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Anime Review: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K Season 1

Alternate Names: Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan
Year: 2016
Episodes: 24 (English dub version)
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Supernatural, School Life

Years ago, I came across an odd manga that left me scratching my head. It wasn’t a case of it being bad, but it was in a format that I was unused to. A few weeks later, I discovered an English dub of the anime. It would take some time before my hubby would agree to watch it with me. As expected, he absolutely loved it as well. (Sadly, the same cannot be said for Gintama. Oh, well.) Anyhoo, the following discusses a series that holds a special place in my heart, the part that enjoys over-the-top gags and general anime shenanigans.

Kusuo Saiki was born with psychic powers, something that he has to control with a strange antennae thing in his head. His psychic powers come with numerous issues, and his efforts to be overlooked is made difficult by the moronic “Yankee” Riki Nendou, a host of annoying classmates, a pathetic father keeps asking for help getting out of self-created messes and the Kusuo must also deal with the bizarre machinations of his jealous super-genius older brother. All the while, he must figure out how to get an ample supply of coffee pudding.

First up, the artwork for this series is strikingly beautiful. The linework is neat and colouration provides a lot of contrast, reminding me of some of Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun at times. The character designs are amazing, adding to the humour of this series. An example is Midori Nendou, Riki’s mother. Along with the dialogue, the artwork brings to life some really good situational humour. However, some folks might not find the butt humour as amusing as yours truly.
Whilst the small sketches that comprise each episode do well on their own, there is still a continuity to the timeline. A situation from a previous episode often affects what happens later as well, showing that there are ramifications for what happens. Each sketch adds to the story as well, instead of feeling like filler. Over time, these happenings result in Kusuo making connections with people, the one thing he has been avoiding.
The plot is backed up by some really good characterisation and character development. It might be over-the-top at times, but it works really well. This is backed up by some good casting for the English dub version, doing justice to a really good collection of characters. It also does a good job of managing a larger cast of characters as well.

How closely does it follow the manga? Like Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun, it ends up being fairly close if not identical to the source material. Both are a good adaptation of their respective manga series. As an anime fan, it is always awesome to see an anime studio do justice to the series it is adapting. J.C. Staff and Egg Firm deserve praise for how well they adapted this series. Can we expect anything less from studios that adapted Toradora!, A Certain Magical Index, Kino no Tabi, and DanMachi2?

In conclusion, this series is in my top five anime. It is also something that I have enjoyed in both an English sub and dub version.

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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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Manga Review: Kare wa Diablo Vol. 3

Alternate Names: He is Diablo!, Kare wa Diovolo
Year: 2010-2011
Author/Artist: Kayoko Shimotsuki
Genre: Shoujo, Urban Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Drama

Reviewers Note: Volume 3 covers consists of chapters 9-12 with a bonus chapter at the end. This review is based on the S2 Scanlations English translation. >insert spoiler warning here. No, seriously…<

In the third and final volume of Kare wa Diablo, Meiko and Lucifer (with the help of a “Shiba Inu”) play doubles tennis with manga-otaku Uriel and Johan; Lucifer engages in some shenanigans at the school play; and Lucifer’s sister Michael pays a visit (Homicidal SisCon, anyone?) ahead of a battle between a transformed Meiko and Michael. Queue a rooftop kissy scene between our two main characters after the destruction wrought by Michael has been fixed by God.

Whilst the final two chapters of this series redeemed it slightly, the whiplash caused by the story going from over-the-top humor to very serious material has been a bit of an issue throughout this series. This all-or-nothing approach takes weakens a series that began with an interesting premise. There is no getting around it.

Herein lies the corpse of Kare wa Diablo. No longer shall I gaze upon your pages. No longer shall I see Meiko occasionally gaining superhuman strength from eating Anpan whilst random stuff happens around her. You promised so much but fell headfirst into a pit trap. You shall not be missed.

With this in mind, I have decided to not do a review of the entire series as originally intended, as I think that I have gone over the strengths and flaws of the series in sufficient detail already. I will, however, say that this series began at an eight and ended at a six out of ten. Well, at least it isn’t the abomination that is Butterflies, Flowers… 


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Manga Review: Mission of Love Vol. 2

Alternate Names: Love Mission, Missions of Love, xx Me!
Year: 2009-2015
Author/Artist: Ema Toyomo
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Volume Two of this manga covers chapters 5-8 of the series. Beware of possible spoilers.

In volume two, we see Yukina’s expert manipulation of Shigure after he attempts to use her weakness (the removal of her glasses) to get back at her again. As Shigure grapples with his own growing affections for Yukino, her cousin Akira is dealing with his own jealousy at their growing connection.

This week’s four chapters showcase yet again how focused Yukina is with her writing, especially in lieu of her archnemesis Dolce overtaking her in the cellphone novel popularity ladder. We also see a bit of a eureka moment, wherein she learns the value of the unexpected in developing tension in literature. Whilst we saw her ability to turn the tables on Shigure in the first volume, this time around, we see her growing more and more impatient to figure things out. She wants to understand what love is, something that Shigure points out in the fifth chapter that she has to figure out for herself.
We also see Akira featuring more prominently in volume two. Whilst I like Shigure and Yukina, Akira is becoming a more interesting character to me. He offers a pleasant, innocent contrast to the male and female leads. It is easy to empathise with him as well, given how close he is to Yukina. However, I am well aware of how best friend characters are often treated in shoujo series. They are rarely the focus of the story. Instead, that honor usually goes to bad boys and/or ice queens.


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Manga Reread: Hapi Mari [Chapters 21-30]

Other Names: Happy Marriage?!
Year: 2009-2012
Author/Artist: Maki Enjoji
Genre: Josei, Romance, Comedy, Drama

Reviewer’s Note: This review is based on the Aerandia English fan translation project. It contains non-explicit sex scenes and adult themes. Beware spoilers below.

Chapters 21-30, we see numerous revelations. Hokuto’s ex-girlfriend attempts to sow descent between Hokuto and Chiwa. Chiwa does her own investigation into how Hokuto’s mother died ahead of her own ex-boyfriend Asahina explaining what happened in college. And finally, Hokuto and his father talk for the first time in years after it was revealed earlier that his old man has a terminal disease.

Several of the story arcs that were introduced in chapters 11-20 are continued in this week’s reading. Whilst we see some resolution in that regard, there are still the ongoing hangups of Hokuto and Chiwa. The life-changing choice by Hokuto to take over Mamiya Tourism is one that will play out alongside the main arc regarding the death of his mother. Whilst I am well aware of how this plays from my previous reading of this story, the tension and foreshadowing remain.

For those that have been following along with the reading of this manga, what are your predictions for the remaining ten chapters? Feel free to post them in the comments section along with your reasoning. Note that if it involves an alien invasion or oni attacks, I will shake my head in shame. 😀


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Manga Review: Kare wa Diablo Vol. 2

Alternate Names: He is Diablo!, Kare wa Diovolo
Year: 2010-2011
Author/Artist: Kayoko Shimotsuki
Genre: Shoujo, Urban Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Drama

Reviewers Note: Volume 2 covers consists of chapters 5-8 with a bonus chapter at the end. This review is based on the S2 Scanlations English translation. >insert spoiler warning here<

In volume two of this series, Asuma / Asmodeus, that douchebag fallen that appeared in volume one, makes his grand appearance after acting in the shadows. He now attempts to get back at Rui / Lucifer by trying to destroy the bond between the other fallen’s relationship with Meiko. In the process, it only “makes their bond stronger”. It also results in Asman taking a liking to her ahead of being forced into a witch contract with resident swashbuckling cosplayer Toutsu by Lucifer. After that, an arc about the cultural festival introduces two new characters. Meh…

This week’s installment is a case of diminishing returns, as the story is becoming weirder. In an effort to add in lots of things to the story, such as the cliched Cultural Festival arc, it is all over the place narratively. We do see a moment of brilliance in the form of a flashback to Rui’s past with his former witch Lillith. The form of him being cut in half by Michael whilst protecting her is sobering even if the rest of the chapters undo much of this.
This brings us to the question of how many things a series can include before the mess of ideas overpowers the story. I think that the first volume did okay even if it wasn’t brilliant. In volume two, the story is diluted to the point where the goodwill built up in the first volume is being undone. This is a shame as well because the series had a decent premise.

Verdict: I am downgrading this series from eight to seven Aguris. I cannot justify keeping my rating as high as it was because the second volume was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps the third and final volume will give this series some well-needed TLC. I suppose we will have to wait and see.


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Manga Review: Conflict Lover

Alternate names: Lovers in Conflict, Furachi ga Chishiryou, Ibara no Kanmuri, Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto, The Crown of Thorns, A Rude and Lethal Injection, Conflict Lovers, I Think About You at Dawn, Wild Rose’s Crown
Year: 2012
Author / Artist: Satoru Takamiya
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Comedy, Drama

Reviewer’s Note: My review reflects the Blue Flor and Shoujo Crusade English translation. It includes sex scenes.

For those interested, the author/artist Satoru Takamiya has about a dozen romance genre anthologies under her belt beyond this title.

Conflict Lover is a short anthology consisting of a three-chapter story (A Rude and Lethal Injection + Conflict Lovers) and two single-chapter stories (The Crown of Thorns and Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto). Unfortunately for me, the fan translation that I read was missing was the last short story called Akegata Kimi ni Omou Koto.
The first of the stories, a three-chapter story, focuses on the “political marriage” of high school student Sagiri to 24-year-old Sanada Soushi after her sister who was originally engaged to him runs off unexpectedly. Sagiri now has to deal with her own hangups and concerns about whether she will make a good partner. However, her mischievous hubby is more than up to the challenge of convincing her that he legitimately cares about her. This comes off as a charming comedic romance story with a snarky male protagonist that comes off as playful and caring. Of course, this is playful and caring by shoujo comedic romance standards, which also includes “the lewds”.
As for the first of the shorter stories, I was annoyed by it but it shows that Satoru Takamiya can write something more dramatic (in this case a romantic drama set in the Showa era) than the more comedic tale of Sagiri and Soushi. In my case, I find these romantic dramas to be a tad too artsy for my taste. It is more of a personal preference thing more than anything else. Some of you might like the theatrical elements of it, however.
To the artwork, the character designs aren’t really unique and they feel slightly ugly for my own personal preferences. However, you can still tell characters apart from each other whilst conveying action and emotion. As much as I enjoyed the storytelling elements, the artwork did still let it down somewhat. This is a shame because Satoru Takamiya is obviously capable of telling a variety of different stories.

The question is: Do I like Conflict Lover enough to read more of Satoru Takamiya’s other titles? In this case, I would provide a resounding yes. Whilst I appreciate good artwork, the story is more important to me. I can forgive mediocre artwork if the storyteller put in effort on telling a compelling story with interesting characters. I do not, however, recommend it as an entry level shoujo series due to the artwork, sex scenes and adult themes therein.