Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie (1978)

Type: Bird Power Rangers

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Synopsis: Gatchaman, the Science Ninja Team (no, really) are the world’s best defense against Galactor, a terrorist organization with an absolutely fabulous commander. Bonus points for groovy 70’s attire.

Pros: I caught this movie at an anime con while trying to kill some time. I’ve been aware of Gatchaman, or as I always referred to them as, those weird bird themed people. Now I know what they are: there the power rangers! Well, not really. Well, kinda really. They’re a Japanese superhero group. They’re composed of a leader, a girl, a kid, a big guy, and a rebel. They have bird themed weapons and fly in planes that combine into a bigger plane. Classic superhero group. The thing looks pretty old school, which was fun for someone who likes noticing cost cutting animation tricks. I also really loved the era appropriate clothing. Long hair, bell bottoms, numbers on t-shirts. It had pretty good action, though the Science Ninja Team sure did kill a lot of people. But hey, it was the 70s. And, I can’t lie, I loved the old school story telling and overly dramatic dialogue.

Cons: If you can’t get past the dated animation, then your obviously not going to watch this. The “film” is split into two stories: one involves Ken’s dad and the other involved Joe. If you where watching the show from the beginning, then I can imagine the two stories told being a big deal. But the don’t really connect in the movie itself. One story ends, and the other begins. It really two OVA’s edited together. And, I can’t lie, years of watching Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim make fun of this style of animation prevented me from taking the plots too seriously.

Watch it?: It’s a good way to see what this whole “Gatchaman” thing is about

MVP: Jun the Swan

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Science Ninja, Business Owner, and Guitarist. Woman of the 70’s.

Best Moment: The Doctor holding the UN hostage (all to let his Teenage heroes attempt to save the day)

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Danganronpa: The Animation

Type: Like Hunger Games, or Battle Royale, or whatever reference you prefer.

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Synopsis: It’s a survival game with high schoolers…hey! Don’t go yet. You didn’t hear that it’s also based on a visual novel….hey! Give it a chance at least. This one has a sadistic teddy bear in it!

Pros: Danganronpa is a visual novel series based around the theme of “despair.” This anime is based on the first game, “Trigger Happy Havoc,” and is a murder mystery. The set up is that 15 students are trapped in an elite high school and forced to kill each other. Its a mystery because the rules state that once a body is found, the students have to figure out who the killer is. If they fail, the killer goes free while the rest die. The last person surviving wins and is rewarded with fame and fortune. The anime follows a set formula: A murder happens, an investigation happens, and then a trial happens. One of the first things you’ll notice is the art style. The colors are vibrant and each of the characters are given unique designs, which helps make their death a bit more meaningful. The trial scenes, which are usually just the characters talking to each other, are spiced up with cool video game style animations and transitions, masterfully blending two mediums together. Ditto for the executions. And at only 13 episodes, the show moves at a very brisk and meaningful pace. Overall, the show has a unique look, an interesting cast of characters, an intriguing mystery, a sense of humor, and a cool set up. Well worth a watch.

Cons: The anime does get a but troupee. Its a survival game anime where a boy and girl form an alliance early one, the characters each betray each other for no real reason, a suicide occurs, and it all ends like you’d think it would. Even some of the mysteries and twists are cliche, though the show does call itself out on a few of these. In term of characters, a lot of the designs, while unique, also come off as overdone.Their meant to give you a quick visual summary of the character’s traits, as the show doesn’t have time to give depth to all 14 students. So some come off as one dimensional. The show is also very back heavy, meaning the the last episodes, particularly the finale, are stuffed with revelations and lore (and a weird lack of budget). My only real gripe that during the trials, when the murder has been accused, the characters tend to break down and admit it, turning into weird caricatures of themselves. Which again, was on purpose from a creative standpoint. Interestingly, I think this show does recognize it’s weaknesses and addresses them, or at least owns up to them. Everything the show does feels intentional and confident, so these are more nitpicks than anything else.

Watch it?: A strong recommend (4/5)

MVP: Kyouko Kirigiri

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Super High School Level Detective

Best Episode: Ep2-3 “Not Normal Arc: Kill and Live” (though I like other arcs better, this one is a good intro to the formula of the show)

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable

Type: Let’s party like it’s 1999!

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Synopsis: Once again, a perfectly normal show is being called “bizarre” just because it revolved around people who have psychic battle that sometimes result in someone turning into a rock, or collecting pocket change, or fusing a cat and a flower together that can shoot air bubbles. The show even tries to make itself presentable by using the setting of a peaceful suburban town…where you can eat at a restaurant the cleans your pores and go to a beauty shop that rearranges your face. Just what is so “bizarre” about that!

Pros: Ok, real talk, Diamond is Unbreakable is one of my favorites Jojo arcs. I flip flop between Diamond is Unbreakable and Phantom Blood. And, in all honesty, Diamond is Unbreakable is much more consistent, being Part 4 in the Jojo series. By this point the author is a seasons pro, stands have been introduced, and the stories are becoming more varies. Part 1 was a gothic shoen series. Part 2 was a martial arts shoen series. Part 3 was an adventure shoen series. But Part 4 is more of a slice-of-life suspense series. Basically Anime meets Twin Peaks. The story is mainly about this seemingly unassuming town named Morioh, which is actually home to a gaggle of strange, arguably bizarre, residents that each have weird powers called “Stands.” These powers can as straight forwards as turning invisible, or as specific a stand that turns pieces of paper into pocket dimensions. Like Twin Peaks, a lot of the best episodes are stand alone incidents involving Morioh’s abnormal residents. The show introduces some of my all time favorite Jojo characters, from the hard working Koichi, the love lorn Yukako, the mangaka Rohan, the stingy Shigekiyo, and the surprisingly compelling grade schooler Hayato. Episodes can range from deadly serious cat and mouse duels, to figuring out if the lunch your eating is actually a stand. I would actually argue that Diamond is Unbreakable is the easiest entry point for those curious about the series, but aren’t into the whole “fight-fight” shoen scenes. You can watch a random episode and not feel lost. You can follow it week by week. You can even marathon it. It has all the benefits of a slice of life show with a pinch of strange thrown in. The characters are great, as the main cast (and even some auxiliary characters) get their own episodes to shine. The show has 3 main arcs: The hunt for the Arrow, some downtime, and the search for Kira. Kira really takes over the show about a third of the way in, and his weird but deadly demeanor has made him a fan favorite antagonist, rivaling even Dio! (p.s. I also loved the color palette the show used, nice choice!)

Cons: Even though Diamond is Unbreakable is my favorite arc, it’s not without it’s flaws. As said above, a lot of the episodes are stand alone stories, with some feeling less important that others. So some points of the series may feel like the drag on too long (cough Highway Star cough). It feels like the author meanders between stories, probably returning to the main plot when his editor told him to. But your mileage may vary depending on your tastes in stories. I should also point out that because this is Part 4 of the Jojo saga, less attention is paid to the main protagonist. While Josuke Higashikata, illegitimate son of Part 2’s Joseph Joestar, if a good character and probably the most genial Jojo in the series, he can go long stretches of time without even appearing. The story often switches focus, sometimes going to Koichi, or Rohan, or even Kira! This is actually a trend that started in Part 3, and has arguably made subsequent Jojo’s feel less impactful. It doesn’t really hurt this story, but it seems like we get to know Josuke less than Jonathan or Joseph Joestar. Now, on to more subjective remarks: what the hell happened to the animation quality this season? I noticed so many animation errors and model mistakes! Either this was rushed or less people were working on it, because brah, we got some messed up picture up in here. There was also a lot more still shots, though this could be a result of simply having more episodes. Also, no women. Well, that’s not fair. There’s like 5 female characters: Two are moms, one’s killed off, one’s a love interest for a supporting character, and one’s a ghost. And, sadly, the Jojo franchise has still not gotten over giving explanatory commentary during it’s fights. This ain’t wresting! When a cat plant throws an air bubble at a serial killer, we get what’s going on!b (P.s.s. It was recently made aware of a big plothole in the show: Why didn’t anyone ask Joseph to find Kira using his stand, despite being brought in to find Red Hot Chilli Peper for the same reason!).

Watch it?: If you ever wanted to watch Jojo, start with this one (5/5)

MVP: Koichi

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A personal favorite, I admit

Best Episode: Ep.21-22 “Yoshikage Kira Just Wants to Live Quietly, Part 1 & 2 (this season was very hard to choose from, with funny and exciting choices, but one is Kira at his most menacing)

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My Hero Academia

Type: Do Good to Others, and Every Man can be an All Might

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Synopsis: World of Superheroes. Quirkless Boy. Mighty Hero. Plus Ultra.

Pros: My Hero Academia is about a boy named Izuku Midoriya who lives in a world where 80% of the population has super powers, and an established Superhero community. Midoriya’s dream is to become a hero like his idol All Might, but he doesn’t have any powers, or “Quirks.” It seems like he’s hoping against hope until he selflessly risks his life for a friend/bully, impressing All Might enough to bestow upon him his own superpowers. And this is just the first two episodes. The rest of the series is Miyoriya’s life in U.A. High School, a school for gifted youngsters (sister school to the Xavier Institute, I’m sure). The anime does have the name “Academia” in the title. While the school stuff is fun, and an easy way to introduce new characters, the real draw of the show is Midoriya. He has the heart of a hero, despite his twitchy demeanor and tendency for water works. He wins you over almost immediately with his fan boy love of heroes, and keeps your rooting for his through his determination to fulfill his dream, a dream no one believe in because of his handicap. It breaks your heart when he’s told its impossible, and you root for him when he overcomes a new obstacle. And In a simple but effective gimmick, Midoriya’s new quirk is a glass cannon. He can become just as powerful as All Might, but because his body isn’t use to the power output, he becomes incredibly damaged after a single use. So instead of powering through his obstacles, Midoriya has to think his way out of them (fun fact: Most Silver Age Superman stories did the same thing). He also has an in story reason for this, given his obsession of collecting data on heroes. Plus the fact that his quirk has to be passed down was a nice touch, and a good allusion to legacy heroes. As you can plainly see, I loved Midoriya and the show as a whole.

Cons: But that’s not to say that there aren’t bad things about this anime. For one, villains show up in the last few episodes, but they’re underdeveloped. The actual manga, which I devoured after watching this show,  does the same thing, switching between school arcs and villain arcs. The other heroes are also underdeveloped, with All-Might being the only one to get any real character development. The main theme seems to revolve around the term “underdeveloped,” which can all be sourced to the fact that the anime only got 13 episodes. It does have a second season, but a shoen show like this really needs more episodes in a season. But the first season has a cliff hanger ending. Because, as much as I loved it, you do get the feeling that you’ve only scratched the surface of the story in retrospect.

Watch it: Hit my Superhero feels button (4/5)

MVP: Midoriya

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Or, The Great Hero Deku

Best Episode: Ep.1-2, “Izuki Midoriya: Origin” and “What it takes to be a Hero” (The end made me cry. One of my newest favorite moments in all of anime)

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And you thought there is never a girl online?

Type: Actually, about 50% of Gamers are Female

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Synopsis: A group of high schoolers manage to convince their teachers that creating a club for the sole purpose of playing a MMO RPG is a good and worthwhile idea. They do so by exploiting the fact that one of their club members, Ako, suffers from a mental condition wherein she cannot discern the game from reality. They say that the club is an “incentive” for Ako to come to school, but really, there just slacking off. (P.s. I wish I could come up with a tie-in joke to GamerGate, but they’re a  joke already).

Pros: This anime is in the online-game anime subgenre. Sort of. Basically, the character interactions in the game are all presented with regular character models. The game itself look’s fairly 2D. No one is stuck in the game. Except probably Ako, the female protagonist. She’s addicted to online gaming, to the point where she’s having difficulties separating games from reality. But luckily she has help in the “Ally Cat” Guild, made up of her classmates and friends who try to help keep a foot in reality. Notably, she has Hideki, or “Rusian,” her online husband, who she love IRL. The depiction and treatment of Ako makes her the most fascinating and complex character, her bouncy character model not withstanding. Ako has low self-esteem, as years of failing in school made her withdraw inwards. Her only solace is the gaming world (even though she’s not that good at that either). To the story’s credit, Ako’s issues aren’t solved quick and neatly, and the first half of the anime revolves around weening Ako from the game, and getting her to attend school (a nice touch of realism). But while Ako represents the old stereotype of the basement dwelling gamer, her club mates break convention. Rusian takes separating games and reality quite seriously. Akane’s a popular girl who want’s her gaming hobby to be a secret, and Kyo’s the pretty student body president. But don’t get me wrong, the anime is not a heavy handed character drama on geek or Otoku life (cough NHK cough). It’s actually a pretty light hearted comedy with subtle fan service (a bounce here, pose there, half the cast has large breasts, etc). And the English Dubb is choke full of game references, from Zelda to WOW quotes.

Cons: OK, here’s the thing, I can’t really think of any negatives that detract from what the show is trying to be. It’s a comedy about online gaming, with pretty girls as the main characters. I mean, from an outsider’s perspective, Ako is a “male-fantasy” character, a curvy anime girl who plays video games and is obsessed with being your wife. And yes, I thought Kyo’s skimpy mage outfit wore out it’s novelty after 2 episodes. But none of these make the show bad. It all works in context and doesn’t betray the spirit of the show. From a structure stand point, Ako’s story arc lasts between ep.1 to ep. 8. Every else doesn’t have the same weight, and feels more like fun filler. As a gamer myself, the show did legitimedly scare me at two points: when Ako was going to meet an online stranger in real life, and when Ako’s game chat was hacked by an online creeper. These types of situations are all too real, so they did make me nervous for the character (which is more of a positive from a story perspective). (P.s. This anime is kinda a harem, but in that there’s one male character and 4 females character. But only 1 real romantic connection exists).

Watch it?: I had a blast! (4/5)

MVP: Ako

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A real rarity: a buxom character with an emotional arc not based on a love interest

Best Episode: Ep.7-8 The Summer Vacation Arc (you made my wife cry!!!)

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Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto

Type: Anime The Fonze!

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Synopsis: Imagine you went to school with the coolest person on Earth. No matter what happened, they always came out looking even better after the situation. Can’t think of anyone like that? Then I guess that only leaves one possible person…cool guy/gal.

Pros: The central joke in Sakamoto is that the character of Sakamoto is a mary sue. By that I mean that he’s good at everything. Even situations in where he is set up to fail end up making him look even better. He’s stylish and a bit over the top. That’s kinda the whole show. Everyone around Sakamoto is usually touched by his presence, even if they started off resenting him. In fact, the one real chink in Sakamoto’s armor is that he sometimes inspires the resentment of others, usually delinquents. But even they are eventually won over by his charm. (P.s. It was really hard not to write “Sakamoto-Kun” in this. Even I feel for the guy.)

Cons: The anime is basically a one note joke. The episodes are set up as seperate scenarios. But the resolution is always the same. Someone feels better, either because of Sakamoto or because of themselves, and then Sakamoto does something outlandishly stylish to inspire them to move forward. Hit classy music cue and fade to black. The whole anime is probably something you’ll like at the start for how wacky it is, but it’ll be less and less unique the more you watch it. I’d advise watching it in chunks, as a marathon would probably get repetitive.

Watch it?: It’s like a piece of hard candy. Sweet at first, it lessens as time goes on (4/5)

MVP: Sakamoto

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Haven’t you heard? His name is on the title

Best Episode: Ep7. “Is Sakamoto Really A Pervert?” (The other half is good too, but boys trying to get physical skin flicks is somewhat nolstalgic)

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Assassination Classroom: Second Season

Type: Also known as “Graduation”

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Synopsis: The kid’s in Class E start their second semester with the same goal, Kill their Teacher and get P.A.I.D. Except, as the they soon discover, they’ve grown attached to their hyper fast, multi-tenticled, yellow world destroying Instructor. Can these 14-15 year old’s kill the only Educator that every truly cared about them? (No. The answer is No. They’re babies. Of course they couldn’t).

Pros: The second season of Assassination Classroom get a proper 25 episodes. 24 real episodes and 1 epilogue. I thought I’d start off with that, because the 22 episode thing from season one always bugged me. Like any long season, the anime is split into two main story arcs. The first arc mainly deals with school related stories, like school festivals, finals, and vacation. There are some big revelations and character moments, but it does feel like a bit of a retread of the first season, at least thematically. The last half delves into Koro-Sensei’s past, and the classroom’s ultimate decision on whether or not to actually kill him. And, to it’s credit, the show does actually end with an answer to that problem. The season definitely feels like the last half of a complete story. While it does lack some of more sillier moments of the first season, it makes up for it with important and often impactful character moments, especially for the students. Nagisa in particular shines (as the lead, that’s pretty obvious, but still).

Cons: As stated above, the first half of the season does feel like it meanders a little too much. It’s a continuation of the first season more than a sequel season. Old story arcs are resolved, but new story arcs aren’t really introduced until later on. I found the resolution of Kuro-Sensei’s story underwhelming. Without giving too much away, the final battle involves his first “student” and the scientist that gave him his abilities, but neither of these villains where really all that engaging. Assassination Classroom’s strength was always in the relationship between Kuro-Sensei and his students. Anything else felt superflous. Which is why I never really cared about other assassin’s trying to kill him, or the Agent Karasuma and Irina. Even Koro sensei’s backstory was weak and cliche. The real climax of the story is Koro-Sensei’s students deciding whether or not to go through with the assassination. Not a big dumb tentacle fight. (I should also mention that the second to last episode draaaaaags on).

Watch it?: I liked it, but Your Milage May Vary (3/5)

MVP: The Nagisa-Karma fight

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Maybe one of the best fights I’ve seen in a while.

Best Episode: Ep. 17-18 The Paintball Match Arc (The show at it’s best, thematically and narratively)

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Mob Psycho 100

Type: From the maker of One-Punch Man!

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Synopsis: A super powerful male character tries to live a quiet life while effortlessly defeating any challenge that comes their way. Sound familiar? Well, it shouldn’t, because in this case, the only challenges that are overcome easily are psychic stuff. But the main character, Mob, is more concerned about real world stuff like girls, social interactions, physical fitness, etc, which he kinda sucks at. But he wants to be better. Because being able to disintegrate buildings with your mind is all well and good, but it’s pretty useless during diner parties

Pros: Mob Psycho 100 is the thinking man/woman’s One-Punch Man. Both series are about an ultra powerful protagonist. But while the latter is mostly a parody, the former is a slice of life show. The star, Mob, is a fairly typical anime protagonists. He’s soft spoken, shy, and indecisive. He has near god-like psychic powers, but he doesn’t want to be defined by them. Like any teenage boy, he would rather be good with girls and conversations than in psychic battles. What makes Mob a good character is his desire and effort at trying to make himself better in ways he can actually achieve. He’s not trying to master a technique or become King of the Psychics, he just wants to be able to run a mile and talk to his crush without sweating buckets. It’s still a long term process, but it’s doable. The show does a good job at contrasting Mob with other characters who try the opposite, and fail miserably, showing that being exceptional in one thing is great, but being well rounded is probably better. Outside of great characters (I didn’t even mention Mob’s tendency to get Con-Men as friends and mentors, or his super nice club mates at the Body Improvement Club), the show has a distinctive “rough” animation style. The style is inspired by ONE, the author of the manga, and his notable messy drawing skills. But in anime, this animation style really works at getting the intensity and almost primal nature of Mob’s psychic powers right.

Cons: The show’s biggest fault it that it has a “read the manga” ending. That always suck. I mean, I was already going to read the manga because this show is amazing, but still. Later on in the show, the “Claw” organization is introduced. At first, I thought this was going to be a generic “evil” organization with forgettable villains that Mob has to beat. Which it kinda is. But it does contribute to the show’s massage of being narrowly exceptional vs. well-rounded. I would also consider the other “psychic” children introduced later to be dead weight, at least right now. And, yeaaaaaah, that’s about it. This is actually a pretty great show with lots of layered messages and characters.

Watch it?: 100% (5/5)

MVP: Shigeo Kageyama (aka Mob)

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1,2,3,4….

Best Episode: ep5 “Ochimusha ~Psychic Powers and Me~” (Tears!)

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KonoSuba

Type: “Every moment I live, is agony” -Kazuma Sato

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Synopsis: One day, a kid dies in an extremely hilarious way, as all child deaths tend to go. His spirit is given the chance to reincarnate in a fantasy world, but it turns out any world he lives in will suck. His closest friend is a goddess, who does nothing but build up huge debts and complain. His most powerful ally is a magician who only knows 1 spell that she can only use once. And this most loyal comrade is a beautiful knight…who has a masochism fetish. Only in 2016 could someone be sent to a magical world, be given a harem of beautiful women, and still have to live in a staple full of horse manure.

Pros: KonoSuba was hailed as the best comedy anime of 2016.  And it is. The core group and the show are funny. Go watch it.

Cons: First off, the show is really hard to talk about because it is chalk full of references, running gags, and subtle jokes. This show takes all the potential melodrama or a game/fantasy/light novel series and laughs in the face of it. The characters are selfish, cowardly, pervy, petty, and we love them for it! If I really tried, I could dissect the deep level of parody this show exhibits…Lucky for me I’m doing this for free and thus have no real quality requirement for these reviews. Take it or leave it suckers! (Please don’t leave it, this is all I have!!!!). So instead of detailing the good, let’s focus on the bad. The show is a slice-of-life comedy, with no real end. The show even admits it, calling the season’s 10 episodes a “tutorial.” Except for the first episode and meeting Darkness and Megumin, it’s literally just a bunch of stuff that happened. Some characters show up. Some characters are rushed through. I think the show was working within some limited time and budget constraints. The show would be perfect if it didn’t feel like you were only scratching the surface at a much larger story (though I am strongly tempted to read the light novels, a first for me). I also found Darkness and Megumin a bit one-dimensional in terms of comedy. More so Megumin, as her main joke was that she used up all her magic in a powerful spell, but she can only use it once a day. Noticeably, the show used her spell incantations to eat up some air time. Darkness, on the other hand, is technically a little more complex. She’s a noble knight who not so secretly fantasizes of being ravished and humiliated, or at least beat up by monsters. But she’s also used a fan service, being the stereotypical blonde knight with big boobs. The fan service is pretty good. A little boob centric to be original, though I do love the fact that no one ever mentions that Aqua is going commando. The show’s setting doesn’t change either, being set in city for beginner characters. Though, I suppose this is not different than a show being set in Tokyo or something.

Watch it: Kudos to Aqua’s voice actress, Sora Amamiya, for delivering possibly the best whining I have ever heard in an anime (4/5)

MVP: Aqua

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I never thought I’d say this, but this woman’s tears brought me so much joy

Best Episode: Hell, just watch all of it. (They are all gold).

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Koe de Oshigoto!

Type: Merry Christmas Pervs!

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Synopsis: This is going to be explicit. Just putting that out there. The OVA is about a girls whose essentially drafted by her older sister to be a voice actress for “eroge,” or porn games. But in order to get over her initial embarrassment, the actress needs to use her imagination. Which gets, ah, a little blue.

Pros: So it turns out this is based on a manga. Which could explain its quality. Believe it or not, this show has some quality humor. Most of it is based on the main character, Kanna’s, embarrassment over being a eroge voice actress. Not necessarily over the work, but over some of the more explicit lines she has to say out loud. Now, this part was super interesting to me, because when you think about it, all voice actors have to say some truly silly things. But as professionals, they have to get over that initial embarrassment to get the job done. But Kanna’s just starting out. To the show’s credit, Kanna’s fellow actors and production staff are depicted as completely normal people. If they walked by you on the anime street, you’d never know what they do for a living. And the eroge voice acting is shown as just another kind of acting, and I loved that Kanna chose to stick with it because she loved making a scene come to life. Another interesting aspect of the show was that Kanna’s job is sorta serving as Sex Ed for her, but she has the benefit of being surrounded by not only her older sister, but other  women who can answer some of her questions. I did appreciate that comradery.

Cons: This. Is. Porn. Well, softcore porn. HBO porn. Like I said in the beginning, Kanna is in high school, with no sexual experience to speak of. Since her line of work is Eroge voice acting, she can’t use previous experiences for her performances. Instead, she needs to use her imagination. At which points, the show decides to visualize her thoughts in fairly explicit scenes. I mean, we don’t actually see Penises go into Vaginas, but only because it’s censored. We go see Penis shaped glowy things go into mouths, which makes me wonder exactly what Japan’s censorship laws draw the line. There are also parts where Kanna needs to get into a “trance,” where she likes to suck on fingers to simulate fellatio. That got pretty weird. Without these scenes, I actually would recommend this to most anyone, as it’s a good “sex” themed comedy. But as it stands, I say look for the manga and see if its any good. That’s what I’m doing.

Watch it?: The closest I will ever get to reviewing a Hentai (4/5)

MVP: Fumika Warasono

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An Actress

Best Episode: It’s 2 Episodes (so you decide)

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