Juni Taisen Zodiac War Episode 1 Review

Every twelve years warriors representing the zodiac gather to “compete” until only one remains. To the victor, a granted wish. The Boar, haughty daughter of last tournament’s victor, arrives with destiny in mind and is determined not to be one of the eleven consigned to oblivion.

 

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Like Recovery of an MMO Addict, this is another anime I checked out as part of Crunchyroll’s Passport contest and as such was going in totally cold information-wise.

But while I had no foreknowledge of Juni Taisen Zodiac War, the basic idea was readily apparent. Twelve hardened warriors representing the zodiac have gathered to “compete” until there is only one left. The tone is dark and unsettling, and the entire premise and rules are set up for gruesome deaths and establish tension. Flashbacks to Boar’s background help establish the (disturbing) scope of the show.

The atmosphere and execution is where this sets itself apart, and Zodiac War is interesting and well done overall. I admittedly could have done without what I found to be “meta” spoilers (and I’m very glad I avoided Crunchyroll’s episode description, which is as blatant a spoiler filled summary as I’ve seen), as I readily predicted where things were going. But getting there was still fairly compelling. I wonder if this initial episode will be a template for future episodes. I hope not, because while it worked well enough here as a formula it would drain all suspense from the series. I’m interested in watching more, and cautiously optimistic about the potential this has.

 

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Episode 2 Review

“Revenge is ludicrous.”

 

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The first episode of Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World was a decent return to the universe of my favorite anime of all time.

The questions about whether this is a sequel or reboot are answered here, as we get a complete retelling of a story from the first series. Comparisons are thus unavoidable, and to be honest this version doesn’t fare well.

Colosseum is one episode now instead of two in the original, leading to pacing problems and straight up rambling exposition at various times to to set up the plot background. There’s no drama nor proper time to the fights now, and all character development of the other participants and support cast is gone. The absence of certain aspects (tiered society, face to face meeting with the king, etc) modify the philosophy of the story, removing depth and completely changing the implications and meaning of Kino’s actions. I feel all nuance has been lost, and this plays more like a plot outline of the original episodes than a fully formed story.

I’m extremely curious which is closer to the light novel this is based on, as while still justified this Kino is much less relatable/likable compared to the original anime, particularly since this is presented in the second episode with much less opportunity to get to know Kino before these events. It will be interesting to see what new viewers think without the old series to compare to.

I really hope they stick to new material going forward. There’s plenty from the light novels to draw from, so half hearted remakes of stories already adapted don’t seem necessary. Keeping the old series as cannon and providing background exposition as needed would have worked just fine, and certainly wouldn’t have been any more awkward than the info dumps present here. In a vacuum this wasn’t bad, but as a remake it was disappointing.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 1 Review

“Their kindness and favors don’t necessarily benefit a human.”

 

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride starts out with an unsettling and ominous opening with heavy atmosphere as we see a young girl dejectedly signing a contract then being put in a collar, chains, and a robe. She’s purchased by mysterious figure for exorbitant amount, and isn’t even remotely expecting his intentions.

The underlying premise and setup are of course uncomfortable, but things settle into a lighter atmosphere in short order. The heavy themes are of course still there, but the themes move into the territory of acceptance and dealing with coming out of the depths of despair. Chise’s burdened and cursed with powers that are now appreciated and valued, and she has no idea how to react with the possibly fortuitous change in her fate. It’s a delicate subject well handled and this first episode is captivating as her story starts to unfold.

The feel has a touch of “slice of life” as the details of Chise’s new situation are revealed, and the world has a fascinating layer of magic behind it. Being set outside of London and a great animation style combine for a wonderful aesthetic. I’ve been curious about this series and found this first taste of it quite intriguing. Looking forward to watching more.

 

Recovery of an MMO Junkie Episode 1 Review

Thirty year old Moriko is a NEET by choice who wants nothing more than to escape back into the comfort of the online world. In a bit over her head trying a new MMO, her character Hayashi attracts the assistance of the sweet and more experienced Lily, and Moriko’s solo adventure suddenly becomes more of a group effort. 

 

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I checked this series out as part of Crunchyroll’s Passport contest, involving watching the first episodes of several new series. So I knew absolutely nothing about it going in.

The opening caught my eye, with vivid, fluid animation and a couple of intriguing glimpses. The strong initial impression continued as the main character walked into her apartment and threw a bouquet of flowers in the trash. Nice, striking way to immediately convey volumes about her. In general I thought there was a really great balance of how much to explicitly reveal and explain vs what to imply here.

This was a cute, good first episode laying the groundwork of Moriko forming relationships within the game world she’s using to try to avoid having to do so in the real world. It appropriately focuses primarily on establishing the internal game world and what she’s experiencing in it in this initial episode, but I expect more of a spotlight on her in the real world as the series progresses. There’s a lot to like and both the comedic and romantic/interpersonal elements are extremely well done so far. Definitely considering continuing with this one.

 

 

 

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Episode 1 Review

“Traveling is fun, and even if I have to kill others, I still want to continue doing it.”

 

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I was admittedly a little trepidatious as I watched the premiere episode of Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World, wondering if it would live up to the heights achieved by its predecessor. The original Kino’s Journey anime is my favorite of all time, so I was both excited and anxious to see this what this new rendition 13 years later would have in store.

The opening two minute quasi-monologue establishing Kino’s philosophy and outlook, including the extremely odd quote I opened with, was a bit worrying. It did set the tone of the series though, somehow having both a touch more melancholy and whimsy at first glance. The scene also made more sense in retrospect once the rest of the episode’s story was told. It was thought provoking and intriguing overall, which is exactly what I want from Kino’s adventures. The joy as always is watching Kino’s visit unfold, so I’ll avoid specifics, but the story here and the country visited were good choices for an initial impression.

The animation doesn’t have the “softness” of the original, but absolutely has the right feel and is beautiful in its own right. Likewise so far I don’t feel the music is quite up to level of original, but again it’s still good.

Overall I’m extremely happy with Kino’s return, and this first episode has a lot of what made the original so special.

 

 

 

Lucifer Season 1 Review

“You make a mockery of everything divine.”

“Thank you.”

 

Lucifer Morningstar has grown tired of “playing a part in his father’s play” and left hell to “vacation” in the mortal world. Now amusingly set up in the City of Angels as the owner of an exclusive nightclub, his adventures of indulgence are about to be interrupted by a callback to his old duties: a murderer needs to be punished.

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Lucifer starts with the general idea of the DC comic of the same name and immediately breaks off into different territory. While it’s debatable if a more “faithful” adaptation would have been suitable and/or better for a tv series, what’s here works surprisingly well. Tom Ellis is a delightfully playful Lucifer, which anchors the show excellently. He’s charismatic and a horrible influence at the same time and wrapped up in a thoroughly amusing bundle, but still conveys a curiosity and internal conflict that shows room for growth. And of course equally important to the part is his phenomenal ability to really channel anger, rage, and a dangerous edge convincingly when needed.

The writers balance Lucifer’s unusual partnership with a local homicide detective and the associated crime of the week structure with a strong overarching story that shows real character development and intrigue over the course of the season. The mythology is carefully built and slowly revealed in bits and pieces. Lucifer is given depth of character, along with legitimate gripes with his former life that underlie his issues and actions, that adds layers and plenty of themes and dilemmas for the viewer to get caught up in to the show.

Like the approach, the series’ success is two-fold. The individual episodes stand well as isolated stories, providing decent mysteries and reasonably accessible points of introduction. But beyond that is an amazing cast inhabiting compelling characters caught in the ripple effects of Lucifer’s actions and their consequences.

The acting, atmosphere, and little dramatic touches combine to make the first season of Lucifer an engaging journey that feels complete yet ends with a big development that will no doubt echo through season 2. This certainly is not the Vertigo comic of the same name, but anyone willing to go along in the direction this series takes the same core concept will find a dark, intriguing, and yes, entertaining journey.

This show features the devil himself consider his morality, which is a philosophical avenue well worth exploring.

 

The Flash Episodes 1 & 2 Review

“My name is Barry Allen, and I’m the fastest man alive.”

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Finally got a chance to try DC’s critically acclaimed Flash series, and it’s off to an amazing start. Barry’s origin is told in a way that not only establishes numerous important supporting characters, but firmly illustrates who Barry was BEFORE he became the Flash, so the viewers have a point of reference and can fully relate to what he’s going through. It’s vital to getting people emotionally invested, and done to perfection.

In addition to sharing his origin and setting up the series, the pilot has a jaw dropping epilogue which adds a ton of layers to the show and sets up ominous overtones that continue into episode 2 and look to be the central background arc holding the season together. The episodes stand alone nicely otherwise while still developing plot and characters organically out of the events and conflicts Barry must deal with. Episode 2 provides a lot of background on Barry’s childhood and how it shaped him and those around him. There’s also a lot of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) foreshadowing in both episodes that serve as a treat for fans familiar with the comic mythos.

What I’m most impressed with though is the atmosphere. There’s a sense of wonder at the center of everything that gives the show great heart and makes it a joy to watch. Barry’s extremely likable, which makes him engaging, easy to cheer for, and just plain fun to tag along with.