Maybe #3 (Wonder Egg Priority, Back Arrow, Kemono Jihen and Scar on the Praeter)

Quite similar to my ‘Abandoned’ posts here’s a new ‘Maybe’ entry – and again I’m using it to mention a few seasonal shows that I’ve tried out and liked.

At this point I’ve only seen one episode from each show and that’s probably not enough for me to make a fair assessment, really… but at this point, I’m continuing on with all, I reckon.

One or two I might set aside and complete more quickly when they’re finished, but I think I’ll watch Back Arrow each week for sure.

Wonder Egg Priority

Just a few words on each – but first up is one show that definitely caught my eye, even before I realised it was a CloverWorks series. Very keen to see where it goes, plenty of mystery and engaging visuals too.

Anyone else watching this one?

Back Arrow

A while ago I was reviewing ‘GunXsword’ and asking myself, ‘would someone actually make a show like this today?’ and maybe I got my answer here with Back Arrow 😀

This feels a bit like Gorō Taniguchi is taking some influence from his past, and so I’m pretty excited about that possibility.

Kemono Jihen

I really hope this show spends some more time in the countryside, and not just the city. Having said that, I’ll probably watch it anyway – it’s a bit of urban fantasy/supernatural show (with some horror elements.)

I remember feeling the atmosphere in this episode and I’m also curious about the lead characters, so I’ll definitely be watching the next one.

Scar on the Praeter

Visually this is very glossy and I’m of two minds about how much I like that – and the dialogue was quite exposition-heavy… but in spite of my misgivings, I’m definitely watching episode two, fun action and an interesting setting is enough for me.


There are a few other shows I’m watching that are new as well, but they’re not ‘maybe’ they’re more ‘definitely’ at this point (one is the second ‘…Neverland’ season and the other is ‘Otherside Picnic’.)

Anything on your list that I should take a look at? 😀

The Third: Girl with the Blue Eye (Za Sādo – Aoi Hitomi no)

The Third: Girl with the Blue Eye (Za Sādo – Aoi Hitomi no) 2007

The Third: Girl with the Blue Eye met most of my expectations and I did enjoy it a lot, but there was a little something missing for me when it came to the ending.

However, I’ll stick with what I liked most first.

As I’ve said before, I love adventure stories, and usually ones based on light novels (or just novels in general) tend to have great plots and charactarisation. And that’s mostly how I feel about this anime; it was great to see heroine Honoka roaming the post-apocalyptic world, saving folks with her blade and mech suit, aided by her AI tank and the mysterious Iks.

There is a central plot that reveals itself in time, and while I said ‘post-apoc’ I should mention that this is a reasonably hopeful future-earth, compared to other shows at least. The setting was one draw for me, and the friendly bickering between Honoka and her tank (Bogie, voiced by Unshou Ishizuka, ‘Jet Black’), was great too, along with the fight scenes and interpersonal aspects between leads.

One thing that really stands out was the fact that The Third has a narrator – usually providing exposition or character monologue, which was interesting. It worked for me – but I could definitely see that as an issue for some viewers.

I also wondered about Paifu and her ‘rivalry’ with Iks re: Honoka, as that came across as pretty odd onscreen, even downright creepy… is Paifu meant to actually be a villain? She tends to act like one throughout.

But my main issue is with the ending. (A few times, the animation also dips and the character models seem fairly ‘off’ but I did get over that.)

Instead, as the series begins to wrap, there’s a significant plot line that seems like it represents the ‘ending’. It gets a few episodes to resolve things, and I finished it feeling the sense that ‘it’s all been sorted/crisis averted’ – but it wasn’t really the end.

There was more of The Third… left, and suddenly, tension had to be rebuilt in the two remaining episodes, and so the actual closing episodes of the anime didn’t feel quite as ‘big’ to me.

Having said that, it wasn’t a bad ending either… but it just didn’t land the same way as the preceding episodes, I guess. I was still interested to learn some final secrets, and I was always going to watch the final two, but yeah. Hard for me to rate, I probably personally enjoyed it a bit more than my score will suggest.

3 Stars

During the early-middle period of the series, there’s an episode or two with these stark, dramatic shadows that I really liked:

Pet Shop of Horrors

Pet Shop of Horrors (1999)

I definitely would have watched more of these.

Pet Shop of Horrors is a great example of ‘episodic’ storytelling, with its sombre tales contained neatly within each episode. There are two links between stories – Count D and his LA pet shop, and detective Leon, who is trying to uncover the truth about the place.

Aside from the cautious friendship between the two characters, the mysteries here focus on Count D’s customers and their folly.

Perhaps in time, maybe Madhouse could have built successive OVAs into a series – but that was probably never the plan. I guess also, this show isn’t ‘horror’ enough for folks who want gore and shock? And sometimes when a show doesn’t easily fit into one genre, it’s hard to sell. I dunno, I should research its reception!

But my point is (finally!) that this Pet Shop of Horrors is more like supernatural mystery more than full-on horror, and even at times, tragedy.

And while there’s a clear structure to the episodes – meet a customer to see what dangerous creature D sells them, then watch that customer struggle with their choices, there’s enough variety with mermaids, rats, serpents and kirin, and the characters, that I enjoyed each tale.

It was also fun to see what felt like a nod to Gremlins (but may not have been, of course) re: Count D’s rules about his caring for his pets.

Finally, the question of whether and/or how the customers invariably broke those rules was where most of the horror came into play, and depending on whether they were meant to be sympathetic characters, so too, the tragedy.

This feels like a somewhat forgotten OVA from the late 1990s now, but I liked it a lot.

4 Stars

Cover Art Comparison: Summer Wars

Knowing that Hosoda has a new film coming soon(ish), I thought I’d do a quick comparison of some posters from one of his previous hits: Summer Wars.

It’s obviously clear that you’re being told this movie will feature an ensemble cast from both images, but Natsuki seems a bit less capable in the poster for the left, compared to the right. Technology is clearly important in both images, but the real world setting on the left is clear too.

To me it feels like the ‘original’ poster on the left places emphasis on romance, comedy and maybe drama, whereas the ‘international’ one seems to be more about action and science fiction, due to the avatars. (Of course, I don’t know whether each region got two variants etc so ‘original’ and ‘international’ here is probably not accurate).

There’s also this one – which was maybe a ‘coming soon’ poster, based on my (admittedly poor) memory, which I also like:


Sort of covering similar ground as before – showing an ensemble cast, hinting at drama and action maybe, but no hints of the technological elements (at least visually).

Similar ‘determination’ pose from Natsuki and here, Kenji is a bit ‘lost’ in the crowd.

So, how about you – do you prefer one over the others?

The Big O (Za Biggu Ō) [Boxing Day Review]

The Big O (Za Biggu Ō) 1999

You can no doubt predict exactly what I’ll say about episodic storytelling by now, right?

This almost sums up the palette used throughout.

I’m definitely a fan of it – but The Big O ticks a lot of boxes for me outside its mostly episodic structure too.

First, there’s the slowly unfolding mystery in an unsettling but familiar city, then there’s androids, revolving villains, a dramatic multi-genre OST and finally; retro-looking mecha placed within a very 20th Century aesthetic – the mash-up is fantastic.

Having said that, if you don’t enjoy (almost) madcap mixes of conventions and genres, you probably won’t end up liking The Big O too much.

Despite the strong Batman/James Bond feel to the series, and despite the noir detective stuff happening on the surface, I still think that there’s enough dissonance and enough of the philosophical maybe, to deter folks who prefer a focus on a single genre or tone.

But again, that’s one of my favourite aspects of The Big O – that and the stylish character designs and art deco visuals.

I’ll take a shot at exploring the premise just quickly:

Roger Smith is a negotiator/investigator living in Paradigm City, known as the city of amnesia (for reasons which I won’t spoil). There, he is eventually pulled into the mystery of whatever event wiped everyone’s memory forty years ago, aided by former client, Dorothy – an advanced android.

To hopefully evoke a sense of tone here, I want to mention one person involved in the production – Chiaki J. Konaka. As with all collaborative arts, I think it’s cruel to point to only one person, especially in a review, but I think if I mention Chiaki then that might give a few clues as to the tone and direction of this series – especially the second season.

If I step away from my rhapsodising about the series for a moment, I’ll maybe get enough distance to point out some things that I didn’t love. Firstly, Roger is kind of a jerk and essentially mistreats Dorothy for nearly the whole series. And speaking of Dorothy, if you take a look at what she can do in the first two episodes for example, she is truly under-utilised by the story.

I believe more than a few people agree that Season 1 tends to be stronger than Season 2 (actually, I only took screencaps from S1 mainly due to time).

Three or four years later and the animation quality does get a boost for the sequel season, but for me, the powerful mysteries established in those first thirteen episodes aren’t all answered as satisfyingly as I’d hoped. (I also wished that Swchartzman got a little more screentime somehow, as I tended to really enjoy him and his monologues!)

In contrast to my comparative disappointment with the second season, there were still plenty of things that I continued to think about afterward. More, the audience does get a few answers in time, along with one reveal that had nearly as much impact as the stunning ending of episode 13, for me.

Okay, so now that I’ve finally reached this point in the review, I think it’s time to wrap things up – until my next post, where I want to try a bit of visual analysis on episode 3 of The Big O.

In the meantime, I hope I’ve made you at least a little curious about this ‘old’ anime! (It’s been in my top ten for a long time and I don’t see it leaving any time soon, but it did slip down a rung on the ladder at one point.)

5 Stars

(A few images to follow)

A merry time was had by all.

Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni)

Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni) 2017

Land of the Lustrous seems to be cited fairly often as a show that can change minds when it comes to anime and CGI.

I guess I’m fairly hard on CGI that I feel isn’t integrated all that well with trad techniques in the anime world, but I wouldn’t consider myself as the sort that would instantly dismiss a text due to its use of CGI either.

All of which is to say that I didn’t need convincing 🙂

The blend is great and so visually Land of the Lustrous is beautiful – the colours are vibrant and the ‘shatter’ effect is heaps of fun. Having comparatively less detailed backgrounds and settings really added to the contrast too, from the grass, to the sea and the snow. I felt bad kinda looking forward to how (visually at least) each stroke of misfortune might end up looking for the characters.

Others have said more interesting things about the visuals than I have and I doubt I’ll add anything ground-breaking about the story or characters either, but while the anime features lots of action-sequences, Land of the Lustrous is definitely character-driven.

Everything revolves around Phos and her struggle to find purpose. Many of the disasters that strike her community (generally a cyclical war between three cultures) come from her failures, choices and desire to do what’s right.

Creator Haruko Ichikawa has also given Phos plenty of great lines when it comes to injecting the comedic element, which definitely kept me smiling.

There’s also clear development for our lead character too – actually, let me pause for a sec. I’ve said ‘her’ before but in fact, Ichikawa describes the gems as being genderless and suggested as much to the translator for the English release, so it’s they for Phos and co, and maybe sometimes in the original some masculine pronouns are used too – but my Japanese is non-existent, really, so I can’t be sure.

If you like a mystery woven in around an interesting and (for now?) narrow setting, then Land of the Lustrous should also satisfy on that level. I don’t want to go into too much detail now, due to my usual fear of spoilers, but I’m keen for a second season so I can learn more!

And not just about the main storyline and the history of the gems, or the master’s connection with the invading Lunarians, but also folks like Padparadscha who I hope has a main role in the future.

Not sure whether Orange have more Land of the Lustrous on their plate for the near future, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out.

5 Stars

Cool hair – so much of anime is about hair, I think.
I guess (visually at least) ‘LotL’ has some fanservice re: costume and framing, but it’s not really the focus overall.

Astra Lost in Space (Kanata no Asutora)

Astra: Lost in Space (Kanata no Asutora) 2019

At a glance I guess Astra could be mistaken for a light comedy or teen romance set in space… but there were definitely a few surprises in store for me.

I had this on my list after folks started talking about it a while ago, and I’m glad I finally got around to watching this series – there’s heaps of things I enjoyed; fun characters, the trials of being lost in space, adventures to new planets, a ‘one of us is a traitor’ plot-line and some big science-fiction twists.

There were also plenty of comedic moments too, even a bit of fourth-wall stuff, which is always a plus. It is anime, so of course there’s an obligatory beach episode but if I’m remembering correctly, it operates to lull you into a bit of a false sense of security in regard to what’s due to follow.   

Now that I’ve come this far, I’m finding Astra: Lost in Space hard to write on without kinda giving certain things away, so I’ll finish this short review by saying that Kanata is an obvious fav, and Aries jumbling up her words is always cute, but best overall moment from a character is probably Zack’s declaration of love.

Maybe take a look if you want a space adventure with some fun twists and reveals.

4 Stars

Update Quest 2020 (9)

The ninth batch of these posts does include the first game I reviewed here, but I think at this point I’m still back in Sept of ’19 in terms of ‘catching up’.

Origin: Spirits of the Past
Ellcia
Big Fish & Begonia
Harmony
Hollow Knight (Switch)
Castlevania (TV Series)

Fairly sure I still have a few of these posts left too, based on what I remember as having only a few images/being in need of an update. Had a bit of trouble sourcing images from my Origins disc, hoping this won’t be a recurring problem though.

Heaven Official’s Blessing (More Impressions)

I wish I had more to say today, but basically – I’m still enjoying Tian Guan Ci Fu plenty and also finding it hard to wait between episodes.

The adventure feel is still really strong and what probably amounts to Xie Lian and San Lang’s first date is really cute, even if the scenes aren’t quite played that way onscreen.

One of the only seasonal shows I’m keeping up with this time around! (8 episodes in so far.)

Le Chevalier D’Eon (2006)

Le Chevalier D’Eon

The first episode of Le Chevalier D’Eon offered everything I wanted – swords, magic, twists and turns, intrigue too, and all of it taking place in historical European settings!

In fact, I remember after seeing the opening being pretty thrilled, feeling sure that I’d found a show that I knew I would love. And I would definitely put the first episode (D’Eon∴ Lia) up against most of the first episodes of my other favs for sure.

And in the end, I did love the series but I hit a wall in the middle.

I think I know why – it’s the pacing.

Now, I mentioned pacing here in one of my previous ‘Abandoned’ posts – there was a point where I felt a slight drag on the forward momentum, because I knew that our four leads were going to visit a new town, catch up on local politics, help out, and then collect a few scraps of info on the main quest.

At one point, that pattern repeated itself for enough episodes to deter me, and it took a while to come back to the series, even though at the mid-way point I should have been totally unable to set Le Chevalier D’Eon to one side.

And what’s interesting to me is that I love episodic storytelling but this time around it felt like mini-arcs with not enough of the main plot woven throughout to satisfy my curiosity.

On the other hand, I certainly finished Le Chevalier D’Eon because there was so much I want to know by the end. In addition, the characters, settings and magical elements are all great – along with the swashbuckling too, of course.

But it’s not really an adventure show (despite escapes, conspiracies, monsters and swordplay etc) because as I’ve mentioned before, intrigue and politics feature heavily here. There’s even a touch of romance, but the magic (Poets and Psalms used to destroy and manipulate) are probably the main focus, along with a slew of changing loyalties.

The price of loyalty too, is a huge theme in Le Chevalier D’Eon and one that I enjoyed plenty.

I think another stand-out aspect is the range of (loose) historical elements; not just things like the various royals that our leads meet (or figures like Comte de Saint Germain and Maximilien Robespierre), but aspects that had me reading up on the real-life D’eon. In fact, it seems a shame that the existence of Lia in the anime clouds important details about D’eon.

Finally, I guess I should say, be warned, by the end there is very little left for the surviving leads to celebrate – perhaps unsurprising considering the setting.

Still, the anime was compelling for me, even when its storytelling sometimes became a little opaque or even if, as I see it, giving D’eon room to process truths about his sister is somewhat swept aside by the scope of other events.

4 Stars

(This series is sometimes compared to Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, released a bit earlier, since both are somewhat similar in themes and settings).