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TV Review: Barry Season 1

Year: 2018 (ongoing)
Episodes: 8
Genre: Crime, Crime Comedy, Action

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is a former military veteran that works as a hitman Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) as his handler. Whilst the money is good and the work is easy for him, Barry hates his life. When he gets a job to go to Los Angeles to kill a guy sleeping with the wife of Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler of the show Billions), a Chechnyan gangster, Barry meets with some of the people in his target’s acting class.
Suddenly, a world of possibilities is opened for him and he begins to seriously think about a life outside of being a killer for hire. However, he must first break off the shackles of his life as an assassin if he can ever pursue his dream to be an actor. It is easier said than done. He must not only contend with Chechnyans and Bolivian gangsters, but also a police investigation and his obsession with Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg), one of the other students.

First up, this HBO show is co-written, occasionally directed by and stars Bill Hader, a regular on Saturday Night Live around a decade. As a big fan of Hader’s work, this was a big selling point when I first came across trailers for this series. However, you cannot go wrong with Henry Wrinkler as Gene Cousineau and Stephen Root as Monroe Fuches. I wasn’t familiar with many of the other members of the cast, but I ended up taking a liking to Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank and Paula Newsome as Detective Janice Moss. Whoever did the casting for this show did well.
The story is an odd one but appropriately chaotic when you have a bunch of people with their own motivations gunning for you. The use of fantasy to give an insight into Barry’s headspace is a good one, giving a psychological aspect to this series. His desire for a normal life that doesn’t involve hurting people is a big motivator for the main character. Barry is a broken and easily-manipulated main character. It is easy to feel for him even though he does create many of his own problems. He also has to contend with the conflicting motivations of Monroe, who is obviously ripping Barry off.
The action scenes for this series are pretty solid, being closer to what one would expect for a series with a bit more of a focus on the technical aspects of armed conflict. The deaths of characters have a purpose and are typically caused by Barry being put into a corner by those around him or by a sense of obligation. However, it also gives us a chance to see the character and those around him a chance to shine. Pn several occasions, he is even forced to kill people that he cares about. We see the emotional impact it has on him, making him more and more desperate to get out of the life of an assassin.
However, this series is still predominantly a dark comedy and the comedic elements are done well. It accomplishes this with some good dialogue and situations where Barry has to deal with some odd and sometimes dangerous situations. Both the humor and the action elements work well in progressing the story as well without feeling like it is diminishing either.

If I had to choose an MVP for this series it would be Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank, hands-down. Whilst I love the entire cast of characters, NoHo Hank provides a counter-balance to the other members of the Chechnyan crime organization he is a part of. Anthony Carrigan delivers some really awesome lines, making his character such a delight to watch.

In conclusion, the first season of Barry was a delight to watch. Some people might raise an eyebrow when I say this but I actually like it a lot more than other crime series such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. It might sound a bit like comparing apples to oranges but it is not necessarily a bad comparison when you consider how Barry moved along plot instead of dragging the story out like these other series did. I give this series a rating of 9/10. I dropped a point for a few strange choices in the last episode. These choices weren’t major but they dropped this series from a perfect score.

The second season for Barry begins on the 31st of March.

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Anime Review: My Hero Academia Seasons 1-3

Alternate Names: Boku no Hero Academia (Japanese)
Year: 2016 – 2018 (ongoing)
Episodes: !3, 25, and 25 (English dubbed versions)
Genre: Shounen, Superhero, Action, Drama, Comedy

Warning: Some spoilers below.

I first came across this series back when the first season was being released. There was a bit of hype in the lead-up but I was heavily distracted watching rom-coms and other nonsense at the time. I ended up watching the first episode on AnimeLab and absolutely adored it. However, it was about a year later that I managed to convince hubby to watch the show with me. The big selling point was that it was one of several popular series from the same anime season that got an English dub. As expected, he loved the show as well. She shoots… SHE SCORES!!!
I have decided to write this review for the first three seasons of My Hero Academia because I think that just covering one season wouldn’t do it justice. Whilst most of you are already familiar with the series, below is a short overview for those that are not.  

My Hero Academia is a show set in a world where people with powers (aka quirks) are commonplace. The series follows an intelligent young man named Izuku Midoriya that is born without a quirk but really wants to become a hero. When he is given a quirk by the most powerful and popular hero in the world (All Might), Midoriya sets about becoming a hero. His path is made difficult by the antagonism of former childhood friend Katsuki Bakugou and by the machinations of All Might’s archnemesis All for One.

The world of My Hero Academia is an alternate Earth where people at some stage started manifesting powers. Because of the chaos, various governments implemented rules for using powers, which includes the hero licensing system. This system is one of the major elements that Midoriya will have to negotiate due to it being illegal to be a vigilante. The entrance into these academies is hard enough, but the training is even tougher especially when you are still learning how to learn how your powers work like our protagonist is.

Along the way, Midoriya will come into contact with a host of heroes and villains with their own unique powers and personas. The motivations and backstories for many of these characters are often just as compelling as that of our protagonist. These characters also do a great job of helping move the plot forward whilst offering a nice contrast to Midoriya. The characters are given the chance to shine and fail, the latter giving them a chance to learn from the experience.
And this brings us to seasonal versus series arcs. Whilst each season has a major arc, it ties into the series arc. Little events, such as an attack of a group of villains are shown as often being a part of something bigger. As the characters learn more about the problem, they are forced to adapt. This results in our heroes having to train harder, become stronger and more versatile. Whilst we see a lot of growth on the part of other characters,
Midoriya and Bakugou’s joint arcs are the most compelling because of their shared history and hero worship of All Might. The latter often holds both back significantly more because their actions tend to be related to what All Might would do. However, neither are All Might. When All Might inevitably lose his powers, Bakugou is forced to rethink his relationship with Midoriya, who has been keeping a secret from him. On the other hand, Midoriya is forced by an injury to fight differently where before he was emulating All Might.
To the subject of the artwork, the character design does a good job of conveying the bizarre physiological traits of many of the characters in this world whilst at the same time have a whimsical element one comes to expect from a series about a hero with a positive outlook. The colors are bright and fit well with the themes of this series. I also love the equipment design we see throughout the series. A good example is the shoes that Midoriya has made in the third season. They aren’t as extravagant as the ones worn by Tenya Iida but they fit well with their purpose. The action sequences are put together well, conveying character in the process.
One thing I will say is that whilst some sites online list this series as a comedy, I feel that it is more of a drama than a comedy because of how the show deals with conflict. That’s okay, though, as the moments of both humor and drama provide us insight into the characters without watering down the story.

In conclusion, this show did a great job of managing a large cast of characters and building upon complexity throughout the series. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a good superhero series that is among other solid anime series such as Tiger & Bunny. All in all, a must watch.


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Anime Review: Aoharu x Kikanjuu

Alternate Names: Aoharu X Machinegun
Year: 2015
Episodes: 12 (English dub version)
Genre: Shounen, Sports, Action, Comedy, Gender Bender

Reviewer’s Note: This series is based on an ongoing manga series that began in 2012.
Warning: This review contains various spoilers.

As mentioned in other posts, I have recently taken to checking out a bunch of unfamiliar anime series. In an effort to mix things up a bit, I decided to see what old shounen action series I hadn’t seen or heard of before. There was a few but the one that grabbed my attention had an image of various gun-wielding figures on the cover. I thought, “Screw it – I’ll give this one a go!” And there you have my very underwhelming origin story of why I decided to watch will likely be a personal favorite series for some time to come.

Student Council President Hotaru Tachibana is often coming to the aid of others However, when she misunderstands why her friend Kanae will be mooching lunch for the next month and confronts a handsome guy named Masamune Matsuoka at an unscale host club. He decides to have an impromptu airsoft match in the establishment and promptly beats her. However, he offers to pay for the damages if she joins his airsoft team Toy Gun Gun. The problem is that they still don’t realise she is a girl and there is a strict no-girl policy that is place. As she pays off her debt by playing, she quickly grows to love the sport but soon realises that there is a lot more to the no-girl policy than cooties. So begins this over-the-top, action-packed sports comedy.

Many of you are likely unaware of what the sport of Airsoft is. Whilst it has been around for years, I recall my husband starting to watch Airsoft matches on YouTube around a year ago. I was fascinated by the sport and decided to look into it. I quickly learned some of the terms and about the equipment. The idea of using compressed air to shoot small pellets seemed like a simple innovation. However, the sport is illegal in Australia because these toy guys might be confused with real guns.
The depiction of airsoft in Aoharu x Kikanjuu uses many of the right terms but isn’t supposed to be a tutorial. It merely creates a setting for the story. We get this from that very first sequence where Masamune and Hotaru are playing airsoft in the host club. This same sequence also tells us a lot about what else to expect from the series.
This series had a weird first episode. However, I am glad that I stuck with it because I ended up watching the entire series in an evening. Repeatedly, my hubby told me to keep it down because I got a tad loud whilst watching it. There were so many hilarious and WTF moments throughout. I also loved the over-the-top drama that pokes fun at numerous anime and manga cliches.
To the characters, there are three members of Toy Gun Gun as well as about four noteworthy characters. The founding members are Masamune and Tooru, but there is obvious friction when Masamune invites Hotaru to join Toy Gun Gun. Masamune and Tooru Yukimura’s peculiar bromance is amusing. Masamune’s arc is the primary focus of the series and Hotaru become the catalyst for him changing his worldview. Over time, we also learn that Tooru is a popular author of sister BDSM hentai manga. Yes, you heard that right, you perverts! 😀 This element is used to comedic effect at several points in the series. As for Hotaru, the gender bender element is actually done well because of her somewhat androgynous appearance and personality. Hotaru’s best friend Kanae Yajima appears on a semi-regular basis but may be seen as more of a plot device, but even this adds to the humor of the series.

“I can feel the bloodlust coming from the other side of the wall!” ~Toshizou Usagi

The other Airsoft team of relevance is Hoshishiro which helmed by Masamune’s former school friend Nagamasa Midori – the “big bad”. Masamune looked up to him so much that he decided to dual-wield pistols. Nagamasa is a doctor that is joined by two work colleagues: Ichi Akabane (sniper) and the minigun-wielding Takatora Fujimoto. Takatora has a bit of a masochistic relationship with Nagamasa but is otherwise a good-natured character. [Sidenote: The second part of the name for this series refers to “machinegun” which makes me think (given a certain how sometimes folks confuse miniguns and machineguns) that Takatora might take a significantly larger part in the manga other than the handful of appearances he makes in this series.]
To the artwork, it was clean and colorful. Whilst the character designs were pretty standard, the backgrounds were pretty detailed. The art makes awesome use of color to enhance action sequences and dramatic dialogue. It really works and sometimes gives the feel of those over-the-top fight scenes of Dragonball Z but without dragging them out for longer than necessary. Based on several panels of the manga that I took a gander at, the art in the anime seems to do a good job of reflecting the core material.

In conclusion, I freaking loved this series and can seriously see myself rewatching it. It is a heck of a lot of fun and well worth checking out if you are looking for an over-the-top action comedy. It is a pity that it didn’t get another season but the series ended on the right note. I also intend to read the manga when I get the chance to see how well it compares to the anime adaptation.


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Manga Review: Skeleton Soldier Couldn’t Protect the Dungeon Chapters 1-20

Year: 2017 (Ongoing)
Author/Artist: Sosori???
Genre: Seinen, Dark Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Gaming, Webtoons

When I came across Skeleton Soldier Couldn’t Protect the Dungeon, I was fascinated by the premise but was initially skeptical in lieu of how many webtoons I’ve been let down by in the past. I took a chance and started reading. I was happy that I did because the first twenty chapters of this series were a breath of fresh air. This series can be best categorized as dark fantasy.

A loyal skeleton warrior loses his succubus mistress when adventurers enter their dungeon. He awakes years before, to the moment of his creation by a young female necromancer. His intention is to become stronger in order to protect his succubus mistress in the not-so-distant future but things begin to get significantly complicated when his creator is tortured and killed by a secret criminal organisation.

How this series dealt with the gaming element set it apart from a lot of the stuff that I’ve been reading of late. It isn’t another Isekai but about an undead minion that gains that ability to come back to “save” points in the event of a death. He also learns from what he’s experienced before dying, helping him to negotiate it in future attempts. The ability to see available quests also gives him a clue as to how to progress further but he also has the added baggage of loss.
The plot moved along in an appropriately chaotic fashion. The introduction of new characters and other elements felt organic. We are also left with a host of questions which aren’t immediately answered. This is a pretty good move if you want people to continue reading your work as you have material to work with later.
The characters that we are introduced in the first twenty chapters are not what you’d call heroes in the classical sense. However, we get a clear sense of what their motivations are in the moments that see them go about their business. I found myself really rooting for such an unusual protagonist in the form of an intelligent undead minion. He may not be a dashing hero but he has a purpose and you can see definitive changes in how he views the world around him the more he interacts with it. The connections that Skelly makes with the two women that he meets inform a lot of his worldview but we keep seeing how they merge with the image of the Succubus from the beginning.
The artwork for this series is pretty solid even if it isn’t unique. The character and world designs easily conveyed action, emotion, and locale. Having a series that was completely colored was a change as well, which is one of the big differences between the average webtoon and standard manga.

In conclusion, the first twenty chapters of Skeleton Soldier Couldn’t Protect the Dungeon was an enjoyable read. This was a darker story than I usually read but it had a lot of depth due to how well it made good use of the various elements.


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Anime Review: How Not to Summon a Demon Lord Season 1

Year: 2018
Episodes: 12
Genre: Fantasy, Isekai, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Ecchi, Harem, NSFW

When I first saw the manga version of this series listed online, my first thought was that it would be an Overlord. Well, it turns out that I was wrong. DEAD WRONG!!! After watching it, I do believe that it should be renamed, “How to Summon a Hot Dude with Horns” or perhaps, “How to be Summoned to Another World and Suffer from Blue Balls until the end of Time.” It all depends on your sexual preferences, I suppose.
After waking up one morning, I discovered that my husband had watched four episodes of the series and seemed to really like it. He managed to convince me to watch it and I was initially amused. By episode three, I was totally hooked. Hubby, of course, spent most of the time debating whether he preferred catgirls over elfy boobs. Important questions… The answer is 42.

Anyhoo, beware of some spoilers below.

A certain player named Takuma Sakomoto chose to solo as a “Demon Lord” called Diablo in the MMORPG Cross Reverie for years. When he is summoned to a world suspiciously similar to the game as his avatar, our sexy male protagonist learns that his magic reflection ring affected the two women that managed to summon him. Staying in character as much as he can, our socially awkward and sexually inexperienced protagonist travels with Rem and Shera in search of a way to free them from the chains of summoning and hopefully also manage to find a way to return to his own world. The player now known as Diablo quickly learns that he is one of the most powerful beings in the world.

So, where to start? Well, this series is an Isekai fantasy. The standard setup for the first few episodes is for our protagonist to learn about the world. Whilst this is true, we did manage to see the best villain in anime history beginning in the first episode. Yes, he dies a few episodes later, but our resident mage shows a gift for intimidating dialogue and evil planning that shall go down in the annals of history. May he rest in pieces…
A lot of the humor in this series is at the expense of our budding protagonist he is bombarded by attractive women. Yep, most of it is boob and butt related, with a large sprinkling of innuendo and obvious lewdness. And you know what? I do not care because I freaking loved this series.
Whilst the arc relating to Rem having the demon lord Glebsklem bound inside of her felt like it was going to be the central arc of the series altogether, we are quickly introduced to a bunch of other characters that make life difficult for our main character and his female companions. The rivalry between Rem and Shera is adorable but they quickly learn to work together now that they are both technically Diablo’s slaves.
There was also a short arc involving Shera’s brother which is pretty f’ed up. This was, however, strongly hinted at around the fourth episode. The continuation of this side arc towards the end of the season also helped form a stronger bond between Diablo and his summoners whilst also helping him deal with his trust issues.
The harem elements of this series are a little odd because Diablo doesn’t really have a romantic interest in the first season. Whilst Rem and Shera might be seen as front-runners, he is constantly restraining himself for various reasons. We don’t really see the jealousy commonly seen in harem series either. It is one of the strangest harem series I have come across so far because some of the common elements of a harem are completely absent in the first season.
I liked the art design in this series. Whilst there are slight differences from the manga, these are quite small overall. The character designs are solid even if they do reflect some common archetypes in anime.
As far as Diablo’s design was concerned, he reminded me of Gintoki from Gintama but with horns, a few markings, and fantasy garb. You also get idealized physique, a trait of many MMORPGs. This is a slight contrast from a lot of harem series where the protagonist has an average or close to an average physique. Three thumbs up for attending to the bishounen enthusiasts in the audience. I don’t know where I will get the extra thumbs but I will find one somewhere. Maybe a dumpster or something…  

My only issue with this series is in the last episode where most of the females in the cast attempt to give him magical energy. Sure, this is an ecchi series but it seemed out of character. There is no feeling of gratification in this sequence, just a weird sexless orgy thing. It was a real head-scratcher.

In conclusion, I found this series highly entertaining. Whilst it isn’t perfect, the comedic elements and drool-worthy appearance of Diablo more than made up for it. I highly recommend this series for anyone that enjoys an ample amount of comedic filth.


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Anime Review: Goblin Slayer Season 1

Year: 2018
Episodes: 12 episodes (English-dubbed version)
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama

Going into Goblin Slayer, I had read and heard a bunch of chatter online. Some people were upset whilst others provided some good rebuttals for why tragedy and bad things should be allowed to stand in a darker fantasy story. Two anime commentators convinced me that I needed to watch this series: YouTuber Gigguk (his video on Goblin Slayer) and fellow blogger Karandi from 100WordAnime. I’m glad that I decided to watch the series because it turned out to be really good.

Onna Shinkan is a fifteen-year-old cleric with high hopes of helping others by doing contracts at the Adventurer’s Guild. On her first job, two of her party are killed and another is violently raped by Goblins. She is saved by a mysterious silver-ranked adventurer known only as Goblin Slayer. He is a loner that only takes work killing goblins. The two start working together leading to an epic battle to protect the town alongside numerous other adventurers.

To begin with, you quickly get a sense that the story is written by somebody that is familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons pen and paper roleplaying game. This includes some of the systems used, such as Onna having a small number of prayers she can make each day. Another is a reference to alignment systems, as seen in how one of the adventurers is mentioned as being Chaotic Evil. The intro and outros also include dice, referencing not only everyday chance but as a continuation of that fantasy roleplaying feel.
Another interesting trait of the worldbuilding is how many of the characters are simply named after their either their class or race, sometimes even both. The elven archer is known as “Elf” and the Dwarven Shaman is known as exactly that. And yet, this frequently seen naming regime still manages to work. These characters are still allowed to have personalities beyond their race and skillset. This is in contradiction to modern identity politics wherein biological traits, rather than individual personality, as seen as the be-all and end-all of who a person is.
The plot did an awesome job of bringing numerous elements together and avoids the dreaded info-dump so prevalent in a lot of fantasy and science fiction settings. We become more and more familiar with the world over time. We also see some of the other events occurring in the world, such as periodic glimpses at a platinum-level party currently dealing with a demon lord causing issues with the kingdom. Whilst Goblin Slayer is dealing with the goblins with his companions, there are other problems that the world is dealing with. It helps establish a living, breathing world whilst also helping move the main story along. 
Goblin Slayer received a lot of flack in the beginning for depicting a rape scene in the first episode. However, this sequence shows the cost of adventurers and the government not dealing with the problem. And this is exactly what drives our main hero Goblin Slayer, a young man that is one of many within the series that has lost a lot to goblins. He shows no mercy as he understands the price of being merciful to goblins. Whilst he might lack in social skills, he has a noble purpose which drives him forward. Onna’s influence helps Goblin Slayer grow as a character whilst al
At his side is Onna, a young woman that manages to help him gain a glimpse of a world beyond goblin-slaying. She is a partner that quickly begins to learn more about our male protagonist than most other people in the series. The only two people that come even close to this is the Sword-Maiden Tsurugi no Otome and Goblin Slayer’s childhood friend Ushikai Musume.
The artwork for Goblin Slayer was pretty awesome. The character and world designs were spot on. Sometimes there is a deliberate divide between how a person is and how they want others to perceive them. Each character seems to fit into the world that they inhabit, both good and bad. The voice acting was also pretty good, with some familiar voice actors and actresses, which includes Brad Hawkins as Goblin Slayer from Black Clover and Mirai Nikki.
Lastly, I have to mention that I really love the choice of music for this series. Rightfully by Mili (intro) and Giri no Kisei by Soraru do such a great job of evoking the flicker of light in the darkness. These tracks also suggest drama and action within the parameters of a fantasy setting. Awesome stuff overall. Both seasons of KonoSuba also did quite well in this regard.

In conclusion, this series is one of the best-written Fantasy action series I have seen in recent years. (Please note that I still haven’t seen the likes of Guin Saga, a series that I have been meaning to watch for ages.) Whilst I haven’t read the light novels for Goblin Slayer as yet, I will likely dive into some fan translations to give me a Goblin Slayer fix whilst I am waiting for a second season to come out. Man, I really hope that a second season gets made because it is one of the rare anime series that hubby liked as well. Fingers crossed…


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Anime Review: Overlord Seasons 2 and 3

Year: 2018
Episodes: 2 seasons of 13 episodes (English dub version)
Genre: Isekai, Dark Fantasy, Action

If you’ve been paying attention to anime and manga in recent years, you’ve no doubt heard of Overlord. Back when the first season came out, a friend of hubby and I recommended that we watch it. Whilst the first episode was a bit weird, we stuck with the show and ended up really liking it. Recently, we both decided to binge-watch the second and third seasons. Whilst I could have posted a separate review for each, I decided to consolidate as it seemed that it would provide a good comparison.

After the mind-control of Sheltear in the first season, Ainz continues to try to learn about the world he is trapped in and hopefully find other player characters. He runs numerous experiments, all the while his primary advisor Demiurge works towards Momonga/Ainz Ooal Gown’s “goal” of taking over the world. As time progresses, we see the expansion of Carne Village and the introduction of a host of new characters. More factions are introduced and Ainz’s world becomes more and more involved in political maneuvering, until a large-scale massacre in which Ainz establishes his own nation.

These two seasons did a good job of showing the audience of the world. However, just like many viewers, I found myself heavily disliking the use of CG in the third season. It looked terrible, showing a lack of care on the part of the producers of this anime adaptation. It was a shame as well because many of these sequences could have been significantly more impactful if a bit more care had been taken.
As for the voice acting and characterization, it was solid. I did, however, feel a lot more depressed as many of the characters I grew attached to were soon killed off in horrific fashion. The problem with doing this on a regular basis is that you soon learn to simply not care about any of the characters because what is the point? This is in stark contrast to the way in which the book series The Sword, The Ring and The Chalice by Deborah Chester. Deborah Chester shows the reader from the beginning that the world is screwed and doesn’t try to pretty it up like Overlord does and we can accept when bad things happen because that is a part of the world. There are no false promises made by the writer, unlike Overlord with the ecchi elements and humor seen in that first episode.
Consistency and holding true to initial promises is very important to readers and viewers. We also want an adaptation to reflect the core material. This is why movies such as Dragonball Evolution and Dead or Alive did so poorly. Legends of the Dark King (a spin-off from Fist of the North Star) did so well because it reflected the core material and kept those promises made in the first episode.

In conclusion, whilst I didn’t mind Overlord, I felt like numerous promises weren’t kept and I felt decreasing emotional investment in any of the characters over time. A story can be quite smart but if you ignore those two aspects, and screw up the aesthetics, it is a waste of time and energy. This is a real shame overall. However, feel free to watch it for yourself and come to your own conclusion if you like dark fantasy and Isekai.