The Podcast Without Banners – Dragonstone

The Podcast Without Banners returns after a two year hiatus, as Thomas Fyrehart and Maeve LaFey give their thoughts on episode one of season seven; Dragonstone.

At First Glance – Black Butler

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article.
You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the concept of these “At First Glance” articles is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it.
Simple, right? With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Black Butler

Ah yes, Black Butler. This one has been on my to-do list for a while, especially since it was suggested to me back when I started doing these in 2016. So, to the person who did suggest/request this…sorry it’s taken so long. As far as my knowledge of the anime went, this was another of those anime I was vaguely aware of but had absolutely no idea what it was about. And going by some of the promotional imagery, including this article’s banner, let’s just say you could be forgiven for expecting something other than what we get.

No, Black Butler thankfully isn’t what the imagery implies, it’s just a story about a rich tween boy called Ciel Phantomhive in Victorian England who has a Demon Butler, and is also apparently Queen Victoria’s Guard Dog, investigating and solving crimes in London’s seedy underground. You know. The usual. Oh, also he has three other servants who act as comic relief, and one of them looks like an interpretation of the Final Fantasy character Cid.

Which makes sense given Square Enix had a hand in publishing the manga

There isn’t ultimately too much to say about the events of episode, other than it serving as a good introduction to the characters more than anything. We’re not given much of a background on the characters yet, aside from a cold opening showing the deal being made between Ciel and Sebastian. Though we’re given no context as of yet exactly why this deal was made aside from hints. Though I am aware due to reading up a tiny bit.

I must admit, I actually expected this episode to have action in it. I mean, you know, demon butler and all. The actual approach of playing this more like a drama with some psychological horror kind of thrown in as well ended up working fairly well. Though I am aware there is action in this anime. So, this episode being more of a set up explains the lack of it.

One thing that irked me about this though is the English dub. Yes. I’m complaining about the English dub. I rarely if ever do that, but this is one instance where I will indulge in that kind of snobbery. The English accent in this are horrible. Just horrible. Well, most are anyway. Sebastian is fine, and to an extent so is Ciel, but Baldroy, Mey-Rin & Finnian’s accents are all just so terribly exaggerated that it takes me out of the moment. Whatever comic relief they’re supposed to provide just turns into annoyance.

Also, those three having very thick working class English accents makes no sense. Baldroy is from the US, Mey-Rin is of Chinese descent and Finnian is of German descent. Baldroy might as well have a thick US accent of some kind, and the other two should either be speaking English with a much posher accent than they are, as they’d have been taught English by Sebastian, or they’d be speaking English with an accent fitting their heritage. And yes, this is normally a silly thing to expect from an anime dub, but they went through the trouble of bothering to give them accents at all, so they could’ve afforded to be a bit broader with their choices. Maybe that’s just me though.

I’ll just stop there so I don’t end up talking in circles. In any case, will I continue to watch Black Butler? Well, the concept has me interested enough, plus I can’t really judge it too much on this one episode. I will say however, I’m not watching it in English again.

For those who are interested, Black Butler consists of 46 episodes across three seasons (24 in season one, 12 in season two, and 10 in season three “Book Of Circus”, respectively), all of which are available in both subbed and dubbed formats. There are also nine OVAs for the show overall (one for season one, six for season two, and two for season 3 respectively), all of which are also available in both subbed and dubbed formats. Lastly there is also both an animated Black Butler movie (available subbed and dubbed) and a live-action one.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However, if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline.
I’ll see you next time folks.

At First Glance – Food Wars!

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article.
You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the concept of these “At First Glance” articles is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it.
Simple, right? With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Food Wars!: Shokugeki No Soma

Well now. Where to start. Going into Food Wars I figured this would just be a cooking anime, maybe with some action-y emphasis to make it funny/interesting. What I got…well, let’s just talk about the set up first, shall we?

Food Wars is about Sōma Yukihira, a plucky middle schooler who works at his father’s local restaurant as he tries to hone his skill as a chef. Apparently Sōma and his father are continually hounded by loan sharks who want to buy the building they live and work in so they build an apartment block or hotel or something on top of it. This seems like it would be a recurring theme throughout the show or something, but no. Later in the episode the loan sharks trash the place and the head loan shark, a woman with…err…” large ambitions” …tries to force Sōma into making a meat dish for her, knowing full well they ruined all the meat.

Pictured: Large Ambitions

Unfortunately for the lady loan shark, this backfires, as Sōma creates a dish using things he’d bought to have for breakfast the next morning. The dish, a Pork Roast of sorts made using bacon wrapped over a potato/mushroom filing and such, goes over quite well. A little…too well, really.

No joke needed

Point being Sōma manages to save the family business by making the woman swear they’ll leave his family alone if she wants to eat more of the dish he made. She agrees, family business saved, then it turns out Sōma’s dad is closing the place for a few years anyway to help a friend out overseas.

So, Sōma gets shipped off to a cooking academy. A cooking academy that turns out to be one of the country’s best (at least in the show’s universe), with a very low graduation rate. Good luck with that Sōma.

Okay, let’s get down to the main…I just realised whatever word I’m thinking of using it’ll be a food or cooking pun. Damn it. Oh well. The main portion of this article will basically me be talking about what I tried to refrain from mentioning until now. That being that this anime actually rivals Prison School when it comes to the amount of borderline hentai imagery that this anime has. I’m not even kidding.

It’s basically a running joke that this anime has everyone having orgasms of varying degrees any time they eat anything they find to be delicious. From fairly subtle reactions like this.

To more intense reactions, like the infamous moment where the loan sharks all eat some of the Pork dish and orgasm so hard they go into a fantasy where their clothes rip right off them.

Then there’s the opposite extreme when Mayumi, a classmate of Sōma, is forced to eat an intentionally horrible dish he created. Her reaction not so much being orgasmic as much as feeling like her mouth was..violated. Which is shown to us via what I can only describe as softcore tentacle porn.

Yeah I’m actively avoiding showing some stuff as you can see. Why? Because I like being on That Ruled, that’s why. Besides, you can easily find it in your own time. Or you’ve already seen it, so you know what I’m talking about anyway. Point being there’s a lot of stuff in this that caught me off guard, considering I was just expecting a fairly simple anime about cooking. I mean, this is still an anime about cooking and the premise is still fairly simple, but I only got a warning about the whole “food-gasm” aspect of the show minutes before I watched this episode. This really is the Prison School of this genre of anime.

That said, will I continue to watch Food Wars? Yes. Holy fuck, yes. This is far too hilarious for me to just give up after one episode. That and the anime is different enough from others I’ve watched for this to generally keep me interested. I’d definitely recommend people give this show a watch. However, do not watch it in public, or near your parents, or near pretty much anyone who would judge you if they’d walk in at the wrong moment. It’d be pretty damn awkward.

For those interested, Food Wars currently consists of 37 episodes across two seasons (24 in season 1, and 13 in “The Second Plate” respectively), with a third season set to air in October, which I only just found out about. Aside from that there are also four OVAs. To clarify, both seasons and all of the OVAs are currently (as of me writing this) only available in Japanese with English subtitles.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However, if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline.
I’ll see you next time folks.

At First Glance – Log Horizon

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article.
You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the concept of these “At First Glance” articles is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it.
Simple, right? With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Log Horizon

Ah yes, that OTHER “We’re stuck in a video game somehow” anime I’ve had on my to-do list for quite some time now. I could’ve done Log Horizon back to back with Sword Art Online few weeks back, but the listing Gods determined it would happen now rather than then. Unlike Sword Art Online however, Log Horizon revolves around the main characters realising they’ve been sucked into the MMO they’ve been playing (Named “Elder Tales”), as opposed to just being stuck in a VR headset forever.


A fate worse than death

Also unlike SAO, Log Horizon has the people just kind of thrust into this situation and forces them to realise what must’ve happened on their own, rather than having an exposition dump. Honestly? I found that funny, because it shows how much of a trope this set up must be by now. They even guess the whole “if you die in the game, you die for real” aspect of the whole thing.

From what I can gather, we’re introduced to the characters that make up the main cast (or at least main trio) in this episode. Shiroe (The Strategist), Naotsugu (The Pervert), and Akatsuki (The loli-I mean The Assassin). Shiroe I feel will be the one I like the most out of the main three, though Akatsuki is a close second purely by how she deals with Naotsugu’s perverted nature.

I’m fairly certain Naotsugu is going to grade on me with time. His “I’m perverted and proud” thing was kind of funny at first, but they somehow manage to run it into the ground in this one episode alone. At least in my opinion they do. Like, I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z, and am a huge Naruto fan. I can handle pervy characters as comic relief, especially ones that don’t get away with being pervy idiots. This time though, it just…doesn’t work for whatever reason.

Speaking of Naruto, let’s talk about Akatsuki. Fitting how she’s named that considering her Assassin class thing seems to be modelled after ninja, by the way. Akatsuki shows up a “guy” that won’t talk, only to turn out to be a girl who got stuck as her male character, taking a potion Shiroe gives her so she can revert to a female body. And then she comes out looking like an eight-year-old. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, both Shiroe and Naotsugu find her attractive.


Considering she looks like an eight-year-old, that’s a creepy choice of words

And yes, I bothered to check, she IS an adult, as are the guys, but the anime never clarified that on her end. And sure, it’s still just an in-game avatar, but it’s blatantly stated she took the chance to model her female appearance on herself a bit more. Thinking about it, Akatsuki’s appearance seems to garner a lot of unwanted attention for her, though only Naotsugu has made anything resembling a sexual advance so far.


Which quickly prompts her to knee him in the face, hence the cut-off

That aside we only meet a few other characters, and the plot of the next episode is set up throughout, not that I realised at first. But overall this episode did a decent job of introducing us to the characters we’ll be following on this adventure, so I can give them that much. Plus, the lack of exposition for why this happened works for now, since any explanation would probably come off as sounding pretty technobabble-y anyway.

So, will I continue to watch Log Horizon? Sure, why not. It’s definitely a different enough set up from SAO for me to not just write it off as a rip off or anything like that. Also, despite all the negatives I mentioned, it’s better than bad. It’s good! …Okay, fine, I couldn’t think of a better way to work that reference in there. Sue me. I was determined to make it anyway…even though most might not even get what I’m referencing.

Anyway, bad references to 90s shows aside, Log Horizon currently consists of 50 episodes across two seasons (25 eps per season), and from what I can tell is only currently available in Japanese with English subtitles.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However, if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline.
I’ll see you next time folks.

Back Row Reflections – Wonder Woman

The following article contains spoilers for the DCEU in general to a degree, but primarily the 2017 Wonder Woman movie. You have been warned.

Well, this is interesting. Normally I would do a lengthy Facebook post about my thoughts on a movie but, for once, I’m actually writing them out for this site instead. Don’t hold your breath on this becoming a habit though. I know I’m not going to make any promises.

Just to give a little background, this was potentially going to be the last DCEU movie I’d willingly go and see in the cinemas. While I did like Man Of Steel, Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad were strikes one and two against WB for me. I was going into this movie with a lot of hype that it was amazing. While part of me hoped that it would live up to the positive hype, I was also fairly cautious at the same time. I’d given them a chance with Suicide Squad, which I thought actually looked interesting. I wasn’t going to get my hopes up twice.

Thankfully, this time, I wasn’t spurned.

Wonder Woman is a fantastic movie. Great visuals, a solid story, interesting characters, and above all else, Wonder Woman was Wonder Woman. I believed it. Whatever criticisms I have of this movie, and there are some, Gal Gadot’s acting is not one of them. I firmly believe that Wonder Woman is in safe hands with her.

The one thing they, and Gal herself, absolutely nailed was her empathy. My God. Empathy. That almost felt like a foreign entity in this franchise. Superman is a brooding Emo; Batman is Frank Miller’s Batman. While I liked Ben Affleck’s acting, and Henry Cavill isn’t bad either, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is the first character in the DCEU I’ve truly given a shit about. I’m not kidding. Wonder Woman even captured elements of Superman’s character better through Wonder Woman’s eyes.

There’s a moment in the movie where Diana, Steve and their little band of misfits are making their way through No Man’s Land to try and get to who we’re told is the big bad. Diana is stopped by a woman who tells her the Germans have overrun a village and taken the locals hostage. Without a second thought, she puts her tiara on, discards her civilian clothes and proceeds to have one of the most satisfying action movies I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie.

I was almost brought to tears I was so happy. I’m not even joking. I was so happy with how this movie was going, and how Wonder Woman was being portrayed, that I genuinely almost cried. This was the Wonder Woman I wanted. This was the movie I KNEW they were capable of producing. If anything, it’s sad that it took them this long to do so. DC and WB HAVE made good superhero movies before. So, a string of publicly and critically panned ones annoyed the absolute hell out of me. They were better than that, and now they finally remembered it.

Wonder Woman is now the gold standard of the DCEU, and I hope they keep to that standard with the movies to come. I’ve always said I will never compare Marvel movies to DC movies (except when relevant, like BvS & Civil War), so now I thankfully, and finally, have a benchmark for this current string of films.

After thinking about it, I’ve decided I’m only going to mention one glaring problem I had with this movie. The inconsistency with blood. Diana gets grazed by a bullet and we get some blood on her arm. But then, much later, she stabs the guy she assumes to be Ares in disguise right through his chest. No blood. None. We see the blade sticking out through the ceiling of the watchtower they’re on. It’s clean. No. That’s not how that works. Don’t you dare wuss out on that.

Am I saying there needed to be buckets of blood? No. But for a movie with swordplay set in WORLD WAR ONE, there’s not much blood at all. Hell, the scene where Diana gets grazed by a bullet the Amazons are fighting and stabbing the shit out of the Germans. Once again, no blood on their swords. Do people in the DCEU not have any blood in their torsos or something? Like, this is something I’d expect from Disney, not Warner Brothers.

One other thing that bothered me, but wasn’t a major gripe, is that I wish this had just been a World War II movie. I mean, they put a pretty heavy emphasis on Germany as the bad guys, so it would’ve made sense. In fact, as I’d discussed with other people, this movie probably started that way. The assumption being “Ugh this is just Captain America” attitudes being what stopped them from committing to or possibly changing the setting.

Though in all honesty, I just wanted Wonder Woman punching Hitler. I mean. You can see where I’m coming from right? Wonder Woman. Punching. Adolf Hitler. In the face. That would be worth the price of admission alone. There are other minor things that bothered me about the movie, but as they’re mainly just nitpicks (as the WWII thing was) I’ll leave them out of this.

So, to summarise, Wonder Woman was a phenomenal movie that lived up to all the hype surrounding it. At least in my opinion. There were some issues here and there, but nothing that dragged the movie down for me all that much. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and if I’m able to afford it, I may actually see Wonder Woman again before it finishes up in the cinemas here in Australia.

So, there are my thoughts on Wonder Woman. At least, as much as I can justify spewing out anyway. What did you think of the movie? Did you agree with me? Do you think my opinion is akin to horseshit? Let me know. I’ll see you all next time with another At First Glance article.

At First Glance – Sword Art Online

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article.
You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m back to doing these again. To keep it brief my attention was diverted elsewhere, and now it isn’t. Sorry for anyone who actually reads these things that my hiatus was longer than intended. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the idea of these “At First Glance” articles is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it.
Simple, right? With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Sword Art Online

Ah yes, familiar territory. Well. In that this is one of those anime I’ve heard of, but honestly had no idea what it was about prior to watching it. Basic premise is that the hot new Virtual Reality MMORPG in town, the titular Sword Art Online, has finally been released, and players are eager to jump on and play. However, it turns out the log out feature isn’t present.

At first it’s assumed this is just a glitch or a bug. However, an avatar of the game’s creator informs the players that this was, in fact, always intended to be an aspect of the game. Basically, the game dev is insane and wanted to be a god over this world.

Not only is the creator of the game, Akihiko Kayaba, totally insane and wants to be a god of a virtual world, he also made it that if anyone’s virtual headsets are forcibly removed, or the people playing the game have their life bars drop to zero, they die in real-life. Their only method of escape being to finish the game.


“IF YOU DIE IN THE GAME, YOU DIE FOR REAL!”

Oh, as an added twist, player avatars are erased through some random mirror item he gives them all, and everyone suddenly looks like they do in real life instead. The result of which is a joke that I honestly got a laugh out of, despite the fact I know it would’ve made others groan.


“Son of a-you’re a guy?!”

“You’re not seventeen!”

Trust me when I tell you that could’ve been handled a lot worse. Hell, there’s a few movies that are evidence of that. Anyway, with this revelation our hero, Kirito, goes out of his way to charge on ahead to level up as quickly as he can so he can get out of the game. And that’s about all it gives us really, as far as plot goes. The only other character we get a chance to see properly for now is Klein. With the bulk of the episode before the big revelation being Kirito teaching Klein the ropes of the game.

It’s honestly a nice way to let us get to know a bit about both characters’ personalities. It honestly got the point that when Kirito goes off on his own, I was actually disappointed that Klein didn’t go with him. Though I like fact they do part on friendly terms. Hell, Kirito even seems a little down that Klein has friends to worry about and isn’t going with him. Hopefully that gets touched on in later episodes. I mean, they weren’t exactly subtle about it, so if it gets ignored I’ll be disappointed.

Oh. Also. The anime doesn’t have an opening. No joke. I thought there was just a cold opening before an intro, but it never happened. In fact, I’m fairly sure what ended up being the outro may even be the intro for the following episodes.

So, did I enjoy SAO’s first episode enough to keep watching? Thankfully yes. The premise definitely has me hooked enough to keep watching. Though one thing I do recall hearing about SAO is that the first season is good, but the second is iffy. Whether I’ll agree with that is beyond me at this point, but who knows.

For those who care, Sword Art Online consists of 49 episodes over two seasons (25 in season one and 24 in season two) and is available in both subbed and dubbed formats. There’s also a TV movie, “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition”, and a film, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”. Aside from that there are also five video games based on the franchise. Normally I wouldn’t bother to mention that, but the meta nature of video games based on a property that revolves around the characters being in a video game world is hilarious to me.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However, if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline.
I’ll see you next time folks.

At First Glance – Elfen Lied

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article.
You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the idea of these “At First Glance” things is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it. Simple, right?
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Elfen Lied
elfen-lied-poster

You know? I never intended to watch this anime. Ever. I had some idea of what to expect, and it didn’t really interest me much because of that. However, this was suggested and therefore was added to my list. I had actually intended to do Tokyo Ghoul as the other “Halloween special” article, but as AnimeLab finally made it available for streaming, I decided to watch it instead. So yes. This is an anime I at least had an idea of what to expect. Been a while since I’ve covered one like that, hasn’t it?

I must admit, the spoilers in this are gonna be pretty heavy. So you better hope you listened to the spoiler warning earlier. I can’t really avoid spoilers or there won’t be much to talk about. We good? Okay then.

The first…..I don’t know….10-15 minutes or so are basically Lucy’s escape. It’s fairly explicitly gory. Like I’m not even kidding here. There’s more blood in Elfen Lied’s first few minutes than most shows have in their entire run. Calling it a bloodbath would be pretty appropriate. It’s pretty intense, with only like, one brief break from the death count to show a conversation between some female characters, because one of them dies later. So I guess at least it…paid off somehow?

Now, I’m not gonna show many if any actual screenshots from the rampage, or the episode in general, mainly for one reason. For the vast majory of the episode, Lucy is naked. Like full on naked. In particular she’s also naked for the entirety of this opening rampage.

This screenshot is safe enough so I’ll show it at least. Partly to help explain what I mean when I say the rampage is a bloodbath. See the men in that image? At least eight of them survive out of about 16-18 that are there. And that’s mainly because Lucy just can’t be bothered to kill the rest. She is mainly just trying to leave after all. She does have psychic powers after all. If she wanted to kill them it wouldn’t take much effort.

As if it weren’t obvious, she escapes. Though she also gets shot in the head with an anti-tank rifle. All it really does though it make the helmet thing they had on her come off and knock her out (though she does end up bleeding). Later she washes up on a beach and is discovered by Kouta and Yuka, two cousins who just happened to be on the beach. Unlike most “discovering people on the beach” this is more them noticing her and reacting, rather than her still being unconscious and them waking her up.

One other thing that happened due to Lucy being shot in the head though, is that Lucy reverted to a very child-like persona incapable of normal speech, only being capable (at least for now) to say “Nyu”, which Kouta and Yuka decide to refer to her as. Later there’s a misunderstanding and Kouta yells at “Nyu”, making her run off back to the beach. Meanwhile the organisation who’d been containing Lucy (or had created her or something, I have no idea) deploy a Special Assault Team to kill Lucy, rather than capture her, considering the threat she poses.

One member of this team is Bando. Bando is a complete fucking arsehole. He’s also pretty homicidal. Totally enjoying the fact he’s finally being given orders to actually kill someone. When I say he’s an arsehole though, they make this point pretty clear. A woman comes up to offer him some coffee or tea, and he smacks her down very hard, telling her off for “standing behind him” or something to that effect.

That’s about it as far as what happens goes (the episode ends with Lucy/Nyu on the beach again). Now, what are my thoughts on it? Holy shit where to begin, right? The gore is pretty intense, so if you’re squeamish this is not the anime for you. At all. If you hate nudity in anime? Then pretty much this entire first episode is gonna bother you. Considering I thought Lucy was supposed to be underage, the nudity bothered me a lot. Though really it was kind of distracting anyway, so even though she is supposed to be 18 it still kinda bugged me. Especially when she becomes “Nyu” and is supposed to basically have the mind of a toddler.

I mean I’m not even kidding about this. The opening credits, the episode itself and ending credits all have more bare breasts than most sexual fan service anime have. That’s quite an accomplishment. Though I will give the anime this much. At least the nudity in the episode itself is at least just kind of there, rather than necessarily supposed to be a sexual thing. At least in episode one. Either way it still kinda bugged me, but yeah, that’s just my stance.

Wow. I had a lot to say on this first episode with really trying, didn’t I? Well, I’ll just leave it there then. So, will I continue to watch Elfen Lied? Well, honestly probably, yes. But I must admit, it will probably be low on my priority list. I mean it’s not bad at all, but I’m not as morbidly curious to continue as I thought I’d be. I’ll try to watch more, but I’ll take my time. For those interested, Elfen Lied consists of 13 episodes and a tie-in OVA, all of which are available in both subbed and dubbed formats. However when I watched it on AnimeLab I had to watch it subbed because I guess they hadn’t put the dubbed version up yet? Not sure why.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline.
I’ll see you next time folks.

At First Glance – Danganronpa The Animation

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article.
You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the idea of these “At First Glance” things is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it. Simple, right?
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Danganronpa: The Animation
danganronpa-poster2

Yet another that wasn’t on my list, but one I’d been vaguely curious about for a while. And hell. Halloween is pretty close. As good an excuse as any to talk about this anime, right? Right. That said to be honest I knew nothing about this anime going in. Hell I was completely unaware that this anime is based on a video game series. I really had no idea what I was in for.

The plot of the show is basically that 15 high school students find themselves being accepted to Hope’s Peak Academy, only for it to turn out they’ve basically been abducted. The show primarily follows Makoto Naegi, a fairly average guy compared to the collection of characters surrounding him. Ultimately the teens are told that they’re at the school to stay, for life. And the only way they’ll ever get out is by killing another student. Thus the anime follows their quest to find a way out before they end up being driven to kill each other.

Also, the “principal of the school”/main antagonist is a little….demon…teddy bear….thing, called Monokuma. And really, aside from Monokuma’s supernatural nature, this whole thing seems very Battle Royale inspired to me. Obviously not just straight up “ripping it off” or anything, but you know. Teens in a situation where they have to kill each other. Hell they even have a thing come up at one point that reminds us no one has died yet.

As far as most of the cast go, most are fairly standard fair for this sort of thing. The two stand out exceptions are as follows. Hifumi Yamada, a quite portly manga artist who seems like he almost has a bit of a cat face (by anime standards anyway). And Sakura Oogami. A buff as hell, very masculine-looking woman who I myself even mistook for a man in drag until she first spoke. Can you really blame me though?


I mean…..come on.
You can forgive me for assuming she was just a buff cross-dresser at first, right?

I’d argue both characters’ designs are the most interesting purely because of how different they are to literally everyone else. Say what you want, and I’m not really saying I don’t like anyone else’s designs, but everyone else does fall into fairly standard design territory for something like this. I could probably keep going on that but I think I’ll stop before I start to ramble.

Monokuma himself is interesting and seems like a character I’ll love to hate. I hope we learn more about him later on, but if not that’s fine too. I can’t say too much for the other characters so far, but there are some I feel might grade on me, and others that I’ll grow to like. The main character, Motoko, honestly seems like the least interesting character at first glance. Not bad per se, just not as interesting. That said I’m assuming he’ll get more interesting as the show progresses.

I don’t really want to make predictions about where I think the show will go and who will die, though I’m assuming pretty much everyone will somehow. However, I would like to make one assumption. After seeing them interact so much, it occurred to me that this show probably has a moment where Sayaka Maizono, a school idol star, will try to kill Motoko because she can’t take it anymore. Not going to assume whether I’m right or wrong, but it seems reasonable.

That’s about all I can think of for now. So, will I keep watching this anime? Yes. The first episode definitely did its job of hooking me in. Even just out of morbid curiosity I can’t help but want to watch the whole thing now. For those wondering, Donganronpa: The Animation consists of 13 episodes. A follow up anime called “Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School” also exists, which consists of 24 episodes. Both anime are available in dubbed and subbed formats.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline.
I’ll see you next time folks.

At First Glance – A Boring World Where The Concept Of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article.
You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the idea of these “At First Glance” things is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it. Simple, right? With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Shimoneta:
A Boring World Where The Concept Of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist
shimoneta-poster

Well then. So. This is a thing that exists. I’m being totally honest when I say I only really watched this out of morbid curiosity. I mean look at that name, can you really blame me? If there’s one thing this anime does it’s stand out in a crowd.

The plot of…..ya know what I’m just gonna call it Shimoneta for short. Shimoneta is set in a dystopian future where the Japanese government has decided to basically outlaw foul language and even the most tame kinds of porn or lewd imagery (and also rude gestures apparently). The story itself picks up 16 years after this happened, and the “moral” folk are now being bombarded by a “lewd terrorist” known as Blue Snow…..she wears panties on her face as a mask.


Yep. That’s definitely a thing that happens in this anime.

Our primary protagonist Tanukichi Okuma runs into Blue Snow on his way to his new school, Tokioka Academy, and is subsequently kidnapped by Ayame Kajou (who reveals herself to be Blue Snow) and forced to help her in her lewd terrorist activities under the banner of a “lewd terrorist” group she makes up called SOX. I’m basically assuming the entirety of the show is based around their activities, and and also Tanukichi’s conflict of having to do all this, despite having a crush on Anna Nishikinomiya, the Tokioka Academy’s Student Council President.

Holy hell, this anime is ridiculous. Thankfully though, in the best ways possible. I don’t remember laughing as hard at this as some of the others I’ve watched recently that are more comedy based, but this was definitely still very funny none-the-less. The entire concept itself is very interesting, and leads to a lot of good jokes.

It seems pretty clear that the message of this anime is that there’s nothing wrong with any of the stuff they talk about, and policing it on this kind of a scale is just ridiculous. That said they don’t really hit you over the head with that which is nice. It’s there, but this IS still a comedy anime, so they go about it more in a funny way than a preachy way.

So far the characters themselves are all interesting. From the “trying very hard not to
screw up” Tanukichi, to the lewd terrorist Ayame, to Hyouka Fuwa; a young woman
obsessed with finding out the “truth” about just exactly how babies are made.


I wasn’t kidding….she’s like….REALLY obsessed.

The rest of the cast so far also seem to be interesting as well, but since this is only the first episode, there isn’t much to say about everyone else. Really this first episode’s humour mainly comes from the interactions between Tanukichi and Ayame. With a few also coming from the fairly brief interactions between Tanukichi and Hyouka (as illustrated above).

Since there’s a fairly hilarious moment I’ve decided I don’t want to spoil, that’s about it. Now, will I continue to watch the show? Yes. God, yes. This show is way too out there for me to not want to finish. And the premise is just silly enough to keep me interested. For those that are curious, Shimoneta is made up of 12 episodes and is currently only available in Japanese with english subtitles. However, there does seem to currently be an English dub in the works.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline.
I’ll see you next time folks.

At First Glance – K-On!

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question in this article. You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the idea of these “At First Glance” things is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it. Simple, right? With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

K-On!
K-On! poster

Yep, another music-centric anime. Almost feel like I should’ve covered this after Love Live! School Idol Project instead of after Gurren Lagann, for the sake of a running theme if nothing else. Ah well.

Plot wise, K-On appears to be a slice-of-life high school anime centering around the members of the Light Music Club at the fictional Sakuragaoka High School; showing how they develop musically as a band. Unlike Love Live where a club is formed to try and gain interest in the school, K-On’s “Light Music Club” is simply an existing club that the main cast actually save from being cut by joining, as there were no members left after the previous members all graduated. The first episode itself basically details the events that lead to the formation of the band.

The group itself, at least in episode one, comprises of four members. Ritsu Tainaka on drums (self-proclaimed leader of the club/band), Mio Akiyama on bass guitar, Tsumugi Kotobuki on keyboard, and Yui Hirasawa on lead guitar. However, in this first episode, Yui admits to not knowing how to play guitar. In their desperation the others simply reassure her that they’ll teach her how to play so she’ll join.

I must admit I really do like this whole set up. The idea of only two people in the group (at least to start with) previously knowing each other, and the other two being essentially random people works really well, as it will allow us to see their friendships develop over the course of the show. I also like how they tease some sort of meaningful reasoning for Ritsu and Mio to want to join the club, only for it to turn out to be something Ritsu dragged Mio into instead.

Whilst the more “we made a promise” reasoning would’ve been fine, it was hilarious to find out that the flashback was either Ritsu remembering it wrong, or just putting on an act in front of Tsumugi to tempt her to join the band. Which is actually another thing that’s interesting to mention. Despite not being the main focus, Ritsu is primarily the driving force behind anyone else joining the band in this episode. For one thing she roped Mio into joining (even ripping up an application she’d filled out for the Literature Club), and falls short of begging Tsumugi to join, when it turns out Tsumugi was actually looking for the Choir Club.

It’s the combined efforts of the three that convinces Yui to join though. The funny thing being, they do a little performance for her (instrumental only) as a way to bait her into joining, and it really doesn’t sound all that bad. But instead of being nice, Yui is brutally honest and admits she thinks they didn’t sound all that great, despite this being what actually wins her over. I honestly laughed really hard at that moment, it was really well done.

As far as the actual characters themselves go, something tells me people probably get annoyed with Yui quite a lot. With her whole clutzy/meek personality it seems like she could easily be a divisive character, but I like her. That said all of the characters so far generally seem very likeable to me; but that could always change as the series goes on. I do generally like slice-of-life anime though so I’m fairly optimistic about the rest of the show based on this first episode alone.

If I’m honest I can’t really think of much else to say about the anime based on the first episode. So on a final note, I must admit K-On! is an anime series I’d always been fairly indifferent on when it came to giving it a try, but I can safely say I am glad I decided to give it a try when I started doing these “At First Glance” things. I enjoyed the first episode and I do plan on watching more of the series.

I would also definitely recommend people check this show out if it sounds like something you’d be interested in; though slice-of-life anime aren’t for everyone. The anime itself is available in both dubbed and subbed formats, and contains 36 episodes in total across two seasons (13 in season one, 26 in season two, which is referred to as “K-On!!”). If you’re interested there is also an OVA made after the first season, and a tie-in movie was also made that takes place during the events of the second season.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline. See you next time folks.

At First Glance – Love Live! School Idol Project

Note: There are spoilers for the first episode of the anime in question
in this article. You have been warned.

Welcome back folks. Yes, I actually seem to be sticking with this idea. Shocking, I know. As a quick reminder for those who are new or have forgotten, the idea of these “At First Glance” things is that I watch the first episode of an anime I’ve never seen and give my thoughts on it. Simple, right? With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Love Live! School Idol Project
Love Live School Idol Project2

The shortest summary I could give for this anime’s premise is like…….it’s a Japanese take on Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit. I mean ok it’s not really but the idea of trying to save a high school that faces closure THROUGH THE POWER OF MUSIC immediately reminded me of Sister Act 2. Take that how you want.

Anyway, to clarify, the plot is that the main characters find out their school, Otonokizaka Academy, is due for closure once all the students currently attending have graduated. However, it is stated that the school can avoid this if the enrollment numbers increase. As a result our main character, Honoka Kōsaka, takes it upon herself to think of a way to help the school out. The end result being that she comes up with the idea to start a “School Idol” club to try and help garner interest in the school.

If I’m entirely honest, I was only made aware of this anime’s existence when I noticed an Australian cosplayer I’ve taken photos of seems to have done a few cosplays based around this anime (including one of the photos I’ve taken of her). Which seems to be a thing for me these days. Who knew cosplay could introduce you to stuff you’d never heard of. That said, the premise of the anime was unknown to me even though I vaguely knew of its existence, so I still went in pretty blind. Well, aside from the assumption that it clearly had something to do with “Idol” groups.

So, what did I think? Fortunately I can say I’m glad that I checked this anime out. The first episode does its job of introducing the core of the main cast very well, as well as getting the plot across without it feeling too rushed. There’s a very natural build to how the events unfold. I did almost question why the school had to allow for everyone currently enrolled to graduate before shutting down, but hell, I assumed fairly quick that it must just be a thing that happens in Japan, so I’ll let it slide. If it isn’t though, feel free to correct me.

What I do actually like is that, in this first episode, the group technically isn’t actually formed. Honoka does manage to convince her friends Umi & Kotori to join her, but their attempt to form an official club is shot down in this first episode. Initially because they generally don’t have enough members to form one (they needed five people), but then also because of their motives behind wanting to form the club.

And hell, Umi even tells Honoka before that that she thinks it realistically wouldn’t work, so Honoka’s friends don’t immediately jump at the idea either. The episode ends with them still determined to do this, but yeah, it doesn’t end up being as easy as just saying “let’s do this!” and it happens, which I definitely appreciate.

Oh and by the way, the entire premise of a group of schoolgirls forming an Idol group? Completely believable to me. I mean hell two of the members of BABYMETAL were like, twelve at best when the group formed. So I think I can buy into the concept of a group of girls aged 15-18 doing it as a school-based thing quite easily.

The song and dance number at the end was pretty good and fun. For some reason though it gave me chills. I have no idea why, but it can only be a good thing. Speaking of the song and dance number, one thing I forgot to mention is that it seems this show uses a mix of normal animation and CG animation for those segments, including during the show’s own opening. It’s an interesting approach, though it was a bit jarring at first. I think they incorporated CG to make it easier to possibly rotoscope some of the dance moves, but I could be wrong on that front.

Oh, there is one last thing I would like to add before I wrap up. I did watched the show dubbed, but the company who did the dubbing actually left the songs in their original Japanese form rather than dubbing them as well. So basically it’s English dubbed dialogue with Japanese singing. I honestly really appreciate this, as it’s something that really bugged me about a certain episode of The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya. People who’ve seen that anime probably know which one I mean.

All-in-all Love Live! School Idol Project is definitely an anime I’ll be watching more of; which makes me three-for-three on that front so far. If this anime seems like it’d be up your alley, I’d say give it a go. Hell, even if it isn’t I’d say it’s worth a try regardless. It’s available in both a subbed and dubbed format, so everyone wins, and the complete show is 26 episodes across two seasons (13 eps each). There’s even a spin-off and an OVA if you really get into it.

Well, that about covers it. If anyone has any suggestions for anime I should watch for this in the future, give me a shout and I’ll put it on my list. If it’s already on my list, I’ll bump it up in priority. However if I’ve already watched it then I’m obviously going to have to decline. See you next time folks.

The Podcast Without Banners: Game Of Thrones Season 2 Retrospective

Game Of Thrones season 2 image

 

On this episode, Thomas, Graham & Maeve La Fey look back on season 2 of the HBO hit series Game Of Thrones. Discussing the various plots (both new and continuing) as well as the characters involved.