I have never really been a fan of the mech genre. It's not to say that I don't enjoy mech anime, quite the contrary. However, I just find myself not drawn to them as much as I am other genres. So it was quite a surprise for me to find myself drawn to Aldnoah Zero. I think a lot of it had to do with the music. I am a fan of Hiroyuki Sawano. I constantly listen to the soundtracks for Attack on Titan and Kill la Kill and the music for this series is shaping up to be pretty awesome as well. The question is can the rest of the series live up to that same bar. Let's take a look at the first 5 episodes and see how it shapes up.
In 1972, mankind discovered an ancient alien artifact on the Moon called the Hypergate. It sent them to Mars where they discovered more ancient technology allowing them to colonize the planet. However, these first settlers came together to form the Vers Empire. They claimed Mars for themselves and tensions with the United Empire on Earth grew worse. Using the power of the alien tech known as "Aldnoah" they started a war in 1999. A battle took place on the Moon causing the hypergate to explode and destroy half of the moon and cause the debris to float around the Earth. The soldiers of the Vers Empire were now stranded on Earth and they build several massive orbital space stations to keep watch over Earth. 15 years later the princess of the Vers Empire wants to go to Earth to re-establish friendly ties but is assassinated ending the cease-fire and re-igniting the war between the Vers Empire and Earth.
What I Liked:
As I said before the music in this show is phenomenal. The opening songs and songs used during the show and excellent and worth listening to outside of the anime. I also really enjoyed the orchestral music. I thought it was powerful and epic and really helped sell me on the mood and action of the show. Given the history of the composer it should come as no surprise but it is still worth celebrating. Similarly I enjoyed the animation. The end of the first episode especially with the explosion was done very well. The characters do not stand out to me but they are well drawn and animate well. The same goes for the mechs. I didn't really enjoy the design of the mechs but the animation on them was really well done especially in the fight scenes.
One thing about this show that has impressed me as well is the story. I won't spoil anything but the assassination of the Princess is handled well and implies a larger conspiracy. There is a good mystery that has been built up around her murder and I am interested to see how it progresses. Similarly I enjoyed the dynamics of both sides. The coordinated attacks and military might of the Vers Empire is portrayed quite well but underneath it exists a network of spies and traitors. Meanwhile the Terrans who are seemingly outmatched by the superior technology and military strength of the Vers Empire do a great job of using tactics and strategy to survive and defeat the enemy rather than overpowering them. However, while the story is interesting the storytelling is not.
What I Didn't Like:
I have said several times before that I hate exposition in any form of fiction. To me it is a cheap and lazy way to convey storytelling. Unfortunately this show starts right off the bat with it. All that information I wrote earlier is presented in a 30 second presentation by a bunch of high school kids while taking the bus to school. It's stupid because A) no high school kid talks about things like that while on a bus to school and B) these kids know about this stuff already so there is no point in explaining this stuff aside from being a lazy way to give backstory exposition. I know its a small thing to nitpick but it shows a poor sense of pacing and storytelling when things have to be explicitly explained to the audience in what is essentially a Power-Point Presentaiton. It also seems that the writers were so busy building their world and fiction that they forgot to fill it with interesting people. The characters in this show are completely forgettable and bland. They have no unique personality and speak with a monotonous voice. They almost feel like vessels to move the story along. The main character, Inaho, is so bland and boring and lifeless that it seems the writers and voice actor didn't care about him at all. He delivers his lines with a flat affect and has no emotion whatsoever. He watches friends die and people suffer and all he does is tell people how he is feeling rather than show people how he is feeling. The only two characters I found even remotely interesting. One is his sister Yuki who at least has some personality and displays it. The other is Slaine, the Terran slave. He was rescued by the Vers and works for them but is constantly looked down upon. Nonetheless he has a strong devotion to the Princess whom he owes his life and his journey to uncover the truth behind her murder is the closest this show got to character development for me.
It is obviously to early to judge how the rest of this show will be but they have a lot of issues they need to address. My main gripes with the exposition of the backstory only happened in the first episode. Since then the show has done a better job of its storytelling. However, they need to give these characters some life and make me care not just about what is happening to the world but also what happens to these people because right now I could care less.
Welcome back to another session of midway musings. This time we look at one of my favorite anime franchises: Hajime no Ippo. While far from perfect it is a wonderful show that captures the spirit of the sport that it portrays and does so with style and flair while still keeping a firm foot planted in reality. The first season was amazing showing the road to Ippo becoming the featherweight champion of Japan. While the second season did show Ippo defending his title the main focus was on his friend Takamura going for the world junior middleweight championship. It was a great second season filled with powerful moments and amazing animation but felt more like filler than a true step forward for the series. Now we enter the third season showing Ippo defending his title two more times. In between this we see Aoki go for the Japanese Championship as well.
Once again I give full props to this studio for their amazing work at the animation. While doing an acceptable job in the day to day life the animation that takes place in the ring is truly special. The choreography is outstanding making each fight feel powerful and impactful. I couldn't help but stand up and shout when Ippo unleashed his evolved Dempsy Roll against Sawamura. It was brutal, strong, and accomplished what I feel every sports anime should, which is to be able to make you feel like you are part of the crowd.
One aspect of this show which I feel makes it stand out is that it is able to give a superhuman quality to these fighters and their fighting abilities while still keeping everything grounded in reality. Their moves may be accentuated on screen by special effects and flashy colors but there is a logic to what they do and the show does a great job of straddling that line. A great example of this was Aoki's fight for the championship. His ability to play mind games with his opponent did seem a little ridiculous but at the same time was able to highlight the mental battle of boxing.
The story for this season was a step up from the last season mainly from Ippo's end. One of my complaints with the last season was that Ippo took a backseat to the other characters and his fights have felt less important and nail biting. In this season he comes front and center and all his previous title defenses are now given greater context. He could never compete on a world stage because while he was a champion he still had many weak spots that could be exploited. His fight with Sawamura elevated itself by being a career defining match for Ippo that would determine if he was ready to move onto the world stage. Despite being the champion Ippo once again felt like the underdog in the fight. The fight itself was fantastic and ranks as one of my favorite fights in the entire series.
Since I don't read the manga I have no idea where the show will go from here but I am very excited nonetheless. This show reminds me why I can still love and enjoy anime and what it can do as a creative medium.
Hey hope everyone enjoyed my previous blog regarding SAO. Now that I have finished the show I will be putting up a review soon but before I do I want to briefly talk about some of my thoughts regarding the second half of SAO.
In the opening of the second half Kirito is back in the real world and has spent the last 3 months in rehab getting his strength back and adjusting to his normal life. However, Asuna is still trapped within the Nervegear. He learns that she has been held prisoner by Suguo an employee in her father's company who is also planning to marry her while she is unconscious to take over the company. He has her trapped in another online game created by the company RCT which took over the servers after the company that created SAO was dissolved. He enters the game hoping to save her and meets another player called Leafa who in the real world is his cousin Suguha although neither of them realize it. She helps him to find Asuna and break her out
I went into the second half of the show a little more skeptical. After all I expected the entire series to take place within its titular name. The idea of a MMO based on fairies did not sound appealing to me at all. Also I was disappointed that Asuna had been transformed from a strong power character to a princess who needed rescuing. It felt like this show was going downhill. Oh how wrong I was. I was extremely surprised and pleased with the second half of the show and it ended up being my favorite part of the anime. While there are issues that I have with ALO I think from top to bottom it was a more well realized world and the story as well as the relationships between the characters was more interesting.
Once again the animation in this show is fantastic. Each world is beautifully realized and the mere thought that this is an online game is something that makes me very wishful that I was a part of that world. It also felt more fantastical and fun to be in than SAO through the use of magic and flight. The magic system is a really cool system and is used very well. I also enjoyed the story and relationships between the characters more in the second half. Sugo is a far more despicable villain and one I loved to hate. He is a less enigmatic character than Kayaba and his motivations for keeping Asuna prisoner as well as creating ALO is more despicable but interesting. I also enjoyed the relationship between Kirito and Suguha. Initially I was put off by the whole forbidden love that Suguha had because it has been done practically to death in anime and while there are a few exceptions (ie. Usagi Drop) it usually comes across as creepy and uncomfortable. Here however, it does work as not only it provides more complexity to the characters but also gives a good reason as to why she plays these online games an idea that was not even touched upon in the first half. Overall I found the second half of the show much more enjoyable to watch and helped elevated my opinion overall. Look forward to my full review which will be up soon
Welcome vicers. I have finished the first half of Sword Art Online and want to take a moment to reflect on the series, the highs, the lows, and my hopes going into the second half of the season. Before I begin I just want to remind those reading that there will be spoilers ahead though I will try and minimize those.
Despite playing video games since I was 5 years old there have been several genres that do not fall within my wheelhouse. One of them is the MMORPG. Time commitments and financial constraits have prevented me from enjoying them in the past. However, even though I haven't played them I do enjoy the appeal of playing in a massive world with thousands of other players. Also the idea of not just playing a game but being part of one where all of your senses are completely immersed in the game is a great idea. I also have not watched the .hack series. So I went into this show with a curious sense of optimism. SAO is a show in which a new MMORPG has emerged and through the use of a new device called the NerveGear players are able to be completely immersed within the game. All goes well until the players realize that they cannot log out of the game. The game creator then notifies them that they are trapped in the game and the only way to escape is to beat the final boss. The protagonist is Kirito a solo player. He meets many people along the way including a girl named Asuna. Initially they are at odds with one another but slowly develop a close friendship eventually falling in love with each other. By the end of the first half of the show they manage to discover the secrets of the game including the final boss, and the motivations of the creator to do what he did and in the end they beat the game and escape.
As always I want to talk about the things I like before I lay my criticisms. My biggest compliment to the show is the animation and art style. This world is very well realized and is an absolute joy to look at. The simple idea that people can be transported to a world like that is very exciting. Even if the monster or boss design is not as unique as it could have been they are animated so well it more than makes up for it. The fight with the chimera in particular was really fun to watch. There are also some concepts that are interesting and I wish could have been expanded on further. Games like EVE Online have shown that virtual worlds can be intricate and that game contains entire corporations built by players and a very advanced economy system. In SAO the intricacies of guilds and their political and social complexities are teased but never really expanded upon which I found both interesting and disappointing.
Unfortunately I also had a lot of issues with the show. While it was fun to look at the story did not hold up. The first few episodes feel very chaotic with no through line other than the main character. Characters such as Sachi, Yui, and Liz are introduced and immediately removed or thrown to the side within one episode. I guess they exist to evolve Kirito and explain some of his reasons for being a solo character but despite this I still found him a rather simplistic character lacking any great deal of depth. It was fairly refreshing to see Asuna in a more empowered role rather than being a damsel in distress she is a very capable and confident woman which is refreshing. However, the chemistry and romance between the two was simple and predictable. This was disappointing given how much time the show devoted to their romance.
One great thing about games is that they offer escapism and allow us to become empowered characters in a fantastical world. If you could truly envelop your senses in that world would you return to reality? What if you were a high lord with a vast kingdom under your rule in a virtual world but a lowly employee at a company in the real world? Which life would you chose? As I grow older my expectations in the media I consume grows. While I still enjoy simple mindless entertainment I appreciate art that challenges my views and helps me to see the world in a deeper and better way. Maybe its not fair to level my own expectations as complaints against SAO. The show still has potential to grow and offer more than what it has showed me. Here's hoping it does.
Hello internet world. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, or whatever winter holiday you may celebrate. I know that it has been a long time since I have been back on this website but quite a lot has been going on in my life. Most notably I have finished my medical school and am currently working towards finishing my residency. As one may expect this has taken a big toll on my ability to watch a lot of anime. I have kept up with some of the longer running shows such as Naruto and One Piece but other than that have not had a chance to watch any new series. As a result my list of shame has grown quite considerably both in terms of new shows and old shows. Now that my schedule has lightened a bit I plan on participating a bit more in terms of reviews and opinions on various shows. I would love to get anyone's opinion on new shows to watch. I recently found out that Hajime no Ippo just started its third season for which I am very excited to jump into. I also started Sword Art Online and will post a midseason blog and a final review. I look forward to contributing to the website again and wish everyone a very Happy New Year