Episode One-Derland (Cartoons) Wakfu

Plot: Yugo is a mysterious child who was adopted by an innkeeper named Alibert. When Alibert found Yugo in the forest, a message was magically conveyed to him – This boy has incredible power; the ability to manipulate Wakfu, which, as of now, manifests itself in the creation of portals – and when he grows up he’ll need to embark on a journey to find his true family. Several years later, Yugo discovers his latent abilities and Alibert reveals the secret of his past to him so he can finally start his journey and find his real family.

Breakdown: This series is based on Wakfu, the MMORPG, which is a sequel to another MMORPG, Dofus. I’ve never played either game, though I have heard pretty good things about them.

That being said, I’ve also heard great things about this series. It’s even popular to call it France’s answer to Avatar the Last Airbender. I think my jury’s still out on that claim for now.

Yup yup, this is a French cartoon (and just to sate people who might bring this up – it can also qualify as an anime) And my experience with French animation is surprisingly limited, mostly contained to Totally Spies, Code Lyoko and Sonic Boom, which is weird because I love those shows…well….two of them.

Other than that, I’ve seen a handful of French short animations, which tend to be largely and heavily artsy. Not that that’s bad at all, but I have to be in the mood for that.

As an intro, this first episode does okay. It’s a bit too quick with the pacing, though. Especially near the end where they basically jump from ‘Oh Yugo has portal powers’ to ‘Yugo, you’re destined to embark on a journey to find your real family. I know because the magic floaty glowing text told me when I found you.’ in about five seconds.

It doesn’t really do proper world-building though. I was struggling to write the plot section because I wanted to include aspects of the world but I soon realized that they didn’t really explore it very much. I caught glimpses of dragons and magic and Wakfu, though they don’t really explain what Wakfu is – I know Alibert and Ruel are bounty hunters, but I don’t understand why their main weapons are shovels.

The main enemy is a robot guy thing named Nox, and he seemed really interesting and cool, but I’m kinda unclear on what he is considering this is a largely fantasy-based world yet he’s clearly a robot/cyborg thing.

Speaking of characters, I found myself liking mostly everyone so far. Yugo’s a cool little kid. He’s responsible, he’s always helping out his father and I like his comedic moments. I especially enjoyed his brief bits of banter with Alibert, such as when they’re being attacked by someone possessed by a demon, customers run out of the inn and Yugo starts panicking because they didn’t pay their bill, but Alibert assures him by saying he’ll remember their faces.

Alibert is pretty cool too. He seems like he’s a great dad and an equally great bounty hunter.

Ruel is greedy, but entertaining. He provides some good information and can seemingly hold his own in a fight, despite his age.

The only one I didn’t much care for was the mysterious cloaked dragon guy who left Yugo in the woods. However, I’m 99% sure that’s just because his voice acting coupled with his animation really throws me off. I was shocked to learn that he was voiced by a woman. No wonder the insanely deep voice sounded artificially distorted and weird.

Speaking of voices, apparently, despite the love of this show, most Wakfu fans vehemently suggest not watching the dub (Especially S3, which features an entirely new cast.) I kinda brushed it off because most people bark ‘Dub bad!’ without any real justification for it, but yeah….it was kinda justified. Half of the cast is perfectly fine. Not amazing, but fine. I especially liked Yugo and Nox’s acting. However, the other half is either unfitting to the point of the voice not really fitting any living being I can think of, like dragon dude, or the acting is really strange like they’re reading from a script that only has one to five words per page.

I’m not going to harsh on the dub too badly, however, because the English dub was produced by the series own producer, Ankama, done at Flix Facilities LLC. and it was funded through a Kickstarter. The third season, however, was co-produced and dubbed by Netflix.

I really liked the art in this series. It’s very stylized while still being fairly simplistic. The colors pop, the landscapes are quite beautiful and the characters are all very distinctive from each other with easily identifiable silhouettes, there some cool design choices in regards to hair and clothing. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I want Yugo’s hat thing.

However, the animation will take some time to really gel with me. This series is animated entirely in Flash, which, while being a joke to a lot of people, is still an incredibly useful animation program. And let me make it clear that I am very aware that there are many great and beautifully animated series that were animated in Flash. Some of my favorite cartoons were made with Flash.

The thing is, it’s also cheap and easy enough for most animators, no matter their experience or skill level, to use, which leads to the market being oversaturated in series that tend to look like trash and give the software as a whole a bad name.

Flash animated works tend to have what I like to call ‘Paper doll syndrome.’ Basically, you can instantly imagine where all of the hinges are when something is animated. Instead of moving naturally, it looks like a bunch of separate parts moving together because some unseen puppeteer wills it that way.

They also tend to have a weird bounciness to them. Like once they start moving, no matter how slight, once they stop their bodies feel the need to bounce in the other direction a bit for no reason.

Wakfu has both of these problems, but it not due to lack of skill, experience or budget. As far as I know, Wakfu’s budget was very high. The show is praised for its animation in spite of the aforementioned trends – and I can see why. It’s extremely dynamic, flows fairly well and the action scenes are done in a manner that is fast-paced without looking sloppy or weird. I definitely feel like characters, creatures and objects are interacting with their environment and that everything is real within their world.

A good chunk of my unease here is likely just a general dislike of the bouncy paper-dollness as a whole. It’s incredibly distracting to me and reminds me a lot of those cheap badly produced Flash shows that do that a LOT.

Hopefully, I just need to get used to it here.

The music is also REALLY good. I love the opening theme song, and the background music is very fitting and well-made.

Final Verdict:

Continue Yes

Honestly, I’m really not expecting Avatar-level quality here, but I think it will be a fun watch, and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series. I think I’ll switch to subbed, though.


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Episode One-Derland: Log Horizon

Plot: Elder Tale is one of the most popular MMORPGs on the market today with over 20 million players worldwide. The game becomes reality for hundreds of thousands of players when they find that they are now within the game world, having taken over their game personas. They can feel, smell, touch and taste everything within the world of Elder Tale. One question remains, however – what happens when they die?

——————

Being a fan of MMORPGs and a franchise with a similar story, Dot Hack, I got into this rather easily. It even sorta grants a wish I had at the end of .Hack//Quantum which was “I wish we got to see more of a widespread “trapped in the game” epidemic, since this was such a flash in the pan.”

Though, I will say, like the Dot Hack anime, the first episode is fairly slow. Not as slow as Sign or Roots, but still slow. Not much happens is all. They realize they’re stuck in the game along with thousands of other players, our main characters gather together and they have a fight with some monsters.

It is definitely more fun than the intro episodes of the aforementioned series, but structurally, it has similar flaws.

As a first episode, it establishes much of the necessary information such as our main characters, and subsequently their character information, the game world itself, some of the social groups like the Crescent Moon Alliance and Shiro’s former group, the Debauchery Tea Party, and some of the basics of MMOs as a whole. I’d say it’s a success in all areas.

I like our main characters so far, though Shiro is slightly boring, I can see him getting a lot more interesting with his strategist abilities. Naotsugu is a little charming, and Akatsuki seems like she could be bad-ass, though I’m worried that she’s a little too moe. Marielle was pretty funny as well. I was concerned she’d be an overly clingy love interest for Shiro, but she acts luvey-duvey with damn near everyone it seems, so it’s fine.

The art and animation aren’t that stand out or fantastic, but it’s alright and flows fairly well.

The music is also alright. The OP was great but the rest of the music I could take or leave.

Final Verdict:

cbxcz0k

Some of the commenters on this series stated that this is a ‘better’ or ‘fixed’ Sword Art Online, and since I’ve never seen SAO, I don’t much care about that. However, I am very interested to see where this story will go, and how it may or may not sate my desires for more MMORPG related titles.

.Hack Alcor (Manga) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: A twin blade named Nanase is a new member of the newbie-assisting guild Canard. She joined to get closer to Canard’s guild leader, Silabus, but ends up being overshadowed by the powerful Alkaid.

In an effort to win Silabus’ attention, Nanase sets out to be stronger than Alkaid. A PK named Bordeaux knows Nanase and has a grudge against her, so she targets Silabus to break up their friendship. Nanase has to work through her own shortcomings and lack of self-confidence to become strong in her own right.

Breakdown: I really didn’t think much of this manga for the first few chapters. While this character is technically someone canon in the games (though this PC is not) she’s completely new to the series, and their starting chapters with her simply aren’t very interesting.

She has a crush on Silabus and is very jealous of Alkaid. Since Alkaid is so powerful, Silabus frequently admires her abilities and talks to and about her often. However, this does not mean that he ignores Nanase. He includes her in things all the time and never forgets that she’s with them, but she still feels ignored because of Alkaid.

Nanase herself isn’t powerful at all, in fact, I don’t know her level, but she really doesn’t look like she even knows what she’s doing. Which just makes it even more confusing that she was a member of Kestral. Frickin’ Kestral. She doesn’t look like she could or would PK a fly, yet basically the biggest PK crew in The World: R2 recruited her? Was it a quota thing?

The game character that Nanase’s player, Yuasa, makes is Sophora, which makes even less sense to me. It just doesn’t seem like it fits. I know Nanase eventually finds her own inner strength, but Sophora’s personality just doesn’t seem like that would be the logical next step.

I did eventually start liking this manga because it addresses her situation in a way that isn’t very preachy. You’d think she’d try and again to beat Alkaid and eventually best her at something, but it doesn’t win Silabus’ attention and may even push him away, she learns to not be jealous, hugs, the end.

But nope. She complains about not getting praised, Alkaid asks her what she’s done to be praised for, and with no answer Nanase pretty much has to figure out her own brand of strength. There are hardships to overcome, mistakes made, and she has to surmount them and find her own path without blaming Alkaid for everything.

In that respect I liked how the story went once I got into it, but the storytelling itself feels a little disjointed as I had a hard time figuring out where we were in the story.

This manga also does something a little different from many incarnations of the Dot Hack franchise and that’s focusing a little more on player behind the character.

A lot of times in Dot Hack games, manga and shows, the focus is 99.9% on the game with only mentions of what’s happening in the real world, mostly someone falling into a coma and CC Corp being weasels. This manga, while not stressing the real world aspect too much, does incorporate it throughout the story, which I found to be a welcome change of pace and a slight fix to a problem that is present in the other shows, games and manga.

Without much focus on the real world counterparts of the characters, it’s hard to really care that much that they’re in comas or are having other bad things happening to them. Sure, you grow to like or even love the characters, but considering that the players behind the characters, like in real life games, are sometimes drastically different from their players, it creates a disconnection.

For example, Sora in .Hack//Sign, a complete ruthless asshole of a character, is actually a ten year old boy in real life. You feel a little strange directing your malice towards him when you realize that.

Then again, it’s also weird when people make characters who look a lot like their real selves. I get both situations, drastically different for a more immersive role playing experience, closer for a more personal one, but it’s a little weird seeing it as a third-party.

I actually believe that Nanase and Yuasa looks just enough alike to create a connection between the two without feeling odd. However, this is ruined again when Yuasa becomes Sophora, but here Sophora only appears once or twice.

The dynamic between Nanase, Silabus and Alkaid feels very real, and I’m glad they didn’t go too far into drama territory to mess that up. There is a situation in which the sanctity of the group is called into question, and it does present a realistic problem where their ability to truly trust someone is tested.

Nanase, while being a little immature and mopey is likable enough, at least beyond chapter one. She’s meant to be a little annoying to begin with so we can see her own personal growth and discovery of her actual strength. However, this is muddled a little bit considering she’s Sophora….I really can’t grasp that.

Silabus is as nice, helpful and friendly as ever. He’s always been one of my favorite R:2 characters. Despite still being clueless with girls, he’s just as friendly with Nanase as he is with Alkaid and really anyone else. He treasures his friendship with Nanase and always avoids thinking the worst of people, even if that gets him into serious trouble.

Alkaid is still likable, though slightly abrasive sometimes. I wouldn’t say she’s a mentor to Nanase, nor would I even say she’s established as a hurdle to jump, but she and Nanase hold a good relationship when Nanase’s jealousy isn’t getting in the way. Alkaid is not as trusting as Silabus in the least, but she’s not afraid to admit when she’s wrong, and despite losing to Endrance time and again she keeps on truckin’.

The art here is chibi-fied a little bit. I’d say it’s mid-chibi. Not small enough or cartoony enough to warrant calling it chibi, but still seems like the characters are shorter and more cartoony than the average art of this franchise. I liked the art, though nothing particularly blew me away.

Bottomline: Alcor is slightly confusing in its place in the franchise as a whole especially since Nanase and her connection to the group is all but forgotten in the games. Sophora never talks about her Nanase days, never states that she used to be someone named Nanase and she never contacts Alkaid or Silabus or anyone else that she used to play with as Nanase. The connection with Sophora still confuses me a bit as I just don’t feel the connection between the three.

However, on its own it’s a fine addition to the Dot Hack world and actually does some things better than this franchise usually does. It even adds more aspects of MMORPG activities. Not as much as Dusk, but still adds to the ambiance.

It’s a good story of a seemingly weak and shy person finding her confidence and strength both in-game and in real life, and while I may not feel much for the final ending I feel the ending of Nanase as a character was a good one.

It’s a short, nice story that anyone, even people who aren’t fans of Dot Hack would enjoy. Non-fans might be a little thrown by certain cameos like Pi and Kuhn, though. They don’t even explain Kestral or Endrance very well. Not explaining Kestral well is especially baffling. They keep saying ‘Oh she was a member of Kestral’ and it’s obviously a bad thing yet you’d never know why if you didn’t know the games or .Hack//Roots.

Recommended Audience: Nothing really questionable. We don’t even get any comas or heavy tones outside of some in-game drama. E for everyone!