Tag Archives: visual novel

Rumbling Hearts

Type: “Does Everything I do Have to Hurt Someone?”

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Synopsis: Once upon a time there lived a girl named Haruka, who had a best friend named Mitsuki. They both loved a boy named Takayuki very much, but he only loved one of them. Then one day, Haruka fell into a deep sleep and couldn’t wake up. Takayuki’s heart was broken, but Mitsuki helped him but it back together. She never left his side, even though part of his heart still remained with Haruka. What else could she do, she loves him…

Pros: Ok, so real talk. I kinda got into this show. I found this anime soap opera genuinely engaging. Sue me. The basic premise is: Takayuki, Haruka, and Mitsuki are high school friends stuck in a love triangle. Then one day, Haruka gets into an accident and falls into a coma. Takayuki and Mistsuki start dating, even though Takayuki isn’t fully committed. Three years later, Haruka wakes up and causes Takayuki and Mistuki’s relationship to become really strained. That’s basically the gist of it without giving away too much. I would love to explore the subtleties of the show, but that would spoil the experience. The strength of the show comes from the portrayal of Takayuki and Mitsuki, both as individuals and as a couple. More so with Mitsuki, who I found really relatable. You see, when Haruka wakes up, Takayuki basically begins an emotional affair with her. And Mitsuki’s reactions to this are all too understandable. She tries to ignore it, she tries to overcompensate physically and emotionally, she even verges on alcoholism. She spirals as she comes to the realization that the person she loves has stronger feelings for someone else, and probably always did. Both Mitsuki and Takayuki are guilty of trying to cling to the past, with Haruka being a not to subtle living memory that holds them back from the future.

Cons: The show has a good beginning, and a strong ending, but a weak middle. This is because the beginning sets everything up, the ending ties everything together, but the middle has to let the story breath. And it takes long breaths. The middle of the story, about ep4-9, has to show Mistuki and Takayuki’s relationship slowly deteriorate. So you get a lot of awkward silences and montages of everyone looking sad. It’s necessary, but also skimmable. The ending, however, really sticks the landing. So much many character arcs come to a head in ep10-14 that I want to talk about, but it would spoil them!! Even sweet, stereotypical Haruka gets to react to her situation in a realistic manner. The show does have it’s faults. The story is a soap opera, and fairly predictable. All the heroines seem to love Takayuki for because it’s anime and “he’s a nice guy.” But I saw how he lived with Mitsuki, and honestly…he seems like a dick. He’s distant, emotionally self-centered, and rather boring. But dammit if the story’s not engrossing. I partly attribute this to the fact that main cast are all in their early 20’s instead of in high school, so the drama can be taken a little more seriously. Although I do admit that the character designs do make everyone look older than they should. Takayuki and Mistuki are suppose to be 20-21, but they look 25. I watched the English dub, which was great, although Takayuki’s performance came off as a but wooden. I do have to mention, however, that I have never heard the phrase “baby” in the romantic sense this much in an anime before. Since Takayuki and Mistuki are adults in a relationship, they tend to sleep together a few times in the show (nothing explicit pervs!), so the phrase comes up. That’s not a bad thing, it just tickled me a little.

Watch it?: If I even did Anime Audio Commentaries, this show would be one of them (4/5)

MVP: Mitsuki

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You can’t help who you love, and that hurts sometimes.

Best Episode: Ep10-14 The Ending Arc (Though I’m not sure how I feel about Mitsuki and Takayuki’s ultimate fate…)

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Amnesia

Type: Huh? What am I doing here?

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Synopsis: Wait, this seems…familiar. I feel like, like I’m suppose to make some sort of comment on an anime that only vaguely connects to the actual source material. It’s meant to be, funny? No, that’s not right. Nothing seems that funny here. Let me think! Ugh, I feel like a college girl who lost her memories and keeps bouncing around parallel worlds that have me dating different pretty boys in Kingdom Heart cosplay.

Pros: Amnesia, the anime, is based on Amnesia, the dating sim, which is based on Amnesia, the mental condition. While I’ve never played the game, the anime looks like it follows the framework of a visual novel game very well. I could actually see where the game would make you make decision, reach checkpoints, and start over. My particular favorite aspect was the premise. The protagonist (no name ever given) has lost her memories, and keeps waking up in different worlds where her love interest changes. What I liked about this was that this is the perfect justification for the “route” set up in visual novels, where you choose to be romantic with one character. In the anime, this manifest in 1-2 episodes where the heroine “dates” each of the male love interests. I love this, because one of the things I’ve always wanted to see from a harem show, and this is a harem show, is seeing how the protagonist and a love interest would interact as a couple. You get exactly that in this anime, and because the protagonist is always sent to another world, you get to decide which paring you liked the most. The anime does what it should, it makes you feel like your playing a visual novel dating sim without having to actually play it. And the characters are all out of high school, which helps. (P.s. I liked the running joke of the manager changing personality every quantum leap).

Cons: Oh, my, god, what are these boys wearing!? Seriously, the look liked rejected Kingdom Hearts character designs. Is that dude wearing a chocker!? What’s with that guy’s multitude of useless straps!? Is that…is that just the bad guy from Pokemon Black and White!?But seriously, there outfits were very distracting. Not only that, but I think this show also stole a music clip from Kingdom Hearts, specifically from “Dearly Beloved.” Seriously, you compare. Outside of possible plagiarism, the fact that I could tell some of the story points makes the anime a bit predictable. I feel that the fairy subplot was too much, but only towards the end. Oberon’s inclusion in the first 3 episodes was a great way to ease into the premise, and he does disappear for most of the show, only popping in here and there. Which is good, because he gives horrible advise (why not just go to the hospital? What possible negatives could there be?). In terms of characters, the show is meant to make you pick which character you would like the protagonist to be with. I liked Kent because he seemed invested in putting effort into the relationship, as well as keep communication open. But you can like who you like (except that the anime said that Kent is the best, so he’s the best, #OTP, I was right–no, you shut up!). The protagonist herself is an interesting case. On the one hand, she can come off as very passive, and mostly lets other people, usually the men, tell her what to do. On the other hand, having lost her memory and being sent to other worlds, she came off as more observant to me. Like she was simply adapting to her surroundings, getting as much information as she could about her new situation. But maybe that’s just me. That being said, and OVA about the “original” protagonist would have been interesting.

Watch it?: Good pacing. Interesting story. And a killer English dub. (4/5)

MVP: Kent

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Best Husbando

Best Episode: Ep. 7 “VII” (literally the only guy who would listen to her story. Again, best Husbando)

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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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Air (Film)

Type: Look at our effects budget! NO, LOOK AT IT THOUGH!

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Synopsis: Same basic story as Air. A traveling hobo meets a semi-functioning dying girl and her still very hot aunt. They bond, then, like in Forrest Gump, the verging-on-handicapped person is left by the love interest because it would be a little weird to make-out with them. However, in this movie, everyone looks and acts relatively normal. Well, normal for anime standards.

Pros: I really liked the character designs in this over the original series. Its a bit anime-generic, but its way better than the weird mousy faces from before. They film only follows the Misuzu arc, and luckily for everyone, Misuzu acts more like a typical anime heroine than woman-child. It definitely feels that she has more agency in the film than the anime. I also liked her aunt Haruko’s design in this, mostly because she looks like an attractive late-twenties woman and less like every other girl. The story is more obvious about the romance between Misuzu and Yukito this time around, and given their new character attitudes, it feels way better executed.

Cons: My god, WE GET IT, you had a bigger animation budget. Was their really a need to show it off so much? This film is a textbook example of overdoing it. The constant bombardment of sun rays, rain, and the cherry blossoms! Was Feudal Japan constantly in the middle of a petal blizzard or something? But the hamminess doesn’t stop there. This film really notched the melodrama up to 11, and there are multiple times when it reaches comedic levels. Weird cuts, uneven humor, and way too many cinematic tricks. It made the mistake of trying way too hard to make the movie feel like a movie.

Watch it?: I’m torn. It has better characters, but the animation is way overdone.

MVP: Misuzu Kamio

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I liked her way more in this one

Best Moment: Leaning Misuzu could actually form independent thoughts

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Air

Type: The best Avatar season…wait a minute.

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Synopsis: A long time ago, a women with wings helped humanity. In gratitude, humanity did what they usually do and killed them all off. Only one bloodline survived, kept alive by love and friendship and all that jazz. However, by “kept alive,” I mean that girls with wings are born every so often and fated to die young and alone. That’s not an exaggeration. Monks cursed the last winged females to get sicker and sicker whenever they make friends. Yet another example of the Patriarchy keeping Chicks down.

Pros: Air has the same director and studio as one of my personal favorite animes, Clannad: After Story. Air was actually made before, and you can see that a lot of the beats and emotional highs used in this carried on in Clannad. Its not quite as sad, but it does pull at the heartstrings. This anime is surprisingly efficient with its plot-episode number ratio. It basically had three story arcs and an origin story it needed to cover in 12 episodes. In the beginning, every character is introduced, and its take 4 episodes for the real stories to begin. I liked this, because it set up the premise of each heroine right away simultaneously, while other animes have the main character meet and solve one girl’s problem, then move on the next one in an inorganic matter. I also really loved the story in Feudal Japan, to a surprising degree.

Cons: While I did like the way it started, the beginning of Air is a little slow. The story isn’t specified right away either. Basically, the main character Yukito is the latest in his family to search for the “girl in the sky,” which is explained in the Feudal Japan story. In a beach town he meets three girls that might be who he’s looking for: Kano, Minagi, and Misuzu. Kano’s story line is the first and the weakest. It has to do with her being haunted by a past life, which also took place in Feudal Japan and thus clashes with Misuzu’s story line (obvious spoilers: she’s the girl with wings!). Minagi’s story is the shortest, but also incredibly sweet. Misuzu, as the main heroine, gets the most time, and surprisingly has more to do with her relationship with her mother than with Yukito (a lot of the anime has to do with mothers). The animation style is a bit older than modern fans might like and the ending is…alright, but it does have at least one happy ending.

Watch it?: It sucks you in. (4/5)

MVP: Uraha

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The real hero of the story

Best Episode: Ep. 8-9, “Summer,” “Moon” (you got me again Ishihara!)

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Queen’s Blade

Type: No, you shut up!

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Synopsis: What? No, really, what!? Look, I don’t care. I was having a rough week and needed something to decompress. Don’t give me that look! Whatever…Exiled Virgin (Season 1) and The Evil Eye (Season 2).

Pros: Queen’s Blade is about a fighting tournament between female warriors for the throne of the country of “Gynos.” Its not as horrible-I’m sorry, I know this time for positives, but for reals, “Gynos?”- as you would expect. I came into this thinking I was going to watch 12 episodes of fan service. What I got was, well it was still 12 episodes of fan service, but also a pretty interesting story about a fighting tournament. Season 1 introduces all the fighters and their reasons for fighting, ranging from revenge, duty, wealth, to becoming the strongest. The themes in the plot are actually a lot more complex than you’d expect. If they ever made a proper fighting game anime, this is kinda what you’d want it to be. Season 2 is the actual tournament, which I’m always a fan of. Every characters is established enough to carry their own episode, which they often do. The main character, Leina, often acts more as a narrative device to introduce the new warriors. Leina herself goes through an interesting, if rushed, character arc on her quest to gain a reason to fight.

Cons: “Gynos?” I mean, come on! Plus, Elina Vance-total bitch. I’m sorry, I don’t really like using that term, but seriously. A super rich aristocrat who hates the lower class and literally drove a young servant to demonic witch craft? You suck Elina! There’s also the issue of Leina getting strong within the span of one training session instead of slowly becoming stronger through loss and experience. That was a bit too shoen for my taste. Now for the elephant in the room. Queen’s Blade is one of the most sexually exploitative anime I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen Battling Venus). Season 1 isn’t as bad Season 2, where it has a character that literally gets sexually assaulted by her evil staff. That’s some messed up shit right there. The thing is, if Queen’s Blade just covered up their characters by say 30%, and cut out the weird stuff, it would be a perfectly normal anime. Except for the character Nyx, and the two women with ludicrously inflated breasts, Queen’s Blade is not the most horribly sexploitative anime I’ve ever seen. Not by a long shot. The story is engaging and some of the characters are actually pretty admirable.

Watch it?: You come for the fan service, you stay for the story (3/5)

MVP: Elina Vance

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I hate her some much! She’s obviously a good character.

Best Episode: S1., Ep. 11 “Thunder: Struggle to the Death” (sister vs sister)

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Love, Election & Chocolate

Type: Poli Sci, The Anime

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Synopsis: Somewhere in anime land, theirs this school where its student body takes a very hard core stance towards their extra curricular activities. So what starts off as a students attempt to save the Food Research Club by running for school president turns into freakin’ Chinatown, with politically motivated assaults and honest to goodness labor bashing. Again, these are high school kids doing this. I can’t even name my city’s major, much less my high school student body president, but these legally recognized children are willing to kill for the position. Rich people are crazy.

Pros: At times, this is a good comedy, at other times this is a good drama. Not every show can juggle both genres that well, but this one did. I’d rank the humor right up there with shows like Student Council’s Discretion and other student club based shows. The cast had a good dynamic and funny gags, my favorite being Oboro’s shameless remarks towards Yuki. On the drama side, this show hits that particular soap opera character groove that really shines in anime. The plots involving Hazuki-Sensei’s backstory,  Ojima’s plight as a financial aid student, and Chisato’s relationship with Yuki were personal standouts. The show really shined in terms of characters, who were able to range from serious to goofy with ease.

Cons: This is a pet peeve of mine, but any anime that takes a mundane subject way too seriously without a hint of self-awareness gets on my bad side. It happened once with tennis, then discount store food, and now with student clubs. The characters in this show are in fucking high school, they should not be taking things like student government so seriously. There were at least three death threats related to the election. On a more objective note, the opening scene sets up a mystery that distracts from the rest of the show and doesn’t really come up until late in the series. The humor can sometimes be a little flat. And despite my personal biases, the election plot is largely unimportant compared to the other side stories. It acts largely as a framing device. In fact, you could effectively skip most of the election scenes and still find the show very entertaining, maybe even more so.

Watch it?: It may have bugged the hell out of me, but I can’t deny it’s quality (4/5)

MVP: Oboro Yumeshima

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Undescribable

Best Episode: Ep. 1 “Disbanding the Club” (The PTA is disbanding!)

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Shuffle!

Type: Not a board game

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Synopsis: It starts off as a contest between the demon realm and land of angels, then it forgets about that after the third episode. Then it’s  turns into a show about a five-way love contest, where two of the participants just happen to be demon/god princesses. Then if forgets about the princesses and changes into a show about a love triangle involving a childhood friend and really, really sick girl. Then the girl gets sick. Then it ends.

Pros: The show really shines when its a drama, something I never thought I’d write about a harem anime. But its true. You see, the show starts out as a regular harem show, with the spice of demons and angels as the, seemingly, main love rivals. This goes on until episode 12, when the girls “dark pasts” are revealed. It takes an unexpected turn by going into demon world stuff, then really takes a left turn when you learn about Rin and Kaede’s origins. I particularly loved what the show did with Kaede. Chicka is disturbed. It’s messed-up, but at the same time really engrossing. I didn’t see the second part of Shuffle! coming, which made it all the more intriguing.

Cons: The first half of Shuffle! is really cookie-cutter. It’s not bad, but anyone whose ever seen a harem/high school anime will see the story beats a mile away. Still, its enjoyable enough. I should also point out that while I loved the second part of the show, it used the “multiple personalities” cliche on three of the girls! Plus the magic thing? Not that important. To be honest, my favorite story arc involved not magic whatsoever.

Watch it?: Ep. 1-11 for harem lovers, Ep. 12-24 for drama lovers (3/5)

MVP: Kaede Fuyou

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This chick is crazy. I love crazy!

Best Episode: Ep. 19-12 Kaede Arc (This shit just got real)

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Popotan

Type: Ghost House (not really)

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Synopsis: Three sisters are stuck travelling through time in a magic mansion. They must do this because it’s their duty to…wait, they never explained that. I think it involved dandelions. You know, come to think of it, the only thing I know for sure is that it got really good halfway through.

Pros: O.K., you have to understand something. This show does not get good until episode 6, but when you hit that mark, boy, are you in for a ride. You see, by episode 6, the show starts exploring the real tragedy of time travel. The girls are forced to meet the friends and loved ones that they left behind. To them, it’s only been a few weeks. To their friends, it’s been decades. That’s a concept I wish more shows explored. The character Mai was especially compelling, because she was the first one to want to escape their assigned fate.

Cons: The really bad part about this show, aside from the animation, is that you have to watch the first half of the show to fully understand the second. The first five episodes are so cliche that you’ll honestly end up wanting to skip them. The tricky thing, however, is that these episodes lay the emotional framework for the second half of the show. For example, the friend that won Mai’s friendship in episode 2 has a daughter that Mai needs to win over in episode 9. If you skipped ahead, you would’t know who the hell this girl is, or why she’s important. The ending also bugged me, because it didn’t really solve anything.

Watch it?: Skim, but don’t skip, every episode up to Ep. 6, then enjoy the ride (3/5)

MVP: Mai

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She called her life’s B.S. way before everyone else

Best Episode: Ep. 6 “I’m Home” (it just gets good on you all of a sudden)

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Majikoi – Oh! Samurai Girls

Type: Amorous Female Warriors

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Synopsis: Yamato Naoe belong to a school full of would-be samurai lords and warriors. He is extremely popular, with four really hot girls trying to win his hear. Sadly, his heart only belongs to Momoyo, the strongest and prettiest girl at the school who has rejected him twice. Then a bunch of stuff happened involving terrorist or revolutionaries, or something. I manly just remember the fan service.

Pros: For a 13 episode Action-Comedy show, Majokoi had some very impressive fighting scenes. But the show really shined in the comedy department. The show almost made making dirty jokes and delivering fan service an art form. Having the pervy Miyako open every episode was a masterstroke. It also implemented the use of half-segments, dedicating half an episode to Yamato’s relationship with a specific girl. It’s an effective way to showcase the cast dynamics in a harem-type show with only 13 episodes. I wish more harems would adopt this method.

Cons:  Half the episodes are pure sexy/funny harem episodes. The other half are pure actions episodes. The show doesn’t do a good job at mixing both genres. It’s disjointed.  Most harems try to focus all the plot in the first season, and then go crazy with the comedy in the second, but this show tried to do it all in one season. I wish it had just stuck to one genre, preferably comedy. There were also a bunch of secondary characters that I just did not care about. Most of these characters where part of the action episodes. The main plot was also weak, and involved a lot more Japanese social and political criticism than I would have liked.

Watch it: Only watch the comedy episodes (ep. 3, 4, 5, 6, and 11) (3/5)

MVP: Miyako Shiina

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Down girl.

Best Episode: Ep.6 “Seriously, Carry it With Me!!” (the mushroom scene!)

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