They’re the best Anime that 2020 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of No Guns Life 2nd Season, The God of High School, Darwin’s Game, and more!
10: No Guns Life 2nd Season
English: No Guns Life
Japanese: ノー ガンズ ライフ
MAL Score: 7.06
Second half of No Guns Life.
Whereas the first season went all over the place in it’s narrative, here it’s more focused. Giving enough time to expand on the main leads. Mary gets her own arc that focuses on her relationship with her long lost brother which gave her otherwise rather dull character some extra flare. Juzo’s past is also explored more in depth which was one of the more intriguing mysteries of the first season. Even Tetsuro who I thought was one of the weaker characters has his own development starting to take root, and is overall not as useless this time around.
But while it does improve on some things, it’s not with a big enough margin to make up for it’s flaws. Most of which were also present in the previous season. The exposition and dialogue in general felt forced and dumb downed. Likely making anyone watching feel like Einstein’s offspring in the process which is not a plus in this case. Maybe it’s was just my problem, but it took me out of the experience at times because of how unrealistic it felt.
The characters are also pretty forgettable even though their backstory has been developed more upon now. One of the main reasons is because throughout both seasons they remain static without really changing much as characters. When their arcs are finished they return mostly to their same old self without feeling like they’ve changed from it. They also barely push the story forward themselves. It’s usually the villains or random side characters that forces it to progress. It’s not an ideal approach to make compelling characters and as such they leave a lot to be desired.
But while it still contains a lot of the previous seasons negatives, it improves on its strengths enough so fans of the first season should be satisfied. If you aren’t then this probably won’t do anything to get your hopes up. The chances for a third season is also slim so that’s another catch. Go in with this in mind if you think it’s worth the shot.
Don’t watch this show expecting a mind opening experience because you aren’t going to get it. No Guns Life is just solid, decent characters, decent story, memorable character designs, it’s like if you got your favorite item from a restaurant you think is kind of mid but gives you a lot of food for cheap. Coupled with Madhouse behind the wheel and you have yourself a worthwhile experience. I will say that this season focused on aspects of the show that I didn’t find as necessarily interesting as season one but it was definitely far from mediocre.
Speaking of Madhouse, I think one of the first things people said about the show is also its biggest weakness, this feels like a Madhouse show from 15 years ago. And because it does it has this out of time sort of feel where this really isn’t an era for this show to come out despite the transhumanist messaging. I think this show needed a good ten years for it to have the impact it could’ve had. Something else that is a bit of a shame is that this season in particular serves to set up events to come but there most likely won’t be a season three because Madhouse doesn’t do sequels and I’m sure this didn’t do amazing. Obviously having the second half of your a split cour show be delayed definitely doesn’t help your ratings I’m sure.
Even writing this review I wish I had more to say about No Guns Life but I think I will finish off by saying, if you think contemporary anime has gotten too meta and pretentious then this is the story for you.
If Hideo Kojima, Creator of the Metal Gear franchise, being a fan of this series doesn’t tell you anything about the show, then I don’t know what will.
Needless to say that if you’ve watched the 1st cour of No Guns Life that aired back in Fall last year, this should be more of the same that is the continuation from back then, only expect that the story and worldbuilding is fleshed out more with character lore and the constant set-up for what’s to come to set the finale in stone. Juzo and the rest of the company are back, but the obvious difference is that of more backstories and high stakes accompany the characters as they go.
The one thing that must not be taken away with the 2nd cour is Juzo’s backstory of him being a Gun Slave Unit, and how he has pursued his fight from being a partner in crime to someone who’s truly set free from the troubles of having an accompanying partner to make decisions for him. That is some character development to warrant a close watch, and it has been the anchor for the 2nd cour for the most part to define who Juzo is not only as the Gun Slave Unit Device 13, but who he is as a person as the last few remaining GSUs.
Once again, Madhouse takes the helm for finishing Part 2, and while the art and animation has been the same for the most part, the one impressive part I can give is the CGI, which has been rendered in Unreal Engine (since the very beginning). While this may not set the animation world on fire, I can appreciate how a different use of proven CGI can work wonders to keep my investment alive and prove that the journey is worth the wait.
The one upgrade is in the sound department, and a new pairing for the OST, and I’d have to say that it’s a mixed bag. SawanoHiroyuki hits this season’s top banger OP out of the park collaborating with Man With a Mission (MWAM)’s lead singer Jean-Ken Johnny on “Chaos Drifter”, and it’s a song worth the many repeats of listening. As for THIS IS JAPAN’s “new world” ED, while I don’t like the song that much, I can remember it for one thing: character twerking. Part 1’s ED is much better song-wise IMO, even if the visuals are drab.
As a whole, No Guns Life won’t set the world on heels of suppression of folklore, but it teaches me one thing: Funke Faust! Pull the trigger that you are meant to use, and use it wisely on someone you trust.
9: The God of High School
English: The God of High School
Japanese: THE GOD OF HIGH SCHOOL ゴッド オブ ハイスクール
MAL Score: 7.06
The “God of High School” tournament has begun, seeking out the greatest fighter among Korean high school students! All martial arts styles, weapons, means, and methods of attaining victory are permitted. The prize? One wish for anything desired by the winner.
Taekwondo expert Jin Mo-Ri is invited to participate in the competition. There he befriends karate specialist Han Dae-Wi and swordswoman Yu Mi-Ra, who both have entered for their own personal reasons. Mo-Ri knows that no opponent will be the same and that the matches will be the most ruthless he has ever fought in his life. But instead of being worried, this prospect excites him beyond belief.
A secret lies beneath the facade of a transparent test of combat prowess the tournament claims to be—one that has Korean political candidate Park Mu-Jin watching every fight with expectant, hungry eyes. Mo-Ri, Dae-Wi, and Mi-Ra are about to discover what it really means to become the God of High School.
Allegedly, this anime is about high school students fighting in a tournament to win a wish. After watching it, I do not think any part of the synopsis is correct. Everyone is supposedly in high school, but none of them show the slightest signs of brain activity. Only a few of the contestants are actually students. There is a bodybuilder, a 30-year-old construction worker, and an army sergeant, to name a few. It seems like the author forgot his own premise. Calling this show a tournament would also be a lie. The main character, Jin Mori, is wrapped so tightly in plot armor he is invincible. A bomb could explode right beside him, and he’d be unscathed. Amazing logic! His entire personality is limited to being loud, annoying, and comically overpowered. Occasionally he is drawn with chibi artwork to highlight just how obnoxious he is. Someone had the genius idea to add comic relief chibi-art at random times while people are fighting and killing each other. But who cares about tonal consistency when you have sakuga?
Jin breaks the tournament rules all the time, and nothing happens. Even though the angsty committee who run the show are supposed to be threatening, they rarely punish him. He doesn’t deserve his wins. Jin gets stronger incredibly fast with no training too. I can’t cheer for a protagonist who never struggled for his powers. Why would anyone root for a hero who is given everything? Jin had a one-minute training montage, now he can heal any wound by poking it with his finger. No joke, this really happens. Jin always holds back his powers because he has a secret plan. He reveals his cool new moves, but it’s not impressive. We’re never allowed to see his strategies, so there’s no build-up. It’s the same trite formula every fight. All we get is mindless back and forth of punches and kicks. It’s equivalent to removing a WWE commentator. In the manhwa, there were fighting style explanations. All of them were removed from the adaptation. There’s an announcer for the tournament who contributes nothing except enthusiastic introductions.
In the first episode, Jin met his friends Mira and Dae-wi. The first fight scene is one of the best in the show. The bike chase that began the episode was very well choreographed. The voice acting was frantic, and so was the music. Everyone fought together. The characters interacted with the environment in ways they never do again. The campy comedy felt sincere—afterward, it was nowhere to be seen. Mira and Dae-wi are the most powerful competitors, but somehow they’re more underwhelming than Jin. Mira is determined to be a worthy successor to her late father by carrying on her family’s sword and combat style. Other than a few scenes to herself, Mira gets virtually no time at all. Her fights are shorter, and sometimes all we see is the beginning and end. Dae-wi had one motivation in the whole show. His entire reason for being in the tournament became irrelevant, but he still stayed in. His backstory was interesting, but he became obsolete after a couple of episodes. The three of them have no chemistry at all. They only seemed like friends in the outro credits (Where they do friend stuff together). The opening provides some “character development,” too, but that’s if you can listen to it. Listening to the OP is like getting stabbed in the eardrums with rusty knives. Imagine mixing dubstep and the sound of nails scraping a chalkboard.
The only reason why I kept watching the God of High School was the fight scenes and sakuga. It really pissed me off when they gave people a backstory moments before they would lose. It’s pointless. With every passing episode, more characters were added. There were increasingly more plot-lines. The pacing became so fast it felt like a 50 episode anime was beaten with a shovel until it fit in 13 episodes. We were told that important fights happened without getting to see them. They’ll show us the beginning and end but skip everything else. They just show us the outcome. We’re told The God of High School tournament is broadcasted worldwide, but it’s never incorporated into the setting to build up the fights. Even the main characters lose track of the new powers their opponents are fighting with. This puts them at a disadvantage, but why should we care? They’re in a tournament, but they’re too stupid to watch their upcoming opponents on TV? How am I supposed to believe they are THIS dumb. I can’t enjoy God of High School if it makes no sense to me. What am I supposed to do? Stare at the sakuga with drool dripping down my face? Pass. Is this the future of anime? God, I hope not.
The characters move from one fight to the next without existing in the setting. They don’t know what’s happening beyond their red clown noses. The author churns out new characters like a cardboard cut-out printing press. People blow themselves up, summon spirit sharks and giant bazookas. It’s like Looney Tunes, except bloody and boring. The rules of this world don’t make any sense. The fights never affect the setting. They fight in public, damage property, and kill people, but it rarely explains how this affects actual citizens. The author could’ve avoided this gaping plothole with a simple solution. If the tournament took place in an alternate dimension, it would explain why the setting is empty. Even Hand Shakers, the infamously terrible anime from 2017, got this right. Somehow God of High School is even stupider than that shitshow. Calling GoH a shit show would be insulting to both shit and shows. At least after a shit, you feel better. After this, I just felt dead inside.
The fight choreography makes the fight scenes even less comprehensible. Jin grazes his opponent in one fight, but the sound effects are so impactful you could mistake it for a fistfight. The same punching sounds are repeated in rapid succession. It’s like One Punch Man 2 all over again. Did the sound editors even communicate with the director? God of High School’s animation gets a lot of praise, which is deserved for specific action sequences, but for two-thirds of the show, it looks very average. The visuals are spectacular… in a couple of scenes. Due to the clusterfuck of a script, the editing lacks continuity. We skip from one place to the next in less than thirty seconds. It’s difficult to follow any of the storylines. There are so many details lost between stories. Attempting to catch up with everything that has happened makes it impossible to just enjoy it.
Fights take place in the streets, and buildings are destroyed… but no one seems to care. Are there police officers? Military? Firefighters? DOES ANYONE EXIST IN THIS WORLD?! It doesn’t seem like it! I guess the author just didn’t finish that part! I have no idea why the author added magic to this show. They cut out every explanation of the magic when adapting the script. Magical circles are copied and pasted everywhere like you’d see in a generic isekai anime. Massive swords fall from the sky, and people literally have Jojo’s stands.
In other, better fantasy stories, the world would look much different from magic. It would advance technology, architecture, science, and change the media. God of High School didn’t bother. It is a lazy cash grab. Rather than being original, it regurgitates tired genre tropes and cliches. There is no artistic integrity in this script. The pacing flies at breakneck speed, making it hard to follow along. All I could do was try to make sense of what I was watching. If you want to understand what’s happening, you need to read the Wiki.
God of High School was filled with unnecessary advertising for Crunchyroll and Webtoon. Their intentions were obvious–to advertise the webtoons and convince people to buy them. It’s unclear if they will make sequels to these anime. I thought it was just an Easter Egg the first time. Anime studios often subtly integrate their name into their shows. Unlike artists, Crunchyroll does not care how obnoxious their logo is. Their advertisement is plastered on every side of the God of High School battle arena. Sponsored by Crunchyroll! Sponsored by Webtoon! They make sure you never forget who paid for what you’re watching. How ironic that they attached their name to the shittiest anime they’ve funded. How embarrassing. Even though this anime isn’t high art, it is slimy to put your company’s name all over the show. Does the anime take place in a world where Crunchyroll exists? No, they are just comprised of greedy investors who don’t give two shits about anime. Crunchyroll messed up this adaptation. They chose to adapt 118 chapters, that’s 9 chapters every episode. What we have here is a shitty 13 episode trailer for the webtoon. This is an embarrassment for MAPPA, a studio filled with passionate artists.
The God of High School is a burning dump truck stinking up the entire anime industry. This catastrophe can never happen again, but I know it will as long as they keep making money. This is a genuinely baffling piece of animation. They tried their hardest to entertain us but failed miserably. The saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” explains this anime excellently.
It’s boring as hell, the story is a clusterfuck, the characters are walking cliches, the powers are unexplained, and it’s all riddled with plot holes wider than the Mariana Trench. MAPPA has a few extraordinary skills, including motion capture fight choreography. Once in a while, the visuals are godly. The advertisements take these fights out of context to claim it is amazing. For the rest of the show, the art is hideously mediocre. I’ve never seen an anime with a budget as high as The God of High School’s that can be compared to the worst action anime ever made.
Two words: MASTER-PIECE
When you thought that your favourite anime had come to your top to stay for a long time, when you conceived that your life would not be enlightened again by an artwork of such caliber, God of Highschool soon came knocking on everyone’s door, what am I saying knocking!, breaking down the door and establishing themselves as the best anime ever.
Where should I start? Its pacing and story-telling? Marvelous. Who else doesn’t love when things are so rushed that after 13 episodes you don’t have any idea of what is the main goal of the series…or even the main goal of its characters? Is it world destruction? God supremacy? Supporting the case of why taekwondo should continue being at the Olympics? No determination whatsoever!
As a matter of fact, us members of society can recall that WE ALL LOVE pointless fights without any meaning nor backstory; why wouldn’t we, if I may ask? Devices such as plot twists, showcasing character motivations, displaying impactful moments or executing contrasts properly in order to build up/shift momentum, change characters status quo, conveying emotions through the screen, or just for the sake of having an interesting, meaningful action scene are things that GoH NEVER contemplated, which, in my humble opinion, sets the tone on how things must be done on any anime which places value in providing quality content to its viewers. Greatness.
Speaking about greatness, we must ask ourselves about the integrity of the “plot”. It had been awhile since the last time I’ve watched a show which had such an organised, perspicuous and easy to follow plot, with no plot holes or unexplained sudden events whatsoever. For example: Seoul’s population looks doomed because the good guys seem incapable of dealing with <
And don’t get me started with this show’s coherence -one of its strengths-, like for instance, when the show it’s stuck in a cul-de-sac, as they display their marvelous scripting techniques to solve the sticking point masterfully (e.g. kyuubi-power recovery from Ilpyo despite the key being detached from him)
And what about the GoH universe itself and its mechanics? Nothing notorious, just a normal society with its ups and downs, a little bit corrupted and all…oh, did I forgot to tell you that it’s based on Ancient Rome? Such an elegiac tone! I mean, it’s pretty obvious when you notice how people love to rock the dome to see how high school students martial-fight to death…where the lions at? Oh, before I forget! Did you think this was a martial arts-esque show? Nothing further from the truth! By episode 8 you realise that EVERYONE has something known as “Charyeok” -kind of a borrowed power from an ancient God who had appeared twice in previous episodes- and that they are going to fight with it pretty much for the entire time. Greatness.
Nevertheless, I personally have to say that the major asset of this series is its originality. A mysterious organization stages a tournament in order to find the strongest high school student in Korea, but apparently it’s all staged, being their “main goal” to find a “key” (which, apparently, is well-known that has to be inside a highschool student) that will help them fight a more mysterious and darker organization (as you must infer, because it’s never said due to the complexity of the plot and how they play mind games with us) who wants to destroy the world as we know. It is not my role to discern for you, but allow me to say that I had never heard of anything like this. NEVER EVER.
And let’s not forget about the originality of our characters! Whether it’s our MC Mo-Ri, an oblivious, food-lover, meathead, “don’t you dare touch my friends” who just wants to live life fighting strong people, for the sake of becoming stronger; Mi-Ra and her pursue of power to prevent the ostracism of her family’s hallmark or even our s1 antagonist, a guy who wanted to feel relevant by any costs and rejected his personality and liveliness for the likes of a third party. Amazingly unique, isn’t it?
Speaking about this, highlight the ability of the writers in God of Highschool to avoid breathing life into their fictional characters. Motivations, backstories, RELATABILITY…the writers could had made the mistake of believing that these would have helped them develop a marvelous, compelling story which made the audience empathise with the cast on a personal level, laughing/suffering/crying with them as different events took place during the show, but, fortunately, they were quick-thinkers enough to avoid using these devices.
Backtracking a little bit, talking about the artistic component of the show, it’s obvious that MAPPA made sure that the quality of the animation in God of High School was good enough to support their OFF THE CHARTS job in the plot and characters counterpart. Fluidity and choreography looked, for the most part, good enough -especially during fight scenes-, sakuga animation was carried out surprisingly well, backgrounds were depicted nicely, characters were designed properly…art and animation was quite good, with the only complaint on how camera rotations and 3D movements were often overused, making it, on those specific moments, something really hazy to watch.
By the same token, music has had a leading role in the “success” of this season. Good job enhancing the different emotions that were on display during different moments, whether it was hyping up the moment when a fight was taking place, intensifying the sense of urgency, …yet I really missed a banger as OP. Voice actors did a notable job, felt like it had to be said.
So, at the end of the day, I guess that if you’ve reached the end of this review you’ll have the same opinion as myself: GoH is a great piece of rubbish.
“There’s a resistance for people to talk about things that make them feel guilty. When natural disasters happen, it’s easier not to feel guilty about it.”
As I sat here wondering what went wrong, my initial impression of the anime was actually hopeful. The first episode bought out the talents of director Seong-Hu Park as he’s able to craft together some lavishly animated scenes. In fact, it’s easy to say the first episode is an eye catcher of animation with the amount of ass kicking and fast moving action. We are introduced to 17 year old Mo-Ri Jin, a martial arts from the country of South Korea. The free spirited young man has the ambition of a fighter, and seeking out powerful opponents to test his abilities. This is where we are introduced to the God of High School Martials Arts Tournament, a place for fighters all over the world to showcase their skills.
Despite being the main protagonist, the story also introduces Mi-Ra Yu and Dae-Wi Han. Both characters also possesses talent in martial arts with their unique fighting styles. It’s why both are also invited to the GoHS tournament although they have different motives. For instance, Han participates in the fight to help his friend while Mira seeks to find a suitable marriage partner. No matter what the reason, it seems GoHS loves pushing the characters’ personalities at every chance it gets. The most prominent examples are when Jin gets excited at fighting a powerful opponent or when he is motivated. Other times, it’s when Jin finds a reason to fight, such as crashing a wedding and helping Mira. It’s motivations like this that sets off an early impression of the show. But with every progressing episode, the show degenerates into a chaotic mess.
It seems the more and more I watched the show, the less I feel motivated myself to understand the main purpose of the story. What is it even trying to get us to understand? The main characters? The tournament arc? Or perhaps some sort of reason for God of High School to even exist? The meat of the show remains with the tournament and different fights that occurs throughout the main story. It also seems these fights often feels rushed and lacking importance. Even Han, a selfless man, who fights for the sake of others becomes a chore to watch. How many times do we have to hear his unenthusiastic dialogues? Every one of his fight feels similar and furthermore, it’s easy to say he is the most boring character to watch in the entire series. As the story ventures forward, we are thrown into more chaotic storytelling involving supernatural forces such as the Nine Tailed Guardian, God incarnates, and plot to kill certain divine beings. When you try to make a show spin out of control in such way, it sets off a ticking time bomb of chaos.
Outside of the main cast, don’t expect much character development from the other characters. This is advertised as a 13-episode one cour series. To make the story flow, we are introduced to some significant side cast such as IIpyo Park. Serving as a more logical member of the cast, IIpyo is observant and not often the one to rush into battle head on. He appears to be one of the more mysterious member of the cast but unfortunately, the anime doesn’t get the chance to explore the full side of his character. This seems to fall in line with the majority of named characters, including one of the main antagonists, Mujin Park. As being the head in charge of the tournament, you can expect him to be the master pulling the strings. Being manipulative and calculating, Mujin represents the anti-thesis of Jin and the main cast. And to add on to the rogue gallery, there’s Taek Jegal, a major threat who treats almost everyone as worthless. His power hungry personality fees on his ego to the point where he cares for no one but himself. It’s the type of stereotypical antagonist you can come up in less than 5 seconds in any type of anime. Taek’s main rival appears to be Iipyo, but from a storyline perspective, he represents nothing more than a generic villain. With all said and done, background storytelling even falls short with info dumps about the cults, Gods, and other divine powers. Because let’s face it, this anime serves as little more than being an advertisement for a glorified fight show.
Well, if there’s one selling point of the anime, it’s the animation. In fact, I can say The God of High School is more about showing than telling. From the first major fight and every other forward, it looks like the anime pushes the boundaries of animation. It’s stylistic and dynamic with fast paced motion. The comic-like art quality also makes the important fights feel like major attractions. When the anime settles for a lighthearted tone, it bounces back into comedic scenery of cartoonish character expressions. Even the music accompanied with the action sequences makes the fights more dynamic. If you wanted to see a visual action flick, The God of High School will be a hell of a ride.
Don’t let those flashy animation fool you. This show wanted to be something special and indeed, it some ways managed to do that. But beyond the typical main trio cast and the ass kicking scenes, this is no more than a mediocre story trying its best to sell its product to you. Even with the sufficient funding, The God of High School reminds me to always, and always keep expectations in check for manhwa adaptations.
8: Darwin’s Game
English: Darwin’s Game
MAL Score: 7.27
High school student Kaname Sudou receives an invitation from a classmate to play Darwin’s Game, a mobile game he has never heard of. However, as soon as he opens the application, a green snake suddenly pops out from his phone screen and bites his neck, leaving him unconscious. Waking up in the infirmary without any signs of a snake bite, he is told by the school to take the rest of the day off. Although he is puzzled by what has happened, he dismisses the surreal experience as a hallucination and boards the train home.
Unfortunately, his curiosity gets the better of him and he uses the application once again. As the application appears to be just like any other battle game, Kaname breathes out a sigh of relief and decides to start his first match. However, the pleasant surprise is short-lived, as his in-game opponent unexpectedly appears right in front of him and attempts to hunt him down with a knife.
As he desperately runs for his life, Kaname puts two and two together and realizes that Darwin’s Game is not an ordinary game, but rather, it’s a brutal fight for survival.
Logic, reason, reality… these are things I simply do not care about. But because of an anime called Darwin’s Game, we need to talk about them. And by we, I do mean me, so take a seat and let me tell you why this anime is crap.
Darwin’s Game tries to pass itself off as a battle royale, one of my favorite sub-genres, but it really isn’t. I expected it to be dumb, shlocky, and nonsensical, which has never stopped me from enjoying an anime before. So I prepared to suspend my disbelief, but nothing could prepare me for what I have witnessed.
The titular death game everyone plays, shortened to D-Game, is a fight to the death downloadable right on your phone. Players enlist to earn cash money and to get away with murder. It’s also a dueling arena, a power struggle between clans, a citywide scavenger hunt, and it grants every player a random superpower known as a Sigil. There’s a lot going on in this show, it’s chaotic, which is good because chaos is my middle name. The problem is, they never stop adding new concepts, even until the final episode. There’s no shortage of lore and mystery to untangle here, but it’s so confusing and underwritten that I don’t think even the writer understands it all.
No one knows how an entire city is emptied for the game. No one knows how the game works. There here are new rules constantly being added. Skyscrapers are destroyed, people are slaughtered in the streets, entire city blocks are reduced to rubble. And all of society was taking a nap. Every now and then, the entire population wakes up and realizes all this shit happened, and they say “Hey guys what happened to our city? How did everyone sleep through it?” That’s a question that the author doesn’t seem to have a grasp on. Apparently, the game blocks your phone signal, but it still takes place in the real world. In the first episode, someone tries shooting the protagonist multiple times and no one calls the cops. Later on, civilians run over a player, an invisible man, dent their bumper, then drive off without a care in the world. They look around and see the terrified protagonist, but they don’t ask him if he’s ok or if he knows what they hit. They just leave. This is so detached from reality. Although the guy who was trying to kill him was a Panda, so I do like that.
I can’t stress this enough, but I do not care about what is logically possible in reality. Make it stupid, make it ridiculous. I will enjoy it. Punch a guy’s head off, topple a building, make a crazy yandere fall in love with the bland protagonist. Where I draw the line between dumb fun and inane writing is internal logic, which Darwin’s Game has none. For starters, the superpowers are not consistent at all. The main protagonist, Kaname, has the ability to create anything he can think of, any weapon imaginable. It’s awesome. Contrast this with a dude who can detect when people are lying. Not awesome. These powers are incomparable. Another main character is essentially a super-computer who can freeze time, she’s absurdly overpowered.
The logic is skewed to give the main characters as much power as possible, which is admittedly sometimes really fun to watch play out. I loved seeing Kaname pull a machine gun out of his ass to scare bad guys; Or a thirteen-year-old professional sniper evade a dozen burly bad guys and dodge a moving train within seconds. It’s kind of amazing how dumb this show is. But from the start, it’s clear who is expendable and who will never die. Their abilities make them practically invincible unless the author contrives some way for them to get hurt. Keep in mind, there are dozens of random fighters in either clan who have different abilities. There’s no telling how powerful they are or what their power even is. This means anyone can gain a new ability at any time. Unpredictability can be exciting, but it’s hard to enjoy a clusterfuck when you have no idea what’s happening.
Add this to the ugly animation and generic background music, and you’ve got a recipe for boredom. The action is supposed to be the appeal of the show, the rest of it is just the characters trying to figure out how the hell game functions. To this day, no one knows! Even after watching the whole show, I have no idea what Kaname was supposed to look like. His face changes every other shot like he’s made of melting clay. The artists prioritized animation over consistent character designs, probably because the story wouldn’t work without action. Other than a few special occasions, the animation looks pretty awful too. If you pause at any point while people are moving, you’ll notice the perspective is off, limbs look too big or too small.
Kaname, aside from being the personification of mashed potatoes, isn’t that bad of a character. Yeah, he’s an edgelord, but who isn’t these days? My problem with him is that he gained his overpowered sigil out of pure coincidence, and it allows him to succeed in the game. He does not develop until late in the series. Lucky circumstances cause him to succeed, dumb decisions cause him to temporarily fail. He meets powerful and agreeable players, who he dick whips ruthlessly until they join him. Ladies throw themselves at him, worshiping his sigil, to the point of insanity. Dear God, impregnate me Kaname-sama! There were one or two scenes when he was relatable, but that was all.
As for the other characters, we have Yuno Gasai with twin tails, a crazy child who is convinced she has the ghost of her twin in her body. She just whines for most of the show and does nothing. Might as well show her half-naked for the plot! The 13-year-old supercomputer sniper girl, she’s pretty cool. The human lie detector, this game is balanced. The Florist, a man trying to earn money to save his daughter, valid reason. Then he develops a hero complex for reasons. He has a heartfelt dialogue with the sniper girl, but afterward, he regurgitates his same pointless desire to live and die a hero undigested. HE learns nothing from one of the best scenes in the show. The main villain, big Wang himself, is another psychopathic edgelord who fits his role as the leader of the Bad Clan. There’s nothing to him, still, I have to give props to his voice actor for his great performance.
Ever since watching the classic Japanese film Battle Royale (that the Hunger Games shamelessly copied), I’ve loved death games. I think I have made a good argument for why Darwin’s Game is a very shitty anime, and I could end the review here. But I need to make it clear why this is also a shitty death game anime as well. I’ve enjoyed bad death game anime in the past, I love the catastrophe that is Mirai Nikki. I expected Darwin’s Game to be a fix for my shlocky battle royale addiction, but I was baited. Kaname basically uses his power and *sexy* personality to sway his enemies he encounters into joining his team. This is where Darwin’s Game ceases being a battle royale and becomes a battle between clans. I didn’t sign up for this! Worst of all, a lot of the violence is censored. There was a badass scene when a dude punches off a guy’s head. Well, it would have been badass if they hadn’t censored the shit out of it! Fuck censorship! Some guy’s arm got chopped off and it’s shown as a silhouette because they didn’t want to offend the children. Kill your shitty child for all I care! I want to see blood, guts, filth!
I feel like I’m committing some kind of crime by reviewing this garbage. It’s not worth the effort I put into writing this review. It shouldn’t be as popular as it is; People are going to see this and think this is what anime is like. They’re going to think we’re all babbling angsty babies who believe this trash is high art. It’s obscene that I feel the need to announce I know this anime is bad when it’s clear from just the first few minutes how shitty it is.
Yeah, it sounds a little ridiculous (and borderline plagiarized in some aspects), but you know what? I actually ended up really liking it. And that’s not because it has a thought provoking narrative or satisfying character development or anything like that, because the show honestly doesn’t. It does however provide ample entertainment in the form of quirky characters duking it out in a fun battle royale environment. That’s exactly what I expected to get out of this anime and it’s what Darwin’s Game delivered, so it’s a success in my eyes.
One thing that Darwin’s Game does that many others in the genre do as well is to make the setting of the story take place in a realistic world modeling our own. This however raises questions once the survival game starts, such as how the heck can such a game of such a momentous scale be orchestrated and executed in this society, how on earth are people able to receive magical abilities just by opening an app, and why does the game even exist in the first place? Maybe Darwin’s Game’s longer source material explores these questions more, but this anime adaptation certainly doesn’t, which I’ve noticed has caused some people to view it in a negative light. All I have to say is why does it matter? Yes, an explanation of things is always important and necessary, but this anime is only the beginning stage of Darwin’s Game. It’s not meant to provide all the answers, just explore interesting scenarios and establish preliminary character relationships. This isn’t a thought provoking anime by any means, and I just wanted to say that this show is meant to be watched for some good natured fun, and if you’re looking for something deeper, I can almost guarantee that you’ll be met with disappointment.
The plot itself is pretty simplistic, but effective. It follows protagonist Kaname, a normal high school student, who gets abruptly thrown into a death game after opening the titular phone app Darwin’s Game. It’s easy to predict that he makes allies throughout his journey and slowly progresses in power, but it’s the way that these points are portrayed that makes them effective. Every single one of Kaname’s teammates that he makes by the end of the anime besides the analytical loli Rein he ends up fighting before becoming friends. Now while this does seem basic, I actually really like this approach. Most other survival games may have the protagonist make one or two allies with initial enemies, but they just usually up and murder everyone else. Kaname is different in that he tries to befriend all his enemies, and it never once felt forced because there was always a reasonable explanation for why these people who had just been trying to literally kill each other earlier would team up.
And despite it’s short run time, I actually ended up liking the bonds between the members of Kaname’s clan Sunset Ravens. By all means I shouldn’t, because there’s been hardly any time for their relationships to develop and they don’t have great chemistry yet or anything, but there’s something about this group that I just like. Their banter during the car chase episode near the end got me to smile, and I just have a feeling that if there’s ever a sequel, I’ll start to like them even more.
What ended up surprising me most about this anime was just how normal the characters have ended up being thus far. I’ve watched enough survival games, both good and bad, to naturally come to expect the majority of the characters to have absolutely insane character traits. But in Darwin’s Game, they’re surprisingly mellow by comparison. I didn’t even hear a single maniacal laugh given by the main girl Shuka, who I had assumed would be a Yuno Gasai knockoff. Now don’t get me wrong, she’s possessive of Kaname and kills people, but it is a death game after all, and she’s given an understandable, albeit simplistic, reason for participating. The “craziest” she gets is getting jealous over Kaname talking with other woman, which is pretty standard in anime (and probably real life too, but I wouldn’t know…) In the end, Shuka ends up being just a regular badass anime babe with some cute mannerisms and outfits, which I’m perfectly fine with.
So I’m basically saying if you’re here because you want to watch a possessive yandere murder everyone for the sake of the one she loves while laughing hysterically, you’re probably in the wrong place. Sorry!
Speaking of laughing, the voice that stood out to me the most was actually Wang’s, the main antagonist of this arc. While none of the girls were crazy psychos, this guy certainly was, and if you couldn’t tell by his appearance or actions, it was definitely evident in his voice and crazy laughs. Wang isn’t listed under the characters section here on MAL at the time of writing this so I don’t know who is credited with voicing him, but to me he definitely sounds like Yoshitsugu Matsuoka just having fun in an antagonistic role, and he just sounds great! Besides Wang’s voice, the rest of the anime’s technical aspects were generally lacking. The other voices were fine and I did like Rein’s soft-spoken loli voice. The theme songs were catchy and I got pumped up whenever that death metal sounding insert track would play during certain fights. However, it’s the battles themselves and the visuals in general that were a letdown. The art itself is pretty standard, but for some reason I was put off by the anatomy of some of the characters’ faces, primarily Kaname. During many fights, the anime does something that I totally dislike, which is the implementation of many, and I really mean many, still shots. Having unmoving panels with characters talking and sound effects playing over them when a battle is supposed to be going on is just the epitome of laziness in animation in my eyes, especially when the images aren’t even drawn particularly good or anything.The visuals redeem themselves a little with the car chase scene, which I thought implemented a combination of hand drawn and cgi visuals quite nicely. But overall, the animation definitely could have been more polished and aesthetically pleasing.
Overall, Darwin’s Game didn’t bring anything new to the table, that much I’ll concede. The story up to this point has been pretty standard and the characters are as well. But you know what? I still like it. It’s an entertaining anime, in fact one of the most enjoyable to watch that I’ve seen in awhile. I binged watched every episode bar the last in a single sitting, and I had fun the whole way through. And in my mind, being able to captivate and entertain an audience, no matter what the means, is the most important aspect of any show. And for me, Darwin’s Game succeeded in this, so it gets a pass in my book.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Looking at the episode count, you’re probably asking yourself how on Earth this show could cover the manga in just 11 episodes? The simple answer is impossible because the manga contains well over ongoing 80+ chapters. Even with an hour special, Darwin’s Game falters on its strange pacing. We’ll get to that later but for storytelling purposes, Darwin’s Game does try to connect itself with the genres it has to work with. Specially, the first hour special throws main protagonist Kaname Sudo into a survival game from his phone. In the digital age today, everyone has a phone so the author wanted the audience to be familiarized with the elements. That’s fine and dandy until you realize how that phone throws Kaname into a labyrinth of his worst nightmares. Now as a contestant of a dangerous survival game, Kaname must not only battle but survive with each episode raising its stakes. For its very purpose, Darwin’s Game takes on the survival game genre perhaps influenced by similar franchise such as Battle Royale or Mirai Nikki. I don’t blame the author for having upcoming with such an unoriginal idea but for good sakes, this type of recycled plot is anything but unique.
However, I may have misspoke on the actual reason why this show is called “Darwin’s Game”. Based on the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, it would seem the author has decided to apply some of the same principles into the storytelling and characters. For that reason, this anime is more about surviving than discovering the truth of the Darwin’s Game. Getting back into the main story, Kaname is initially clueless about his position until he realizes that lives are at stake including his own. The first episode bounds him into a chaotic fight that puts him into near death positions. If that wasn’t enough, he also learns that in order to survive, he must rely on special abilities while competing against others. The objective of the game is to kill others to collect their points and in return, they can cash into those points for money. In the beginning, Kaname’s lack of allies puts him into a compromising position as he is alone with no one to trust. It isn’t until he defeats other competitors and begins to build his own clan of allies. Among the first of these allies is a girl named Shuka Karino. Coming from a rich family and dressed in a lavish way, Shuka becomes his most trusted friend and perhaps a romantic interest. Their relationship is built on reliance at first but later flourishes into trust. The anime doesn’t explore much of their romantic side, however. If you’re looking for that, don’t bother because Darwin’s Game at its core is about survival. The Darwin’s Theory of Evolution deems those who are worthy to be competitors in this game and Shuka is one of them.
And as the story progresses, we are introduced to other formidable players such as the 13 year old prodigy Rein Kashiwagi, Ruji Masesaka, and even Sui, a character with a dual personality. These characters all possesses special abilities in the form of “Sigils”. In fact, Sigils play an imperative role in the overall Darwin’s Game world for each one has a different ability. For instance, Kaname’s Sigil allows him to recreate items and use them in battle. Shuka has the ability to use wires as weapons and thanks to her agility, she can utilize these wires as a killing tool. Rein’s “Laplace” sigil allows her to analyze vectors and use that information to her advantage. The idea the creators wanted to enforce into these character abilities is that each of them has potential to change the outcome of the game. But the bottom line is that despite having all these creative ideas, the main characters suffers from general characterization. It’s very difficult to get invested into any one of them besides Kaname. The show pushes him as the main guy who is protected by plot armor and his allies. Kaname himself is designed as a generic teenager that you can find in just about any similar gimmicky shows. His relationship with the main cast is untimely written and lacks commitment. I can honestly say that there’s no character pair in this show that has emotional appeal. It’s also hard to root for anyone in this show because by the end of the day, we all know who’s going to be alive.
Despite not facing production issues, Darwin’s Game animation quality lacks any distinctive qualities and relies far too much into its action elements. Character designs looks uninspiring with almost every character having the same face. Main protagonist Kaname adapts a high school student look that can easily turn heads away. On the other hand, I do applaud the character designs for the female cast such as Shuka. That dark scarlet dress she has on is something most viewers will have a hard time taking eyes off of. And if you’re looking for some fan service, you’ll be pleased to know that the anime loves to occasionally have the characters ends up in erotic-like positions or camera angles. Beyond that, Darwin’s Game visual appeal is mediocre at best and insufferable at worst.
Honestly, I think I’ve given up on the whole idea about survival games being translated into anime form. Too many times, this type of show aims at a niche audience and reuses the same ideas over and over. Plus, it seems this adaptation’s goal was to advertise the manga because there’s much more content out there in storytelling. However, take my advice and don’t throw your money at this franchise. It’s not worth it and this decade is just getting started.
7: Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei: Raihousha-hen
English: The Irregular at Magic High School: Visitor Arc
Japanese: 魔法科高校の劣等生 来訪者編
MAL Score: 7.28
Following the events of “Scorched Halloween,” the world is introduced to a terrifyingly powerful Strategic class magician. In an effort to uncover the identity of this person, the United States of the North American Continent (USNA) dispatches the most powerful asset in its arsenal to Japan on a covert mission—the elite magician unit “Stars” and its commander, Angie Sirius.
At First High School, Tatsuya Shiba and his friends are having a farewell party for Shizuku Kitayama, who is leaving to study abroad in the USNA as part of an exchange program. In her place, the group welcomes the beautiful Angelina “Lina” Kudou Shields. Around the same time, Tatsuya is informed about the USNA’s plan to uncover his true identity.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, numerous reports arise of seemingly random bodies found drained of blood. Dubbed as the works of a vampire, it does not take long for Tatsuya to connect the dots and realize that it is almost impossible for the timing of these events to be mere coincidences.
After 5 years of agony waiting for a sequel with only a side-story movie put in between, the second season of Mahouka came in all of its glory featuring one of the fan-favorite protagonists in all of anime and a much-loved yet inexplicably controversial show in itself. Back in 2014 when it first aired, some people with dicks in their mouths raised their hand and asked one question only: Who in Alabama made this anime – to which everyone within a 5-mile radius simultaneously answered – it is much deeper than you think and they weren’t wrong at all since to understand this anime and why it matters in their life, you need a 5-year degree of stay on Facebook and 2 in their most repugnant groups so that your IQ will increase and come into the realization this anime is not simply a self-insert shtick with incest added to flavor it up.
It’s about Tatsuya and his teachings that we must appreciate. The story of a simple fellow who never wanted and never thought of becoming who he is now but because of this great power he has no choice but to use it for the greater good even if it means the worst outcome for lot of. A not easy task to fulfill but one that must go until the very bottom. With him there’s his sister, the core of the nonsense controversial people think it has. She’s there to help her brother but whenever she’s got the chance she tries to suck his dick but Tatsuya has better plans for her. He’s playing the long game here and acting that he doesn’t care about her in a romantic way and that he’s just tempting her where in reality he’s waiting for the moment Miyuki’s defense is at a bare minimum so he can strike a big maneuver on her. With the advantage of 69 no imouto would be able to resist his true behavior and may God have mercy on Miyuki’s pussy on that faithful night because he’s gonna crush it.
I saw Mahouka back in 2017 and liked it a lot, so much that it became a personal favorite of mine. At the time I had (still have) a certain love for the overpowered characters and the whole concept of Mahouka, as well as the characters and their quirky personalities, made my heart Doki-Doki (although it wasn’t the first time). Tatsuya’s interaction with her sister was indeed a blast – her blushing for every word her onii-sama said made me undertake a non-healthy path I never thought I’d take – to self-insert to guys like him and be successful as I’ve always wanted – surrounded by a bunch of girls, making them do naughty things to me or to each other, and much more I don’t think you want to know. Unlike back then, I rarely do it anymore, but I still appreciate it enough to tell the tale and what a riveting tale it was. Despite my early years of watching anime and the fact at the time I could’ve liked perhaps everything, Raihousha-hen it’s almost as good as its predecessor. It would have been better if we had gotten a 2-cour season instead. Not only we would have fleshed out some prominent characters more but because the story itself needed more time to get it done in a more impactful way, albeit it was great anyway.
Despite its predictable premise, Mahouka never goes downhill as each character is written in a nuance that enhances the story the right way but still makes the protagonist shine without making it seem forced. One of the ways they go about is the dialogue and is DONE RIGHT. Unlike LoGH who is there to pad for some time, here it has an identity within its story and not only serves as a tool to give the little exposition we need to understand the next puzzle pieces but also give some growth to them as well foreshadows what will happen to them later. While it’s obvious Tatsuya has the most important role, others are no less either because without them even Tatsuya wouldn’t have much against certain situations and it’s a great way to show how much he growth but also that he’s not simply an “overpowered character” with no purpose at all. He has his friends, his adorable sister and a bunch of other guys and honestly, that’s just for the better.
Mahouka is not a bad show AND I’M ANGRY YOU DISLIKE SOMETHING I LIKE. GAH.
Because the show does not have a spec of human emotion in it.
Ignorance is the word of the day here folks. It was fairly apparent in the first season of Mahouka, and somehow even moreso here. Every aspect in this season, from the narrative, to the soundtrack, to the characterization, to the tension, to the worldbuilding is divorced from what’s commonly viewed as respectable. It’s not quite as insultingly awful as Season 1, but it does repeat a lot of similar failures, and even amplifies other parts. It saddens me that out of every show in the mostly dead genre of magic high school power fantasies (except perhaps the Index franchise), THIS ONE was the breakout hit that came to spread holiday depression by amplifying all its worst traits.
To say this season has a “plot” would be massively overselling it. Things “happen”, but little lasts to any degree. An American secret agent girl named Angelina Shields drops in to stop “vampires” from draining magic from faceless NPCs in a world we’re given no reason to care about. She uses a disguise, and the show tries to build intrigue of what’ll happen to her and her rivalry with Tatsuya and Miyuki. Which might’ve been something………….unless of course you watched the film, which came out three years before this season, immediately giving away what happens to her. Oops. Oh, and then the last two episodes try very badly to make some point about discrimination with the worst racism allegory since RWBY’s White Fang.
Many fundamental problems with the core premises of Mahouka return this season (except the magic system issues that’s just ignored), and they tend to affect the new elements when it wants to branch out a bit.
The new element they want to highlight the most is Angelina. A top ranked American superspy with a secret identity, the show actually tries to give her feelings, and a goal she wants to accomplish, something seemingly foreign to Mahouka. But what’s the show’s reaction? Treat her like an absolute joke.
Most of the “comedy” revolves around her constant incompetence in her job, mostly the lazy chibi comedy that feels bafflingly out of place for how solemnly serious it wants to be. The show can’t go one episode without having Tatsuya, the All-Knowing Übermensch, snip out that she’s sus, yet the camera still focuses on her devious smirk. By Episode 4, she duels Miyuki, and is on the verge of handily losing, Miyuki seemingly portrayed like a villain. Then, for the rest of the arc, Tatsuya and Miyuki effectively do her job for her, rather than giving her the chance to actually grow or change with any renewed confidence. A show with thought or effort put into it might’ve made her seem more like a competent rival, or at least have compelling payoff for running into Tatsuya and Miyuki, but no! Can’t let anyone get anything out of Tatsuya and Miyuki, the incesty power couple of modern anime. No one wins here. Fans of her character don’t get to see her actually prove her competence or get meaningful development, and fans of Tatsuya and Miyuki don’t have some sort of rival that can in any way enhance their growth. And it makes America look stupid for having someone like her headline their team.
Not that Tatsuya and Miyuki look any better. Oh, the show tries to FOOL you into thinking there’s character development, but it’s a lie that means nothing. Miyuki is still one of anime’s most poorly written characters, with no personality besides loving her brother and being jealous of anyone else who gets near him. This could work if she was an antagonistic figure that stretched her love for her brother through drastic actions, but no, deuteragonist keeping the status quo. The show will claim there’s an arc of her losing attachment to her brother by having her monologue about it, which bears no fruit, and is partially demonstrated by the camera ogling her. After all, the chart says that fanservice sells, why not show more of the female and none of the character?!
Mahouka: We’re a super serious science conspiracy anime about secret agents, political drama and magic parasites!
Also Mahouka: Let’s have two separate scenes of women undressing for the camera, once for goofy comedy and once for drama with no foundation or worth that’s really just fanservice anyway. Also let’s give him a tagalong girl no personality whatsoever besides being another tsundere for Tatsuya with inexplicably magic hair beads.
Aniplex: Perfect! Get it into production immediately!
The ignorance never ends.
Tatsuya smiles more, but he’s only slightly more tolerable than the previous season. In Episode 5, there’s a plot involving a rogue parasite that the show tries to act like has tension, but the cast has the answer to every hitch there could be. Tatsuya admits he could’ve solved the problem for good, but didn’t, thus prolonging the runtime. Genius. Another episode tries to act like he missed some detail about Angelina, but he gets the info he wants almost instantaneously just by phoning a few people. It’s lip service to the idea of conflict. The blatant author worship continues; a parasite powering a robot by someone’s love for him clung to him like they’re trapped in a spiderweb. Nearly everyone wants to get a Valentines gift specifically for him. Miyuki and Tatsuya spend the series feeding off everything else; ironically for a plot about stopping possessive parasites, that’s exactly what the leads are, the algorithm too ignorant to admit it.
Less than two minutes after Tatsuya loses his arm, he instantly gets it back. We can’t have TWO MINUTES of tension in this show. And don’t worry about the vampire plot; it’s solved instantaneously when the utterly unmemorable leader shows his face and can easily be put on hold for a Valentines’ Day episode, which is the only time the show has a pulse of life in it.
As if the cherry on this shit cake wasn’t placed yet, you get the last two episodes. Radical magicians forming in response to discriminatory boycotts from the ordinary humans who claim (race) superiority enact terrorist attacks against magician slavery……something never seen and of no value since all the main characters are magicians. Of course, none of them have any actual point that causes the main characters to question anything, or have the charisma of say, the villains in Die Hard. This would be like if The Hunger Games was from the perspective of the capitalists on top……………do I even need to say what’s wrong with that?
Everything else? Well, Erika’s the only returning side character allowed to have half a personality but it doesn’t matter any, and no one else even gets that much. There’s a girl who looks like a China Doll that…..exists I guess? The animation is decent; nothing exceptional but without a single memorable action scene, but it fixed the first season’s color grading issue while maintaining a clean look, and the soundtrack is poorly mixed. Most of it is unmemorable dubstep techno, but Episode 9 tries to have a rap go along with it that’s super drowned out by the dialogue and action sfx. There’s so little to attach yourself to in this series.
Mahouka confuses me, it really really does. I’ve seen bad anime aplenty that set clear goals for themselves and fail at them, but I’ve hardly seen an anime be so antithetical to everything about basic storytelling. Even series like SAO can pass off as fantasy adventure stories with kernels of depth, some icky scenes and the occasional bit of earned emotion. Mahouka can’t even do THAT. It’s a bevy of mismanaged priorities and “things people like” stuck in perpetually constant status quo with protagonists that have such a foothold over everything else that they’d be perfect villains in another work. I try to imagine the visions of the creators when watching anime, and there’s nothing here. A super serious science anime with botched attempts at political drama, that’s also stuck with incest pandering, fanservice, and childish comedy. It wants to be everything at once throughout its the 4 and a half hours, and accomplishes nothing. Appeal exists in media, even bad media, but Mahouka stands as a narratively backwards empty shell only notable for its failings.
Honestly, I am surprised that I did not enjoy this. I love power fantasy anime and this is that. I also liked the first season but for reason I did not enjoy this. This did have nice animation, good voice acting and a banger opening but for some reason I did not enjoy at all.
Story: Some ships were bombed by a mystery person who was like one of the main characters. Then Tatsuya did some epic things and fights happened. Then some mystery foe which I don’t remember what it was but there was some fighting with them
Characters: Mostly bland. Tatsuya is just your average power fantasy mc so he is cool, different than everyone else and strong as heck. Miyuki is still the same annoying piece of shit she always was with even more Brother complex. She needs to not exist. Angelina was cool tho. Others were the same as usual
Ost: Ost was good and the opening nice.
Would I recommend? No
6: Strike Witches: Road to Berlin
Japanese: 第501統合戦闘航空団 ストライクウィッチーズ ROAD to BERLIN
MAL Score: 7.33
Preparations for a new offensive against the Neuroi—a mysterious race of alien invaders—are well underway. The objective is securing Berlin, the capital city of the Empire of Karlsland, which is necessary for wiping out the Neuroi threat from Europe. However, as the enemy is capable of adapting to the battlefield on a daily basis, the allied forces and the current state of Striker technology might not be enough to achieve a victory.
Meanwhile, Yoshika Miyafuji, a Witch from Fuso, continues her medical studies in Lausanne. Having recovered from a recent incident that deprived her of magical power, she is eager to assist in the war effort. The call to arms soon arrives and the scattered witches of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing must be gathered once again for a final push against the enemy.
Road to Berlin is exactly what you’d want and expect from a Strike Witches sequel, and apart from Shizuka’s existence, it delivers on every front. The animation noticeably received a huge bump even before the BDs are out. The action scenes and 3D models look as good as, if not better than their movie counterparts, and the girls look fantastic in HD. Traditionally episodes 1,2,11,and 12 are the weakest episodes since they’re the only plot-focused episodes with Miyafuji as the center, and here they still are the weakest episodes, but even then they’re still vastly improved compared to their S1 and S2 counterparts. Thankfully gone is the formulaic “Miyafuji takes a boat ride to Europe that lasts two episodes while the Navy is useless, and the girls take down the Neuroi-fused superweapon of the season that was previously thought to be a good idea”. At the very least, now, the military (in the mainline series) is finally shown to be at least somewhat competent, taking down some Neuroi or another with some degree of success, even if they still need MiyafuJesus to save their asses in the end. Yoshika’s Jesus Complex is still there, and while Shizuka does receive some form of character development that makes her less bitchy, that just means she becomes even more useless than she was in the movie. I can’t believe we traded in Mio for this…
Thankfully the rest of the girls fare much better, especially in their spotlight episodes. As mentioned earlier the Karlsland girls (especially Trude) steal the spotlight in this, but my favourite episode, as usual, is the Shirley/Lucchini bonding episode. Sanya/Eila’s episode is fine if not as strong as before, Perriene’s episode was surprisingly good, and Lynne’s focus in Episode 7 is fantastic, even if she is shafted otherwise. Shizuka is useless and I dearly miss Mio’s laughter.
Again, we receive little to no new information on the Neuroi, seeing as more information about them or allusions to a peace with them would mean the end of the series, and Lord knows the Production committee doesn’t want to lose their golden goose. The timeline even progressed to 1946 with large swarths of the world still Neuroi-infested. Still, more Strike Witches means more Hasshin Shimasu so I ain’t complaining much. The series is always better with the episodic SoL comedy stuff than it is with the action and Neuroi stuff.
RtB is a great sequel that’s everything you’d want but unfortunately doesn’t do that much to truly innovate or stand out on its own. It has some real great memorable moments and is great entertainment, but one wishes that they’ll do more plotwise with later seasons/spinoffs.
The animation work is alright and we’ve already gotten used to heavy use of 3D graphics, never done particularly well, in the series, which some may find off-putting otherwise. I have a personal pet peeve about how much gradient colouring there is, as it just makes everything kind of blend together instead of standing out. But this is just a matter of opinion really. The story tone of the season is on point compared to past works; the kind of things that happen are like the things that happen in previous seasons. The characters are also pretty much like they have been previously. Voice talent brings in a good performance. Music is good, maybe a little short of previous seasons and movies that had really banging soundtracks, though sound design otherwise is extremely uninspired. If you told me they never once used a sound effect that didn’t come in a stock library, I’d believe it.
Then the tyrannosaurus in the room: The script. I’ll be very frank. It is boring. Nothing emotionally impactful really happens. Not only do they use plot points and story structures that the series has used before, they also reuse those things within the season. Repeatedly. In addition, it is very thick on lore, which was weak before but was so sparingly used that it didn’t really matter. Baddies be and WW2-fighter-aces-become-magical-girls fight the baddies. A good Strike Witches entry is perhaps 20% canon lore driven material and 80% mostly lighthearted character drama, fanservice, slice of life, comedy, period observation. This season has the numbers flipped the other way around. You only get a couple of episodes of the of the kind of things that I want from the series and the rest is bland and repetitive. You even get a persistent gray filter over the screen to make sure you aren’t enjoying yourself too much. Oh, and the OP and ED themes are just… really quiet for some reason. Maybe everything would have just nicely come together after all if the the opening theme really rocked your socks off at maximum volume and got you pumped for an exciting adventure. Instead it’s mixed in at a polite indoor speaking voice level. Like an itch that you just can’t scratch no matter how much you try. Argh.
As an independent work, as much as I would want it to be otherwise, Road to Berlin does not stand. The words that come to mind are generic and childish. But as a continuation to previous work, since you are already attached to the characters, it’s O.K.
Sanya remains our queen with Eila accompanying but Shizuka has made a strong entrance into the best girl league. That being a show where all girls are best girls essentially.
Although not as good as the other parts of this series in a whole it is still an excellent addition to the franchise with an ending that was exactly what you wanted and more.
As a continuation of the story, we already know this just takes off where others have left and pushes forward with the conflict. People who are new to this and haven’t seen anything else I know question such things as the guns with near-limitless ammunition but then don’t question that they have planes on their legs or how Sanya is one of very few witches with bottoms on as such. Don’t take the show so seriously since it has more fan service than anything else.
The art is more polished than before and does randomly although oddly change into a CGI format at times with the girls although that stops a bit as it goes on. The girls, as usual, have great fanservice about them which suits them completely.
The OP is still a banger with an ED to boot. Generally, sounds are nicely done and SFX is used but again as the most show could just have a bit more oomph at times.
Characters develop a fair amount in the regard most are already established. You get a few stories in the show that support such things. You also get what this show does which I think is superb is the way they can change characters out by them getting too old to be a strong witch anymore. Meaning if a new season after this was to come they would have a few replacement witches to keep it fresh.
The show does do one thing that annoys me. Although whether Strike Witches or Brave Witches you always have the weak character who is strong. Yoshika who is well established as an amazing but unstable witch seems to have this thing about having multiple segments through the history purely about her losing control of magic which has got a bit old now. As seen with episode 3 she is the issue and later in episode 10, she is still an issue. One thing I wonder is I know the Shinden is secret and powerful but it suits Yoshika as the only person who can use it properly yet she barely has it.
In the end, the show is very enjoyable and although not as good as before it is a delight to see it. It finishes in a way that can stop the show but also let you know there is room to continue. The finale was spectacular.
MAL Score: 7.42
Far in the future, the lifeforms known as Gadoll suddenly arose as a threat to humanity. The last surviving humans on Earth confine themselves to the Tank, a lower district in the giant mobile fortress Deca-Dence. While the Gears who live on the upper floors are warriors who go out to fight as part of the Power, most Tankers are content to provide support from the backlines, butchering Gadoll meat and reinforcing defenses. Natsume is among those who would rather go to the front lines; undeterred by her prosthetic right arm, she seeks to join the small number of Tanker soldiers who join the Gears in combat.
But despite her peers at the orphanage each receiving their work assignments, Natsume’s enlistment to the Power remains unapproved. In the meantime, she begins a job as a cleaner in an armor repair team led by the hard-nosed and apathetic Kaburagi, who seems to be more than he lets on. Though initially cold to his idealistic subordinate, he soon recognizes in her the potential to upset the status quo of the world. As Natsume’s new mentor, Kaburagi prepares her for the special and unique role as a game-changing bug in the system.
Never have I been THIS pumped-up and excited for original anime, because unique shows are a dime a dozen of few hits and many misses. But in the case of Deca-Dence, I can confidently say that it was a constant harbinger of expectations running wild and subverting them all at the same time of questioning me: “What comes next? What should I (not) anticipate?” And I was blown away each and every time with what Deca-Dence has offered in its more-than-enough perfect 12-episode storyline about a decayed world that is then occupied by cyborg-like avatars from an in-game perspective.
First off, I have to just commend the all-star production team of Deca-Dence, which comprises of talented director Yuzuru Tachikawa, scriptwriter Hiroshi Seko, character designer Shinichi Kurita, and many of the staff behind this colossal project. Fans of Tachikawa and (especially) Kurita will be delighted to hear that their works on Death Billiards, Death Parade have made them a household name, while Tachikawa and Seko have been in even bigger shows like Attack on Titan and Mob Psycho 100. (Kabaneri in Seko’s perspective is shitty, NGL) Needless to say that these 3 are the big names in this show, and what a way to celebrate the living and breathing of anime by collaborating altogether to make something that is a trope, yet still make something special and different that I definitely won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Secondly, let’s tackle the elephant in the room: Hiroshi Seko’s scriptwriting as a whole (including that PARTICULAR plot twist that thankfully doesn’t betray the entire source and inspiration of the show). The meaning of Decadence (one word) is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: “The moral or cultural decline as characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury.” And back to Deca-Dence (the same one word, split into two parts), shows a world that is once habited by humans, but excessive decay have rendered them out of extinction by the manufactured creatures known as Gadolls, and cyborgs have taken over as humanity’s last bastion of life. See, the feeling of Deca-Dence is like playing RPGs: you have your own avatar to resemble your traits, and the in-game humans are just NPCs that serve their roles to fight against evil (the Gadolls) and die mercilessly at the behest of the corporation in control. And that company is the Solid Quake Corporation, which houses these cyborg denizens in the Deca-Dence and controls them like any administrator or Game Master would to have a stabilized, all-governing system. Before I get too far ahead though, let’s bring in the central characters.
Natsume is a cheerful, bubbly young girl whose father (and his colleagues) have been all but decimated by a Gadoll attack, leaving her behind with a lost right arm and the dream to be a “Gear” when she grows up. See, the class system in Deca-Dence is split into two: Gears, the strongest of humans that are able to fend themselves from Gadoll attacks and eliminate these respawning creatures, and Tankers, which are primarily support characters in the background that serve to keep Deca-Dence afloat with the Gadoll’s “blood” called Oxyone, which coincidentally is the lifeblood of the mobile fortress to unleash big-scale attacks. Growing up with a prosthetic right arm and joining as a Tanker is too boring for her, but meeting up with a burly guy named Kaburagi, he is more than meets the eye.
Kaburagi was once a veteran for the Deca-Dence (when it was free roaming), and he was considered the highest class of Rankers for doing the same role that the Gears are doing now. But due to a mishap of his former teammates rebelling against the system, he was questioned by Hugin, the overall commander for Deca-Dence and subsequently demoted to eliminating the rebels a.k.a “Bugs” secretly in the background a.k.a doing the dirty work for them. The thing is, anyone who is registered as an avatar is tracked in the Solid Quake system, but Natsume is a special case: she is a “bug”, and in the special case of hide-and-seek, Kaburagi as one of the previous “administrators” decides to keep her under wraps away from the system tapping her presence, and in the way, nurture her growth from a Tanker to a Gear.
With the other characters in toll, the hide-and-seek game officially starts with Kaburagi making pivotal decisions every step of the way to keep her away from Hugin, and have her participate in the missions for Gears to keep the Deca-Dence safe. From that moment on till the eventual reveal of the overall setting (which baffles Natsume with destroying her expectations when she comes to find out the REAL truth), with Hugin chasing Kaburagi down after seeing the fire in Natsume’s eyes to depict the world as how she sees it, he begins a change that would define his character back to his original Ranker status as a fighter who would fight for the better of mankind, for Deca-Dence. Even with the “bugs” of Solid Quake which are a constant nuisance, they also do serve a part to play in part to rebel against the status quo and fight for what they believe is right. And what a profound statement all this is.
Studio NUT, coming after “Saga of Tanya the Evil”, and subsequently coming off from former Madhouse members, with Deca-Dence, they’re a studio that I can firmly accept that they’re not to be rifled with. Even with the less-than-impressive CGI that thankfully isn’t a chore to watch, it has been consistent throughout this series, and it’s a blast to see the art and animation get its flexing of the vibrant world and with it, the lore of science fiction.
Even better is the sound department, under yet another talent that is Fumiyuki Goh. Having worked with big names like Overlord, it’s of no surprise that his talent have worked wonders for this show, adding onto the atmospheric worldbuilding with every inch of consideration. Great pairing of the OST with Konomi Suzuki’s OP (to which her songs are getting better repertoires) and Kashitarou Itou’s ED. Never have asked for great songs in yet another paltry season, but I’m glad that it exists.
Overall, this was a buffet of a treat from start to finish, and while I don’t ever think that this will get a Season 2, pretty much what is said can be translated into this phenomenal show that I still can’t stop trembling in fear and excitement over the past 3 months. Am quite sad that after the plot twist of Episode 2, haters just kinda shrugged it off and leaving this to dust, because greatness awaits in every step of the way.
One of the few original anime that I can wholeheartedly recommend, but it’d be best to binge all the way through. Quite satisfied at what we got, and there won’t be anime like this to grace the small screens in a very long time that sparks creativity and lavishness.
This is a fast-paced anime, it’s a 12 episode original. Keep that in mind, personally I think the pacing is well done. Every episode has its own direction in terms of what it wants to do if that makes sense, but it’s still under one story. The story itself looks simple during the first episode, but all I’ll say is that there’s A LOT more to it. Many philosophical concepts explored in the story, which I won’t get into but if you go into the story with a philosophical lens you’ll find a surprisingly high amount of stuff for 12 episodes. There are some central themes that are well-focused and explored throughout the run of the anime, and we get good conclusions to them when needed and others are left more open-ended when that is appropriate.
I’m not gonna act like it’s some Ufotable or Bones stuff because it’s not, but the art is still well-done. There are basically two main distinct art styles in Deca-Dence, and it throws some people off, think of Mob Psycho 100 or Masaaki Yuasa works. But the animation itself is pretty damn well done, has really great aerial combat(this is from the same studio who made Tanya the Evil for context), and transitions between the two styles damn well. The directing is also fantastic; episode 5, 8, and 10 stand out a ton in this regard.
I don’t like talking about something as obviously subjective as music/sound in an analytical sense, but I’ll say that the soundtrack was awesome and used very well, with many memorable tracks(especially the ED wowie). Voice acting was on point, and sound effects were well done. I don’t have any flaws with it, fantastic job. Also Koyasu Takehito has a big role doing what he does best, sounding evil. Can’t go wrong with that.
Our two main characters of Natsume and Kaburagi are FANTASTIC, and definitely carry in this department. They have a wonderful relationship that I can best describe as a shared inspiration. Both of our characters develop tons both due to each other and their general environment, and it feels very genuine. Natsume in particular has some moments that absolutely blew me away. The rest of our cast are obviously not as explored since this is a short anime, but some such as Minato and Fei bring interesting perspectives and make for some great dialogue. Our antagonistic force is also very well done with reason to their actions, and we come to a quite fitting resolution.
I seriously still can’t believe how much this anime appealed to me. Obviously the enjoyment rating can vary person by person, as can honestly any of the other ratings. I’ve literally cried just from thinking of how much I love this anime, on more occasions than I can count. Episode 5, 7, and 10 are literally my three favourite anime episodes of all time. The anime also made me laugh a bunch of times, it’s certainly good at being goofy when it wants to be. So yeah, I enjoyed it a ton. If you’re super stuck up about me rating enjoyment as a 11, then just think of it as a 10 doesn’t make a difference for me. Fantastic anime regardless 🙂
Judging by the synopsis alone tells me exactly what to expect initially. We have the post-apocalyptic setting with humanity on the brink of distinction. Humanity fights to survive in this dark age and we follow the journey of two characters – Natsume and Kaburagi, with very distinctive backgrounds. Coming into this show, I had one main goal in mind and that’s to embrace the creative story in a sci-fi world.
Let’s get business out of the way first. Prior to even watching the first few episodes, I realized that director Yuzuru Tachikawa is involved with this project. He’s worked on previous titles such as Death Parade, Mob Psycho 100, and even parts of Steins;Gate. Those are among some of my favorite titles in recent years so I had my expectations set high. But looking back at that roster, Deca-Dence stands out very differently. Among the first things I came to notice in this show is the theme of survival. We have to realize the timeline takes place since hundreds of years ago and in reality, humanity itself is in danger of extinction. This is caused by the presence of the mysterious lifeform known as Gadolls. The first few episodes shows us the life style of two types of people, the Gears and the Tankers. Natsume has a dream of becoming a Gear fighter but to her disappointment, she ends up becoming a maintenance worker. Serving under the wings of Kaburagi, she soon realizes what he’s really capable of and in a twist of fate, he offers to train her as a warrior. Talk about a change at luck, right?
Well, it turns out, that’s not the only element of surprise. This isn’t your typical survival sci-fiction adventure as we quickly find out about the existence of a mega corporation known as Solid Quake. The second episode also reveals the plot twist for the purpose of Gears, simulated characters built to fight the Gadolls in the way of video games. Don’t make a mistake though. This isn’t some isekai show where the protagonists are thrown into some virtual reality world. Humanity is truly in danger. However, the plot twist will caught most viewers off guard as it shifts from the typical science fiction tropes you see so often. It may sound outlandishly risky and indeed, Deca-Dence’s antagonists is actually an evil organization. After the second episode, Deca-Dence almost feels like a different show.
That’s the beauty of original anime. You’ll never see it coming. From episode two and beyond, we are shown more details about the inner workings of Solid Snake and why characters behave the way they do, especially Kaburagi. One of the elements of the show also involves capitalism at its extreme nature. Natsume and Kaburagi aren’t just living in a world dominated by mysterious lifeforms but they are controlled by capitalism. The war they’re fighting isn’t just about survival anymore because in reality, there’s no limit at how many Gadolls can exist. It’s like a live service video game with admins adding whatever amount of content as they please. Picturing it in your head right now and you’ll realize how hopeless this will be for humanity.
Still, humanity does have hope thanks to the efforts of Natsume and Kaburagi. One of the key selling points of the show is their character chemistry. At first, they just seemed like a pair that were forced to work together but overtime, the two bonded and become more than just fellow comrades. Natsume in particular shows she is adamant to achieve her dream. Kaburagi realizes her potential and trains her to be a Gear fighter, even in some of the most ridiculous ways possible. What’s more important than ever is they represent the hope for humanity. When everything seems hopeless, they fight for the greater good. This applies more to Kaburagi’s case including one episode where he becomes a prisoner. Watching Kaburagi’s actions in such an episode shows that he is more than a fighter. He’s a believer in that one day, humanity will be in a world where capitalism isn’t a dominant force and humans will no longer have to live in fear.
Studio NUT hasn’t been in the animation business industry for long. Their most noticeable work was Youjo Senki back in 2017. Deca-Dence artwork style didn’t seem appealing at first based on the trailers and promotional material. It had a decent production quality but nothing in particular stand out at first. With the fictional fortress made of 3D art, it actually symbolizes as an icon in their world, a place of salvation. Character designs of the human cast is more intact with modern animation style while the cyborgs were drawn by hands. To make the art look more distinctive, we have the cartoony look for the simulated virtual characters. From the second episode and onwards, you’d be surprised to see how different the show looks when scenes shift between one settings to other. Finally, the Gadolls resemble monsters you’d can picture from sci-fi fictional stories – monsters with Godzilla-like intimidation and a whole lot of otherworldly characteristics.
Deca-Dence took the sci-fi genre by storm. What started out as a generic opening of the first episode quickly turned itself around after the big revelation. Such a reveal gave Deca-Dence more of an identity, an IT factor that defines this show’s story and characters. This isn’t a typical sci-fi show that you may get used to and over time, you’ll come to appreciate what Deca-Dence really is. And truth to be told, I welcome our alien overlords.
4: Itai no wa Iya nano de Bougyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu.
English: BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense.
MAL Score: 7.56
After an enthusiastic invitation from her friend, Kaede Honjou reluctantly agrees to try New World Online: a very popular VRMMO played by thousands of people across Japan. Naming her in-game character Maple, she sets out on her journey. As a complete novice to such games, she allocates all of her stat points into vitality, desiring to not get hurt. With not a single point in any other stat, Maple has extraordinarily high defense, but she can’t move quickly or hit hard.
This doesn’t end badly for her, however. Due to her high defense, Maple acquires overpowered skills such as Total Defense, Poison Immunity, and Devour. These skills, along with the incredibly powerful items she obtains, allow her to obliterate most enemies in a single hit. After only a few days of playing the game, Maple claims third place in a server-wide event, gaining a reputation as a player who is both unkillable and absurdly powerful.
Despite her overpowered character, Kaede has much to learn. As she progresses through the game, she meets new friends and acquaintances, helping her complete new levels and events. Through all of her adventures, she may even pick up some other crazy skills that exceed all expectations.
You see, because the author actually played MMOs before, he understands that in reality all of them suck major balls, so instead of portraying his fictional game as “realistic,” he portrays it as fun. In a sense, the game is portrayed the way an unspoiled newcomer sees MMOs: as a new world of adventure and endless possibility, one you explore with genuine curiosity and sense of wonder. Not a repetitive grind-fest, fantasy accountant simulator regarding stats and gear, and disappointing technological limitations.
Not that this fictional game being fun actually matters. Because this series isn’t a VRMMO. It is an anime show about people playing VRMMO (a concerningly high number of people seems to be unable to comprehend the distinction). And because the author can write, this ends up being a fun anime show. What it does right:
The VRMMO premise done right. I’ll repeat it again, this is a show about people playing a VRMMO – exploring a fictional world, socializing with their friends, making new friends, having fun. There is an online community of people talking about the game they play – sharing news, bitching about the OP things, bitching about the developers nerfing the OP things, etc. There are, of course, the developers, monitoring the state of the game, rolling out new content and thinking hard about what else to nerf. No one is trapped in an MMO. There are no contrived idiotic stakes like “if you die here, you die in real life.” Instead, there are real stakes in that the characters’ behaviour in the game affects their relationships with other people. There is real meaningful progress of meeting people and building friendships.
The MMO fanservice done right. There is a certain famous VRMMO series with a reputation of catering to the core MMO audience. That show spends half an episode explaining the idea that different classes can party up together to be more effective in combat, and does that with a comically pompous attitude of revealing some grand 4D chess strategy. That series is low-IQ garbage. In contrast, the MMO fanservice in Bofuri is clever, subtle, doesn’t waste your time, and happens when it makes sense in context. There are things like using combat moves for mobility (like a vertically-propelling attack for double-jumping), accidentally stumbling on hidden content by doing random stupid shit, wasting hours just fishing, sequence-breaking a quest line, and, the core foundation of the story, breaking the game by combining various mechanics in a way that was not forseen by the devs.
Narrative depth. As mentioned above, this is a story about people socializing, and the way this happens is organic and believable. Sally is the protagonist Maple’s close friend who went to a great length of getting her into this MMO in the first place, which is why it makes sense how much effort she pours into keeping Maple entertained. Hell, the show could’ve been a good romance story if it wanted to, this is how well the aspect of their “dating” is executed. Meanwhile, Maple herself is a cheerful outgoing extrovert who effortlessly makes new friends, so she ends up with a guild. Sally isn’t an extrovert, so she isn’t friends with their guild. She tolerates them because they’re Maple’s friends. The guild members all have their own circumstances which boil down to that being in the Maple’s guild is just a good time in one way or another. Chrome is the most notable case – he is the generic audience surrogate dude who would be perfectly fine just reading about Maple (who’s a mascot of the game for all intents) on the forum, but somehow ended up as her companion, so now he’s self-conscious about being worthy of the main character position, especially considering he plays the same class as Maple but isn’t as good at it. Even the aforementioned forum messages look like real conversations that could be held by real people.
I could easily write paragraphs upon paragraphs breaking down such stuff – simply because there IS stuff to break down. There is depth. Best of all, it’s subtle and unobtrusive, the audience isn’t being beaten over the head with who thinks what about whom, it’s just there between the lines, not taking away the screen-time from the show’s main substance, but present to be seen by anyone who has the eyes and the brain to see it. Maybe not everyone does, which is why this aspect of the show goes underappreciated.
High production values. The series is supposedly a comedy/SoL, and yet its action scenes blow 90% of action anime out of the water with the level of their choreography, animation and hype. I, for once, particularly enjoyed the scene where a caster doing a long-ass chant was actually a thing happening in real time, with interference from their opponents and covering fire from their allies. The art, the music, the character design, etc. are all on point.
It’s fun. This is what MMOs are supposed to be about. Finishing your day, logging in, getting away from the real life problems for a moment, and having fun. Bofuri manages to capture that sense of having fun.
9/10 for “what every VRMMO series should aspire to be.”
A good question. For the sake of this review, I’m addressing it just the anime as “Bofuri” because who really wants to read out loud the full title. At its sweet spot, Bofuri essentially drops our main character into a virtual reality world, based on a new game known as “New World Online”. As the character avatar “Maple”, she carries a vast amount of vitality but very low amount of offensive power. Hence, you can easily guess where the English version of the title came from. Maple, as her character suggests, maxed out her defense and doesn’t want to get hurt.
If we’re talking about realism here, putting all your skill points into one skill isn’t a clever idea. In a party, everyone has a role and sometimes, desperate times calls for desperate measures where you have to take on a role that you’re not prepared for. Now, you may be getting the idea that Maple made a critical mistake but fear not for she managed to obtain two important skills to aid her in combat. That’s the beauty about some MMOs. There’s choices that can be made and Maple’s choice managed to become a character of near unrivalled talent.
Maple herself is a young girl with enthusiasm, curiosity, and full of life. She and her partner Sally are our charming adventure duo who undertakes quests and completing tasks. Adapting an MMO 101 formula, a series like this heavily depends on our main cast to carry the storytelling. The author wanted us to understand our main characters and relate to them. And for that purpose, she made Maple into as ordinary as possible, both in-game and in real life. Chances are, you’ve probably encountered someone of similar personality to Maple in a MMO game before. The main difference is that she has max defense and essentially that tank you want in a party. And when watching Bofuri, it sometimes feels like playing a game. I’m not just talking about fighting a boss monster together or taking on some escort mission. I’m talking about social connection, a perk that every MMO game offers to its players. Maple is there to not just build her character, guild, or skills. She’s also in this world to make friends, companions, and even rivals to prove herself. In the early episodes, she builds an important relationship with Sally, who becomes one of her most trustworthy allies. Later in the series, she forms a guild together with Kasumi, May, and her friend Yui. They called it, the “Maple Tree”.
As the guild master, Maple has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders to carry as she has to unite together in this complex game. Under the virtual reality umbrella, anything can happen anytime in this series so their members must all be prepared. While most of the characters in the guild are friendly with each other, Kasumi does initially display a cold shoulder with her serious personality. It isn’t until she became more familiarized with Maple and her friends that she began to warm up and trust them. Blending between the line of fiction and reality, we also do see some of her real life scenarios when the opportunity arises. However, I would argue and say that her virtual life is far more ambitious than her real life counterpart. When it comes down to it, she’s too ordinary in real life and is portrayed as a generic teenager you’ve seen a million times before. In game, she has a more presence with not just her skills but ability to bring people closer together. I won’t be the grand judge on whether you prefer her in-game avatar or real life character. But if you ask me, Maple’s potential lies in her virtual adventures.
Up to this point, you may also be asking the glaring question about how far the anime focuses on the story. As an anime original viewer, I can only say that the story embraces its premise and promises a lighthearted fantasy adventure experience. The light novels contains a well-rounded amount of chapters that I have no doubt expands far more into what this anime adapted. But for references, I do appreciate that the author were able to capture the main concepts of the show at its core. From Maple’s sociable personality and selling the main concepts of a VRMMO game, it shows that Bofuri can make an identity of its own. Even in a floodgate of these isekai-esque game world settings, Bofuri is what I classify as a sparkling gem.
For Silver Link to take on this anime adaptation means you should probably lower some expectations. As much as I enjoy the world setting and fictional fantasy gags, there’s only so much this anime can pull you in on the artistic front. Character designs looks simple despite Maple wearing that heavy armor and wielding a shield almost twice her size. Other characters in the series has little to impress as most them look like premade characters from a video game. The bestiary is also more or less to get excited about as the majority lacks unique traits. On the hand, I do appreciate how the anime embraces idea of character classes and mostly stick to their guns. Mostly during combat scenes, we see the characters use their actual skills rather than pulling tricks out of their ass. And sometimes, these battles raises the stakes in later episodes with guild rivalries that can be worth anticipating for.
Bofuri ended up being one of the better fantasy shows this year from what’s shown us. It may be a bit early to call for now but from the endless lineup of generic isekai and game world fantasies, Bofuri managed to celebrate the essentials of adventuring. And with just 12 episodes, it’s easy for anyone to jump into. Prepare to be assimilated.
BOFURI as it is called due to it’s absurdly long title is a rather delightful show to watch. Yes, the fact that it’s another virtual reality Isekai may be a bit eye rolling, but it does help that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a very light tone to the point that it can be considered slice-of-life, since it very much is. It basically looks into the life of a teenage girl as she has fun with her friends in the virtual space. The only thing making her stand-out from the crowd is that she naively Min-maxed a defense build that in turn led to her getting favorable results. Essentially she found a way to break the game and make herself drastically overpowered in a short amount of time. It amounts to very little aside from making boss fights and pvp tournaments very easy for her because in the end, it’s just a game.
That’s really the crux of it all that makes it stand, the show acknowledges that everything is just a game and nothing more. The characters all get along and there’s rarely(if any) deep seated rivalries or drama because it would be petty because it is just a game. All the NPCS are obviously scripted and quests that can be easily circumvented or easily accomplished. And while the main protagonist may be an overpowered tank, she does get nerfed from time to time. Although she usually bounces back from it with some other new thing the story hands out to her. Yes, things really do come very conveniently to our main protagonist, Maple. So much so that combined with her happy-go-lucky attitude she comes off as a Mary sue with her only fault being clumsy. Of course this power fantasy is only in the game, because out of it she’s just a clumsy girl and nothing more.
If it isn’t telling from the last paragraph, a lot of the characters in this show don’t have a lot of depth to them. Which is all fine for the most part, since their simplicity is part of their charm. It’s that casual carelessness and easy to understand personalities that makes them easy to attach to. such as Maple’s best friend Sally who is very supportive of her and who purposely created her own min-max build that compliments her friends. Even the “antagonistic” characters such as the leaders of the flame emperors who comes off as a very serious try hard person. Only for it to reveal that it;s more of a front for her to impress her friends and is also really a bit of a crybaby. Although it’s not uncommon that some of the characters can be forgettable even in Maple’s own group.
While the production value for the show is as decent as it comes these days. The soundtrack is worth taking note of. Not because there is something remarkable about it, but it does end up having a place within the show. Mostly when it comes during the fight sequences and the montages in the show. Especially the montages which the show has many more than it should have. It has a very distinct musical and vocal track that gets played again and again for each montage. It’s a decent song, but it would be nice to have something different. The same goes for the fight sequence song as well.
This is a show that isn’t planning to aim high and I guess i can respect that. All it wants to be is a carefree enjoyable show, and it succeeded in doing so.
3: Akudama Drive
English: Akudama Drive
MAL Score: 7.66
The bustling metropolis of Kansai, where cybernetic screens litter the neon landscape, may seem like a technological utopia at first glance. But in the dark alleys around the brightly-lit buildings, an unforgiving criminal underbelly still exists in the form of fugitives known as “Akudama.”
No stranger to these individuals, Kansai police begin the countdown to the public execution of an infamous Akudama “Cutthroat,” guilty of killing 999 people. However, a mysterious message is sent to several elite Akudama, enlisting them to free Cutthroat for a substantial amount of money. An invisible hand seeks to gather these dangerous personas in one place, ensuring that the execution is well underway to becoming a full-blown bloodbath.
This anime is a combination of Blade Runner and Psycho-Pass, lovingly brought to life by Kodaka, the creator of Danganronpa. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
And it’s god damn amazing.
The story follows an ordinary person, a girl mistakenly labeled as an Akudama; One of the most dangerous and highly skilled criminals in the city of Kansai. She becomes known as “Swindler” for being falsely accused of a petty thief. Along with six other Akudama, she must evade the militarized police pursuing them. If they manage to escape alive and retrieve a package for a mysterious bidder, they’ll each earn 10 million dollars.
All seven Akudama are wildly entertaining; each has such a unique character design and a distinctive persona, they could lead their own shows. It might seem strange at first, but we only know them by their criminal labels: Swindler, Cutthroat, Courier, Hacker, Brawler, Hoodlum, and Doctor. Their faces are plastered on billboards with these names. They only matter because there’s a bounty on their heads. Real names are irrelevant in this world. In Kansai, a person’s life is worth less than a candy bar; human life is a commodity, just like in real life. People fight, buy, and sell human beings. One of this anime’s clear messages is, human dignity is gone, alluding to a very plausible future.
Watching these unstoppable badasses fend off executioners and deliver surprisingly hilarious one-liners is always exhilarating. Wisely, the anime ups the stakes by pairing its merciless and seemingly impenetrable Akudama with Swindler, an empathetic and innocent bystander. The action is easy to follow, with a violent neon visual spectacle overflowing with sakuga and impressive visual effects unseen in modern anime.
Once you become an Akudama, you no longer have human rights. The police will mercilessly execute you without trial. Kansai’s government isn’t a democracy; it is a world owned by the top 1%. Anyone, even innocent people, can be declared a criminal; It’s eerily similar to how the police abuse their power every day. That’s how Swindler gets wrapped up in everything. She’s our window into this crazy world—like the audience’s avatar. Rarely are blank slate characters done right, but Swindler’s is one of the lucky few. Her hollow personality is like a sponge; she absorbs all of the fucked up things happening around her and develops into an entirely new person. A lot of people have criticized her for lacking characterization, but they’re missing the point. She is you, and she’s everyone. She’s relatable in the sense that she also has no idea what the fuck is happening. As she learns about the world, so do we. Often, she comments aloud on what’s happening, like a narrator. Her commentary is helpful when the action gets intense. Then there are times when it feels like the show is holding our hand, which is fine. The pacing is so fast that it helps to have someone fill in the blanks. We’re smart enough to figure things out.
Misguided critics have said that this anime is unrealistic, too stupid, and comical. No shit, sherlock. This show is self-aware. From the beginning, it’s clear the only logic it adheres to is the rule of cool. Courier rides his motorcycle on the sides of buildings, equipped with a massive railgun and grappling hook. Brawler can catch bullets with his teeth and shoot them like a gun. The logical consistency of Akudama Drive is in its themes: Capitalism, policing, colonialism, the death penalty, and fascism. I can’t overstate how bloody this anime is. It is cartoonish, and the color palette is straight out of a comic book. I can’t say it’s realistic, but it’s impactful—blood sprays everywhere like fountains, guts, and gore spill out in plain sight. It might be humorous at times, but this is intentional. Death is meaningless to the police in this world—not even the main characters are safe. Every death is impactful and serves a purpose in the story.
Every criminal and citizen is disposable; if they disobey the executioners, then they are labeled a criminal and killed on sight. The reason why criminals exist in this world is to justify execution—not to protect people. This anime makes a great point at saying none of the Akudama deserve to die: Brawler simply likes fighting with other super-strong people, Swindler saves cats and would never hurt a fly, Hoodlum is an average joe with great hair, Courier just does his job, and Hacker never hurt an innocent person. They’re all fine people: except for Doctor and Cutthroat, who are abusers, manipulators, and traitors to the real Akudama. The writers make a point to give the abusers exactly what they deserve. Throughout the show Swindler and Hoodlum especially endure abuse, however, they are the focus. We enter their headspace and they get a chance to seek revenge. It’s magnificent how they handle abuse 100 times better than your average anime.
Purely as a sci-fi action show, it’s brilliant; Incredible tension, animation, and visuals. Akudama Drive achieves its visual excellence through the marriage of 2D art and CGI. Not the overreliance on one or the other. The kinetic action sequences are dazzlingly realized with digital compositing by Kazuhiro Yamada. He was responsible for Attack on Titan’s excellent action sequences blending 3D background art with 2D action animation. He also worked with the animators to render all the holographic neon effects, beautifully enhancing the background art and every action sequence. Similar to Danganronpa, the background art transitions piece by piece as if a stage is gets rearranged. All of its visual idiosyncrasies culminate in one unique aesthetic.
Like all great sci-fi thrillers, Akudama Drive uses over-the-top action to tell a story about social inequities in modern society. Cyberpunk settings are hard to make unique. Yet Akudama Drive provides a brilliant new interpretation of the genre—this is a show that pokes fun of our modern-day police system and the corrupt government. Kansai is quite literally a militarized police state. It’s a frighteningly believable totalitarian state controlled by a politically motivated police force that watches the citizens’ every move. In this world, resistance equals death. If you protest the government, you won’t just be pepper-sprayed and arrested—the police will mercilessly slaughter you. The Executioners live in a tower right beside upscale hotels. The wealthy and privileged overlook the smog-filled city. Citizens live in slums below, a neon-lit wasteland covered in advertisements, garbage, and populated by the middle-class and homeless people. Kansai’s version of a sporting event is public executions where the worst criminals get beheaded. Hundreds of bloodthirsty citizens fill a stadium to watch.
The two executioners who pursue the Akudama squad are multilayered villains—consumed by nationalism, all they have is a desire to serve their fascist state. In this world, police officers craft their plans to kill criminals. Their only purpose is to punish rather than rehabilitate. Their duty is to “Remove the dregs of society,” which means anyone who opposes their fascist control. They destroyed their political opposition in a war and then rebuilt their land as a paradise for the ultra-wealthy. These two characters are the personification of a failed justice system. A system that focuses on crime after it happens. Instead, they should focus on preventing crime by creating a better quality of life so people wouldn’t need to turn to theft and murder in the first place. The anime uses its corrupt justice system to tell a potent message: If we treat people like animals, they’ll act like animals.
Barely any time is wasted on pesky exposition. Thank god it doesn’t bother explaining sci-fi technology, unlike most modern anime. It follows the “Show-don’t-tell” rule very well. If you care about stuff like world-building, there’s plenty of visual story-telling in the background art. However, it may take multiple viewings to pick up on everything. We also get pieces of info for each episode in a diegetic puppet show. It plays out like a kids educational TV show with slapstick humor. I found it to be an excellent way to transition between settings while explaining introducing new concepts.
People have plenty of minor critiques of this show, some deserved, but most are nitpicks. It has its fair share of contrived situations and plot conveniences. You could wonder, “Why didn’t the woman at the food stand ask for Swindler to give the food back? If she was so serious about being paid, why wouldn’t she ask for payment before giving her the food?” But at the end of the day, all of those critiques would be nitpicks. The sheer bombast and messages it tells alone are enough for me to forgive these flaws. If fast pacing will put you off, this isn’t going to be for you. It purposefully moves quickly, but I was always able to follow it. The plot itself is procedural. Though it is sometimes cliche, you can never guess where it’ll go. The twists feel earned rather than shoehorned. There are clues throughout the show to build up the mystery. This attention to fine details gives the show so much heart. You can rewatch the show and pick up on new things you didn’t realize the first time. Minor lines of dialogue and subtle details in the background art contribute significantly to the rewatch value.
Akudama Drive is a love letter to every Sci-fi classic of the 20th century. It waves its inspiration like a flag while providing a fresh and culturally relevant critique: It released at the best time in history. It’s not without its flaws, but I love everything about it. Although the premise is simple, it has more thought-provoking story beats than you’d expect. With only a 12 episode show, it managed to tell a fantastic complete story, with one of the best endings in recent memory. You owe it to yourself to watch this underrated gem; this is one I’ll be returning to in the future.
Akudama Drive is one of those easily captivating and enticing sci-fi action flick series. Lots of flashing aesthetics, bombastic action, sheer madness, ludicrous characters, and a cool-looking hi-tech environment. With all of this in one package, being created and written by none other than Kazutaka Kodaka, the creator of the Danganronpa franchise, well as being influenced by classic films like Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner, and The Ghost in the Shell, it’s not surprising that many people would instantly be hooked on it and praise it so much.
But the truth is, Akudama Drive is akin to a bunch of discombobulated parts tossed into a blender in unruly fashion, or quite literally, a runaway train bound for wreckage. What was working out so well early on as a very promising presentation from the otherwise hectic year of 2020 simply unraveled down the stretch. So then you ask: what exactly went wrong?
To start off, Akudama Drive is set in a futuristic Japan, specifically the regions of Kansai and Kanto, previously ravaged by war and conflict. Its initial appearance comes off as a very urbanized and splendid-looking state-of-the-art utopia, but underlying that mask is something else entirely that clearly defines this show’s setting as a dystopia filled with underlying criminal activity. Highly skilled and/or dangerous criminals are labeled as “Akudama” to be noted separately from normal civilians, while the Executioners are the law enforcers meant to handle and oppose them. For the most part during the series, there is very little groundwork regarding any proper approach to exploring the dystopic world itself, and any exposition covered is usually via regularly applied silly-looking televised cartoon skits, which actually do a fairly decent job of explaining the history. Otherwise, everything is pretty much at surface-level, as the majority of the concepts and themes within the show are underdeveloped and unsubstantial. The recurring subject of moral ambiguity, especially regarding the Akudama and the Executioners, keeps coming up every chance it gets. It’s obvious to see and recognize they’re there, but there’s not enough deeper context to properly support them and make them significant enough to tie them with the main characters, even with subtleties here and there.
The direction of the story starts off fairly optimistic with a very well-paced progression as a consistently entertaining ride filled with a whole lot of blustering horseplay and shameless implementation of the “rule of cool”. A normal unnamed teenage girl is hilariously dragged along into a grand scheme along with a randomly gathered group of Akudama and given instructions to work together to “go against the system” and complete tasks along the way, with the promise of getting a huge fortune. Being initially uninvolved and unwilling to participate, the girl, aptly entitled as “Swindler” in ironic fashion, is forced along with the gang into the chaos. Every now and then, she vocalizes in how ridiculous or dangerous on the decisions made or actions taken. Coupled with the multi-colored composition of the different personalities in the Akudama gang, and it honestly made for a rather nonsensical yet self-aware wild ride. For a good amount of the first half, it was honestly going fairly well in the right direction despite the surface-level context and choice for a nameless narrative (meaning none of the characters in the series are given actual names).
The second half of the series was when things start to unravel. The pacing starts to get rather sluggish as the story starts to accumulate more and more details regarding the settings itself, the mood of the story starts to shift to an abnormally serious one, and not in a pleasant fashion. The main characters are killed off, one by one, without so much as a consistent sense of impact. I will not deny that the narrative likely intended on killing off a number of the recurring cast members in the first place, but the way it did just that felt so….senseless. Practically like a version 2.0 of Akame Ga Kill. Gone was the sense of self-awareness that gave the series its identity. Gone were the chances to properly flesh out, develop, and/or realize the captivating main cast, not even so much as a sliver of some sort of backstory for any of them. Gone was the silly fun of the grand heist and now replaced with some overly conceited and unpleasant sense of anxiety and tension. The tonal shift may supposedly befit the show’s dystopic background, but there’s not much established beforehand to make the transition all that much smoother, and it comes off as jarring and obstructive. Sure, the themes are still very much expressed, but never properly explored, and by this point in the show, it becomes really hard to just take things at face value anymore. As the series wound down to the final episodes, we are provided with rather copious amounts of grating plot twists and revelations, ranging from human experiments to immortality to quantum physics. Even then, these revealed plot elements don’t seem like they amount to much beyond just a desperate attempt to come up with a conclusion to end the madness. There was always a very slight foreboding tone throughout the series, in all fairness, but again, there wasn’t enough there in terms of the premises’ foundations to amount to nearly enough. It’s as if the series has underwent a major identity crisis and upheaval, leading to a rather tedious and frustrating trudge to the finish line.
In terms of the audiovisuals, Akudama Drive at least does shine the brightest in that department. Colorful looking urban backgrounds coupled with varying color tones, brightness, and saturation to really highlight the vivid illustrations and atmosphere of the dystopian world. The combinations of 2D and 3D graphics make for really nice presentations, and even the action & fight scenes also have really nice consistent choreography. There’s also an extremely nice touch to the aesthetic experience with once-per-episode scene transitions, where the background art for the next segment would slam together piece by piece to replace the previous ones. The soundtracks and theme songs befit the somewhat dual nature of the settings, with the opening theme representing the bright and energetic outer parts of the city, while the ending theme may be symbolizing the more chill yet somewhat pessimistic and foreboding side, especially revolving around the main cast. The voice acting in particular was quite solid, albeit on occasions the dialogue may feel forced or hurried, though overall still a consistent performance, as the seiyuus did their best to bring out the personalities of the recurring cast members. By all means, the production value managed to provide grade-A art, which is by all means worthy of praise considering the infamous history of Studio Pierrot.
I’ll have to admit right now that the interpretation regarding the character department can be rather subjective here. To me, while the recurring characters are really nice in terms of how they’re very well characterized to the point where we at least know what kind of people they are, the lack of deeper context in the series composition strikes again here. There isn’t much character work or development done in the series at all, and perhaps there was no need due to the nameless narrative being implemented. However, with nothing else to really give them more dimension, it’s really hard to find much to care about them and their objectives. As a result, their initially appealing traits can quickly grow dull. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen these kinds of characters in other series written far, far better. Sure, they were entertaining and all, but they came off as nothing more than a particularly rowdy group. I will admit, though, that the short-lived brotherly bonds between the Hoodlum and the Brawler guy was perhaps THE most wholesome thing I’ve seen from the show.
As for the Swindler’s case of character development in the latter half of the series, I found it very unimpressive. It felt like more of a convenient case of instant gratification for the mainstream viewers to immediately be smitten by the Swindler’s heel-turn, from a stereotypical protagonist complacent about her unintended involvement, to a headstrong and resolved, selfless heroine. Yes, it’s development for sure, as it comes off from her eventually being unable to determine what’s really right or wrong and wanting to take matters into her own hands. However, it still felt too abrupt, untimely, and perhaps a bit obsolete; I would honestly say it should’ve been given more focus and time. While some people may insist that her development was subtle and actually happened along the way, it’ll still go back the problem to her not getting much of a background along with the other Akudama members. Perhaps if the whole nameless narrative thing wasn’t in play, the character department would’ve had far better results.
In terms of my enjoyment level, I initially did enjoy Akudama Drive to a certain degree early on for its “dumb fun” and bombastic sequences, though I wasn’t really sold on a whole lot due to everything being given mostly at face value. The aesthetic experience was of course really nice throughout the series, especially during the well animated fight scenes. It was when the second half came along and reared its ugly head that my pleasure turned into bafflement. I was not sure whether I should continue turning my brain off or actually start thinking about whatever plot points were thrown at me. It was admittedly an infuriating sequence for me during that dreadful final stretch, trying to figure out what in the world did the show want to accomplish in the end beyond just mere schlock entertainment.
Akudama Drive flew out the gates with blades of glory, only to later on fall hard and flat on its face. With its lack of fleshed out context and deeper characterization to an otherwise gorgeous-looking world, it only does best as popcorn entertainment. If you’re the kind who is willing to roll with anything and everything regardless as long as you’re entertained, feel free to watch it, as I would still recommend it for those who want nothing but entertainment and can still appreciate the characters for who they are; I would still warn about the second half, of course, where even just pure enjoyment would get compromised by the incoming convolutions and silly twists that ruined the potential for an underrated modern classic.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Imagine Suicide Squad the anime, throw in a futuristic world where crime rankings are a power level and authoritarian police that were implemented during some civil war and you got Akudama Drive in a nutshell. The show for a lack of a better word, is just plain wild, there is a plot to the madness however its best to just take the show in as it unfolds and think about it later. Most of the story is told visually and through character interactions, there aren’t many instances of significant narration or long winded explanations, everything occurs during fights, adorable little shorts produced by Kansai, planning stages or chases.
This somehow actually works perfectly for the series, it keeps the show from getting bogged down and lets the story stay fast paced while delivering a very thoroughly built world, an excellent and interesting cast of very unique characters, and slowly building up the mystery of why they are working together and for what purpose. On the note of the mystery, this anime was directed by the creator of a rather popular survival game battle royale style anime and his work in this series lives up to the standard he set before, so you can definitely look forward to how it unfolds. There are a lot of sci fi themes thrown in including cloning, genetic engineering, repairing a destroyed world, and post scarcity technology, they are not heavy handed and are handled well overall, the story is definitely a solid 8 and one of the better this season.
The artwork is absolutely pristine, the action scenes are gorgeous and beyond any expectations one would have for a studio like Pierott, in fact it might be the single best looking show produced by this studio and the very first episode might have had the best visuals of any first episode this year if not for the Journey of Elaina coming out in the same season as well. The direction for the fights and their choreography were smooth, pretty much movie quality, and there were no shortcuts for the animation or any lazy camera work that is normally typical for this studio. The most notable fight scenes were nearly as long as an episode and at no point was there any laziness in delivery, there is some censorship if you watch the tv version of the anime but it’s nothing that ruins scenes.
Characters were very uniquely designed, and all the girls were super cute looking but still blended into the dark color pallet and atmosphere of the series. The character designs clearly had a lot of work put into them, they heavily reflected the nature and personality of the characters, they also were designed with significant detail which meant that animating them would have been a challenge. Despite the high levels of detail, almost no CGI was used for character movements, outside of massive waves of robots for obvious reasons. Side characters like the executioners all had interesting introductions, outfits, poses, and overall, just overflowed with style.
Background art is something that specifically has to be noted in this series, the amazing world building was only half visual storytelling the other half was the art. The city was truly detailed to look as shiny and futuristic as possible while still carrying the dark and gritty atmosphere expected of a series like this.
The sound: 8
The OP was among the best this season, if not for the incredible line up of impressive anime opening songs this season it definitely would have taken first place. From banging combat sound effects to a lit techno-rap soundtrack, Akudama Drive has some of the better music in the season it aired in and most of the music here is worth listening to even outside of the show.
The soundtrack during fights was also quite hyped up fights and were easy to get lost in, the music selection is among the best this season and heavily complements the world the story takes place in.
Excluding the main girl, the characters are all immoral criminals brought together over a shared mission with a high pay out but instant death if they fail. The executors who are essentially Judge Dredd style law enforcement are quite interesting as well, they feel very similar to the enforcers from Psycho Pass but with significantly improved fighting prowess, I especially love watching them continuously try to outsmart the Akudama and its nice to see competent law enforcement in anime.
The characters are not actually named, they have codenames and it’s a good idea to not get very attached to any of them, this series does not shy away from building up characters and then killing them when the time is right. One of the most impactful scenes in the show involve a girl whose mentor was killed and them crying in the rain but it barely being noticeable, subtle moments like this really help elevate the impact these characters have despite only having a few episodes to build them up and not giving them names.
There are also instances of betrayal and characters not being who they appeared to be initially, however there is usually some build up for this and it does not ruin their characterization, some of it was predictable while one betrayal was a complete surprise.
The art style, the original feel, the characters, and the overall world building along with excellently delivered story lead me to giving this series an 8. If you enjoyed Psychopass and like series set in futuristic worlds with lots of well-choreographed action, then this show is definitely something you will enjoy.
English: ID: INVADED
Japanese: ID:INVADED イド:インヴェイデッド
MAL Score: 7.87
The Mizuhanome System is a highly advanced development that allows people to enter one of the most intriguing places in existence—the human mind. Through the use of so-called “cognition particles” left behind at a crime scene by the perpetrator, detectives from the specialized police squad Kura can manifest a criminal’s unconscious mind as a bizarre stream of thoughts in a virtual world. Their task is to explore this psychological plane, called an “id well,” to reveal the identity of the culprit.
Not just anyone can enter the id wells; the prerequisite is that you must have killed someone yourself. Such is the case for former detective Akihito Narihisago, who is known as “Sakaido” inside the id wells. Once a respected member of the police, tragedy struck, and he soon found himself on the other side of the law.
Nevertheless, Narihisago continues to assist Kura in confinement. While his prodigious detective skills still prove useful toward investigations, Narihisago discovers that not everything is as it seems, as behind the seemingly standalone series of murder cases lurks a much more sinister truth.
An attempt at explanation would be daft, and an attempt at description would span infinity and eventuate in intense subjectivity. What one may find to be a bog-standard sci-fi murder mystery on paper will—I promise you—come to surprise even the most jaded of pseudo intellectual keyboard warriors and utterly scar any casual viewer with its shell-shocking ego. Being a narrative which quite literally invades the id of its ever-astounding cast of eclectic personas, from broken officers to perverse serial killers, it builds itself around the minds of those thoroughly intentional and cavernously deep characters written to clever perfection and results in a totally arresting presentation of psychotically malleable ideation turned to somehow solid environment, both of which rocket up and down in visual prominence until the only thing you have to ground yourself is your own body, a being far detached from the mental breakdown in front of you, lashing itself dangerously outside the bounds of your screen with its enchanting sense of maddeningly immersive wonder. Call it confusing or call it possessing, at the end of the day it stands as a statement of thought so unforgettable at face and unbelievably impervious to plot holes or forward criticism save production nitpicks, mere impress doesn’t even being to do justice.
Atop its labyrinthine writing and audacious conceptualization stands the freshly iconic visual direction of a true master, thunderously flaunting one visual metaphor after another all whilst juggling the countless ideas said writer bloated its context with to begin with. At once minimalistically elegant, at once overwhelmingly provocative, Id:Invaded is a feast for the senses which it doesn’t subvert, and its feverish changes of pace and betrayals of expectation all find themselves accompanied by cinema sensibilities which can only be described as sublime. While the concepts it asks you to accept out the gate are more than their fair share of freakish, never does the show break its own rules or perforate its own plot, and seeing as said concepts are presented with such acute realization of the writer’s intentions, their believability is unquestionable and their sense of immersion almost dubious in light of their exciting air of unreality. The more its science fiction morphs into pure psycho-fantasy, the more its cast of already human characters evolve and devolve into remarkably affecting icons of expert thematic execution and equally exquisite empathetic development. Be it crying in pain, smiling in wry, or celebrating in hype, Id:Invaded will move you in sincerity, and I bet my life you won’t even comprehend why, how, or by when.
Well, that’s about a lifetime’s worth of poeticism I just wrung out of my naturally prosaic fingers, isn’t it? Id:Invaded, no matter how much I love it, is just so hard to comprehensively write about—let alone critically review—such was the only way I saw forward. When I said an explanation would be daft I wasn’t kidding, and the man, the powerful fucking figure who let me not be kidding was Otarō Maijō. I expect the name Ōtarō Maijō to go over peoples’ heads as much as I expect this thickly bibliographical paragraph to turn what little of you are still reading away from this review, but to not discuss this man would be to deny the very source of the unhinged identity this show defines itself with. As bracingly weird as Id:Invaded is, Ei Aoki is not a weird director. As I’m sure many are aware given the immense popularity of many projects he’s helmed, he’s a grand director known for his sweeping perspective shots, wide frames, and foreground focus, and while Id:Invaded most certainly uses his directorial skill to its fullest extent, no one would ever in a million years walk away from this show with those aspects having been the most memorable. What completely overshadows Aoki’s personal mark is Maijō’s. Which isn’t to say Maijō’s work is better than Aoki’s, it’s more to say Maijō’s is so mentally unbalanced and deranged, even having seen some outstanding cinematography, your biggest takeaway from the experience is what in the hell you could even call that scripting. Id:Invaded is confusing in structure, execution, purpose, and is esoteric as all hell, being nearly impossible to see the immediate appeal of or the immediate intention of outside of surface level actions and fetishes. You’ll often find yourself not knowing what the point of something is, and I honestly think 50% of people who watch Id:Invaded will hate it, and to them I have no harsh words. Characters are as insane and non-relatable as I imagine Maijō himself to be, and his characterization still hits you like a train to the face. The very first sentence of the very first work of Maijō’s I ever read was “my mom is a piece of shit,” and in Id:Invaded, you watch a character deride someone to suicide, watch on contently, and that character is portrayed as being the good guy—and IS the good guy. But this was all exactly what I expected. Maijō is off his damn rocker. He’s a cult author even in Japan and has been since his early 2000s debut, and very few of his works have been translated into english, so the only people who will have likely known about him prior to now are freaks like me deep into the Faust style lore of Japanese literary culture. Since finally founding his long deserved personal studio, TROYCA, Aoki began getting more interesting writers behind his direction. I don’t know if this has gone well for him per se, but it certainly has been interesting. In 2014, Aoki brought on The Butcher, Urobuchi Gen, to write Aldnoah.Zero, and unfortunately, Urobuchi was swamped with the Psycho-Pass 2/Psycho-Pass Movie production quagmire to write any further than the original concept and scenario, and while that foundation and inciting incident were the best parts of that show by far—if not the only good parts at all—his minimal involvement likely left Aoki with some regrets. However, in 2017, Aoki vindicated himself by bringing in legendary mangaka, Rei Hiroe, and had him write the entire screenplay for Re:Creators, and it was easily the most uniquely conceptualized and thereby daringly well produced spectacle I’d seen in years. Aoki is clearly wanting to one-up himself creatively after his past critical and popular successes, and how else to accomplish this feat than bringing on the single most certifiably insane author-turned-screenwriter the industry has ever seen. What’s weirder (and the sad reason I couldn’t put a ten out of ten on this review), is how bizarre and sometimes even downright ugly Id:Invaded looks. Seeing as the pre-production and planning for this work began a whopping eight years ago before TROYCA was even around to launch Aoki’s new oddities, he had to get it off the ground at whatever studio would take it, hence NAZ, and seeing as switching studios once an obvious alternative arose would be notably bad optics, Aoki committed. In the end, they got to a point in the latter half of the production where they literally had FIVE people doing the genga for the entirety of episode twelve. That’s less animators than a student film has, and what we got—at least in that piteous context—I dare say is good enough, especially with such incredible visual direction never leaving the screen.
Now, I fully admit to cheating this game. I have the unique means to look across the room I’m currently sat in and see a shelf carrying Asura Girl and both volumes of Faust, one of which contains Drill Hole in My Brain, so I concede to bringing a gun to a knife fight. This isn’t me being an elitist, scoffing at the thought of casuals or newcomers—or even long time, truly authentic fans who’re just too young to know the industry’s older names—getting filtered by their first taste of even remotely high-minded media. No, this is me reflecting genuine concern for any normal, thinking human being who’s about to unknowingly drown themselves in the literary ravings of a barely professional madman given a platform bigger than ever before by a creator outrageously gaudy enough to employ him in an effort to make a statement, only to make a statement so schizophrenic, nothing can be learned from it other than a lesson as to what happens when the wielder doesn’t know the power of the weapon he’s naively placed in his own two hands without the viewer willing to bravely dive deep into the barrel of said smoking gun, whether one thought the viewing of said weapon’s discharge to be utterly badass or fundamentally terrifying. Personally, I thought it utterly badass.
Thank you for reading.
What do you get when you mash well thought-out ideas from other great sci-fi cop shows into a stew and then leave that stew on a oven that’s not turned on? A cold mess. ID:Invaded as a product is a cold mess. I can’t help but try to understand what people are praising about this and wonder to myself if we even watched the same show. Yes, it’s not awful and in a landscape of established IPs and forced squeals/remakes having an original anime come out is fantastic, but is the bar set so low that this show is considered good?
I suppose we should talk about the good first. Despite my initial bitching if you enjoy sci-fi/cop shows this anime isn’t awful. It’ll scratch that itch you have and maybe even keep you going with its case of the week (2 weeks) set-up for awhile. The mystery isn’t always hard, but they do give enough to them that you find yourself playing along with the show to try and figure out who the killer is this week. On top of that the character designs are worth praise given how distinct and memorable they happen to be, as well as the animation which although no Ufotable dose keep itself from feeling like they lost budget. Even if some of the shots are laughable bad.
As for the bad…..well where to start. The final big bad of the show John Walker has absolutely NO mystery to it. By episode two you could make a guess and I promise you you’ll be right. A child could figure it out which makes the whole shows over arcing mystery (who is John Walker?) a complete bore. The character development is almost as bad. Only really given to our main character Sakaido all the other characters take a backseat till the plot calls for them to actually do something. Yet, when we reach our final few episodes and major (?) deaths start to happen we’re supposed to care? I honestly found myself laughing when these people were dying and the show was playing the super sad music like it mattered. On that note the last two episode drop so much exposition that I’m honestly truly baffled that a studio green-lit this project. Nothing in the last two episodes feels natural and spending every five minutes to info dump so you can understand what the hell is happening you loses all tension the show had going into the finally.
I won’t lie, I fell behind on this show (and others this season) and ended up marathoning the past six weeks of this show. I’m glad I did because if it wasn’t for that ID:Invaded would have ended up dropped. This show isn’t good. If you want to spend time watching 13 episodes of an anime in this genre please go watch something else. Psycho-Pass, Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor and if you’ve seen all those shows and REALLY need something new then fine. Try this show. Maybe you’ll find enjoyment out of it. Or at least enjoy watching concepts from better shows get so badly botched. After all their’s enjoyment in a train wreak.
Half-way through the show, I chuckled on this scene. It sounds ridiculous without context, but being warped inside a world within an unconscious world, it has this heavy irony that comes with it. Like, it makes one afraid that everything is just not real after all. But at the same time, it sort of bring back an amazement of the setting that this world is enveloped in, as it gives the desire to seek for more info. That’s when it clicked.
ID: Invaded has this ability to construct a mind-bending story premise by intertwining reality and fantasy, but in a way, it doesn’t succumb to its own madness. It consists of sci-fi element that will mess with one’s morale and mystery that keeps one at the edge of the seat. However, even with twists, the plot doesn’t deviate away from what it set out to be, but converges through seemingly unrelated cases toward one – the creator of serial killers. It’s like a maze within a maze, and the only way out is to solve it, layer by layer.
This is where the writing and the execution of the plot becomes crucial, which it all lies in three main characters whom we see the world from each of their perspective – the brilliant mentalist, the newbie detective and the director of the analyst team. They each have their purpose – to discover, to lead and to collect. It is this symphony created among this trio that makes the team works and pushes the story forward.
ID: Invaded is also fully aware of the meticulousness needed on the reasoning and explanation behind all the unconscious mind theory, the motives of the serial killers, the methods used by the mastermind. And they do so by connecting the dots, which all linked together to this one girl that keeps appearing. They done this without altering the fundamental rules set in the story world, that’s why the mysteries are great. It gives you space to deduce, and it triggers your mind to make connection alongside the characters.
Also, the metaphysical visuals are stunning.
The action scenes are fluid, and each unconscious world of different style are handled quite nicely that it doesn’t create noticeable CGI ambiguity. But most importantly, the dream-within-a-dream concept is a really captivating way to explore the MC himself through it. It challenges and changes what he believes in, but at the same time, reconnects the pieces for the big reveal.
The studio NAZ has done a decent job in their character designs ( since this is an original series ). The generic spiky head of the main protagonist – Sakaido, made a great contrast to when he was young with after he became miserable. It’s a clear distinction between a loving father and a rogue detective that seeks justice in his own way. There’s also a 23-years-old detective Hondoumachi who gives a refreshing and cute addition to the show. The other team members are varied in characteristics and just good at their job, that’s all I can say about them.
Besides, the soundtracks are amazingly awesome. Yes, that’s double positive in one sentence. The opening ‘Mister Fixer’ by Sou flawlessly matches the agony of Sakaido and how his regrets have haunted him ever since that incident. The ending ‘Other Side’ by MIYAVI also has this J-rock rhythm that is really catchy and just good even on its own. Even the side songs – ‘Memories of Love’ and ‘Butterfly’ are chosen carefully to blend in with the emotions evoked on the scenes. That’s just how serious the producers are on the OST.
Overall, ID: Invaded is like a blue ocean. The waves envelope you with layers of uneasiness, blurring the line between dreams and reality. So, brace yourself, as this will be one hell of a dive.
Into the painful, yet beautiful world of ID: Invaded.
– Hannibal, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, The Minority Report, Inception
– Psycho-Pass, ERASED, Death Parade, The Promised Neverland (anime)
1: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T
English: A Certain Scientific Railgun T
MAL Score: 8.21
The Daihasei Festival has begun, and that of course means that Tokiwadai Middle School—a prestigious all-girls’ middle school—is competing too. Despite the participation of the “Ace of Tokiwadai,” Mikoto Misaka, the other students who are participating are still putting their utmost effort into winning, no matter how impossible the feat may seem against her might.
However, not all is fun and games. Due to the festival, Academy City opens to the outside world, and various factions have begun plotting ways to infiltrate the city. Misaka appears to be on their radar, and as the festival proceeds, people lurking from the shadows begin to emerge…
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T brings back the Tokiwadai Ace and her friends as they dive deeper into the dark side of Academy City. From terrorist attacks to ruthless underground projects, anything is possible in this city.
Without further ado, we are reintroduced to Misaka Mikoto, the level 5 Esper, aka the Railgun of Academy City. She’s still the electrifying Misaka we all know from the previous seasons so don’t much expect change about her character this season. She’s already an established character and at this point really needs no more character development. However, Academy City itself is constantly changing every day and there are events that influences the city greatly. One such event is the Daihasaei Sports Festival, a chance for the city’s citizens to compete in friendly competition. The level 5 espers are appointed as representatives although the event itself gets chaotic. Misaka plays the role of not an enforcer but as a protector. It serves her right as someone who genuinely cares about the welfare of the city. Similarly, she is devoted to protect her friends from the darkness of Academy City. That’s the Railgun we all came to know from day one.
The darkness in Academy City never ceases to disappear and in this season, you’ll witness plenty the machinations from the science side. Misaka gets entangled once again into a deeper conspiracy that also involves Level 5 Esper, Shokuhou Misaki. These two never really see eye to eye but in this season, the two become unlikely allies to solve a bigger mystery. The season’s storytelling ties in together all the themes of the franchise and with Misaka and Misaki working together, they discover some unsettling revelations. One of the biggest projects of Academy City still revolves around the Misaka network and the concept of an esper to reach level 6. Misaka herself unknowingly becomes a catalyst after her emotions boiled up. It allowed the scientist Gensei to take advantage and trigger her powers even against her will. We also have to understand that level 6 itself is more than a power level but rather representing the divine state. What Gensei is trying to achieve goes beyond the realm of a human ability. But luckily, we have certain characters disrupting his dark dreams. If there’s anything viewers can learn from the Railgun franchise is that while there’s darkness, there’s also light. The light represents characters such as Touma, level 5 esper Gunha, and even Misaki.
The heavy drama aside, this season also has its ways to find fun and that includes pairing up certain characters together. Almost like fate, Touma encounters Saten for the first time and they bond over something simple as a good luck charm. Later on in the show, Saten also makes friends with Frenda, and despite their short time together, they form a formidable team. Misaka herself learns the importance of having friends and that the bonds they form is stronger than any esper power. Because let’s face it, one of Railgun’s prominent theme is friendship and ways for characters to connect with each other no matter how different they are. Whether it’s Misaka and her circle of friends or fellow espers, every episode shows that bonds are important. The more I watched this season, the more I see the direction of the story, one in which it always finds its ways to be truthful with its themes.
Consisting of two different arcs, the second half of Railgun introduces the Dream Ranker Arc with the concept of Indian Poker. It is a type of technology that can record dreams with individuals being able to experience them in the shape of cards. The creator, Kuriba Ryouko, is an intelligent girl who managed to create such technology. And as you can imagine, Indian Poker can be deadly when used in the wrong hands. In the right hands however, it can also be a helpful tool for characters such as Kuroko to protect Academy City’s citizens.
With a full 2-cour of 25 episodes, I’m very pleased to see how polished this season came to be. From the very first episodes, it knew what the audience wanted and wasted no time to get to the meat of the story. Focusing on the science side also gives an in-depth look at the lives of different espers, some who live like normal folks, while others engage in dangerous experiments. Ryoko is one such example where she even makes a clone of herself to achieve her goals. It goes on to say that some espers are willing to do anything regardless of the risk at hand. Misaka knows the dangers of experiments as she herself had been a subject to them. By fighting against the darkness of Academy City, she does her best to make their society a better place for everyone.
Watching Railgun T taught me that spinoffs can work wonders with the right set of characters, storytelling, themes, and overall selling itself as what it is. Since its previous seasons, we have an established cast with a poster girl who can be relatable in many ways. From the two main story arcs of this season, we learned even more about the science side of Academy City. It’s spinoffs like Railgun that serves as an example to be great on its own. It doesn’t need to be carried by its main show and in fact, I’d say with easy confidence that this season is a must watch for any fan of the Raildex universe.
Certainly, it has happened to all of us at least once in our lifetime and, if you are this deep into this series, it’s obvious that it’s not your first time experiencing this, as we all know what has to be known: Misaka Mikoto is the real deal.
After 7 years of drought, the third installment of the series premiered in January and neither the tremendous drop in production quality observed in JC Staff during the past few years (essentially taking Index III into consideration) nor an enormous hiatus due to a global pandemic could stop Railgun T to deliver.
The third season continues the story in a time where the Daihaisei Festival has begun, focusing as is customary by now, on the “Ace of Tokiwadai”: the one and only Misaka Mikoto, as Misaka and her friends dive deeper into the dark side of Academy City (A.C. for short), facing all kind of dangerous situations where, consequently, both the future of A.C. and their lives are at stake.
Railgun T continues with a storyline loaded with a repertoire of dark, powerful metaphysical and moral symbolism (as it was in the Sisters’ arc) but without backtracking in its goofiness and light-hearted characteristics which has made this show so enjoyable and “easy to watch” during the past years. In addition, when we add the action-packed philosophy that the Railgun franchise has had for the majority of its existence, as well as its quirky and free-spirited pace, we come up with the perfect formula that have given them great recognition over the past couple of years -taking out of the picture that Silent Party arc which was dreadful enough to leave us a sour taste for a bunch of years- and has helped the storyline of the series to get better and better with each season, making a clearer bigger picture of the Toaru universe, especially the scientific one, a.k.a, the one related to Misaka Mikoto and her endeavours.
Speaking about symbolism, Railgun never ceases to amaze me on how they’ve been able to both keep posing topics laden with meaning during the past few years and build on these topics to create an interesting and enlightening story; topics like the true meaning of humanism, the onto-epistemological dualism of body and soul or the paradigm of “the end justify the means”, all this while tempering the impact of their message, taking into consideration there position as a light-hearted show.
What I would like to point out is the subtle difference I’ve noticed in the development of the story, especially throughout the first course of the season. Up until now, I had not seen a particular interest in the writers on trying to make things a little bit more intriguing, nonetheless, this season had a more courageous approach, as they used plot devices such as foreshadowing, making a fool of the viewer (e.g: letting us think that
Another thing that this season has done great is in displaying contrasts properly. Let me explain. Do you realise how difficult is it to mesh two characters that are THAT different (Misaka and Shokuhou) and make them complement each other properly so that the series can go on? And I’m not speaking about power-related complementation, which is quite the easy task -I mean, they’re both Level 5 espers, it can’t be that difficult-, I’m talking about the fact that season T mainly revolves around their interaction, around their synergy -which, by the way, brings a little of life to the anime-, in spite of the circumstance that these two have wildly conflicting origins, personality and history. As a matter of fact, they create a proceeding where Shokuhou has no choice but to place enough trust on Mikoto in order to be able to tell her some of her secrets and indirectly ask Misaka for help.
As a result, we’ve all been witness to a much more organic show, something that was lacking on preceding jobs related to the Toaru universe, which felt much more systematic, somehow more worried on adapting correctly the source material instead of worrying on making a good, complete, entertaining show.
The main cast was as great as ever: Misaka being as badass as she has accustomed us, Kuroko not being as tiring as she is thanks to the notable decrease in “Onee-sama rants” and Saten being her usual self, giving a different point of view in a group so plunged into an atmosphere os esper powers that sometimes forget to live an “joyful, ordinary life”.
Additionally, let’s not forget about the coherent characterisation -at least for once- of side characters such as Kongo, Frenda, the Scavenger crew or even Shokuhou, giving them the proper screen-time and character development, leading to a much more complete series that uses its not-so-valuable characters for something more that comic relief gags (full-time job of Kongo-san until this season) or “damsel in distress” situations for the main cast to shine with their craftiness and might.
Backtracking a little bit, speaking about production and animation quality and knowing what studio was in charge of this season (as it was in s1 & s2), I am quite sure I wasn’t the only one who was in fear of yet again another disappointment after the embarrassing position in which the JC Staff crew have put themselves during the last few years (with magnificent works such as Index III, OPM s2 or the lately Accelerator powerpoint presentation which, as a matter of fact, was alright due to the fact that both Accel.’s character and voice actor are god-tier); however, it’s rather obvious that even JC Staff knows how important the Railgun franchise is for their survival. It’s pretty clear that, due to its popularity in Japan and in the Occidental world, the studio has in mind that they are pretty much obliged to get it right, as Toaru Kagaku no Railgun is their spearhead in today’s highly competitive anime-production environment.
For that reason, JC Staff has made sure that the quality of the animation in Railgun T is off the charts, especially taking into account the expectations before the series began airing, knowing all the problems they faced with this anime due to production and pandemic reasons. Fluidity and choreography looked amazing -especially during fight scenes-, sakuga animation was carried out amazingly well (for instance, both openings and that episode 14 climax was just top-notch artwork), camera rotations and 3D movements were executed to perfection, backgrounds were depicted amazingly well, characters were drawn great…hell, even the use of CGI wasn’t creaky at all and led to one of the best animation scenes of the entire series!
By the same token, music has had a leading role in the success of this season. The sound director has done a marvelous job in both the composition -even though some tracks are not new- and the use of music throughout the season, enhancing the different emotions that were on display during different moments, whether it was hyping up the moment when a fight was taking place, magnifying the sense of urgency, intensifying the feeling of anguish…yet, one of the best part of this music section was in both the Openings and Endings (having the first OP in mind while writing this), as fripSide delivers yet again with that “final phase” banger.
Guys, spin-off’s work, and this is a good example of it; Railgun T comes up with a great mix of symbolism, light-hearted moments, great characterisation and action-packed eye-catching sequences that will not cease to amaze you during the whole course of the series; so if you’re not watching Railgun yet…WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
“Someone places a hurdle in front of me, and I can’t rest until I’ve jumped over it.” – Mikoto Misaka
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
The story for Toaru Kagaku No Railgun T is largely a page by page faithful adapt of the source material along with some of the usual head canon this specific director just can’t resist adding. The additions this time though, unlike with Nagai space in the silent party arc, did not detract from the story and even added meaningful characterization. This story takes place fairly early in the timeline of the series during the Daihasei festival in season 2 of index, and slightly after the events of the Sister’s Noise project in Railgun S. It appears that Silent Party was largely forgotten although there were passing references to Kongo launching a space shuttle into the stratosphere. The story primarily consists of 2 arcs, the first being the extremely popular Daihasei festival arc and the second being the Dream Ranker arc, both of which were adapted really well. This review won’t go into deep spoiler territory to much, but it’s worth mentioning that the Daihasei festival arc was adapted nearly perfectly. From the early games, to Kongou and her friends confronting a mercenary, and Misaka’s amazing temporary partnership with Misaki, everything was done perfectly. It did hit a few snags here and there, especially with how long the truck scene was and the recap in episode 13 which delayed the finale and made it somewhat anti-climactic. Overall, the Daihasei festival arc was a 9/10 adapt for the story and any source reader should be satisfied with how the story was brought to life.
As for the dream ranker arc, it’s worth noting that the arc had a series of excellent mini arcs within it that the audience might find to be, some of the best side character highlights, and general slice of life moments animated this entire year. Kuroko’s mini arc with the precog boy had very little Misaka in it despite her being the title character, yet despite this it was an incredible arc showcasing how cool Kuroko can be when she’s not injured or infatuated with Misaka. The Bust Upper arc was absolutely hilarious, Misaka and Kinuhata fighting over the card and then teaming up together to obtain it was great, the introduction of more index characters like Hamazura was also nice for the index viewers, the references in the dream were also a nice touch. The arc with Frenda might just be my favorite Toaru side arc in general, Frenda’s cute more human side was explored and the viewers learn that Saten and her actually had interesting interactions and a friendship that did not involve the main cast. The way it was masterfully tied into the battle royale arc with the rank 2 and his team getting some exposure and the 1 week time skip was also great. The main meat of the arc itself was perfectly handled, no complaints at all on the exposition of Kuriba and the cyborg’s rationalization on why they wanted to get revenge on humanity. Misaka’s first “kill” was also handled in an impactful way, overall a 9/10 story adapt.
Well the art isn’t bad at all and is significantly better than honestly anything else JC staff has made since Railgun S, this includes dozens of other anime aired between the 9 year wait between these 2 seasons and includes the other Toaru adapts as well. Kenichiro Aoki is the lead animation director for this season and thankfully it appears he happens to be one exceptional animator. The fight scenes actually had great choreography and strategy for example the fight between Kuroko and Mitori which involved a teleporting girl fighting a terminator rip off. The use of teleportation in such a strategic manner and figuring out how to beat a liquid metal monster was great, and the final moment between Kuroko and Mitori was definitely intense. As for the major fights, there was plenty of Sakuga, with Gunha fighting Misaka being animated so well that it could compete with shows from top studios like Bones or WIT, the detail and composition were among the best out of all shows aired in early 2020 and late 2019.
The background art was reused a lot, but it doesn’t really detract from the show, if anything there is no reason to constantly remake art for the exact same setting, and it captures the feeling of the city from season 2 quite well. The character designs are also recycled but that’s fine, it’s a series with 7 installments now, there is no reason to significantly change anything. At some points the art style did noticeably look a bit dry or bland, such as the lightning effects during the end stage of Misaka’s transformation and the dragons scene, but my expectations were already set so low for JC staff that anything above CGI lightning and CGI dragons were already acceptable regardless of how they looked.
Frenda fighting Rakko has some of the best fight choreography in the season the episode aired, if it was not for a certain martial arts anime airing in the same season as this arc it likely would have been the best. The fluid gunshots, explosions, and environmental damage combined with the camera angles was truly enjoyable and set the bar for fights during the summer anime season. In the dream ranker arc the iron sand kaiju was quite the spectacle, even if the kaiju and its opponent used some CGI, it was very well integrated and barely noticeable, the iron sand effects were especially beautiful. The battle between Misaka and the cyborg, leading up to the kaiju fight, was also very well executed with some of the best lightning animation in anime, and one of the best looking railgun shots from Misaka due to how perfectly drawn the impact frames were. Overall, there are no complaints about the art or the animation, both of which were top tier for all arcs this season.
The sound: 8
The openings for Toaru related anime are always good, no exception, the first OP did sound a bit to much like the older openings but between the lyrics and visuals it was still quite good. The soundtrack is the same as prior railgun seasons but I won’t complain about that, the OST from before was great. Sound effects have been brought back to the original ones as well which is a huge improvement over season 3 attempting to throw in all sorts of new effects that don’t match the atmosphere of the series.
Misaka is more than just a tsundere side character and this anime perfectly illustrates how deep her character goes and her underlying motivations. We learn quite well that Misaka actually hates the city and how its run but she loves the civilians and her friends so she puts up with it despite feeling like a human lab rat. We also get to learn more about how much she cares about her friends and how easily someone as good as her can quickly turn to threaten to crush her opponents like insects if someone takes them away, Misaka might be a hero but she is a teenage girl first and foremost. Overall I quite enjoyed this new side of Misaka that was shown during her transformation and the aftermath when she comes to terms with her feelings towards the city, I also quite enjoyed her development in the dream ranker arc and her killing another being for the first time even if it was nonliving.
Now the level 5s in general also got some development, we got to see an entirely new character and we also got to enjoy watching one of the fan favorites get fleshed out in the anime. As far as the new characters it’s important to mention how great Misaki was and how well she was adapted into the anime, she started off as a cold manipulative sociopath that the audience will hate, but her redemption arc was amazing. From Misaki demonstrating a lelouch level of athleticism to her backstory on why she cares about the clones and dislikes Misaka for allowing the cloning project to occur, Misaki’s character became quite fleshed out. This was a far cry from her original appearance in Railgun S where she simply came off as a bitch during the 5 min she was on screen.
As for Misaka’s friend group, Kuroko is still an over the top lesbian with lots of fan service and annoying behavior, but she does keep the atmosphere light and amusing, and she definitely has her badass moments like when she fought Mitori. Kuroko is a well-rounded character and excellently complements Misaka and the gang. Saten and Uiharu are more of the usual, it was interesting seeing how Uiharu coped with knowing that she unintentionally betrayed her friends when Misaki brainwashed her, and Saten meeting a certain protagonist was hilarious as well.
Saten also got a significant side arc with Frenda which explored her personal relationships more and made it clear that the characters in this series have interesting and eventful lives even outside of their teams and interactions with the protagonist. Overall the characters were excellent, as they are in the source material, the fans of the series will be glad to know that they were done justice, a solid 9/10 for characters.
If you are a fan of anything Toaru related you will love this season of Railgun, if you are a fan specifically of Railgun this season might even live up to Railgun S for you. Now I wouldn’t consider it as good as the sisters noise arc, both the Daihasei and Dream Ranker arcs were equally good 9/10 arcs while Sisters Noise was a perfect 10, I believe that the consistently good arcs mean a lot and make the overall viewing experience much more enjoyable. Even if you are not a Toaru anime fan I would still recommend this anime, it has great action, visuals, characters, and a well-executed story, it is an incredibly enjoyable adapt and has redeemed JC Staff to me and hopefully to you as well.
I give this show a 9, it was exceptional and it is absolutely worth a watch if you are a Toaru fan, I know you likely have been let down by the Index 3 or Accelerator adaptations, but you can rest assured that this specific installment will be worth watching. This is the best out of the 3 new additions to the Toaru anime franchise and hopefully it gets another season soon as I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T
3. Akudama Drive
4. Itai no wa Iya nano de Bougyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu.
6. Strike Witches: Road to Berlin
7. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei: Raihousha-hen
8. Darwin’s Game
9. No Guns Life 2nd Season
10. The God of High School