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Manga Review: Atashi No Banbi

Year: 2013
Author: Ozaki Akira
Genre: Shoujo, Comedy, Romance, Drama, Slice of Life, School Life

Atashi no Banbi is a four-chapter series that centres around the peculiar relationship between first-ranked student Haruko Nanase and hoodlum Hachiya. After he tries to extort money from her after she witnesses him fighting on a train, she runs away. Unfortunately, her peaceful world is put in jeopardy when she learns that he is in the same class. This begins a comedic coming-of-age tale about a nerd and her future boyfriend.

To begin with, this series shares a lot of similarities with the shoujo series My Little Monster in regards to the archetypes of the leads and to some small degree the setup. However, that is where the similarities end. As much as I adore MLM, Atashi no Banbi places higher because of how much more relatable the male and female leads of this series are portrayed. They aren’t unnecessarily “broken” and this is where Atashi no Banbi manages to surpass many in the Shoujo rom-com genre. It also manages to do so without a single kiss or “love” scene. Weird, huh?
Hachiya and Haruko are so adorable together but their growing fondness for each other isn’t dragged on beyond what it takes for them to acknowledge and express their mutual feelings for each other. There is the right amount of embarrassment and anxiety especially from Haruko as she comes to realise her feelings for Hachiya. These two characters are really fun to watch because of how well nuance is balanced with the in-your-face silliness of school life. It is easy to root for this pairing because of the way that the self-professed “idiots” complement each other.
Whilst this series uses the backdrop of study sessions to develop Haruko and Hachiya’s relationship, it provides the right amount of shenanigans to make for some entertaining scenes. They are also joined in their efforts by Misawa Akira, a girl from another class who is hoping to win the heart of her long-time crush by getting good grades. We see major character development for Misawa on account of having two friends who support her. Whilst she still remains a flawed character, seeing her view of herself change is compelling to watch. Sometimes, a simple word of encouragement can turn your life around.
It is through these relationships that Horuko realises that she really does need human connections and changes her priorities in order to be happier in her own skin. Whilst Hachiya has his own degree of character growth, it is nowhere near as subtle as that of Haruko. This is okay because people have different issues to contend with. In any case, this makes for a compelling read that I can foresee reading again in the not-so-distant future.

In conclusion, I really liked this short series. I felt that it said what it needed to say and also delivered on the promise made in the first chapter to change the dynamic between two relative strangers that happened to be on a train at the same time. I recommend this series to anyone looking for a coming-of-age rom-com that doesn’t rely on sex or fan service to tell a compelling story. It is sure to entertain those looking for a short but impactful series as well. So, if this sounds like a story that would interest you, then be sure to check it out.

 


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Anime Review: Cautious Hero

Alternate Names: Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious, Shinchou Yuusha, Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore Tueee Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru
Year: 2019
Episodes: 12 (English dub version)
Genre: Fantasy, Isekai, Action, Comedy, Ecchi

I had a little bit of fun with this parody of series where a hero must defeat a Demon Lord. I also recommend that you guys check out the 100 Word Anime blog for Karandi’s episode by episode take on the series.

When a certain low-level Goddess Ristarte is given the job of helping an S-class world Gaeabrande defeat the resident Demon Lord, she is in over her head. So, she does what every self-respecting Goddess in her situation does and searches for hero candidates from Japan. Little does she know that the hero that she choses is insanely cautious, nor of their past connection.

Given the massive amount of series pitting a hero against Demon Lords in recent years, there has been a lot of people trying to do something unique with the premise. KonoSuba challenged people to parody the idea. Cautious Hero is a series that has managed to do something unique with this, by making the male lead not only overpowered but also insanely cautious.
The series itself tells in an entire story arc of a hero saving a world. There is plenty of epic battles, lots of foreshadowing and some interesting twists. The gut-punch in the last few episodes also puts into perspective what can happen when heroes do not have sufficient caution as well. Whilst this might be called a tonal shift by some, I found it quite appropriate given the foes that Seiya had fought up until that point. With monstrosities that like to turn people into “fireworks” and those that are willing to sacrifice their own family to summon powerful demons, it does a great job of pointing out stakes.
As for the characterisation, this series does really well in messing with archetypes. The world-building and backstories also do an excellent job of making these characters make sense within the fantasy setting. I found myself laughing at the dialogue and situations more often than not as well.
Whilst my own particular tastes mean that I could easily rewatch this series, I know that it probably won’t have much replay value for others. For some, the visual gags and jokes are only good for the first watch, which is perfectly fine. The stakes were high in the series as well, with the conclusion feeling very much like it was parodying the tendency for series to try to escalate things.

Whilst I love this series, it is not for everyone. However, if you are after a series that unapologetically pokes fun at the oversaturated “hero summoned to another world to defeat a demon lord” premise, then I highly recommend this series.


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Anime Review: Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou

Alternate Names: Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest
Year: 2019
Episodes: 12 (English dub version)
Genre: Fantasy, Isekai, Action, Adventure, Harem, Ecchi

Yep, I am finally dealing with reviewing the atrocity that is Arifureta. I’ve been putting off doing so for over a month because I was pained by the whole experience. I never got the chance to read the manga that this series is adapted from, but I hope that the anime is not a good representation of the quality because it was a bit of a letdown given the hype ahead of the series being released.

When an entire class is summoned to a fantasy world, they are given the typical spiel about fighting a demon lord and monsters in an effort to save it. Hajime Nagumo is your typical otaku. However, he is friends with Kaoru Shirasaki, the most popular girls in his class, which results in jealousy from Daisuke Hiyama, one of their classmates. Little does Hajime know that it will soon result in attempted murder.
During one of their early outings in dungeons, the class is accidentally teleported to a dangerous level of the dungeon, they have to face off against a raid boss. Hajime does his best to use synergy powers on a bridge to give them a chance of escaping. However, he is targeted by a schoolmate using magic and subsequently falls into an even more dangerous level.
As he tries to navigate the level, Hajime loses his arm to one of the monsters and manages to barely get out by using his synergy powers to burrow. As he is bleeding out, he is saved by drinking some healing water. When he comes to, Hajime manages to defeat one of the monsters and eats some of its flesh. This will inevitably lead to him gaining tons of experience, increase some stats and gain some racial abilities of that creature.
As he uses this  “shortcut” for gaining abilities, he saves an imprisoned vampire girl named Yue who he develops a romantic relationship with. As they explore the dungeon, they soon learn the real purpose of its creation, one that may very well put he and Yue in conflict with the divine powers. Also, he manages to get a prosphetic arm and stuff…

The main reason why I left reviewing this series for so long is that it caused me a lot of pain thinking about it. In the beginning episode, we are promised a darker tone for the series, but it ends up turning into a harem comedy around the halfway point. There was no foreshadowing, just
The occasional CG is also bad, the producers obviously trying to outdo the crappy 3D gen from the third season Overlord. Whoever signed off on the CG must have been trying to tank the show because it took deliberate effort to allow something that bad to be included in this series. This series seems to go for a digital aesthetic but ends up feeling cheap.

In spite of these things, there were some good points for this series. Yue and Hajime’s relationship works really well. In the last few episodes, we see how secure she is in their relationship. When Kaoru and Hajime are reunited, she meets Kaoru’s attempt at gaining Hajime’s attention with the equivalent of, “Bring it, b*tch!” Hajime is also quite secure in their relationship, rebuffing anyone that tries to interfere with his relationship with Yue.
The harem elements for this series offer a plethora of weird waifus vying for Hajime’s attention. This ranges from the sledgehammer-wielding over-sexed Bunny-girl Shea to dragon-girl pervert Tio. If only the series promised this over-the-top harem silliness from the beginning instead of a darker series.
I also like characters such as the teacher. In most series like this, a teacher is often left behind. Aiko Hatayama genuinely cares for the welfare of her students and continually worries about them being put into harm’s way. She becomes more proactive over time, working towards helping out farmers affected by the various conflicts. She is also accepting of Hajime after she meets him during an expedition.

Best characters of the series: Hajime, Yue and Aiko. I really like how Hajime and Yue’s relationship plays out. I also like Aiko’s nature and adaptability to the situation.
Worst character of the series: Daisuke. He is a weak character that tries to kill Hajime to get closer to Kaoru but doesn’t even put effort to become closer to her after that. He is also freaking annoying beyond that.

In conclusion, this series had a lot of potential but was inevitably let down by broken promises and crappy artwork. This could have been easily avoided as well, by the producers being more attentive and actually care about making a good show. If the studio producing the series don’t care enough to do quality control on the script and artwork, then the end result is will more likely end up as a complete mess. So, it pains me to say that I cannot recommend this series at all. I really wanted this series to be good but the cons heavily outweigh the pros.


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Anime Review: Araburu Kisetsu No Otome-dome yo

Alternate Names: O Maidens of the Savage Season
Year: 2019
Episodes: 12 (English dub version)
Genre: Shounen (according to MAL), (Sex) Comedy (according to Gigguk), Drama, Romance, School

Earlier this year, a scene from a certain series named O Maidens of the Savage Season became a viral meme. Various anime reviewers and viewers chimed in with their commentary on the series as well. When it came time for me to watch this series, I had my hopes up for the show. Sadly, the promises made in the first few episodes were dashed as the rest of the series evolved into a melodramatic and at times nonsensical mess. Whilst I don’t usually like posting reviews for series that I dislike, I think that I will make an exception to the rule due to how much potential the series had going in.

O Maidens of the Savage Season is a coming of age story about a group of girls in the school literature club whose only experience in love and intimacy is through the softcore pornography of romance novels. When one of their members talks about her desire to copulate (‘fo reals), it results in a domino effect as the rest of the girls are confronted with the idea that they will eventually have to move from text-based “romance” into something more hands-on. Each has their own issues to contend with, such as inappropriate attractions and lack of confidence with the opposite sex, but they will sure as hell try to get over that hump. >insert more innuendo here<

This series begins with an interesting setup. It hooks the viewer with the very unique problems that each of the female students faces. I wanted to like the characters, but I was perpetually frustrated and annoyed at their idiotic choices. And the adult characters? Well, they ended up sucking as well.
The questionable obsessions that two of the underage characters have for two adult men make it a little confronting at times, but this could have been dealt with in a more mature fashion that would have also made for good storytelling. Alas, it just ends up being completely messed up, along with the rest of the relationships of all but the prudish character who turns out to be in the more stable, mature relationship of the lot of them. It was disappointing seeing so many opportunities for good storytelling squandered in an effort to rush the series. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought it was a Studio Trigger production.
The characters end up feeling like cookie cut-outs with no substance to them. Whilst the dialogue wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t good either. The art and the voice-acting ended up being the only things that I enjoyed about the show by the last episode. It was a big let-down.

In conclusion, I thought that this series sucked. Feel free to watch it for yourself, however. Just don’t complain to me when the show results in the need to take a bath in bleach in an effort to cleanse yourself of the horrific experience of watching this series.


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Anime Review: The Rise of the Shield Hero Season 1

Alternate Names: Tate no Tuusha no Nariagari
Year: 2019
Episodes: 25 (English dub version)
Genre: Isekai, Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama

I first came across The Rise of the Shield Hero by chance when Crunchyroll released the first episode. Intrigued, I started delving into the manga as I knew it would be some time before the next episode came out. Over the next day, I binge-read all of the available chapters. The plot, world-building and characterisation got me hook, line and sinker. The following contains my thoughts on the first season that was released earlier this year. I apologise for any spoilers contained within my review.

The story tells of a young man named Naofumi Iwatami whose parents have allowed him to live as a shut-in after he helps get his brother onto the straight and narrow. During a visit to a local library, he comes across a strange book pertaining to The Four Cardinal Heroes and is promptly sucked into it. Awakening from being summoned to another world with a peculiar game interface, Naofumi quickly learns that he is one of the four cardinal heroes known as the shield hero. He is soon wrongly accused of rape by the eldest princess of the realm, leading to numerous revelations about the kingdom of Melromarc. With the help of a Raccoon-girl named Raphtalia and a Filolial girl he raises from a chick, the party quickly uncover both a threat within the kingdom and some clues as to the nature of the various waves that the cardinal heroes are trying to halt.

The artwork for this series is pretty solid, with solid linework and rich colouration of both character and setting which reflects the source material. These provided necessary contrast and differentiation between people and places without feeling out of place. Whilst the artwork wasn’t to the heights of masterpieces such as Violet Evergarden, it doesn’t need to be. Instead, it focuses on telling a story about people in a screwed up situation.
The characterisation was solid, with the especially-interesting protagonist who has a heart of gold beneath that understandably hardened exterior. He has a lot of anger there, and with good reason. Being accused of something that he considers a heinous act, to begin with, also provides him with the motivation to problem-solve through issues that only somebody isolated by society would be forced to contend with. Naofumi still manages to show moments of love and kindness to the likes of Raphtalia, who shares her own traumatic past. This contrasts with the flippant personalities of the three other cardinal heroes who have much of their wants and needs delivered on a silver platter up until >spoilers<. We also see the interesting point about how appearances can be deceiving, such as the case of Princess Malty of Malromarc. To understand the character of a person, we must dig deeper.
The setting where the story predominantly takes place is an awesome one to play in. We see how the religious and political elements of Melromarc inevitably create problems for Naofumi and the demihumans in his party. His first connection to Raphtalia is through a slave trader, just as an example. The royal family is a mess, with an angsty father being manipulated by his eldest daughter whilst his wife is away on a diplomatic mission. Malty and her father are characters that most will hate a lot more than the forces attacking the world in which they reside. The religion of the kingdom has a huge part to play in the situation of Naofumi and his companions. These various elements build upon each other to make for a complex and compelling story.
The plot itself might not be unique by the standards of an Isekai fan such as myself. However, it is how these elements are brought together that makes all of the difference. Whilst being brought to the world is a big deal, it can be argued that the false accusation against Naofumi is the inciting incident that changes the protagonist in a dramatic fashion. His view of the world around him, that feeling that he is fighting for people that need his help, is tipped on its head as he realises that heroes sometimes protect those that see their salvation as trash. There are numerous other realisations as well, but this is a big one. The twists that we see throughout the first season offer lots of room for storytelling as well, which the writer/s took advantage of.

To a comparison between the manga and anime, I would say that this is a rather faithful adaptation of the manga. It follows the chapters nearly blow b blow, whilst at the same time reflecting the art style and vibe of the other aspects of the manga. Unfortunately, the status of the manga will likely create issues with the release of a second season. I suppose that I will just have to read the manga until the next season comes out.

In conclusion, I adore this series. Whilst there are numerous confronting moments throughout the series, they show us what the heroic party of Naofumi and his allies are fighting against. The probing of human nature and what it means to be a hero make for a compelling watch, as do the various twists and turns along the way. So, if this sounds like something you would enjoy, be sure to check out the first season wherever you watch anime. Happy viewing!


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Manga Review: Tomo-chan Is a Girl Chapters 1-100

Alternate names: Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!, Tomo-chan wa Onna no ko!, Tomo-chan ha Onna no Ko!, Tomo-chan Wa Onna No Ko!
Year: 2015
Author / Artist: Fumita Yanagida
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

Tomo-chan Is a Girl is the story of tomboy Tomo Aizawa and her dysfunctional relationship with long-time friend and neighbor Juunichirou Kubota. It begins with her confessing to him and the object of her affections seeing it as a child and it is dismissed as the classic “I love you, bro!” So begins her attempts to make him see her as a woman, with a little help from some friends.

Each chapter of Tomo-chan Is a Girl consists of single 4-cell (aka 4-koma) “moments” tied together chronologically. It makes good use of visual gags and tropes, making for an entertaining first hundred “moments”. The plot was solid throughout, with a few more characters added over time, such as the mischievous Misuzu and the bizarre Carol. These additional characters contributed meaningfully to the story, adding a bit more conflict to this slice of life comedy without feeling contrived.

All in all, the first one chapters of this manga series that was a really fun read. If you are looking for a slice of life comedic romance than I recommend that you give this series a shot.


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Anime Review: ReZero

Alternate Names: Re:Zero Starting Life in Another World (English name), Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Japanese name), Re: Life in a different world from zero (English synonym)
Year: 2016
Episodes: 25 (English dub version)
Genre: Isekai, Fantasy, Romance, Drama, Psychological

Warning: Spoilers below.

Back when this series was first being released, I decided to wait for an English dub of the series to be released. Then, I somehow forgot about it. Well, hubby and I have been going over old shows and learned that ReZero did indeed get an English dub at some point. So, we jumped in headfirst.

When otaku Subaru Natsuki gets sent to another world whilst grabbing snacks from a local quickie mart, he meets a monarchy candidate named Amelia. The stigma of looking like the Witch of Envy creates numerous problems for the kind-hearted young woman, including gaining the attention of the witch’s cult who are trying to bring back the object of their worship. Suburu has fallen head over heels for her and quickly learns that he has the ability to come back to “save points” if he dies. How will he rise above his own fears to help her fulfill her dream of becoming the Queen?

The unusual nature of this Isekai series was a big factor in drawing people’s attention to the series in the beginning. That weird mechanic of coming back to a save point after death sounds appealing in theory. However, in practice… Natsuki’s desire to help Amela is easier said than done. He will need to die over and over again to gather information on numerous threats, but like any sane person, he is afraid of dying. As put forward in at least one of the episodes, he isn’t sure of the parameters of the return from death power. This uncertainty is an understandable concern. Also, his deaths tend to be quite horrific. Most people prefer to die in their sleep rather than disembowelment or torture by people you believed to be allies.
Natsuki is a relatable protagonist. He isn’t good at everything. Instead, he has to learn things over time. He makes mistakes along the way, but at his core is that love of Amelia. Folks will likely ask, “What about Rem?” Yes, Rem is the best girl of ReZero but Subaru was in love with Amelia from the start. Rem is played beautifully throughout this series, her own love of Natsuki reflecting how he feels for Amelia. They understand each other on this fundamental level even if Natsuki’s own affections are directed elsewhere. He never pretends otherwise even if he does talk of running away with Rem in order to reduce the chance of causing more harm to those around him. At this moment, we see one of the best pep-talks in anime and manga by Rem. It shows the strength of her character and how much she wants him to be genuinely happy.
“But Keiko, what about all of the violence?” Yes, there are some really violent sequences in this series. It can be confronting at times, but this gives Natsuki incentive to fight even more to avoid such fates for himself and the various people that he cares for. Some of these scenes also give us insight into the inner world of other characters as well. A great example of this is his relationship with the demon twins Rem and Rom. On several occasions, he is attacked by them resulting in at least one death. Multiple perspectives of situations often play a huge part in some of the conflicts. The stakes are even higher given that a lot of the series relates to the political situation of a kingdom.
The voice acting and characterization for this series was excellent. Sean Chiplock knocks it out of the park with his voicing of Natsuki. Given how he rocks this character, I am wondering why the hell he doesn’t do a lot more voice acting. The oddly named Brianna Knickerbocker is perfectly placed as Rem, with another unfamiliar voice actress, Kayli Mills doing a great job as Amelia. Of all of the cast members, the standout for me is Sarah Williams’ voicing of Felix Argyle. She does an awesome job of his vocal mannerisms and injects an ample amount of mischief into this odd character.

In conclusion, this is one of the better Isekai series out there. It also easily fits into the romance category because of how it approaches the love triangle of Natsuki, Rem, and Amelia. That approach to character and worldbuilding makes for a genuinely enjoyable experience. I absolutely adore this series.