Dragon Ball Super: Broly Review

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Credit: FUNimation

Dragon Ball Super has remained a global phenomenon, successfully bringing the Dragon Ball Z franchise back into the spotlight. Go into a store like F.Y.E. or Hot Topic, and you’ll find many Dragon Ball related items. Last year saw the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ,  which won best fighting game at The Game Awards. Putting it simply, Dragon Ball has returned as the most popular anime franchise. It continues in 2019 with the release of Dragon Ball Super: Broly.

Although the English dub of Super is currently airing on Toonami, the show ended last year in Japan. (If you wish to catch up for the release of the movie, Super is available subtitled for streaming on Crunchyroll, although the film does not contain any major spoilers.) The Tournament of Power was a crazy final arc for all the right reasons. Jiren served as the antagonist, and proved to be the strongest non-deity opponent Goku had faced. How do you top that? The answer: bring back one of the franchise’s most popular antagonists. Many of the prior Dragon Ball film villains are liked, but Broly in particular is loved by fans. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Broly is just as popular, if not more popular than the big three – Frieza, Cell, and Buu.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly serves as an adaption of the rather obscure manga titled Dragon Ball Minus, and grabs many elements from Broly’s original film, Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan. This film is wonderful for longtime Dragon Ball fans. There’s fantastic backstory, great moments, and the fights are epic. While lacking some of the overall cinematic quality of Resurrection ‘F,’ it features just about everything we like about the franchise.

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Credit: FUNimation

The movie begins over 40 years ago, when Planet Vegeta was still around. Its ruler is King Vegeta, but the Saiyans are subjected to the Cold force. We see King Cold arrive, but he’s there to tell the Saiyans that he is retiring. Instead, he is putting his son Frieza in charge. This eventually leads to Frieza plotting to destroy the entire Saiyan race. We also learn about a Saiyan baby with extraordinary powers even exceeding King Vegeta’s son. King Vegeta decides to exile the baby, named Broly, to a distant planet with no humanoids named Vampa. Broly’s father, Paragus, heads to the planet as well.

We all know what happens to Planet Vegeta. Frieza goes ahead and blows it up, but not before a pod escapes. Bardock and his wife Gine managed to put their son Kakarot into a pod for escape to Earth. In the modern day, Frieza is currently looking for more warriors to join his ranks. Two soldiers, Cheelai and Lemo, find Broly and Paragus on Vampa. Fueled for his hatred of King Vegeta, Paragus is happy to use Broly in service to Frieza. Now, Goku and Vegeta will once again have to face a powerful opponent.

The first quarter of the film serves as background for Broly and Planet Vegeta. The opening act is fantastic. The arrival of King Cold is filled with tension. This is actually King Cold’s first major appearance since being sliced by Future Trunks. Cold commands a presence in a similar, yet different way than Frieza does in the modern day. It’s not that long of a scene, but it shows that King Cold was a great character.

This scene also shows Frieza’s coming to power, and it’s appropriately brutal. Next, King Vegeta sentences baby Broly to Vampa. Paragus concludes that King Vegeta is doing this because Broly has more potential than the king’s son. Paragus is understandably fueled with hatred toward the king. Meanwhile, the Bardock scenes are great. It’s interesting how King Vegeta and Bardock are portrayed here. Bardock is clearly a hardened Saiyan, but still displays heart. Goku would take that trait. King Vegeta displays many of the traits Vegeta would inherit.

Bardock and Gine have a couple of scenes together, and they are nice. It’s particularly emotional when Bardock reveals he wants to send Goku away. Gine is a heartbroken mother; one could feel her turmoil as she watches the pod take off. Many non-viewers may look and think Dragon Ball Z is devoid of story substance, and only focuses on battling. That couldn’t be further from the truth. When Dragon Ball gets serious with its storytelling and dialogue, it’s some of the strongest you’ll find. That is evident throughout the first part of the film.

The only regrettable aspect of the backstory is that the film does not feature Bardock’s famous speech against Frieza before the planet gets blown up. Instead, Bardock is shown trying to repel the blast, but with no dialogue. Thus, the planet’s destruction was not as memorable as it was in the original Bardock film. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s worth mentioning.

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Credit: FUNimation

Of course, most of the film takes place in the modern day after the Tournament of Power. The early scene with Goku and Vegeta sparring was fun. The story here is that Frieza’s forces have stolen six Dragon Balls and the radar from Bulma’s lab. There is only one Dragon Ball left. Bulma, Goku, Vegeta, and Whis head on down to locate Frieza’s henchmen. The dialogue isn’t quite as captivating as the writing in the flashback. But, Bulma’s reason for collecting the Dragon Balls is interesting.

The more interesting aspects of the film during this are with Cheelai and Lemo, members of the Frieza army. They have been tasked with locating powerful members for the force. Despite who they’re working for, they are shown not as sinister lackeys, but as people with diverse personalities. Cheelai in particular is a highlight. One interesting sequence was in Frieza’s ship. At this point, Broly and Paragus have been brought on. A member of the crew hits on Cheelai, with her telling him repeatedly to go away. Broly’s response is anger. Due to the runtime of this film being longer than the original Broly film, there is more screen time for Broly’s character to be deepened. His scenes with Cheelai and Lemo were great at accomplishing this.

The main spectacle is Broly’s fight against Goku and Vegeta. Marketing confirmed a little while ago that Gogeta, Goku and Vegeta’s combined form from Fusion Reborn, would be appearing. It’s a shame this was spoiled, as it would have been a pleasant surprise. But before that fusion, we get incredibly animated battles. Base form Broly against Vegeta was great. Goku’s battle as a Super Saiyan God was arguably even better. This is clearly a theatrical film, replacing a lot of the rapid punches seen in the show in favor of more actual blows being felt. Goku has great dialogue in the middle of the fight, once again showing that he has the biggest heart of all the characters. Finally, seeing Gogeta again was a treat. (Though Vegeta at first refusing fusion has gotten a bit old.)

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Credit: FUNimation

With all that said, while the fights are a lot of fun, Broly himself isn’t all that interesting during them. The problem is that we’ve already seen this type of character multiple times. We saw that in Broly’s original film. We saw that with Kid Buu. We saw that recently in the Tournament of Power with Kale, a character who was even clearly based off of Broly’s Super Saiyan design. So, Broly’s persona of constantly shouting is a bit lackluster. Still, Broly overall is an effective character in the story. The film successfully introduces him as one of the most tragic figures in the franchise.

On a few last notes, Frieza holds a screen presence, like always. It was particularly interesting seeing him in the flashback. Also, his brief scuffle with Broly was fun. The film’s soundtrack is epic, as expected from Dragon Ball. There are a number of notable themes, such as during the sparring match between Goku and Vegta, and Gogeta’s arrival. You won’t find any of the much-used themes of Super (though they are really good); the music is wholly original. The film’s ending is different than in the original Broly movie. It’s a nice way to end off, and it could mean some exciting things for the future.

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Credit: FUNimation

Overall, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a very good film re-introducing an iconic character. Broly is a tragic figure, perhaps even more so than Jiren. Although Broly is a bit dull in his Super Saiyan form, there are enough story scenes to prevent him from being labeled a one-dimensional character. Goku is good, with a couple of great sequences. Although the second half of the film doesn’t reach the cinematic level of the opening act, the fights are grand. Dragon Ball fans will not want to miss this.

4/5

A big thanks to FUNimation for supplying a theatrical screener for review. Dragon Ball Super: Broly will be released in limited theaters starting on January 16th. You can locate a theater and purchase tickets here

 

 

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The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Review

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The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was one of the more popular anime of the last 15 years. It features the usual setting: a high school with a cast of diverse characters. Kyon provides narration into the happenings, but the story is truly about a girl named Haruhi. Her thing is that she’s tired of everyday normal life. She’s interested in aliens, time travelers, and espers, concepts one would not associate with normal reality.

But wouldn’t you know it, Haruhi actually encounters a time traveler, an alien, and an esper. Though, she is not aware of it. Only Kyon knows that these people claiming to be classmates are not normal. Haruhi forms the SOS Brigade, and together these characters go on numerous adventures. The only real question remains: why did these beings appear now, just when Haruhi told Kyon of her boredom with reality?

Melancholy is an engaging anime for quite a few reasons. The first is Haruhi herself, one of the strongest and most interesting anime characters I’ve ever seen. Her bold personality, and command of the situation is unparalleled. Her dialogue with Kyon is always a lot of fun, as Kyon always finds himself dragged into these crazy scenarios. His narration gives a nice sense of humor to the events.

Koizumi joins the Brigade a bit later, and is another notable character. He’s one character who explains to Kyon the mysterious phenomenons revolving around Haruhi. Koizumi’s calm demeanor, along with his role in the story as an esper, was interesting. Next, Mikuru is the time traveler. One of the most interesting parts of the series was when future Mikuru met present day Kyon. Present day Mikuru is unfortunately used for fan service. Aside from being a time traveler, there isn’t too much to Mikuru.

Finally, we have Nagato, the alien working for something called the “Integrated Data Sentient Entity.” Her dialogue is always interesting. One of the best parts of the show was the battle between her and a character wanting Kyon dead. Nagato displays no emotion, but does care for Kyon in some capacity. What’s frustrating is that the show leaves the viewer in the dark about the Sentient Entity. The show does explore the mysterious events surrounding Haruhi, but there are more questions than answers by the end. Of course, this isn’t the end of the anime part of franchise, as there is a movie and spin-off.

While the show is almost always really good, there is one big factor stopping it from getting the legendary 9/10. If you’ve seen this anime, you know what I’m about to say: “Endless Eight.” This arc had a time loop as the premise. Now, something like this could be interesting…for about three episodes, four max. But there are eight episodes with pretty much the exact things happening. No, they are just about literally the same episode, give or take some dialogue.

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Overall, “Endless Eight” aside, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a very engaging show. Haruhi is a great character, demonstrating intelligence, brashness, and even a sense of unbalance. She is truly a fascinating character. Meanwhile, Kyon is a fantastic narrator, and perfect foil to Haruhi. Koizumi is very good. Nagato is interesting, but needed to be explored more. Mikuru has her moments, but ended up feeling little more than a character for fan service. Generally though, most things about Melancholy are good.

8/10

Lucky Star Review

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What is the greatest sitcom of all time? That is a hard question to answer. Many would say some of these classics are: The Odd Couple, The Honeymooners, and I Love Lucy. Those are excellent choices, and it would be hard to disagree. I would throw in another popular choice to the mix. This choice is also a classic, though not retro like the others. The answer of course, is Seinfeld. I bring this up because Lucky Star’s humor often reminded me of Seinfeld.

Lucky Star is based on the 4-koma manga of the same name. Every episode features something new, and there are usually multiple segments in a single episode. In short, this series is the definition of an episodic format. The characters include Konata –  a manga/video game obsessed fan, Kagami – a tough, yet kind person who does well in school, Tsukasa – Kagami’s younger, timid sister, and Miyuki – a super intelligent, slightly introverted person, who doesn’t like going to the dentist. Other characters show up as well, and usually make the show all the more fun.

There are three core things that make Lucky Star so memorable. One of course, as already mentioned, is the humor. Konata is by far the most entertaining character, and easily one of the best characters in anime history. In one episode, Konata questions official statistics that state children are reading less. She mentions that with internet, shouldn’t children be reading more? After all, doesn’t reading blog posts count as reading? It’s this kind of ironic humor you don’t hear all too often that makes Lucky Star almost always engaging.

The second thing that makes Lucky Star great is the relationship between friends. The four main characters are true friends, and it shows. Lucky Star typically doesn’t have “emotional” sequences, but the ones that are there are really well done. Konata and Kagami always have their squabbles, but it’s all in good fun, and the viewer knows these two in particular are the best of friends. In one scene, the girls are at a concert. Unfortunately, Konata is on the shorter side, so she has trouble seeing the singer. Kagami takes notice, and switches her spot with Konata so the latter can get the full experience of the concert. It’s a subtle, but sweet scene.

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The third thing that makes this show so much fun is the constant anime and Japanese pop culture references. Of course, only fans like Konata would get some of these. In one episode, the girls are visiting Kyoto, and Konata says, “So Iris went inside here…” This is referring to the science fiction epic, Gamera III: The Revenge of Iris. In that film, the antagonist monster battled Gamera at Kyoto. The girls have no idea what Konata is talking about, but fans do. (I’m sure many of us could relate to Konata!)

The show is close to getting a perfect score, but is held back slightly. There are a few weak episodes, beginning with “Fixtures of Summer.” These episodes weren’t bad, but lacked the quality writing other episodes had. But, the show bounced back, delivering consistently quality stories after these weaker episodes. While most of the characters are good, Konata’s dad was questionable. His character quirk quickly became annoying.

There are some plot points that are mentioned, but not further touched upon. In one episode, Konata’s dad says he may plan to get married again. That is never followed up on. In another episode, the girls talk to Miyuki about going to the latter’s house. But, that conversation didn’t actually lead to them going there.Lucky Star gif 1

With all that said, any negatives in Lucky Star are offset by its many positives. The show is a success in the episodic format. It showcases genuine friendship. The final episode, where the girls perform the show’s theme song, was such a great way to close the story. Everything just comes together nicely. Also, the Akira Kogami ‘Lucky Channel’ segments at the end of each episode were fun. Simply put, Lucky Star is great. Every anime fan should watch it.

9/10

In Search of the Lost Future Review

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In Search of the Lost Future incorporates quite a few genres. It is part slice of life; the episodes can have an episodic feel at times. But, it also has an ongoing storyline that runs seamlessly for most of the 12 episodes. It is part romance, and even science fiction. It combines these genres exceptionally well to tell a story that is engaging, emotional, and humorous.

It’s not perfect though. The ending is unfortunately disappointing, forcing the review to shave off a star. Some shows and movies are consistently mediocre, guaranteeing a mediocre score. Meanwhile, some things are perfect, but the ending wrecks the experience. (An example of that is the film, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion.) In Search of the Lost Future is fantastic, but the ending does not feel like a satisfying culmination of all that has come before. It is not drastically bad as in the Rebellion example, however. Lost Future is nonetheless a very solid anime. Its primary positive is the factor that helps secure a very good rating. What is that factor? It features an incredibly likable core group of characters.

To briefly summarize the story: Sou lives with his childhood friend, Kaori. They are part of a school club called the Astronomy Club. The group is a close-knit friendship between five members. We have Airi, Nagisa, and Kenny. Things take a turn for the interesting when Sou finds an unconscious girl at the school. This girl, named Yui, does not remember her past. It later turns out that she is an artificial intelligence sent from the future by an older Sou to change the fate of Kaori, whom is in a coma due to getting hit in a bus crash. Kaori is in love with Sou, who is oblivious for most of the story. If Kaori tells Sou her feelings, what will his answer be? And can Yui save Kaori from an eternal coma?

The Good

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You’ve probably seen some shows where characters have a certain trait, and that’s it. They don’t have much actual personality aside from one core trait. (This is seen in Dragon Ball Super with Vegeta.) Not too long ago, I wrote a review for the anime, Karneval. It was decent. but nothing spectacular. The characters were more on the mediocre side. The protagonist of that show had attitude, but not much actual character apart from it. This is not the case with In Search of the Lost Future.

Take Airi for example. She is the tough one of the group, whom makes sarcastic comments to Sou quite often. But, she has a lot more character than just being the tough girl. She’s incredibly down to earth, such as when she consoles Kaori late in the story. It’s obvious that she cares about her friends, and is passionate. When another member pushes Kaori, Airi goes on the offensive and attacks the person. Airi also likes Sou, but keeps it to herself because she knows that Kaori is in love with him. The viewer does feel sad for Airi, but at the same time admires her for her ability to put that to the side for Kaori’s sake. Next we have Nagisa. She was fantastic, and gets some intriguing backstory later in the story. One of the best scenes of the show was when she barges into the computer group’s room, and beats a program they were working on.

Sou and Kaori are likable focuses. In Kaori’s case, the writing is once again down to Earth. The bus accident early on was felt. Yui is interesting, and she takes an even more central role later in the story. Of course, her goal is to save Kaori. But, as Yui later learns, doing that will erase herself from existence. This is an intriguing plot point that engages the viewer.

The dialogue in this anime is really good. The character interactions are almost always fun and engaging. There’s plenty of humor, but also heart-to-heart. These are true friends, and it shows in the words and actions. Simply watching them interact at the mall made for a fun episode.

The Bad

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The core characters are good, but Kenny had the least development. His running gag can be funny, but outside of that and his love of food, he didn’t have development. Still, he’s not terrible. It’s just that every other core character got personal scenes – Kenny got none. That’s not a big negative. The big negative, as stated earlier, is the overall ending.

Sou ends up rejecting Kaori in favor of Yui. (Sou has no idea that his future self created Yui for the purpose of saving Kaori.) But Yui ends up vanishing, thus erasing herself from the past timeline. So, Sou’s reason then for rejecting Kaori is that he can only see her as a childhood friend. It’s disappointing, especially during the original rejection. Sou liking Yui over Kaori was unneeded. Kaori does end up waking up in the future, so you could say it’s a happy ending. But, the conclusion just isn’t satisfying because Sou doesn’t reciprocate Kaori’s feelings, and he seemed to prefer Yui, an artificial creation.

You may argue that if Kaori and Sou did showcase romantic feelings for one another in the end, it would have been a generic ending. But generic is not bad in this case. The show builds up to that particular ending, and the way it does so makes that conclusion the only satisfying one. What we got does not do the story justice.

The Verdict

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In Search of the Lost Future is a near perfect anime affected by a mediocre ending. It’s still very good, earning itself a positive score. The core characters are excellent, I would even say some of the best. The story moves at a good pace, blending slice-of-life with ongoing plot. The ending does ruin the enjoyment a bit, but it isn’t terrible to the point that the viewer forgets how great everything else is. As such, Lost Future is not one of the all time greats, but still a very good watch.

8/10

 

The Rolling Girls Review

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There are great anime, there are bad anime, and then there are okay anime. A show like Guilty Crown edges more toward the negative side, while a show like Karneval edges more toward the okay side. One great – no, fantastic anime, is Attack on Titan. The studio behind that show is Wit Studio. In fact, it was because of the Attack on Titan anime adaption that made the Attack on Titan name one of the biggest of the modern era. Wit Studio should be commended for such incredible work. Today’s anime review is on The Rolling Girls. As you can probably guess, Wit Studio is the producer behind the show. Unlike Attack on Titan, The Rolling Girls is an original piece. (In fact, it was the studio’s first anime not based on a manga.) The plot is certainly interesting. A “Great Tokyo War” has divided the country of Japan, with different groups throughout the region. Each of the main groups are led by a “Best,” a being with special power seemingly thanks to a heart-shaped object called a Moonlight Stone.

The main, heroic Best we’re introduced to is Maccha Green. The more villainous Kuniko Shigyou is her rival. As the two duke it out over the course of two episodes, the battle eventually culminates in the two being seriously injured and sent to the hospital. Maccha Green’s apprentice, Nozomi, decides to travel around Japan with her friends on motorcycles in Maccha’s Green’s place. Hence the title, “The Rolling Girls.”

There are elements of greatness in The Rolling Girls. Indeed, there are often times of genuine emotion where we want to see the girls succeed in their endeavor. But, the show doesn’t rise to true greatness, settling at being more of an okay anime missing the title of great.

The Good

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The first two episodes are the best of the show. The story backdrop is interesting, as we’re introduced to two factions, the one led by Maccha Green (real name Masami Utoku) and the other group led by Kuniko. In such a short amount of time, these two characters are established as very likable and engaging. Kuniko comes off as charming – and unhinged, such as when she’s threatening to drop all of Masami’s friends from a roller coaster. Meanwhile, Masami is heroic, whose Maccha Green suit appears to homage tokusatsu characters like Kamen Rider. However, Masami is portrayed not as perfect like the original Ultraman. Rather, she deals with internal human conflict. This is evidenced when she monologues about the difficulty of being put in a position to reveal her secret identity, in order to save her friends from the roller coaster.

By the end of the second episode, both Masami and Kuniko are hospitalized. Nozomi becomes the main character, alongside Yukina, Ai, and Chiaya. Nozomi is a likable focus, because the writing shows her genuine wanting to be like her mentor and help people. Ai is probably the most interesting of the Rolling Girls, having a spunky personality. Although the running gag of her running into conflict only to be blasted away was annoying, one has to like her determined persona. She and Nozomi get into an argument late in the story, which leads to Ai breaking from the group. This was handled well and hit the viewer emotionally because of how close the group had become by that point.

Chiaya takes more of a center focus toward the climax of the show. Her character is very similar to Nai from Karneval. Unlike Nai, who came off at times as annoyingly naive, Chiaya comes off as sweet, having a genuine longing for friends. Her relationship dynamic with her mother was interesting. Perhaps the most emotionally well done part of the show was when Chiaya tells Nozomi in the final episode, “You were my Maccha Green.” Some of the visuals in this show are unique. I was taken aback by how beautiful and surreal the backgrounds of Always Comima were. The soundtrack is solid. I particularly liked the song that played during Maccha Green’s fight with Kuniko in episode two; it gave the battle an even more stylistic flare. Speaking of the action, when fight scenes do occur, they are a lot of fun. Besides Maccha’s encounters with Kuniko, one of the biggest highlights in the action department was the battle between Haru Fujiwara and Ura Kukino later in the story.

The Bad

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Nozomi’s group is a likable focus. Nozomi is engaging, Ai is fun, and Chiaya is sweet. Notice how I left Yukina out of that sentence? She wasn’t bad, but lacked personality. She came off as shy, and that’s it. Unlike the other characters, it was hard to gauge the type of person she is, aside from being more on the shy side. She isn’t the major problem here, however.

The problem is that Maccha Green and Kuniko are too great to sit on the sidelines.

Nozomi is fine, but there’s a reason why the show never got as good as its first two episodes. The relationship between Maccha Green and Kuniko is fascinating. Near the end of episode two, there is rushed exposition that the two actually knew each other. This didn’t have to be rushed if the show had chosen to focus on these two. Instead, the writing benches the two most interesting characters until near the end of the show. When they do come back, they’re teaming up and it’s good stuff. Nozomi’s group just weren’t capable of being as engaging in comparison.

Another big problem is the under-utilization of quality antagonists. There is no real main antagonist until near the end. She, Shima Ishizukuri, was great, but terribly under-utilized. Why did she give up in the end? The whole resolution came off as rushed. Another great character was Shutendōji, whose “Life is about killing time” shtick was interesting. But, in the end, it appeared as if he was helping the characters, thus making his character supremely confusing.

There is often too much of a comedic tone coming from the episodes. The writing could have used the fascinating background of the Great Tokyo War to deliver an engaging story in the modern day. What we do get is still okay, but it rarely rises to excellence past its first two episodes.

The Verdict

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If the show had opted to keep Maccha Green and Kuniko as the primary focus, we could have had something truly great. If the writing really wanted Nozomi’s group to be a center focus, all it had to do was have Maccha and Kuniko fail a mission late in the show, and have Nozomi’s group continue where the two characters left off. It would be serious, but could still offer comedy in the form of the character interactions. Make no mistake though: The Rolling Girls isn’t bad. There are some notable characters that appear, like Ura. But, The Rolling Girls is also a missed opportunity for something special.

7/10

Karneval Review

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Released in 2013, the Karneval anime is an adaption of the manga by the same name. The story follows a creature named Nai. Nai is apparently half “niji” and half human. Nai is looking for his caretaker, a man named Karoku. A crook named Gareki runs into Nai, and the two of them end up meeting up with a government organization named Circus. Circus’ goal is to protect citizens from monsters called Varuga and a sinister organization called Kafka. Based on the summary, Karenval sounds like a fun story. It is a fun 13 episodes, but lacks in key areas.

The Good

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The action in this anime is slick. From the opening fight with Gareki against a Varuga, viewers know they’re in for a treat. A few of the characters are notable. Though Gareki was annoying sometimes, he did have a good character arc. By the end of the show he emerged with a more heroic mindset, and a willingness to open himself up to the idea of belonging to a group. One of the stronger aspects of the show was the parts that focused on Gareki’s past, and how it relates to the present.

The Captain of the Second Ship, Hirato, was perhaps the most compelling character. He takes his role as a high ranking official seriously, but does care sincerely for his subordinates. He also has a subtle inspiring persona that the writing smartly utilizes, especially in the final episode when he’s talking to Gareki about the latter’s future. Tsukumo had little personality other than just being the super serious character for a good chunk of the show. That changed a bit in the latter part, when she realized that it might be her last night alive. Her monologue, saying how she wished she would have talked to everyone more, was genuinely emotional. Though she is good to have around, it would have been effective to see her actually die. It would have left an impact on the cast and viewer.

Nai’s character arc is a bit mixed. He works best as a character counter to Gareki. It is primarily because of Nai that Gareki starts to have a different mindset. The writing does a good job building and establishing the friendship between the two. Finally, the soundtrack is very good.

The Bad

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Characters are perhaps the most important part of any movie or show. Karneval does not have a bad cast, but not a particularly strong one either. Each of the characters have their personality trait, which is good of course. But, it seems like some of these characters are known by just their personality type rather than actual character. Gareki is a hotshot, Tsukumo is super serious, and Nai is naive but caring. These characters do get good moments, but they can’t be called “great” characters.

The biggest crime Karneval commits is the pacing. The story in concept is good, but it takes awhile for it to get rolling. 13 episode animes should not have filler, but you will find filler scenes in Karneval. The lack of an ongoing primary antagonist is also a huge negative. Well, I should say that there is a main villain, Palnedo, but he barely appears. (Where was he in the final episode?) One could argue Karoku is the main villain, but it is confusing of what exactly happened to him or what his ultimate goal was. The two most interesting villains were Uro and Meiga. If the writing was going to regulate Palnedo to background status with no conclusion, he should have been removed from the cast in favor of one of those two getting a bigger role.

Karneval ends at Episode 13 with an unsatisfying conclusion. Karoku is found, but Palnedo is still out there. If Karneval had a second season, this would be fine. But there isn’t a second season, making the “ending” lackluster.

The Verdict

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Karneval has a lot of potential that is squandered on filler scenes. Character interactions mix from great to mediocre. (Yogi’s befriending of Gareki and Nai was too sudden to be realistic.) Still, to call the show bad would be a disservice. The story is unique enough to keep the viewer engaged, and the action scenes have a nice style. The characters are interesting enough (but not superb) thanks to key developments. Karneval is fine, but there are better animes in the genre to watch.

7/10

Barakamon Review

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There are slice-of-life shows like Spongebob Squarepants where episode order doesn’t really matter most of the time. The opposite of that is a show like Young Justice – a show that features an ongoing storyline. Combining these two ideas, ‘slice-of-life’ and ‘plot driven,’ can be tricky. The rewards are high however, as this kind of show can deliver a unique, down-to-earth experience while also showing quality character development. That perfectly defines Barakamon, a great anime with memorable characters.

Barakmon follows Seishū Handa, a calligrapher whom is sent to an island after punching an exhibition curator for criticizing Handa’s work. On this island Handa looks to improve his calligraphy, and unexpectedly develops genuine friendships.

From the onset, Handa is a unique character. We’re shown his anger in that first episode when he punches the curator for insulting his “textbook” work. By the end of that episode, Handa begins to develop his own unique style for calligraphy by not sticking to the rigid ruleset he had been using. A lot is accomplished in that first episode, and things get even more interesting in Episode 2, which introduces more characters. Hiroshi is inspired by Handa to do better in school, which shows great development on Handa’s part. And that’s just Episode 2.

One more note about the second episode – the entire sequence with the senior patient (ghost?) talking to Handa was excellent. So, moving on to the main focus of the show other than Handa: a little girl by the name of Naru. She quickly befriends Handa, and Handa grows to care about her. Her character is one of great, genuine cheerfulness. Her child-like wonder, but having a special wisdom, is well done and serves as one of the catalysts to Handa’s changing as a calligrapher, and a person.

The characters all bring something to the table. Miwa and Tamako are fun to have around. Miwa’s outgoing personality and Tamako’s love of manga never gets old. Naru’s friendship with Hina is sweet, and Takao’s interactions with Handa are always fantastic. Characters in a slice-of-life-like story are very important, and Barakamon doesn’t fail there. It’s truly amazing what is accomplished throughout the 12 episodes. By the final episode, the viewer has grown attached to Handa’s inner journey and the people on the island. The phone call near the end was well done, and the viewer understands Handa’s wanting to go back to the island – because that’s where he met so many genuine friends and began his true work as a calligrapher.

This review is a bit shorter than usual, but I think I got the message across: Barakamon is a great anime with an inspirational message. Sure, some of the comedic scenes might go on a little too long, but that’s really just a minor thing in the long run. Handa’s journey from disgruntled calligrapher to a changed individual with his own style of work is amazingly done. The characters, especially Naru, are well developed and a lot of fun to have around. Oh, and the opening theme is one of the best.

9/10

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