Episode One-Derland: Kaleido Star

Plot: Sora has wanted nothing more than to be an acrobat in the American stage show, Kaleido Stage, since she was a little girl. She finally gets her shot to audition, but extenuating circumstances make her late. Just when she thinks she’s lost her chance, she’s asked to take the place of a performer who got hurt right before show time. Will she impress the staff enough to earn a spot in the troupe, or will she fall on her face in more ways than one?

Breakdown: When I first read about Kaleido Star, I wasn’t all that intrigued. The description of it being a ‘magical girl anime without the magic’ didn’t help. But still landed on my watch list and it didn’t look bad, so how did its debut fare?

Very well. I really like Sora as a character, even if there’s not too much to make her stand out right now. She’s very optimistic and determined, though obviously has her faltering moments of lacking self-confidence and cracking composure when faced with criticism. Ken, a stagehand, is a sweetheart and even Mr. Policeman was nice. Layla, one of their main stars, set out to be a bitch and a bitch she is. The other people in the troupe are also bitches because theater.

This episode was entertaining enough through the first and second acts, but it really won me over during the performance. When that little girl cheered on ‘the rabbit’ I had to pause to ‘aw’ several times and I usually don’t do that, especially when it comes to kids.

Is it blowing my mind? No. But it has plenty of promise to be a heart-warming story of adventure, hard work and the pursuit of dreams.

Final Verdict:

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Maybe Shoujo step-by-step? Not sure.

Recommended Audience: So far, E for everyone.

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Episode One-Derland (Cartoons): We Bare Bears

Plot: Three brothers, a grizzly bear, a panda bear and a polar bear, try to meld into modern human society.

Breakdown: This series makes me smile.

This is another one of those shows that I’ve caught in passing, and every time I’ve watched it I’ve been thoroughly entertained. The characters are charming (especially Ice Bear), the humor’s both low-key and energetic and it’s just a fun time in every episode. It’s the type of show that you can watch when you just want to sit back, relax and have some laughs.

For this Episode One-Derland, I watched both the pilot episode and the official first episode. Both were very funny and properly met all of the criteria of a first episode. The characters are firmly established early on with dialogue and situations that allows their personalities to shine through without being in-your-face with exposition.

Grizz is the oldest brother, and he typically takes the lead in every situation they’re in. He’s the loudest and, truth be told, the most annoying, but his antics can also be the source of a lot of fun.

Panda is slightly neurotic and obsessed with his phone and the Internet.

Ice Bear is the coolest character (Oh yeah, enjoy that pun.) He barely (more puns?) says anything, but he delivers the funniest lines just by doling out one-liners usually starting with ‘Ice Bear.’ He is the most tolerable character to ever speak in third person, and he’s voiced by Demitri Martin. It’s a match made in heaven.

Their world is also established quite well. No one really takes note of the fact that they’re bears, and the public is usually only reacting to their personalities or whatever shenanigans they’re getting themselves into.

In terms of story, the pilot episode centers on cheering up Panda after he breaks up with his Internet girlfriend. They decide to get him some ice cream by crashing a kids’ birthday party. While the ending of the party plot makes no sense, it had a lot of funny moments and ended with Panda realizing he needs space away from his ex when she tries to get him back. Admittedly, he seemed clingy, so it’s probably best for both of them. The episode doesn’t center on the relationship at all, but the bare bones of information flashed to us is enough for us to sympathize and move the plot forward.

The actual first episode is about the brothers having their backpack of stuff stolen at the basketball court after playing a game. They lose Grizz’s wallet, Panda’s phone (so he’s obviously freaked out) and Ice Bear’s ninja stars (That he bought legally). The rest of the story is about them tracking down the culprit. The ending twist was great and really threw me for a loop. There are many funny moments throughout this episode, but I’ll admit I was more partial to the pilot.

Final Verdict:

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I will probably binge watch the rest of the series now. Ice Bear would approve.

Episode One-Derland: Fractale

Plot: The world of Fractale makes everything run so smooth that life seems nearly perfect for everyone. Many people choose to be in two places at once using doppels, which are holographic robots taking the form of the user’s chosen avatar. Clain is a tech buff who lives with his two parents, almost always taking the form of their doppels. One day, he spots a girl being chased through the air by a blimp and watches her fall to the cliffside in an effort to escape. Clain climbs down to save the girl, named Phryne, and they start to develop a friendship. She suddenly disappears, leaving only her pin behind. Clain discovers that the pin has some old data embedded into it and is shocked when a doppel named Nessa emerges from it.

Breakdown: I will admit two things about this series. The backgrounds are beautiful, and the premise is interesting. Considering the old 1800’s style setting, combining that with a world made of robots and holograms is pretty intriguing, but as a first episode, this is cut, dry and boring.

First of all, we don’t even learn the names of our main characters until the very end of the episode. And Phryne’s is tossed into a throwaway mention. We establish that Clain is a tech junkie and Phryne is an awkward weirdo who is obviously hiding something, which is good, but I don’t feel the connection.

Second, it has a pretty tired story structure. Ordinary boy living an ordinary life has his world turned upside down when he spots a girl running away from some bad guys and rushes in to save her. He does, they spend some time together, the time involves that ever so familiar awkward sexual tension and psuedo-fanservice, and there’s some big twist at the end that starts a continuous search for a macguffin. Combine that with boring unsalted cracker characters and you’ve got something that can’t hold my interest.

I will admit, I was starting to get entertained by the ‘bad guys’ who were chasing Phryne – Enri (whose name isn’t spoken this episode) and her goons (who are her brothers?). Their shtick at the door was funny for a minute but went on for too long, and you quickly shift from thinking they’re funny to finding them insanely annoying. If these guys are the antagonists, then I see no tension in the future.

Nessa, despite only having one line, was equally annoying.

The character art is mostly forgettable, and I’ve heard from other reviews that the art in contrast to the manga art is some of the worst adaptation work ever. I’ve seen worse, honestly, but looking at the side-by-side comparisons, they are starkly different. The THEM review noted that the hair colors of Phryne and Nessa is a component to a very important plot thread later, so changing it screws up the story. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s worth noting.

The music, outside of the song Phryne sings, is nice, but it, for lack of a better term, blends in with the background. It’s like one of those songs you listen to in order to relax, but once it’s over you’d be damned trying to hum it back to someone.

I liked the song that Phryne sings quite a bit though.

The voice acting is a mixed bag. I liked Clain (Brina Palencia) and Phryne (Caitlyn Glass) but Nessa and Enri grate on the ears immensely. Which is a shame, because I usually like Luci Christian and Monica Rial respectively.

Final Verdict:

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I was less than impressed by the starter episode and no review I’ve read gives me any reason to move on beyond this point.

Recommended Audience: There’s some of the most hidden fanservice imaginable, supposedly because the creator, Yutaka Yamamoto, wanted this to be an antithesis of otaku pandering shows of late, but….uh, dude, you still have the story elements of the fanservice, you just don’t have the fanservice. Other than someone believing Clain slept with Phryne, there’s nothing. 5+

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Looped

Plot: Luc and Theo, caught in a time loop to keep living the same Monday over and over, take advantage of their knowledge of the day to avoid dodgeballs in gym class. The consequences are disastrous somehow.

Breakdown: This series confused me before I even got around to actually watching it. This is the description –

“The series revolves around the life and adventures of Luc and Theo, two 12-year-old best friends who get stuck in a time loop where every day is Monday, and as the Monday is always the same, they know everything that will happen before it happens. They use it as an opportunity to do whatever they want to, most primarily at school, what usually gets them in trouble. Theo has a crush on Gwyn, a recurring character on the series, what is shown in various episodes. They first got stuck in the loop because Luc hopped his skateboard and crashed into Theo’s garage-lab in the first episode, and Theo’s scientific experiments got mashed.”

That sounds far more hellish than it does funny. While you can make some comedy out of that for the first handful of days, like nearly any version of this plot, eventually it gets to the point where reliving the exact same day every single becomes more of a nightmare than something to have fun with. Even in the Stuck on Christmas segment of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas they realized this.

Not to mention, as an audience, wouldn’t this be horrible to sit through the exact same dialogue every single episode? Even repeating itself over and over in a single episode is bound to be annoying.

I just realized that this show probably saves oodles of money on animation by reusing footage….

As a series, this could work, theoretically, because it sounds like they get into a bunch of ‘wacky shenanigans’, but considering the day just resets after everything’s said and done, there are really no consequences for their actions….except….ya know….being caught in a hellish time loop, which I doubt they’ll recognize as hellish or explore any of the deeper and personal resonances this could have on them as people, like they do in Groundhog Day.

But enough presumptions. Let’s actually watch the show.

*one episode later*

Hm. I failed to realize another problem of this show. Time travel.

Looping is, essentially, time travel. While the day continuously resets, making the space/time continuum’s structure stay solid, time travel still negatively affects the plots of these stories.

Today’s episode is about Luc and Theo using their future knowledge of their bully’s dodgeball throws to dodge aforementioned balls. After a few days of looping and calculating, they become Matrix-level dodgeball dodgers. However, this already doesn’t make much sense. If they’re dodging the balls now, they’re changing what happens after even the first one is thrown. Thus their calculations should now be void because the bully, named Jesse, will be throwing balls differently than he did when they were being hit, either through aim, trajectory, velocity etc. they will be different because they changed the timeline.

This is especially apparent after they dodge the first wave of dodgeballs and they talk to Jesse about it. Jesse gets so angry that he furiously chucks another dodgeball at them and Luc easily avoids it, even though there’s no way he could’ve known where that one was going since they never encountered that one in the past before.

…..Oh and also, their coach gives a young boy who just got hit in the face with a dodgeball mouth to mouth when he obviously didn’t need it…..His name is Kyle and he’s known as being this perfect attractive Adonis kid…..Also the coach is devastated when Kyle is hit in the face with the ball, presumably because it marred his beautiful features…..Someone call the cops is what I’m trying to say.

Oh and also, as punishment for hitting Kyle with the dodgeball, some popular girls (two of whom might be his sisters?) tell Jesse to go to….the fart box….It’s a wooden box where they trap him and some fat kid lets out a huge fart into it (through a butt-shaped opening). It’s a kid version of a gas chamber. Lovely.

Later that same Monday day (that’s what they call it), Luc and Theo find that Jesse is so devastated at ‘ripping the wings off an angel’ that he won’t eat, bully people or anything. They then meet with an alternate dimension form of Jesse who is a knight, demanding retribution of his sullen reputation after the dodgeball game. According to Theo, who, by the way, is the science guy, this Jesse is a glitch in the loop, created to fill in the void of a bully left behind from the original Jesse no longer being one.

That makes so much no sense I can’t even nonsense. Filling the void of something lost in a timeline by creating a new substitute for that role sounds logical, but I think being without a certain something in a timeline makes much less damage to a timeline than creating two of the same person and having them coexist in the same timeline.

There’s not even anything to suggest that Jesse gave up bullying for good. I’m sure after Kyle’s face healed he’d be at it again.

They get their asses handed to them by Sir Jesse (why he’s a knight is never explained) who defeats them in a joust and wedgies them on the goalpost of the football field.

The next Monday day, they prep for another confrontation with Sir Jesse…Wait, what? Why wouldn’t you just save Kyle from the dodgeball so his perfect work of art face won’t get hurt, they still won’t get hit with dodgeballs and Jesse won’t give up bullying? They’d also be saving an innocent kid from getting his face bashed in with a rubber ball. Oh right, he totally deserves that hit because he’s attractive and everyone loves him and when they got hit with dodgeballs he sincerely said it looked ‘ouchies’ and they were jealous that he never gets hit with dodgeballs. Right right.

They don’t stop the completely inappropriate mouth to mouth either.

They come into school wearing knight armor, but are shocked to find a different Jesse taking the role of new bully now – he’s a greaser I think. The next Tomorrow Monday (it’s what they say) he’s a caveman, then a pirate, then a robot – What the hell is even happening? Why are they getting a different new glitch Jesse every day? And why is he always some time period stereotype?

At gym, Theo is freaking out about what new glitch Jesse they’ll face today, and he wants to stop the glitch entirely by just letting themselves get hit with the dodgeballs. Again, you could stop the glitch and Jesse’s downfall by just saving Kyle from getting hit. Coax him to move a foot in literally any direction. Catch the ball. It’s not difficult. I thought Theo was supposed to be a genius.

Luc refuses because apparently being zapped by a robot, slashed at with a pirate sword, bashed with a caveman club and jousted are so much better than just being hit with a few dodgeballs.

Moron.

Today’s Jesse is a supervillain, and Luc finally realizes that they need to set things right and let themselves get hit, but not before Supervillain Jesse uses his psychic powers to make Luc and Theo make out.

Ya know what? Forget calling the cops on the coach. Call the cops on the writers. First we have child molestation now sexual assault? What the hell?

Also, Supervillain Jesse flies with farts. Lovely.

The next Tomorrow Monday, Luc and Theo let themselves get hit and the status quo is restored. And nothing mattered ever.

Oh and the coach gives Luc mouth to mouth for some reason even though he never did in any of the other normal timelines.

Well, kids, we learned a valuable lesson today. Some kids are just meant to be bullies. If you try to stop them from being bullies, they’ll turn into supervillains and make you make out with your best friend until you accept your role as bully victim.

This was awful and unbelievably asinine. The premise is difficult to work with as is, but they don’t even start with an origin story. The theme song doesn’t explain the origins either, it just repeats that they’re in a time loop….Oh, haha, I get it. The song is kinda looped. Haha.

None of what they do in this episode makes any sense. The ‘moral’ if there even is one is terrible. Not to mention just returning everything back to normal at the end without learning anything worthwhile for the only two characters in this show who actually can learn and progress is infuriating. They could’ve easily just gotten better at dodgeball by playing it over and over and over and saved Kyle from getting hit. The end result would be a different day, they’d stop getting hit, they’d learn a new skill and they’d save an innocent person from getting hurt. But nope, it’s just ‘gotta let the bully be a bully’

In nearly every incarnation of the time loop plot, the characters who are cognizant of what’s happening usually learn something from their actions, but here everything’s pointless. And if you’re going to have a pointless episodic show where nothing matters, at least be funny about it. This show is nowhere near funny.

The fact that the alternate dimension Jesses come with such a flimsy explanation is also irritating. Their existence makes that version of reality worse when it’s meant to supposedly fix something that was screwed up because of it. Why don’t they just build on the Butterfly Effect logic like nearly any other show that uses this plot? Have something logical but bad happen because they changed something minor in the past. Don’t just make something up because pbbtt time and space things.

In the end, going in, you know none of this matters anyway, They’re in a time loop with no intentions of leaving it for some reason. By the end of the episode, nothing will have lasting consequences so it’s all moot. I just don’t think you build a lasting series on the time loop plot. A movie? Sure. An episode of a series? Yeah. A series? No.

You’d need a team of seriously good writers to pull that off, and this show just doesn’t have them. They have writers who make 80% of the jokes in their episode be filled with snot, slobber, farts, sexual assault or child molestation.

For those thinking that I’m reading too much into the child molestation thing, let me point out that even the animators knew this joke was wrong. They do this joke three times, and they never animate it. It’s never on screen. We just get a bunch of gross slobber noises and reaction shots.

As for the characters, barring Theo, who only gets tolerance points for being the only one with knowledge or sense, everyone else is terrible. Luc is an asshole idiot, Jesse is a bully idiot, Sarah and her popular cronies are jackasses and the coach is a child molester who roots for the bully to be a bully.

Final Verdict:

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Technically, I only reviewed the first half of episode one since this is one of those shows where two stories take up one episode, but I think I’ve seen enough.

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons): Winx Club

Plot: A teenage girl named Bloom finds a fairy named Stella being attacked by an ogre out in the woods. In an effort to save her, Bloom discovers that she has fairy magic too. This is just the start of something much bigger for Bloom.

Breakdown: Alright, I need to prepare myself for this one. Just gonna jump into my subconscious for a tad.

*poof*

Girly part of me! Where are you?! I need you for 20 minutes and 14 seconds! I know you’re in here! I felt your presence when I was looking at puppy pictures earlier! Ah there you are. I don’t know why I don’t always look in the nook with my Beanie Baby collection first.

Away!

*poof*

So, yeah, as you can probably guess, despite having the girl parts, I’ve never been that girly. I’ve always been more into things that were more traditionally boy-like. I had some regular girly stuff like Barbies and bead sets and a fake plastic kitchen (I make the best plastic omelets), I’ve even had the tea parties and dressed like a fairy princess once. But if you ever asked me to choose between something like Power Rangers and My Little Pony, I’d be imagining piloting the Megazord before you’d finish your sentence. I never really disliked girly things, I was just more interested in boy-ish stuff…..It was cooler….No My Little Pony dolls shoot lasers or explode, okay?

With that in mind, it goes without saying that I never really watched Winx Club. I caught a few minutes of it here and there but—OOH BEYBLADE’S ON!

*cough* Something else would usually come on.

But I’m not without my girliness. My femininity. My female…itude…..I have a purse.

Let’s see if I can get into Winx Club.

*one episode later*

Mmmmmmmm…..Nrrghhh……Unf.

Alright, let me level with you. This show is not terrible on the basis of rampant girliness. The girliness levels are high, damn near ridiculous (The main character’s animal sidekick is a damn bunny for crying out loud), but I was able to get through that relatively fine…

This episode is just poorly written.

Right off the bat, the pacing for the first half is breakneck. In the first three minutes, we’re briefly introduced to our main character, Bloom, who is a normal average teenage girl, she sees a fairy girl with a valley girl accent fighting an ogre, she starts to be defeated, Bloom goes to help her, reveals she suddenly has powers, knocks the ogre away, the fairy girl, named Stella, gets back up, defeats the ogre with ease and then faints.

The pacing slows down a bit then ramps right back up after the ten minute mark. For example, in the time span of a minute, Stella brings Bloom to Alfea, an all-girls boarding college for fairies, pixies and something called…gowylians? Gowillians?….Uh those – Most of whom are princesses because of course they are. They learn to be magic users, protectors of their realms and queens.

This place is right down the road from the boy’s school – The Red Fountain School for Heroics and Bravery (A place ‘full of hunks’ according to Stella), where young men learn to become military heroes utilizing such things as hand to hand combat, weapon use, basic survival, magic swords and DRAGONS. Look! Look! The boys get magic swords and dragons! They get the cool stuff!

They’re also closeby to the Clow Tower School for Witches, which could not be more designed to be a villain factory if you tried.

Then, in the same minute mind you, she informs Bloom that she already invited some of the boys from the Red Fountain school to her house. When did she do this? She never had the opportunity as far as I saw.

If the pacing doesn’t get you, the story won’t do you any favors. It is extremely cut and dry ‘normal person discovers she has magic powers and is tasked to save the world’ schtick. The good guys are obvious, the bad guys are even more obvious and they practically go out of their way to separate everyone into their respective groups. For God’s sake, if sectioning off good from evil wasn’t enough, they have to cordon off the boys into their own school too. So we can wrangle the love interests? What’s that about?

Wait a minute.

*One Wiki Later*

Yup, that’s literally it’s purpose. All of the future members of the Winx club will have either fiances or boyfriends and, you guessed it, they all, barring one, come from the Red Fountain school. Wow.

Bloom’s parents are unreasonably stupid. Not believing your daughter brought home a fairy is one thing, being one room away from a door that is being brutally pounded on by someone, seeing a pet freaking out about it and constantly wondering why the animal is freaking out and pointing to the aforementioned door is another. They have to shake the whole house and actually enter before they realize, holy crap, someone’s at the door.

Anyone familiar with Tuxedo Mask Syndrome in magical girl shows can rest assured that the girls do indeed get rescued in the end by the hero boys she mentioned. At the very least, they barely know what they’re doing too.

The dialogue is okay at best and cringe-worthy at worst. There’s a lot of lame slang, valley girl speak and just horribly written lines delivered in lackluster ways. Par for the course for 4Kids.

The art and animation are horrid. It’s not the absolute worst I’ve seen, but it is quite a ways down there. Italy, I hate to keep giving you crap, but….you kinda keep giving me crap. It’s weird. There isn’t really a tidal wave of animation errors – it’s moreso like an unfinished animation or just sloppily done. The action actually isn’t the worst part of it. The bad animation is most highlighted in the speaking scenes. I laughed out loud when we saw Brendan speaking in that extreme closeup. If there was ever a shot where bobble-head physics applied, it’s that one.

The music is about what you’d expect from a girl-targeted show from 4Kids. Girly earworms. I will wag my finger in 4Kids face for one moment of music faux pas. They very clearly use a piece of BG music from Pokemon when Bloom wakes up. Tsk tsk.

As a first episode, it does the job just fine. Mostly because they’re mowing down the plot of the episode to shove every bit of exposition down our throats as quickly as possible. It introduces us to the characters and their universe just fine. They don’t really explain too well what fairies are in terms of what they do, nor do they explain how their magic works. They also never explain why or how Bloom is a fairy. She just shows she has powers and Stella spends half the episode gushing about how awesome she is.

They show the big bads, but we have no clue what they want beside power and I can only assume world domination.

Final Verdict—wait a minute.

While this first episode, in my opinion, is a hot mess that doesn’t make me want to want to watch anymore, I will concede for a bit. Winx Club is a huge franchise spanning over several seasons, movies and even comics.

I’ve read some stuff from future storylines and it seems somewhat interesting. I don’t want to write off the entire franchise for you all here, so let’s leave this as an;

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I, personally, won’t be continuing because it’s just not my cup of tea. However, if you can find yourself getting into shows of this vein, I recommend giving it a go for a few episodes. If anything, the art and animation seem to improve over time.

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) The Amazing World of Gumball

Plot: Gumball and his brother, Darwin, ruin a DVD they rented. Afraid of facing their mother, they decide to plot and scheme to either replace the DVD or get the money needed to pay off the fee.

Breakdown: Gumball is a show I’ve seen in passing a few times on Cartoon Network, and I always felt divisive about it. I liked some of the jokes and comedic timing, but the art style put me off, and sometimes it seems like they’re being far more annoying than they are funny.

After sitting down and watching the first episode (first segment, DVD, I should say), I just can’t help but feel the same way. Again, I ended up liking some moments – there are pretty good jokes and clever writing in there, but Gumball and Darwin sometimes piss me off with their voice acting, Gumball annoys me with how stereotypical he is as a character (irresponsible scheming troublemaker – that’s new) and the art style has its moments where it works and others where it’s just odd.

This particular episode was also very cliché. Two brothers do something wrong so they get into a bunch of wacky shenanigans while trying to fix it without their parent knowing. I think that plot is a legal requirement of any sitcom or comedy cartoon with children that was ever made.

The actual art style is fine, it’s the fact that it’s always coupled with live action shots that puts me at odds – add that to the fact that you also have fully CGI characters and shifting art styles between characters and I just don’t know what to make of it. At the very least, it’s pretty unique.

Final Verdict:

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I’m not sure I’ll ever get off the fence about this show.

Episode One-Derland: The Seven Deadly Sins

Plot: Ten years ago, a slue of extremely powerful Holy Knights, guards to the King himself, were slaughtered in an instant by a band of criminals called The Seven Deadly Sins. It was rumored that after this incident, the seven of them were quickly killed, but word has it that they’re all still alive and well, wandering the countryside.

A young boy and his pig own a mysterious bar where a girl collapses while wearing a suit of rusty armor. He helps her recover, but a group of knights soon show up at the bar’s door demanding to know where the person in rusty armor is in order to interrogate them on information regarding The Seven Deadly Sins. The boy helps the girl escape, but they’re soon cornered by the leader of the knights, a massive and ruthless man named Twigo. He identifies the girl not as a member of The Seven Deadly Sins, but as princess Elizabeth. He has his orders to bring her back alive, but doesn’t care and attempts to kill her anyway, planning to explain it away by saying she died as an incident of battle.

In an effort to save her, the boy faces off against Twigo with a broken sword, but manages to handle him with ease. Twigo finally recognizes the boy as the legendary leader of the Seven Deadly Sins, Meliodas. He defeats Twigo with ease and he and Elizabeth set off on a quest to find the other Deadly Sins in an effort to actually band them together to help defeat the Holy Knights, who have secretly overthrown the king and plan to create a massive war.

Breakdown: This one was suggested to me a while ago on Twitter by @hotchocolate29, also known as Meliodas Aino. Now that I know the main character of this anime’s name, I’m going to go ahead and assume they’re a fan. I always like seeking out requests and suggestions, so here I am. Sorry it took so long, though. 😦 While I usually take a while to complete whole series, I figured after all of this wait time I at least owed an Episode One-Derland to them.

So how did this fare in my eyes? Good…..but plenty of room for improvement. As a first episode, the show does a pretty good job at establishing the world, the main plot, the backstory and our main characters. They actually do a little too good of a job on the backstory part because I feel like they repeated the story of The Seven Deadly Sins a bit too much.

The story really isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a pretty typical tale of super powerful sword-wielding warrior bands together with a group of other super powerful people in order to take down an evil group of powerful people under the pleading request of a princess. Despite the fact that these guys are called The Seven Deadly Sins, I see nothing relating to the actual seven deadly sins. They’re not named as such individually and I haven’t heard nor seen any powers relating to it. It’s possible that it’s just a title, but that’s a missed opportunity if it is.

Still, with a strong cast of characters and good enough writing, even a seemingly stale plot can be a gem. And I believe they do have a pretty strong crew here. Meliodas is pretty likable. He’s very laid back and not overly dramatic about his desire to help and save people like a lot of shounen anime protagonists. Still, I feel like he might end up as an annoying main character over time simply because he seems a bit overpowered. He blew away the bad guy of this episode without even batting an eyelash and he never seem concerned in the least. Either he has to be badass enough to let this slide or he has to actually face some challenge very soon. Staying like this will just drain all of the tension out of the show.

Elizabeth….is….nice….Maybe too nice. Who wakes up to someone unabashedly squeezing their boob over and over and doesn’t even react? Meliodas does it again later and she still doesn’t react. Plus, like a typical princess, she seems very much inclined to the damsel in distress trope. That trope is even more painful when you have legit knights and she’s a real princess.

Then we have Hawk, Meliodas’ talking pig sidekick……Hawk is awesome. It’s very difficult for me to enjoy talking animal sidekicks since they always seem more annoying than they are endearing, but Hawk’s just great. Practically every line that comes out of his mouth is funny, and he has great chemistry with Meliodas right off the bat. He also serves as a great foil for Meliodas on several occasions.

Twigo is probably a one-off bad guy, but he’s just a bit ridiculous. He kills everyone just because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t get some pleasure out of it, he really just doesn’t care. He’ll even flippantly kills off his own men. He doesn’t have to kill Elizabeth, in fact he has orders to bring her back alive, he just doesn’t care. I guess he just wants to kill people for some reason.

In the art department…..Okay, call me a hipster, call me old, call me a nitpicker….I just don’t like the newer styles of anime. This show has a look about it that a lot of new anime seem to have. The characters more or less have ‘baby fat face’ syndrome where there’s a lot of overly rounded edges in the face, the details seem sparse, the lines appear too thick and even the colors seem too saturated for my tastes. I will say that all of these things, except the baby fat face thing, are probably to make more fluid animation more easily. This is actually kinda odd because shows like these tend to have moments where the animation is ridiculously cheap then they have moments that are so fluid that I feel like they’re rotoscoped. The art’s not particularly bad, and the animation can be very great sometimes, I just want to be honest in saying that the art style is really not my taste.

Music-wise, nothing really hooked with me so far but it’s very fitting for the story, tone and theme.

Final Verdict?

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It may have been a slightly disappointing first venture, but I believe this episode showed that there is enough here to keep you entertained even through the tropes and cliches. I hope this series only gets better as we move on.

Recommended Audience: Extended clothed boob groping and one scene of a bunch of dead bodies, but nothing really outside of that so far. MAL rates this as 17+ though which makes me wonder….for this episode, however, 8+

Episode One-Derland: Blue Dragon

Plot: Thousands of years ago, at the dawn of humanity, God blessed the world with prosperity and light. However, the humans, greedy for more, wished for darkness as well. They were granted their wish, and darkness fell upon them. It invaded the hearts of men, and humanity had to fight against it. Warriors of light emerged and triumphed over the darkness, but now the darkness has returned, heralding in the call for warriors of light.

A dark and evil king named Nene is terrorizing villages everywhere looking for a special power, kidnapping children that he believes possesses the ability to wield it. One day, Nene’s forces target the village of a boy named Shu, who wishes for nothing more than to be a brave warrior called a Knight Master and travel the world looking for adventure.

He believes he’s found a Knight Master when he meets the stoic woman named Zola, but is disappointed when she states that she is no such thing. When the attack commences on Shu’s village, he races to find Zola and her companion, a boy named Jiro, to recruit them to help fight them off. They refuse, however, and tell him that if he wants his village saved he must do it himself.

Jiro and his friends, a girl named Kluke and three others, make a valiant effort to fight off the soldier, but to no avail. The leader of the soldiers is met with Zola and he prepares for battle by calling on his shadow, which turns into a goblin-like beast. Zola too calls upon her shadow, a killer bat. The goblin is no match for Killer Bat, but the resulting battle causes debris to fly everywhere. Just as Shu’s friends are about to be killed by a falling heap of debris, he leaps into the line of danger with nothing but the wish to save them behind him. As he’s about to get crushed, his shadow suddenly emerges as a brilliant blue dragon, aptly named Blue Dragon, the incredibly power everyone’s been looking for.

Breakdown: Blue Dragon is a title I’ve been aware of for quite some time, but I’ve never bothered to look up any information on it.

At face value, there’s not really anything special about this series so far besides the Akira Toriyama aesthetics. Being clear, Toriyama only lent his talent to the art. He had no hand in the story. The opening in particular about the powers of light and darkness battling each other was some dry milky toast. The aspect of the shadows is also not horribly creative since it’s basically just a fancy way of saying ‘familiar’

As a first episode, it fares okay. We get the personalities of all of the main characters fairly well, even if a good chunk of them are also stereotypes. Shu is the headstrong shounen fighting fantasy anime lead character who has a heart of gold, wants to protect the people he loves and is kinda dense. But he has the best power because main character. I’ll stave off of making a stark comparison between him and Goku for now.

You have the perpetually grumpy rival in Jiro. Kluke is kinda a generic love interest, though she’s also sort of a big sister to Shu and her love of gadgetry is a nice touch.

Zola in particular caught my eye because holy shit it has gotten annoying to not have many prominent legit female fighters throughout shounen. Zola is one kickass pirate-clad assassin girl.

The enemies are horribly generic, destroying villages and beating up kids while chuckling evilly. Even the leader’s shadow is a typical goblin thing.

Shu discovering his power through a desire to save his friends is also typical…..I know I praise some shows that use tropes, but I just don’t feel like this show is bringing enough to the table to make me ignore the tropes.

They don’t explain these powers much at all in this episode. We know that some people can summon monsters through their shadows and that’s about it. We have no clue what constitutes gaining this ability, why certain people get certain shadows, why it seems like they were collecting kids for the sake of summoning the blue dragon (you can’t really argue that only kids can summon shadows because the leader guy is definitely an adult and Zola’s a teen at least), what’s so special about the shadows, how they work etc. Hell, they don’t even explain Nene and the Gran Kingdom well.

That being said, it is obviously very stylized because Akira Toriyama and I never felt bored while watching. I was never really immersed in it that much, but I didn’t find it to be that bad, especially with Zola.

Final verdict:

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A slightly reluctant yes. Yet another freshly hatched Shounen Step-By-Step. Hopefully it just gets better after this point.

Recommended Audience: There’s some minor swearing and violence but nothing that bad. 8+

Episode One-Derland: Cardfight!! Vanguard

Plot: Trading card games have become incredibly popular over the years, and there’s one game that stands as the most popular; Cardfight! Vanguard. A boy named Kai is the best around, but finds he’s bored with battling even the supposedly toughest players around. A very shy and timid boy named Aichi truly loves the game, but he’s never really battled before. He just likes the cards. One day, his most prized card, Blaster Blade, gets stolen by a bully and then lost on an ante battle to Kai. Aichi challenges him for at least the chance to win him back. Graciously, Kai lets Aichi borrow Blaster Blade since he’s new to the game and even explains the rules as they battle. But is Aichi’s bond with Blaster Blade enough to defeat Kai?

Breakdown: Shounen gaming anime. So we meet again. Like I’ve mentioned before, I sure do have a soft spot in my heart for shounen gaming anime and I’m glad to say that this is one of the better anime in recent memory. Why? Because they take it easy.

Sure, the monsters do show up as actual creatures and implement real attacks, but the thing is that all of the battles, so far anyway, are merely in their imaginations. Now, you might be thinking ‘wow, that sounds really…..stupid.’ And it’s understandable that you would think that, but consider any time that you’ve played a trading card game such as that. A lot of people do the same thing. It’s just illustrated for the audience here.

As I was saying, they take it easy. At least so far. The game is just a cool game. They have fun with it, but they’re not going over the top or going bonkers with ‘the world rests on our ability to play a card game’ stuff. The worst that happens is that Aichi gets beaten up for a rare card, and in my experience with Pokemon and Yugioh cards back in the day, that’s, sadly, not unrealistic.

They also do a pretty great job introducing the characters. Kai’s a very skilled player and a stoic character, but he’s definitely not an ass like most characters in his archetype tend to be. He has mercy, he enjoys the game and he helps people out. He has a couple assy moments, but they’re not that bad and one of those moments turns out to maybe not be assy.

Aichi is also likable since he’s not the big loud undefeated newcomer that usually is the main character trope in these shows. However, he might have the stink of ‘prodigy newcomer’ on him. He really loves the cards and seemingly is very interested in playing the game, he just has trouble making the connections to actually battle people.

Even the bully in this situation, whose name escapes me, wasn’t over the top Muahahaha villain-esque bully. He was a kinda idiot brute who uses brute force to try and reclaim whatever honor he thinks he has.

The only bad character so far to me is Taishi. He’s Kai’s ‘friend’ and really his only role in this episode is to make fun of people and crack jokes that aren’t funny.

Since Aichi is (seemingly?) a complete newbie to the game, they do a very thorough job explaining the game to the audience without shoving exposition in our faces. It’s also really not a complicated game at all, and I’d like to give it a try some time.

The art is obviously pretty simplistic and none of the character designs stand out well. But the animation isn’t too shabby.

The music’s alright and fitting for the genre, though the OP and ED really haven’t hooked onto me. Broken Engrish abounds, too.

Final verdict:

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Congrats, we have another Shounen Step-By-Step contender! This show seems to be off to a great start. I really love when shounen gaming anime just have fun for the love of the game, and I really hope it keeps up.

Recommended Audience: Nothing objectionable. E for everyone!

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!