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Anime Review: Hunter x Hunter (1999-2001) Vs Hunter x Hunter (2011-2014)

Alternate Names: Tate no Tuusha no Nariagari
Year: 1999-2001 Vs 2011-2014
Episodes: A LOT (English dub version)
Genre: Shounen, Science Fiction, Martial Arts, Action, Adventure, Drama

I don’t usually do comparative reviews, but I decided to make an exception for the two series of Hunter X Hunter. Both series showed how simple changes can alter how you see a situation. That being said, I adored both series because of how solid the plot, characterisation, drama and world-building played out over the span of more than 200 episodes. Whilst I will try to avoid specifics, I apologise for any spoilers over the span of this comparative review.

Hunter X Hunter follows Gon Freecss as he navigates the world of Hunters in the hopes of connecting with his long-lost father, Ging Freecss. A hunter license gives qualified individuals a bunch of perks, including access to a hunter-only job board. However, it isn’t all fun and adventure. Gon soon comes face to face with numerous perils, including several that will irrevocably affect the known world.

The newer version of this series is a retelling that changes his background. the starting point of the series, adds a bit more detail to certain scenes as well as including two more story arcs. The new series begins with Gon about to do the qualification test for the Hunter license instead of the starter point where a chance meeting with a hunter named Kite sends him down a rabbit hole of sorts in order to find his father. His father’s cousin, who Gon refers to as Aunt Mito, has raised him. Whilst in the original version she runs an inn alongside her mother, we see her working on the docks of their small fishing community in the newer of the two series. A few scenes are provided with further context ahead of the Greed Island, Chimera Ant and 13th Hunter Chairman Election arcs that were absent in the original series which got abruptly cut off in 2001 at the conclusion of the Yorknew City arc. On top of these changes, the newer series also updates some aspects to be in line with modern technology. At the end of the newer series, the scale of their world is revealed in dramatic fashion, almost reminding me of the scene at the end of the film Men in Black.

Now that the differences are out of the way, below is a list of what you can expect from both series:

The artwork is a mixture of different styles, ranging from the Astroboy-like and Pokemon-esque appearance of Gon to the bishounen appearance of Kirapika. This includes some Dragonball Z inspiration for some of the character designs in the Chimera Ant arc. The linework is crisp and the colouration provides good contrast. Along with this, the settings are a mix of cityscapes and lush wilderness that provides a stark contrast to some of the darker aspects of this series.
Hunter X Hunter is a series that dares to show the darker side of humanity, with Gon being confronted with harsh reality. Unfortunately for Gon, there is rarely black and white. Whilst he wants people to care about each other equally, humans form into groups and we tend to favour groups that we associate with. This simplistic view is both charming and foolish. On top of this, we see the huge power disparity between Gon and many of the foes that the twelve-year-old and his allies deal with during the span of both series. An example is the Phantom Troupe, an organisation that killed and took the eyes of Kirapika’s entire family. Each one of the members could easily kill him and child assassin Killua. That being said, Gon brings his heightened senses and stealth to bear on numerous occasions.
The world-building for this series is somewhat unique, in that we cannot rely on our modern forms of fairness because the various nations don’t provide safety nets. Organised crime is a big deal, and a lot of people have to rely on their wits and luck to survive in a lot of regions. Even the Hunter Association is questionable at best, survivability being favoured over morality and ethics. This further demonstrates the nature of the world in which Gon and his friends live, where looking out for number one is a strategy for staying alive. That being said, there are glimpses of kindness and joy that act as a candle in the dark.
The power set provided by the chi-like martial arts system allows more room for escalation of threats on top of basic martial arts techniques. This gives a lot of room for weird and wonderful powers that the characters contend with. Whether it is poetry power words, chains of imprisonment or puppet-mastery of assassination, we see a world filled with the many tools that can be used to harm as well as protect.
As eluded to earlier, the characters are heavily shaped by the world around them. This provides a level of complexity to a lot of the characters that often shown through subtext. In the case of the enigmatic psychopath Hisoka, we also see that many of the characters think dozens of steps down the line in order to create the desired result. And our heroes are allowed to fail on a regular basis, showing the ramifications of not dealing with a threat. People do die on occasion, such as several during the Hunter License test. Whilst the Chimera Ant arc wavered a bit in this regard, we see how good writing can create a logical solution to deal with foes that would otherwise win.

In conclusion, both series are worth watching. That being said, I recommend that you watch the newer series instead which also includes three extra story arcs and drops you into the thick of it with the Hunter Test arc. This places an appropriate focus instead on life outside of the safe haven that is the small island in which he was raised by his Aunt Mito. So, if you are a shounen fan that hasn’t already checked out either series, it is time to do so!

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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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Anime Review: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Season 1

Alternate Names: Tenshi Shitara Suraimu Datta Ken
Year: 2018-2019
Episodes: 25 (English dub version)
Genre: Isekai, Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Earlier this year, various anime recommendations led me to watch the first series of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. The show begins with the sacrificial death of our protagonist Satoru Mikami, whose rambling, delirious last words result in him being reincarnated in a different world as an OP sentient slime. Under the guise of “Rinmaru”, our bouncy protagonist goes about defeating bad guys, making friends and builds his own forest-based nation in spectacular style. All the while, he learns that he isn’t the only one that has been brought to the world, some of which were summoned alive, and that there are powers at work to summon a powerful demon lord.

The strength of this series is in how our protagonist goes out of his way to help others, in the process founds and expands his own nation. This creates its own share of issues due to the collection of monsters, humans and demihumans inhabitants, both friend and foe. He also has to deal with trade routes and other necessary requirements for a functioning government. As the nation grows, it gains the ire of other parties, including foodie Demon Lord Milim Nava. All the while, we see the machinations of powerful individuals naming monsters in an attempt to summon Demon Lord Kuro. This teaches the audience about the world and its inhabitants as it becomes relevant, avoiding info-dumps seen in a lot of fantasy series.
Although I loved the main arc, it quickly leads into an out-of-place arc where Rinmaru goes to a different country to save the lives of off-worlder students of the young warrior he uses as a template for human shapeshifting. As cute as this arc was, it deviated too much from the central themes that got me interested in the series in the first place, the big picture effect of Rinmaru’s arrival. However, it would have fit well as a standalone OVA series, preserving the main arc ahead of the second season arriving in 2020. That being said, a single-episode origin story about Shizu is a good introduction to the character we will no doubt be seeing in the second season, Demon Lord Kuro.

In Conclusion, I loved this series but one of the small arcs seemed out of place. That being said, it was a fun watch. If you don’t have an issue with OP leads, love both isekai and fantasy, then I recommend this series. It is also accompanied by the main manga and several spinoff manga as well which are sure to add to the world-building and character development.

 


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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.