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Manga Review: Isekai Houtei Rebuttal Barrister Chapters 1-5

Year: 2016-2018
Author and Artist: Homura Kawamoto (story) and Kamon Ohba (art)
Genre: Seinen, Fantasy, Isekai

Reviewers Note: I am reviewing the Waterflame Scanlations English translation version of this series.

A lot of manga creators have been trying their hands at Isekai over the last couple of years. We’ve seen cooking Isekai, farming Isekai, and a host of other twists on the idea of a character taken to another world. Whilst a lot fall flat because the creators don’t quite pull it off, Kawamoto and Ohba’s series about a wannabe lawyer bringing Tokyo law to a fantasy world managed to provide an unexpected level of charm.

Twenty-nine year-old Yuuto Shiba has been trying to become a barrister for years but continues to fail the exam. In lieu of mockery from some of his peers, he gets drunk and manages to get killed. A loli goddess from another world takes advantage of his passing to bring the Japanese legal system to a kingdom full of corruption, racism, and classism. It won’t be easy for Shiba. He soon has to deal with uppity nobles and a conspiracy involving a member of the royal family.

Isekai Houtei: Rebuttal Barrister has your standard setup of a character being brought to another world forcibly. In this case, the excuse is an interesting one and I got the sense that there is more to the Goddess’ choice than simple convenience. Shiba has, after all, been studying for years, showing tenacity and passion for the Japanese legal system. I have at least one theory but I will see how that pans out in further reading of this series.
Anyhoo, our male protagonist’s first job is to defend a female elf after she injures a noble to stop his carriage from riding over a child. This opening “case” gives us a good sense of what the average person in the other world has to deal with. It also sets up several other relevant plotlines.
Whilst the series does a good job of showing worldbuilding elements in a timely fashion, we also see the inclusion of references to Japanese legal jargon. Whilst I am not entirely sure how much of the material covered reflects actual Japanese law, it does appear to be similar to how a lot of state laws are worded. Somewhere in my household, my husband and I have numerous large legal tomes from around a decade ago. I won’t go over why we have them in the first place but I will say that those suckers are damned heavy.
I really like the characters that we’ve been introduced to in the first five chapters. Yuuto is such a good protagonist as well, one that was easy to like. He was kind, hard-working and had a sense of justice. He was also appropriately flawed. We also get a sense of intelligence even though his confidence is a little on the low side. Donatella Bastianelli is such an awesome assistant as well. She’s perceptive, has some magic and has a strong sense of right and wrong that makes her admirable. She comes off as thankful but not an obsessed “fangirl”, which is a refreshing change from a lot of series I’ve read and watched recently.
To art, it is nothing out of the ordinary but it is solid. The characters are easy to differentiate between, the backgrounds are attractive, and scenes do a decent job of conveying action, emotion and get you excited to see what happens next. The art style also doesn’t make me want to gouge my own eyes out from weirdly drawn facial features like a few other series I’ve looked at recently. I will not name names!

In conclusion, this series was a pleasant excursion that merges several interesting ideas to good effect. I really like the balance of a courtroom procedural with several other elements. I like the characters and the world so far and have high hopes for the plot based on the groundwork laid in the first five chapters. I really look forward to reading more of this series.

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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: KonoSuba Seasons 1 and 2

Year: 2016-2017
Episodes: 2 seasons of 10 episodes (English-subbed version)
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Ecchi, Isekai

I first came across this series after watching a video compilation of funny clips from various ecchi series. A clip from KonoSuba perked my interest and I began to do a bit of research on the series. This led to me watching my first Gigguk video, in which he discusses KonoSuba in great detail. It was enough that I felt a strong desire to see this blasphemy against all thing Adventure Fantasy. And with that, I watched my first episode. I loved it and thought that my husband would find it funny as well. Alas, it would take me close to a year to convince him. It was enough to get him to start watching anime again. Here’s hoping that I don’t reveal too many spoilers. 

Kasuma Sato is a teenaged shut-in, spending most of his time reading manga, watching anime and playing computer games. During a rare excursion to collect a newly released game from a nearby town, he dies trying to save a girl from being hit by what he thinks is a truck. He awakes in front of Aqua, a goddess that repeatedly mocks him for his embarrassing death from shock at being hit by a tractor. He is also given two choices: go to heaven (which is quite boring) or go to her world to fight the Devil King with a special item. He picks the latter and decides to choose Aqua as his item as retaliation.
Aqua is replaced by her underling Eris and the duo are sent to a world very different from modern Japan. With Aqua losing much of her power, Kasuma uses his knowledge of gaming to navigate a fantasy world with computer game elements. They soon meet two female party members: the explosion-loving magician Megumin and Virginal Masochist Knight Darkness. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

A good series has the ability to not only make sense from a plot standpoint but also do interesting things with character. In KonoSuba, we see the mockery of archetypes and in our resident “heroes” constantly having to clean up messes that they started, all the while trying to stay out of debt. The initial hurdle of joining an adventurer guild was small compared to the perils that they have to face on account of each other. Getting the four to work as a team will be an ongoing job. However, the story really works and the four develop a reluctant bond.

  • Kasuma: NEET that is constantly fighting an uphill battle with his own party members. He just wants to be the hero and eventually have a girlfriend. If only…
  • Aqua: An egotistical water goddess that is lazy and a bit of a chicken. She likes to point out that Eris uses pads to make her breasts look bigger. If only she could get her clergy to acknowledge who she is…
  • Megumin: Explosion-obsessed Loli-like magician that becomes paralyzed after using a single spell… her only spell. She’s not interested in learning anything else.
  • Darkness: Large-breasted female knight with a fetish for pain and humiliation. She has issues hitting people but seems to be able to hit inanimate objects without a problem.

I also liked the world-building aspects of KonoSuba. Whilst we see the European fantasy aesthetic, there is more to the world than that. It is a living, breathing world with computer game elements such as character sheets. The nobility is snooty, often throwing their weight around over petty things. There is also a secret sex club in the starter town where Succubi sell dreams in exchange for a small amount of lifeforce to survive.
The adventurer guild evaluates each new member, rating their ability in order to help match the adventurer to appropriate work. Their card also allows the members to see if they have skill points to spend. Trainers charge for skills, which resulted in Kasuma learning how to steal. Of course, the first time he uses the power, he manages to steal panties. About that…
As mentioned in the genre overview, this is an ecchi series. Much of this is on account of having a masochist in the group. Darkness is a freak, pure and simple. Her taste in men… leaves something to be desired. But all of the main characters have very unique flaws. These flaws play out in interesting ways.
You will also notice that “harem” and “romance” wasn’t on the list. That is because KonoSuba is not that sort of story. It is a story about idiots and freaks, not a “kissing book”. Whilst Darkness likes being chastised by Kasuma, none of the females in his party are girlfriend material. As it is, he really likes Eris as she was kind to him on numerous occasions that he died during an adventure. Kasuma also acknowledges that he has no chance of having a girlfriend like her. Being called Trashuma hurts one’s chances of meeting other girls as well.

In conclusion, I really love this series. It is a franchise that deserves a lot more love because it doesn’t take itself too easily nor does it makes excuses. It is fun, playful, and downright enjoyable. KonoSuba was a pure joy to watch and I really look forward to getting stuck into the manga and light novels as it appears that a third season isn’t going to happen. There is apparently an upcoming movie, as well as a crossover with several other isekai series. I am not overly sure about the latter, but will still probably watch it.


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Manga Review: Arslan Senki 001 – 005

Year: 2013 (ongoing)
Author: Yoshiki Tanaka
Artist: Hiroumu Arakawa
Version: MangaStream
Online: Wikipedia, MAL, KissManga
Genre: Shounen, Action, Fantasy, Drama

In lieu of my upcoming writing project, I figured it might be worth reading some manga that more closely reflected the aesthetics that I was looking for. I decided to give the newest manga adaptation of the novel Arslan Senki a run. The first adaptation was in 1986 and the second in 1991. Each had their own unique art style that gave a distinctly different feel. I’d also like to point out that there are also several anime adaptations of the various manga adaptations. So… many… adaptations!

Arslan Senki, otherwise known as The Heroic Legend of Arslan, tells the story of a kind-hearted young prince named Arslan. When one of his father’s most trusted generals betrays the unstoppable Parsian army, the defeats of the Parsians leads the way for the capital to be attacked. As Arslan’s first campaign, he loses so much. However, with so much on the line, fate forces the fourteen-year-old to step up. The first step will be finding some allies to take out hundreds of thousands of soldiers motivated by religious zealotry.

To begin with, this series is drawn by the talented Hiroumu Arakawa. Hiroumu Arakawa is the artist for Fullmetal Alchemist, a series that many of you have at least some familiarity with. The art style may not feature that mechanized contraptions of his Fullmetal Alchemist setting, but it does share similar character designs. In this case, the world setting is based on certain areas of the middle east during the crusades. Given the subject matter, the art shows more gore and the audience is quickly made aware that Arslan and his companions have their work cut out for them.
The plot is a very simple one but it does a good job of showing how much trust many of the characters put into their allies. This doesn’t necessarily work out, a major betrayal causes the deaths of thousands of troops, creating a baptism of fire for young Arslan. He isn’t a particularly good warrior but he has Daryun looking out for him.
This focus on working as a group feels like it will continue on in future chapters. I also anticipate Arslan’s martial training to finally pay off. Given the hint at the inclusion of future allies, how will they affect the dynamic of the party of four? I am also curious if Narsus paints nudes. In any case, the first five chapters have my interest perked. 

Will I be continuing this series? Well, I like the artwork and I like the characters so far. The action sequences are cool and the plot is interesting. Whilst there were some goofy moments in chapter five, it was more of a way to contrast the large amounts of bloodshed seen earlier. So, the answer is a resounding yes.


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Anime OVA Review: Hoshi Matsu Hito Part 1

Full Name: Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito (The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star)
Language: English subbed Japanese series
Hoshi Matsu Hito Online: Wikipedia, MyAnimeList, Crunchyroll
Genre: Magic + Fantasy + Psychological

Sorry about the lack of an anime review this past week. Some stuff came up and I wasn’t able to finish the show in time for my deadline. I will try to have the review ready in the next few days. In any case, I did manage to watch the first instalment of Hoshi Matsu Hito. It is produced by Flying DOG, the same company that produced shows such as Pandora Hearts and Samurai Champloo; and made by Wit Studio, the same studio that came out with Attack on Titan.

WARNING: Spoilers… sort of…

So, to begin with, the representation of the natural and magical world is presented in a compelling way. We see in the first scene, a slightly older female wizardess creating a care package of magic learning supplies for the apprentice of one of her associates, all using magic. It introduces us to the world in a spectacular fashion. After that, we are introduced to Chitose, the story’s heroine and the latter recipient of the care package. She has a canine companion that periodically shapeshifts into a boy named Ruth. We met the maid of the house where she resides and a man with an antlered skull that is both her magic teacher and master of the house-slash-cottage. These characters all seemed unique, but the focus is inevitably on our heroine. The last few scenes deal with some of Chitose’s background via flashbacks, beginning with her single mother throwing herself off of a balcony in front of the girl, leaving the girl an orphan. This leads to her meeting a wizard for the first time. End credits.

To begin with, this three-part series is based off a popular manga series. The original work has a sizable following online, resulting in lots of hype ahead of the first part of the series. The end result is a visually striking and emotionally compelling first part that reminds me of a slightly darker version of a Ghibli Studios production such as Spirited Away. It is a little under half an hour in length.
I liked what I saw of this mini-series so far. The setting is beautiful and characters interesting. However, viewers should not expect any immediate gratification. The focus of atmosphere rather than heavy dialogue works for me, as I didn’t feel like I needed an excess amount of dialogue to get to know about the cast. It is, in my opinion, a good example of “show, don’t tell” as it makes good use of visual queues such as body language to convey meaning.
Much in all as I really enjoyed this first instalment of the series, I am a little annoyed with it. Why? Because the folks making the show will be releasing the remaining two parts with months in between. Based on what I have gleaned online, the final instalment will be released in September of next year. I hate long waits! *shakes fist at ceiling*

In conclusion, I love this show so far and will no doubt wait until the next two parts are released. I recommend it to people with an appreciation for the “slow burn” for their character-driven stories… and are willing to wait several months for the next instalment. As always, I welcome you to post what you thought of the episode in the comments section.