Sword Art Online (Part 2)

Type: Alfheim Online

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Synopsis: Two months after getting stuck in an MMO, but not taking place in another season for some reason, video game nerddddd Kirito signs up for another monthly subscription to save his online girlfriend from a date rapist. This new MMO has a bunch of flying elves, which is…cool? Elves were in Lord Of the Rings, so I think that makes them cool. Kirito basically has a week to save the love of his life and prevent a totally legal marriage while she’s in a coma. Plus, he gets to fly around with a really busty blondy that may or may not be his incestuous sister. Anime everybody!

Pros: You know, the idea of Sword Art taking place in other MMO worlds is cool, and it would have been cooler if the show just bit the bullet and made Ep.15-25 another season. It’s nitpicky, but it would have made it simpler to separate both halves. The show still keeps its quality action scenes and gaming jargon, and I liked that Kirito got a Navi-like figure. Very Legend of Zelda. I also liked Leafa, in that I liked that Kirito traveled with another person for the majority of his time in Alfein Online.

Cons: First off, the incestuous sister story troupe needs to stop. None of this “technically not related” bullshit can make up for the gross factor. Second, I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in the Alfein Online storyline as I did with Sword Art. Kirito can’t actually die in this game, and you know Asuna will be rescued. Speaking of that, why did they have to marginalize Asuna so much? She went from bad-ass fighter to damsel in distress, in the worst possible way. She’s stuck in a bird cage, cries for Kirito to save her, and worst of all, she gets sexually harassed and constantly threatened with assault in almost every scene she shows up in. For a minute, it looks like she was going to escape and maybe work her way down the fortress while Kirito works his way up, but nope. Instead she’s attacked my tenticle monsters. For reals, that’s a thing that happens. The bad guy in this is also just the worst kind of slime. Also, for only having a week, Kirito seemed in no hurry and screwed around a whole lot.

Watch it?: Everyone lives. There, now you don’t have to watch it. (3/5)

MVP: Yui

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“Daddy” was annoying, but she was very helpful when you think about it.

Best Episode: Ep. 19 “The Lugru Corridor” (Giant Summon)

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Sword Art Online (Part 1)

Type: The part that actually takes place in the game Sword Art Online

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Synopsis: A young man is trapped in a virtual world where he has to train digital monsters to–Oops! wrong show. I mean to say that the young man is trapped in a virtual world and must solve the mystery of why he can’t log out while dealing with his inner fears and anxieties–no, sorry, that’s a different show too. Let me double check my notes…o.k. This show does follow a young man who is trapped in a virtual world, where monster do exist but as enemies, and he does deal with emotion problems but mostly about why every girl that meets him want to date him. He also actually makes it out of the game half way through, hence the “Part 1″ in the title.

Pros: As non-original as it is, the premise of a person trapped in a virtual world still intrigues me. The plot behind this show is that a about ten thousand people are trapped in an online game. If they beat the boss, they beat the game, and the protagonist is one such person who resolves to do just that. The result is an action packed anime with video game jargon and the occasional love story. The action is nice and flashy, but the love stories are hit or miss. The stipulation that “if you die in the game, you die in real life” made some of the early death scenes pretty emotional. It was also an interesting idea to have time move in real time, and the revelation that two year go by in the first fourteen episodes really helps solve some of the show’s pacing problems.

Cons: This show is good, but its not great. I wasn’t psyched about that fact that every girl, every single dingle girl, that meets Kirito falls for him. This felt a little too harem-esque to me. As mentioned above, I also felt that the show had pacing issues, with stories jumping around in both location and time. For example, in Episode 1, Kirito is a level 1 player, but in episode 2 Kirito is apparently so high level that his afraid to tell people. A quick scene maybe showing him grinding would have been since. I was kinda ticked that most people in the show didn’t just band together and rush the hundred floors needed to beat the boss, but that’s nitpicking (and I guess since most people were at level 1, it wouldn’t have helped). As for the Kirito-Asuna relationship, I liked it. It was fine. I actually would have preferred more duo adventures, or at least one episode showcasing an Asuna solo quest. The overall emotional tone of the show is also a little bit too melodrama from some.

Watch it?: All-in-all, its fairly entertaining (4/5)

MVP: Sword Art Online

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For being a game so intricate, it actually had a Cooking skill tree in it.

Best Episode: Ep. 3 “The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (because everyone called him names?)

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Ah My Goddess! Flights of Fancy

Type: Also known as Season 2

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Synopsis: Keiichi is basically still living the swell life. After somehow ending up with the goddess Belldandy and her two not-so-wicked sister, Urd and Skuld, he’s more or less adjusted. He and Belldandy even manage to get closer on an emotional level, which is cool I guess. I mean, this kinda comes back to bite them when Urd’s mother, the LORD OF TERROR, decides to mess with them because why not? Can their love overcome the devil herself!? (Spoilers: Yeah, probably).

Synopsis: The animation seems to have gotten a bit of an upgrade between seasons, but not by much. I liked this season’s plot better than the first season. Aside from a few fluff episodes, the core story for season 2 is the growing intimacy between Keiichi and Belldandy, specifically on Belldandy’s side. This season, Belldandy experiences jealousy and possessiveness for the first time (she also gets drunk, which is always funny). Keiichi and Belldandy’s relationship are given several tests time around, and Belldandy’s new feelings boost the drama. Don’t get me wrong, this ain’t Days of Our Lives or anything, but I’m glad Belldandy and Keiichi were back to being the focus of the show after the lackluster second half of season 1. I also forgot to mention this last time, but I love the scottish influenced opening melody.

Cons: Again, nothing too bad or good. Aside from Keiichi and Belldandy, the other side stories are the inner turmoil between Urd’s goddess and demon sides, and a mini-arc about Skuld’s first love. A lot of episodes are still skippable, and you will most likely want to skim through a lot of this. Also, and I forgot the mention this last time, but this series has the weird habit of ending the plot two episodes early, meaning we essentially get two extra episodes for finales. That’s just weird.

Watch it!?: Did you know that Manga lasted 26 years? (3/5)

MPV: Belldandy

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She was rounded out a bit more

Best Episode: Ep.20 “Ah! It Doesn’t Matter Where, So Long as We’re Together!” (there’s nothing quite as romantic as a private dance together).

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Ah! My Goddess

Type: Sometimes pronounced “Oh!”

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Synopsis: Some college shumck strikes the lottery by accidentally calling a “goddess help line.” Surprisingly, this wasn’t a sex thing, because an actual goddess shows up to grant him a wish. He offhandedly wishes that the pretty goddess would stay with him forever, which forces this trans-dimensional being to be shackled to our mortal plain. But she’s cool with it. The duo  live out the rest of their days in psudo-marriged life, complete with in-laws and relatives.

Pros: This was a pretty good love-comedy. The first seven episodes were a solid relationship show, barring the fact that most of the emotional anxiety came from the male side. You care more about Keiichi and Belldandy as a result. They actually had a scene were they just talked to each other all night, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in an anime. Episodes 8-12 introduce a second goddess named Urd. She plays the sexy one, but the show doesn’t strays into harem territory, which was actually surprising. Episodes 12-26 introduce a third goddess, Skuld, who I could have lived without, expect for the fact that she was really good in one episode. This was overall a pretty tepid show, with not real frills, but you can burn through it pretty fast in a fast food kind a way.

Cons: Nothing good, nothing bad. Average. You can skip a few episodes without missing anything. There were a few characters I disliked. Skuld’s kid act could get annoying. The snobby girl Sayoko was largely pointless. There’s also a demon bottle at one point that was pretty racist. Pretty super racist. As mentioned above, I felt that the added characters diluted the Keiichi and Belldandy story. Maybe if the other goddesses had popped in every once in a while instead of staying permanently, it would have worked better. Still, I liked the show overall.

Watch it: Easy watch (3/5)

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MVP: Keiichi and Belldandy

I hope these crazy kids make it

Best Episode: Ep. 26 “Ah! Being an Adult is Heart-Throbbing?” (The one time Skuld was watchable)

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50 Question Meme (2 Years Anniversary)

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Howdy! It has been 2 years to the day since I started this little Anime Circle for the busy gentleman (and lady). In honor of this milestone, I’ll be answering the 50 Question Anime Meme! Continue reading

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Penguindrum

Type: Terrorism is Bad

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Synopsis: There’s a lot of talk about circles and fate, but the gist is this. About twenty years ago, a terrorist attack killed a girl named Momoka. This made her younger sister obsessed with replacing her in the eyes of her parents and childhood friend. It also turned her best friends into obsessive psychopaths. Meanwhile, the children of the terrorists have a sick sister, and their quest to cure her forces them to cross paths with the aforementioned people. But it all turns out to be a battle between this evil bunny and a little girl with a magic diary.  And Penguins. What was with the Penguins?

Pros: Visually beautiful and dynamic. That’s not a word I get to use often, but this was very dynamic. Maybe dynamic isn’t the right word. Colorful? Bright? Bouncy? Something like that. I happened to watch the English dub, which was very good. A little flat in some parts, but overall excellent voice work.I really liked that the protagonist were brothers, because I don’t feel anime takes advantage of sibling protagonists that often. Its a pretty easy way to establish a relationship without backstory. There’s a good story here, if not entirely straightfoward. It’s also very funny when it wants to be. It even made some of the dark stuff they get into worth a chuckle. There was one scene between Himari and Masako that made me really want them two to have their own weird spin-off. There’s also a pretty tragic story underneath all the color, just in case your into that sort of thing.

Cons: First off, it has pacing problems. The first half of the show (ep.1-12) deals with Ringo, the girl who supposedly posses the “penguindrum” that the protagonists need to save their sick sister. We watch her stalk some teacher and try to impregnate herself with his baby. Yeah. This part drags on and on, especially compared to the second half, which just throws as much backstory and set up as it can. The whole story feels a bit full of itself, with incessant talk of destiny and fate. I feel that if this were set up in chronological order, from at least the day of the terrorist attack, some of the plot would work better. Speaking of the story, can I say that there was entirely too much weird sex stuff in this. There was implied rape, attempted rape, incest, obsession that turned out to be incest. I get that this is one of those stories, where the bright exterior hides as gritty underbelly, but can we not. Please. Can we just not. You already have terrorists, cults, and abandonment. Isn’t that enough? It should also point out that for a show that clearly spend a lot of animation, they recycled the Himari “Survival Tactic” scene way too much. And once again, what was with the damn Penguins? What do the symbolize, dancing? Did a watching of  March of the Penguins inspire some sort of existential crisis? What’s the deal?

Watch it?: It gets slack, because people clearly worked hard on this (4/5)

MVP: Shōma Takakura

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Clearly the main guy. Am I right or am I right?

Best Episode: Ep. 20 “Thank You For Choosing Me” (I was thinking of The Little Matchstick Girl when I saw this)

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Pokemon Origins

Type: Four Episodes = One Game

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Synopsis: This anime wanted to be the very best, like no other ever was. To entertain us was the real test, to wow us was the cause. The protagonist traveled across the land, catching all 150 pokemon far and wide. Teaching Ash to understand that he’s rally low tier on the inside. Pokemon!

Pros: Origins is based on the original Pokemon:Red and Blue (Green in Japan) video game that started it all. It does this cool thing where it beings at the start menu, and ends with the “player” saving the “game.” Unlike the main series, none of the Pokemon talk. They instead growl or chirp, just like in the original game. The fights between the Pokemon are also excellent, having more of an edge than the original series. Its a tad more violent, but the basic tenants of treating pokemon with respect is still there. Every episode depicts a familiar scenerio within the game: Beginning in Pallet Town, Lavender Town, Beating Team Rocket, and Becoming Pokemon Champion. Probably one of truest video game to anime adaptations.

Cons: While Origins is very faithful to its source material, it still adds fluff here and there. The interactions between Red and Blue are cliche, and the second episode involving Lavender Tower felt forced and bland. On that note, you should be aware that the series glosses over a lot of the original game. Being only 4 episodes, don’t expect individual gym battles, or accidentally killing your rival’s Raticate. Maybe if this had been 6 episodes instead of 4, the story would’t have felt so compressed. Now that the serious is over, can I saw how weird is was that two character kept being refered to as “Red” and “Blue?” Or that “Blue” is clearly Gary, that guy who had a harem in the original. Or that it just wasn’t as funny as the first series. I still say the original stands the test of time on gags alone.

Watch it?: Is Ditto a failed clone of Mew? (4/5)

MVP: Red

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He did in fact catch them all

Best Episode: It’s four episodes. Pick.

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Maken-Ki! Battling Venus

Type: I can’t believe this has a second season.

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Synopsis: Part of it involves a guy with glasses going to a school where all the students have superpowers. Possibly secret superpowers, but that bit was confusing. There’s also this background story involving the Yamata no Orochi, that eight-headed snake dragon that pops up every now and then. There’s also a lot of boobs, and panty shots, and, well, a lot of boobs and panty shots.

Pros: This anime is terrible. Let’s get that straight. But the animation is surprisingly good. Too good for a shitty harem show. The quality of the animation (by which I mean lighting and certain shots) is either a sign that anime has embraced digital coloring and HD to the extent that even low-tier shows are reaping the benefits, or that some pitiful fool thought it was a really good idea to pump money into this franchise.

Cons: Jesus, do I even have to point it out? The story is confusing, the characters are one-dimensional, and the fan service is gratuitous to the point of nausea. Every character is at least a D-cup, and sometimes is seems like their panties serve more like a flag proudly waving with the breeze than as underwear. You know, sometimes you can argue this point, but there not getting around it, this show is god damn sexist. But weirdly enough, it sometimes calls out characters on their own sexism, like Takeru’s refusal to fight a girl. So this may actually be an incredibly sly metacommentary on gender dynamics in story telling (whisper It’s totally not whisper). There’s also not a lot of quality fighting in this show called Battling Venus.

Watch it: As stated above, this anime is terrible. (2/5)

MVP: Azuki Shinatsu

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At least she looks cool…

Best Episode: When you find one, let me know.

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My Little Monster

Type: Humans are the only animal that go to war, whose the real monster?

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Synopsis: A girl with dreams and ambition meets a boy with slight manic tendencies, and the two fall in love. Sort of. I mean, he likes her, then she likes him, then he’s not sure if he likes or loves her, then she rejects him, then he says he loves her, then she loves him, then a rooster gets involved, its a whole thing.

Pros: Right off the bat, its really funny, especially for a Shojo show. There are some funny gags, my favorite being the small ones where male protagonist Haru gets happy or excited over the prospect of having friends. In fact, Haru and supporting character Natsume’s comedic desperation for friendship was my favorite part of the series. At these moments, the show felt like a cross between From Me to You and Haganai. I also liked the the protagonist Shizuku’s blunt and rational attitude, and the fact that her story line involves balancing her goals with her love life, instead of having to choose one or the other (I mean, she tried that, but it didn’t go well). And it may not be very gallant of me, but I laughed out loud whenever Shizuku was accidentally hit by Haru.

Cons: Personally, I disliked the more shojo-esque elements of the show. I won’t say that I disliked the moments involving character emotion or psychology, because that would make me sound like an unfeeling robot, but I do feel that these moments are a bit troupy. There are love triangles, personal anxieties, fowl, the works. Haru was also a problematic. On one hand, he’s a handsome loner with a heart of gold. On the other, he has substantial anger issues that he can’t control. At one point, it’s implied he was going to murder a rival for Shizuku’s affections. I feel that the title My Little Monster is implying that Haru may have legitimate psychological problems. It’s also pretty obvious that we’re not getting the complete story, which is a shame, because I’m interested in what happens next.

Watch it?: Possibly the funniest Shojo-Anime I’ve ever seen. (4/5)

MVP: Asako Natsume

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I love that she calls Shizuku “Mitty”

Best Episode: Ep. 1 “Sitting Next to Yoshida-Kun” (this was a  surprisingly hard decision)

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Trigun

Type: A lot funnier then the artwork suggests

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Synopsis: Set in the distant world of not Cowboy Bebop you guys! A gunman with a broom for a head and red licorice for a body wanders the waste in search of love and peace. Sadly, he’s haunted by his reputation as Vash the Stampede, the humanoid typhoon, despite the fact that he dresses exactly like the description on his bounty. Along for the ride are two female insurance agents, a preacher, and later on his psychotic brother from his plant based species from space.

Pros: I found Trigun to be somewhere between Cowboy Bebop and Rurouni Kenshin. It’s a space western starring around a seemingly goofy protagonist with an infamous past. Though I don’t think Kenshin was quite the lothario Vash was. It even shares a few voice actors with the latter, most notably Dorothy Elias-Fhan, who play Meryl and Miss Kauru in Kenishin. The first half-ish of the story revolves around Vash saving people despite his harsh reputation, and the second revolves around Vash’s inner turmoil over his life and fight with his brother’s henchmen. Vash actually proves to be a pretty complex guy, if a little too quick to tears. Most of the series have stand alone stories, with plots ranging from greedy land owners to fighting would be assassins. A great show through and through.

Cons: I feel that the second half of the show falters. Learning about Vash’s backstory makes things needlessly complicated, and his ultimate showdown with his brother knives, the supposed antagonist of the series, doesn’t feel earned. The thing is, as the show gets closer to the end, the stories become increasingly dark. A lot of characters around Vash die, and we learn that this is all a ploy by Knives to make Vash suffer. The problem is, we only get about two episodes with Knives, so we don’t get enough time to get to know him as a villain. If Knives had been given more screen time, the differences between Vash and Knives would have been more pronounced and their conflict would have been better executed. As it stands, however, it makes the ending feel a bit anticlimactic.

Watch it?: Does a Trigun have three barrels? (No really, I want to know) (4/5)

MVP: Vash the Stampede

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The man with a hundred nickname.

Best Episode: Ep. 18 “Goodbye for Now” (now this is a cowboy story)

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