They’re the best Anime that 2010 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Battle Spirits: Brave, Cobra The Animation, Super Robot Taisen OG: The Inspector, and more!
10: Battle Spirits: Brave
Japanese: バトルスピリッツ ブレイヴ
MAL Score: 7.09
Two years ago, the world was saved by Dan Bashin and the other light bearers of the cores. Having once risked his life in Grand Rolo’s strife, Dan no longer finds passion in the mundanity of everyday card battles. When Dan desires to clash against stronger opponents, he is approached by Mai Shinomiya. She offers to bring him to the future, the stage of a new conflict where Dan’s strength is needed.
The two arrive in the year 2650, where civilization has been ravaged by the struggle for power between mankind and an otherworldly race known as “Mazoku.” As humanity begins to crumble under the dominance of the Mazoku, the hardened light bearers are destined to cross paths once more. Armed with new cards from the future, Dan and the other warriors must yet again bear the fate of humanity on their shoulders.
Art: too good.
Sound: good. Especially you can observe it while the battle spirits fight goes on.
Characters: Barone character is the one which seems to change a lot. He thinks of the humans in another perspective . Most amazing characters- though were not shown quite frequently -are the queen of mazoku and the wife of a captain of mazoku -Duke (who work hard for both the species). Both of these ladies understood their environment and planned well their future. For instance, Queen perceives that here court officials are trying for a coup d’etat, plans beforehand. She even understands others though the way they battle. She bowed to Dan when duke was defeated in a battle with Dan. She hold on to her promise with Dan. But her bow to Dan makes her to face severe consequences, she never quivered. Again duke’s wife seems to understand the emotions of people around her. In the final episodes, she comforts mai well. She even accepts a human as a son so that her husband’s ideal may be achieved.
What i do not like in this series:
1. To show Dan more mature and serious.
2. To forcefully show romantic relationship or at least hints between Dan and Mai.
3. Search for the 12 zodaic cards is not executed well. I mean to say is that for some episodes these were shown and for some Dan says we got 8 we need some more. No struggle at all shown for achiveving the cards from Suzuri’s prospective.
4. Clackey is left completely side character.
Finally i disliked this series. So i gave very low ratine in my watch llist.
9: Cobra The Animation
Japanese: COBRA THE ANIMATION
MAL Score: 7.10
This Cobra adaptation features short arcs of Cobra saving the world, his friends or himself.
If you sat down to Cobra for the story, you would be sadly disappointed. As with most shows that could be described as pulpy, the plot is more a way to give Cobra things to do to be a badass. It does that well, and that is really all the show asks. There are a few story arcs, the longest lasting four episodes, and several one-shots. They’re entertaining enough, but hardly memorable.
The animation is fairly good. There’s no glaring animation errors, and the entire production has a low-budget, old school feel to it that lends a lot of flavor to the show. The CG is (intentionally?) fairly poor, but is perfectly suited to the throwback style that the show is trying to cultivate.
All in all, Cobra will a bit of a hard sell to most anime fans, looking for the next androgynous pretty-boy protagonist. However, if you yearn for the days where men were men, women were “dames,” and arms were guns, against a backdrop of cool jazz… well, I think I have a show for you.
If you seen everything Cobra related, then this series does deliver the same content we gotten before, perhaps even manlier than ever. We see Cobra fight in an illegal underground fist fight, battles a gladiator which briefly turns into a DBZ fight, dives under the sea, climbs a mountain which may not exist, explores a planet filled with the most disturbing plants with faces & ends the series with a King’s rescue mission.
While the animation looks at his highest it doesn’t have that visual flair compared to its movie & 1982 series. In my opinon, the women somehow look at their sexiest in this series. The stories featured here are more tragic especially episodes 8 & 9 as it goes in a much darker route than Cobra usually goes to. Out of all the episodes I’d say the mountain story arc (6&7) is probably the best one in terms of mystery & suspense. As for action, it never really peaks or stays engaging all the way through, it instead has some action highlights in bits & pieces rather than a full episode.
Overall, the same fun is found here although 13 episodes feels way too short. I also felt it wasn’t as creative when it came to exploring the universe of Cobra(again comparing it to the first anime). Not a bad addition as the episodes are based on certain manga chapters, but the original series still remains the best of the Cobra franchise.
1) It’s something that’s trying to be a serious action series and fails because it’s terribly cheesy,
2) This is ~meant~ to be a throwback to cheesy cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s, and the cheese is, at least in part, self-satire.
Personally, I lean more towards the second interpretation, and find that the series is accomplishing what it’s set out to do. If you don’t like cheesy old-school or satire, you’re really not going to like this series at all, I’ll give you that as a fair warning.
First, you’ve got the typical daredevil macho hero with an arm that looks like it belongs on Megaman, then there’s the scantily clad heroine and the villain I can almost imagine yelling “I’ll get you next time, Gadget!” as she flies away in her ship after having her plans foiled. (I want to say again, but this is only the first episode so far)
Second, you’ve got what looks like a pretty typical plot – keep the key to the Universe from the bad guys while you get it to where it needs to be. Nothing fancy at all here.
So, why the (somewhat) high rating?
Maybe it’s just that something feels almost nostalgic about this, or maybe it’s that this type of “typical” is actually pretty uncommon in anime. I’d say the main character almost feels like He-Man with a gun arm, and certainly seems like he’d belong more in an American-style cartoon rather than an anime.
I also appreciated a couple of satirical bits in the first episode: Normally, when the hero blasts away a vehicle as it races towards him, the flaming debris that should remain seems to conveniently vanish. This wasn’t the case with Cobra, as the flying vehicle speeding towards the hero simply became a flaming flying vehicle speeding towards the hero instead.
Given that we’re only at the first episode right now, I could be wrong and this could turn out to be a terrible series, but so far I’m leaning towards believing it’s satire and am enjoying it thoroughly.
8: Super Robot Taisen OG: The Inspector
English: Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector
Japanese: スーパーロボット大戦OG -ジ インスペクター-
MAL Score: 7.25
With many of its central personnel lost in the war, the Earth Federation Government is forced to rebuild, and Brian Midcrid, president of the Unified Colonies, takes the position of its president. During an emergency session of the Federation Diet, he publicly acknowledges the existence of extraterrestrials, and reveals the events of the L5 campaign to the masses in what will later come to be called the “Tokyo Declaration.” He goes on to state that these aliens pose a serious threat to humanity.
Basically, this show is kinda all over the place and is hardly comparable to a regular anime (mostly because of its lack of a specific overarching plot and the fact that there are like a hundred characters. Literally.), so writing a standard review would take too many words. Instead I’ll do this in a Q&A format:
Q:What is the plot of The Inspectors?
A:There is no overarching plot. But there are millions of small sub plots. This sets it apart from most anime, because rather than create a setting and use all of 0.00001% of it to tell a story, this show heavily utilises its setting. For instance, unlike, say, the original Gundam, where Char and Amuro was the only significant rivalry to ever develop in the whole, supposedly large, one-year-war. In The Inspectors however, there are dozens (to make the comparison worse, SRW’s earth and enemy forces are orders of magnitude smaller than they are in gundam). So right off the bat, I can guarantee you that The Inspectors has much more content than does most standard shows (mech or otherwise).
Q:Does having this much content clutter the show?
A:Yes, but not because the show is cluttered (ie: poorly written), but mostly because viewers don’t have a 20-minute attention span. Unlike many anime series, where forgetting 70% of an episode doesn’t have squat influence on the plot, you would do well to remember what was in each episode of the Inspectors, as much of it is important. Indeed, if you watch a particularly fast episode twice I can effectively guarantee that you’ll see something new the second time round, especially if you leave a day or two between watches.
Q:So what are the upsides to having this many characters?
A:The usual answer would be “to please fans of the character from the game”. This is a stupid statement. I mean think about it, this just begs the question as to why the character was in the game in the first place. That’s not particularly helpful. So instead I’ll offer an actually useful answer: Because having loads of characters from different backgrounds working toward their various goals is PRECISELY what the SRW franchise has sought to do from its inception.
I mean honestly, in this show you can do something nigh on impossible in almost every other anime. Watch the show from different points of view. Take Axel in the first episode. Then the end of ep6. then the beginning of ep8, etc. The perspective you get is radically different to the one you’ll get if you watch the show in full. Then you can re-watch from Rai or Gilliam’s point of view, etc. To me, this is the appeal of the OG saga lines, everyone and everything is an actual character, not just a puppet with a face being pulled by the strings of one or two lead actors in a play. Everyone is legitimately different.
Q:But if these characters are just from a game, aren’t we just getting the “same old” stuff rehashed?
A:NO. This is NOT an adptation of a game (or at least, not one that has been released so far). It would be much more useful to think of this as an expansion pack. The general gist of the show is along the same lines and the game, but there are so many (often very large) differences between the game and show that calling it an adptation does an injustice, there is a large volume of content added that you’ll never see if you only play the games released thus far.
Q:So, are there any changes that make it worse than the game?
A:Only one- Wodan Ymir. Saying why would be a spoiler, but suffice to say, when a character is popular because of nothing but raw strenght, then you have to be very careful how you depict that strength. A point of reference must be made, because unlike the game, the anime has no health bars and damage meters (excluding those awesome computer menu screens). Compared to the game Wodan was not done well. That’s not to say he was done badly, just that the game did it much, much better.
Q:so that’s plot and characters, what about art and sound?
A:Sound, firstly, is friggin AMAZING. The original score is really really good, and the score recycled from the game is incredible, since the games have had years and years of refinemnt go into them. Voice acting and sound effects too, are amazing. The first OP is the only thing I’ll criticise- it really lacked “flow” so I felt it doesn’t really work as a theme, though this is minor considering how many other good pieces of music they had. And some people liked that song. (I must admit the full version is better than the TV version)
But art is the big one.
Firsly, the art is very VERY flashy. Crisp colors with loads of contrast and special effects make this show a pleasure to watch.
The 3D CG is excellent. It is used in only a few specific instances (such as the lion series and explosions and battleships), and even then, only when it fits. But more importantly, it is shaded very vibrantly, so it fits in very well with the show, so unlike many other mech shows with 3D in them it is entierly possible people won’t even notice the CG at all.
There is also a liberal amount of VERY high-quality artwork (still frames) employed in the show (these make GREAT backgrounds xD), which serves to boost the show and deliver eyecandy to keep up the bombardment of awesome that comprises almost every scene in this show.
But there are downsides. There is a lot of stock footage that gets recycled. This is used approriately and in varied circumstances, so even when it is heavily employed, it feels fresh, but it is noticable.
The bigger issue is the regular drops in quality in minor scenes. the producers obviously were stretched for resources (I’d say manpower, since I’ve seen shows with a low budget, and the Inspectors doesn’t have those symptoms) and in some scenes it is quite apprant.
But frankly, at its lowest quality this show is still of a much higher standard than most anime.
A: Simple. This show is PACKED. And I mean PACKED with stuff. Art, sound, stories, characters, mechs, new stuff, old stuff, you name it. Sure, some people like their anime simple, shallow and two-dimentional, but if you’re up for something bigger, the inspectors delivers.
-Also, this show is a sequel. the first season was ridiculously mediocre, with obvious CG, bland BGMS (except for the ones from the games) and dated character designs. But that said, it may help you get familiar with the cast, which, being as huge as it is, is no lean feat. I suggest watching it, but be aware that the Inspectors is RADICALLY different.
As I said before, the plot is based on the second OG game. This was around the time the series started to hit its stride, and it shows. The plot is far more complex this time around, with far more complex villains and heroes.
It’s also somewhat darker, but only so much. At its core, the OG series is a love letter to mecha anime, so expect tons of cliches and for it to only occasionally take itself seriously.
My only complaint is that they sometimes forshafoe stuff that straight up never happen, mostly because those were meant to foreshadow later games and so far we haven’t gotten anything for any of the games after OG2.
The cast is freaking massive to say the least. Thankfully only some of them actually get focus. The two with most focus are Kyosuke and Excellen, who are just so lovable together that I’m pretty sure it should be ilegal to ship them with anyone but each other. Slightly behind them in terms of focus is newcomer Lamia Loveless, who gets a rather generic but otherwise well done character arc and she is an easy character to root for. Everyone else gets somewhat uneven focus. For instance, despite being the main character last time, Ryusei is basically brought along for the ride with his Lancer Rai getting more focus. That said, everyone does get their own little moment to shine, and ultimately do leave a good impression with me.
The villains are all pretty good. They’re the right balance of quirky yet menacing. Lemon and Axel ended up being my favorites, with the latter straight up being one of my favorite characters in all of fiction. I think the only one I didn’t care for is Vindel, the leader of the Shadow Mirror. He’s just kinda generic compared to everyone else around him.
Boy is this an upgrade. The characters do have a bit of an art shift this time around which basically makes all of them look older than what they actually are (Ryusei and Masaki being affected the most). It honestly didn’t bother me, and if anything the new art style does make everyone more expressive than what they normally are.
As for the fight scenes, well… it’s Masami Obari. I don’t care if you hate his shows, the one thing all of his shows have in common is that they look damn good, and this show is no exception.
Unlike Divine Wars, the show uses the game’s soundtrack and its completely unaltered. While I’ll admit I did like the orchestral remixes of the last show, I don’t mind this. The original soundtrack was already designed with fast paced action in mind, so it ultimately does fit the show. And yeah, you can bet I cheered like a mad fanboy when “So Close Yet So Far” started playing in Axel and Kyosuke’s Final Battle.
As for the Openings and Endings, I still don’t care about them too much… with exception of the second Opening theme “Ryusei Lovers”. I freaking adore this song.
Most of the cast from the game return and do an outstanding job. There are some recasts, but it’s mostly for relatively minor characters.
The main Duo of Toshiyuki Morikawa and the Late Great Yuko Mizutani do an outstanding job, easily the best performances in the whole job. Mizutani in particular deserves credit as she had to play THREE different characters yet made them all sound distinct.
Everyone else is great too. From Nobutoshi Canna, Tomokazu Sugita, Ai Orikasa, Shinichiro Miki, Atsuko Tanaka, Yumi Kakazu, Takeshi Kusao, Akira Ishida, Takumi Yamazaki, Takehito Koyasu (Who actually is the deliciously cold ham he’s meant to be), Hikaru Midorikawa, Yuu Asakawa, Kappei Yamaguchi… the list just goes on and on.
Needless to say, I really liked this anime. It wasn’t perfect, but damn if I didn’t enjoy it. If you just want l have fun, then definitely watch this show. And if you liked it, play the games too (Though be warned, only the first two and The The fifth game have English translation so be careful), they’re more than worth your time.
Final Score: 8/10
The Super Robot Wars: Original Generation anime series(Divine Wars and The Inspectors) is pretty much for those who have played the game with a similar name, be it on the GBA or PS2. Now before you misunderstand, I’m not saying that those who have not played the game cannot watch this anime, but rather, if you haven’t played the game and you watch the anime, you will be left confused throughout the series due to numerous plot holes, lack of character development and some inside jokes that only those who have played the game will get it.
For those who has seen Divine Wars and not played any of the games and doesn’t mind the defects as long as the series is somewhat good, you should watch it.
For those who has seen/not seen Divine Wars and played/not played the game and are looking for a good mecha anime with a good story, I suggest you give this one a miss.
For those who have played the game and is hoping for a good story for the anime adaptation, give this a miss.
Oh and I forgot to mention, the series is full of fanservice.
Now then, for the lengthy one.
Before I begin, I would like to inform the dear reader of something.
As someone who had played the game, my review will contain some comparisions with the game and the anime so you may think that it may be a bit biased but as I had mentioned, the anime is generally for people who has played the game because most of my friends(real and online) whom I’ve asked, are not intrested in watching the series.
With that being said, on to the review.
Story – 3/10
I wasn’t expecting the story to be any good due to my experience with Divine Wars, so I’m already rating this on a very low scale but even so, I can’t give it a pass. People on anime forums pretty much shot the series down within the first few episodes regarding the story, and they are right. Parts that weren’t rushed were dragged on needlessly and vice versa. Some events which were important for plot, either got rushed through, skipped or reordered. Making the major events seem insignificant.
Art – 9/10
Nothing really much to say here since most of the year 2000 onward anime have decent graphics. What I liked were how detailed some of the machines were designed and some of the character designs were really nice as well. Machine and character designs were pretty close to the game so it’s good, overall.
Sound – 6/10
SRW series is known for some really amazing soundtracks, namely the character/robot themes. The main flaw regarding sound in Inspectors is that the way the themes are cut off, is very forced, unnatural and breaks the tension, excitement etc. . It does improve as the episodes progress but not much improvement overall.
Character – 7/10
One area in which I think Inspectors did better than the game is character development, namely for Kyosuke. Though the anime focused too much on him and almost all the other characters have close to zero development at all. Some major characters for the story were shafted and practically disappeared for the entire series, while some literally disappeared after appearing once or twice and some characters just suddenly become friendlier towards each other all of a sudden.
Overall – 7/10
As a whole, I rather enjoyed the series, despite it’s numerous defects. What I enjoyed the most were all the character, good and bad, machines and attacks being animated. Watching some of the epic scenes in the game getting animated allowed me to relive the moment I played the games, so a good bit of nostalgia there.
7: Strike Witches 2
English: Strike Witches 2
Japanese: ストライクウィッチーズ 2
MAL Score: 7.31
Six months have passed since the victorious Battle of Britannia and the reclamation of Gallia from Neuroi invaders. Yoshika Miyafuji, member of the famed 501st Joint Fighter Wing, has come back home to Fuso and graduated from middle school.
However, her fight is far from over. She receives a letter supposedly sent by her long-deceased father, containing blueprints of a state-of-the-art Striker Unit he had been working on before his death. The Unit, designed specifically for Yoshika, might be capable of harnessing her extraordinary magical powers.
Meanwhile, a new threat in Europe is rising. A Neuroi nest of an unprecedented size and might has appeared over Venezia, wiping out local Witch forces and instantly swallowing the northern part of the country. To make matters worse, a newly spotted humanoid type of Neuroi is attempting to come into contact with humans.
Yoshika, incapable of abandoning her friends on the front lines, must once again venture to the war-torn continent.
Much like the original, Strike Witches 2 features a plot you could have written out on a cocktail napkin. The fight against the Neuroi continues, this time moving on to Romagna, which is the real world analog of Italy. The girls of the 501st Fighter wing are reformed to battle the Neuroi presence. Happily, especially early in the series the action is really ramped up. But what is likely to disappoint is the lack of any development of the enemy. None of the important events of the first series were carried over and the Neuroi returned to being a faceless and unthinking enemy. I was also disappointed that nothing new was explained about the disappearance of Miyafugi’s father. The series does climax with an epic battle, culminating with the use of a special magical attack that is pretty much the only reoccurring plot element over the course of the show.
Despite the lack of any substantive plot however, the series does shine over each episode. Instead of a story, the episodes focus on building the characters of our various heroines. New witches are brought into the fold, the most interesting being Barkhorn’s countryman and rival Mariselle. The episodes range from being the usual comedic silliness to light drama and quite a bit more yuri undertones than in the previous series. As expected the ecchi content is extremely high, so if that annoys you then this really isn’t your show. Much like the first season, the forthcoming DVDs will be featuring a bounty of boobs and booty, unblocked by the TV versions convenient sunbeams and steam clouds. Though as pervy as it is, for me it seemed much less exploitive and in your face as it did previously. So those who might be on the fence might be relieved to know that the series doesn’t revolve around seeing some underage girls panties, you just happened to see them a lot.
As with the original, SW2 features its unique mix of World War 2 history with all of the magic and witchcraft. Fans of military history will be delighted to see the attention to detail paid to the designs of all the various nations’ naval ships and right down to the aviation correlations with the witches Striker Units and the weapons they carry into battle. I am by no means an authority but I can tell the amount of research and attention to detail the production staff went to in order to have each of the girls use nation specific weaponry and unit names.
Because of the weakness of the main story, what really carries the series is its wonderful cast. While the cast is quite large and it’s really impossible to do justice to all of the girls, SW2 does a pretty good job at trying. Obviously you will get far more out of this series if you already have the familiarity with them that comes with seeing the first season. For the most part each girl or pairing gets their own episode to build on their characters. I found some characters that I didn’t particularly care for previously, such as Perrine, were much more fun and likable this time around. Though others like Lucchini remained annoying. As I mentioned earlier, more time was spent developing some yuri relationships between several of the characters. Though it’s nothing particularly significant, fans of that sort of thing are sure to be pleased.
Visually the art and animation is quite stunning. For me other than the pure fun I had watching it this was the best element of series. The girls are extremely cute and appealing and since we see so much of them in their birthday suits they are also realistically proportioned. The series combat scenes are exciting and chalk full of a combination of conventional battle and magical effects. The detail of the various backgrounds which feature many famous Italian landmarks and the countryside. Everything from the naval and military forces down to the ammo clips on the weapons has a very authentic feel to them.
The music really sets the tone for each episode. The upbeat OP performed by Youko Ishida pumped me up for the fun that proceeded after. The ED theme is similarly enthusiastic and changes up week by week as it is performed by different members of the cast. The background music also enhances the series many battle scenes. The seiyuu cast is strong and full of many of the industry’s top talents.
I loved this series enormously and I am going to be very sad to see it go away. Despite all the things about this show that should make every ounce of my feminist being burst into flames, Strike Witches was just really fun. Everything it lacks in substance (and clothing) is more than made up in sheer entertainment value. Turn off your brain and smile a little and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Much like the prequel the plot is really weak, we start off with the Strike Witches reforming after they disbanded at the end of the original series and through-out a number of the episodes nothing really develops, the Strike Witches would usually go on a little adventure and then go and defeat the Neuroi of the week. However just because an anime series doesn’t have a strong plot doesn’t mean it’s bad, in fact it is quite the contrary. There are a number of great series out there with a weak or non-existing plot and this is one of them.
Every episode the Strike Witches would have it’s own story which usually revolved around 1 or 2 certain characters. Every episode contained a different mood, it was always fun to watch and as bonus had some pantie shots (and a lot of ecchi too). There was a little bit yuri too (which I personally liked).
The characters, were amazing and more than made up for the weak plot. Since every episode would develop a different character (or different characters) you really feel for each of them. This entire series is carried by the lovable cast who are each very unique.
The art and animation was done really well. The battle scenes looked smooth and really detailed, the background was nicer this time around too. I really don’t have much to say about this part other than AIC did a really good job.
The sound is pretty nice too with a catchy tune and a different character singing the ending song every week. The voice actors were good too, the voices fit each of their characters quite well.
In the end Strike Witches 2 was one of my favorites if not favorite series of the season. It’s really sad that this series has come to an end but for the 100th anime series I’ve completed, I’m glad it was the memorable and very enjoyable Strike Witches 2. Thanks for reading.
Just to get us back in the groove, we are re-introduced as the war with the Neuroi takes a twist for the worse. Kicking off, we get straight to reassembling the team that led the fight starting with our friend to all living creatures protagonist and her mentor figure. But this is where the story lapses back to its slice of life mode and parallels the first season in how the story is presented. Its not saying that its bad, but the excitement built up is washed away, only to be replaced by the excitement you get for indulging in such a guilty pleasure. Thankfully, the series kicks back in to high gear once the pleasantries disperse. Its a great ride with a conclusive ending and there isn’t much more satisfying than that.
Fanservice and the blatant lighting effects involved aside, the art is well done. Given that in-flight witches are sometimes rendered in 3-D, we are treated to more dogfights, and more action with little decrease in quality but say hello to uncanny valley. At least this time, there aren’t any more plastic landscapes. Equipment is still as detailed as ever while the landscape looks as picturesque as could be, especially Rome (and I’ve been to Rome).
The sound holds up especially well, with the sound effects matching up well to the equipment used. However, it is once again, the soundtrack that does the score justice. It goes well with the scenes despite being a bit more prominent and adds to the series. In fact, there was this one track which serves as a prelude to an epic battle that should really have been named “Play this song and you will kick arse” and that serves as a triumphant example of what a soundtrack should do (in my opinion).
It is still more or less the same cast of characters so I was relieved when they were able to draw out more characterisation, how very little of it was left. Passable, and at least the side characters get some of their own little moments as well.
I can’t say I didn’t enjoy Strike Witches, guilty pleasure that it is, especially the Roman Holiday episode. Even if the plot is an excuse to see girls with a lack of pants fight aerial battles over the scenic Adriatic Sea, I find it hard to dislike. If you liked the first season, the second gives you more. And for those pining at the formal dissolution of the 501st, fear not, I suspect the 504th will pick up the sword and continue the fight.
6: Motto To LOVE-Ru
English: Motto To LOVE Ru
Japanese: もっと To LOVEる -とらぶる-
MAL Score: 7.31
Rito Yuuki never gets a break—he’s always finding himself in lewd accidents with girls around him. Although his heart still yearns for Haruna, his childhood love, Rito can’t help but question his feelings for Lala, the alien princess who appeared in front of him and declared she would marry him. But now, it’s not just Lala he has to deal with: her younger twin sisters, Momo and Nana, have also traveled to Earth, wanting to meet their older sister’s fiancé, and just as luck would have it, they end up staying at Rito’s home.
Meanwhile, amidst the bustle of his new family members, Yami, the human weapon girl, begins her pursuit for Rito. It’s not an easy life for Rito as he deals with uncertain love, punishment for being a pervert, and a girl dead set on murdering him.
Each story has a new problem towards nearly all the characters in the story. The story is getting more into the comedy section, such as when Yuuki is turned into a dog, because Lala inventions. He also had to lick every part of Haruna’s body, because Haruna’s dog said so! (cough even a dog is perverted). Yuuki in season two is more developed and more mature then he was in season one. Yuuki quoted, ”The most important thing is not the outside, but the inside”. (Cough that’s what she said xD), sounds wrong at first but he is more kind, and generous towards the girls now in season two. I also like how Golden Darkness or (aka) Yami! is developing feelings toward Yuuki. Even though she has a mission to kill him, she is seeing how good of a person Yuuki is. Overall the story is made for comedy, so far not a lot of intense or serious episodes/scenes. So far I’m more interested how the relationship between Yuuki and Lala develops.
The art was a lot better then the first season when i compared both. The color and the design was nearly perfect, except for the white blocking. The white blocking or white flash is used for blocking the parts of the story where its too Ecchi or perverted. If they could take out that white flash, then i would of gave the art 10/10, and it would make a lot of people happy. Overall i though art was well done.
Most characters in season one changed either physically or mentally. Lala is getting more out of hands, using her inventions and making them. Yami is now not that aggressive as she was in season one. She is more kind and is trying new things, also Yami is maybe.. Liking Yuuki to a certain degree. I think Yami has a crush on Yuuki Rito, because she usually blushes when shes near him or when his helping her. Haruna and Yui is developing feeling for Yuuki. Such as, when Yui was sick, Yuuki came to deliver some paperwork, but there stay was longer then expected. Haruna is showing more that she likes Yuuki, but she really hasn’t confess to him yet in season two. Overall i like how the characters are much different from season one, but not too different. They added some changes that i personally love.
I enjoyed season one, but season two is where the action and comedy steps in. It makes me laugh much more then usually, also there is more ecchi scenes in season two which adds some kick! I’m also enjoying how each character is starting to develop a feeling towards Yuuki Rito. I personally enjoyed the first eight episodes so far and hope it gets better forward. Why i watch Motto To LOVE-Ru is because of Golden Darkness/Yami, because shes so CUTE! and starting to have feelings toward Yuuki!.
My Dislikes and Cons
My dislikes for Motto to LOVE-Ru is waiting for the new episodes.
I hope you enjoy this review 🙂
If you’re familiar with To LOVE-Ru, then you probably know that there’s not really a driven plot. Those that are new to TLR (which I’ll refer to this series as for the rest of the review), you’re not gonna expect much of a story here. Since Motto follows the manga more closely, we’re given about three 6-8 minute long (give or take) segments of various chapters of mainly Rito in weird, ecchi, and sometimes comedic situations, accompanied with the various side characters of TLR, with some having a segment dedicated to them. Because of that, almost none of the episodes follow up to the next one, thereby making my point that TLR doesn’t have a driven plot. I, however, liked how each episode had different segments since it compliments the manga well. They’re both fast and easy to dive into.
The art has slightly improved from the first season (ooooh shiny), but the animation has really improved as well, at least from my standpoint. You may also notice that in the censored broadcast, in some ecchi situations, there’s a “white light out of nowhere” covering a certain part considered ecchi. While in some cases it’s acceptable, others it just doesn’t seem needed at all. Luckily for me (and hopefully for you), I was able to watch the uncensored broadcast, which to me, is what makes TLR enjoyable in the first place. *wink wink*
Though I feel that sound wasn’t a big factor in Motto, the music did, however, compliment some of the scenes pretty well in order to fit the mood. The opening theme is catchy and lively and the ending theme is easy-listening.
Because Motto follows the manga more closely, we’re not always given an episode that focuses solely on either the two main heroines, Lala and Haruna. Like I said earlier, some side characters get a segment of their own as well. As for character development, almost everyone is their usual self, but with some of the girls beginning to develop feelings for Rito. Rito himself is also coming to realize that he’s developing feelings for Lala as well.
Comparing the first and second season of TLR, I honestly think that the 2nd was just simply better than the 1st season because…you guessed it…it follows the manga more closely. Seeing some of my favorite chapters animated and having some of my favorite characters get their own segment definitely beats than having to watch something entirely stupid and pointless (ex. most of the episodes and Lala’s transformation sequence in the first season). The fanservice, in my opinion, is definitely where it needs to be since it is of course, TLR, which is known for that, and the 2nd season definitely did that a lot more than the 1st.
It may seem I’m giving Motto a little more credit than it deserves, but it does have its flaws. For those that, somehow, enjoyed the 1st season, the 2nd doesn’t pick up at all where it left off, so expect that if you’re going into the 2nd season. *Spoiler Alert* You may also question to yourself as to who is that character and how *insert character* is like that since it wasn’t portrayed in the anime at all, such as Celine originally being a plant, who is now in the form of a baby, or Oshizu now having a prosthetic body when she was originally a ghost.
With all that said, Motto TLR is a good watch…IF you happen to be a fan of the series. They removed, in my opinion, everything that was just terrible from the first season and just made the second season better by just following the manga, which pretty much what made me enjoy Motto from start to end.
WOOOOW, okay. If you’re interested in watching the To LOVE-Ru series, skip the first season and start with Motto To LOVE-Ru instead. I know I know, why in the world would I say this when I thought that To LOVE-Ru was a pretty good first season? Well the answer is mega simple; To LOVE-Ru ends in a way that lets Motto start off in a very much “let’s start all over” again sort of way. It’s ecchier/lewder, the art style is changed/upgraded to match the To LOVE-Ru ecchi aspects and it’s a huge over haul. Sure, it may take a while to get used to the characters, since there is a ton of girls to remember, but honestly, starting with Motto is far far far better. It’s not just art that changed too; the way the episodes are shown has changed as well. Instead of being forced to watch a 23 minute episode of sometimes archaic and rather ridiculous scenarios, Motto To LOVE-Ru employs a new tactic, each episode (except for the last one) is cut into 5-9 minute chunks; what this means is that in a 23 minute episode, we the viewers, are able to watch 3 different plots/stories/scenes/thing…. It works so unbelievably well; since the biggest issue I had with To LOVE-Ru (even if I didn’t mention it) was how dragged out some episodes were, especially since To LOVE-Ru was 2-cour.
Motto To LOVE-Ru takes what To LOVE-Ru did really well in and makes it a whole ton better, it also fixes all the issues I had with the first season. If you really like the older art style (I know I liked it a ton), you can give To LOVE-Ru a watch, but aside from knowing who’s who, you’re not missing much by skipping the first season, that’s my honest opinion.
Motto starts off a little later in time after To LOVE-Ru ended and the first episode, the first 10 seconds, really sets off with a “Hey you, yeah…you, you’re watching this for lewd ecchi goodness, don’t forget that”. Momo, Lala’s younger sister is in Yuuki’s bed and her head is near his crotch, so uhm, yeah it’s the perfect way to introduce everyone back into the To LOVE-Ru universe. Because of the episodic changes, Motto actually has 36 “episodes” and each episode is executed perfectly. To LOVE-Ru did a poor job giving meaning to the girls, Motto fixes this big time. Each girl gets at least one “episode” of exposition, I’d honestly say most get around 2 and then some. This makes it a lot easier to understand why they like Yuuki to begin with and that’s huge, giving characters a reason is something all anime should strive for, even if it’s a shameless ecchi anime. Yami, Mikan, Saki, Kotegawa, Oshizu, Lala, Haruna, Momo, Nana, Run, Celine, they all have episodes dedicated to them and their feelings, their likes and it’s incredible. Of that entire list, Celine, Momo and Nana are new to To LOVE-Ru; Celine is a super cute sunflower child that Lala gave to Yuuki on his birthday (from the OVA if you paid attention), every time she’s involved in an episode, hilarity ensues and she’s just too adorable!, Nana and Momo are Lala’s imouto, running away from the planet Deviluke, they live with Lala, Mikan and Yuuki. Momo has some of the best episodes in this entire anime and Nana eventually grows to like Yuuki, as additions to the cast, they’re fantastic and entirely lovable
5: Sora no Otoshimono: Forte
English: Heaven’s Lost Property: Forte
MAL Score: 7.51
Sakurai Tomoki has settled into his life with the two angeloids, Ikaros and Nymph, and is enjoying himself immensely. However, he keeps having weird dreams and asks all of his friends to help him investigate the cause.
Nymph conjures up a device that enables people, but not angeloids, to enter other people’s dreams. The device malfunctions at first but eventually they get to what was supposed to be Tomoki’s dream but discover that something is very wrong with it.
Later, a meteor comes crashing down from the skies at the site of the large cherry blossom tree where Tomoki first discovered Ikaros. An extremely well endowed blonde angeloid with a huge sword emerges from the meteor and sets off in search of Tomoki!
For those who don’t know what this show is about, it’s obviously an ecchi comedy at heart, but do not let this discourage your hopes of finding the foundations of good characters and story. Sora no Otoshimono has proven last year that the ecchi comedy genre when directed well is one that can create a very endearing story and truly likable cast of characters, and Forte as of this year continues with the same excellent direction that its prequel managed to execute successfully. All in all what you have in this series is amazingly epic and genuinely funny comedy, and an interesting story to round things out.
The story in Forte I feel isn’t quite as consistent in quality as it was in the previous season. A few of the episodes exist mainly for the purpose of random (but usually funny) comedy, and don’t really contribute very much to the plot. It is also worth knowing that the final two episodes are anime original content, and had weaker character development than some of the other episodes. However, the way Forte introduces the new characters of the series, mainly Astrea and Chaos, was truly a highlight of the series. Generally when Forte shows the viewer in which way the story is headed, it is clear, to the point, and captures emotions during both internal and external conflict beautifully. A point of focus is the fact the Angeloids, normally an emotionless object of servitude towards their master, are changed through Tomoki’s kindness and equal level treatment towards them, which in turn develops their emotions for Tomoki, and raises some intrapersonal questions about what rights an Angeloid has under her master.
Speaking of characters, the characters are generally very good in this show. The three Angeloids, like other classical trios, are endearing individually and together with their varying levels of intelligence, combat abilities, and emotions. The duo Mikako and Suguta are both cunning, yet contrast each other brilliantly with their evil and good qualities respectively, although Suguta gets extra points for promoting the advancement of the story in a number of episodes. The character I enjoyed least personally was Sohara, who didn’t feature too much development, and for the most part was just a stereotypical tsundere osananajimi who beats up Tomoki periodically.
Speaking of Tomoki, a lot of people complain about the protagonist Tomoki being too perverted, but I believe that the show would not be nearly as entertaining without a deliberately flawed protagonist like him. Tomoki is honest in more than one way, and while his honesty is something that his friends can rely on, his blatantly honest acceptance of his perversions as a hormonal teenager is also a refreshing concept in light of the “perfect” but boring and ultra lame protagonists that typically accompany your usual harem anime. This type of personality opens up a lot of opportunities for extremely creative and risque comedy.
The other part of what makes the series of Sora no Otoshimono exceptional is the general production quality. Forte follows the footsteps of its predecessor appropriately in this way, so it generally should be agreed that the art and sound quality of Forte are simply outstanding. Figures and backgrounds are detailed and colorful, voice acting for every character fits and contributes to the comedy well, and animations are fluid in many different types of scenes, ranging from the opening sequence (two of them!), snowball fights, chibi comedy shenanigans, showdowns in the sky between Angeloids, and of course ending sequence that is unique to each episode. Forte reuses some of the soundtrack that was present in season one, although a few new themes can be heard in the background to suit each important or comedic moment as it happens. In each ED, a different classic Japanese J-pop/rock song is remixed to accompany its paired animation. Anyone who has listened to a lot of old J-rock/pop might get a kick out of that.
While a few of the episodes might be mildly not up to expectations of fans of the series, they can be overlooked in light of how many exceptional things this show does. Generally speaking this show does a lot of things really really well in spite of (or because of?) being an ecchi comedy. This is not to say that this show ever slacked on being a legitimately fun ecchi comedy on top of their solid production and story. If you watched season one, it’s pretty hard to miss an exceptionally epic concept like the flying panties. I’ll leave it to you to decide, but I believe Forte does no worse in coming up with at least one idea that is equally, if not more amazing than flying panties. For me, becoming a fan of the series was inevitable, given how much I enjoyed it.
sound: 10, why? because there’s so many ending themes and its hillarious, every episode has a special ending theme.. 2nd reason is because it adds to the comedy… the sound, u just need to watch it for yourself, the comedy scenes will sometimes have this serious music but then again it’s comedy..i don’t know wht to say, both season 1 and 2 have marvelous op(i prefer season 1’s :D)…..the music for the action scenes r also good.
art: 7 nothing special here i don’t really have anything to say about this part… it’s everage, not that bad but also not that good…
character: 10 the setting for the characters is pretty cliche but its hard to find characters which r not cliche… best character: tomoki…he never fail to make laugh … most of the time(comedic scene), there will be this chibi tomoki and serious looking tomoki.. without them, i think the comedy will only be 70% less enjoyable… sugata sempai, he’s the coolest, smartest character in the series(i think) but he’s not all that perfect(makes the comedy better)… he’s weird, funny and… cool(but still funny!)….he’s searching for answers regarding to the ‘new world’. most of the time, at the beginning of the episode, he’ll talk about the world’s hystory with his assistant ‘pretty’…
enjoyment/overall: 10, i’m satisfied with almost everything in this series… the art isn’t special but still… no complaints…
In terms of storytelling style, it basically mimics the first season in that you have a little plot development and a little filler-type comedy mixed into each episode, although I’d say this season is definitely more focused on the overall conflict, which is the mysterious blue-haired angle in Tomoki’s dream. My only concern is that since there is more focus on this mysterious angel and about Synapse in general, which leads to a more serious tone, the comedy and seriousness clash a little bit at times as in some episodes you’ll feel like that with such a solemn plot going on, is it really appropriate to have this much comedy? Especially since this anime does have some violence (Nymph losing her wings in the first one was pretty brutal to watch) that seems out of place when mixed with comedy. The pacing was also annoying in that although there is more focus on Synapse, sometimes you’ll only get a tiny bit of plot movement in some of the episodes, which is extremely frustrating because it really makes you just want to find out what happens already. Cliffhangers are one thing, but delaying the main plot and making it that slow-paced was definitely a bit frustrating to watch. However, I would say that after episode 7 or so, the series gets really really good all the way to the end and it concludes with a strong finish, which really redeems this series. So to give it a more accurate rating, I would say the first half is a 6/10, and the second half is an 8 or 9.
I don’t have a problem with the animation itself, but like the first season, there is a ton of chibi, but there’s even more in this season to the point that I honestly forget what Tomoki looks like sometimes because you’ll have entire episodes where he’ll be in chibi. Chibi is cute when used correctly and really enhances comedic effects, but it’s definitely overused on Tomoki, even though it’s used really well on all the other characters.
The opening and ending themes are awesome as usual, and the music picked for the various moods is also appropriate as well. No complaints here.
I think Forte did an excellent job with character development. Nymph continues her tsundere growth, and it’s really pleasant to watch how much she changes from the first time she enters the show to the very end, where she’s a completely different character, and yet retains her core personality traits. Ikaros experiences just as much growth as she learns little by little what emotion is, and what her feelings for her master really mean. Really heartwarming to watch. The other characters remain pretty much the same though, especially Sohara, the Pres, and Sugata; they don’t really change at all. But this season did such a great job focusing on Nymph and Ikaros’ development that it makes up for the other characters’.
I’m only giving it a 7 since I really didn’t like the first half all that much, but the second half was extremely well done, so I definitely enjoyed that part of the series, but the first half was, like I said, a little frustrating to watch.
Forte definitely wasn’t a disappointment to Sora No Otoshimono fans, though, since I definitely consider Forte to be stronger than the first season, so if you liked that one, go ahead and start this one!
4: So Ra No Wo To
English: Sound of the Sky
Japanese: ソ ラ ノ ヲ ト
MAL Score: 7.55
On the outskirts of the country of Helvetia rests the tranquil town of Seize. Upon its cobbled streets, citizens go about their daily lives, undisturbed by the increasingly tense military relations between Helvetia and the neighboring Roman Empire.
It is under these circumstances that the 1121st platoon of the Helvetian army, stationed at the Clocktower Fortress in Seize, receives a new recruit in the young and spirited Kanata Sorami. Having joined the military to fulfill her dream of learning to play the bugle, she excitedly accepts the tutelage of the Sergeant Major, Rio Kazumiya, who happens to be a skilled trumpeter. Working alongside them are the aloof mechanic, No?l Kannagi, the feisty gunner, Kureha Suminoya, and the compassionate Captain Felicia Heideman; together, they experience the beauty of life in Seize and the lasting joy of a community that has persevered in spite of the crumbling world around them.
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see…”
John Newton and William Cowper (Olney Hymns – 1779).
The problem with first impressions is that all too often they are wrong, and this is one of the main reasons why a number of great shows don’t get the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, every season more anime are added to that list.
Sora no Woto (Sounds of the Skies), is one example of this mindset at work.
The series is the first production of a new initiative known as Anime no Chikara (The Power of Anime), which is essentially a collaboration between TV Tokyo’s anime department and Aniplex that was established in 2009 . Part of the mandate for this project is to create and produce original anime which are not based on any previously published material (so manga, novel and game adaptations are out of the window). One of the advantages of this is that the writers have far fewer restrictions placed on them from the outset, and it seems as though this freedom has been put to good use here.
The story is about a young girl, Sorami Kanata, who, having heard a trumpet rendition of “Amazing Grace” played by a mysterious female soldier, has resolved to become a bugler. She is assigned to the 1121st Platoon, who are stationed at the Time Keeping Bastion in the town of Seize, and is taken under the wing of Master Sergeant Rio Kazumiya.
Now, one would be forgiven for initially thinking that this series is nothing more than K-On! in the army, especially given that the character design is very similar between the two anime (I thought like that too, at first). However, the differences between the two shows are palpable from the very first moments of Sora no Woto. The plot, which is more on the episodic side for the most part, is far more reminiscent of Haibane Renmei, and although there are a few points that deserved more focus, the story is actually very well crafted. The pacing is extremely good throughout the series, and the seemingly slow progression promotes a feeling of relaxation rather than boredom in a manner very similar to Aria.
The one thing that really captures the viewer though, is the bittersweet yet hopeful undertone running through the series, and nowhere is this more prominent than in the characters. While each of them are somewhat stereotypical, the show develops in such a way that the story becomes inclusive of them, rather than having one true lead while the other “leads” are nothing more than glorified support. The upshot of this is that, come the end of the series, the viewer is left with a sense of catharsis that very few shows manage to achieve, especially ones that, at first glance, fit the “moe” archetype.
One of the supposed problems with Sora no Woto is the fact that the characters are designed with moe in mind, however the show is surprising in that, while the characters are reminiscent of certain other shows, this is where much of the similarity ends. In all honesty I found the character design somewhat off-putting at first, however this perception was dispelled very quickly as, although the characters are very clearly “moe” in their design, the fact is that this allows for a great deal of expression as well – something that is put to good use throughout the series. What is most surprising though, is the distinct lack of visual hooks associated with this sort of character design, in particular things like fan service. Instead, the series uses the characters in a manner that is far removed from the norm, and the effect of this is that, come the end of the series, one really begins to wonder why everyone made such a fuss over K-On!
Animation-wise, the series is very good, especially with character and vehicle movements. There is a fluid, almost naturalistic, flow to the animation which is present even during the scenes in which very little happens. The biggest pluses though, are the backgrounds and settings. Unlike most “moe” anime, the attention to detail in this area is truly good, with much of the scenery being evocative of old European towns, villages and countryside. As well as the visual style of the settings, the show also includes a number of European references (Helvetia is Switzerland for example, the Romans speak German, etc), all of which add to the series, and allow the viewer to become more absorbed in the show.
The acting is pretty good throughout the anime, and many of seiyuu really show their talent with their respective characters. Granted there are a few moments where Sora no Woto slips into “moe speaking mode”, however these become fewer as the series progresses. The real star of the show though, is the music, in particular the lone trumpet playing “Amazing Grace”.
Now, one thing that should be clarified here is just how important that one hymn is to this show. Hearing it is what spurs Kanata into becoming a bugler, but it’s also something that links a number of disparate threads throughout the series. The hymn is about salvation and redemption, and ultimately that’s what this series is all about. To be honest though, whenever I heard it, all of that didn’t matter. The image of the lone bugler playing that song is one of the most evocative to appear in anime for a long, long time, and is made more powerful because this show is effectively about the effects of war, not just on the common people or the military support staff, but also on those who fight.
In effect, this is what makes the characters in Sora no Woto so very different to what one would expect. While there is a degree of stereotype to them, the show is careful not to let these personality traits take over, and as the series progresses the characters are allowed to not simply grow, but to evolve, something which although limited at times, is laudable as this type of development is rare in anime.
Sora no Woto is, by any measure, as much a character piece as Haibane Renmei, Kino no Tabi, or any other show of that ilk. While those other shows may have far more character development, this series is no slouch, indeed some of the characterisations are extremely powerful, especially Illya Arkadia, a character who doesn’t appear too often and has very few lines, but whose presence is almost tangible throughout the show.
It should be clear by now that I enjoyed this series immensely, something which I still find somewhat surprising given that I initially avoided it because I expected something extremely “light and fluffy” like K-On! To say that Sora no Woto has far more substance than the series it looks like is an understatement, and while the difference may not sit well with die hard K-On! fans, it should be noted that the aim of this show isn’t simply to entertain, but to tell a story. The subject matter is open to interpretation, but the inclusion of possibly the most recognisable hymn in the world speaks volumes about how the series should be perceived.
That said, Sora no Woto does have some “light and fluffy” elements to it, but ultimately it’s a tale of salvation, redemption and hope, and it’s because of this that the series stands apart from many of it’s visual counterparts.
Sometimes the resemblance is only skin deep.
When So Ra No Wo To was first announced on the winter season roster, I wasn’t planning on watching it. Despite reading the plot synopsis, I did not think it was a ‘moeblob in the army’ kind of story. That only came later when many, many people decided to put labels on it. Still, I wasn’t inclined to watch the series. That is, until I saw the beautiful concept artwork by Kishida Mel. It was amazing and it made me want to see the series in spite of the much talked about art shift towards moe. (By the way, if anyone knows where I can find more of this art, feel free to tell me as I only have the two widely distributed images.)
I will say it once at the beginning of this review: this is not a moe series. It has moe character designs, it has some familiar character archetypes, but it is not a moe series. There is no pandering sexual material nor is there any outright moe or fanservice outside of episode 8 (if you consider that fanservice). There is a difference between a character like Kanata, who is inexperienced and idealistic because of her youth, and someone like Yui, who is a helpless mess of idiotball. I know that it’s easy to be cynical and look down upon anybody who isn’t a realistic superman with mature character flaws considering the current state of commercial anime, but if you can’t recognize the difference between these two characters, you will probably never be able to enjoy this series.
I was already caught when I watched the first episode. This was the single best premiere of the new season. On the other two hyped up series of the season: Durarara!!’s first episode was only told from the point of view of one character and would need the added perspectives of episode 2 onward to develop it into the great series it is. Dance in the Vampire Bund, on the other hand, went the Haruhi route of having the first episode have little to do with the story arc of the series, instead vying to prove the premise of the existence of it’s title species.
Sora no Woto, on the other hand, set up everything in the series from episode 1. Whether you loved or hated the show, very few question the sheer potential and number of possibilities that could spring from the series, especially considering it was anime original material. It set up the characters Rio and Kanata: one, a talented but cold and mature veteran, and the other, a bright and optismistic newcomer. It sets up the wonderous setting: the village of Seize, a quiet town that has become a corner of the habitable earth, and the world itself. And what a world it is.
The settting of Sora no Woto is a character in and of itself, and much of the intrigue of the first few episodes is trying to discover just what happened to the people that live here. Being a slice of life series, the series portrays the extraordinary in the mundane. Something terrible has happened to this world. There is no life left in the oceans. Entire species’ have been wiped out, and humans aren’t doing too well themselves. French and English objects are common place, and Japanese is a forgotten language. Technology that we would marvel as futuristic is considered ancient. In the first episode, we see something deep in a river that could not be explained by anything present in our world. Everything we find normal are leftovers of an era gone by.
And yet, the characters themselves are so fantastically ordinary. Despite the possibility and potential for this show to jump off into the land of fantasy or science fiction in the very next episode, there is a realism that permeates this series. This is no dark, dystopic vision, despite all the characters referencing a near apocalypse in the recent past. There is no police state, nor is there a heavy presence of the military. In fact, there are only five members of the military in the entire town. Two of them are women, three of them of are kids, all of them care little for war and all that comes with it. And watching the members of this village go through their daily lives, be it a glass-blower, a shopkeeper, a pair of orphans and their young guardian, or an elderly woman living in solitude in the mountains, you get the feeling that this is what it would be like. This is how people try to move on. Despite the fact that there are ongoing peace talks, there is no talk of peace in Seize, nor is talk of war. This place is so far away from civilization, you wonder why the military even have an outpost here. Then you realize that just a few miles from this town where war “could never happen,” there is barren, empty place known as No Man’s Land. And something terrible happened there.
When watching this series, you really get the impression that the writers and producers have done an immense amount of research. There is a strange mix of culture and history in this world, with art and architectural references abound. The story takes place in a small European town, and the architecture, landscape, artifacts, even the plantlife are portrayed correctly. There were no corners cut when they were creating the atmosphere of this series. While the animation is ordinary, it is the vivid and detailed artwork that make this series memorable. From the aging suburban buildings, to the fresh and maintained farmlands, to the lifeless desert with “modern” skyscrapers peeking out of the sand, to the untamed woods, the beautiful snowfields, and the distant mountains covered with deteriorating ruins of the futuristic technology of the old days. Everything is coloured and detailed wonderfully, and sprinkled with the anthropologic evidence of the time of war. This place was once important. Now it is not.
The show has great sound, period. Being a series where music is a big part of the plot, it is to be expected. The sound is crisp and clean, voice acting is top notch and stays in character, and the original musical composition is much more akin to “traditional” European classical music as opposed to your standard, synthetically orchestrated background music. A French vocal piece, the orchestra work at the end of episode 10, the music over the end credits of the final episode, and the numerous trumpet solos and renditions of “Amazing Grace” are some of the highlights. The opening sequence is visually stunning, with a very aged, mythological feel, and a retelling of a not-so-much-a-fairy-tale story you will hear in the first episode. The ending is a catchy song with visuals that once again serve to remind us that this series is not about moe caricatures. It is about a group of people that share bonds, experience hardships, laugh with and criticize each other. Friendship is a very important theme in this series.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
(For the remainder of this review, I will be discussing the plot, characters, and themes of the series, and there will be MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS after the break, including events from the finale episode. So, for all of you that haven’t yet watched the series, I really encourage you to watch it now. If you still don’t plan on it, I encourage you to read the rest of the review.)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
When I started this series, I had to admit that the characters were the weakest part of this story. The supporting and minor characters were all very well done and helped to create a rich environment, but the main characters weren’t so fortunate. They were all likable, but you couldn’t really deny that they were cliche, sprung from the regular anime archetypes and lacking the depth that I’d really want to see in this show.
However, Sora no Woto managed to subvert the standard cliches that befall this type of series. The characterization is archetypical — that is undeniable. But the depth and development that these characters get is not. I attribute a lot of this success to the way the series structured its episodes. Like another currently airing series, Durarara!!, this show has character centric episodes. Episode 1 and 8 are Kanata, 2 and 9 are Kureha, 3 and 10 are Rio, 4 and 11 are Noel, 7 is Filicia, 5 is about the youngsters of our group developing a bond that will stick forever, 6 is about the town of Seize and its secrets, and 12 is about the very world itself. Now while the plot progresses from episode to episode, if you were to watch, say, episode 4 followed by episode 11, you would see all the pieces of Noel’s character come together. The question she poses to Kanata in episode 4 regarding the tank and what evil could come of it now makes sense because she is looking to make up for the atrocities she made possible in the past.
More examples. Look at episode 2 and then 9. Kureha’s speech about being self-sufficient, as well as that small flashback of her being powerfully embraced by Rio in 2 are given their background in 9. She needs to be independent because she is an orphan and grew up having to do everything herself, and lectures a little brat about it. She looks up to Filicia and Rio as her mother and father, respectively. Look at episode 3 and 10, where we see a young Rio looking up to Iliya, and how she avoids the townsfolk and tries to deal with thing herself. Now take episode 10, where her relationship and responsibilities as Iliya’s sister are revealed, as well as the fact that she has been running away from them all her life. Episode 3 is titled “Rio Runs.”
The only character that doesn’t really fall into this pattern is Kanata herself. But I think we can all see by now that Kanata is a little special. While Kureha constantly derides her, she also becomes her best friend. While Rio smirks at her naivety, she also wishes she were a bit like her. Noel is so out of it that she already considers Kanata someone to look up to, or at least sleep on. And Filicia of course, with her maturity veiled behind a decieving but honest smile, already knew all of this. Kanata is a fool by there standards. She hasn’t gone through much hardship. She lived on farm, happily with both of her parents. She is a kid and she knows it. She wasn’t forced to grow up quickly like the other four girls of this series. She is average is just about every way. And that is precisely why she changes her companions so much.
Another reason why this series succeeds is the sheer attention to detail that it bestows upon the characters and plot. In episode 7, when Filicia runs out of the room, Noel stops Rio to go after her herself, telling Rio that she is the only one that understands Filicia’s trauma. Compare this to her later mental breakdown in episode 11. During Filicia’s flashback to the war, we see the reflection of a giant, unholy wing in the mirrors of a high rise building. At the end of episode 7, when the girls are sending spirits down the river, Noel sends no one because their numbers are too many to count. (Wow, a lot of these happened in episode 7.) Episode 10 featured the story of a woman living alone, waiting for the man she loved to return to her. In any other series, this would have either been a filler stretched for the length of an episode, or shoehorned into a regular episode clumsily. But in Sora no Woto, it is brilliantly used as a foil for Rio’s own feelings, and both stories are poetically resolved by the end of the twenty minute episode. I must applaud the director and the writers for the skillful execution of stories like these.
It isn’t just the characters. While you could say that the plot of this series was pretty simple in the present, the scope and amount of thought that went into detailing this world is immense. This series developed a beautiful mythology of its world, with concepts such as the angels, the fossil in the river, the ghosts in the abandoned school, the Takemikazuchi, the old era tanks and technology, the security system with Japanese characters out in the woods, No Man’s Land, the Invisible Reaper, the political discourse going on in the capital, events of the war, and historical figures such as Princess Iliya, Desert Claus, the Demon of Vingt, and the Witch of Helvetia. Where did the fossil’s head go? Were angels supernatural or extraterrestrial? Why is Japanese a forgotten language? With all this technology, why did the military use trumpets to communicate? Was it because of an A.I. virus or something else? The amount of history and cultural depth is awe-inspiring, and the open-endedness blurs the lines between science, fantasy, and reality. When combined with the beautiful visuals and emotion-filled music, it makes for a religious experience.
There were a lot of mysteries in this series, especially regarding the setting and what happened in the past. Those were the main reasons I couldn’t wait to watch a new episode every week. This show didn’t answer any of them. And by the end of the last episode, I didn’t care.
“You have suffered enough.”
Ultimately, Sora no Woto is a story of redemption and the constant hum of Amazing Grace hammers that home. It is the story of a group of people who appear cute and harmless on the outside, but are quickly shown to be haunted by a past they can not escape. Much like the world they live in. And by the end of this series, they all come full circle. At the end of episode 11, I thought there was simply too much to be resolved. But sure enough, all of the threads that were left dangling throughout the course of the series were woven together into a beautiful fabric. And that was the real miracle of this series, not Kanata’s trumpet-playing at the end.
Noel wanted to be forgiven for the lives she took as the Witch of Helvetia, and she is, even moreso by a solidier of the nation she massacred. Kureha played the “bad guy” military realist all her life because she was an only child, despite having her entire family. Her mom was cheerfully aloof while dealing with her own problems in secret, her dad was the only girl she looked up to but she was long gone now, and her two sisters were both airheads, one having a reason for it and the other just being that way. And at the end, she breaks down, finally admitting that she doesn’t want to be alone anymore. And she is embraced by her family, who were always standing with her the entire time. Filicia wants to put an end to war once and for all so that she is the last person that has to watch all her friends die before their very eyes, and she takes the first step in ensuring that future. Rio avoided following in her sister’s footsteps all her life, but in the end, she does what she must, having been inspired by Kanata and the rest of her new sisters. And the reward is far beyond anything she ever imagined. Kanata’s goal of learning how to play the trumpet quickly becomes synonomous with saving the very world itself. And she does.
“Even if no one else forgives you, I will.”
Aisha says these words to Noel in the finale. But after watching the whole series and taking a step back to soak it all in, I believe these words are referring to the world itself. The people of this world have experienced a very terrible thing: a war of unimaginable proportion, so widescale that nearly everything they held dear is now gone. The people of Seize try to move on with their lives, but they can’t. The soldiers don’t wish to fight, yet they still do. The reality is that no one has moved on. The peace talks are deteriorating. War is on the horizon despite how quiet the world has become. Because the people of this world have not forgiven themselves.
The ending of Sora no Woto was not a miracle. As Kanata has stated time and time again throughout the series: She is just a girl who wants to play the trumpet, to communicate people’s thoughts through music. She is just the messenger. And as she plays her trumpet atop the Takemikazuchi, to the armies of both Helvetia and and the Holy Roman Empire, she is doing just that. All throughout the series, she is both complimented and condoned for her innocence. And yet in the end, it is because of her pure heart that she realizes the message first: she loves this world. As does everyone else, but they have forgotten. By tragedy, loss, heartbreak, and the false idea that they could move on without forgiving themselves, they have forgotten.
A big reason why I love this show is because it reminds me of two series that I hold very dear: Haibane Renmei and The 08th M.S. Team. Both are series with heavy slice of life elements, yet manage to explore philosophical and war themes. After seeing the first episode, I knew that this series would start off as a happy-go-lucky slice of life but would eventually tread deep into darker territory. The opening sequence and the foreshadowing of the girls reliving the myth of the Fire Maidens made it even more likely. By around episode 4, I learned that this series was done by the director of Elfen Lied, at which point I had no doubt there would be a tragic ending. I thought this series would have the world reunite against the revived angel, where war would return with numerous losses. Eventually, the five girls would have to make a tremendous sacrifice and end up becoming the very Maidens they looked up to.
However, Sora no Woto gave me an ending I never knew I wanted. It was humanity itself that was its own worst enemy. It fought a war, but at what cost? It was humanity that felt the guilt of the old ages, and it was humanity that was unable to find redemption. When Yumina began to retell the legend of Fire Maidens, it was an emotional experience. The moment I saw Aisha as the angel, I realized for the first time what this show was tring to accomplish. I knew it wasn’t going to come back to the angel fossil or any of the other questions they raised, because they weren’t important anymore. The girls do indeed make their own Odyssey-like epic and become like the Maidens of the legend but not like I thought they would. They weren’t burned at the stake like the Maidens either — humanity has become much more forgiving.
To me, Sora no Woto is the story of a girl who makes the world remember what they had all along: forgiveness. Whose message was it? I can’t answer that question. Nevertheless, it was a sound in the sky, and it was heard by five girls who, after finding peace in their own redemption, take it upon themselves to share that message with the rest of the world. But maybe that’s a miracle all by itself.
Sora no woto, aka ‘Sound of the Sky’ is a mixed culture setting war zone folktale involving a young girl who only came to military to play nice trumpet. If you just read the synopsis, it seems like a very unique and refreshing idea for slice of life genre anime. Sadly, it is not, because the major problem that this anime falls down is from the concept from the start. When you think of slice of life genre, the most important thing is always consistency on everything. Theme, settings, plot, relevance, comedy, all these thing has to be in balanced and united by one main flow of atmosphere. Sora no woto ultimately fails to do that.
Think about the setting of this anime first. There is a war and a town. Only soldiers there in that huge fat town are 5 females, three of them is not even capable of using the guns right. Trumpet is being used for the military communication, and yet they have extremely advanced tank we’ve never seen in any animes. Mixed culture of Europe and Japan looks just awkward as it is. There are all sorts of mysteries arising, yet none of them is properly solved or introduced. Yes, this anime doesn’t make sense of anything. My understanding of ‘making sense’ is completely different from Gurren Lagann pierce through the time adventure with galaxy sized robot, it’s more about the relationship between its circumstance. Sora no woto always involves the paradoxical elements at the same times, and tries to tell two completely irrelevant lines of the story. I’m just utterly surprised that this anime actually ended with this horribly introduced setting and backgrounds.
There is no real plot we can call; it just portrays the life of 5 girls in military. It’s basically a war zone, so it partially success on telling this story of blood and massacre that those disasters create (*Or not, perhaps. I’m just making this up). Some episode actually does make us to become a bit emotional. It was pretty nice. The problem is, it still doesn’t make ‘sense’. The whole this creation of story looks like giant piece of junk art, chucked in random elements together in one; even Homer Simpson can make that kind of stinkers. I’m seriously concerning about the ability of script writers for this anime. Conversations are very unintelligent and none of them is memorable. I mean, what the hack is all of those flat, cheap, overused and retarded jokes? I mean, they just don’t work for me. From my theory, this happened due to indecisive nature of the staffs who’s trying to make anime deep and emotional but funny and cheap at the same time. Anime clichés with fanservices and terror of war just don’t match; they are basically trying to something that is facing the complete opposite directions. It will never work. Those writers tried to do two things at once; they wanted war drama which will make some of emotional scenes that will cry people in a river, but at the same time, they wanted moe appeals, for financial issues. Well, if they had ability, they really could’ve used those services in ‘appropriate’ moment, then I will at least say ‘oh well, they wrapped up war and moe nicely’. It doesn’t. Some episodes were totally tainted by irrelevant use of moe fanservices, and these taints ruins the whole flow of the mood.
Not just that; maybe the idea of war itself is actually the reason that Sora no Woto breaks apart. I’m not saying war is such a bad theme or whatever. It is just overused way too much. *War is bad thing! I’ll protect this village from that bad thing!*… seriously, everyone knows that. War is bad, and should be prevented whatsoever; and this anime tries to tell us about ‘THAT’. For 12 episodes long series, only thing it said is this one philosophical and complex phrase; ‘WAR IS BAD’, but nothing else excluding the pee joke. Shallow… way too much shallow…
Episode is very, very inconsistent. Some episodes are alright, trying to raise our hopes a bit more. Later, it crushes by terribly executed episodes that are absolutely pointless to put. When some scenes are well concerned, other parts are just utterly boring. It is sad that there are only a few ‘truly’ good scenes, but almost about 15 minutes per episode is just futile. With this shallow plot and setting, it can only do stretching itself out to fill the bottle of 25 minutes. Those filled materials are the main cause of this boredom, and occurred due to simplistic storyline. If they’ve made some solid basis at the start, this never happened.
Thing I can praise on this anime is BG art. It was one of the most gorgeous looking scenes I’ve seen in a while. It is breath-taking, and all those buildings, trees, lakes, cliffs, bridges form a perfect harmony, contrast what I’ve seen in its story. I was utterly surprised about all the animation quality from this anime. CG tank (although it doesn’t make sense) looks great and very well animated. OP animation had some beautiful and abstract art works. On the other hand, it might be just me, but I hate that character design so much. That’s one of the major reasons why I hated K-On. This part of me is pretty much biased, so I will not count this part on the rating; amazing BG art covers all.
Sound is another astonishing thing; I just love classics and violins. A lot of them sounds greatly, although most of time, they are used in inappropriate time. OP is not bad; serious and calming although it was not that candy for me, but ED was seriously mismatching the theme of war. It was funny seeing this difference between opening, ending songs, since that’s what they exactly did for the plot of the anime. OP = War drama!! ED = MOE MOE!!
Sadly, characters in this anime are the most stereotypical, and uninteresting ones I’ve ever seen. I felt like being tortured watching all those crappy cliché treatments. Starting with Katana, she joined military only to learn how to play trumpet. She is really bad at it, but in certain episode, she just miraculously learns how to play it perfectly, for some superficial reason. ‘LOL SHII IZU SUCH A GENIUUSSU!!’. Hell no, that’s brainless on the side of production staffs. She is enthusiastic, cute and naïve; so typical. There is nothing special or interesting thing about this character at all.
Next, we have Kureha, tsundere. Actually, one of those annoying ones. She acts all over the place spreading her faggotry like ‘Katana we are fuckin soldiers, it’s a SERIOUS BUSINESS, don’t play like weabooooz.’ Yet, she can’t even hold her gun tight. This is just another clichéd character, and we can expect nothing new from her. Same goes to silent moe Noel-chan and typical mother type glassed girl whose existence makes no sense. Only character I can say ‘not that bad’ is Rio; the only person there who in fact make sense being a soldier. She is cool and gets annoyed a lot for the ‘proper’ reason, such as Katana being empty-headed. She still has major bullshit things that make everything senseless, but better than all the other lowly characters. Ultimately, the character lacks some large amount of depth overall. Their reaction is so predictable due to the oversimplified personality. They are all clichéd and uninteresting.
Did I enjoy watching this? Try to throw yourself into the trash-bin and swim; you will find it more enjoyable than this shit. It was more of pain; everything absolutely makes no sense, and is more of quasi-experiment without a single noticeable moments. I’m just terribly disappointed how this gorgeous art and my favourite classical music background OST got wasted for this terrible series.
Sora no woto had a potential. So, I just blame production staffs and industrial crisis. Hurr durr.
3: Toaru Majutsu no Index II
English: A Certain Magical Index II
MAL Score: 7.57
As tensions between the world of magic and Academy City continues to rise, Touma Kamijou and his hand of negation must face off against both esper and magician in order to protect the lives of those around him. Of course, he is not alone in his fight; whether by his side or out of sight, allies and enemies both old and new will enter the fray to help him.
Toaru Majutsu no Index II continues the story of action and comedy, as the scale of Touma and his allies’ battle grows ever larger. A conflict is slowly brewing on the horizon, and magic and science will cross paths once again in the war to come.
I once went to the “Women Are Neglecting Kitchens Society” ( Yes, I do know that abbreviates to W.A.N.K.S) Don’t worry, all they do is tell “Women and Kitchen” jokes to each other. Anyways, the committee was proposing “Kamijou Touma” as their society’s mascot. Bear in mind I did not watch any episodes of “Toaru Majutsu no Index” at all so I had to ask, “Who the heck is Touma??”
My membership got instantly revoked.
So after watching the first season, I still did not understand why is Touma is treated like a hero for the W.A.N.K.S. But after venturing into the second season during the great “Nuns vs Touma’s Right Fist” war, I finally understood them..
“Your story wasn’t that entertaining” says Misaka expressing her boredom.
Oh, and providing commentary for this review today is Misaka Clone #10032
So let’s begin the review shall we?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve continuously watched from the first season into the second season, thus I could significantly notice several changes between the two season.
Once again the story revolves around Kamijou Touma and his RIGHT FIST. Note I do not say RIGHT HAND to avoid any sexual innuendos. Once again, Touma lack of discrimination for women causes him to go out of his way to save any “damsel in distress” nor does he care about holding back when he “rearranging their faces” Along with index and a few other companions, he is again dragged into solving the problems between the two dominating church factions in the story out of his sense of altruism. I can absolutely say you will get hooked onto each episode, there is almost no such thing as “fillers” (Eventhough once in a while I would like that since the story is moving at such an incredible momentum) I did not read the light novels thus in no way am I comparing the anime to it.
The character design improved significantly from the previous season. Combat sequence are getting more serious effects. I love the new opening now and I’ve seen tons of spoof and parodies made about it in NND. This is one of the few openings I would actually listen to instead of skipping. And who doesn’t like the sound effect when Touma uses his RIGHT FIST to dispel magic or espers ability?
Characters! More development here for Touma’s character. And when I say more development, I mean his HAREM is developing! However I felt like they were neglecting Index once again.. Poor Index… Other supporting characters such as Misaka, Accelerator and Kuroko do appear to further compliment the story. Misaka and her tsudere-ness reaches a higher level! The sad part about this anime is that as new characters are being introduced, the older ones which had their own arc are being left by the sidelines.
“I did get to appear momentarily in one of the episodes…” says Misaka proudly.
NO!!! DONT SPOIL THE SHOW FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T WATCHED!! Now go make me a sammich!
“I decline…” says Misaka while looking at the other direction.
Anyways, as blasphemous as it is, I did enjoy the whole religion versus science theme. Ok, so technically all religions are not represented so to correct it, it would actually be a war between the Christian Crusaders and Science. And wow, these Christian Crusaders made Taliban Terrorist looks like wimps, eventhough in reality the existence of espers and magic isn’t really acknowledge. Now the reason I wouldn’t give the enjoyment value of this anime to the maximun score is because the whole Touma tries to reason a girl, girl rejects Touma’s reasoning, Touma’s crush girl’s illusion a.k.a her face, girl defects and becomes his ally, is getting old pretty quick. Sure thats a nice way to add girls to your harem instead of the typical dating sim of buying flowers and chocolates and raising flags every single moment, why not just falcon punch her?? Now, in no way am I or Touma are sexist here.
“Touma isn’t sexist as he indiscriminately punches anyone in the face, male or female” Misaka adds to strengthen the argument.
Well said. So to put it easily, if you’re the type who fancies superpowers and ability users, this would be a good anime for you to watch. Be sure to watch the first season though. And what is a harem anime without a couple of fanservice?? Yes we do have some to satisfy you fetish! For all you lolicon, Miko fetish, and Nun fetish! Not to mention a lot of tsunderes to go around (10,000+ to be exact)
And do not take the religion aspect of this story too seriously, in no way it is connected to reality. This is a fictional world. Otherwise, how else would they be able to acquire magic make up?? What? You didn’t notice they were wearing magic make up?? Whenever Touma punches his enemies’ face with his RIGHT FIST, their faces becomes slightly uglier thus their magic make up was dispelled by Touma’s RIGHT FIST..
“I do not understand your jokes..” says Misaka showing her confusion
Well how about this? Touma lost his right arm when he was a kid so Chuck Norris gave him his right arm since Chuck Norris has the ability to regenerate any of his body part. Thus explains why Touma’s RIGHT FIST is supremely incredible!
“Who is this Chucku Norrissu of which you speak?” Misaka asked in further confusion.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that the To Aru Majutsu no Index series has been less than brilliant but I still found the first series enjoyable. Pretty much every arc would have roughly the same shell: Touma meets a nice girl who is a victim of a horrible plot. Touma then finds out about said horrible plot. Touma confronts the antagonist behind the plot. Said antagonist gives a typical “Good intention but wrong method” excuse before Touma gives an idealistic speech and punches him in the face. Rinse and repeat. Not that I didn’t enjoy it the first few times but it does get old and fast. Even so, the first season did make up for it by filling up that shell with some creative stuff and I was still intrigued with the dark mystery behind the Magic and Science sides. I also fell in love with the comedy and the character interactions which were just priceless.
All of that is mostly done away with in this new instalment. Any creativity the previous arcs had is thrown out the window leaving behind that empty shell I’ve grown to hate, with the only difference being that Touma is now punching girls instead of guys. I think the biggest problem is with the exposition. For example in the second arc, they pretty much throw you into the deep end of plots between churches and a whole load of techno-babble and if you can’t make sense out of it in the first five seconds, well then good luck because they won’t dally around. The comedy is sorely lacking in creativity as well. Let me give you an example of how that contrasts with the first season. At the beginning of one arc in the first season, Touma (who has amnesia) stumbles upon a very oddly dressed little girl. Touma being Genre Savvy enough to realise that anyone who dresses that strangely is someone he must know, decides to greet the girl. Except the girl in question immediately considers Touma an enemy just for greeting her and holds him at knife point. It’s not that he wasn’t exactly wrong in his deduction. It’s just that he’s an incredibly unlucky guy. In this season that type of comedy was mostly replaced with an insufferable amount of Accidental Pervert moments only two of which had any sort of creativity to them. There were some funny moments here and there but nothing like the first season and without that comedy the series loses much of its charm.
And now that you’re left with that empty shell you have the opportunity of realising just how ridiculously irritating Touma can be with his annoying speeches. In one arc, I noticed that when Styl was taken down by the antagonist if you actually notice, the pool of blood coming from Styl gets slowly bigger and bigger whilst Touma spends some precious time preaching to the antagonist about how wrong she is. Not only that but one problem is that anyone who knows even a little about how to argue would know just how terrible his debating skills are. It mostly just consists of throwing a lot of general idealistic principles. And that’s not even the worst thing about his speeches. No, the worst thing is that it’s only ever so far been used to break down incredibly weak motives. This was particularly egregious when the second to last antagonist Touma faces gives what has to be the most retarded antagonist’s motive I’ve ever heard, not just in the To Aru series but in anime generally.
Oh and don’t count on Index to become more important in this series like I did. She doesn’t. Oh she serves as a good plot device in certain key moments but that’s about as far as it gets. She’s far more important in the first season, even when I thought she was being shafted. I wonder why they even call it “Magical Index” anymore.
That said it’s not all bad. The series picks up in the last quarter and that would be mostly due to the introduction of Accelerator as a more central figure. A much more interesting character that provides a more cynical route for all those already irritated with Touma. But even then the last quarter had its flaws so it’s nowhere near enough for me to overlook the poor quality of a whole three-quarter of this season. The soundtrack is at least as brilliant as it’s always been (something I think is largely underrated) with each piece always providing the perfect atmosphere. The animation though has become a lot more inconsistent this season. It’s great in many places but in others I notice a lot of odd and jerky movements and the inconstancy has been a notable pain for me throughout the entire season.
Overall it’s only because I’m a fan of the series that I’m not giving it an even lower rating. But even though the second season was a bitter disappointment, I still look forward to the third season (which although hasn’t been announced yet is still a forgone conclusion). I’ve been promised by several Light Novel readers that the story really does get much better after this. Pushing aside the obvious problem that it would have to take 48 episodes to finally pick up, if season three does reach my expectations then I will simply consider this season a part of the story that bridges the gap between season one and three. So in conclusion, if you’re a fan of this series and you’re willing to watch 24 episodes of mostly mediocre stuff, all for the sake of understanding season three when it finally picks up then go for it, but make sure to lower your expectations. If you’re not a fan and you’re not in the least bit curious about what happens (even though you’re reading a review of it) then don’t bother.
A Certain Magical Index should really be renamed, and I have the perfect title: A Certain Frustrating Show. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been so frustrated with a show quite like this before, not because it’s bad, but because it’s good, and very enjoyable – but for some bizarre reason, the show never uses its latent potential to become something truly outstanding.
Let me get one thing out of the way first: Index II is a significant step-up from the first series, the first episode was actually better than nearly every single moment of the original series (minus Accelerator’s little mini-arc) and actually got me looking forward to a show that I thought would only be marginally better than its prequel, instead, what I got was a series that involves a lot of evil Roman Catholics who are more extreme than most actual religious extremists, a lot of idealistic speeches and a lot of women being punched in the face.
Another thing I should get out of the way, if you’re an easily offended religious person (specifically, a Roman Catholic) or a fairly hardcore feminist who believes that all men are “pigs”, then this probably isn’t the show for you, seeing as, more than likely, you may be offended by the shows content at some point.
Having said that, I don’t think the show is actually trying to be offensive, it’s just unfortunate that certain aspects of the show – which I’ll cover later on – can be misconstrued as either racist or misogynistic depending on your beliefs. If you’re able to get past these issues, then there’s a good chance that you may be able to enjoy the show despite its faults.
Now that I’ve covered the obligatory “If you’re easily offended, don’t watch it” section, I should probably move onto the reason you’re (probably) still reading this review, that is, the part in which I’m actually reviewing.
Index II continues to follow the misadventures of everyone’s favorite unfortunate protagonist, Kamijou Touma, and his exploits as he tries to deal with the looming threat of the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church and…the Roman Catholic Church, because apparently, the Roman Catholic Church seems to have nothing better to do with their time than try to take over Academy City – occasionally they mix things up a bit by not going after Academy City itself, but generally speaking, the Roman Catholics serve as the main antagonists for the most part.
They also happen to make some pretty poor antagonists at that, usually guided by poor motivations and weak reasons which are broken down by Touma’s equally weak idealistic speeches which serve as a constant reminder that, despite having his occasionally cool moments in Index (and to a much greater extent, Railgun): Kamijou Touma is an idealistic buffoon, whose only redeeming feature is that he happens to have one of the most overpowered abilities in the history of fiction.
However, poor antagonists aside, the most infuriating aspect of Index II’s story is its own inability to capitalise on the clear potential that it actually has here, I’m not joking when I say that the potential for a really outstanding story is absolutely huge here. The story has a lot of really good ideas that, frustratingly, are hardly ever capitalised on for the majority of the run time – we still for example, don’t actually know what Imagine Breaker is, all we know is that Touma’s only redeeming feature is able to negate any supernatural ability that is thrown at him – magical or otherwise. No explanation is given as to why it is he has this power, what its full potential actually is, or why it’s capable of negating supernatural abilities in the first place – it becomes clear in one of the later arcs that there is clearly a lot more to Imagine Breaker than meets the eye, (although this statement is kind of redundant, seeing as it was obvious) but that’s about it.
Index too doesn’t seem to serve any more importance than she did last season, in fact, there are several people who have argued that she was actually more important in the first season, even though there are arcs in which she doesn’t actually appear at all. The MAL synopsis for this show is actually very misleading; if there are any of you who think that Index will serve a greater role in Index II then think again, she won’t, and you’ll be left feeling very disappointed. She’s still just as annoying as ever mind you, so there are some definite pro’s to this particular con of the story.
There are plenty of other occasions when the story fails to capitalise on its potential too, for instance, why doesn’t it introduce any other saints besides Kanzaki Kaori? Surely the Church of England has other magicians it can send besides Stiyl, right? Just what exactly are Aleister’s plans? Are there any other interesting Espers besides Misaka and Accelerator? Who exactly are the other Level 5 Espers anyway? (although Railgun S has already partially answered that question for me) There are a lot of other questions that I’d really love to ask, because this show still hasn’t answered them, although I’m fairly sure that when Index III comes out, (it’s a question of when, not if) I’ll be getting my answers – in fact, I’m starting to think that Index II decided to purposely dodge any questions I may have purely for the purpose of getting me excited for the inevitable third season – and if that was the case, it succeeded.
Another issue with the story is the woman punching, personally, I wasn’t as bothered by this as some people may actually be, but I can certainly understand why it can be seen as an issue. Nearly every arc (with a few notable exceptions) revolves around Touma punching the antagonist – in this case, the main female villain of the arc – in the face, and potentially rearranging it whilst he’s doing so; I’m fairly sure that Index II’s intention wasn’t actually to be misogynistic, in the same way I think it’s just using the Roman Catholic Church because of the various pieces of Christian symbolism it can use rather than being racist about it.
It’s not all bad though, the last two arcs are actually really good and really enjoyable, for a few notable reasons, one of which being that they actually serve to progress the story and in a very notable way. The final two arcs are huge indications that something really big is coming, and make a large change to the sometimes filler-like feel of certain arcs (the Daihaseisai arc feeling like it was just dragging on, especially towards the end). Another reason is that Accelerator ends up becoming the main character for a time, which is a nice change of pace when compared to Touma. Everyone’s favorite psychopathic anti-hero with a heart serves as a much more interesting main protagonist (which is why his little arc in the original series was by far the best thing about it), not to mention, he gets the good villain too, with his main enemy serving as a much more interesting, well motivated antagonist in comparison to Touma’s villains.
Another notable aspect of Index II’s story is that this time, it doesn’t bombard you with lots of terminology, which was a huge problem of the original series, instead, any new terminology is actually explained and, more importantly, serves as relevant information to the plot – even if in some cases, it’s arc limited. This makes it much easier to sort out plot details in your head, but it never feels like it’s just spoon-feeding you either, which is nice.
The final thing about the story is, that, well, it actually goes somewhere…eventually. The original series never went anywhere with its plot, despite hinting that it clearly could, and whilst it takes a while for Index II to go somewhere, when it does eventually move, there are significant leaps in progress in comparison to the original.
Animation is also better than the original series, attacks look cooler and pack more of a punch in terms of visual clarity, the series animates rather well and it’s obvious that Index II is getting the best part of the budget that I didn’t know J.C Staff actually had.
It’s not perfect however, there are some times when the animation becomes quite choppy and inconsistent, with the occasional off-model appearing every now and again, as well as some static images appearing here and there too. These are minor gripes however, as for the most part, Index II is generally rather good to watch and look at, especially when characters are bringing out their most powerful spells or Esper ability.
Similar to the first series, the OST doesn’t really have that many notable tracks to go with it, although there a couple of tracks worth mentioning, probably because the show likes to play them a lot – Kyuuketsu Koroshi is a nice track that brings an atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in a good detective show, Gensou Koroshi is essentially Touma’s illusion breaking theme song, Nichijou provides some amusement when it’s covering the daily lives of the characters. It’s not a bad mix of tracks, although there are definitely better OST’s out there.
Opening and ending themes fare similarly to the previous series, with the one notable exception being the second opening, See VisionS, which is the series best opening by a long stretch and, funnily enough, becomes the shows opening theme when the story actually decides to become interesting.
Voice acting is pretty strong too, now that I actually understand why it is that the various Misaka’s speak like they do, I now actually think that it was a pretty clever choice as opposed to an annoying inclusion that actually does makes a lot of sense in context. Despite his character, Atsushi Abe is actually very good as Touma, and there are often plenty of times that his performance is able to sell the character despite the stupidity of his speeches (were it not for the fact that what he’s saying is rather stupid, Abe puts so much effort into the role that he’s capable of fooling you into thinking that what he’s saying is worth listening to). Rina Satou still delivers well on Misaka – I’m inclined to like her more now seeing as I actually liked Railgun. Satomi Arai is actually pretty funny whenever she screams “Onee-Sama” as Kuroko, Rina Hidaka is fairly adorable as Last Order now that I understand more about the character…the list goes on.
There are a few notable performances in the voice acting as well, although, for different reasons. Rie Kugimiya does her trademark squeal as Sister Agnese, whether this is a good thing or not is entirely up to you, I personally didn’t mind it. My man Keiji Fujiwara is a great addition to the cast as Accelerator’s villain, Kihara, bringing a sadistic, cynical performance that totally fits with an arc revolving around Accelerator. Yuka Iguchi is…well, she’s Yuka Iguchi, I didn’t like her in the original series and honestly, my opinion of her hasn’t changed all that much either.
Once again though, the best actor in the show is by far Nobuhiko Okamoto as Accelerator, he’s able to pull off every scream, every insult, every single psychopathic laugh with amazing sincerity, all whilst being able to bring emotional depth to a character who, for all intents and purposes, you should probably hate and would do whatever it takes to avoid if you saw him on the street. It’s Okamoto’s performance when Accelerator’s not screaming that really sells it, his world weary voice and seemingly apathetic attitude showing that, underneath the psychopath, is a very lonely and unloved boy who’s just trying to get by and find people that he can actually get along with – which is probably why he goes so far to help Last Order and why they play off each other really well.
The characters of Index are a group of people who you will share a mixed relationship with, on the one hand, there are characters who are actually rather good, Accelerator being the most obvious example followed by Misaka, as well as characters who you will probably really dislike. I’ll make this clear now, if you didn’t like Index in the first series, forget about liking her here, she hasn’t changed, she’s still annoying and the moments when she bites Touma are not funny. The show does actually have some cool characters like Stiyl and Tsuchimikado, but they’re never usually on screen long enough for you to actually say “Yeah, these guys are actually really good characters.” and that’s actually a recurring issue with a lot of the characters in Index, there are definitely some cool characters here, but that’s all they are: cool. You won’t see any characters of any noticeable depth unless they’re either main characters, or you watched Railgun and got to see Misaka’s life fleshed out more. It’s that irritating issue of when a show has too many characters, and doesn’t know what to do with them, so you’re left with two-dimensional to one-dimensional characters.
Then there are the antagonists, a completely mixed bag of characters who range from decent (i.e Kihara) to pretty lacklustre (i.e most of Touma’s villains) – Biagio Busoni I should add, is a total waste of Emperor Wakamoto’s voice, in fact, if it turns out that they end up going up against God in Index III, Wakamoto should play God, that would be an appropriate role for him (for God I mean, ’cause he doesn’t even come close to Emperor Wakamoto after all).
The most polarising character however, is Kamijou Touma himself. The main problem with Touma is that, well, he’s a buffoon, an idealistic one at that, spouting out his ideals whenever his altruism gets him caught up in the final fight of the arc. Although, there is something there that doesn’t make me totally dislike him – and I’m not just referring to his ability either. Kamijou Touma is a genuinely nice guy who goes to great lengths to ensure that everyone, be they friend or enemy regardless, turns out better for it, his altruism truly knows no bounds. Whilst I can’t necessarily vouch for his brilliance as a character, he certainly does have some admirable traits about him, and if someone bothered to fix his idealistic speeches and terrible debating skills, I’d probably be saying I like the guy.
With all this being said though, Index II is an immensely enjoyable show. I managed to get through it in two days and I’m really looking forward to Index III (from what I know, the light novels are supposed to get really good once all the filler style stuff is out of the way), and flaws aside, when Index II is going at full swing, it’s actually a hard show to fault – despite its issues, Index II has a considerably high entertainment factor. The comedy is actually legitimately funny and gets past cheap gags that were never really funny to begin with such as Index biting Touma, the action sequences are very good and are great to watch, and similar to the last season, the arc like structure allows you to pretty much watch the show at your leisure without feeling too bad about not watching for a bit. There’s a lot going for Index II.
I should also point out that, Index II is not a bad show, it’s actually a good show – and it’s fantastic in comparison to the first season. It’s just a shame that, despite all its pros in comparison to the first series, its many cons, such as the frustrating inability to actually capitalise and fully exploit the good ideas that it actually has, prevent it from being truly outstanding, which is a really frustrating issue indeed. I’ll just hope for now that, when Index III is confirmed, I’ll finally be able to enjoy To Aru Majutsu no Index at its best and that I’ll finally be able to say “It’s totally worth watching the first two seasons for.”
Until that point however, it really will just be A Certain Frustrating Show.
2: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun
English: A Certain Scientific Railgun
MAL Score: 7.70
The student-filled Academy City is at the forefront of scientific advancement and home to the esper development program. The seven “Level 5” espers are the most powerful in Academy City, and ranked third among them is middle schooler Mikoto Misaka, an electricity manipulator known as “The Railgun.”
When strange incidents begin occurring throughout the city, she finds each crime to be connected to the elusive “Level Upper,” a legendary device that allegedly increases the esper level of its user. As the situation escalates, it becomes apparent that there is more to the Level Upper than meets the eye, and that Academy City may be a far more twisted place than the glamorous utopia it appears to be.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun focuses on Mikoto and her friends—and the dangerous situations they find themselves in—as they get caught up in the matter of the Level Upper. As Mikoto says, “There’s never a dull moment in this city.”
All is not lost though, as while it is rare that a spinoff can proclaim itself to be as good as, if not better than, the original work, there are some shows that do fit the bill. Frasier (Cheers), CSI: NY and Miami, Torchwood (Dr. Who), Mork & Mindy (Happy Days), and a small number of other titles are widely regarded as at least equal to the original works.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun can also add its name to that list..
Unlike Toaru Majutsu no Index this series is not actually based on the light novels by Kamachi Kazuma, but is instead based on a spinoff manga by Fuyukawa Motoi. Unlike the Index series the spinoff focuses on Misaka Mikoto, the “Railgun” from the original series. Once more the action takes place in Academy City as Mikoto and her friends are beset by strange earthquakes, conspiracies, friendship issues, and all manner of hijinks.
Like the original series the format of Railgun uses an amalgamation of episodic and multi-chapter arcs however, much like Index, the series is also flawed in terms of its plot because of this. While the series has a reasonably enjoyable story, the tendency to jump from one focus to another like frog on a hot rock is detrimental to the flow of the plot. It’s unfortunate as the format is similar to that adopted by GitS: SAC, however the big difference between the two shows is that where GitS: SAC provided food for thought, Railgun neglects this in favour of audience pleasing fillers (if the audience is juvenile that is).
That said, the plot has some interesting aspects to it, however the lack of a timeframe means that viewers may become a tad confused as to the ordering of events, especially if one tries to correlate the occurences in Index with those in Railgun.
The biggest downside to the format of Railgun though, is the fact that the more interesting aspects of the show are never fully explored due to the lack of focus, something which would have given this show the edge that it really needs.
While the plot may have its issues, the art and animation for Railgun is definitely a step up from Index. The characters follow the design of the manga and the original series, and while this may promote a certain sense of continuity, it’s also a downside as well, as the character design becomes a little stale over the course of the show (i.e. too much of the same).
Backgrounds and settings are generally bright and colourful, and the scenery is very much in keeping with the style of the original series. The animation is generally smooth, however there are moments when the characters move in a truly ludicrous manner, something which can ruin a good action scene.
The one thing I do question is the fanservice, as it’s clearly surplus to requirements. Granted the series is nowhere near the same level as some I could mention, however this is a showthat didn’t really need to go that extra mile just to please the fans, and the story would have been more enjoyable without all the pandering.
Railgun is generally well served in the acting department. Satou Rina and Arai Satomi reprise their roles from Index as Mikoto and Kuroko, and they are joined by Itou Kanae and Toyosaki Aki (Saten Ruiko and Uiharu Kazari respectively), to form the main core of characters. However, while the actresses are all experienced, there are occasions when the roles are really “hammed up”, particularly when it comes to relationship issues.
As for the music, the show has a decent variety of thematic tracks which are generally well used when required, however there are also occasions where the music is clearly at odds with the on screen action. The generally upbeat style of music is reflected in the two OPs and two of the EDs used in the series. The ED for episode 12 is more melodic and has a slightly bittersweet sentiment to it which serves as a nice counterpoint to the ending of that particular arc.
The biggest surprise of this series is the characters. In a strange irony, they are both the best aspect of Railgun, but also its worst. The lack of plot focus is, in part, made up for by the development of the main cast, especially Ruiko who, in terms of actual character growth, is developed more than the other three girls. Now many fans may argue with that perspective, however I will point out that of the four main girls, it’s Ruiko who not only changes the most, but also endures the most.
Now, I did mention that the characters were also the worst part of Railgun didn’t I? Well, the reason for this is that while the characters do receive a degree of development, it simply isn’t enough to justify their actions. The lack of plot focus only exacerbates the problem, and the show is littered with semi developed characters. In addition to this, the usage of comic relief based fanservice (e.g. Kuroko’s behaviour towards Mikoto), washes away what little development had gone before. While the characters are engaging enough in their own way, the show could have done with putting more effort into the plot and characters, and less into making money from the hormone crazed masses.
With all of the problems I’ve mentioned, many might think that I didin’t enjoy Railgun, when in actuality, I did. The show is entertaining as a no brain action romp, and had the potential, along with Index, to be something truly great. While I may regard Railgun as a wasted opportunity, it isn’t actually a bad show at all, and many people may find something to keep them insterested.
In all honesty though, Railgun, like Index, had a great deal more potential than it actually delivers. The concept of both series is inventive and imaginative, however the execution, especially in Railgun, falls flat due to the desire to make money.The biggest example of how this impacts the show is the level of fanservice throughout the series (one whole episode, for example, is nothing more than a swimsuit buffet). It rapidly becomes obvious that the one of the main purposes of this series is to pander to hordes who love Mikoto, and while giving the public what they want isn’t a bad thing, sometimes a show is better off not doing so.
On the plus side though, at least Toaru Kagaku no Railgun is one of the few spinoffs that’s as good as the original story.
Academy City is a city that thrives on those who are espers — who are special — whether they already have powers or are trying to attain them. Everyone is reaching towards their ideal self, but some people don’t care what methods get used. The pursuit of the “next level” is absolute. If our limitations only exist so we can surpass them, should there be a limit to how far we can go to get there?
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, or A Certain Scientific Railgun, follows the events around Misaka Mikoto and her core group of friends and their exploits within the City. They are students, aiming to better their powers as espers. But in a city with a concentrated amount of people with special abilities, it’s only natural for the criminally-minded to try to carve out their own bit of power at the expense of others. To combat such an element and maintain civil order, the organization Judgment exists. Having a free-willed, ace-in-the-hole player like Misaka who keeps people in line all by herself doesn’t hurt either.
Misaka (affectionately dubbed “Biribiri”) is one of the most powerful espers in Academy City. Her ability to generate and manipulate electricity makes her a force that most overconfident thugs learn too late shouldn’t have been reckoned with. Kuroko is her best friend, a crazy and hyperactive girl whose yuri-obsession with her beloved “Onee-sama” is hilarious despite constant rejection. Teleportation of objects (herself included) is her esper proficiency, making her one of the more menacing opponents to come up against, despite the diminutive and cute appearance. Uiharu is the demure techie: easily embarrassed, but a wizard at hacking or culling information from any network. As a member of Judgment, she is often the “eye-in-the-sky” for Kuroko when they take action.
In a place brimming with espers, Saten is the most fascinating of the four. Her official designation is Level 0. She has no powers at all. Nevertheless, she attends classes and learns all there is to learn about being an esper. The teachers explain to the Level 0s like her that it’s possible to reach Level 1… but Saten always has a wistful look when the topic comes up. It’s clear she doesn’t have that kind of optimism. What does it mean to be that kind of outsider looking in? And how much worse is it to be in the middle of this incredible city, surrounded by so many exceptional people she’d love to be?
Academy City is almost a character in itself. It’s hard not to fall in love with it. Clean, stylish, dotted with wind generators, a near-futuristic center of learning and advanced scientific research, all the while supersaturated with technology. The juxtaposition of seemingly sentient trash-collector robots and soda machines that only work if you kick them appears to point out that we’ll always have some low-tech around.
Railgun fixes most every glaring problem that tripped up Toaru Majutsu no Index. Gone are Index’s occasional — albeit entirely useless — scenes where those involved in the higher echelons of running Academy City were up to some sinister, boring machinations. Fortunately, Railgun is much more down-to-earth. It also wisely limits the amount of talking that occurs during fight sequences. The action is left to unfold naturally, instead of cramming in reams of idealistic soliloquies that the Index villains probably weren’t even listening to. Finally, it does away with Index’s tendency to tell one mini-arc, followed by another mini-arc, followed by another mini-arc… ad nauseam that tended to make the show’s overall narrative out of focus and its pace too breakneck.
The structure of this show, however, is a bit of an odd thing and does deserve to be mulled over. It begins largely episodic with only a scattering of episodes focused entirely on the more serious arc that concludes at the halfway point. The second half is much the same. I say ‘odd’ because it’s a unique structure I’ve rarely come across. Most non-episodic anime tend to follow the same format as any other narrative medium: an identifiable conflict or targeted goal at the outset; gradual complications along the way; an ending with the inevitable climax and resolution.
Railgun mostly ignores that age-old wisdom. Twice.
The four or five episodes that precede each climax are strong, focused, and exciting. So if the creators were so capable, why not follow the arcs in every episode? Simply put, it seems to be a stylistic choice — and one that is as refreshing as it is surprisingly effective. It frees up the story, allows our perspective of Academy City to expand by degrees and the characters a chance to breathe. The importance of the latter cannot be stressed enough. After all, our heroines are living here primarily to learn. It’s a given that attending classes and socializing are going to make up no small portion of their day-to-day lives.
That said, Kuroko and Uiharu’s work at Judgment comprises the larger portion. Most of the fun is watching them work on cases and hunt down perpetrators. Even though Misaka isn’t a part of Judgment, she often forces herself into the role of unofficial member. That she has this proclivity for beating up criminals isn’t so much that she’s a do-gooder, but rather that’s how she finds it easiest to protect her friends. She has an active investment in their well-being and specific meaningful relationships to lose if something goes wrong. This is, of course, all to say that it’s vastly more engaging to watch her and her cohorts, as opposed to a certain bed-headed, misfortunate guy with a chronic Helper Monkey Complex.
I usually don’t mention voice acting, but the consistent excellence is such that I can’t avoid it. Toyosaki Aki easily hits her highest note yet here and in one pivotal moment gives an amazing, touching performance. Even the always-talented Tanaka Atsuko creates a character that is very special. So to avoid a laundry list of names, let me simply say that if some of your favorite seiyuu are involved, it probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to urge you to check it out for that reason alone.
The OPs are as highly-charged as Misaka’s railgun and the EDs are catchy outros after all the excitement. In fact, the songs that bookend the show’s second half are as good as — if not better than — the first half’s. And here I thought it was some sort of sadistic tradition in anime for second-half OPs and EDs to be lacklustre.
The overall soundtrack is just as fantastic. Not only the music itself, but also its skillful use. At one point, a solitary piano begins playing, making us realize that since the episode started there hasn’t been any music. Instead of merely reinforcing the mood, it becomes the subtext that the characters can’t say. Later on when they connect to each other, a similar piano begins. As they are finally able to talk, more and more instruments are woven into the song as they become more and more desperate to express everything they wanted to say earlier.
Sound effects are another design element that truly shine. There is something so perfect in the execution of Biribiri’s electricity and Kuroko’s teleportation. It isn’t that Index’s sound effects for these abilities were bad at all, but rather that in Railgun they have been refined enough to be a little addicting to listen to. Likewise, the action of the fight scenes is as much aural as it is visual. Impact is visceral, whether against concrete or someone’s face.
The art is crisp and beautiful. The visual design is such that your eyes get drawn in, from a particularly huge parfait to some spellbinding fight choreography. Some close-up expressions of the characters are priceless. Unfortunately, certain distance shots of them can dip in quality. It’s a pity given the polished look of everything else around them, but comparatively speaking it’s easy to forgive as it doesn’t occur often.
Railgun is an anime that starts with a cast of memorable characters, tells a very entertaining story, and has the privilege of doing so with laudable production values. The questions it raises are thought-provoking and relevant. Even when the story meanders into a stand-alone episode that has no real bearing on the plot, it is always with a sense of how it fits into the overarching frame. Like its characters, the story breathes. At times it runs; at times it walks. And yes, also like its characters, sometimes it takes that random detour and ends up discovering something wholly unexpected. While science plays a large role in the show, all its elements end up filled with quite a bit of magic.
And that’s a certain kind of awesome.
The story is nothing new. At all. There are people who can use powers and this time a whole city is there to develop these. Even though everyone’s already full of that premise, doesn’t mean you don’t have to explain the world build, writers. We only got a glance at what its like living in Academy City. The world was never explained. Why the magic users don’t appear was never explained. The “Level” system was never fully explained. We saw everything but knew nothing.
This show uses a specific formula to get its story arcs going, usually introducing a new character that has nothing to do with the conflict at the start, and then starts slowly revealing why this one character in fact has everything to do with the conflict. The wrong in the execution of the show is its constant failures to try to hide it. The episode itself tries to be too unpredictable and almost becomes too predictable, you see. It’s funny how this show tries to pretend it’s not based on arcs by constantly remembering you of what happened in the past. These ‘flashbacks’ are unneeded and they only serve to take more screentime.
The story contains many trivial episodes (which is also a screentime problem, like the festival, the visit to the girls dorm, the Judgement investigation episodes of things we already know about etc.) and recycles alot of jokes (like Shirai worshipping Misaka). Not only that, but the filler episodes and the jokes are misplaced, which completely ruins the dramatic mood it tries to develop (just like it happened in the end of episode 22).
The story ends up having too many mishaps and too little reconnaissances. There are twists and turns on the story but it is never truly developed since the end of every conflict has little impact on the characters themselves (like it was all ‘just another adventure’). There was never a climax. There was never a point where I was worried any of the characters would get hurt. There was never an experience that involved the viewers worrying or even caring for the characters. I just accepted eveything that happened and moved on, knowing that in the end everything would go well. And it did. That’s why I didn’t enjoy watching this series.
We got more development to the side characters than to the main cast of girls, while Uiharu was the most developed and by far the worst character of the show. We still know nothing about Misaka’s past, which is a shame since she has the most screentime of the entire series, and it feels dull to watch her kicking ass without knowing the conflicts she had to pass to obtain such power. The villains are are absolutely horrible. This is another anime that explains the bad guy’s actions by the insanity of their minds, like a human can only be mean if they are out of it. It’s cringe-worthy, I’m telling ya.
The art is nothing special. I’ve seen this style many times, and I don’t like the side faces. This is not a judging point, though, I’m just pointing it out, alright?
Animation is okay. Nothing much to complain about.
The sound work is bad. While the fights are going the same singing tune keeps on repeating undefinitely until it’s over. The episodes always start with the same calm soundtrack. Each part always has its own music. This show is so preditable that you can even predict which soundtrack is going to play for each scene, and It’s not like they are good at all. The music should help the show by adding another feel to the scenes, and not help you to know what’s coming up next, lmao.
There are shows with no story that can be enjoyable with good characters. There are shows with bad characters that can be enjoyable with a good story.
But there are no shows with bad stories and bad characters that can be enjoyable. See you in the sequel, Kagaku no Railgun. I hope you learn.
MAL Score: 8.95
The Amanto, aliens from outer space, have invaded Earth and taken over feudal Japan. As a result, a prohibition on swords has been established, and the samurai of Japan are treated with disregard as a consequence.
However one man, Gintoki Sakata, still possesses the heart of the samurai, although from his love of sweets and work as a yorozuya, one might not expect it. Accompanying him in his jack-of-all-trades line of work are Shinpachi Shimura, a boy with glasses and a strong heart, Kagura with her umbrella and seemingly bottomless stomach, as well as Sadaharu, their oversized pet dog. Of course, these odd jobs are not always simple, as they frequently have run-ins with the police, ragtag rebels, and assassins, oftentimes leading to humorous but unfortunate consequences.
Who said life as an errand boy was easy?
It’s strange to say this, but humour has never been a strong department for the medium, partly because of the cultural differences between East and West, but mainly because the majority of anime comedies rely more on parody than anything else. The problem with this is that quite often the viewer is left without a frame of reference, so the humour simply goes over their heads. Some shows manage to get away with it purely by throwing out an almost constant stream of gags in the hope that people will understand enough of them to be entertained, while others like Seto no Hanayome and Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu have a slightly more careful approach.
The area where anime is weakest is where situational comedy is concerned. There are plenty of shows around that could invariably class themselves as sit-coms, but the penchant for studios to base their stories in some sort of school setting severely limits the quality of the humour. In essence, the industry’s blind adherence to what they think is a winning formula has resulted in the dilution of just about every single joke that could be told in a school setting, so much so in fact that these days studios have fallen to relying on fanservice based comedies in order to make ends meet (pardon the pun).
Comedy anime isn’t dead though, as there are some rays of light shining down on the wreckage of red noses, bladders on sticks and giant shoes. Nodame Cantabile insane otaku heroine and her long suffering boyfriend introduced many people to the world of classical music and the usage of otaku power when learning French. Genshiken took a slightly rose tinted look at the multi-layered world of the Japanese otaku, while Moyashimon payed homage to the classic American frat comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House.
One series has, however, defied all the conventions, and has become one of the greatest comedy anime of all time. Incorporating elements from some of the best comedy of both East and West, the series has an anarchic streak that, at times, is more reminiscent of Monty Python, The Simpsons and Family Guy.
I am, of course, talking about Gintama.
The concept of a samurai sit-com isn’t new to anime and manga, however it wasn’t until the serialisation of Sorachi Hideaki’s manga in 2003 that anyone actually realised the potential in this type of story. Set in a quasi-historical Edo, Japan (and possibly the rest of the world), has been conquered by an alien race known as the Amanto. The nation’s strongest warriors were no match for the alien technology, and in an effort to prevent another samurai uprising, the powers that be have banned humans from carrying swords in public.
In this world there lives a former samurai with silver hair who runs the firm known as Yorozuya from his rented second floor apartment. From time to time he takes on odd jobs (yorozuya), for people in order to pay his rent and buy milkshakes and his beloved Weekly Shounen Jump.
He is Sakata Gintoki, and his destiny is to make you cry with laughter.
To say that the story is a bit on the haphazard side is probably a gross understatement, however Gintama is nothing if not consistent in its approach. The underlying story is of Gintoki and his “friends”, Shimura Shinpachi (an average human teenager with no real special qualities), and Kagura (an alien who looks human and possesses monstrous strength), as they go through their days doing odd jobs for people, getting into arguments/figths with the Shinsengumi (police, kind of), drinking strawberry milkshakes (or some other flavour depending on Gintoki’s mood), and trying in some small way to make the world a better place.
And that’s really about as serious as many of the episodes get. The haphazard approach to the story is a purposeful measure that, strangely enough, works very well, mainly because Gintama is a comedy series. There are story arcs that occur over the course of the show, and even though they may include some serious or dramatic content, Gintama never once loses its sense of fun. Indeed, the comedy is the true strength of this series, not simply in its style and delivery, but also in its content. Many of the visual gags have to be seen to be believed (seriously, how the hell did they get away with the Neo Armstrong Cyclone Jet Armstrong Cannon), and whilst the series is top-filled with parodies, the humour is always involving so the viewer rarely feels like a joke has gone over their head.
That said, Ginatama has one aspect that is greater than all others in terms of its plot and comedy content, and that is its ability to turn the seemingly ordinary into something completely different. This is the main reason why Gintama can be considered a sit-com rather than a parody, as this aspect has more in common with shows like Blackadder and Monty Python than anything else. There are numerous occasions where the series will catch the viewer off guard with its sly, anarchic take on seemingly normal events (like being in a public toilet and running out of paper).
Of course, there are downsides too. Although the series is extremely strong in terms of comedy, it sometimes lacks when events take a serious turn. This may be due to the audience’s reactions, as viewers may automatically think that something funny is going to happen next, however a part of it also stems from the fact that the comedy is sometimes too “strong”. It’s ironic to say this, but Gintama’s greatest strength may also be its biggest weakness.
As with any long running shounen series animation and design are pretty good on the whole. The characters convey a sense of visual individuality that at times goes beyond that of other shounen anime, although this is tempered with a small degree of genericism that allows the humour to flourish . The colours are extremely bold and solid, while the backgrounds and set designs highlight the synergy between alien technology and Edo. The animation itself is of an extremely high standard, so much so in fact that some of the visual gags only really work because of it.
The high points of the visuals are the show’s numerous and well crafted parodies. There are many occasions where the style, animation, end even the character design, changes to make the humour more immediate, sometimes occuring in the blink of an eye, and sometimes lasting for a good portion of a given episode. The series also plays around with a variety of concepts that most people only really read about, one example being an occasion where Gintoki and the gang are rendered invisible because the episode is incomplete. It’s nigh on impossible to find another anime that not only mentions something like this, but also shows the viewer what it would look like.
Much of the humour comes from the characters themselves, but no matter how good the scripting is, delivery is everything when it comes to comedy, and in this respect Gintama is extremely well served by its seiyuu. The cast are able to perform with a panache that is sometimes astonishing, and their portrayals of their respective characters are so good that one would be forgiven for believing they were full time comedians. Possibly the best example of this is Kugimiya Rie (Kagura), who for many years has been typecast into various tsundere roles. Her portrayal of Kagura is truly excellent, especially in terms of comedy, and much like the rest of the cast she manages to not only maintain a consistent character for a an extended period of time, but has actually become more adept with her timing and delivery.
Gintama is generally consistent with its choice of music, and certain tracks are repeated throughout the series usually to add to the comic atmosphere of a given scene. That said, some of the more serious moments can feel a little off-kilter as the score changes can sometimes be a little sudden. As with any long running series the OP and ED have changed since the show began airing in 2006. These tracks are usually pretty good at capturing the essence of Gintama (which just sounds wrong), as a whole, and the opening sequences are designed and choregraphed to highlight the important aspects of the anime – humour, fun, some seriousness, and a large slice of anarchy.
In all honesty, there is no real reason to find the characters outstanding, and the fact that they are iconic, original and memorable is possibly Gintama’s greatest triumph. Gintoki, Shinpachi, Kagura, the members of the Shinsengumi, and all the sundry characters, alien and otherwise, who appear in the show will find some funny bone to tickle. When taken as individuals each is a flawed creation that really wouldn’t work were this any other anime, but the plot and scripting for the series, together with the talent of the seiyuu and the design of each character, turns this idea completely on its head. Much of the comedy is dependent on the characters, and it’s because the series is so good at entertaining the audience that any noticeable flaws are generally forgiven or ignored.
Gintama is not simply a funny anime though. Over the seasons the show has gradually become a phenomenon in the medium, mainly because of its ability to maintain consistent humour for over most of its 201 episodes. The irreverent and oh-so anarchic humour can, at times, come off as weird, but this has only served to endear the series to more viewers.
Numerous fans refer to Gintama as their “anime crack”, a sentiment which is understandable in a sense as it has the ability to lift one’s mood in a way that few other anime can manage. That doesn’t mean that everyone will be entertained though, but if the viewer approaches the show with the right sort of mindset (e.g. open), then the series has a lot to offer.
That said, shounen fans will definitely find Gintama appealing, not simply because it bears all the stereotypical hallmarks of that genre of anime, but also for its ability to creatively parody other shounen tales (like Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, etc – who can forget the infamous DragonBleaPiece movie trailer). Fans of comedy anime like Seto no Hanayome, Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu and others of that ilk, will also find Gintama’s ability to mess with everyday concepts worthwhile.
There are plenty of aspects to the series that possess a broad appeal in terms of humour, and it’s to the credit of everyone involved with the production (from mangaka Sorachi Hideaki on down to the guy/girl who makes the tea), that the show never gets old, stale, or too bogged down in how good it actually is.
There’s a new king of comedy in town. Make way for Gintama.
Now this is a show I’ve wrestled with for a long time. Many of my friends pledged almost fanatically this is the best anime in existence. I watched the first episode. So this is it? I was not impressed. As a person who found pleasure in the darkest and most gloomy kinds of settings, I would almost immediately say that this was not for me. Everything was just so weird and appeared to be arbitrarily glued together.
I was so naïve.
At some point I picked Gintama up again, I’m one of the people who are not easily moved to laughter but still, there had to be something to this… Let me tell you this, Gintama is a journey, a pilgrimage. You will not appreciate it after two or three episodes, even twenty may not be enough. It took me sixty whole episodes when I was finally thoroughly entertained but it was then that I realized: Gintama is like a snowball rolling down a mountain. It’s barely recognizable at first but the next time you turn your gaze in its direction, it will have turned into an avalanche.
Sooo… yeah, this is actually hard. Gintama is composed of a series of mini arcs that have no real connection to each other. You can’t call it a consistent storyline but it’s also not really episodic, there are also fillers organically weaved into the style and pace of the anime. A strange kind of hybrid, that still works somehow. We have different little events like the Benizakura, Yoshiwara or Popularity Poll arc, which all are amazingly done. Action, drama and most of all comedy, Gintama’s got them all and none of them are bad. Also, because I can’t find a better place to do this, let may tell you a few things about the often overlooked setting. The pseudo-medieval, post war Japanese capital Edo with modern technology, invaded by a multitude of alien races called Amanto. Sounds utterly random right? Wrong. It is my firm believe that this setting is actually the backbone of Gintama. Why you ask? Because it allows for the greatest number of possible scenarios, different people and places. You can have a samurai, a rebel leader, an alien and a penguin costume guy added to the cast and nobody bats an eye, because it still feels natural. Never forget the setting, it makes this anime what it is.
It’s strange, when I started watching I thought to myself ‘This looks somehow generic’ but at the same time ‘This looks somehow unique’. It’s hard to explain but that’s the feeling I get from Gintama. Visual quality may not be top notch here but it gets progressively better, a fact that is especially apparent in latter battle sequences. I would leave it at nine points but there’s another thing… facial expressions. They are beyond hilarious, I won’t say too much about it but you will understand once you have seen a few exemplary episodes.
There are a few very iconic and memorable tracks on the Gintama OST, that’s probably due to the fact that they are used so frequently but that doesn’t mean that I ever got sick of them. Audio is mostly bright and uplifting, fitting to the animes focus on comedy. Opening and ending themes are also pleasing, notably Donten and Stairway Generation. This would also be a eight or nine if it wasn’t for the seiyuus. These guys are BRILLIANT! Every voice fits its character and Sugita Tomokazu is probably the most unique voice I have ever heard in anime. He’s now the voice of Gintoki for me, forever. Kugumiya Rie is a rather well-known name, revered for her roles as your run of the mill tsundere girls. Kagura was a kind of character that was probably new to her but she still did an excellent job. There are a dozen other examples but I’m not going into debt on all of them, only thing you have to know is that the voiceover job is amazing.
Alright, so this is the deciding factor that makes this anime awesome. Here we have some amazingly thought out characters and not just for comedy purposes, most of them have a backstory, even the vilest of antagonists are not just pure embodied malice. This is also what causes the anime to take time to get going, you have to get to know the characters. A naked random guy is very much different to a naked Isao Kondo. Almost all of them are likeable, memorable and most of all funny. We have no focus on development here but such progression would do more harm than anything else. It takes time to get to know them and that process is very important, changing a well-established character after that process is complete doesn’t strike me as a good idea.
It takes time, 60 episodes to get it rolling, 140 episodes to have me almost dying of laughter but it was well worth it. Gintama maintains a consistent, no, increasing level of entertainment over the course of its 201 episodes. It’s already hilarious and would have been even better if I was capable of understanding the Japanese language without subtitles or if I’d seen more anime to understand all the parodies going on. Knowledge of basic Shounen Jump, Ghibli Movies, NGE, Doraemon or Gundam widely enhances the spectrum of jokes you can laugh about. Even without that and as part of a western audience, I found myself crying out in laughter over a majority of the jokes, there are just so many of them, no way you can miss everything.
So are all these people right, is Gintama the best anime of all time? I dare not to pass judgment unto that, simply because Gintama is so unique and unconventional that I feel it falls into a category of its own. There is no competition for this anime in its specific category because it’s the only one that ever made it there. This is not the best of all anime, this is just Gintama, don’t lump it together with all the others! Even if they’re brilliant, if they’re entrancing, if they’re masterpieces, don’t make that mistake. I myself who is speaking so highly of this anime have other favorites; this is simply Gintama, no need for comparison.
If you plan on taking a shot at Gintama and you’re not completely hooked after the first few episodes, bring a lot of patience, it will pay off.
There isn’t a single cohesive narrative to Gintama. There are some loosely connected arcs, and a whole lot of episodes that have nothing to do with those arcs, but there is no single narrative. The basic setup is that the world has been conquered by aliens, referred to in Gintama as “Amanto” and the government is still subservient to them. Samurai are no longer allowed to carry swords except for a few who work for the government or who have wealth and connections. In this world a samurai named Gintoki works by, in theory, doing odd jobs. Although that largely consists of him doing nothing. His crew consists of a youngster named Shinpachi, an Amanto girl named Kagura who possesses super strength and is highly vulnerable to sunlight, and a giant dog named Sadaharu, our cute character who requires ear scritches and belly rubs. Hijinks ensue as this group and the people around them get into shenanigans.
Let’s begin by looking at the problems with the series, shall we? By far the biggest issue is that the writing aesthetic is horribly inconsistent. Most of the episodes are highly random and intended for humour but when they get to the more story heavy arcs things take a huge shift into serious territory, sometimes including really heavy topics like sex trafficking, and it creates a huge tonal clash between episodes. You can’t segue from jokes about testicles and bloody rectums into a story about an underground city where children are sold to be raised as sex slaves. There is quite literally no way to make that transition so that it isn’t painfully awkward and completely disrespectful to the serious issue. It’s worse than that Captain Planet episode that dealt with AIDS. Sure, that was way over the series’ head too, but there wasn’t such a radical tonal problem. The tone isn’t the only thing that has problems with consistency, there’s also the continuity. There are three basic ways to do continuity. The first is having a strict, coherent continuity where everything matters. The second is to have a basic progression from one episode to the next but the details aren’t that important. The third is to toss continuity out the window completely, like Galaxy Angel. The problem with Gintama is that it does all three. Some episodes deal very much with continuity as being super important, others follow the more fast and loose route where there’s a progression but the details aren’t important and there are other episodes that don’t fit into any kind of continuity and will never be mentioned again after they’re over.
Now that we’ve been over that, let’s talk a bit about the comedy in this series that is, mostly, comedic. A lot of it is pretty puerile humour where someone defecates in their pants, or someone’s anus bleeds or where the punchline is something involving testicles. There are also a lot of bits where the characters will make loud references to some other piece of media and there are some other random bits of humour. The trouble is, a lot of it really isn’t funny. For example, there’s a running gag about one of the characters eating too much mayonnaise which is funny because… if he ate that much mayo in reality he’d weigh two hundred kilos and have to get around with a motorised scooter? There are two characters who pretty much exist for stalker jokes and there’s another running joke about Katsura getting annoyed by people calling him the wrong thing. There are times when the randomness can work and there are some points where they parody something competently instead of just making reference to it but they’re few and far between. I will give the series full credit for having some surprisingly clever deconstructions here and there, particularly when it comes to its treatment of trans-gendered characters.
Gintama has a large cast of reoccurring characters, but very little in terms of complex ones. Most of them are used for one or two jokes and that’s pretty much it. I will say that there’s nothing wrong with that for a comedic work. You can have a bunch of fairly one-note characters as long as they have dynamics that provide good comedic possibilities and you can take advantage of that. The problem is the more serious episodes. This cast would be perfectly passable if the series didn’t have those largely serious story arcs but when you take a bunch of relatively shallow comedic characters and try to do something fairly serious with them it just quickly loses any sense of tension and the characters come across as heavily under-developed, if not as completely out of place.
The artwork and animation are pretty decent. There are some cases where they recycle footage or show a background with nothing happening, which they will almost always lampshade, but it’s competently done. The action sequences can be pretty strong, both when they’re doing something largely serious and when they’re doing a jokey action scene.
The actors are pretty capable and no one does badly. However, the level of over-exaggeration in the series is really high and you might very well find yourself growing weary of listening to people shouting. The music varies. Sometimes it’s pretty good, sometimes it’s kind of annoying. Mostly, it’s just kind of bland.
There’s some in the series. There’s an openly lesbian character who shows up on a semi-regular basis and there’s a guy who is heavily implied to have romantic feelings for Sougo who shows up for a couple of episodes late in the series. There’s no reciprocation for their feelings, but they also aren’t used for jokes based on their sexuality. Some of the other characters act like asses about it at points, but the series itself doesn’t treat it as an issue. So, I’ll give Gintama some credit for treating its gay characters no differently than it does its straight characters. It is pretty refreshing, especially when you have “comedies” like Baka to Test that have to be as mean-spirited as possible about things like that.
Gintama has a real problem with consistency. Its tone is wildly inconsistent which can lead to some really awkward and stilted moments. It’s inconsistent with what it wants to do with its continuity. If you like humour that’s more than a little puerile and pretty random then you might still enjoy the series in spite of that and there are some things it does pretty decently but it’s honestly not my cup of tea in that regard. I just don’t find ninety percent of the attempts at humour to be amusing. As such, I have to give the series a 4/10. Next week we’ll have this year’s film festival. Starting with Kara no Kyoukai 6 on Sunday. Because I’ve looked at that franchise first during the last two years and I might as well do it this time as well.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
2. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun
3. Toaru Majutsu no Index II
4. So Ra No Wo To
5. Sora no Otoshimono: Forte
6. Strike Witches 2
7. Motto To LOVE-Ru
8. Super Robot Taisen OG: The Inspector
9. Cobra The Animation
10. Battle Spirits: Brave