have psycho killers, large amounts of hot pink paint—I mean ‘blood’, depictions, explanations and scenes of murder plus several shots of corpses that have usually been killed in pretty awful manners. No nudity, no sex, no swearing I don’t believe. 14+

I”s Pure Review

Rating: 4/10

Plot: Seto Ichitaka has been in love with a girl named Iori for a long time, but he could never get up the nerve to tell her how he feels. This six episode OVA follows Seto and Iori through various trials in their relationship. Will Seto ever get his dream girl?

Breakdown: Well, let’s just get this out of the way, this OVA is based on an H-game. Okay? Okay. That being said, there’s no sex….so there’s that.

I realize that this OVA proceeds another OVA called From I’s, but I’ve yet to see that. It doesn’t seem like this OVA is really a sequel or a situation where you need to do homework, so I’m taking this at face value.
The relationship toggles between a crush and borderline stalkery. Seto is very much stalkery and creepy in his adoration of Iori. He truly does love her, yes, but he’s creepy. He’s also a bit of a jerk and this gets progressively worse as the episodes go on. Want an example? Okay. He finds out that his childhood friend Itsuki’s house has gone up in flames and Itsuki’s gone missing, but he decides that he wants to stay on his date with Iori instead of seeing if she’s not a smoldering pile of side character.

The plot is also fairly Three’s Company-ish and predictable. For example, Teratani, Seto’s best friend and cool guy/pervert, gives Seto a picture of a naked girl that’s digitally manipulated to have Iori’s face on it. Instead of ripping it up, he accepts it and guess what happens. She finds it. Oh and finding out that he had it (In his schoolbook, no less) made her quite perturbed.

Episode five is just damn annoying. It introduces us to Iori’s manager, some chick whose name I’ve forgotten, and the instant, and I mean instant, that you see her you know she’s a Yayoi-esque villain. She’s a bitch and she only wants Seto to stay away from her star. I should point out that they’re not even dating at this point – she just wants Iori to have no friends whatsoever, I guess.

Iori’s not much better. She’s one of those characters who never sees what’s blatantly obvious (even when, at one point, it is made as obvious as humanly possible) She’s not very likable after a few episodes. She’s not hatable, really, but there’s not much to like about her.

SUPER SPOILER ALERT. MOVE ON TO BOTTOM LINE TO AVOID SPOILERS. THANK YOU.

In the final episode Seto decides to actually listen to the manager and coldly break up with Iori to save her career that was never in any danger. Seto has a brief moment of slight scariness in saying that he’ll always love her from afar as his face is mostly in shadow….okay….*shudders*…

I guess their other friend or Teratani’s brother randomly finds a website called The Marionette King and all it says on it is that he’ll take Iori’s soul. This freaks Seto right the hell out even though celebrities (she is vaguely one at this point) always get vague threats and whatnot especially over the Internet. He decides he’ll be her secret bodyguard. And by ‘secret bodyguard’ I mean ‘stalker’. He starts training himself through martial arts books and camps out in front of her studio in a hoodie with a pair of binoculars watching Iori all day…..I checked, this isn’t a horror anime.

The Marionette King actually does show up. I won’t explain who he is, but his appearance and motive make no sense. He should be targeting Seto, not Iori. He gets the jump on Seto and slams his head into the wall. They fight some more and Seto knocks him off of the roof where Iori’s bodyguards grab him after he spouts psycho nonsense. Seto then plops onto the roof in a small puddle of blood from his head wound.

Cut to the hospital, Seto is in a coma and the doctors can’t figure out why. Ya know, I’m not Dr. House or anything, but I think it might have something to do with the severe concussion he got from his head slamming into the wall.

They say his life will be in danger if he doesn’t wake up soon, so Teratani and his friends decide to go see Iori at the big important play she’s putting on. They beg Iori to go with them, explaining everything that happened because of her manager, that Seto still loves her with all of his heart and that he really needs her right now. Yayoi (She’s given no real name that I know of and she’s basically the same as her, so I’m calling her Yayoi.) gives the same stupid grin she’s been giving since her debut and basically shoos them away even after hearing that someone’s life is in danger.

What’s even worse is that after she hears that Seto got hurt while trying to protect Iori from the psycho, she smiles and says her bodyguards were the ones who caught the guy, so his efforts were pointless. Which they weren’t. They never would’ve known about the Marionette King if Seto hadn’t gone after him. Though I do have to say that Seto got friggin lucky. All that was said on that webpage was that he’d take Iori’s soul. He didn’t specify a time or a place, yet he seemed to know exactly when and where he’d strike. He also targeted the first creepy-looking guy that he saw and got lucky there too.

Iori actually doesn’t go with them despite their pleas and hearing that the man she loves and risked his life for hers is dying because of her. Wow. That was actually unexpected. Unexpected and ungodly horrible.

Later, back at the hospital, Iori calls the hospital and decides to talk to Seto that way. Apparently her reasoning was that she didn’t want to disappoint the people in the play or the audience by leaving.

Boy, way to have your priorities straight. Your loved one is in a coma, dying, for trying to protect you from a psychopath and you can’t even ditch a play to see him? Who cares about the people at the play?! Don’t you have an understudy? That’ll be a great story to tell your kids. “Mommy, tell us again about how you ditched Daddy for a stupid play as he was dying after saving your life.”

Oh and get this, she even said that after this play that she’d quit acting. If you’re gonna give it up anyway, why not leave the damn play!?

And before you can say “Don’t you wake up, you damn bastard. That’s way too cliche, way too overdone, way too corny, way too lame” he wakes up after hearing Iori’s voice on the phone. I was seriously rooting for him to either not wake up or flatline right there just to slap Iori in the face for not going to him personally.

END OF SPOILERS

The main couple’s okay, but they’re not very likable, I was never rooting for them (I liked him with Itsuki. And it would’ve been much more interesting if we started out with SetoxIori but moved to SetoxItsuki. It would also be more realistic and not computer-chair-gnawingly cliche.)

The plot’s very convoluted and stupid at times, and in other times it’s a chore to sit through.

Art:
The art and animation are a high point for the series. It’s all very clean and fluid. The art is also very nice to look at, but nothing very awe inspiring.

Music: The music was decent. The OP was okay and the BG music was alright.

Voice acting: Japanese Version: The voice acting was fairly well done. I had no real complaints.

Bottomline: Like there are turn-your-brain-off action movies, this is a turn-your-brain-off romance/drama series. However, even then, it’s nothing to write home about. Also, I still feel uneasy about how stalker-y he is sometimes, and that ending is just rrrrghhhhh.

Additional Information and Notes: I”s Pure is the sequel to From I”s. It was based on a manga written by Masakazu Katsura, who has also written Zetman, DNA2 and the Video Girl series. It was directed by Mamoru Kanbe, who has also directed numerous episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura and Elfen Lied. It was produced by Studio Pierrot.

Episodes: 6

Year: 2005 – 2006

Recommended Audience: There’s some sexual themes, but no one even kisses. Some fanservice, one sexual assault scene, no swearing, no gore or anything. 13+

 

Bamboo Blade Review

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: The Moroe High Kendo Team is in seriously bad shape. They have very few members and their instructor seems more motivated by food and money than actually helping improve his team. However, after building up a decent team of both newbies and experienced kendo fighters for the club in order to fight another school on the basis of a bet between their instructor and his old senpai, both he and the team get rared up and ready to fight harder, get stronger, celebrate the victories and deal with the losses.

Breakdown: Bamboo Blade isn’t your typical sports anime, and I say that for two reasons; 1 – it’s about kendo and 2 – the team being focused on is mostly girls. Boys really have the market cornered when it comes to sports anime.

I have to say, this show got me really interested in wanting to learn kendo. Too bad there’s no place within a reasonable distance of me to learn at.

It’s difficult for me to really analyze the story. It encompasses about one full year of the team’s various trials and tribulations. It’s a realistic look at what a team actually goes through instead of being one of those predictable sports anime, shows or movies where the underdog constantly wins because that’s the rules of sports shows.

In fact, the team is in three different tournaments in the entirety of the series and they don’t really put that much emphasis on them. I mean, yeah they’re pumped about them but they don’t showcase many matches, they don’t put a huge weight on the outcome and it’s clear that the entire tournament is really about one match or two. That’s both…disappointing and refreshing at the same time. I say disappointing because, in sports anime, it really is supposed to be a big event to have a tournament. Hell, even Pokemon gives their tournaments a few episodes at least, but in Bamboo Blade, the tournaments are always over within one episode.

Let’s talk about the characters.

Tamaki or Tama is an extremely shy (and by that I mean I had to keep my computer’s volume on high just to understand her most of the time) tiny freshman girl who also happens to be a prodigy at kendo. She was taught kendo since the day she was old enough to properly hold a shinai by her father, a well known and respected kendo instructor who runs his own dojo at their house. After showcasing her skills with a sword…..well, okay, broom, Kirino is itching to have Tama join their team, but Tama states that she views kendo as more of a chore instead of an enjoyable activity and declines.

Later, she finds out that the kendo club is being terrorized by two bullies who are the main reason why the kendo club has lost so many members. In defense of the members of the club, she beats the bullies in a match and officially joins the club.

Tama’s a very nice character and another welcome change from the loud and egotistical main characters that usually spawn up in sports anime. She’s also essentially our main focus in the show…..however, you may notice that I used a word that I really hate to use in sports and gaming anime…..’prodigy’.

Yeah, Tama’s a kendo prodigy who can’t be touched by anyone on their team, not even their instructor. She easily takes down people twice her size and age with ease and everyone is always amazed by her skills and speed. And yes, it does get annoying after a certain point because it essentially devolves into the messiah trope. Everything always rides on Tama’s shoulders and it really seems like, a lot of time, it’s up to the others to merely keep the team’s head above water while Tama ensures their win.

Tama’s not without weakness. Like I said, she’s incredibly shy to a fault. She’s quick to get flustered in situations that she doesn’t know how to deal with, as long as it’s not kendo. But when it does come to kendo she’s nearly untouchable.

I say nearly untouchable because her biggest weakness in kendo is when anyone takes the high stance, an advanced stance that Tama’s deceased mother usually took when fighting. When people take this stance against her, she always tenses up and becomes extremely distracted. However, due to the fact that this stance is for advanced fighters, hardly anyone uses it against her.

Characters like that almost always have to succumb to the other trope of the ‘fallen hero’. Eventually Tama loses a match, and because she’s such a prodigy who has never once lost a match, she is utterly shattered by this revelation that she can indeed lose to the point where she actually resigns from the team.

It’s basically like Yugi’s first loss in YGO only without the catatonic state and having a loved one’s soul on the line.

I mean, I’ve never been nearly so good at something that I’ve never lost at it, so maybe I just can’t relate, but when you’re on a team of people who frequently lose and still manage to get back up every time and learn from it, what kind of message is that sending them to quit after your very first loss EVER? Hell, her first loss coincides exactly with another character, Miya-Miya, also basically quitting kendo because she also lost in the same tournament Tama did, but the reason she quit was because she had never once WON in kendo even after training her ass off for months.

Tama is a really good character and despite the messiah-ism, she is very enjoyable to watch while fighting. To be fair, she actually had a fairly good reason for being as affected by that loss as she was. She still viewed kendo as a chore with her ultimate goal being to do nothing but win, and it didn’t help that her team was constantly shoving it in her face that she was a shoe-in and would definitely win no matter what. When she finally lost, she also lost that sense of purpose and had to decide whether she still viewed kendo as a chore or if she now truly enjoyed it.

Tama has a strong sense of righteousness and justice, which is part of what drives her to join the kendo team to begin with. This is due to the fact that Tama’s actually quite the big anime geek, most notably with a Power Rangers (or more to the point, Super Sentai) -type series called Blade Bravers. Tama’s soft-spoken and generally passive attitude can easily be felled when Blade Bravers or anime is involved, She’s especially inspired by the leader of the Blade Bravers, the Red Braver, whom she bases much of her personal philosophy on.

Her one true rival over the course of the series is actually someone who idolized a character named Shinaider, a villain and I guess anti-hero in Blade Bravers.

Ishida is the team’s instructor and, at first, he really comes off as a lazy and somewhat flippant kendo instructor. He leaves most of the team’s activities to the team captain, Kirino, in the beginning and really only becomes inspired to actually make something of his team after gathering more members for a match between his girls’ team and that of his old senpai, Ishibashi, on the basis of a bet.

Ishida lives paycheck to paycheck and is constantly scrounging together money, even from his students, to barely be able to eat. Thus the bet is that Ishibashi will take him out to a sushi dinner if he wins and Ishibashi gets the trophy Ishida won from their last kendo tournament if he loses. Ishida doesn’t give a crap about the trophy, he just wants the sushi.

However, he eventually matures and grows to deeply care about his team and wishes nothing more for them than to grow and get stronger while also having as much fun as possible.

Kirino is the team captain and has been called the heart of the team by Ishida. Kirino is by far the most enthusiastic and optimistic of the team and she basically stood as the team’s sole member before recruiting the others.

Kirino is always the first to cheer on her teammates and she does it loudly and proudly. She is also not one to ever discount or look down upon fellow team members, no matter their skill level or even their attitude. She seems like a really great person to have as a friend. Kirino’s biggest weakness is the fact that she overextends herself to please others and always puts on a smiling face no matter how much she’s going through.

Yuji is one of very few male members of the team and he’s a very handsome lawn ornament—I mean character! Yeah that…Look as much as I like Yuji as a character, he’s very nice, well spoken, knowledgeable in kendo etc…..he doesn’t do much…He’s just kinda there. He gives pep talks to characters, usually Tama, but as a team member, he doesn’t do much.

See, since the focus is mostly on the girls’ team, this means that almost all of the male team’s activities are non-existent. Yuji usually spars with the only other active male member of the club, that he actually recruited, Danjuro or Donny and really that’s about the only person you even see him fighting at all. It’s a shame too because Yuji seems to be almost as passionate and knowledgeable at kendo as Tama. He was on his junior high team and was part of the dojo that Tama’s father runs. It’s also implied that Yuji and Tama have a bit of a thing going together, but the hints that are there are fairly subtle and they’re both clueless about the opposite sex.

It’s even worse considering that he doesn’t even really grow or change at all over the series. Donny at least shows that he’s getting better and has clear weaknesses that need to be addressed (his height allowing for easy head strikes) while also showcasing his actual strengths. With Yuji, there’s nothing. Again, he’s just kinda there.

Danjuro or Donny as he’s nicknamed in the English dub, is a very short and weird looking little guy who is full of enthusiasm and on some occasions himself. He’s recruited by Yuji after Ishida informs him that they need more members, though his membership is basically moot since, as I said, the boys’ team really does nothing.

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Donny’s a very laid back and kind individual as well as being Yuji’s best friend, but he’s mostly preoccupied with his girlfriend, Miya-Miya, who most people can’t believe he’s dating due to their stark contrast in physical appearance. They’re usually being incredibly lovey-duvey with each other. It’s somewhat weird in the first few episodes, but their relationship actually grows and becomes very sweet over time……even if Miya-Miya initially liked Donny because he reminded her of her old pet pangolin….

Speaking of Miyako or Miya-Miya, she was arguably the most complex character and a really surprising one at that. When she first showed up, she really seemed like she’d be an annoying ditz who only cared about her boyfriend and nothing else, but she evolves quite a bit and there is definitely more to her than meets the eye.

Miya-Miya is actually a very angry, dark and violent individual to the point where she’s almost a bully to some people, especially Azuma. When not talking to or being looked at by Donny, she presents a visible dark aura that freaks out nearly everyone. She’s recruited by Donny and initially finds kendo boring, but the darker side of her loves the fact that she gets to fight. She is the greenest member of the team alongside Donny, but whereas Donny (supposedly) grows so much to the point that Yuji says he might surpass him by the time they graduate, Miya-Miya struggles quite a bit and never once wins a match over the course of the series until the very end.

She has two big weaknesses; 1 – The fact that her anger and that she loves to hit people seriously gets in the way of her moves. She fights very aggressively and while this can sometimes work to intimidate fighters, it also results in very sloppy swings, attacks and footwork, allowing her opponents to easily find openings for attack. Sometimes, this anger even causes her to make possibly dangerous moves. For example, she’s the first to showcase a throat strike, which is considered the most dangerous legal move in kendo that only advanced fighters are supposed to employ.

2 – She has a stalker from her old school named Reimi who freaks her out so much just at a glance that she quickly loses concentration and ends up losing. She does eventually get much better both in attitude and skill, and I’m always up for an underdog story.

Saya is Kirino’s best friend and the only other lasting member of the kendo club besides Kirino and the bullies, Iwada and Toyama, before the others join. However, Saya’s initial participation in the club was widely unreliable because of how consumed she gets by wanting to create a wonderful song or great story.

She always finds failures in these areas, which commonly devastates her to the point where her friends treat her outbursts of depression and even suicidal remarks with flippant responses. Saya doesn’t really change much over the course of the series either, but she is a very close friend to Kirino and is always the first to realize when something is wrong with her.

Azuma is the final member of the team to join in order to make a full five member kendo team to be official in tournaments. It takes her half the series to actually become a character with only very brief appearances beforehand. There’s sadly not much to say about Azuma. Both the ED and the OP make her look pretty bad as I had assumed that she was going to be one of those incredibly annoying characters whose only schtick is constantly falling over, but she’s actually fairly bland.

She’s a talented kendo practitioner who ended up quitting kendo when she reached high school. Despite her hard work, constant studying and dedication to her schoolwork, her grades continuously falter because she’s so scatterbrained and makes little mistakes that end up costing her greatly. Since her parents believed kendo was only distracting her more and making her worse, she promised to give up kendo to improve her grades. However, it was noted that she is actually incredibly focused and calculating when she is fighting, and she was convinced by the team to hone these skills to actually help her grades. Along the way Kirino and Donny, who are actually some of the best students at the school, help improve her with her schoolwork. However, this plotline is never brought up again after she joins so we just have to assume it worked.

Azuma is somewhat of a doormat, and she’s the target of some abuse by Miya-Miya. However, despite this, Azuma actually becomes somewhat of Miya-Miya’s own personal kendo teacher, especially after Miya-Miya finds a drive to train much harder in order to beat an American opponent (who obviously has a bitchy attitude, snotty manner of speaking, red hair, huge lips and huge boobs) named Carrie who also has a crush on Donny because he reminds her of her pet armadillo.

Can I just say it’s insanely weird to want to pursue a relationship with someone on the basis that they remind you of an animal?

There are various side characters, mostly opposing kendo teams, who get varying degrees of spotlight. Most of these characters are funny and likable, but they didn’t get enough spotlight in my opinion. I would’ve liked to have seen a sequel to get a rematch against most of the people we saw them fight.

In terms of learning about the sport, you do learn a fair degree about the footwork, stances, terms, strikes and strategies involved in kendo, and I really enjoyed learning about the sport as it’s always been one to intrigue me after seeing it showcased in several forms of media.

This show handles both the drama and the comedy extremely well. None of the drama was unbelievable or seemed like it was thrown in to hook audiences. Some of the situations seemed a bit hokey like the tournament involving a serious cheater (and by serious I mean she injures people before the match to either make them quit before the match even starts or to humiliate them and make them suffer during the match if they decide to fight anyway) but it’s nothing too drastic.

Art: The art was very sharp, bright and appealing. It mixed a shoujo-like style with more realistic very well. The animation was also very fluid and clean with nary a hiccup or odd scene in sight.

Music: I really loved the music, OP, ED and BG for the series. It’s somewhat generic, but it adds its own flare to make it more unique. Although, I’d like to know what ‘I’m calling the star rise’ means….I will say that one of the sentimental pieces of BG music was starting to get irritating. Considering that there’s one to five tender moments in nearly every episode, it starts to get grating, but only towards the very end.

Voice acting: English – Funimation provides superb quality yet again. The English dub was excellent, maybe one of their best works I’ve seen so far. Only thing I’d note is that Tama is just too quiet sometimes.

Bottomline: This is a very enjoyable sports anime with plenty to enjoy in terms of characters, story, comedy, drama and of course kendo. Even if you don’t like sports anime or kendo, this is still a good watch just for the characters, comedy and the actually believable storyline.

Recommended Audience: This show is basically as clean as you could possibly get. Even the episode that states ‘first public bath’ shows no nudity (in fact, I’d call foul on that title because they completely skip the bath scene entirely). There’s no real swearing, no sex, no blood, no gore. The absolute worse thing that happens is one of the characters injures their ankle, and even that’s just a bad sprain. E FOR EVERYONE!

Ergo Proxy Review

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Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Humankind is on the brink of extinction. The earth is a desolate wasteland with a toxic atmosphere, and trying to live on it has proved to be near impossible. To retain humanity, cities were created under protective domes. One such city called Romdeau was created, only allowing those deserving of becoming ‘fellow citizens’ to live within its walls while the immigrants from other cities try their hardest to earn citizenship. An immigrant from the city of Mosk named Vincent Law seems to have trouble following him everywhere and he gains the attention of one the Intelligence Bureau’s top investigators, Re-L Mayer. While investigating both him and the strange cogito virus that is plaguing the city’s AutoReivs, she uncovers the existence of a strange creature called a proxy. What is its connection to Vincent, the cogito virus and the fabric of humanity itself?

Breakdown: While it was a fairly bumpy one, this was a really interesting and intense ride of an anime. I have no clue why I dropped this a few years ago, but I’m glad I picked it back up.

Ergo Proxy is touted as being a psychological and philosophical dark thriller. That means a hell of a lot of talking, introspection, thinking in inner monologue and more talking. However, there is plenty to keep your attention in terms of action, mystery, conspiracy and intrigue, and just because an anime is dialogue heavy doesn’t mean it’s boring.

This show tricks you the tiniest bit in not outwardly focusing on Vincent from the start. It focuses more on Re-L in the beginning along with her AutoReiv entourage, Iggy. AutoReivs are assigned to pretty much everyone in one way or another. They come in various types such as companions, entertainment, caretaking, medical practice, work assistants and more. While some of them are very clearly mechanical beings, some of them, such as companion AutoReivs, are designed specifically to mimic humans in both physical appearance and actions. However, they do lack a soul so even with the technology being amazing in how they can mimic humans, they still can’t really pass for human.

The aforementioned cogito virus is said to give AutoReivs a soul, but the reason that it’s such a problem is because it’s causing many of those infected to start becoming violent if not homicidal for whatever reason. But that’s really only one piece of the puzzle.

In investigating this, Re-L discovers Vincent as well as his odd tendency to attract trouble. Soon after, she has a run-in with the proxy, which is basically a masked monster. She soon becomes completely consumed with finding out what the proxy is and what Vincent has to do with it, and she later becomes rogue because it’s obvious that the government in Romdeau want to keep the secret of the proxies under wraps.

I wouldn’t be spoiling entirely too much to tell you that Vincent is the proxy, but the mystery about who he is, what he is and his past remains until the end of the series for the most part. He doesn’t even realize what he is or what proxies are until later. I can quell fears that this is another ‘oh god I’m a monster and must become a lone wolf because of it’ story, so that’s something.

This show has a really good pace up until the halfway point where you can almost hear the screeching of the brakes. While there is still new information being found about the proxy and Vincent, actual plot-related revelations slow down a hell of a lot in lieu of cryptic clues, character development and introspection. This is by no means bad. Taking time out for character development and deeper thought is fine, but you lose speed on the story. This is more than made up with in the end, but it’s still a bit of a trial to get through.

The tone is really the issue in that department. It has ‘dark’ in its description for a reason. This show’s tone is so serious and downright dreary that the slow moments start to drain you. If it didn’t have an interesting premise, likable and dimensional characters and Pino, whom I’ll get to in a minute, it would probably require you to take a break from it after a few episodes.

This is why episodes such as the game show and Smile Town become so jarring. I honestly couldn’t believe it when they had an entire episode parodying a game show, but it ended up including dark humor and somehow squeaked in information about the proxies. Hell, it still ended up actually having a purpose in the series as a whole. It’s like they knew that the audience needed a break for a second and while it was jarring and weird, those episodes were a welcome breath of fresh air from the constant bleakness.

In that regard, we have our one comic relief character in the little girl companion AutoReiv named Pino. I can’t believe they actually pulled her off to be likable, cute and funny, but they managed to do it. Making her the comic relief character was a great choice. She’s not in your face with jokes, she’s just funny because of her mannerisms and childish nature. She is also infected with the cogito virus, but despite this she never becomes violent for some reason. If anything, she’s the happiest being in this show, and I really liked her.

Vincent has two sides to him. On one hand, he can be pretty fun-loving, especially when playing with Pino. On the other hand he’s played by Liam O’Brien, one of the most emo-typecast VA’s in existence alongside Sasuke himself, Yuri Lowenthal, who also has a role here as the creepy Daedalus (and yes, the symbolism with him is exactly what you’d expect). He laments, monologues, philosophizes and makes speeches like there’s no tomorrow. And hell, there might not be—oh oops, spoilers.

Re-L, and yeah that’s her name, pronounced Ree-El, is a bit harder to like for most of the series. On one hand she’s an awesome, kickass, strong, smart and resilient female lead who will find the answers to these mysteries no matter what. On the other hand, she kinda falls victim to the trope of ‘strong female lead? Better make her a complete spoiled bitch!’ Thankfully she starts getting better in this regard, but she did grate on my nerves a little.

The actual answers as to what the proxies are and what its connections to, well, pretty much everything was actually a lot more inventive and surprising than I ever anticipated. I never saw it coming anyway. I first thought they were failed attempts at genetically engineered humans or something and Creed was trying to rule the world or end it, but it’s a lot bigger and more complicated than that.

As a final note, the ending delivers pretty damn well. It’s a bit much to take in all at once, especially since the regent basically dumps a huge load of exposition near the end, but it actually creates a satisfying ending, which is far more than I can say for many anime.

Art and Animation: This part has me torn. A part of me wants to make sweet love down by the fire with the art and animation done so wonderfully in both 2D traditional and CGI by Manglobe, producer of such series as Samurai Champloo and Deadman Wonderland. However, another part of me wants to punch whoever was in charge of quality control in regards to the characters faces because there are way too many moments where the faces look so off and awkward that a couple of them are nearly laughable. I believe the good outweighs the bad by far, but it’s still so distracting when you have such a stylish and appealing art design coupled with amazing animation only to have derpy faces on occasion…

Music: I love the OP. In fact, I’d say it’s now one of my favorite OP’s ever. The BG music is very nice and the ED is also decent, but I ended up skipping it most of the time.

Voice Acting: English Dub – I believe everyone was very well-cast for this show. The acting was very good, the voices fit and besides a few touchy moments with Re-L’s voice actress, Megan Hollingstead, it was a great dub.

Bottomline: The constant dark tone, slower pacing in the middle as well as some jarring shifts in tone and even time and place can be a little trying to deal with, but it’s still an incredibly interesting story with great characters. I can’t bring myself to say it’s a masterpiece, but I’d gladly watch it again both for enjoyment value and to learn more about the psychological and philosophical aspects.

Additional Information and Notes: Ergo Proxy was directed by Shuko Mirase, who also directed Witch Hunter Robin and Gangsta. It was written by Dai Sato, who has written scripts for Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Wolf’s Rain and Samurai Champloo. It was produced by Manglobe and is currently licensed in North America by Funimation.

Year: 2006

Episode: 23

Recommended Audience: No nudity or sex, some swearing, quite a bit of blood and some amounts of gore. The biggest moment of gore being near the end, but coming in close second was a shot of a baby dying from its carriage falling down an escalator. No real gore there either, but there is a big puddle of blood, so thought I’d warn you there either way. The heavy tone and subject matter is already enough to refute a recommendation to kids anyway. 14+