Juuou Mujin no Fafnir? (Whimsical Weekend #10)

Still technically a weekend because I haven’t had work since Friday 

Juuou Mujin no Fafnir (alternatively known as Unlimited Fafnir, henceforth referred to simply as Fafnir) is a fantasy harem light novel series written by Tsukasa (ツカサ) and adapted into an anime for the winter 2015 season. I have already talked about the anime once before, but because I am currently reading through the light novel and have also rewatched the anime, I decided that I would go back and provide further detail, be it through rephrasing or adding on to what has already been said.

Back when the anime started airing, I was the type of guy who could (and would) chase breezes when it comes to anime series; I would pay no heed to clichés or minor animation faults or anything like that. Even though I had already watched Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance, which is very similar in terms of execution (in the beginning if nothing else), I somehow decided that Fafnir was worth my attention. That, plainly and simply, was how I got into it.

The lore of Fafnir is centered around gargantuan beasts known as dragons (which are not quite comparable to the types of dragons normally depicted in mythical stories) and humans with dragon marks who are sometimes sought to become mates of the dragons (i.e., transformed into dragons themselves). The humans with dragon marks, who are also characterized by their ability to generate dark matter (a substance that can be molded into a different material by the user’s imagination), are called ‘D’s (with no connection to male genitalia, mind you), and the main character, Yuu Mononobe, happens to be the only male who fits this criterion. Initially a part of NIFL, a military organization meant for dealing with dragon disasters, he starts off having been transferred to Midgard, an island meant for housing an educational institute for ‘D’s, and becomes acquainted with the other ‘D’s who are all female. In particular, Yuu is assigned to the Brynhildr Class and becomes comrades with:

  • Mitsuki Mononobe, his foster sister
  • Iris Freyja, the first person whom he met on Midgard
  • Lisa Highwalker, a blonde tsundere who initially disapproves of him
  • Firill Crest, a (mostly) emotionless avid reader
  • Ariella Lu, a brown-haired tomboy
  • Ren Miyazawa, a red-haired laptop girl of few words
  • Tia Lightning, a transfer student (introduced later in the series) who starts off under the impression that she is a dragon and his wife (she is called Tear in some translations, but I prefer the name Tia because it’s more of a real name (I’ve never heard of “Tear” being a name outside of fiction) and, as mentioned in the light novel, is short for Tiamat (which is dragon-related))

However, Yuu finds himself different from the other ‘D’s not only in his gender, but also in his combat experience. While ‘D’s are usually trained for dealing with dragons, Yuu is initially only experienced in man-to-man combat. Fortunately, Yuu has a dragon living inside him (“Green” Yggdrasil) that provides weaponry for the destruction of other dragons in exchange for his memories. It does get the job done, but with the drawback of hindering his relationship with Mitsuki.

Throughout the story, it is made clear that decisions are to be made when a dragon attacks. The best case scenario would be to eliminate the dragon, but such is much easier said than done. Because dragons are such threats, the characters are occasionally stuck contemplating between two options: (1) killing the ‘D’ whose mark has changed color, or (2) letting that ‘D’ transform into a copy of the dragon in question. They obviously stand and fight to the end, but they always take care to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Anyway, I’d say that about covers it for basic plot elements. So, I mentioned how I got into the series, and the next step would be to talk about how it has managed to keep my attention for so long. The way I was the first time I watched through the anime, it was not hard for a series like this to do such a thing. However, a less common phenomenon is for such a series to leave a legacy even after I finish watching the anime. I would say that this series is nothing special…that is, if not for the existence of one particular character: Kili Surtr Muspelheim. Yes, she is the one depicted in the third panel of the image at the beginning of this post.

Kili starts off as a terrorist responsible for the death of Tia’s parents and the creation of Tia’s two horns, and she appears to Lisa (and is soon encountered by Yuu) in an attempt to kidnap Tia and force her to live as a dragon. In spite of her villainy, however, she is surprisingly attractive (especially with that long black hair), voiced wonderfully by Marina Inoue (who also voices Yozora in Haganai), and has some amazing super powers centered around the conversion of dark matter into thermal energy.

Through her mind alone, Kili can create fire and explosive dark matter, and she can melt material such as bullets and guns. She was confronted at one point by a direct attack from Lisa, but she deflected it as if it were nothing. As if that wasn’t enough, she is capable of biogenic transmutation, which allows her to take on any appearance she pleases, notably that of her mild-mannered alter ego [Honoka Tachikawa] (who actually becomes friends with Yuu [and, in the anime, the rest of the Brynhildr Class] before revealing her true identity), and even to heal her own wounds (a quirk that is sadly not seen in the anime). She can also do this biogenic transmutation to other people, which is how Tia got her horns. How is this all possible? In volume 4 of the light novel, it is explained [that she is made of dark matter]. (See those brackets? They indicate spoilers. Highlight the white text within at your own risk.)

So…yeah. The first five episodes of Fafnir were not all that interesting, but then when Kili made her first major appearance in the second half of episode 6, I was left thinking something along the lines of, “Wow…what an amazing character,” and then I became more invested in the anime as I continued watching (hence the image at the beginning of this post). The time between her disappearance at the beginning of episode 7 and the unveiling of her disguise at the end of episode 11 made me increasingly anxious as it passed by, but the finale was well worth it. Her final fight with Yuu made her seem like a pushover (especially considering how close she was to having her way in episode 6), but…well, that’s to be expected. I mean, the battle couldn’t be dragged out any longer because there were still some loose ends to tie up, especially the attack on “Red” Basilisk and the aftermath thereof. I mean, I will admit that it’s a bit disappointing, but hey, that’s just the way it is.

Primary thoughts on the anime as a whole:

  • The story was decent. I particularly liked how the conclusion played out and how the characters were affected.
  • While the nomenclature of ‘D’s is questionable and might turn off some (if not most) critics, I wasn’t the type to care about that sort of thing, and I’m still not.
  • I had no strong feelings about the music or visuals. The theme songs were meh.
  • The characters as a whole were…above average, I’d say. Tia was bleh, Iris was meh, Loki (NIFL representative, formerly Yuu’s commanding officer) and Lisa were okay, Charlotte (the principal of Midgard) was good, Firill and Mitsuki were decent, Yuu was great, Kili was awesome, and everyone else was darn near forgettable (although Ren stood out the most amongst the forgettable characters).

Needless to say, since the first time watching, Kili gradually ended up becoming one of my favorite anime characters of all time. As such, when I was reading through the Mondaiji light novel, I figured that Fafnir would be next on the list, especially since I had read some dissonant information on a certain character profile of Kili. I did mention that the Fafnir anime is an adaptation of the light novel, and it’s specifically based on the first three volumes, although with a few notable differences. There is also a manga adaptation of the light novel, although from what I’ve read of the manga (i.e., only a few chapters), it seems to follow the light novel more closely than the anime.

To summarize the light novel a bit, it’s a story told mostly from the first-person perspective of Yuu, although some parts are from the perspective of Mitsuki, and there are even a few third-person parts as well. As such, not only does the light novel explain and describe more than can be fit into twelve episodes of anime, but the first-person aspect of the light novel makes it so the character’s thoughts and senses are more vividly communicated. Additionally, as mentioned before, volumes 1-3 of the light novel differ in canon from the anime, not to mention the light novel canon carries on much longer (and, consequently, goes further beyond face value).

The main difference in canon lies in how Kili impacts the Brynhildr Class and is kept in check by Yuu. Specifically, Kili, who is initially taken into Midgard as her alter ego, reveals her true identity in the middle of volume 2 of the light novel, which corresponds to the middle of episode 6 of the anime. In the anime, however, she doesn’t reveal her identity until the end of episode 11, which would be more around the middle of volume 3 of the light novel. To elaborate, it’s almost as if the close encounter with Kili in the light novel was split into two moments in the anime: the encounter at Midgard where she appeared to Tia and Lisa as her criminal self, and the encounter on that one ship where she posed as her alter ego and unveiled her disguise. I say “almost” because the anime doesn’t perfectly simulate Kili’s battle tactics as described in the light novel. In particular, the light novel implies that Kili does not require any preparatory motion to generate dark matter and such; but in the anime, the explosions caused by her are heralded by a snap of her fingers. I would assume that this is partly for dramatic effect, and partly because implementing spontaneous combustion would look silly and be tough to find a way to explain. Even aside from that, the clash in the light novel is so much more fierce than the split clashes in the anime that I would go as far as to say that the split clashes collectively are an abridged version of the full clash. (Another case of the “light novel adaptation curse,” as I would like to call it.)

[As a side note, I mentioned in my primary review that I had trouble wrapping my head around the dual identity of Honoka Tachikawa and Kili Surtr Muspelheim, because the anime was rather vague about it. Having read the light novel, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that…well, actually, both are fake names. She needed a normal-sounding name to infiltrate Midgard, and she gave her havoc-wreaking form a more sinister moniker. Well, that’s how I see it, because the light novel is pretty vague about it as well, albeit less so. (Just before the full clash, Kili said that the name “Kili Surtr Muspelheim” was randomly chosen, and I’m thinking “Honoka Tachikawa” is in the same boat. She also said she liked the latter name, but Yuu refused to call her by that name when she revealed her identity, so she stuck with the former name.)] (Sorry, just had to belt out a lengthy spoiler. Once again, highlight at your own risk.)

Also worth noting is that during the Basilisk arc, when the Brynhildr Class relaxes at a hot spring, only Firill sees Yuu there in the anime, whereas in the light novel, Tia is involved as well. Oh, and I’d like to point out that Ren actually says more in the anime than in volumes 1-3 of the light novel (which makes sense, considering her only form of verbal communication in the light novel is “んん” (“Nn,” basically just a grunt) until volume 6, and the anime doesn’t go nearly that far). Wait, one more thing: Kili has purple eyes in the anime, while colored depictions of her in the light novel show her with green eyes.

As for volumes 4 and onward, needless to say, there is plenty of new content compared to volumes 1-3 / the anime: new dragons, new characters, new plot twists, new character development, new camaraderie, new lore, and did I mention the plot twists? What’s particularly great is being able to see the characters in a new light, even in such a way that I ended up convinced that all of them are awesome in their own right (even Iris and Tia, of whom I was not a huge fan when I watched the anime). With that in mind, I wanted to establish a new character ranking of the Brynhildr Class, including the four characters who are newly inducted as members thereof. (I won’t spoil any further than that Kili is one of those characters, so the other three will be hidden through the magic of white text.)

  1. Kili
  2. Ren
  3. [Vritra (given the pseudonym “Ritra”)]
  4. Yuu
  5. Ariella
  6. Firill
  7. Mitsuki
  8. [Shion Zwei Shinomiya (Kraken Zwei subdued)]
  9. Tia
  10. [Jeanne Hortensia (enrolled as Shion’s guardian)]
  11. Lisa
  12. Iris

With all that said, I think it’s time to wrap things up. To recap, Juuou Mujin no Fafnir is a fantasy harem series that I undoubtedly would not have found all too interesting if not for Kili Surtr Muspelheim. But alas, after having fully watched the anime when it aired, I got interested to the point of reading the first 12 volumes of the light novel and even rewatching the anime. Speaking of which, over the course of the rewatch, I have to admit that I noticed some animation faults that my former self didn’t care about: Firill mysteriously disappearing in episode 7, Lisa occasionally having Iris’s hair color when shown at a distance, and that Basilisk’s head skin looks like an unfinished Blender project.

But anyway, if this series is unfamiliar to anyone, I can totally understand that, because on the surface it totally looks like the type of series to be lost in a sea of fantasy harem series. I also wouldn’t openly recommend the series to anyone, but if anyone is somehow interested, all I have to say is:

 

 À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

2016 anime retrospective (Whimsical Weekend #7)

Nowi Wins Happy new year! Farewell 2016, hello 2017!

Well, that’s what I would say, but when it comes to the new year, I can’t help but to reflect upon the old year. After all, reviews are more fitting for past happenings than for future happenings, right?

2016 has been a whimsical year as a whole—what with a dead gorilla becoming an Internet sensation, the crowning of a new 602 champion (Vallu111), and Donald Trump becoming president (just to name a few things)—and the anime aired throughout the year is arguably proof of that. This post will cover the anime that I have watched this year, as well as that which I didn’t watch before but might consider watching in the near future (excluding sequels, as usual). Along with giving a brief synopsis of each anime, I will mention some pros and cons thereof. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Winter

Musaigen no Phantom World

The Phantom World is a place where, simply put, illusion becomes reality. Workable premise for a fantasy story, right? It’s the sort of anime that alludes to real-life brain teasers while remaining faithful to the popular genre of fantasy. The trivia-dropping Haruhiko Ichijou, his fairy companion Ruru, the tomboyish but busty Mai Kawakami, the cute glutton Reina Izumi, the antisocial music lover Koito Minase, and the bear-loving child Kurumi Kumamakura band together to fight off rogue illusions that interfere with their daily lives and those of others.

+: Interesting concept
+: Likable characters (particularly Koito)
-: Not too stellar as a whole
-: Kurumi’s voice is annoying

Dagashi Kashi

Kokonotsu Shikada is an aspiring manga artist whose family runs a sweets shop in the countryside. Things are difficult for him because Hotaru Shidare, the representative of a sweets manufacturing company, wants to bring Kokonotsu’s father into her company, which would mean that Kokonotsu would have to run the shop all on his own. Kokonotsu, more interested in manga than the shop in question, is in adamant opposition of the idea, but circumstances threaten to change his mind. Oh, and his childhood friends, Tou and Saya Endou, get involved from time to time.

+: Odd but somehow mesmerizing art style
+: Comedic
+: Involves trivia centered around sweets
-: The way they sexualize Hotaru is…eh

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo

Shut-in Kazuma Satou dies a laughable death and is invited by the “goddess” Aqua to an RPG-like world to which he is allowed to take any one thing…and he chooses Aqua. So, this fledgeling shut-in and demoted goddess are stuck in the world to make a living and get stronger in hopes of defeating the demon king. On the way, they meet the explosion-obsessed chuunibyou arch wizard Megumin and the masochistic blonde crusader known as Darkness, and a stalwart(?) party of four is formed.

Say, the second season of this anime is airing really soon!

+: Parallel world fantasy
+: Comedic (more so than Dagashi Kashi, I would argue)
-: Art style
-: Outfits of the quest giver (Luna) and Aqua…what’s up with that exposure?

Spring

Uchuu Patrol Luluco

Each episode is only 7 minutes in length, and the content is so wacky that a simple description wouldn’t do justice for it. I’ll try, though: Luluco is a girl who just wants to live a normal life, but she becomes part of some space patrol and…um…becomes able to transform into a gun to fight baddies. Also, there’s light romance involved.

+: Short and sweet
+: So wacky it’s funny
+: Midori’s voice
-: So wacky it’s confusing

Gyakuten Saiban: Sono “Shinjitsu”, Igi Ari!

Based on the Ace Attorney video game series (a.k.a. “Gyakuten Saiban”) centered around the budding lawyer Phoenix Wright (Naruhodo Ryuuichi) and his life journey to serve justice where it is needed…but of course, not without assistance from the Fey (Ayasato) sisters.

+: Nice refresher/storyteller for those not overly familiar with the series (like me)
-: The art style is a little…uncanny

Boku no Hero Academia

80% of the population is born with “quirks,” a pet term for super powers. Izuku Midoriya is part of the other 20%, but his obsession with heroes leads him to enroll into UA, a prestigious university for only the best of the best heroes. Although he is looked down upon (particularly by Bakugo) for such high aspirations, he has a fortunate encounter with All Might (a famous hero and his idol), who is secretly deteriorating and in need of a successor. As a result, Izuku trains hard to prove his worth as such a successor, and he eventually earns a fragment of All Might’s power. However, one other issue arises: being able to harness the power while not placing too much strain on his child-like body.

Say, this anime is also getting a second season soon, although not as soon as that of KonoSuba.

+: So many interesting super powers
+: Action-packed
+: Tsuyu Asui: such a cute little character!

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Another story about a shut-in who dies and is taken to a parallel world, except this story is more morbid. This shut-in, Subaru Natsuki, falls in love with Emilia, a denizen of the parallel world, and darn near literally puts himself through hell primarily for her sake. He looks useless on the outside, and this much is reiterated throughout the first few episodes, but his curse—which not only revives him after death, but also makes it so that mentioning the curse causes some sort of witch to make direct contact with him—allows him to gain the upper hand in most situations.

Re:Zero is perhaps the most controversial anime of the year; some people (like me) loved it for what it was, while others disliked its jaded ending. Some people were bitter about episode 18 when Rem confessed her love to Subaru, who responded with “I love Emilia.” Although I can agree that Rem is superior to Emilia, I have to say that I am indifferent towards that moment because it’s plain as day that Subaru has always been after Emilia and no one else. Regardless, I prefer other characters of the series, namely Crusch and Felt.

+: So many amazing voices (particularly Beatrice (voiced by Satomi Arai!), Felt, Roswaal, Puck, and the Pearlbaton kids)
+: Such craziness going on, especially in the middle stages of the anime
+: Even if some would argue that it didn’t end well (and, moreover, ended contrary to light novel canon (or so I have heard)), at least it ended conclusively

Summer

New Game!

Cute girls work together in a game development company, particularly newcomer Aoba Suzukaze, energetic and busty Hajime Shinoda, self-conscious Yun Iijima, and taciturn Hifumi Takimoto. Aoba, the main character, becomes a character designer under the guidance of Kou Yagami, a name that she just so happens to recognize right off the bat…

+: As someone obsessed with games and the idea of game development, this anime is a great fit for me
+: Likable characters (particularly Hifumi and Umiko)
-: Nene Sakura has an annoying voice

Kimi no Na wa.

Through some phenomenon, small town girl Mitsuha Miyamizu and city boy Taki Tachibana (tried to find the words to say and somewhat accidentally ended up with a Journey reference) are affected with a condition that causes them to swap bodies every other day. As a result, they become a part of each other’s daily life without meeting each other, but then a compilation arises with the possibility of Mitsuha’s entire town being wiped out. The two hope that someday, somehow they will unite, no matter how much fate tempts to separate them (physically and psychologically).

This anime has been #1 on MyAnimeList for a while now, but I didn’t really get into it until my brother suggested that we watch it together. It’s great, though, trust me.

+: It’s a feature length film, therefore shorter and easier to get into than a regular series
+: Not all superheroes wear capes
+: So much mystery and craziness
+: A few comedic moments here and there
+: Has a sort of…romantic vibe, I guess?

Fall

Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume

Agari Kamiya has always been the top member of the table tennis club at her middle school…that is, until Koyori Tsumujikaze comes out of left field and knocks her off her high horse (but, y’know, in a way that warms her up). Before long, it seems more like the two share the top spot instead of competing for it. They are not the only ones to be focused on, however; four other capable players—including the temporarily retired captain who had just recovered from an injury—are with them in their competitions against other schools to rise to the top.

This is another series that didn’t interest me immediately; although I had watched Ping Pong the Animation (also introduced to me by my brother, who also piqued my interest in the sport as a whole) and enjoyed it, I was skeptical about the loli version. However, when my brother talked about it one day, I thought that I would give it a try in due time. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, but I have to say that I prefer Ping Pong the Animation.

+: Hokuto Itsumo and Kiruka Ushirode are particularly likable characters
+: Kururi Futamaru is voiced by Shiori Izawa
+: A few comedic moments (most of which poke fun at Mune Oomune)
-: Doki-doki (freaking Koyori)

Keijo!!!!!!!!

Keijo is a gambling sport wherein competitors are placed on a buoyant platform on water (known as a “Land”) and attempt to push each other off using only their butts and breasts. The competitors have their reasons for competing in such a crude sport, and that of Nozomi Kaminashi is…well, money. She had the opportunity to take up gymnastics, but she figured Keijo would be more profitable with its cash prizes. As a result of her interest in the sport, she ends up befriending Sayaka Miyata, Kazane Aoba, and Non Toyoguchi. The quartet, in spite of their initially low position, manage to quickly rise to the upper class with their own unique talents.

+: Perhaps it’s the sports aspect of the show that had me the most interested…
+: Likable characters (particularly Kazane, even though she always seems to lose by a hair)
+: Diverse body builds, not just slim figures (exhibit A: Nagisa Ujibe)
+: Rockin’ opening theme
o: It’s centered around the most sexualizing idea of a sport that can be shown on non-X-rated media
o: So many nonsensical moments
-: Also some not-so-likable characters, particularly Mio Kusakai
-: Plenty of manga canon was omitted in order to fit the pacing (particularly the untold dangers of the sport)
-: Is that enough exclamation marks for that title?

(I actually added some neutral points here because they are simultaneously notable and both positive and negative.)

Up for hindsight consideration

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar (winter)

I tried to watch an episode of this, but I got bored halfway through. That’s a pretty lame excuse to avoid getting into a series, though. It’s supposed to be an MMO virtual reality series like Log Horizon, so I might give it a second chance.

Mob Psycho 100 (summer)

Similarly to the previous, I only watched one episode of this (granted it was the whole episode, but that’s not much different). It’s by the creator of One Punch Man, which is probably the main source of the hype behind it, but two main points deterred me from it: the art style, and Arataka Reigen. Art style as a whole usually isn’t enough to turn me off (and I usually judge that from the cover, in spite of the age-old saying to not judge a book by its cover), but I didn’t really like Reigen’s personality, and that’s the main thing that prevented me from going beyond the first episode. Apparently, though, he is the most popular character of the series, so I was thinking perhaps I shouldn’t judge based on my preliminary thoughts on him, and instead…y’know, watch more than one episode.

Stella no Mahou (fall)

I don’t know why I never bothered with this. I mean, I had already watched New Game, and why should this series deserve any different treatment? I mean, I didn’t even try to watch it; I just avoided it entirely. What was I thinking, assuming that I wouldn’t be interested in two series with the same sort of premise? I mean, it’s not like it’s exactly the same, because I’ve heard based on the synopsis that the company in this series is a doujin company, which should make me all the more interested. (As a side note, the cover art is reminiscent of Love Lab.)

 

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Something about those Problem Children… (Whimsical Weekend #3)

smug-mondaiji-tachi

From left to right: Yō Kasukabe, Asuka Kudō, Izayoi Sakamaki. This trio of teenage troublemakers forms the essence of the light novel series Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? (which translates to “Problem children are coming from another world, aren’t they?”), or Mondaiji for short, by Tarō Tatsunoko. As the story goes, the problem children are blessed with godlike super powers known as Gifts. Specifically:

  • Yō’s Genome Tree allows her to communicate with animals and call upon the powers of those whom she has befriended.
  • Asuka’s Authority can be used to manipulate lower-level beings or to bring out the utmost potential of other Gifts.
  • Izayoi’s Code Unknown gives him super strength, which includes the ability to cancel other Gifts.

Consequently bored with their daily lives, the problem children receive an invitation to the world of Little Garden, which they naturally cast aside their own worlds to accept. Little Garden can be described as a haven of many convergent histories: past, present, and future; tangible and conceptual. For example, each of the three problem children is summoned from a different era: Asuka from the post-WWII era, Izayoi from a modern point in time, and Yō from the future; plus many residents of Little Garden are not merely human. Take for example the first one whom the trio meets: Kuro Usagi (Black Rabbit).

She is a human-like “moon rabbit” who, after requesting that the problem children be summoned, introduces them to Little Garden and tells them the ins and outs thereof. The central point of her introductory lecture is that being in possession of a Gift grants one the privilege of participating in Gift Games, which are more or less the law of Little Garden. The concept behind Gift Games is simple: a Host establishes an objective accompanied by a prize for the Player(s) who complete the objective. A Gift Game may or may not include conditions to affect how the Player(s) behave or what the Player(s) put on the line.

Another point of Kuro Usagi’s lecture is that it is required to be part of a Community…and of course she invites the problem children to her own Community. However, because the Community is in shambles as a result of a Demon Lord attack, her primary motive is to have the problem children use their top-tier Gifts to work towards reclaiming the name and flag of the Community. Although Izayoi figures out the ulterior motive, he fully accepts the invitation to the no-name Community, fixated on the idea of taking on other Demon Lords as they seek out the one who attacked their Community. (Asuka and Yō have no objections either.)

So, I guess that about covers the introductory plot points. Anyway, back on track with the problem children. They may have top-tier Gifts, but they like to cause trouble wherever they go, particularly by messing with Kuro Usagi (through which they respectively play boke and tsukkomi). In terms of personality, Izayoi is a forward type of guy who describes himself as “vulgar, brutal, and hedonistic”, Asuka is sassy, and Yō is the type to play along. All I’m saying is…everything about this trio is just awesome, and that’s primarily what leads me to adore the Mondaiji series as a whole.

Speaking of the series, the structure thereof is as follows: While the original light novel has 12 volumes, the manga adaptation has 18 chapters that cover the first two volumes, the spinoff manga (Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? Z) has 15 chapters, the anime adaptation has 10 episodes (also covering the first two volumes) plus an OVA (which does not cover any part of the light novel), and the sequel (Last Embryo) is currently at volume 3.

Honestly, it’s a shame that the anime, as short as it is, has no more than one season. Then again, there’s so much more content covered by the light novel, including stories of the past (particularly in volume 9 and the second half of volume 8), and I suppose the conclusion of the Pied Piper of Hamelin Gift Game is a better stopping point than any. If there were a second season, I imagine it would cover volumes 3-5, even though that’s a greater number of volumes than how many the initial season covers (because the Harvest Festival in Underwood, introduced in volume 3, does not conclude until volume 5). Then again, therein lies another issue: What about subsequent seasons? Volumes 6-12 cover a lot of content (although 1.5 volumes are stories of the past) and are chock-full of cliffhangers, so it would be tough to decide how to continue from a hypothetical second season. For that reason, at this point, I think a Last Embryo adaptation would be more likely than a second season of the Mondaiji anime, and also because the anime has gone so long without a second season that the sequel to the light novel is already in progress. I haven’t actually read Last Embryo (yet), but…yeah, that’s what I think. Sadly there still remains the possibility that the Mondaiji series won’t even get another anime adaptation, but…a man can dream.

So, how did I happen to stumble upon this series? Well, some time around mid to late 2013, when I really started getting into anime, I was part of an online community of Expert Guitar Hero players, and one had a profile picture looking kinda like this:

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-3-50-08-pm

…and so part of me was curious as to who this bunny girl might be. At some point, I stumbled upon the manga titled Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? Z thinking, “Wow, this is a long title. Let’s see what it’s about. Hey, I recognize that bunny girl! I wonder if there’s an anime of this…” Surely enough, there was. I watched it fully and also read the spinoff manga. My thoughts at first were: “Well, it’s pretty good. I’ll just leave it at that.” But then, some time late 2014, I decided to watch the anime again. Then it ended up becoming my favorite, and to this day it still is.

I mentioned that the problem children themselves are the primary reason; other reasons include the video that accompanies the ending theme song “To Be Continued”, the opening theme song “Black † White” to some extent, the voices of Izayoi and Shiroyasha (by Shintaro Asanuma and Satomi Arai respectively), the characters in general (Ratten is the only one I would say I even remotely dislike), the idea of a Community in shambles rising to reclaim their name and flag with the help of a particularly strong set of players, the reasonable level of fanservice (although the OVA takes it a little far), the deepness of the lore, and the thought and action involved in the Gift Games.

As for other parts of the series, I have not read the manga adaptation nor Last Embryo, but I have read the spinoff manga and light novel. Starting with the spinoff manga, I would say that it focuses more on the comedic aspect of the Mondaiji series, including the boke+tsukkomi moments shared by the problem children and Kuro Usagi, the tension between Pest and Shirayuki of Leticia’s maid squad (Shirayuki is the serpent whom Izayoi defeated near the beginning of the story for the water tree sapling, reduced to human form), and poking fun at some new characters as well (such as the butcher and the hamster).

As for the light novel, it extends beyond its adaptations not only in terms of content, but also in terms of descriptiveness. For that reason, I would consider any given adaptation naught more than a preview of the light novel…and the same goes for all light novel adaptations, really. That said, re-watching the anime after completing the entire light novel (and re-reading the spinoff manga) was a refreshing experience for me.

Also, to those who have seen the anime and not experienced the light novel, I would advise against skipping volumes 1 and 2; not only are the volumes more descriptive, but they contain afterwords from the author, and also a few story inconsistencies, including:

  • In the anime, Kuro Usagi challenges the problem children to an introductory Gift Game to accompany her explanation of Little Garden. This Gift Game does not happen in the light novel.
  • The female shop assistant, though a minor character regardless (insofar as she is never given an actual name), plays a more active role in the light novel.
  • In the light novel, Asuka summons Deen, a red iron giant bestowed unto her by the 130 spirits of Rattenfänger, from her Gift Card the second time she sees Ratten. At that point in the anime, she simply appears atop Deen’s shoulder.

There may be more that I haven’t mentioned, but if so, all the better.

But anyway, the light novel as a whole is really amazing, even though it’s very lore-heavy. I would have to say that my preferred volumes are 5 and 12. Volume 12 is an obvious preference because it’s natural to prefer newer content over older content (and some of the plot twists in that volume are mind-blowing), while volume 5, along with featuring the girls in swimsuits (which are more appealing than in the OVA), contains what I find to be the most comedic moment in the series: http://pastebin.com/7YPSa3nQ

So, well…that’s all I have to say about the Mondaiji series. I can declare with confidence that it is my favorite anime/manga/novel series, although I find difficulty in explaining the exact reason why, let alone recommending the series to others. I’ve stated most of my reasoning above, although the fact that it’s scattered among so many other words is an accurate depiction of how such reasoning lies within my thoughts. Perhaps there’s another way…?

Similar Anime

Ah, yes. Whether through inspiration or coincidence, it’s likely that any given form of media will somehow be similar to another. In that case, I wish to talk about some anime series that I have watched and find to be similar to Mondaiji, and also try to explain why I prefer Mondaiji.

No Game No Life (henceforth NGNL)

This is the most obviously similar anime series to Mondaiji, because the concept is just about the same: Gifted humans who are bored with their lives are invited to a world of fantasy in which games are law and humans are looked down upon. Also, Sora is strikingly similar in personality to Izayoi. However, as similar as the concept is for both series, there are still some differences: The character set as a whole is different; the world of NGNL is more based on fact and logic whereas that of Mondaiji is more based on myths and legends; the main duo of NGNL is inseparable while the main trio of Mondaiji just so happens to converge from different eras (consequently, the duo of NGNL has no evident difference in level, while the trio of Mondaiji starts off with Izayoi being the strongest (and the others don’t even come close until the later stages of the light novel)); the art style and music are evidently different; NGNL is more perverted; and NGNL contains references to otaku culture.

Although NGNL is evidently more popular than Mondaiji, I wholeheartedly prefer the latter. First off, I prefer the art style, the music, and most importantly the character set of Mondaiji. Speaking about the characters: Sora and Izayoi are very similar, but I feel like Izayoi is just cooler, specifically in terms of voice and capabilities. As for the other characters, none of the other NGNL characters really stands out to me (and Stephanie Dola in particular is kind of irritating), whereas Mondaiji has awesome characters in Yō, Shiroyasha, and to an admittedly lesser extent Asuka and Kuro Usagi. I will concede that the whole “fact and logic” aspect of NGNL makes the world and the main characters more relatable, but both series are works of fiction regardless, and so I shall lean towards the more fictitious. That’s just how I am.

One Punch Man (henceforth OPM)

Saitama has super strength just like Izayoi, and the other characters have their own quirks as well. That’s where the similarities end, I guess. Talking about differences, the world of OPM has a one-world structure, and the hierarchy is more individual-based than community-based; in OPM each hero is given their own rank based on heroic prowess, whereas in Mondaiji each Community can choose to reside on a certain level based on its overall prowess in Gift Games (or something like that). On that note, while Saitama is obviously the main character of OPM, Izayoi is more like one of a trio of main characters (i.e., the problem children). Heck, OPM and Mondaiji are completely different genres: super power parody and parallel world fantasy, respectively. (On another note, OPM is manga-based whereas Mondaiji is novel-based, and OPM is getting a second season soon.)

This comparison is a toughie. In regards to personal ranking, I would say that OPM is a close second to Mondaiji, and one reason is because Saitama is such a similar character to Izayoi: a guy with super strength who does what he does for fun. Saitama has his own fair share of quirks as well, particularly that he usually takes on a bland appearance like on the cover, but then his appearance changes when he gets serious, like this:

Regarding the music, I would say OPM has a better opening theme, but the ending theme…is not my type of song. What ultimately leads me to like Mondaiji better, though, is that OPM doesn’t quite have as stellar a set of side characters…although Genos and Mumen Rider are pretty cool. (Tatsumaki would be cool as well if she didn’t have such an annoying voice.)

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (henceforth KonoSuba)

10-episode (plus 1 OVA) light novel adaptations with long titles, parallel world fantasy genre, and quirky sets of four characters (three female and one male) aspiring to defeat a certain Demon Lord. As for differences: Kazuma is the only one of the four main characters known to originate from the real world (at least as far as the anime canon goes) and usually the one to play tsukkomi amongst the quartet; the characters of KonoSuba start off weak instead of strong (although Megumin isn’t so much weak as she is limited); KonoSuba actually has RPG themes and is (arguably) more perverted; and the art style is evidently different.

KonoSuba is a pretty good show, particularly in the comedic department, but if there’s anything that I would point out as bothersome, it would be the art style. It’s not so bad in the manga and light novel (though I’ve only seen covers of the light novel), but in the anime it’s…unsettling. On that note, it bugs me how Aqua’s butt and Luna’s (the quest giver’s) breasts are so ridiculously exposed in their regular outfits. Mondaiji, on the other hand, only has Ratten with that caliber of exposure. (I mean, Kuro Usagi and occasionally Asuka show some cleavage, but that’s not too bad.) Plus, it shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that I prefer the characters of Mondaiji over those of KonoSuba, and the only KonoSuba characters who can remotely contend are Megumin and, to a lesser extent, Kazuma. Also, to me, the opening and ending theme songs of KonoSuba are nothing special.

Conclusion

I’m not saying that Mondaiji is for everyone, because that would be a total lie; I’m just saying that Mondaiji is the series for me, and part of me is saying that the series gets less recognition than it deserves. I also don’t mean to imply that anyone who prefers any of the above three shows over Mondaiji is wrong, because most of the comparison factors that lead me to prefer Mondaiji are pure bias, and openly slandering opinions is uncool. I’m just saying: If anyone, preferably who has seen any or all of the above three shows, has not watched the Mondaiji anime yet, I would recommend giving it a try. If anyone has already given it a try, I would recommend waiting until about a year after the first time watching and giving it another try, because sometimes once is not enough (as was the case with me). However, if anyone has already done so and still does not enjoy the anime as I do, then so be it.

That’s all that I have to say. I hope this writing was enjoyable and/or informative; if not, I apologize.

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

My thoughts on Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 2nd season (Whimsical Weekend #1)

It’s been about two months since this anime finished airing, and a review of the second season has been on my mind for about that long, but I had a hard time bringing myself to do so. That said, now is the time to come clean about my thoughts.

Foreword

To start, I shall restate my thoughts on the first season. Gakusen Toshi Asterisk can simply be described as a sci-fi harem with some perverted elements. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for some of these perverted elements that I became interested in the first place…particularly the scene in the beginning where Ayato (the protagonist) accidentally sees Julis (the deuteragonist) changing. Then I was drawn into the lore and all that jazz about superpowers, rankings, six different schools, some tournament, and the mystery behind Ayato’s sister Haruka. Over the course of the anime, the one character that I really came to like was Saya Sasamiya.

Admittedly, though, the problems that I had at the end of the first season were as follows:

  • Most of the perverted moments were centered around Claudia or Kirin, both of whom were two of my least favorite characters at the time (and I have reasons for that).
  • The harem stuck around until the end, which made me hope that such would be resolved by the airing of the second season.
  • The opening and ending theme songs were nothing special.
  • There were still loose ends to tie with regards to the rest of the tournament and Haruka. In particular, Saya didn’t get to exact her revenge on Camilla Pareto, who insulted the legacy of her father.

I suppose that about covers everything for the first season.

Second Season Thoughts

In a nutshell, the second season of Gakusen Toshi Asterisk involves toning down the perverted elements (although not completely) in favor of the continuation and finishing of the tournament (Phoenix Festa), further progress towards uncovering the mystery behind Haruka, and the introduction of new characters and new conflict.

The theme songs are a little more upbeat (and I would argue better) than those of the first season but still not to my liking.

In regards to character likability, I would say that pretty much all of the character evaluations that I made in Cavalry vs. Asterisk part 3 remain unchanged…except that of Kirin. Because of her valiant efforts in fighting AR-D and Wernher in episodes 4-5 and 8 respectively, I’ve warmed up to her enough to assign her a likability percentage of 33% instead of 25%. In other words, now that I think about it, in spite of her annoying character traits, her combat style is appealing to watch.

More than that, they actually managed to introduce a character even worse than Claudia: Flora Klemm. Her voice is the actual most annoying I’ve ever heard, and her contribution to the plot boils down to being someone from Julis’s past and becoming a damsel in distress. If I had to assign to her a likability percentage, it would actually be 2%, and the sole reason for it not being 0% is because…well, she’s a character. What can I say? No character deserves a 0% rating, no matter how trash.

By the way, like I used to in my former anime reviews, I feel like naming off my top three favorite characters:

  1. Saya Sasamiya. She’s been my favorite since the second half of the first season, and I’ve already explained why. To summarize what I’ve said before: great voice, one of few firearm users, kuudere, cute sleepy appearance, indifferent about nudity, and perceptive to injustice. In the second season, she doesn’t seem to have changed much as a whole, but she revealed an amazing trump card near the end of episode 4:
    Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 9.12.39 PM
    …Yeah. A jetpack with dual cannons. That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.
  2. Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt. She has the best voice in the anime and is definitely the one most likely candidate for Ayato among the harem that has developed around him…if only because she’s the first girl that he met when he transferred to Seidoukan. Aside from her voice, her primary distinction amongst the other characters is that her figure is just the right combination of subtle and sexy in that it’s not too flat but not too distracting. Also, she’s pretty cool in general, even if the reason for that is because of the “tsun” part of her tsundere personality. Speaking of which, she never really expresses the “dere” part of her personality except towards what she holds dear, mainly the orphanage from which she was raised. Still a pretty good character all in all.
  3. AR-D. It may seem odd to include a non-human character in my top 3, but AR-D is sentient enough for that to be justified. A bulky automaton built by Ernesta Kühne that not only wields a hefty sledgehammer-like weapon and knows how to use it, but also adapts to the combat styles of others, as evidenced in its duel with Kirin. AR-D, made to fight alongside RM-C in the Phoenix Festa, would normally grant a one-minute grace period to their opponents before commencing their attack, but once its protection was breached by Kirin, they knew that they had to take their gloves off eventually. Speaking of their duel against Saya and Kirin, AR-D and RM-C even had to reveal their special technique involving AR-D using RM-C’s armor to increase its mobility. As a character, AR-D usually puts on a bravado but sometimes ends up becoming the butt of a tsukkomi comment by RM-C. In a nutshell: funny character, strong combatant. (Likability percentages: 80% for AR-D, 75% for RM-C)

Aside from all the characters and whatnot, the conclusion of the anime wasn’t too conclusive, considering there are still some loose ends to tie up, namely: When does Ophelia end up having her curse undone or whatever? When will Haruka regain consciousness if at all? What about the “Gryps Festa” mentioned throughout the season? The Shadow Stars are also not very well explained; all I can really gather about them is that Eishirou Yabuki is a part of them.

That’s to be expected of light novel adaptations, though. The time allotted in regards to episode duration just can’t contain enough to completely explain every little component of the plot, and the only way to get a complete grasp of what’s happening is to…well, read the light novel. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but there are some words that pictures fail to precisely explain. This is why I usually find action scenes in manga hard to follow.

The philosophy as a whole comes from the fact that I watched the Mondaiji anime (my personal favorite) and read the first two volumes of the light novel (from which the anime was adapted), and the light novel told so much that I felt like either I forgot or the anime omitted…not to mention there are even more volumes of the light novel from which to discover so much more of the story that it’s ridiculous.

In summary, not much has changed from season 1 to season 2 of Gakusen Toshi Asterisk, only my thoughts on a select few characters and the gravity of my honest disappointment at the loose ends that remain untied.

Afterword

All in all, I would have to give this series an overall rating of 8/10. It’s not bad, but there’s nothing particularly notable about it except for Saya Sasamiya and the sort of futuristic stuff such as her weaponry and the automatons of Arlequint (which is apparently the actual name of “Allekant”).

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Potpourri feat. winter 2016 anime (Thought Dump Thursday 1/21/16)

The thing about Thought Dump Thursdays is that sometimes they may be focused on one topic, but other times (like now) they may just be in the classic potpourri style of the former Thought Dump series, wherein I just say what I’m thinking, not caring how many different topics I bring up within the post in question. However, from now on, I decided with such potpourri posts that I would include the main topic of focus—i.e., the topic which I discuss first—as the defining feature of the part of the title outside of the parentheses. This is partly to make the end part of the URL unique and partly so that the posts are less likely to be overlooked.

So, first off: I tend to limit myself in the anime that I watch (especially now that I’ve reached my last semester of college) to series that really interest me. So far, of the anime that have started airing this season, three have successfully grabbed my attention:

Musaigen no Phantom World

I owe my interest in this anime to a tweet by Dutch speedrunner CriticalCyd. From what I’ve seen (i.e., the first three episodes), it’s about people being able to see illusions, including illusionary beings known as Phantoms, and put to rest the Phantoms that cause mischief. In terms of main characters, we have: Haruhiko Ichijou, a dark-haired dude who excels at dropping trivia and carries a sketchbook for sealing and summoning; Ruru, a fairy-like Phantom who accompanies Haruhiko much like Navi; Mai Kawakami, a blonde and busty chick who excels at martial arts; and Reina Izumi, a black-haired girl who has…quite an appetite, to say the least. I don’t have much to say about this one…yet, although the lore is pretty interesting, and I am eager to see more out of the other students who have had various minor appearances (i.e., Koito Minase and that one loli with the teddy bear).

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba)

I’ve been awaiting this anime ever since 2015 when it was announced. Before then, I was already familiar with the manga and had read the first four chapters, and it is certainly great stuff. It’s centered around the shut-in Kazuma Satou who ends up dying a ridiculous death and is invited by the “goddess” Aqua to an RPG-like world to which he is allowed to take any one thing…and he chooses Aqua. So, this fledgeling shut-in and demoted goddess are stuck in the world to make a living and get stronger in hopes of defeating the demon king. On the way, they meet the explosion-obsessed chuunibyou arch wizard Megumin and the masochistic blonde crusader known as Darkness. As a whole, all I can say is that the anime defied some of the expectations I had while reading the manga: Aqua’s hair seems brighter and her skirt a whole lot more see-through, Megumin has a more emotional voice than I expected, and Kazuma is portrayed to be seemingly more useful than the manga made him seem. Still, I’m looking forward to how it will unfold, for better or for worse.

Dagashi Kashi

I have no idea what force of nature compelled me to watch this anime…and read up to chapter 38 in the manga…but I am liking it so far. It’s about an aspiring mangaka, Kokonotsu Shikada, whose father, You Shikada, is the owner of an urban shop that sells cheap snacks (known as dagashi) and wishes for Kokonotsu to succeed the shop, even if he doesn’t want to. Suddenly, he meets the dreamy but eccentric lavender-haired Hotaru Shidare, who makes a deal with You that he will help the Shidare family with their dagashi-selling business if she convinces Kokonotsu to succeed the Shikada shop. Even though Hotaru (and Kokonotsu, whether he likes it or not) is enthusiastic to a fault about dagashi, Kokonotsu refuses the offer through and through, making for a lasting, comedic, and somewhat educational relationship between the two, with some moments shared with Kokonotsu’s friends Tou and Saya Endou. Good stuff.

The rest of the potpourri

Phoenotopia

First of all:

New any% PB! (Please read the following Pastebin—http://pastebin.com/GHcvwBFs—before watching.) 55:14 RTA, which is a 4-minute time save over my previous run! I did say before that sub 1 hour in-game time was possible, and I managed to cut the in-game timer down to 58 minutes! I also said before that “sub 56 [RTA] would be an ideal time for this category,” but I feel even at 55:14 that there is still plenty of room for improvement. I’m honestly surprised that I ended up saving time on the Dread Lands / Mul Cavern split, seeing how I lost about 18 seconds by clumsily falling at the very end. I also lost another 18 seconds (maybe more) by failing Golem Skip, and the early game was rather shaky as a whole. So, I’m thinking low 54 RTA (so 56 or 57 in-game time) would be an ideal goal time.

I should also add that this is my first (and possibly last) run completed on the French version. I decided to try it out, just out of curiosity, but I went back and timed it in comparison to the original English, and it wastes about 4 seconds in text boxes.

Second, about 100%…I’ll probably start up another playthrough just to experiment with some things (and get screenshots of potential split icons) because, now that I think about it, I’m kinda confused on Moonstone #42 on the Scribd guide (the moonstone that you get from Floe in Cross Roads). Like, according to the guide, you have to exterminate the slimes, talk to Gill at Great Walls, and then talk to Floe for the moonstone, and that’s how it’s currently routed out. However, to have to go through that much seems a little suspicious to me. Is it really necessary to talk to Gill? Heck, is it even necessary to exterminate the slimes? (I’m thinking “yes” to the latter question, just because it makes more sense that way, although I’m not so sure about the former.) Other than that, I don’t know about changing the route; the only trick in the route for which a stamina boost is absolutely necessary is Harpy Skip, which saves having to put up with an RNG-heavy fight in Ancient’s Crater that would otherwise probably take forever (but most likely not as long as in any% because you would have more HP in 100%). As for everything else, it’s just minor time loss…and besides, stamina-boosting items are not just available at Honey Labs Inn; there’s also the Honeyed Tumonds at Bandits’ Lair and Dread Lands, as well as the Jar of Honey in the Dread Lands save room and the E-Soda in Ancient’s Crater. So, that adds up to 6 minutes of stamina boosts.

Anyway, that’s what’s on the table whenever I get back to it.

Freemium 3DS games

Pokémon Shuffle came out with a whopping 40 normal stages (261-300) in one update. To put that into perspective, that’s literally two-thirds of Roseus Center, which has the most stages of any location in the game, and, heck, even just the number of released stages exceeds the number of stages in any previous location. That’s really something. Another thing about this update: I started out at 99999 coins, spent 15500 on Zekrom (I defeated it without items, but given that I did so on the last move, I obviously failed to catch it at that time), and pretty much all of the rest went into Great Balls, which allowed me to catch everything up to Palpitoad (if only the RNG could have been more cooperative) and a few others with luck. Also, get this: I spent 13300 coins (for Moves +5, Mega Start, Complexity -1, and Disruption Delay) on Mega Rayquaza and still fell short of S-ranking it (had 8 moves remaining). I don’t know if it had something to do with my team; I had Mega Latios, Goodra, Dragonite, and Rayquaza (8/8/7/6)…but hey, now that I have Mega Ray, I can give it a taste of its own medicine next time! (What I have in mind is a team of Mega Ray, Xerneas, Diancie, and…er…Articuno.) Anyway, that’s what’s on the table for Pokémon Shuffle, along with having to S-rank 30 more stages and later take care of the EX stages, so…I guess I’ll just Meowth grind a bunch and get back in the fray when I feel ready.

Next: Pokémon Picross. For a cheapskate like me who refuses to pay for freemium games, progress is quite slow on that game. It really is just like Rumble World in terms of its currency system: get a bunch of Picrites (Picross’s equivalent of Diamonds), unlock the next zone, clear that zone, rinse and repeat. I may have once said that progress is slower in Picross than Rumble World, but now that I think about it, they are about the same; if not, Rumble World may be the slower one because the number of Diamonds you get from Rumble World in the daily events external to missions is entirely RNG-dependent, whereas how many Picrites you get in the Daily Challenge depends mostly on execution and somewhat on RNG. Being on Area 09 and having reached level 10 of the Daily Challenge (which wasn’t too hard due to the prior experience I’ve had with Conceptis’s Pic-a-Pix), I get a daily yield of 11 (or 9 if I get sloppy), which isn’t too shabby. What annoys me, though, is that not a single Pokémon prior to Area 12 is Rock- or Ground-type. Like, really, why the heck is that, especially considering some of the challenges prior to that area have objectives requiring Slash Reveal?

As for Badge Arcade and Rumble World, I don’t have much to say about those. Badge Arcade…doesn’t leave much room for explanation, although I’m going to come out and say that I wish I had a swimsuit Nikki badge. In Rumble World, I’m really close to unlocking the 160-Diamond balloon, whatever that is (I can’t be bothered to look it up), and there’s still the 200-Diamond balloon waiting in the wings.

 

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Top Three (times three!) Thursday 12/24/15: Nine favorite anime series of 2015

Well, I have been writing quite a lot about anime lately, but since fall 2015 has pretty much ended and it’s almost Christmas, I will have to do something special and talk about nine (as opposed to the usual three) anime that I enjoyed this year.

Note: This is a personal list (and therefore excludes anime that I have not watched), and it excludes second seasons of anime that started in earlier years (e.g., Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic, Non Non Biyori Repeat).

9. Sore ga Seiyuu! (summer)

This slice of life involves three aspiring voice actresses and how they go through life in the industry. Futaba Ichinose (the left one on the cover) starts out lacking the raw talent required to become a voice actress and therefore needs experience. Ichigo Moesaki (right) pretends to be the princess of the strawberry kingdom or something or other and is usually the most energetic of the three. Rin Kohana (middle) is the youngest but most experienced, having made her debut at age five, and holds a dual responsibility as a junior high student. The three not only become separate voice actresses who happen to be friends but also form an idol group known as Earphones and host a radio show as well. The anime is a sort of cutesy way of showing what it’s like to start out in the industry, and I found it to be pretty interesting.

8. Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou (summer)

Ever wonder what it’s like for mythological monsters to live alongside human beings? Lamia, harpy, centaur, slime, mermaid, arachnid…all of these species end up becoming a part of the host family of Kimihito Kurusu, a seemingly normal human being with a surprisingly high tolerance for pain. These monsters are told that they are capable of marrying humans (although interspecies breeding is a no-no), so there is definitely some romance involved. It’s not all peaceful, though, as there is some conflict within the household about who should get to be with Kurusu, as well as conflict caused by impure humans and monsters alike who abuse the “Cultural Exchange Between Species Act” (which sums up to “monsters cannot deliberately harm humans or vice versa”) for their own benefit. I have written about the characters once before, and I have to say, it is surprisingly interesting to see how they live alongside human beings, although this particular anime depicts it in a rather perverted way…not that I’m complaining; just a warning in case it wasn’t obvious.

7. Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (fall)

This sci-fi harem story is centered around Ayato Amagiri and his search to find out the truth about his elder sister. In the process, he ends up enrolled in Seidoukan Academy, partnered with Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt for the Phoenix Festa, wherein competition among the six schools forming the city of Asterisk takes place. It has some cool characters (especially Saya Sasamiya) and is pretty decent as a whole. However, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I dislike the idea of a harem being carried all the way to the end of the story (although I guess MonMusu is an exception to that rule), so I’m hoping Ayato and Julis will get more serious about each other by the end of the second season (which is scheduled to air spring 2016).

6. Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry (fall)

As you may or may not know, I reviewed this and Gakusen Toshi Asterisk simultaneously in a review series known as “Cavalry vs. Asterisk” (parts: 1 2 3), and I made it clear that I preferred this anime. It starts off about the same as Asterisk (guy sees girl changing and is forced to duel, girl warms up to guy after the duel, both participate in a tournament), but there are key differences that separate the two, mainly that the romance in Cavalry is completely one-to-one, pretty much eliminating the harem aspect, and that the protagonist and deuteragonist fight their own battles (at least for now). The former difference is the main reason why I like Cavalry better, not to mention the anime has what I find to be the best opening theme song of 2015: Identity by Mikio Sakai.

5. Juuou Mujin no Fafnir (winter)

To those who have not seen my winter 2015 anime analysis, it may seem odd that I put an anime like this so high on the list. I mean, what could possibly be so great about a generic fantasy harem that starts off with the protagonist enrolled in a chiefly female academy and seeing a naked girl at the very beginning, right? Well, the primary part of the anime that grabbed my attention was the debut appearance of the antagonist: Kili Surtr Muspelheim, a black-haired beauty with the ability to create explosions by snapping her fingers. (She’s not on the cover, by the way.) From then on, various other aspects stood out to me: the coolness of the protagonist, the relationships between the characters, and how the characters struggle to take out a threat that could have destroyed the world, even with Kili’s meddling. So, I suppose the reason why I like this anime is because I came into it with low expectations and had those expectations completely blown away by the antagonist.

4. Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo (spring)

This is another anime that I delved into with low expectations; in fact, I didn’t even consider it until episode 5 had aired. It follows the supernatural high school experience of Ryuu Yamada, a delinquent who meets some girls known as “witches” with magical powers that are triggered through mouth-to-mouth kissing, starting with honor student Urara Shiraishi, who, as Yamada learns the hard way, can swap bodies with whomever she kisses. Basically, it’s a supernatural rom-com that I liked mostly due to its supernatural elements, comedic moments, and satisfying conclusion. (I wrote a full review as part of my spring 2015 anime analysis, which goes more in-depth about the plot and touches upon the characters I liked.)

3. Overlord (summer)

I decided to binge-watch this anime before writing this top nine list, and I’m glad I did. While not for the faint of heart (especially episode 10, which I’ll admit really freaked me out, especially when Shalltear Bloodfallen took on her more monstrous form), it is a pretty swell anime. It’s about some MMORPG player with an undead avatar who, in his stubbornness to stay in the game even during its scheduled shutdown time, becomes his avatar and is forced to live in a world that is noticeably (but not completely) different from the MMO and that he plans on conquering since he has become an overlord (hence the title). Even though this protagonist, Momonga, starts off unfamiliar with the new aspects of the modified game world, he finds the ability to adapt increasingly as the story progresses. Let’s just say it’s like Log Horizon but with faster pacing and significantly more cruel protagonists. That’s why I like it. The protagonist is quite the brainiac, so, even if the odds are against him, he has a way out of pretty much every situation, no matter how smug his adversary may be. The question is how, and the “how” is generally answered in an elegant manner, one that does not disappoint.

2. Hibike! Euphonium (spring)

Nothing really convinced me to watch this anime as it was airing, but based on how others evaluated it after it finished airing, I decided to give it a try, and it certainly did not disappoint. The story is centered around Kumiko Oumae, who starts high school not wanting to return to playing in a band, let alone on the euphonium, due to an incident at her prior school involving her childhood friend, Reina Kousaka. However, through the red thread of fate, Kumiko is led by her new classmates, Hazuki Katou and Sapphire Kawashima, to return to her former glory as a musician (made to return to the euphonium by one Asuka Tanaka) and mend relations with Reina. However, the new club advisor and conductor, Noboru Taki, gives the band members a hard time by telling them bluntly that they have a long ways to go before making it to nationals, where Reina and eventually the others aspire to be. Because the band members are initially inexperienced and/or uncoordinated, I can never help feeling nervous when they are about to put on a show, and that is the primary reason why I like the anime so much, the secondary being the emotionally gripping moments between Kumiko and Reina. In summary, it’s like K-On but with more prominent characters and stronger feels.

1. One Punch Man (fall)

When all is said and done, it’s no question that One Punch Man is the anime of 2015. It’s action-packed, comedic, and has a kick-awesome opening theme (second to that of Cavalry, I say). The best aspect, though, is the selection of characters that the anime has to offer. Obviously, we have the protagonist, Saitama, a seemingly bland hero with super strength, and Genos, a cyborg who accompanies Saitama and calls him “master.” What’s really cool, though, is what the anime has to offer in terms of minor characters. Mumen Rider is a particularly notable one, showing the most spirit even when the odds are clearly stacked against him and he has literally no chance of winning. In fact, thanks to Saitama being so obviously overpowered, pretty much every character with screentime is given a chance to shine. (There is a fight at the end that takes Saitama more effort than just one punch, but I won’t spoil anything more about it.) Words alone don’t do justice to this anime; all I’m saying is that it, if nothing else, is worth a watch.

 

In the end, I have to say: 2015 is the best year of anime that I have come to witness, and it is the first (and probably the last) that I have had the pleasure to write about in such a manner as this. I hope this writing was enjoyable and/or informative and, if not, apologies.

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

Spontaneous Saturday 12/19/15: Cavalry vs. Asterisk – part 3 (finale)

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 9.03.12 PM

This is the third and final part of a three-part review series. Click here to view the first, and click here to view the second.

Two very similar anime have aired this season: Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry and Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (henceforth referred to as Cavalry and Asterisk, respectively). They both involve schools with weapons and magic and romance and ecchi and stuff, but just how similar are they really? That is what this review series aims to analyze. In this final installment, I hope to finalize my thoughts on these two series, compare and contrast them in a rational manner, and come to a decisive conclusion regarding which of the two series I consider better.

As usual, this review will inevitably contain spoilers. Please proceed with caution.

Newly Introduced Characters

Any characters not mentioned in this section are not introduced yet, don’t need a description because they’re so minor, or cannot be described without spoiling anything.

In Cavalry

  • Touka Toudou – Student council president and one of the top four in the last Battle Festival. She fights using a powerful lightning strike known as Raikiri.

In Asterisk

  • Korona Kashimaru – A mild-mannered student of Le Wolfe whose special talent lies in telling fortunes. She is, therefore, seen by Dirk’s side for most of episodes 9-11.
  • Irene Urzaiz – A formerly imprisoned woman who is discharged by Dirk and hired to take out Ayato. She wields a scythe has the power to intensify gravity at the cost of her blood.
  • Priscilla Urzaiz – Unranked tag partner and sister of Irene. She can heal her own wounds, making her an indispensable blood donor for Irene. She is also the only one who can calm Irene’s feral nature.

All Summaries (old and new alike)

I decided (as of November 26) to relocate these summaries to Google Docs for two reasons: (1) to minimize spoilers, and (2) while I enjoy writing them, I realize that they seem out of place in a review like this, and I wouldn’t blame anyone if they lost interest because of them.

Cavalry 1-4 summary

Cavalry 5-8 summary

Cavalry 9-12 summary (NEW)

Asterisk 1-4 summary

Asterisk 5-8 summary

Asterisk 9-12 summary (NEW)

What has been covered in previous parts (with a few amendments)

For this particular section, most elements pertaining to Cavalry will be in red text, and those pertaining to Asterisk will be in blue text. Also, henceforth, brackets beside a quote indicate from which part I took that particular quote.

Opening and Ending themes

Opening: “Identity (アイデンティティ)” by Mikio Sakai > “Brand-new World” by Shiena Nishizawa

Identity: “Of all four themes between both series, this has to be the best one.” [1] Before, I said Identity was “not really a diamond in the rough” [1], but now that it has been playing in my head more and more lately, I do conclude that it is actually catchier than I gave it credit for, and also motivating in a way. So, I shall bump my rating of the song up to a 9/10.

Brand-new World: “It seems cool at first, but then the vocals come in. Sadly not the first cool-sounding opening theme to be ruined by vocals (here’s looking at you, Rally Go Round). 6/10.” [1]

Ending: “Haramitsu Renka (波羅蜜恋華)” by ALI PROJECT“Waiting for the rain” by Maaya Sakamoto

Haramitsu Renka: “Not my type of song. I’d say about average in terms of quality, and the PV with the slow scrolling and roses and random nudity isn’t doing it any favors. Sure, the slow scrolling in the PV is fitting for what it’s worth, but the relative loudness of the song ruins that impression. 4/10.” [1]

Waiting for the rain: “Definitely not my type of song, but the combination of slowness and softness is a nice change of pace from the craziness that goes on in the anime. 5/10.” [1]

Overall: IdentityBrand-new World > Waiting for the rain > Haramitsu Renka

It’s a sandwich. However, because of the numerical values I assigned to my ratings, Cavalry triumphs in this department.

Main Characters

“The duo of a dark-haired boy for a protagonist and a reddish-haired tsundere girl for a deuteragonist is an obvious common theme between these two anime. In fact, it’s not even a new concept (see also: Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance, Trinity Seven, maybe even more that I haven’t watched). Still, the main two characters are different…in a way.” [1]

Protagonist: Ikki Kurogane > Ayato Amagiri

Now that I think back to what I wrote before, I realize I might have had some difficulty expressing my opinion about these two. So, I’ll try to get it right this time. The main thing is: Ikki actually has to focus his love on one girl (Stella), whereas Ayato‘s connection with Julis is not necessarily romantic, meaning he’s more prone to the intervention of other female characters (such as Claudia, Saya, and Kirin) and also has to pool some of his attention into each of them. Later on, I will elaborate further, but this is all I have to say for now.

Deuteragonist: Stella VermillionJulis-Alexia von Riessfelt

Everything I have mentioned in part 1 applies here: Julis has better looks, a less bothersome personality, a better voice, and a more subtle figure than Stella. That said, Stella does have one key trait going for her: her role as a character, which is far more prominent than that of Julis. This is mostly due to the fact that the relationship between Stella and Ikki is a properly budding one-to-one relationship, whereas Julis and Ayato don’t seem nearly as attached to each other (most likely because “the former two are fortunate enough to be roommates while the latter two are not” [1]).

Overall: Ikki > Julis > Ayato > Stella

Once again, a sandwich. This time, I will say Asterisk comes out on top, because the good traits of Ikki and Stella are not enough to outweigh Stella‘s bad traits (hairstyle, personality, obnoxious breasts).

Other Similarities and Differences

Similarities

Obviously, in all parts, I mention in the first paragraph: “They both involve schools with weapons and magic and romance and ecchi and stuff.” I also note: “These anime series have plenty of similarities: reddish-haired tsundere deuteragonist, protagonist stumbles upon her changing, protagonist and deuteragonist want to get stronger together, magic weapons, and competition.” [1] Also, looking at the block quote below, I suddenly realize something I failed to note earlier: both Ikki and Ayato participate in their respective tournaments due to family matters (Ikki being spurned by his family, and Ayato having lost his sister).

Differences

“The use of weapons outside of school is more strictly enforced in Cavalry than in Asterisk, and the protagonists have different motives: while Ikki’s motive is to rise to the top, Ayato merely wishes to discover the truth about his older sister. Also, Ikki starts off with a weapon and the title ‘Worst One,’ whereas Ayato is more of a blank slate, having just transferred into the school without a title and having to be lent a temporary blade after that unfortunate encounter with Julis.” [1] In this paragraph I just quoted, I cut off the part about the male-to-female ratio, simply because it matters less and less as more and more characters are introduced. However, in terms of the major characters, the statement I omitted is actually untrue; Cavalry has a greater male-to-female ratio than Asterisk. (Cavalry has Ikki, Stella, Shizuku, and Alice—2:2. Asterisk has Ayato, Julis, Claudia, Saya, and Kirin—1:4. Even if Alice were female (which he really isn’t), the ratio of Cavalry would still win out, if only because of the difference in major character quantity.)

Later on, I note that “the fanservice situations in Asterisk seem more oddly forced than those in Cavalry” [2] and “Asterisk has significantly more sci-fi elements.” [2]

Revisiting the Characters – spoilers are inevitable

In this section, I shall talk about all significant characters from both series (even those whom I have mentioned earlier), from start to finish, based on who they are and what they have done throughout all of episodes 1-12, trying to incorporate what I liked and disliked about them (explicitly or implicitly). Then, I will give each character a likability rating between 0% and 100%. Afterwards, I will average out the likability ratings of both series and use a weighted average system (giving major characters twice as much weight as minor characters) to make a determination of which anime I like better in terms of characters.

Cavalry

  • Ikki Kurogane – The protagonist. He started off with the nickname “Worst One”, but his determination and persistence, as well as his “perfect vision” and Itto Shura, allowed him to hold his own in the Battle Festival and eventually have his nickname changed to “Another One.” Good protagonist overall, and I particularly liked his response to seeing Stella half-naked (and the throwback to it in episode 9), as well as the fact that he’s never given up on Stella, even in spite of being incarcerated because of their relationship. I have no complaints about him, but his voice and appearance are not much more than run-of-the-mill to me. Likability: 88%
  • Stella Vermillion – The deuteragonist. The first time she met Ikki was in the middle of her changing, so of course things between them started out rough. After losing a mock duel, however, she softened up to Ikki and eventually became his lover. She has her good points in that she does gutsy things and possesses overwhelming fire powers, but honestly, her hairstyle, her generic tsundere personality, and her annoying breasts prevent me from liking her as much as I should like a deuteragonist. Likability: 33%
  • Shizuku Kurogane – Ikki’s sister. She came across as a sort of brocon during the first half of the anime, doing things to Ikki that lovers would do (i.e., kissing him on the lips and holding his hand) and using the “I’m his sister” argument to justify it, which caused her to butt heads with Stella. However, through the progression of the anime, Shizuku became more and more tolerant of the relationship between Ikki and Stella, not to mention she actually talked some sense into the latter in episode 11. I like how significantly my opinion on Shizuku changed between the first half and the second half, especially during and after her battle with Touka (even though she lost), but she had a slow start. Likability: 67%
  • Nagi “Alice” Arisuin – Shizuku’s trusted roommate who became fast friends with Ikki and Stella. Although he is a man, he has a womanly side to him, and the girls (Stella and Shizuku) never seemed to mind being naked around him. His role in the anime lies in how he would give sage advice, even during a dire situation, and manipulate shadows using a dagger known as Darkness Hermit (notably to move through shadows and pin down others’ shadows). He also served as Shizuku’s primary source of comfort. I like that he’s so chill and uniquely flamboyant, has such a neat weapon, and is voiced by Shintaro Asanuma (the voice behind Izayoi Sakamaki in Mondaiji-tachi). However, his value as a character is slightly offset by the fact that, unlike the other three major characters, his combat experience is not shown (although his weapon was of great help in episode 3, and he managed to successfully move past the selection matches). Likability: 90%
  • Kagami Kusakabe – Representative of the newspaper club. I like how she is one of the only two glasses-wearing characters in the anime, but that’s where the good news ends (no pun intended). She made an annoyingly clingy first impression (in episode 2 when she met Ikki face-to-face), which led me to dislike her personality overall, and her breasts are distracting. Likability: 15%
  • Kurono Shinguuji – The director of the academy. She would intervene in professional matters whenever Ikki needed it. She is mature, and thankfully the anime didn’t stretch that fact to the point of overkill (you know, like Frolaytia from Heavy Object). She never directly participated in any of the fights in the anime, though, so her appearances were relatively uninteresting. Good character otherwise. Likability: 50%
  • Nene Saikyou – An adult-like although somewhat irresponsible loli who wears a loose-fitting kimono. She has the ability to move faster than the human brain can register, which proved to be helpful in episode 10 when she got bored of commentating the match between Shizuku and Touka. I find her to be a comic relief character, and a good—although very minor—one at that. Likability: 60%
  • Yuuri Oriki – The teacher of Ikki’s class. In public, she tries to act enthusiastic, but she frequently coughs up blood and has a restless appearance similar to that of Tomoko Kuroki from WataMote. That said, she has always been willing to cooperate with Ikki when necessary. Not much else to say, since she is a minor character. Likability: 40%
  • Bishou – Leader of a criminal organization that attacked the mall in episode 3 and took a bunch of women and children hostage. His weapon, Judgement Ring, is kinda cool, but he’s a one-off character and…unclean in personality and appearance. Likability: 10%
  • Shizuya Kirihara – Ikki’s first opponent in the Battle Festival. His weapon is cool too, but his personality is rotten; all he’s ever wanted to do is to see Ikki suffer. (When he was put in a tight spot, he claimed that he would play nice, but…too little, too late.) Likability: 5%
  • Renren Tomaru – Athletic student council representative who fights with super speed and a pair of gauntlets. At first, she seemed naught but a stepping stone on Ikki’s way to the top, but her role became more prominent by episode 9. I don’t dislike the tan athlete type of character she is, but she is honestly too minor for me to truly like. Likability: 40%
  • Ikazuchi Saijou – Student council representative who fights using a sword that becomes heavier with every swing. At first, he seemed naught but a stepping stone on Stella’s way to the top, but his role became more prominent by episode 9. That said, much like Renren, Ikazuchi is too minor for me to truly like, maybe even more minor than Renren. Likability: 38%
  • Ayase Ayatsuji – A senior who can use her slashes to create gusts of wind. She started off as shy, but then she turned out to be an honorable swordswoman, until she committed foul play in her fight against Ikki. She seems to have a hard time dealing with pressure, seeing as how she had difficulty approaching Ikki properly and seemed to think independently about taking back her father’s dojo. I’ve said before that she “was not all I’d hoped for” [2], but honestly, what was I thinking? That’s not the way to judge a character; you don’t just set expectations, let alone as high as I did. Ayase is a good character, especially due to her dark hair and relative shyness; her only setback, really, is that she was only prominent in episodes 6-8 and appeared briefly in episodes 5 and 12. Likability: 80%
  • Kuraudo Kurashiki – A troublemaker who took over the Ayatsuji dojo and kicked Ayase out. He fights with quicker-than-average reflexes and an extendable sword-like weapon dubbed “Sword Eater.” The time he met Ikki, Kuraudo called Ikki a coward for remaining peaceful through the ruckus Kuraudo caused at the restaurant where they met. Eventually, however, Ikki defeated Kuraudo, forcing the latter to give up control of the dojo and save any further confrontations until the Battle Festival. Kuraudo may have started out as somewhat of a jerk, but at least his joy is derived from the art of battling and not from watching others suffer. In fact, his fight with Ikki made me realize that both are the same type of crazy in battle and that it is essential to enjoy what you get yourself into. Likability: 45%
  • Utakata Misogi – Student council vice president. He has healing powers, which he used in episode 6 to heal the wound that Ikki sustained because of Kuraudo. He looks similar to Shizuku, but it was never touched upon in the anime whether they are related. (I doubt it; it’s probably just a coincidence.) He seems like the brainiac of the student council, always remaining smug whenever he talks. Like the other student council representatives, though, he’s too minor for me to truly like. Likability: 42%
  • Touka Toudou – Student council president who fights using a powerful lightning strike known as Raikiri. She normally wears glasses, but when she gets serious (like in her battle against Shizuku in episode 10 and Ikki in episode 12), she leaves them off in order to purposely impair her vision and increase her mental concentration. Also, like Nene, she has the ability to move faster than the human brain can register. In episode 11, however, she showed off a bit of a careless side, tripping over Utakata’s manga and leaving her panties exposed in front of Ikki and Stella. She is also relatively friendly for someone of her stature. She has big breasts, but at least they’re not as distracting as those of Stella or Kagami. Great fighter, good looks, okay personality, no complaints. Likability: 70%

Average character likability rating: 52.8%

Asterisk

  • Ayato Amagiri – The protagonist. He apparently has some sort of destructive power bound by his sister that can only be unbound if he wields Ser Veresta, a sword that serves as his trump card. However, he can only sustain this power for a few minutes before he starts to grow weary. He enrolled himself into Seidoukan Academy to find out the truth about his sister. He has had his moments, especially his rematch with Kirin in episode 7 and the times when he proved himself capable of nonchalantly approaching a tough guy like Lester. He never turns a blind eye to conflict, and he does what he can to satisfy every girl he meets. That said, I’ve always referred to him as “generic,” and that’s because there’s not much that really makes him stand out among other protagonists of the same nature. Plus, he says “sorry” (gomen) a lot, which gets pretty annoying when you realize just how often he does. Most importantly, though, the fact that he’s part of a harem story means that he doesn’t seem nearly as devoted to Julis as Ikki is to Stella. Likability: 70%
  • Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt – The deuteragonist. She met Ayato when she lost her precious handkerchief and he caught her changing when he tried to return it. Because of this, there was some tension between them at first, but she eventually warmed up to Ayato and became his partner in the Phoenix Festa. I like her appearance and voice, and she’s certainly more subtle (in multiple facets, most notably her bust) than Stella, which is why I like Julis way more. That said, I’m not too big a fan of the tsundere part of her personality because it bothers me how sometimes she has a hard time being honest. That’s my only complaint, though. Likability: 85%
  • Claudia Enfield – Representative of Seidoukan Academy and ranked #2. She presents herself as an adult-like character who usually remains calm and composed, but she goes crazy when she wields her dual swords because of something to do with experiencing death. She also has a sort of punitive side, which she showed in episode 7 as a way to scare off Kirin’s uncle before he went overboard. This is all well and good, but what annoys me is that she is too flirtatious towards Ayato, which is worsened by how much emphasis is placed on her figure while she does so (especially during the moments when she is scantily clad, like in episodes 3 and 6 with her bathrobe and bikini, respectively). Likability: 25%
  • Haruka Amagiri – Ayato’s elder sister. Not much is known about her because she is only shown in the intro and in flashbacks. What is known so far is that she bound Ayato’s power and, unbeknownst to Ayato, was severely wounded (probably killed) in battle. She also has something to do with Ser Veresta, from what it seems. As mysterious as this character is, from what I’ve seen of her in the intro and flashbacks, she has a likable appearance, especially with her glasses. Likability: 55%
  • Eishirou Yabuki – Ayato’s classmate and roommate. He reminds me of Shuu Maiko from Nisekoi because of his brown hair and meddler-like personality, as well as being (arguably) the second-most prominent male character in the anime. He has lent weapons to Ayato on multiple occasions (episodes 1 and 7) and is apparently part of an organization known as the Shadow Stars, but not much else is portrayed about him. Likability: 40%
  • Lester MacPhail – A buff and stubborn fellow student of Seidoukan Academy who was bent on challenging Julis in episodes 1-3 but ended up getting rejected every time. In episode 4, he was branded a pawn in Silas Norman’s plan and put himself in quite a pinch fighting off the automatons until Ayato came to his rescue. He joined the Phoenix Festa with Randy Hooke as his tag team partner, but they were defeated with relative ease by the Urzaiz sisters. All in all, he’s just a typical tough guy. Not much else to note. Likability: 38%
  • Randy Hooke – Lester’s pudgy friend, who ended up becoming his tag partner. He is so minor that there is nothing else worth noting. Likability: 30%
  • Silas Norman – A student of Seidoukan Academy who pretended to be Lester’s friend. In truth, he accepted a bribe from Allekant to attack Julis with automatons so that she wouldn’t be able to participate in the Phoenix Festa, and he also had the idea of framing Lester for the attacks. Eventually, however, the automatons under Silas’s control were destroyed by Ayato, and Silas fell into an alley, where he was severely wounded by Claudia and taken in by Eishirou for questioning. Silas is also very minor, so all I know about him is that he is impure. Likability: 5%
  • Saya Sasamiya – An old friend of Ayato’s who fights with guns, specifically those created by her father. She joined the Phoenix Festa (with Kirin Toudou as her tag partner) in hopes of making a name for her father and, to a lesser extent, wreaking her vengeance on Camilla Pareto (who insulted her signature weapon). I’ve established already that Saya is my favorite character across both anime series; now I shall explain why. First off, Saya is voiced by Shiori Izawa (the voice of Mega Drive in SeHa Girls), taking second in my list of favorite voices in the anime behind that of Julis. Second, while she is a gunfighter (and the only person in the anime explicitly shown to wield guns), she demonstrated in episode 10 that she can hold her own in close combat (although she admitted that she learned from Ayato to some degree). Third, she’s a kuudere, and I have a soft spot for kuuderes. Fourth, she’s probably the cutest character in the anime, especially due to her sleepy appearance. Fifth, she doesn’t give a crap about being exposed, as shown in episodes 2 and 10. Sixth, she knows just how unjust the world can be. (Now, keep in mind that by “favorite” I don’t mean “most likely to get with Ayato,” because that would be Julis.) Likability: 95%
  • Dirk Eberwein – Representative of Le Wolfe Black Academy. He has a brutish personality with the gall to slander others. In hopes of dealing with Ser Veresta, he freed Irene from prison to let her fight in the Phoenix Festa with her sister. He is an okay character for who he is; that’s all I have to say. Likability: 45%
  • Shuuma Sakon – Representative of Allekant Academy. Because of his polite personality, he accepted a joint agreement with Seidoukan Academy without knowing the full details. Not much else is known about him, since he is a one-off character as it stands. He may seem like a pushover for a representative, but you gotta hand it to him for convincing the other representatives to allow automatons in the Phoenix Festa. Likability: 40%
  • Xinglou Fan – Representative of Jie Long 7th Academy. She may be young for a representative, but she is an excellent mediator of conflict between the representatives. She has not had as much attention as Dirk, so, like Shuuma, she currently stands as a one-off character. That said, I have to say: she is my favorite representative so far. Likability: 55%
  • Ernest Fairclough – Representative of Garrardworth Academy. Although young for a representative (like Xinglou), he is a capable swordsman with a sense of justice that notably responds to Dirk’s slander. Also like Xinglou, he currently stands as a one-off character. As with Dirk, all I have to say is that Ernest is an okay character for who he is. Likability: 50%
  • Ernesta Kuhne – A playful and energetic yet mischievous student of Allekant who is behind the creation of the automatons that were controlled by Silas Norman, as well as the automatons that take part in the Phoenix Festa, AR-D and RM-C. Her mischievousness makes her a good comic relief character, like Nene but less minor and slightly more serious. Likability: 70%
  • Camilla Pareto – A student of Allekant whose stern personality makes her a foil to Ernesta, her close friend (presumably). Camilla made herself a sworn enemy of Saya in episode 5 when the former trash-talked the weapons made by the latter’s father. I generally prefer serious characters over frivolous characters, and Camilla is no exception (although in this case, the difference isn’t much). Likability: 75%
  • Kirin Toudou – Formerly ranked #1 in Seidoukan Academy, constantly being abused by her uncle, until Ayato butted in and beat her to a duel. After her uncle left her to her own devices and she lost the #1 spot, she decided to team up with Saya for the Phoenix Festa. Similarly to Saya, Kirin is enrolled in Seidoukan Academy for the sake of her father, who was imprisoned because he killed someone of lower status than him (albeit out of self-defense). “Iris Freyja 2.0″ [2] is a good summary of this character, but I wish to elaborate upon that. Low-saturation hair color, annoyingly high-pitched voice, relatively timid, and relatively busty. I dislike the second and fourth of these qualities (especially the second), and this leads me to dislike her overall. I said she was “not as dislikable as Claudia” [2], but now, I’m not so sure. I do like Claudia’s scary side, but Kirin has almost nothing going for her. If I had to name any superior points…she’s less minor than Claudia and is partnered with Saya. So, they’re about the same, I say. Likability: 25%
  • Kouichirou Toudou –Kirin’s uncle, who abused her in hopes of claiming a spot on the executive board, or so Claudia says. Most of the abuse was physical, characterized by slaps triggered by Kirin’s refusal to fully comply with his orders. However, once Ayato beat Kirin in a duel and Claudia intimidated Kouichirou to prevent him from taking any further action, he pretty much disappeared for the time being. As a whole, this character makes me think “high expectations Asian father” more than anything (he’s not exactly a father, but eh, details), but I honestly have nothing else to note. Likability: 30%
  • Korona Kashimaru – A mild-mannered student of Le Wolfe who accompanied Dirk during episodes 9-11. In episode 11, she predicted using her fortune-telling ability that the Urzaiz sisters would triumph in their battle against Ayato and Julis. Her prediction was wrong, but that’s to be expected of fortune-telling: a feeble attempt to lower the viewers’ expectations. Although she wears glasses, her high-pitched voice is a bit annoying. Likability: 45%
  • Irene Urzaiz – One of the top students of Le Wolfe, who was once imprisoned but released by Dirk in episode 9. She wields a scythe that can manipulate gravity at the cost of draining her blood and transforming her into a vampire. She may wear skimpy clothes, but her rough-and-tough personality makes her quite a likable character. Likability: 70%
  • Priscilla Urzaiz – Unranked tag partner and sister of Irene. She may seem timid and frail, but she can heal her own wounds, making her an indispensable partner for Irene, and calm Irene’s anger with one quick scolding. She’s a swell character overall, but she’s helpless without her sister…or so it seems, but in episode 12, she promised to become stronger than her sister. Likability: 65%

Average character likability rating: 52.52%

So, Cavalry has better characters overall by a difference of 0.28%.

Plot and “Plot”

Two more evaluation criteria I wish to cover are the plot and the “plot” (another way of saying fanservice). Starting with the latter, I will make a list of notable fanservice moments by episode.

Cavalry

  1. Ikki stumbles upon Stella changing.
  2. Kagami presses her breasts against Ikki’s arm. At the end of the episode, Stella puts on a skimpy bikini and offers to wash Ikki.
  3. Stella strips down to her undergarments as a result of the Bishou incident.
  4. N/A
  5. Swimsuits. Swimsuits everywhere.
  6. When Ayase falls on her rump, her panties are revealed (at least to the viewers). Additionally, Ikki corrects Ayase’s form in a lewd way.
  7. Ayase ends up soaked in her white robe as a result of making Ikki use Itto Shura to save her life.
  8. N/A
  9. Stella has Ikki take her clothes off in a nearby cottage. Of course, Ikki takes his own clothes off as well. The viewers also get a panty shot from Touka in her debut.
  10. Nene gropes Stella’s breasts. Shizuku’s clothes end up tattered after her battle with Touka. (Does the latter count?)
  11. As mentioned in Touka’s character evaluation, her panties are revealed in front of Ikki and Stella.
  12. N/A

Asterisk

  1. Ayato stumbles upon Julis changing. Claudia reveals her midriff to Ayato.
  2. As a result of Saya blowing up the fountain, she and Julis end up soaked and with their shirts open when Ayato comes back to them. The viewers are left with Claudia showering and putting on a revealing bathrobe before her meeting with Ayato.
  3. The bathrobe scene from before continues.
  4. N/A
  5. When Ayato bumps into Kirin, the latter covers her skirt and accentuates her breasts in the process.
  6. Claudia is shown in a skimpy bikini. Saya comments on how unjust it is that Kirin’s breasts are so big.
  7. Ayato and Kirin, after falling into the sewer, hang their clothes to dry. This results in the two sitting back-to-back in their underwear.
  8. Kirin and Saya visit a pool, at which they have a mildly unfortunate encounter with a student of Queenvale wearing a skimpy bikini.
  9. N/A
  10. Saya and Kirin hit the showers after their battle. Again, Saya comments on the unfairness of Kirin’s chest. When Ayato and Julis come by, while Kirin desires for them to wait, Saya immediately lets them in. As a result, Kirin gets embarrassed. (Saya, on the other hand, just doesn’t care.) Also, Priscilla reveals her cleavage while giving blood to Irene.
  11. N/A
  12. Saya, Kirin, and Claudia plant Ayato’s face into their chests.

You can see a distinct pattern in Cavalry (every fourth episode is a break from the fanservice), but in Asterisk, even though this pattern holds true for the first four episodes, things change as the anime goes on. Both series do have the same number of N/A episodes, though. Also, those are just moments; each anime has its share of “walking fanservice” characters, so called due to breast size and/or exposure.

  • Cavalry: Stella, Kagami, Nene
  • Asterisk: Claudia, Kirin, Irene

As a whole, I have to say Asterisk has the better “plot.” The main problem I have with Cavalry is that its deuteragonist is a “walking fanservice” character, which leads me to take her less seriously. While I can’t say that I dislike either of the “plots,” I prefer that of Asterisk, even if it is mostly based around Claudia and Kirin. (Also, to be honest, I preferred Julis’s underwear over Stella’s underwear.)

As for the actual plot, I prefer that of Cavalry, mostly because I dislike the idea of a harem being carried all the way to the end of the story (at least for the season; Ikki has already decided whom to love, but Ayato is still unsure). Also, I have always found Ikki to be a more interesting protagonist than Ayato, regardless how much I like or dislike the deuteragonist.

Summary

Similarities

  • set in a school
  • perverted elements
  • magic and weapons involved
  • dark-haired protagonist and red-haired tsundere deuteragonist
  • protagonist stumbles upon deuteragonist changing, and the latter challenges the former to a duel
  • after the duel, the deuteragonist eventually warms up to the protagonist, and the two wish to get stronger together
  • protagonist participates in a tournament due to family matters
  • competition involved, although with some external conflict here and there
  • battles take place in electronic arenas
  • both leave the viewer wanting a second season

Differences

  • Cavalry is focused on one-to-one romance (Ikki and Stella), while Asterisk is more of a harem
    • by extension, Ikki and Stella are far more passionate than Ayato and Julis
  • Ayato and Julis are partners in battle, while Ikki and Stella fight their own battles (at least for now)
  • the competition of Cavalry only happens within the school, while that of Asterisk involves students from all six schools
  • Ikki fights for the sake of fighting, but Ayato wishes to discover the truth about his sister
  • Ikki starts off with a weapon and the title “Worst One,” while Ayato starts out unranked and is lent a weapon when he is forced to duel with Julis
  • rankings change in Asterisk but are stagnant in Cavalry (Ayato rose in rank when he defeated Kirin, but Ikki remains rank F regardless of what he does)
  • defeat is more serious in Cavalry than in Asterisk (in Asterisk, you simply have to destroy the opponent’s badge, but Cavalry has no holds barred)
  • Cavalry is a lot more bloody (although Asterisk is not without its fair share of wounds)
  • Asterisk is sci-fi
  • while Cavalry involves more swords than anything, Asterisk has all sorts of weapons
  • the happenings of Cavalry make more sense than those of Asterisk (particularly the fanservice moments)
  • supporting characters, obviously
  • the second season of Asterisk is scheduled for Spring 2016; whether Cavalry will have a second season is not yet known

Conclusion

To the overarching question of this review series, “Cavalry vs. Asterisk,” based on the evaluation criteria above, my answer turns out to be Cavalry. That said, I did enjoy both series. Cavalry has a great opening theme, better plot, and better characters on average, but Asterisk has a better deuteragonist, better fanservice, and the best character between both series: Saya Sasamiya.

I also enjoyed writing about both series so in-depth, making the longest piece of writing posted directly on Vouiv-review to date. Sometimes, while or after watching an anime, I find myself thinking, “Just what do I really like/dislike about this anime…?” and this review series was a helpful way to document my thoughts on these particular anime, not just going off of pure bias, but also looking over the facts and explaining the entirety of my thought process behind what I liked and disliked. That’s right; these are my thoughts, cracked open and posted to the public.

Whether I will make a continuation of this review series depends entirely on whether Cavalry will get a second season, but for now, the series has come to a close. I hope this writing was enjoyable and/or informative and, if not, apologies.

 

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)