Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) 1989 [Collaboration with Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews]

it’s been a little while since I hosted a collaboration here, so I was really happy that Scott was up for working with me on Kiki’s Delivery Service – the famous Studio Ghibli adaptation of Eiko Kadono’s book (and top-grossing film in Japan for 1989).

If you’ve not had the chance to see this film, I hope we’re able to make you at the very least, curious enough to check it out!

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) 1989

Ashley: Hey! Excited to start this collab, especially as it had definitely been a while since I’d seen Kiki’s Delivery Service and last time we worked together was on a mecha show, so this should be a fun contrast. 

How long has it been for you? I wondered if you noticed different things about the movie this time around?

Scott: Hey Ashley! I’m excited too. It’s been way too long since the last time and I think this one will be a fun one to discuss.

Honestly, it’s been way too long for me. Over a decade and half I think. Ever since my high school marching band days when we watched films on these nice buses that have tv screens that we could watch movies from. Kiki was a staple for that.

To be honest, I can’t say that I really noticed anything particularly different. The screen I watched it on was small and with the length of time, it’s like watching Kiki’s Delivery Service for the first time.

How about you?

A: Cool, what a contrast from the bus tv and environment to a more controlled one at home 🙂

It’s been a few years for me and this time around I was reminded just how key Joe Hisaishi’s music is to the overall Studio Ghibli feel for me, how it really adds to the whimsy (or the drama in some of the flying scenes) but also the scene-setting. 

I had also forgotten that Jiji is voiced by Rei Sakuma and her voice (and characterization) is obviously quite different to Phil Hartman’s, whom I had become really accustomed to. It’s an interesting contrast, especially in terms of their respective personalities in the original vs the dub – Hartman’s Jiji has a fair bit of that classic Disney sidekick comic-relief that’s not present in the Japanese release. I definitely love his performance but it was fun to see another side to Jiji.

S: Oh yeah, I agree with that feeling. The big question I have is if Joe Hisaishi didn’t do the OST for it, is it really a Ghibli film? I mean probably, but it wouldn’t feel the same.

I feel like there are always some localization changes like that in English versions of Ghibli films. Like, Princess Mononoke had a prologue narration while the Japanese version didn’t or how Spirited Away had San say “oh, it’s a bathhouse”, because that’s not a thing in the United States. So I suppose that going with that choice made sense for this film for western audiences.

So this film. Kiki is quite a film isn’t it?

A: Yes! I love coming of age films and so Kiki… automatically ticks a lot of boxes for me. 

I also really like how much dramatic tension there is in seemingly small stakes, such as those that come from delivering items, retrieving items or making the switch with Jiji etc, which is contrasted with the emotional beats of her quest for acceptance, self-discovery and of course, the bigger, action-based stuff in the latter half of the film.

S: I love them too, honestly. A well done coming of age story are some of my favorite things. So relatable and can be applied to so many scenarios to keep it fresh and interesting.

As for digging into details, there are so many of them in the story that just add so much extra fluff into it for me too. So many good little bits of micro attention that just makes the film a lot better then the viewer would first expect. I feel like that coincides with Kiki establishing herself because every moment is a little bit of tension.

A: I feel the same with those small details, like the work on the pastries or the slow warming of Osono’s Husband toward Kiki, or the stunning backgrounds, especially when it comes to the buildings. I feel like it’d be easy to do a whole post just on the scenery 😀

If you had to pick a high point for that tension around Kiki’s growth, what would it be do you reckon?

S: Exactly and there are just so many little bits like that to make the world feel so organic. Just like the bus driver given the time to actually close the door because he drives off. So many small things like that which add up and make the experience just so grounded.

Oh, the moment of tension? I feel like its centered around Kiki’s relationship with Tombo hits a whole point. Probably where she questions her magic. Very much where all the tension in the staying in that city suddenly explodes. I could be wrong about that though…

A: Same again! In fact, the questioning of her magic always made me a bit sad. The crushing, somewhat comparatively dull adult world pushing its way in? 

Maybe that’s a little negative of me – Kiki certainly finds plenty of fulfillment doing things adults do as well. Her sense of purpose and confidence from her independence, which is earned through all those non-magical things.

S: Isn’t questioning her magic so relatable though? She’s a little too early in her own life to think that was though. Especially comparing herself to her mom. Maybe she is growing up too fast by doing the usual witch tradition.

Yeah, I think her finding out she doesn’t need her magic to be around people or just live is a good way to carry this story. I think that her magic coming back from that understanding feels completely natural because of it.

A: It really is, definitely – and it suits the overall uplifting tone of the film too, huh?

So before we finish, I wanted to ask what or whether anything didn’t work so well for you?

S: I feel boring in saying in saying that I don’t have much against it? In some cases I just felt a bit rushed at some times? Some scenes didn’t have as much room to breathe as they could? That’s about it for me.

I really don’t have much to say against it. What about you?

A: For me I thought I was going to say that the film was a touch long… and yet, is that even true? Do I even have any actual criticisms – I don’t think I do, either 😀

It really feels like the Studio Ghibli team firing on all cylinders, creating a really fantastic adaptation, and visually, nailing the match of theme to visuals, of character to expression etc. So I’m like you – loved it, can’t really find anything to complain about!

And finally, huge thanks to Scott for joining me for another collaboration 🙂

Kino’s Journey —the Beautiful World— (Kino no Tabi)

I hope that Kino’s Journey is considered a classic beyond my limited sphere, since I reckon it’s a wholly compelling series from beginning to end.

Ideally, I’d launch into my reasons for saying why I enjoyed it so much – but I want to instead start with some of my quibbles. And since they include spoilers, I’ll just place a pic or two here first.

Kino’s Journey —the Beautiful World— (Kino no Tabi) 2003

The series is really sparing with details about Kino herself.

I suspect I know at least a few reasons why that would be so, but I still wished there had been time to learn more. Even the episode that introduced Kino’s namesake could have offered us a little more – perhaps a double episode? That would have been great.

Oh well.

(My issue here is obviously something that would have been mitigated by a longer series.)

Secondly, I’m not sure how much I enjoyed the text cards throughout – I liked their function as prompts but I don’t know how effective they were.

Of course, that’s not a bad ratio – two complaints only, right?

So, onto the stuff I loved.

For one, the world building is great – each destination is enthralling and usually pretty distinct, and having Kino’s three-day rule is a perfect way to keep things episodic, which is in turn, the perfect structure for a traveller.

In fact, I wanted another season, another set of surprises and moments that had me pause to think, moments that caused me to question what I thought I understood about any given situation presented in the stories etc.

I guess it wouldn’t be inaccurate to call Kino… a pretty cerebral anime, but it wasn’t a static talk-fest by any stretch.

There’s enough action, movement and lovely visuals to probably keep even casual viewers engaged too – and not just the Colosseum episodes, which came to mind for me first.

One issue I have seen mentioned here and there is Kino herself.

She has a somewhat restrained or even emotionally detached personality (and voice – a delivery that suits her well), though she doesn’t lack compassion at all, I can see times where I wanted her to grow more involved.

It’s also a useful way to give the audience room to insert themselves into the ethical dilemmas, to potentially avoid being swayed by the main character’s choices or beliefs.

I liked the choice and I now find myself wondering about it – was it something unique to the anime, or is Kino similar in the source material?

And perhaps above all, her personality really makes the impact of that last episode a lot stronger, to actually see something really hit home for Kino – where previously she’d been in far greater control of her emotions, she’d been perhaps a little too sure in her role as observer of all that ‘beauty’?

It does seem a bit like a shield for her, and considering her past, it makes sense that she’d be pretty guarded.

Okay, I think that’s about it from me – time to end this review with a few dot-points that I probably could have fit elsewhere, but didn’t:

  • I really enjoyed the muted palette and the occasional use of sepia
  • ‘Persuader’ is an equally striking and troubling name for guns
  • Loved the Florence-like setting in the Land of Prophecies episode
  • Kino’s sense of self is strong, also being quite uninterested in labelling herself – simply claiming to be ‘Kino’ when asked at one point, which is an interesting contrast to her more impartial personality traits
  • Some other fav episodes were the opener and the finale, along with the Land of Wizards and also when we see the nod to Fahrenheit 451

I feel semi-confident recommending this to any anime fan. (Well, any one save for those few out there who only tend to watch a single, narrow sub-category of the medium, I guess.)

Maybe I ought to qualify that claim a bit more with a summary and a few extra bits… and so I think it’s time to bust out a non-essential table 😀 And so below there’s some reasons why I think Kino’s Journey is worth a shot, presented in a hard-to-read table format, lol

I know there was a remake/re-telling/another version of Kino’s Journey released in 2017 but I haven’t seen it. I’m curious… but maybe not enough to actually give it a shot in a hurry as I finished this iteration pretty happy, really.

Anyway, to finally actually wrap up this review, Kino’s Journey is another obvious contender for an update to my Top Ten list.

5 Stars

The Book of Bantorra (Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra)

Book of Bantorra is definitely more than its fan service – though if you need some, then the costumes for Noloty and Chesty La Rue Hamyuts Meseta will have you ‘covered’.

And even, to a far lesser extent, Matt or Enlike.

The Book of Bantorra (Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra) 2009

But beyond the window-dressing, there’s a high concept fantasy/action story split into fairly strongly connected, non-linear narratives, full of mysteries and hidden motives.

And it has a stellar opening theme song:

So, what’s the plot?

In a world where dead people turn into books and are stored in the Bantorra Library (where anyone who reads a book can learn their past), Armed Librarians who wield psychic powers defend the Library from their enemy: a religious society known as Sindeki Kyoudan. (Adapted from MAL).

In summary, it sounds a little silly, but I came to accept the premise of the world soon enough.

And there is a neat and clear reason for all of what seems so bizarre on the surface of the world too, but the series does a nice job of keeping the truth if not hidden, at least obscured for a good long while, and then explaining a lot of the mysteries too.

With the unique premise and fascinating world in place, and mysteries abound, the strength of Book of Bantorra I thought still rested with the range of characters. For the most part, they all get time to have some back story and depth in the present, with small arcs or important roles to play, and occasional quirks too.

In fact, the story of Shiron and her trials with the Shindeki Church could have been an entire season for me – and I actually thought, early on, they were going to dominate the series but as I mentioned above, there are a lot of connected plot lines from up to a dozen viewpoints, so be prepared for many threads coming together by the end.

(Having said the above, I could see that if you weren’t hooked on the characters or world-building pretty quickly, then this anime could very well feel frustrating and muddled).

In terms of aspects I personally didn’t enjoy as much, I felt that the soliloquising and/or grandstanding from some of the antagonists was pretty tedious – one of my pet peeves, perhaps.

The ultimate villain was a little underwhelming too, and while Hamyuts’ bra-size seems like obvious pandering, she did have an actual arc and voice actress Romi Park was pretty convincing re: creating the sense of Hamyuts as untrustworthy.  

I’m glad Book of Bantorra was from an era where it wasn’t unusual for an anime to run for 25+ episodes, as this story needed to be that long in order to wrap things up.

In terms of a recommendation, well I think if you like action, fantasy and as I mentioned/warned early in the post, if you like multiple, interconnected narratives too, then there’s a chance you’ll enjoy this anime.

I’m glad I stumbled across it, as I’ve rarely seen it mentioned.

4 Stars

Ninja Scroll: The Series (Jūbē Ninpūchō Ryūhōgyoku Hen)

In many ways this is a less compelling echo of the film.

Same lead character of Jubei, similar quest feel with stumbling blocks presented by different monsters/adversaries to defeat, and there’s even some (toned down in comparison) sketchy content, but all without the production budget and schedule of a feature film.

Ninja Scroll: The Series (Jūbē Ninpūchō Ryūhōgyoku Hen) 2003

Naturally, there are going to be differences between the two forms – and I don’t always like to compare based on budget; as I should take the time to describe and evaluate a thing upon its own terms, right?

Still, I think at least some comparisons are worthwhile for this review – one of which being the MA vs R rating.

Another is the tone, far more comedic at times.

The Ninja Scroll series has significantly slower pacing too, as its straight-forward quest storyline is stretched to fit into the monster-of-the-week format (a format that I usually love).

Despite what probably sounds like a long list of grievances here, I enjoyed individual episodes enough to overlook the at-times stark differences between series and film, such as the Shelter from the Rain and A Dragon Within eps.

It was interesting also how bold this one is, with more exaggerated character design and the use of brighter colours; the series does ensure that it’s distinct from the film. However, in terms of storyline, in a way, the anime seems only generally concerned with the main quest its characters are on, and the supporting cast has limited impact on plot or theme, leaving the heavy-lifting to Jubei.

(Well, aside from Shigure, but she’s sort of ‘tagging along’ in her own story, sadly).

Further, while the design of a lot of the creatures and enemies were usually pretty interesting, during a lot of their scenes, I found myself keen get back to the main quest.  

In that respect, the last two episodes were among my favs, since the team got to the lost shrine/city at last and kicked the magical aspect up a few notches at the same time. (There were also a few fun surprises toward the end, a nice escalation of stakes also).

However, I’m not sure I’d recommend Ninja Scroll to everyone, but if you love supernatural ninja stories there’s going to be at least a few elements you’ll enjoy. In addition, I liked the OP a lot!

3 Stars

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood (2021)

Coming to the series cold, the connection to the game Dota 2 had no positive or negative impact for me – it was just a fact about the anime, and so I enjoyed having no preconceptions going in.

I know that animation produced by non-Japanese studios can get some flak from the community but I don’t really care – DOTA Dragon’s Blood looks great and it was a lot of fun to watch a fantasy/action animation with all the classic creatures.

Plenty of humour, plenty of really ace action-sequences and even the fan-service tended to actually make sense here. There was also lots of lovely imagery and striking use of colour to further keep me watching and without spoilers, the story probably isn’t full of curve-balls but it’s satisfying.

I have a few fav characters from the large(ish) cast, but Marci is a stand out – I also don’t recall dozens of mute characters appearing in other animated works I’ve seen, so that was really interesting. (There were even Australian voice actors too, which is another rare thing).

Toward the end, I will say that it seemed that the pacing picked up a little too much. Important events outpaced the running time, and once again, it felt like modern production choices (esp those favoured by Netflix) meant the team at Studio Mir had to squeeze in a 13-episode portion of a big story into an 8-episode run.

Maybe that was just my impression?

But with more episodes on the way, I’m definitely tuning in whenever more of the story is ready.

4 Stars

Back Arrow (Bakku Arō)

Back Arrow is bursting at the seams with exuberance and I enjoyed that a lot.

Back Arrow (Bakku Arō) 2021

For me, it’s wildly over the top and dead sincere at the same time, leaping between those two contrasting extremes. In that way I guess you could say that there’s a mix of aspects from shows like TTGL and Gun x Sword, among others.

A while back, Lita and I did a ‘first reactions‘ kinda collab and I’m happy to say my response to the show remained quite favourable indeed.

Now, in other reviews I’ve definitely criticised stuff that hops between extremes (or wildly contrasting tones) but obviously I don’t always have a problem with it. I thought Back Arrow shifted in such a way that I was expecting things to be a bit off-the-wall from the beginning, and so it didn’t bother me.

All the shounen tropes and clichés (and bizarre humour) are out in full force in Back Arrow (the choir! the wine bottles!), declarations shouted with clenched fists, escalating battles and a huge finish.

It was hard to believe in a way, but as the last few episodes unveiled new and more gigantic surprises in terms of that escalation, I was swept up in the sense of fun – all the amps go up to 11 here.

In terms of fav characters, Shu stands out for me, since he forges his own path, though I will say that his key betrayal actually seems poorly handled in respect to another character, considering the supposed importance of a certain flashback. That’s probably pretty vague if you haven’t seen Back Arrow but I was hoping to avoid spoilers.

So I’ve written a few paragraphs now without mentioning the plot but it includes some of the big stakes I’m looking for: save the world and know thyself, along with a big enough cast that a few folks get to live out different aspects of each.

I can see how this show might fail to meet the needs of some audiences – some of the key anime that Back Arrow is channelling across its 24 episodes were now released generations ago.

And to be honest, there is a strangely childish part of me that really enjoys the fact that Back Arrow seems to be almost a cult show already.

That’s actually a bad thing, though – I want Back Arrow to be more popular so that more shows like it get made.

4 Stars

Heaven Official’s Blessing (Tiān Guān Cì Fú)

I tend to be a little disappointed in romance anime that hold back on the developing the relationship onscreen – especially when it comes to homosexual relationships, but that’s probably not always fair.

Heaven Official’s Blessing (Tiān Guān Cì Fú) 2020

And I say ‘not fair’ not in terms of a discussion between chaste vs lewd content, but more a case that I wish the industry would treat the relationships of gay characters the same as heterosexual ones, though it feels like that’s changing slowly. 

Having said that, I think I should also add – I hope things continue to change in so long as it’s safe for the creators, that is. (Obviously, country of production has an impact).

But until things change, there’s still somewhat sweet shows like Heaven Official’s Blessing, based on the novel by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu and animated by Haoliners Animation League. I hadn’t seen many works from China at all, but this looks fantastic, with whimsical and menacing settings, fluid action and memorable leads.

Heaven Official’s Blessing feels like a balanced mix between supernatural action and almost cute romance, (with lead Xie Lian even taking on the clumsy ‘damsel’ role at times) and I enjoyed the mythological aspects as much as the character interplay across the 13 episodes, and I’m definitely hoping there’s another season one day.

I saw HOB on the soon to be defunct Animelab, and while the subtitles were far too small for my eyes, I’m glad they were there because without them I would not have been able to watch the show at all. (There were mythological elements and context that I missed too, especially those last few episodes I suspect).


The ending to episode 12 kinda demanded an OVA or a ‘special’ because while it wrapped the action plot, the relationship between Xie Lian and San Lang needed more screen time, which did happen with #13 thankfully.

Definitely recommended for fans of the above-mentioned genres.

4 Stars

Ni no Kuni Review [Collaboration with Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews]

Greetings! It’s collaboration time again, in this one Curtis from Iridium Eye Reviews and I are going to chat about 2019 portal fantasy Ni no Kuni – a film we both enjoyed without being blown away, perhaps.

(You can see one of our previous reviews in Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers right here) Before we start, I have to say thanks to Curtis for some pretty impressive patience on this one, as it took me a bit longer than I’d hoped to get everything together 😀

Ashley: To kick things off I wanted to ask if you came to the film sort of ‘cold’ or whether you’d had a chance to play any games from the Ni No Kuni franchise? 

For me, I played Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2011) and was excited that Studio Ghibli did the cut scenes in that game, and so I went into the film expecting a certain aesthetic (which I definitely got, and really enjoyed). Having that little bit of background also took care of some world-building for me as a viewer too. I wondered if your first impressions of the film were influenced by the franchise or whether you had a more ‘clean slate’ viewing experience?

Ospreyshire/Curtis : I came into this movie cold. I have never played any of the games. All I knew was that Ghibli helped out in animating the game series, but that was pretty much it.

That’s cool with you having experience in playing this game. Studio Ghibli helping with a video game series is really cool as their skills could help a video game with the aesthetics as well as that animation company expanding their horizons in using their skills. This was purely a clean slate experience in going into this movie blind. As someone who has never played a game nor knowing anything about the world-building or exposition, I did feel like I was learning about the world much like the main characters.

I thought Ghibli was involved in the Ni no Kuni movie perhaps in a co-production or consulting role, but I was shocked to find out that OLM of all companies animated this film adaptation. Could’ve fooled me because it could pass as a Ghibli work (especially with the art, character designs, and Joe Hisaishi handling the music) instead of the same studio responsible for Gunsmith Cats, Yo-Kai Watch, and several installments of Pokemon of all things.

A: Wow, Gunsmith Cats and Ni no Kuni is a contrast 🙂

I feel the same, especially with Joe Hisaishi involved, yeah – it definitely feels like a Ghibli production in many ways, perhaps an industry they could have expanded even further into?

Here’s one of my fav questions – what jumped out for you in Ni no Kuni?

O: I know, right? I would’ve never guessed in a million years that they would’ve animated both.

I thought it was a Ghibli project going in with Joe Hisaishi and the character designs. This isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling watching some anime projects this year. Maybe they could’ve expanded especially since they haven’t done that much in the late 2010s.

The animation and having a more mature story compared to most Ghibli works were interesting. Okay, I know this would still count as an isekai work, but it wasn’t a boring example of that genre. I legitimately wanted to know more about the world and the connections between there and earth. The alliances shifting in the second half did feel a bit intriguing.

A: I felt the same re: the changing alliances and the far less typical approach to the isekai formula.

I was interested in the way that the characters were tied to their world of origin, that vital storytelling notion of ‘cost’. An action taken by the characters has a consequence and I liked how the film resolved those issues.


O: Of course. I didn’t feel like I was watching some by-the-numbers Isekai work and there were some twists that I didn’t expect with the world building or how the characters were able to travel between worlds. It did keep me interested with the entire movie and as someone who didn’t play the games, I didn’t feel lost in any way. I thought the damsel in distress aspect did get avoided with the whole story not being about healing the princess. Even though that plot point did get awkward watching it in current times for obvious reasons, I didn’t think it was hampered by the modern world as much as let’s say (got to be brutally honest even though you know my thoughts on this) Weathering With You for example.

From an animation standpoint, this was one of the better OLM works especially if I legitimately thought it was a Ghibli movie. The animation flowed very well and the fight scenes had the right amount of fluidity to them. It felt like a movie and never felt like they were cutting corners here like they’ve done in previous works even on their best days.

A: Me too – I hadn’t put it together with all their Pokemon work say, but like you mention, the battles looked great and the buildings and cityscapes caught my eye, the sense of movement within or things like the horse charge Haru leads too.

I was a little surprised that it didn’t seem too well-received, many of the criticisms landing on it not delivering anything new. I don’t feel that originality is the most important metric out there.

For me, the film worked in part because it was familiar in terms of settings and tropes, and whatever elements were predictable in the plot didn’t bother me. I wanted to be satisfied more than surprised and while the visuals were beautiful and I was engaged with the characters (especially Yu) I was happy to go along with events.

Maybe there were exposition-heavy moments to drag things down a little but in the end I was probably most forgiving because I was keen to see how Yu and Haru’s friendship would withstand the tests it faces. It felt classic to me 🙂


O: There was certainly a ton of effort with the animation even with the little things shown in this movie.

Really? I’ve been doing my best to not look at other reviews for most of the things I watch unless it’s something I’ve previously seen before, but I wasn’t aware of the overall consensus. Ni no Kuni isn’t the most original anime which I do agree with, but it wasn’t a horrible watch nor did I feel like it was trying to copy others or coast on the Ghibli-affiliation with the video games even if I was mistaken thinking the studio animated the movie.

I certainly do my best to give my flowers when movies and series do something innovative, but there are times where the familiar can work. This wasn’t some avant-garde work, but it certainly wasn’t some genre-by-numbers dreck. I wanted to know who this was going to play out and how they’re able to go to different worlds or how Yu is able to use his abilities.

I agree the exposition got a bit much at times and the friendship between the characters had fascinating contrasts and good development as they’re both conflicted during the final act.

A: Sometimes after I’ve seen something I’ll try to seek (as best I can) a general consensus about how a film or show has been received and I very much find doing so to be a a double-edged sword 🙂

When I’m lucky I get some new insights or I pick up something I missed, but that doesn’t always happen. This time I was curious to see if people were writing about the movie in regard to disability representation. I don’t know how often Ni no Kuni got it ‘right’ when it came to portraying someone in a wheelchair, but I definitely had the sense that Yu was given proper thought and attention, especially in the earth-based scenes.

When I think about something the film didn’t deliver so well perhaps, one thing that comes to mind is maybe the Black Hooded Man, who seems a little inconsistent – or perhaps even constrained by the plot too easily (trying not to spoil certain plot points :D).

Did anything in particular strike you as a weak point? 

O: I’ve done that sometimes and it occasionally factors into my reviews. There were a few times (can’t remember which posts at the moment) where I mention the consensus and I compare/contrast with my thoughts against the masses…or at the very least Rotten Tomatoes and/or Metacritic.

You bring up an excellent point. You don’t see that many physically disabled characters in animated works. The only ones I can think of in the context of being wheelchair-bound are Pelswick, Prof. Xavier from the X-Men, and Garrett from Extreme Ghostbusters. I don’t know if I’m the most qualified person to talk about this issue, but from what I saw, Yu was a character who happens to be in a wheelchair instead of a wheelchair-using character. That makes a huge difference in the presentation. Sure, he’s clearly seen using it in the earth scenes, but his personality goes beyond that in both realms, so I do applaud that. I do wonder if Ni No Kuni would get attention from disability activists in portraying a character in that light.

Yeah, the Black Hooded Man came out of nowhere and didn’t have as much development. As I’m also trying to avoid spoilers, I did figure out his true identity by looking at the right signs. They did throw a decoy with that mystery, but I still figured it out even if it wasn’t exactly how I planned it. I could also mention how the revelation does play up a certain cliche with specific occupations, but I don’t want to give away the twist.

Outside of that issue, I did think some of the background characters didn’t get much development. It’s even more glaring in the fantasy world with so many characters of different colors, shapes, sizes, forms, and species around. Even if some had personalities, they were mainly there to show how different it is compared to earth.

One scene that I thought was very awkward was early on where those healers were trying to cure that disease by dancing or singing. Not only did it feel a bit random even if it made sense with the plot at that time, but am I the only person who thought the attire and presentation was a bit racially coded? If they were analogs of those in the East Indian or Middle Eastern communities (granted, the “earth” parallels aren’t bound by this [spoilers minimized]), then the creators should have re-thought things. I’m not saying it’s as bad as the crows in Dumbo or Mr. Popo from Dragon Ball Z for example, but that did make me raise an eyebrow there. Despite some of my issues with the more mainstream Ghibli movies where Hayao Miyazaki would be in the director’s chair, at least he would’ve really gone in detail with the world-building and have a sense of wonder. Ni no Kuni doesn’t feel like a typical Isekai work despite the obvious tropes, but they could’ve done better to stand out more. Those were a few flaws that came to mind. How about you?

A: I know what you mean about the twist and reveal there, I felt the same re: being confident that I knew who but not why precisely.

Those are good points that I’d missed, yeah. Nothing new comes to mind now that I think about it… maybe a touch more on the old man, who is probably meant to be Oliver from the game. On the other hand, maybe it’s more fun to leave open a hint of doubt!

O: Glad I’m not alone in noticing that. Sure, how it played out was a good twist, but the result was quite obvious for me.

Thanks. As someone who wasn’t familiar with the original video games, I will say that it was a decent entry into that series and I’ve certainly seen far worse examples of video game adaptations in film or TV series, so Ni no Kuni has that going for it. This not-Ghibli movie was fine, but certainly not a masterpiece in my opinion. Thanks for collaborating with me again! It’s always a pleasure having someone to team up with to review some anime.

A: My pleasure! (Am already thinking about another collab for the future :D)

Adjustable points:

Pros/add

-Add 1 point if you like classic hero stories
-Add 1-2 points if you’re a fan of fantasy anime.

Cons/subtract

-Subtract 1 point if you need a truly memorable villain
-Subtract 1-2 points if you’re not into isekai plots.

Score:
3.5 out of 5 (Ashley/The Review Heap)
3.5 out of 5 (Ospreyshire/Curtis)

Murder Princess (Mādā Purinsesu)

Get ready for fantasy, sci-fi, political intrigue, romance, action, comedy and prominent use of the body swap trope, if you decide to take a look at Murder Princess.

Maybe that seems like bit much for one text – but I definitely liked the mix and thought this was a fun OVA. It’s not the shortest one out there, and it does tell a complete story across only 6 episodes too.

The series was released in 2007 and animated by Bee Train during their heyday and I don’t remember having many complaints re: the visuals or direction, though you won’t see the super-dynamic camera-work common to modern action anime.

As per the title, you can expect regular violence over the course of the betrayal of Princess Alita’s kingdom and her subsequent struggle for vengeance.

She manages to recruit some interesting folks and while there are a lot of familiar story-beats along the way, I was hooked by the body swap aspect which brought in a few fun ‘fish out of water’ moments.

However, one thing I did wish had been given some extra screen time was both Falis and Alita coming to terms with the switch, as it does play second fiddle to the action.

As an example, I imagine it would be pretty disconcerting to look at someone else and see your own face, see ‘you’ doing things from the outside, yet both leads adjust a bit too quickly perhaps.

Obviously it wasn’t a huge problem for me, but I do wonder whether the manga does more with that aspect?

Even though the star rating will probably seem a bit low, I still enjoyed Murder Princess – in particular Romi Park* as Falis, and remember the ED as standing out.

As I said before, this anime did leave me curious about the manga – and so maybe one day I’ll seek it out.

3.5 Stars

*Took me a moment to recognise her as the voice of Edward Elric, actually.

The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume)

The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume) 2008

This (loose?) adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo’s ‘Kogoro Akechi’ detective stories really becomes two different shows for me, with the first third being far superior. Not that the last half or ending is poor, but the focus becomes a bit muddled I reckon.

But is any of it outright ‘bad’? Not at all.

And I think if you like adventure stories and heists, then The Daughter of Twenty Faces should do the trick. (It also has plenty of daring escapes and fun action sequences from late 2000s-era Bones too.)

Thinking back, I remember that the first episode almost had me give up on the show – I won’t spoil why, but pay-off is worthwhile, I reckon.

In fact, the anime throws out a few twists and turns as you follow the clever Chizuko through the post-war Shōwa era on her quest to find the truth about the mysterious benefactor who operates as something of a surrogate father.

Twenty Faces and his crew, especially Ken, stand out as co-leads/supporting characters (and so does Tome, perfectly demonstrating heroism without brawn) and as much as I enjoyed the surprises and larger scope of the story, I’ll probably watch this again one day for the characters themselves.

[Spoilers below]

When it comes to a few things that stand out as disappointing, I will say that the decision to simply do away with almost the entire cast after about episode 6… well, I’m still of two minds about it.

Clearly, it works wonderfully to force Chiko to become more independent but it seemed also a way to place her into a generic school setting, to make sure certain manga arcs could be animated?

It really slashed into the tension and introduced tangents that weren’t as interesting to me as the main storyline.

My subtitles were a little hit-and-miss too, so I didn’t quite pick up on the full dialogue toward the final few episodes, but one day a re-issue might sort that out 😀

Despite my grumbling about those issues, I liked The Daughter of Twenty Faces due to the characters and the storytelling, and still find myself wondering how it was received ‘all the way’ back in 2008.

4 Stars