katmic (Level 10)

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If we look at the average anime season as a series of its own, then it is usually not a very good season. WHY? Because, like many anime series, it constitutes more filler and less actual substantial entertainment.

Which always leaves me wondering at the rationale that is utilized in the preparation of a given anime season’s roster, whether the various studios don’t simply place special emphasis on six or seven worth while titles, then fill the rest of their roster with padding, to make for a fuller schedule.

That would explain how stuff like Mahou Sensou actually gets made.

THE PLOT:

Takeshi Nanase is an ordinary high school boy with dark past. Besides certain circumstances impelling him to enter into a fake relationship with his childhood friend Kurumi Isoshima, he lives a normal life.

That is until he comes across a girl named Mui Aiba one random evening, in a uniform he has never seen before, collapsed on the school campus. Mui introduces herself to Takeshi as a magician. She then apologizes for having turned Takeshi into a magician, too, revealing to the perplexed young man the existence of the ruined world, within which magicians exist and great battles are fought for the future.

MY REVIEW:

Magical Warfare isn’t even bad, nothing so terrible as to infuriate me; it has simply been a while since I watched something so cheesy, clichéd and so typical of weepy shonen anime.

No, actually it hasn’t been that long, since it’s only been a month since I tried and failed to watch Chrono Crusade, another ridiculous anime series. More importantly, Magical Warfare isn’t special, not in terms of really bad anime.

Rather it falls into the category of the sorts of anime series I come across and immediately pass over each and every week; except I showed a willingness to push past the first episode of Mahou Sensou rather than simply deposit it onto my ‘might watch in the future, but probably not’ pile.

Admittedly, the title attracted my attention; more importantly, this is magic and it is being used in warfare, that seemed like a simple slam dunk. A foolish assumption on my part, because whoever wrote the story clearly figured the same thing, choosing to create the most generic story to come out of 2014.

Seriously, Mahou Sensou plays out like every magic related story I have ever watched and hated, basically playing around with those elements that most irritate me in such anime.

+Let’s see, first we have the magic. There are few things I hate more in a fantasy series than garbage magical laws; no, not even laws, because I might have stuck with the series if it had attempted to assert some structure to its magic, not having its characters basically spouting gibberish in their apparent attempt at displaying advanced magical forms, then unleashing some really silly looking results.

Certainly watching a little girl open space like a door and wrap it around a foe trying to decay said space in 13 minutes sounds like something I would gravitate towards; except this little girl was earlier introduced as the director of a secret magical school, with my eyes rolling immediately at another one these ‘I might look like a little girl but have actually accumulated centuries of years and equal amounts of magic’ clichés that I am sick of.

And I had already endured what felt like way too many seconds watching an excessively convoluted magical formation play out, again accompanied by lots of nonsensical terms, against a villain whose powers seemed crafted to create an air of dread even while always allowing the hero ample time to counteract his nefarious curses.

As Brian Sanderson once said, if you are going to create fantastical magical powers, you can either structure them intricately or present them as vague wonders, but never attempting to do a little bit of both, basically creating the mess that was Mahou Sensou and its boring battle system.

Too many of these action oriented anime series seem to forget the importance of properly structured powers in any given battle; because a viewer’s understanding of the laws that govern a given anime universe’s supernatural elements will determine how deeply they engage with the battles.

Knowing what bankai was made all the difference in Ichigo’s final battle against Byakuya in Bleach, that our Hero’s eventual access of this power would mean the acceleration of an already epic conflict.

Mahou Sensou injected very little effort into making sense of its magical world, beyond the very basics.

+The various plots of this anime seemed way too contrived for my liking, with each event purposed to achieve a very clear very cliché objective. Great anime attempt to mimic normal life, at the very least its natural flow, treating conflicts and great occurrences as unforeseen but none the less natural events of their universe, to which they react, this resulting in a story, good or bad.

Mahou Sensou is like Tales of the Abyss, basically making no effort to disguise its path; in other words when Aiba runs off, you know it is to put herself in very obvious danger and against her better judgment just so Takeshi can come to the rescue despite his weakness as a novice magician, take a beating for her, prove himself all honorable and immovable, willing to die for a girl he barely knows and basically positioning himself to be romantic material for Aiba.

Really, it all plays out the same way; you need only watch the first few minutes of each episode to figure out how the story will play out, which character will fall just so they get to cry on the shoulder of another, transforming a potential villain into an anti hero; which villain will get the chance to rant about how much suffering they have undergone and why that entitles them the opportunity to lay all to waste…basically this anime does nothing original.

+And the characters? What Characters? These caricatures of every other protagonist and antagonist that has ever appeared on screen?

And do not get me wrong. I tend to complain about characters that weep and whine in a lot of the anime that I review and hate.

By such descriptions I am not suggesting that the idea of characters crying in anime puts me off; I hope most people understand the distinction between whining and crying.

Because, yes, I HATE anime that spend 90% of their time in weepy territory, with cutesy female (and sometimes male) characters on their knees weeping endlessly about their bad lot in life. That irritates me to no end.

SO of course that places Mahou Sensou in a good place to irritate me, every scene with Aiba, Takeshi and all their whining about their families and siblings OBVIOUSLY aimed towards forcing some modicum of sympathy from viewers, but only drawing derision from my impatient sensibilities.

These characters are as terrible as they are bland, the typical ‘hero who places his life on the line for strangers’, ‘strong female lead with difficult life that must be weak so as to be rescued by the male lead’, typical evil villains seeking to bring destruction for a seemingly sympathetic and yet rationally silly reason (though one female character managed to provide a semblance of an intriguing story worth following).

I find it hard to believe that someone actually took the effort to write this story, rather than simply typing a few keywords into a program and having the computer spit out a random script. Because I would believe that.

The inconsistencies alone ravage any logic the anime might have been attempting to construct at the start, especially with regards to how magical abilities are activated and the rules restricting their use in the real world; because by the laws revealed in the first episode, almost every character we meet, including our hero, should either be dead or powerless due to the effects of ‘The Gift’.

+Could this truly be a Madhouse Studio production, one of the best animation studios around? Yes it is, because the animation does indeed avail that gloss and crisp expected from a fairly well financed series.

AND IT IS SO BLAND. There is literally no artistic quality anywhere in Mahou Sensou, with every character a mirror image of that typical anime design, which, I guess, perfectly matches their equally bland and generic characterizations.

The shots, of the landscapes and the magical battles, where deathly boring. On a surprising note the voice actors where great, in fact way too good for this project which, along with the fairly decent music, I found surprising.

+VERDICT: I have watched bad anime, series that simply haven’t worked for me but within which, by placing my mind outside my own personal biases and interests, I have managed to locate slivers of quality from which another individual might have gained some level of entertainment.

I simply cannot imagine who the hell would actually enjoy watching Mahou Sensou. It’s not terrible per say. You simply won’t be watching anything substantial.

I couldn’t even complete the series, got as far as episode 8 and quit; and even then only because I forced myself to push through five episodes in one go. I have a system of watching anime, only ever tackling a maximum of three titles at a go.

Only because I wished to turn my attention to Wizard Barristers and thus chose to push through Magical warfare to basically make space on my roster did I make it so far, eventually coming to the realize how contrived and pretentious the anime truly was.

RATING: 3/10, I thought of throwing a 0/10 at the anime; but again, Mahou Sensou isn’t a terrible, or even bad anime. It is simply bland.

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Considering how long it has been running, I am surprised by how quickly this conflict ended. That is not to say that it was bad, merely a surprise that this fight came to an end so quickly, as compared to the pace at which past fights have run

THE CHAPTER:

With Gil’s will finally turn against Hendricksen, the final battle against the Holy knight finally comes to a close, with all eyes turning towards Elizabeth’s plight.

MY THOUGHTS:

If this chapter accomplished one thing, it was to tie several elements from previous chapters together, not only revealing the strange inconsistencies surrounding Meliodas and Gil’s capabilities but making sense of all those boisterous claims from Gil.

All in all, a pretty great chapter, or at the very least entertaining. This is what i am looking for in my weekly Nanatsu no Taizai fix, 19 pages that deliver more that great action, but a story, or elements of a story that show a semblance of progressing the plot.

Which this did; truth be told I never really liked Gil, and found his ‘turn to the dark side’ somewhat odd, either displaying great levels of stupidity(to believe the lies surrounding the sins) or revealing evil and greed.

Maybe we should have seen the signs, the oddities in his actions, a man spouting words of justice siding with an evil entity like Hendricksen. I am enjoying watching the Deadly Sins universe expand, specifically the insights we are receiving into the characters’ history, the world in which they lived and how these individuals, now enemies, once friends, so interacted.

There is still so much about the Hendricksen plot that we do not know. I mean, I am finding it difficult to believe the purpose that Hendricksen has revealed so far. Everything we have heard from him suggests that he is reviving the demon clan just so the knights can stay relevant; and that just doesn’t track.

And how does than link back into Hendrisksen’s murder of Gil’s father, because even the events of that particular story and their relation to Meliodas as a demon, the truth about the Sins’ betrayal…speaking of which do we even know who framed the Sins?

Because Hendricksen didn’t have that kind of pull back then, and Dreyfus clearly has no interest in the demon clan plot. So many mysteries yet to come undone.

I am yet to have my mind blown, and that hasn’t happened in quite a few chapters, yet it isn’t a necessity, so long as the story maintains a consistent level of quality in its story progression.

RATING: 6/10, one might refer to this chapter as mostly mildly entertaining, nothing overtly epic.

From what I have read so far, Meliodas feels almost too nice as far as knights and human beings go, making me wonder just how deep is dark side goes.

HIGHLIGHTS: Gil’s wrath.

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WHAT?! A BREAK! COME ON SHINOBU. We finally arrive at this momentous juncture in the story, when Magi finally gets my excitement juices flowing, when I finally begin yearning for the next Magi chapter like I haven’t in a very long time, and the Manga decides to go on a bloody break.

I suppose there are rational reasons behind the decision but, come on, I haven’t been this excited about a Magi chapter in more than 3 months.

THE CHAPTER:

Solomon rebounds from his great loss and launches a final assault against King David and his horde, bringing to an end a long and very bloody war.

MY THOUGHTS:

Complain I might have about this dragging Magi flashback; yet this chapter, juxtaposed against last week’s chapter more than justified the past few weeks of Magi.

And like Nanatsu no Taizai this week, the key lay in the chapter’s focus upon the action elements, even while allowing the story progress. Speaking of action, I cannot get over the artwork in this chapter.

Maybe Shinobu really does deserve a few weeks break, because a considerable portion of this chapter was quite messy; not that I had a problem following events…well, not after several re-reads, some of these panels were seriously messy.

Throwing these criticisms aside though, it has been a while since Magi delivered such meaningful yet compact action scenes, presenting less chaos in the form of giant attacks flying about and more fast paced and fairly simplistic assaults.

And one might point to last week’s chapter to justify the quality of chapter 230, because Magi this week enjoyed a level of urgency, with each page more than conveying that intense fury coursing through Solomon and crew, with his rage more than exploding on paper.

The chapter simply worked in a way it hasn’t worked in forever, relaying the emotion of last week’s loss, the dismay of those species facing death, the madness of David, fused with disturbing calm and, most importantly, the desperation in Solomon to stop his father. No, not desperation, fury.

There was less shonen cliché than I expected at the end as well, the final battle avoiding the speeches you expect from most manga, Solomon merely doing his all to save his friends from the might of his father, David imparting disturbing as well as enlightening wisdom upon his son in the last few moments.

And that made very little sense as well, those last few moments, almost throwing everything that we knew about David out the window and allowing us a moment to reinvent his personality. Was he really the raving lunatic we thought he was or a genius trying to manipulate the flow of destiny?

Could all this have been part of some grand master plan to avoid the chaos to come?

With this chapter, my interest in these events of the past has been renewed, specifically what it might mean for the future and the threat that is King David, whom I am now more than certain might have awakened within either Kouen or Sinbad.

That account of Setta’s end was almost chilling. Again I can’t tell if David was recounting the event just to push Solomon, or that was really a blood thirsty facet we were only starting to see. Truth be told I never thought David operated with the same mindset as the orthodox magicians and always assumed them to be puppets to his will.

Yet following his proclamations in this chapter regarding the purity of the species, I have to wonder if he wasn’t simply the chief orthodox magician.

RATING: I want to say 9/10, but the shoddy art calls for a 7/10. None the less intriguing chapter. Solomon was pretty awesome this week.

HIGHLIGHT: Solomon VS. David; David’s recount of Setta’s last moments.

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I really don’t understand Fairy Tail these days. I mean, I understand the kind of manga I am dealing with, but even removing it from more serious categories of manga doesn’t rationalize chapters like this, which seem so wasteful. If Hiro is pushing towards a specific end, I am yet to understand it, that is beyond continuing to ruin what was a really great story.

THE CHAPTER:

Face rises across the land. Minerva and Erza’s battle comes to an end as a surprising ally enters the battle field.

MY THOUGHTS:

Here is the thing; Fairy Tail is a story largely revolved around the idea of Nakama as some sort of empowering element; and that explains why so many of these arcs turn out the way they usually do.

But the Tartaros Arc is turning into a disturbing facsimile of the Daimatou Enbu arc; what turned the Daimatou Enbu saga into something less than impressive was the waste, the way Hiro created interested plots and threw them down the toilet, a stark example being Sting and his sudden decision to give up on an easy win.

At one point I thought that to be the worst thing to ever happen in the entire Fairy Tail, that is until these events in chapter 388, that basically saw Minerva receive the same very typical very cheesy Fairy Tail redemption usually assigned to less interesting villain.

SERIOUSLY? This was what we had been anticipating reading all this time? This is the epic Minerva/Erza showdown Hiro has been teasing since the last arc? Hiro gave us a glimpse of what could be earlier in the year, made threats of something new to come the next time Erza and Minerva clashed, possibly hidden demonic powers that might bring Erza and her Nakagami armor to her knees, possibly bringing about a surprise twist in the final outcome.

THIS IS THE DEMON MINERVA WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR? REALLY? I am…stunned at how these arcs and plots are starting to feel recycled; and I feared this would happen during the Daimatou Enbu, a justified fear after almost every villain in the tournament turned into a Natsu wannabe following the Fairy Tail mantra.

Except Hiro did the unexpected and presented MInerva as a truly immovable villain, one who wouldn’t be shaken by Fairy Tail friendship magic, and who couldn’t stop till she had laid waste to Erza and her crew.

…I just don’t get it. I understand what Fairy Tail is, and this rant isn’t about the series’ repetitive use of Nakama power related solutions such as this. My irritation is aimed towards Hiro’s continuous teasing, basically dangling one potential story only to deliver another less satisfying version.

This came out of nowhere. At no point was it ever hinted that MInerva would be undergoing this very sudden very unwarranted shift in loyalties.

I am so enraged by the events of this chapter that I am forgetting to mention Sting and Rogue, who ended chapter 388 with a bang. That is one surprise that was appreciated, because I am finding myself suddenly very uninterested in reading anything about any member of the Fairy Tail Guild. Except for maybe Gray. And Lucy and Wendy.

RATING: 3/10, one needs to ask. Does Fairy Tail have any actual villains to speak of? One might mention Zero but he was more insane than evil, and Hades made a recent shift from dark to light. Zeref has already proven that he posses some modicum of goodness in him, a light Natsu will no doubt bring out.

That doesn’t leave anyone that I can think of.

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This was brutal, and surprisingly so, even considering the lengths to which Shinobu Ohtaka has gone in past arcs; I have found some difficult to enjoying these flashbacks, mostly because the stakes haven’t felt real enough to me for quite a while, not like they would usually feel with our usual cast of characters.

Yet that didn’t negate the impact of this chapter, which, I suppose, is going to have epic consequences with regards to the war against David.

THE CHAPTER:

Solomon and Ugo attempt to escape their self made trap even as David launches an assault against their home.

MY THOUGHTS:

Chapter 229 was all over the place, starting off quite dull, entering some really muddy waters and then coming out ahead in one of the manga’s most brutal and gut wrenching scenes. There was a point in the chapter were events seemed like they were starting to turn down a clichéd path.

Ugo’s ability to lift the barrier puzzled me; because even his genius doesn’t explain his ability to overcome a trap that took centuries to create; the gibberish in between didn’t help matters. I don’t think we needed a step by step description of exactly how Ugo went about breaking the barrier.

Even as a means of proving his genius, it was unnecessary, and I didn’t buy. That being said it made for interesting progress, watching Solomon basically prop Ugo up as the greatest wizard the planet had seen, not because of any ostensible magical ability, but due to the wonders he had proven capable of achieving through the power of his brain.

One might look at this as an interesting shift in the development of these characters; we have spent so much time watching Ugo fawn over the might of Solomon, it is interesting to understand how highly Solomon views Ugo. It explains their friendship and a lot about what we know of Aladdin’s Ugo and his relationship with the young magi.

There was that moment as Solomon and crew were racing back home that I thought of the scenes we were about to witness, specifically the final clash between father and son that would see the city saved and justice delivered, before the city finally came into view. I expected devastation of some sort, but not an utter obliteration of the city.

This more than changes everything. For one thing these events give credence to revelations made in chapter 222.5, about David’s ability to foresee the future; that he foresaw his son’s rebellion, the force that he would raise to stop him and created a means to utterly crush him places David a few pegs above the all knowing Aizen.

This is a villain like we haven’t seen in Magi. Seriously though, this wasn’t just any little old massacre. David obliterated everything, the home and the communities that Solomon and crew had spent the past decade creating, a life and families that now lie in ruins.

What this is going to do to Solomon’s will, one can only imagine. We can already presume that this is going to lead into the fated Alma Toran tragedy, of which this is a portion. After all most of his followers are likely to lose faith in him, no longer viewing him as that divine creature beyond reproach and in whom they will choose to trust.

Seriously, this changes everything. After that last scene, with Tess’ last words, it suddenly makes all the sense in the world, how some of these powerful and initially righteous people could fall into depravity. Those that were making presumptions about Sheba’s role in Al Tharmen might have to reconsider their position

Because if there is one thing we know about Gyokuen, it’s that she’s crazy. And if there is one recently prominent trait we have come to learn about Arba, it’s the violent nature she might be harboring beneath her calm exterior.

One can imagine the events of this chapter pushing her over the edge. Magi has taken quite the turn in chapter 229, and one has to wonder how this tragedy will translate into the golden days of Solomon we saw in Aladdin’s visions near the end.

RATING: 7/10, despite a few hiccups at the start, this chapter really shined at the end.

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