The 2014 autumn anime season is one of the strongest, most robust, anime seasons in memory. As a result the offerings this time around are mostly well balanced, good-looking and generally exciting shows.
Fate/Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works]
Every couple of decades a great war between magi called the Holy Grail War takes place. Seven magi summon legendary warriors to their aid and fight to death for the ultimate prize – the wish-fulfilling Holy Grail. Emiya Shiro is chosen to be one of the magi. But he doesn’t know how to use magic and his goal is only to stop the needless killing the Holy Grail war has brought forth.
Fate/Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works] is a great introduction for new people unfamiliar with the Fate franchise, and at the same time a dream come true for long time Fate fans. This feat is achieved via Ufotable’s dedication to the source material. The first four episodes delicately balance the daily lives of Emiya Shiro and Tohsaka Rin, the information-heavy Holy Grail explanatory segments, and the magical battles to great effect. It’s no secret Fate/Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works] is one of the most expensive anime series in history, and if these early episodes are any indication this is money well spent. The animation of the servent (legendary warriors) battles is jaw-droppingly beautiful, the music is fantastic and story direction is almost flawless. Longtime fans of the Fate franchise will appriciate that Ufotables stuck to the original visual novel scripts but also added some new scenes that complement the old story in elegant ways.
Status: It’s an amazing time to be a Fate fan. Two years ago I reviewed another version of Fate/Unlimited Blade Works that turned out terrible. And now I am here to witness my favorite Fate route being retold in the best way possible. Since this is quality anime at its best Fate/Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works] is a must watch anime for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.
Psycho-Pass is back with a new season. A mysterious person known as Kamui is trying to undermine the Sibyl system. But instead of trying to change the system indirectly through the civilian population (like Makishima tried) Kamui is targeting the MWPSB personal directly. After an enforcer is killed and an inspector disappears Tsunemori Akane decides to dive deep into the case.
Psycho-Pass 2 is an evolution of the old series, and I immediately found it better in many ways. First of all Tsunemori is more capable this time around. Having been scarred by her previous cases she is now more cunning and is willing to get her hands dirty. This time around the series doesn’t strictly focuses on Tsunemori’s team exclusively either. Other teams from the MWPSB (Ministry of Welfare Public Security Bureau) are shown working in the background, making the story believable and less personal. The crime cases have an intellectual consistency the series lacked in the past, and the crew handles their jobs better than they did before. If in the first season lots of people died and as a result the MWPSB had to go after the criminal and eventually kill him, in the second season the MWPSB manages to prevent some mass killings and even to capture few of the criminals before they act.
The new season still has its own fair share of problems though. Since Tsunemori has improved it falls to the new inspector – Shimotsuki Mika – to be the asshole I’ll probably love to hate for the rest of the season. She is as arrogant as inspectors get, doesn’t think twice before doing what the Sibyl system orders and has no respect for the people around her (especially if they are enforcers). Criminals are still mostly rendered as inhuman psychopaths. And although this is a bit of nitpicking the music is considerably downgraded and barely noticeable compared to the first season.
Status: I like the new direction the series has been pursuing. The stakes are higher, the action feels tighter and I am enjoying every minute of it.
Kasuga Arata’s normal life is put to a sudden stop when the population of his entire city is evaporated alongside his cousin. All he is left with is a powerful grimoire entrusted to him by his cousin; A grimoire that turns out to be a dangerous magical artifact. Soon after a magician appears before him and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t hand over the grimoire. Reluctant to part with his cousin’s last remnant Arata convinces the magician to allow him to learn how to use magic. He then joins the magic academy in hopes of one day having enough magical powers to help find and recover his cousin, which some believe can still be saved.
I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started watching Trinity Seven. I fully expected it to be a mindless harem show, perhaps even a Negima clone. And while it does take some cues from Negima it has some charming features of its own. The Trinity Seven (a group of seven powerful female magicians) all have distinct personalities and character designs. Most are cute and I can see myself watching the show just for the sake enjoying their everyday magical lives. The protagonist Arata isn’t your typical subdued male character either. Unlike other harem shows he can hold his own and in fact is insightful enough to get the hang of things in the magic academy pretty fast.
Status: It’s nice seeing a polished harem show for once. Trinity Seven probably won’t turn out to be a life changing experience for me. But as a harmless, cute side-dish it has its sweet spots.
Akatsuki no Yona
Yona is the princess and only daughter of the ruler of a small empire. Comprised of various fighting tribes, the empire’s power balance is always hanging by a small thread. Years ago Yona’s father – the emperor – has persuaded the tribes to lay down their weapons and live in peace. But on Yona’s 16th birthday one of Yona’s closest friends murders her father and seizes the throne. With aid from her close friend and bodyguard Haku, Yona flees from the capital. Now she must find a way to face and dethrone her father’s slayer.
Akatsuki no Yona: The Girl Standing in the Blush of Dawn is a low-key, shoujo show. It’s pretty mediocre all around and can be awkwardly unbalanced at times. The main characters’ design is often majestic and refined but most of the servants that follow in their footsteps look like chubby cartoonish goons. The scope of the series seems vast, with each tribe having its own agenda, and yet the plot is a bit too thin. Some political struggles could have gone a long way in granting this series the sophistication it sorely needs. Thankfully the poor plot doesn’t stop Yona herself from shining. Much like Nakajima Youko for The Twelve Kingdoms Yona must throw her old self and adapt to her new reality if she wishes to survive. Her changes of heart are the real treat this series has to offer. It remains to be seen if the reverse-harem nature of the series will make or break it. Let’s hope it’s handled in a subtly, unobtrusive, way.
Status: On a weaker season Akatsuki no Yona might have been a saving grace. But since it has the misfortune of airing during a fantastic season it falls short and I can’t really recommend it at this point.
A group of genetically enhanced humans space-travel to planet Mars in order to collect samples that will enable scientists on earth to create a vaccine for an incurable disease. Upon arrival they face the wrath of mutated cockroaches keen on squashing any human in their way.
Terra Formars is a “so bad it’s good” show. The series severely lacks in the animation department. Everyone is standing still all the time. It’s particularly noticeable in the first three episodes where I almost felt like I’m watching a picture book. If the cockroaches are so fast how come they spend half an episode staring at the humans and doing absolutely nothing?
Furthermore, the plot is really cliché and full of holes. Why did the Mars cockroaches evolve into humanoid beings when Mars’ atmospheric pressure is lower than Earth’s and there is no tall vegetation on it? How come most of the expedition is composed of teenage kids?
If that isn’t weird enough for you just listen to the series narrator, who keeps telling straight-out lies. He explains why cockroaches are much faster than humans, when in fact the cockroaches on Mars are humanoids with a bigger mass than a human and two legs instead of four. He also talks about a spider with six legs which is superior than a bug, but again – the human who is infused with that spider’s genes only has two legs, making the explanation irrelevant. You really need to rely heavily on the suspense of misbelief if you want to even enjoy Terra Formars. Thankfully later episodes resolve to blissfully unrestricted violence, which free us from overthinking about the half-baked plot. There are also some flashbacks that may or may not help you care about the humans that are fighting or Mars. I still haven’t found a favorite human to cheer for, since the majority of them would have been considered serial killers or extremely dangerous individuals if they were living among us.
Status: Terra Formars is a mindless action show; And there is entertainment to be had in mindless action. However it’s a step below other contemporary survival anime shows and only barely interesting enough to keep me coming back for more . I’ll keep watching it for now but those who like the genre will be better off watching Attack on Titan or Btooom instead.
Denki-gai no Honya-san
This is the simple story of the various employees of the doujinshi shop Uma no Hone and their daily struggle to sell their favorite, super unconventional, manga series to the hungry masses.
From the very beginning Denki-gai no Honya-san (“an electric-district book store”) tries really hard but accomplishes very little. In its effort to make jokes more appealing it stretches them a bit too long and make them a bit too vulgar. A joke about the male genitalia? That’s funny! Half an episode about the male genitalia? No so much.
The characters are all unique, but their personalities are so far-fetched that most of them end up acting like lunatics. To add insult to injury the character designs are amongst the ugliest I’ve seen in years. They really are hard to justify considering the backdrop for the show – the Uma no Hone shop – features some very elaborate manga covers. Denki-gai no Honya-san does have an interesting premise to build on. It takes place in a doujinshi store (a Tora no Ana meme for those who haven’t been to Akihabara yet). This in itself could have led to funny otaku jokes, or some much needed satire on the doujinshi scene. It’s very disappointing then that the series doesn’t live up to its potential and instead keeps pulling the same shallow erotic jokes and slapstick humor.
Status: Modern doujinshi culture has a lot of comic potential (pun intended). Sadly, Dengeki-gai no Honya-san is not a good comedy show, nor is does it have any other good merit worth mentioning. Thus I have decided to officially drop it from my autumn season watching list.
Fate/Stay Night is old. It’s been 10 years since the original Visual Novel hit stores in Japan. That game has already been adapted into an anime, twice, and was followed by a slew of spinoffs, both in video game, book and anime form. Ufotable’s Fate/Zero anime is arguably the most remarkable of these spinoffs, because it both followed the original lore and also went on to become a high quality hit anime in its own right. Now Ufotable is toiling on its own adaptation of the original Fate/Stay Night story and the fans are anticipating the same insane production values and polish found in Fate/Zero. But simply throwing massive amounts of funds into this project won’t be enough to gurantee another bona fide hit. To make a difference Ufotable must also innovate and breathe new life into this long-established, yet stale, franchise. Here are 5 things that would make Ufotable’s Fate/Stay Night remake epic:
The Fate/Unlimited Blade Works Blu-ray review is now available in the reviews section and here.
After watching Unlimited Blade Works I am genuinely weary of Sentai Filmworks’ upcoming Fate/Stay Night release. Sentai Filmworks clearly did a lousy job at translating and mastering Unlimited Blade Works, a fact that I mention more than once in my review. As a Fate fan who’s favorite Fate/Stay route was Unlimited Blade Works I feel bad for having to write such a bad review on such a promising product. Oh well. At least the upcoming Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya won’t let me down. Right?
Sentai Filmworks have acquired the rights to release Fate/Stay Night in the U.S. and will be releasing it on Blu-ray in January. That’s great! Unfortunately little else is currently known about the upcoming release and there are many burning questions to be asked. How will it look? How will it sound? How much will it retail for? And will it sell?
We try to answer these questions using some handy facts and educated guesses. Continue reading
2011 marks the year when U.S. anime distributors finally began to distribute anime on Blu-ray as a norm (and not a special limited edition). Thankfully we do have a wider selection of anime titles on Blu-ray today, and fans are actively demanding them. We at Anime Reviews love Blu-rays. Why wouldn’t we? There are better, sharper and bluer than DVD ever was. But there are anime series that, despite being released in Japan on Blu-ray never quite made it to the U.S. on that format. Here are six series that needs to be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray. Continue reading