Episode One-derland: Mister Ajikko

Plot: Youichi has a great passion for cooking, and is the beloved chef at his mother’s diner. The emperor of the culinary world, Aijou, visits his restaurant with his secretary, Tareme. Youichi had a previous bad run-in with Tareme before and he scoffs at the idea that this child can create any food worthy or Aijou’s palette or any good food period.

Youichi, known as ‘Ajikko’ or ‘child who makes good food’, accepts the challenge of making a good tasting dish for Aijou, even without knowing who he really is. As a testament to his faith in his craft, he puts up the restaurant’s sign as a wager if he loses, subsequently also putting the restaurant’s honor at stake. He makes Aijou his newest dish, a super thick Katsudon.

Though Aijou and Tareme both think this is impossible to make since either of the traditional cooking styles results in either undercooking or burning the meat, Youichi manages to make a delicious and properly cooked super thick katsudon, much to the delight of Aijou who leaves him with his business card and invites him to the Aijou building, a place filled with culinary knowledge and techniques and where only the best chefs are invited.

Breakdown: Ah, yet another ‘Child prodigy’ story. And really that’s pretty much all this is so far. Apparently this series was so influential that it inspired the creation of Iron Chef and helped spawn the whole competitive cooking craze, but this episode is pretty cut and dry ‘kid is insanely awesome at (enter topic here)’

Aijou is a pretty good character. He comes off as extremely abrasive and strict at first, but he’s also very fair, gives credit for anything he likes about a chef’s technique or abilities, fully recognizes and encourages talent that he sees and respects anyone with a true passion for cooking—Holy shit, it’s Gordon Ramsey’s Japanese fictional grandpa.

Tareme is annoying, but then again he’s meant to be.

Youichi is very much typical at this point. He has a great love of cooking, and obtained his skills my imitating his father, a great chef who passed away at some point. He also seems to have plenty of imagination in his cooking and has a great pride in anything he makes. Interesting, despite being honored by Aijou’s invitation, he doesn’t seem to be compelled to leave his family diner and try to be ‘the best (enter profession here)’ like many other child prodigy stories. He’s perfectly fine cooking what he likes to cook at his mother’s restaurant.

However, in the next episode he goes to Aijou’s place anyway so how much of that sticks, I don’t know.

This episode does a pretty good job at laying the ground work for our characters and setting up the bare bones of the plot. Even moderate side characters like Mitsuko, seeming romantic interest, and Shigeru, Mitsuko’s annoying little brother.

The art is a classic style, which I adore, and the animation is surprisingly pretty darn good for such an old title. The music is also very catchy, though slightly stuck in the 80s.

All in all,

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If you have a passion for cooking or just appreciate watching someone explore their own passions, this seems like a pretty good watch so far. Be warned, though, that this show debuted in 1987 so if you’re not into older titles you may be a bit put off by this. It really shouldn’t be a deciding factor, though.

At 99 episodes, I may end up reviewing this one episode by episode. We’ll see.

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable. E for everyone!

Episode One-Derland – Mado King Granzort

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Plot: In the year 2050, astronauts uncovered an odd dark being that, when revealed, suddenly gave the moon an atmosphere, air and earth-like gravity levels. 50 years later, a boy named Daichi goes on a trip to the moon to spend the summer. He hears of sightings of a strange rabbit man and believes he’s found the being when he finds a little girl with rabbit ears and the ability to teleport called Guri Guri. He accidentally falls into Guri Guri’s house where he sees all sorts of magical items and meets Guri Guri’s aunt, V-Mei, who claims they’re of the long ear race.

He assembles three weapons for them and V-Mei reveals that the weapons are magical weapons used to combat the evil monsters threatening their land. When she senses magical power within Daichi, she sees one of the weapons, a magical gun, react to his presence. Utilizing the power of the magical weapon, Daichi calls upon the mech, Granzort, the mado king of earth, to fight black mats, evil robots, who suddenly appear.

Breakdown: The first part of this episode puts it on real shaky ground for me. There are so many things that either don’t make sense, are annoying or are annoyingly weird. First off, giving the moon an atmosphere, air and earth-like gravity makes it basically a clone of earth? Lush landscapes, clouds, blue skies, bodies of water etc. And people live and travel there willy nilly? Especially given only a fifty year time frame? Sure.

Second, Guri Guri is bound to get insanely irritating. And her face….It’s like someone injected a baby’s face with panda hugs and candy kisses. She’s way too cute, and not in a good way. It’s doesn’t help that she’s a little too young to really be endearing. Usually young cutesy characters are like six or seven. She’s like two or three.

Third, the entire process of the mech thing is just nonsensical, and it basically boils down every magical gir—boy plot and mixes it with a mech design. Main character’s a good guy with hidden magical abilities, obviously gets red as his color, and finds he’s destined to be a hero against evil. He’s an inquisitive, smart, excitable, slightly clumsy, heroic young lad, because of course he is.

This intro gives both a good yet a terrible introduction to the series as a whole. It introduces Daichi, Guri Guri and V-Mei just fine and it kinda establishes the mech thing, but where the hell did it come from? Why is it called from a magic gun? Why does the magic gun only shoot a badge? Why are the three magical weapons a gun, bow and a top? The top just seems really out of place. I don’t care if it’s a legit weapon – one of these things is not like the others.

Who are the evil guys? Why are they evil? What do they want? Why did they wait 50 years before doing anything? Did they wait until the main character arrived? What are long-ears? Have they been living on the moon this whole time? Why? How has no one really caught a decent glimpse of them or caught them considering Guri Guri is roaming public areas and teleporting like nothing? They have carrots? How? The soil on the moon can’t even grow weeds. Why does the music from Daichi’s music box make the weapon pieces turn colors? What does music have to do with weapons and mechs?

All that aside….yeah, it’s tickling that soft spot on my heart. Old series about magical g—boys and mechs? Sign me up! I don’t care if nothing’s making sense, you’re having fun with it and I am too.

Art and animation-wise, it’s old and it’s odd. It’s clunky in the animation department sometimes, but nothing too bad. The art has that dated 90’s feel, though Daichi’s head is just way too friggin’ big.

In the music department, it’s pretty good. I especially like the OP. It’s some catchy stuff.

Final Verdict:

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I can’t help it. It’s not a masterpiece of writing by any means, but dammit if you like mechs, magical girl boy shows and nostalgic anime, then this is a fine watch. If not, feel free to walk away after episode one. I don’t think you’d be missing anything.

Recommended Audience: Nothing questionable so far. E for everyone!

Episode One-Derland: Fantasista Dolls

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Plot: Uzume is a former card tournament champion who has recently entered middle school. On the train to school one day, she feels her bag being jossled, but is surprised to find nothing missing. Instead, she finds someone has actually placed a weird card reader in her bag. At school, she panics since she believes someone is after her, and she hears a voice asking to sign an entry form in order to gain the voice’s assistance against the threat. She agrees, and a girl named Sasara emerges. Sasara is a fantasista doll; a virtual being with various powers based on equipment. She, as well as the equipment, are kept in cards until they’re called upon by their master; and Uzume is now Sasara’s master.

Uzume gets attacked by a fellow student who also has a fantasista doll and is apparently after one of the cards in her possession. Once Sasara is properly equipped, she manages to defeat her. Later, Sasara introduces to the other fantasista dolls in Uzume’s possession; Madeleine, Katia, Shimeji and Akari. She agrees to help protect them and be a proper master, even if she has a lot to learn about what that really means. Uzume suddenly gets a call from a strange man with a monocle and a suit, named Lord Rafflesia, who gives her a bunch of flowers and reveals he was the one who gave her the dolls. He wants her to become a card master and ‘become that which is like a dream’.

Breakdown: I’m going to describe this show the best way that I can. It’s a monster battling, gaming, magical girl anime. There. That sums it up.

I can’t really make good heads or tails of this as an intro. Uzume is a former card champion, but of what card game we’re never told. Someone mentions a game called Magic: To Gather, which might either be a translation error or a direct reference to Magic: The Gathering. Either way, we’re not really told what game she used to play nor how to play it.

As for her personality, she’s nice enough and a little on the dense side, but she’s also pretty whiny and a bit of a fraidy cat. Seriously, she ran screaming and hid only to take lengthy orders, which amount to a contract, with a strange voice in her head that promises to protect her is because she heard a noise while changing in the locker room and felt someone pat her back. Instead of turning around to see who it was after maybe having a brief freakout, she instead just bolts through the school without looking back and hides in the closet.

Sasara is a bit rough, but seems to mean well enough.

We learn absolutely nothing about her enemy nor her fantasista doll, and we also don’t really learn any real character traits of the other four dolls outside of their clear stereotyped personality traits such as big boobed responsible one, loli and goth loli.

Plus, Lord Rafflesia could not be more Tuxedo Mask-ish. Not only does he have the same mannerisms, flowery speech and pose of Tuxedo Mask, but he also uses flowers quite a bit and practically has Tuxedo Mask’s theme song. Listen to it and call me crazy.

We kinda learn how the battles with the fantasista dolls work. You summon a doll from a card and modify them by equipping them with fashionable outfits that grant them various powers. For instance, the enemy fantasista doll used shuriken while Sasara’s gave her powerful fencing abilities.

When a doll is defeated, you get a card from them that gives the card master various powers. For instance, Uzume’s won card was a repair card which, conveniently, allowed her to fix everything the dolls broke during their battle.

I will admit, having a group of people fight for you instead of a bunch of monsters is interesting, even if the fanservice-y outfits being the equipment is a little meh. Plus, I’m a sucker for both magical girl anime and gaming anime, so this is basically designed to force me into watching it.

I pretty much enjoyed the first episode, but I will admit it did somewhat of a sloppy job setting up the plot and ‘game’.

Art and animation-wise, it’s very generic shoujo style art, though it is pretty detailed. The animation is pretty good as well.

Music wise, this was a weak spot for me. The OP and ED are as generic as they come and the BG music was completely unmemorable.

Final verdict:

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This will probably be a short shoujo step-by-step given the subject matter, but it seems like it’s worth a look-see if you want a girlier gaming anime or a magical girl show with a gaming slant.

Recommended Audience: The girls default outfits don’t leave much to the imagination and there’s a couple panty shots. There’s a tiny bit of blood, but it’s just a scratch. 6+

Episode One-Derland: Cosmic Baton Girl Comet-San

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Plot: Comet is the princess of Harmonica star-world of the Triangle Nebula; one of three star-worlds, the other two being Castanet and Tambourine. In order to secure the future of their worlds, the kingdoms hope to bring Comet together with the prince of Tambourine star-world. However, on the day of the dance party in which they were supposed to meet, the prince runs away.

Comet’s parents send her on a mission to earth, where they believe he is heading, to find the prince, even in spite of not knowing his name or what he looks like. Comet, intrigued by the concept of an adventure on earth, a planet on which her mother had various adventures, agrees, but soon finds herself unable to do much without money and suffering from the culture gap. To top it all off, she is having no luck so far in finding the prince even with her companion, a small dog creature named Rababou who is able to detect the ‘twinkle’ she’s meant to be guided by.

She meets two kind twins, a boy named Tsuyoshi and a girl named Nene, who find her to be a troubled girl and decide to lend their assistance to her. In her most desperate hour, homeless, penniless and hungry, Nene and Tsuyoshi lead their mother to Comet who inquires about her situation.

Breakdown: Yay, magical girl anime! But it’s not really traditional magical girl. It’s moreso just a girl with magical powers and nifty cutesy outfits.

This episode did a good job of introducing us to Comet as well as the main plot and world they live in, but the episode as a whole feels a little hollow.

Comet is pretty par for the course so far. She’s a rebel in not really being interested in her princessly duties and is more enamored with the concept of adventure and exploring as well as possibly falling in love. She seems to have a good attitude, but she’s still a little naive, both with and without culture gaps.

The whole ‘star-world’ thing is pretty plain so far too. It’s basically every other royalty set up just with star-worlds and nebulas in place of countries. I don’t know why these places are named after musical instruments, either.

The fish out of water story is nothing to write home about. She plays on a playground at a kindergarten because she doesn’t know any better. She tries to get food without money. She mimics an American’s weird and rude sounding Japanese (by the by, this guy is like 30 and was taking a picture of her as she woke up in the park…..) and she believes she can sleep anywhere.

The only part of this that really works is when she realizes that she doesn’t really always have the open line of communication with her parents that she thought she had. They gave her some sort of ball that is meant to log her happy memories on her adventure, and they told her whenever she felt scared or alone to look to the stars as they’d always be able to see her. But as she’s stuck homeless out in the rain without much food, she looks to the sky to see nothing but clouds. Her mother actually gets a signal on her little ball thing that conveys troubled feelings by Comet, but she decides not to act on it since the signal seems minor and she wants Comet to learn about the twinkle of light that is always visible on earth, hope, which is when Nene and Tsuyoshi’s mom shows up.

But, I gotta say….that’s a pretty bitch move, Comet’s mom. Actually, this whole journey is a bitch move. They send her to earth instead of sending somewhere else or going themselves because they hope that Comet traveling across the galaxy for a boy she’s never met in order to drag him back home will make him fall in love with her.

That’s all fine and dandy because they don’t force her to go, she goes on her own volition when she remembers her mother recalling her adventures on earth, including falling in love. But they didn’t even bother giving her any money or telling her anything about earth in order to fit in. They just gave her regular clothes, taught her a few words of Japanese, which is weird considering she’s speaking Japanese the whole time, so when she switches to ‘I’m just now learning Japanese’ mode it becomes confusing, and sent her on her way.

Granted, yes, she has magic powers that can do….pbbbbbtttttt…..anything? There is never any explanation about what her powers are or what they do. They do stuff like create rocket boots and make her one dumpling to eat so far. All I got is that she has a finite amount of star power considering that she says she was saving it up. What star power is and how you accumulate it, I don’t know. But since it seems like she’s low on star power near the end for some reason, all she can do is make a dumpling to eat.

Nene and Tsuyoshi are very kind kids, but their manner of speech is a little annoying. They tend to repeat the other’s words and speak in third person.

There’s someone else I feel I should bring up named Meteo. She’s the princess of Castanet star-world. Even though she has barely two lines in this episode, from the next episode preview and her short screen time here, it seems like she’ll be the antagonist, at least for a short while, sabotaging Comet’s pursuit of the prince in hopes of getting him for herself, so there will be legit conflict in the future. Also, I assume her name’s derived from the word meteor.

The one thing that kinda drags the whole show down is that the series doesn’t really give a legit reason to care about Comet’s mission. We never see the prince, they have no connection, the Triangle nebula’s not in danger of war or anything should the Tambourine and Harmonica star-worlds not unite, at least from all I know, so why is the mission so important?

Art and animation wise, it’s pretty average magical girl fare. Simplistic designs with a lot of girly additions and pastel colors. Comet’s hair is kinda weird, but I love what they did with her star hair clip. They styled the hair that it’s holding up into the star’s tail to make a comet. I thought that was neat.

Music-wise……eh. It’s average bordering on bad. It’s very poppy and girly and absolutely none of it is memorable.

In the voice acting department, Japanese, everyone was pretty good in their roles with the bearded guy whose name escapes me doing a particularly good job. However, Comet’s mom sounds downright terrible. Her voice is just so weird and low pitched that it kinda put me off.

Final verdict:

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Despite these gripes, it’s a magical girl anime. I can’t resist. It’s not really that bad of an opening episode, but there’s not really a whole lot to leave you thirsty for more. Shoujo Step-By-Step, here I come.

Recommended Audience: Beheadings, graphic sex scenes, swearing like a sailor—….if you think I’m serious, please seek help. E for everyone.

Episode One-Derland: Magi-Nation

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Plot: The forces of good and evil clashed in the moonlands over 3000 years ago. A shadow magi named Agram battled a noble magi named Eidon. In an effort to save the world, Eidon sealed Agram away in the Core Glyph, summoned by the Book of Elders. Peace fell over the land for thousands of years until Agram made his presence known again with his goons in tow.

Edyn, a young magi, believes herself to be the prophesied ‘final dreamer’; the only one who can read the Book of Elders and seal away Agram again to save the world. However, despite the fact that she can read the book, she finds that the book leads her to finding a boy from our world named Tony. He is summoned into the moonlands by Orwin, the elder of the land, and finds himself able to summon a dream creature of his own with a ring his grandfather gave him. Together, Edyn, Tony and a shadow stalker named Strag team up to beat Agram’s toadies. As they leave, they find that the Book of Elders reacts to all three of them, indicating that they’re all final dreamers.

Breakdown: Mmmmmmmmpbbbbbttttttmeeeehhhhhhhhhh….That about sums it up.

This show is basically every fantasy cliché in existence wrapped up into one and peppered with a Pokemon-ish/Digimon-ish system. It’s like they were using ad-libs fantasy edition. Did any of that plot synopsis, outside of maybe the dream creature thing, even remotely interest you? From the battle of good and evil, the ‘chosen one’ crap, destiny, fish out of water, ancient mystic book, hero from legend blah blah blah.

I had to actually look up the Wiki page for this episode because I was constantly forgetting names and details. Even when I was writing, I kept forgetting.

Now, that’s not to say this show is that bad. I had no problem sitting down and watching it. It wasn’t a chore. However, if you gauge a show with how entertaining and original it is, then it’s pretty bad.

Despite the cliché as hell story and overall plot mixed with elements that bring nothing new to the table, the characters are alright and no one got on my nerves…….but no one stood out either. Edyn’s kinda headstrong, though she has an odd penchant for panic attacks that seem to vanish by the second act. Strag is a spiritual stoic ‘knight’ kinda guy who seems to love being outdoors. And finally Tony is a pretty, athletic and generic boy who probably gets better powers meant to be the one the kids in the audience can pretend they are.

Agram is about as cut and paste as you can possibly get, and not even Orwin or Eidon brought attention to themselves. Everyone is exactly as you’d expect them to be. Hell, Agram’s goons? They’re a bickering goblin creature and a troll-like creature.

As a first episode, this is a mixed bag. It does an alright job of explaining the backstory and some technical aspects of the world they live in, but it doesn’t explain much about magic or dream creatures.

Each magi can summon dream creatures from a dream plane, and I suppose each dream creature….is something the magi imagined up? I don’t know. All I know is that they’re various creatures, who all talk, that get summoned by rocks and returned back into the rocks when they’re too weak to continue. The rock aspect is the Pokemon thing, the talking partner aspect is the Digimon thing. And hell, if I want to go even further with that, if the dream creatures really are imagined by the magi, they kinda ripped of Takato from Digimon Tamers.

That being said, the dream creatures are the only interesting part of this series, which makes sense because this entire series was based on a TCG. We have to have the only marketable part of the series be somewhere near good. The character designs and abilities are somewhat interesting, even if some of them seem kinda lame like merely tackling or body slamming people or rip-offy, like Ugger’s roots seem a bit much like Vine Whip in Pokemon.

While magi can summon various dream creatures, each magi has their primary one; Ugger is Edyn’s, Freep is Strag’s and Furok is Tony’s.

I haven’t played the TCG, I haven’t played the video games, and I’m not going to make assumptions about them, but this first episode is just weak. I really hope there’s a lot more meat to this show because as it stands it’s about as generic as you can get. I will admit I liked how they hinted that Edyn and Strag were also final dreamers by showing Edyn reading the book and Strag reading it through his moon sense, but that’s about it. I also believe the dream creature battles will get more creative and interesting, but I just could not care enough to go on. I waded through this episode really trying to get my hooks into something but nothing would grab my eye balls.

The art is simplistic but not bad, same for the animation. Sadly, the music is also just middle of the road.

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Recommended Audience: The worst thing that happens is that Furok gets slashed on the nose by a clawed creature. However, there’s no wound and he only musses his fur…….4Kids’ Pokemon is edging you out in violent material. That’s not good. E for everyone.

Episode One-Derland – One Outs

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Plot: Kojima is an all-star professional cleanup batter who has won many awards for his achievements in baseball. However, one achievement still alludes him; a championship victory. In an effort to make this year the year that they finally win a championship, Kojima has brought his team to an off-season baseball camp in order to pinpoint their problem areas and address them. When his pitcher, Nakane, injures his finger in practice, he and another member of the team go out to find a replacement pitcher to help Kojima and the team practice. They find no luck on the streets but a woman leads them away to a batting cage where a bunch of guys are playing a game called One Outs. In this game, bystanders bet on either the pitcher or the batter. The pitcher wins if he manages to strike out the batter or if their hits land within the infield. The batter wins if they manage to hit one ball in the outfield or further.

Nakane makes a few minor bets for a few rounds, resulting in what he believes to be 4000 yen, slightly less than $40 USD. However, he fails to realize that the bets are in American dollars, meaning that he owes $4000. Believing that he can beat the pitcher, Toua, that has been up for the entirety of their betting string, Nakane bets that his debts be erased if he can beat him. However, Toua wishes to up the stakes of their bet from $4000 to $40,000. Nakane accepts, but under the pressure of such a high financial stake and realizing that there’s more to Toua’s skills that meets the eye, fails. They give them everything they have in their pockets, including credit cards, and are forced to leave with the remaining debt over their heads.

The next night, Kojima arrives at the One Outs game to call Toua out in order to erase the remaining debt. However, Toua again wishes to make the bet more interesting since Kojima’s such a professional player. This time the bet is $400,000. Kojima accepts and the game begins……

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Breakdown: I hate baseball. And this isn’t just the typical moanings of someone who doesn’t like sports entirely. I like hockey and soccer and I’m pretty okay with watching football and even basketball, but baseball is just horrible to me. There are no redeeming aspects of it in my eyes. It’s boring on top of boring slathered in boring and goes on for so long you have to think some of the players believe they’re stuck in baseball purgatory. You could not pay me to sit through a game of baseball unless I’m allowed to sleep through the whole thing.

With that out of the way, the baseball aspect of this first episode really is the most trying for me. Especially considering that I didn’t get half of the terms. Luckily, fansubbers are awesome and add notes for that crap. ~~kisses2fansubbers~~

Other than that, though, it’s an interesting enough sports anime. Our main character is incredibly passionate about baseball to the point where he even states that it’s sacred to him. And you can definitely tell that even those who don’t outwardly appear as passionate about the game as Kojima are still immersed in it fully……I can’t relate, but I still understand. It’s so weird how I can relate to and understand a show where the main focus is a game based on poetry that I’ve never heard of or played better than one based on America’s past time…

Toua is interesting. He’s a bit too good to the point that it worries me. By all means, the characters point out how weak his pitches are yet no one can get a damn hit off of him. Plus he’s one of those quiet yet obviously cocky types that irk you the wrong way.

Nakane’s a moron. He means well in trying to find a replacement pitcher, but putting all those bets down on the batter because ‘he has to win eventually’ and not clarifying if the bets were in Yen or dollars when a lot of the players at the game are seemingly American? Come on. Also, he’s not really dumb for taking on Toua despite seeing him win all those times since he states that he was a cleanup batter on his high school team, but he’s still a pitcher, meaning his batting game has to be rusty, and he’s seen how good Toua is.

There’s another character with glasses whose name escapes me and I can’t find listed anywhere who basically tries to reel in Nakane and makes hindsight observations. He was fine, but I guess he’s not going to be very prominent in the future.

One thing that bothered me a bit was the narrator. He’s one of those busybody narrators who cuts into the story to tell us stuff about the story like backstory, primary goals of the plot, what’s going on in a montage, recapping stuff we just saw etc. Guys, it’s show don’t tell. Even if it’s not one of the characters doing this, it’s really friggin’ annoying. He pops up all the time and won’t shut up. It really breaks up the flow of the episode.

The story is not all that great so far. Big time star is training to win a championship and needs a replacement player with an incredible one found just around the corner mixed with a plot where characters are swindled out of money and need the main character to clean up their mess (well, I guess he is the cleanup batter.) The only seriously interesting part is wondering whether Kojima can beat Toua but since the episode ends before the game even starts, the rug gets pulled out from under you there.

The art and animation, done by Madhouse, are….okay. Most of the character art is good, if not somewhat ugly. Toua’s hair is cool, but his eyes are freaky and his body is almost grotesquely detailed and skinny. That part in the OP where you see him nearly naked is more worrying than attractive. Why he’s nearly naked in the opening, I do not know. I’m almost certain you usually wear clothes in baseball.

The animation is alright, but I don’t believe it’s some of Madhouse’s better works.

The music is fantastic, with part notes to the awesome OP done by Pay Money to my Pain.

Overall,

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This was nearly an ‘undecided’ but I think the characters could be strong enough to support this show even in spite of the baseball snoozefest, and despite not liking baseball I do have a soft spot for sports anime.

Recommended Audience: Toua is nearly naked in the opening. That’s pretty much it. E for everyone?

Episode One-Derland: Yosuga no Sora

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Plot: Sora and Haru are twins whose parents just recently passed away. They decide to sell their apartment and go back to their old house back in a very small town in the country. Every female, including his sister, wants to ride Haru’s meat wagon, and that’s pretty much all you need to know.

Breakdown: “But FiddleTwix, you said you hate harems and actively try to avoid them!” you yell through your computer screen. Oh yes, yes I do. But I also have a problem with reading terrible reviews on anime. On one hand, I give some of these shows a shot just to see if they have earned some form of redemption in my eyes. On the other hand, boy is it fun to watch terrible anime and then tear it a new one.

My first glimpse into this was through THEM anime reviews who basically said it was crappy soft-core hentai and left it at a one paragraph review amounting the show to being less enjoyable to merely watching 12 episodes of blank screen. Now that is something to spur my interest.

So I got around to watching the first episode and just from this episode alone I can see all sorts of problems.

First of all, there’s no story so far. Yup. One whole episode and no story outside of the plot synopsis I just gave you, and that information is only given to us in the middle of the episode. Narrative story flow? What’s that?

Want me to give you a full synopsis of the entire episode? Okay. Sora and Haru arrive in the town, grocery shop, greet the neighbors, Haru goes to school (Sora can’t because she suffers from ‘wtfistheresomethinginthewaterinJapanincrediblyweakyetgivennodiagnosis-itis’ And believe it or not, Haru actually describes her problem as ‘She’s weak and whatnot.’ Thanks Doctor.), we find out that Haru and Sora kissed when they were like ten (And I mean, legit kissed, not a little peck), Sora gets mad that he was late coming home, everyone with a vagina pervs on Haru and we end the episode with Sora imagining Haru about to French her as an apology for forgetting his phone at home with the episode-ending ‘cliffhanger’ being a horny Sora taking off her clothes at Haru’s bed propositioning him for sex.

Yep, that’s it.

Second, the other characters. There are several other characters introduced here, all of which being girls because duh. I can at least give most other harems some slack for usually taking time with the interactions with the main male lead and not flying head first into ‘Every girl needs to change her panties at the sight of him’ stuff. This show, oh god, no. Every girl, and I mean every single one, coming to a grand total of six, so far, is lusting after Haru like this is an all-girl’s school built on an aphrodisiac factory immediately after catching sight of him.

Okay, not all of them are really lusting after him at this point, but most of them are, and the ones who haven’t gotten to the point of causing moisture damage to their desk chairs whenever his name is brought up very clearly have a gigantic crush on him just by glancing at his perfect face.

Because of this, they have to give a car crash of introductions to make sure that fans of every route get a little taste of their lust for him before the episode’s over. Did I say ‘route’? Why, that would indicate that this is based on an H-game. Boy howdy, a crappy softcore hentai harem anime based off of an H-game. That never happens!

While we do get little tidbits into the personalities of each girl, I honestly couldn’t keep up enough to even get their names partway memorized. It takes some kind of talent to make the audience have difficulty keeping up with a show that has absolutely no story so far.

The only two you really need to worry about at this point are Sora and Haru. How do they fare as characters?

Well, Haru’s fine. He’s….perfect. He’s kind, smart, caring, very responsible, sociable, hard working, overall very happy, a teenage Adonis with the light and breezes of heaven following him around in case a girl gawks at him—he’s a Gary Stu. There ya go. If there’s one negative character trait that I’ve been able to squeeze out of him so far is a very common one of Gary Stus….he’s a doormat. Otherwise known as the ‘my only flaw is that I’m too nice’ flaw.

Sora, on the other hand, is a completely unlikable little twat. It seems like they’re trying for the tsundere trope with her, but she is just a complete little grumpy bitch. Yeah, I understand that their parents died…some time ago, but she never seems to think about them nor bring them up; all of her thoughts are wet dreams about Haru.

The only way they seem to be gunning for even remotely tsundere-like qualities in regards to the other half of the equation is that when Sora is done being a bitch, she grabs onto Haru’s shirt with a few fingers. This in combination with her clinging to her stuffed rabbit and the fact that her alternate hairstyle is pigtails pretty much establish her as a loli trope above all else. Did I mention she’s 16?

She’s entitled, she likes absolutely nothing but junk food, the Internet and Haru, she rarely smiles, she’s jealous of every girl who comes near Haru, she’s very abrasive and bossy taking stuff that doesn’t belong to her with a snide remark and wasting their measly grocery budget on junk food (Gee, I wonder why she’s so weak.) and she’s just plain creepy with how horny she is for her twin brother. That ending scene I mentioned? She’s not even sweetly or shyly asking Haru to ‘make love’ to her or anything. She is repeatedly asking him in a creepy voice to make her orgasm while she strips.

And let me make it clear that while the target of her affections being her brother does make the situation squickier, the way she acts would be creepy with anyone.

You like Haru because the show kinda forces you to, especially giving him the bonus sympathy angle of being an orphan, but the only other really prominent main character is so hate-worthy that you can’t stand watching any scene with her. The other girls are annoying in their own rights, mostly with their crushes on Haru, but their scenes with him are way more tolerable than any scene with her.

Oh yeah, there’s a chibi-comedy rehash of an early scene as a pre-end-credits scene in which one of the girls, lonely (apparently going to a singles group when she’s still in high school….) and recently catching a glimpse of sex incarnate himself goes home to have a completely necessary masturbation scene. Yup.

The art, animation and music are really the only saving graces so far, and even that’s not fantastic. Some of the design choices are questionable, such as making some of the characters look too thin and sometimes having odd faces, but it’s overall pretty decent. The backgrounds are really well detailed and the environments, while not being particularly memorable, are well designed.

Final verdict?

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Okay, I’m cheating. This decision is really for your own sake. I’ll be continuing it just to see how far the rabbit hole really goes…..I’m regretting that choice of words immediately. But yeah, it’s really not worth a look at all unless you have a thing for incest or smacking around bad anime.

Recommended Audience: Considering this show is considered a soft-core hentai and basing from this episode alone, I can say with certainty that this show is definitely for ‘mature’ audiences. In the first episode we have several instances of near incest with one incestuous kiss, one instance of non-sexual nudity and one instance of partial nudity taking place in a masturbation scene. 17+

Episode One-Derland: Chihayafuru

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Plot: Chihaya is the younger sister of a famous and gorgeous model, and while she has become a beautiful young woman in her own right, she is known as a wasted beauty in school since she is tomboyish, naive, blunt and obsessed with Karuta, a card game based on poetry. She has loved the game for years and tries desperately to get people to play with her like she and her friends Taichi and Ayata used to when they were kids. However, not many people play, Taichi seems uninterested and Ayata no longer goes to the same school or communicates with Chihaya often. Despite all of this, she is still determined to keep the game not just alive but thriving.

Breakdown: Wow, this was probably the best entry in Episode One-Derland so far. This anime not only does a fantastic job of establishing the main plot as well as the characters, but it also explores why Chihaya is so ecstatic about the game and why it means so much to her.

In just this one episode, we connect strongly with all three characters, even the abrasive Taichi who, while seeming like a jerk in the flashback, acts very much like a believable guy with a crush on his good friend.

But the real highlight of the episode is the game between Ayata and Chihaya. Ayata is an outcast at school due to his odd manner of speech, quiet nature and the fact that he’s fairly poor. Chihaya, being the kindhearted individual that she is, wonders why everyone seems to be making an effort to be mean to him when he’s done nothing wrong. That and the fact that he has a job and an incredible memory intrigue Chihaya to him, leading him to inviting her to his house after they both get soaked in the rain thanks to Taichi. He reveals that he loves the game of karuta, but not many people play the game in Tokyo unlike his hometown. His dream is to be the best karuta player in the world.

He mostly plays by himself with a tape player helping recite the verses necessary to play, and he has trained to be a fantastic player, swiping away cards so swiftly that they end up getting imbedded in the wall several times. Chihaya is not familiar with the game and has only memorized half of the poems that the game focuses on, making her fall far behind very quickly until she realizes that she has a chance to get at least one card that she knows fairly well, which she achieves in doing.

While the game was horribly one-sided, Chihaya and Ayata both have a great time with the game and Ayata commends her for being able to take even one card away from him. Chihaya ends up more excited than ever since she has been able to crack Ayata’s shell and catch a glimpse of his passion, allowing her to finally make a dream that is for herself.

One of the best things about this episode is that it really does capture passion for a particular activity perfectly. This showcases two sides of a coin – someone who is incredibly good at the activity and someone who is new and not that good. Ayata has a great love of the game simply because it means a lot to him and because he has such a good time playing it, even by himself. While he does compete in it and is incredibly good, it really seems like his passion flows purely from the game itself and not simply striving to be the best.

With Chihaya, she has never played the game before and has only memorized half of the poems for the game. Note that the game involves swiping away cards with parts of a poem verse when the start of the same poem is recited by the reader, or in this case a tape. In order to be really good at the game, you need to fully memorize all 100 poems. Despite this, she is amazed by Ayata’s moves and gets psyched when she is simply able to take one card from him, despite the complete loss either way. True enjoyment even in the face of utter defeat is also a root of passion.

Finally, making a strong connection with someone because of a passion makes the activity more enjoyable and creates bonds that much stronger. I can see why current day Chihaya is so bummed that her efforts to revive karuta completely fail, even when Taichi shows up at her school. She still holds onto that great passion for the game, but feels alone in her passion, much like Ayata used to when they were kids.

I really like both Chihaya and Ayata as characters. They hooked me in with one of the best character and friendship/relationship budding scenes I’ve seen in ages, and while Taichi might take a while to warm up to, he was also relatable and tugged at the heartstrings a little bit since it’s obvious that he never got over his crush of Chihaya, yet can’t bring himself to admit it to Chihaya, especially since she still seems somewhat hung up on Ayata. I don’t know how current day Ayata is personality-wise, but right now I’m really pushing for Chihaya and Ayata to get together.

The art and animation are simply beautiful with believable and memorable character designs as well as beautifully detailed environments. The music is just alright, which might be the only weak spot in this show so far.

If it wasn’t obvious enough;

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I’ve heard great things about this show and I can’t wait to continue it. It’s not your typical ‘gaming’ anime, if it even qualifies for such a thing, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Recommended Audience: Other than some bullying, there’s nothing questionable so far. E for everyone.

Episode One-Derland: Guilty Crown

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Plot: The year is 2039 and Japan has been crippled by an outbreak of a mysterious virus. A boy named Shu tries to live his life normally, but typically has problems socializing and connecting with people. He stumbles upon a girl named Inori who is injured, barely says a word and is trying desperately to protect a small robot and bring it to a man named Gai. Shu fails to protect her from being captured by the government organization called GHQ who take her in as a terrorist. He takes it upon himself to bring the small robot to Gai to finish what she started. As he brings the robot to Gai, he and his group are attacked by mechs and Shu is reunited with Inori only to find that he possesses the power to pull a powerful sword from her body that helps them take down the enemy.

Breakdown: This series doesn’t have a good reputation it seems. THEM anime reviews says it barely passes for mediocre since it doesn’t do much to stray from the typical post-apocalyptic norm and I’ve seen several other people say it’s, at best, fun garbage.

Ouch.

Well, what did I think of its first endeavor?

Once you get over how pretty it is, and it really is pretty……..It’s fine. Story-wise, yeah I can see how it doesn’t stray too much from the norm. Shu is basically a Gary Stu at this point. He’s a socially awkward yet perfectly normal looking guy who suddenly discovers he’s awesome and gets to use super cool new powers that he rips from a hot chick’s chest, something I will have to address in a minute. There’s nothing really wrong with him, but he really seems like Shu Everyman.

Inori is also okay so far. She starts off pretty brave in the opening, and she seems determined, strong and honorable. When she meets Shu, however, she basically turns infantile and stupidly throws herself at the enemy when there’s no guarantee Shu would’ve given in or the robot would’ve been protected.

Gai is a bishie badass with a stone face and Tsugumi is a loli bitch.

We don’t really explore anyone besides that, and Gai and Tsugumi appear so late that we learn little to nothing about them. We also don’t really learn anything about Inori, which might be on purpose. It’s hinted that Shu knew her as a small child, but it’s not explored yet.

We learn the most about Shu, but even then we really only know his personality traits and nothing about his actual life besides he’s awkward socially and tries to live a normal life in school.

I’d like to actually know what this virus is. It’s blurted out in one sentence of narration and we never learn what it really is besides devastating.

I’m pretty much okay with the GHQ and Guilty Crown itself not really being explained thusfar as it allows for exploration in the future, but I would’ve liked Guilty Crown to at least be explained a bit.

What we can surmise of it from merely seeing it in action is something…..*sigh* I really never wanted to think of this show again, but it’s the exact same power, beat for beat, of the soul bladers from Shining Tears X Wind. Exactly the friggin’ same. Trigger a portal in some girl’s chest, pull out giant sword. I was going along with this show fine until it seemingly ripped off and/or reminded me of that heap of trash. And don’t worry, I’ll rip into that show soon enough.

Art and Animation: Like I said, this show is very pretty. Not horribly stylized, but still very pretty. The animation is very fluid, and got its time to shine during the fist fight with Gai. Production IG did a wonderful job here.

Music: I’m also digging the music here. The OP, at least of this episode, was beautiful, the BG music was fitting albeit a bit forgettable, the insert song was great and the ED was fine.

Voice Acting: Japanese – No stand out performances or voices, but everyone seemed fitting and fine in their roles.

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No one is really giving me hope that this show will get any better from episode one. In fact, Nihon anime reviews claims the show really starts getting bad after the halfway mark. So what’s my status here?

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This isn’t so much a reluctant ‘yes’ in hopes of finding something redeemable about this show beyond the art and music and moreso an ‘I’m curious as to how bad this show really is’. At best, I’ll get something laughably bad or stupidly fun and if not I can probably have a new ranting chew toy. At worst it will just turn out to be boring.

Episode One-Derland: Sakura Diaries

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Plot: Touma is up for college entrance exams, but as he’s relaxing in his hotel room a mysterious girl arrives at his door acting like a call girl. While he didn’t request her services, she seems to be acting like he already has an appointment with her, and he struggles over the decision to lose his virginity to her. He suddenly decides against it and throws her out of the room, making her very upset. However, she’s not so much upset that he didn’t want to sleep with her and more upset that he didn’t remember she was his cousin, having only met once when they were children.

Breakdown: I imagine everyone has seen a show where the ultimate reaction is ‘this show would be alright if the characters weren’t so terrible.’ Well, chalk up another entry in that list.

Sakura Diaries follows Touma as he prepares for college entrance exams. As he’s getting some last minute studying in, a girl arrives at his hotel room acting like a call girl. Touma is completely confused, but considers taking advantage of the situation for the sake of losing his virginity to a pretty girl. He continues to get more and more tempted as the girl starts stripping down to just her panties and even watches porn with him before inviting him into bed. He continues to struggle with his decision, but ultimately decides that he wants to save himself for a woman he loves.

Stopping right there, everything seems all fine and dandy up until this point. It’s obvious something is up with this girl but Touma is too dense to remember her. Also, it’s admirable that Touma doesn’t want to just lose his virginity to some random call girl, no matter how attractive she is.

But that’s where the good points end. You’d think that Touma would kindly say that she’s made a mistake and that he wasn’t interested in her services before kindly asking her to leave, right?

Nope.

Instead he flips right the hell out at her, angrily saying that he doesn’t have time for this BS and demanding that she leave. He throws her out into the hallway while she’s topless and throws her clothes at her before telling her to leave him alone and slamming the door.

Whoo, yeah, you’re certainly Prince Charming, aren’t you? Yes, I could see how this situation could be a nuisance, but she was being completely kind the whole time and wasn’t even pressuring him into doing it. Why be a total asshole to her?

The girl gets upset at this and calls him Tonma through the door, which is his childhood nickname. Hearing this, he opens the door back up and the girl asks why he doesn’t remember her before calling him an idiot and running away.

We later learn that her name is Urara and that she’s Touma’s cousin. Though they had only met once when they were children, he still left a lasting impression on her and she wanted to cheer him up before his entrance exams.

While I do believe Touma is largely in the wrong, she let this prank go on for way too long and went way too far with it. Normal people might keep up the charade for a minute or two without actually doing anything, then if the person is still not getting it they’d reveal it. She not only kept this going for quite a while, but she also took off all of her clothes except her panties, watched porn with him and got into his bed inviting him for sex all the while wondering when he’d remember her.

She had yet another opportunity to make this reveal when he opened the door back up, but instead she just ran off. I can understand why she did, he was being a dick, but she could’ve cleared it up with him after calling him an idiot and before running away.

After this happens, he has a nice wank and she writes a message of good luck to him on the window of the train she’s riding. That’s a nice contrast to their relationship before it even gets started.

The next day, we see that Touma has failed all but one of his entrance exams because he has a cold. He blames his cold on Urara because she sneezed once before running off. Yeah, she showed no signs of being sick and sneezed once in his general area, so it’s totally her fault. Not that it matters much because the cold seems to be one of those three-hour colds and is cleared up before the third act.

Since he doesn’t want to return home to run his family’s business, he decides to go for his last choice, Keio University, though it seems like it’s out of his league. When he arrives on campus, he meets a beautiful girl named Mieko, which is somehow pronounced ‘Mei-koh’ and not ‘Mee-koh’ or even ‘Mai-koh’, who looks exactly like Urara just with a different hairstyle. He instantly falls for her because she’s hot. He makes it his goal to get into Keio and make Mieko his wife.

He has such a weird approach to love. On one hand, he appreciates romance and saving himself for love, supposedly; on the other hand, he pervs on hot girls all the time, and on the third mutant hand he vows he’ll make a complete stranger his wife. He’s like a weird mix between a young girl, a teenage boy and a middle-aged creepy man.

The next day, he arrives at the school for his entrance exams only to find Urara there, and he becomes enraged again, blaming her for his failure on his exams, calling her a stalker and telling her to leave him alone. Even after she hints again that they know each other by asking him to remember her and calling him Tonma, his only response is telling her that he has nothing to remember and demands that she never call him that again. He hasn’t even made an effort to remember her, even with the hint of the childhood nickname indicating that she’s a childhood friend. As a topping on this awfulness sundae, he swats the bento box that she kindly made for him out of her hands while yelling at her, causing it to fall on the ground.

She rightfully points out what a terrible thing he just did before running away crying. Touma picks up the lunch, which seems to have a photo in it, but who cares?

Later, Urara wishes Touma luck again while she’s warming up for tennis and even goes so far as to think that Touma didn’t mean to drop the lunchbox. 1) He didn’t drop it; it was in your hands and he backhanded it out of them in a fit of anger. 2) He didn’t mean it?! That was a purposeful backhand. Either he meant to smack the lunch out of your hands or he meant to smack YOU.

At Touma’s exams, Mieko shows up again and he spends forever perving on her and imagining him coercing her into sex. Because I guess right in the middle of your college entrance exams in a university classroom with a person you barely know and in front of about 100 people is that sweet romantic moment you were saving yourself for.

Touma sees his results posted on the wall and the episode ends.

While the episode does a decent job at establishing these characters, you don’t want to root for any of them. This will supposedly be a bit of a love triangle anime, meaning we’ll have to root for someone, but Touma is a pervy dickwad and while Urara is nice enough, she’s also pretty damn creepy and almost a doormat. Her only two interactions with Touma in recent years involved him perving on her, screaming at her twice, embarrassing her twice, insulting her, and ruining a gift she made for him. Most normal people at that point would just accept that the person has changed since they were kids and give up, or at least take the time out to clear things up with him somehow, but she keeps forgiving him when no apology has even been offered and doesn’t bother to even try telling him who she is.

As for Mieko, she’s nice and hot and supposedly very smart, though we only know this because she’s trying to get into Keio.

Since the only two characters with actual development are not likable enough to root for, and I don’t want to root for anyone with Touma at this point, it makes the series start off on very shaky ground. And do I even need to mention the ick-factor of them being cousins? It just makes the possibility of romance support even lower.

The story would’ve been perfectly fine, albeit bland, had the characters not been terrible. But they are….

This doesn’t even seem to work as a proper romance because we keep flip-flopping between Urara’s romantic side and tons of pervyness from Touma.

On a technical level, the art and animation are bleh. It’s not that bad, except maybe with Touma sometimes, but it’s also not that good either. Plenty of care seems to have gone into the fanservice, though. Shock beyond shocks.

The music is actually pretty catchy with the OP being the highlight there with some fresh instrumentals for an anime.

The voice acting, English Dub, is okay. Urara is alright, as is Mieko, and Touma is usually okay, but he’s shaky when he tries to sound legit angry. He just doesn’t put any energy into it.

Final verdict?

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The characters might get better over time, but as we explore time and again in this review series, first impressions are very important and starting off poorly with aggravating characters and the shattered remains of a romance plot does not make me intrigued for more. It’s not quite bad enough for me to want to continue just to see how bad it gets, and I don’t have high hopes that it will be good enough in the end to warrant it either.

Recommended Audience: Bare breasts, non-graphic porn and a censored masturbation scene are the key issues in this realm so far, though I imagine they get worse as time goes on (THEM mentioned that there’s a near-rape that is actually removed from some releases.) 16+