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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: Domestic Girlfriend Chapters 1-100

Year: 2014 (ongoing)
Author/Artist: Kei Sasuga
Genre: Shounen, Drama, Romance, School Life 

Reviewers Note: Chapters 1-100 include part of the way through the eleventh volume of this ongoing character-driven series. The first episode of the anime adaptation also went live this current anime season.

A few weeks ago, I spent a bit of time checking out some English translations of various manga series over at MangaRock. There was a lot of franchises that I was unfamiliar with across the wide spectrum of genres but I ended up with my usual focus on romance titles. One of the manga that I ended up giving a run was the curious series of Domestic Girlfriend. I won’t bother writing a quick synopsis of this series as MyAnimeList did a pretty good job of explaining the premise of this series. You can find it here.
What I will say is that this series was oddly compelling and managed to quickly turn into a drama rather than my initial expectation that it would simply be another ecchi harem comedy. In many regards, it reminded me of Scum’s Wish but with significantly less bitchiness. Sure, the love triangle of Natsuo and the Tachibana sisters is frustrating, but it quickly becomes an exercise in voyeurism at the bizarre love life of three rather troubled human beings.
The art in this series is decent enough, pretty similar to Kei Sasuga’s GE: Good Ending, which I read years ago. I do, however, have issues with the periodic fanservice panels included in between scenes as they feel out of place. Sure, the story deals with adult themes such as sex, but the sequences that are included in this manga are tasteful. Perhaps it is some attempt at further convincing the reader that the series is Shounen.
To the elephant in the room, what is up with the cafe that most of the characters frequent? Many of the cast confide in the gay former-Yazuka and occasional crossdresser Misaki Kobayashi well within the earshot of other customers. All a character would need to acquire all of the neighborhood drama and gossip is to either leave a listening device in the cafe or simply hang out there. With all of the secrets floating around the place, how on earth do they remain secret? Just sayin…

Anyway, I would best describe Domestic Girlfriend as entertaining trash. The drama is compelling even if a bit drawn-out at times. I also didn’t hate the cast of characters because we can understand the motives of the people that inhabit the world of Domestic Girlfriend. As such, I will be continuing to read this series. I look forward to reviewing more of this series in the coming weeks.

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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 1-5

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

When Chiyo Sakura screws up whilst trying to confess to Nozaki, she learns that he is a famous shoujo manga artist. Enlisted to help out with the beta elements of his ongoing stories, Chiyo gets to learn more about Nozaki and the two introduce each other to a host of weirdos and idiots. With all of these distractions, will Chiyo finally muster up the nerve to confess? Nope. It is the first five chapters after all. 😀

In lieu of rewatching the anime adaptation of this series, I decided to give the manga a run. The first five chapters of the manga cover the first two and a half episodes. These chapters also include scenes and characters absent in the anime, whilst the anime fills in some gaps in the manga itself. It is somewhat curious but it does show the benefit of consuming both the manga and the anime of a series. Whilst I admit a certain level of bias going into reading this series, I have to say that it even surpassed my high expectations.
The artwork was pretty close to the anime version as well, avoiding a frequent annoyance with manga and anime adaptations being different from each other in style and vibe. This is certainly not always a bad thing, hence I enjoyed the One Punch Man anime adaptation. However, when it is as atrocious as the depiction of the Dark Young at the end of Overlord season 3, then it is a slap in the face to fans of a franchise.
Back to the subject of the characters, whilst I didn’t get to see much of the extended cast members, those short sequences contributed meaningfully to the story. This is an aspect that drew me to reading the manga in the first place. I was aware from a bit of online research that there was a large cast and was really curious. We get a glimpse of the world outside of the characters that were restricted to the anime.

In conclusion, I really like the manga version of Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun and can easily see myself reading more of it in the not-so-distant future. Umetarou Nozaki is “best boy”. That is all! 😀

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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.


Anime Review: My Hero Academia Season 1

Year: 2016
Episodes: 13
Online: MAL, Wikipedia, IMDB, Crunchyroll
Genre: Shounen, Science Fiction, Superhero, Action, Drama

I first discovered this anime by chance whilst checking out the AnimeLab website a few episodes into the first season. Those first ten minutes perked my interest and I decided to put it in my watch list. Late last year, I finally persuaded my spouse to watch the English dub with me. As expected we both loved it.

My Hero Academia follows the life of a boy born without special powers, also known as Quirks. This is unusual in that Quirks powers are the norm rather than the exception. Izuku Midoriya wants to be a hero like his role model All Might, something that becomes especially relevant when he meets the man himself. In lieu of some “personal issues”, All Might is looking for a protégé to take up his mantle and sees something special in Midoriya. After some deliberation, All Might decides to train young Midoriya and offers to transfer his own powers to the lad.
After managing to pass the entrance exam, Midoriya manages to gain entrance into an academy for getting a hero license. Although he manages to develop friendships with most of his fellow classmates, he also has to contend with a kid that he used to look up to. This will become one of several major points of conflict for the series. There are also forces at play that have plans beyond harassing members of the academy. Plans that have larger implications on the world as a whole.

I really like this series. Midoriya is a really likeable protagonist that is surrounded by a cast of interesting characters. These characters are given time to shine throughout the series, allowing us to see growth. We see failure being used as a catalyst for change, showing the willingness for certain characters to learn from their mistakes and try different things in order to overcome difficulty.
With any good series, some characters are also immune to change. This is played out time and time again with Katsuki Bakugou, a character that is arrogant, spiteful and prone to violent outbursts over the pettiest things. He might have some neat abilities, but his attitude makes him understandably disliked by those around him. It also emphasises how different he is in mindset to Midoriya.
The plot and pacing of My Hero Academia is masterfully done. As the first season moves on, we see genuine threats for Midoriya, his classmates and teaching staff. This conflict from external forces the characters to work together and to adapt to a very real threat. It allows us to see limitations of several of the characters and also results in the viewer realising that this is only the beginning of trouble for the characters.
The world setting for My Hero Academia is well-fleshed out. Information about the world is rationed out in manageable bites so as to be relevant to the flow of the storyline. The timeline of the arrival of Quirks is something that fascinated me, the affect of which had understandable ramifications for this alternate Earth. We also see this timeline becoming more and more relevant to the conflict of the heroes over time. It was really neat how flawlessly this is woven into the plot.
Many people will likely comment on the art style. Whilst it isn’t your usual crisp anime art, it is perfect for the narrative of the series. The over-the-top design that works really well and offers a very unique viewing experience. Probably the closest series in art style in Gurren Lagann, which I don’t consider a bad thing.

In conclusion, whilst this series is not necessarily my favourite it is certainly up there. It is highly enjoyable, with a really neat story and cast of characters that I genuinely cared about. I highly recommend this series to fans of shounen action and the superhero genre.

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Anime Review: Trinity Seven

Year: 2014
Episodes: 12
Online: Crunchyroll, MAL, Wikipedia
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Supernatural Fantasy, Action, Supernatural, Harem, Ecchi

I apologise that it has taken me months to get around to reviewing this series in spite of completing it last year. Time to get to it!

Halfway through last year, my husband and I were looking for new anime to watch. We scoured numerous lists for something that we could both live with. Then we happened across a compilation of scenes that featured a rather amusing scene from Trinity Seven. Intrigued, we looked around for more information on the series and it noticed that it was in numerous lists across the various applicable genres. One of those just happened to be a “best harem” list. We decided to give it a run. The series is based on long-run manga series.

During a breakdown event, Arata Kasuga discovers that there is more to the world than bumming around the house or going to school . With the discovery that magic exists, Arata becomes a mage in order to protect his Grimoire, an entity that has been looking out for him since his previous world disintegrated in a previous breakdown event. At Royal Biblia Academy, he meets the other members of the Trinity Seven. He will come to understand what become of his cousin, all whilst avoiding become the Demon Lord.

To begin with, Trinity Seven is set in a rather unique universe. Given that magic is a pretty important part of the setting, we see a host of different rules and terminology for those wielding it. One of the biggest issues is the ongoing threat of Demon Lord candidates losing the plot and transforming into a Demon Lord. The series does a great job of avoiding info-dumps, offering information as it becomes relevant to the current situation. This allows the viewer to learn alongside Arata.
This series was hilarious. Whilst other harem series have a bit of a pushover for a male lead, Arata is such an awesome character. He is confident in his own “perverseness” and is eternally optimistic. Whilst the former sometimes results in physical assault by members of the opposite sex, it is also something that helps break down the social barrier between himself and those around him. The latter manages to be a game-changer as well.
The rest of the cast are based off of the typical anime and manga archetypes but they each contribute meaningfully to the story. We see solid character arcs and character development that allow for a level of gratification. There is a lot of fan service but this, oddly enough, helps move the story along.
My one annoyance for this series is the Lilith character. She is a little tiring to watch. Whilst there is a bit of a character arc for Lilith, it doesn’t have the level of gratification of most of the other female characters in the series. Compare this to Arin, the shameless figure that believes Arata to be her destined future husband. Arin might be a little odd but she feels more true to her own nature. This is my main issue with Lilith, a character more likely to lash out that address her own emotions and inclinations. Lilith just comes off as unlikeable.

Whilst I really loved this series as a whole, the end episode was annoying in that it left things open for another season without delivering. Alas, this is all too common these days, with many good shows being cancelled before they can offer sufficient closure for viewers. At least we have the manga series which is still ongoing since it began back in 2010. I recommend this series to folks looking for an example of a good harem comedy series with decent world-building.


Anime Review: Assassination Classroom

Year: 2015
Episodes: 22 for Season 1 and 25 for Season 2 (English Dub of Japanese series)
Assassination Classroom Online: Wikipedia, MyAnimeList for Season 1 and Season 2, IMDB, Funimation, AnimeLab, Hulu
Genre: Shounen, Action, Comedy, School Life, Drama + Science Fiction

After holding off on watching the last few episodes for several months, I finally took the plunge and finished Assassination Classroom yesterday. It was odd, seeing something that I had grown attached to finally coming to an end. What is even odder, is that I nearly didn’t watch past the first episode.

For those of you that are unaware, Assassination Classroom is a story about kids in their last year of Junior High that are the unwitting students of a tentacled creature that recently blew up a large portion of the moon. They are offered a large sum of money if they kill the creature by graduation.

As mentioned before, I nearly didn’t watch past the first episode of this series. A first episode is typically used to introduce the characters and their situation. With Assassination Classroom, the viewers are dropped right in the middle of it. This left me feeling a tad lost and confused. However, hubby and I both made the choice of continuing the series. In spite of a rocky start, the show quickly became a favourite.
The premise is somewhat simple and very twisted. We see a bunch of ninth graders being forced to plan and implement ways to killer a teacher that is a very real threat to the world. Over time, though, we see them grow attached to a creature that is a lot more complicated than his squishy toy appearance suggests. The mystery of his origins will also be unravelled as more people enter the fray in an attempt to collect the bounty.
The ticking clock aspect of this series is played out well by the growing cast. Throughout, we also see a strong focus on character growth. This is a huge factor that led to me enjoying the show. Sure, the situation is screwed up, but we see a lot of characters changing positively because of their time in 3E under Kuro-Sensei’s teaching. There is also the understanding that not all situations are as cut and dry as they initially appear.
On a further note about characters, the series has a rather large cast of characters. All in all, you are looking at around twenty-five characters that get a lot of air-time. Most storytellers would make a mess of it, but Assassination Classroom makes use of a task-driven situation in order to allow the characters to shine in their own special ways. It was really neat to watch.
To the comedic and dramatic elements, the show allows those assassination attempts to facilitate humour and WTF?!!! moments for the viewer. This is deliberate in intent, but also adds to the character development elements of the series. These sequences give an opportunity for the students to learn about the weaknesses and “tells” of Kuro. We also see a few legitimately sad moments as we learn more and more about Kuro-Sensei.
To the setting, the backdrop of the academy adds in some solid opportunities for storytelling. We see the building of history and background allowing us to make sense of why the school has been devised in the way that it has by the principal. The sequences out of the school are also noteworthy, as the students have to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an area in order to work towards their particular goals.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for an intelligently-written, mildly twisted, character-driven Shounen action series with some comedic elements. Note that the comedy often relies on a certain level of Ecchi, though, and won’t necessarily appeal to everyone. In any case, be sure to give it a few episodes after you start watching, as the first episode is not necessarily a great indication of what to expect from the series.

Next stop, finishing Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun…