Steins;Gate 0 Review: The other time travel series

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Mayuri reaches towards the sky

Boy did this series have a lot to live up to, given how much I enjoyed the original series. Based off a separate timeline, the series follows a version of Okabe Rintarou who is unable to save Makise Kurisu. The story portrays his attempt to move past the trauma of that event. For a series that inevitably lives in the shadow of its predecessor, I thought that it did a relatively decent job, but it definitely took its time getting moving. The tone is also considerably more tense than the original, as it’s largely missing the goofiness that was Hyouin Kyouma.

Mayuri meets up with Rintarou

My favorite part about this series is that it continues to explore the concept of time travel that was introduced in the original series. Rather than dwelling on the same concepts, it plays with new ideas. There’s an episode where Suzuha seems to be in danger of erasing herself from existence, and it’s probably one of my favorite episodes in the series.

Granted, some of these attempts get a bit confusing (without knowledge from the visual novel), especially with anything concerning Kagari. But in this sense, I think the series played to its strengths a bit.

Maho announces a new AI

The other major theme in this series was the implications of artificial intelligence, namely through Amadeus. The series toys with the idea of using Kurisu’s image to further interfere with Rintarou’s healing process, but I thought that the AI angle was ultimately squandered as the series returned to its time travel concept.

Feris is not amused

And while I truly enjoyed the final scenes in the series, I have to say that many of the developments leading up to that ending felt incredibly similar to the original series. Without getting into details, there’s the example of Rintarou having to repeatedly time travel once again for effectively the same reason.

Maho gets annoyed about her height

Overall, this series is a much slower version of the original series, but I think it works as the spin-off that it is. It got me thinking about time travel in different ways than I did when I was watching the original, and I greatly appreciated that experience.

Overal Score: 8/10


Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episode 16: Splitting off

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Boogiepop tries to find the true threat

I figured I’d go ahead and take this opportunity to fully catch up with this series and save myself a double-episode post this weekend. The idea behind the King of Distortion that gets introduced in this episode is surprisingly interesting, as I tend to like psychological concepts like that. I do think that the portrayal of the psychological condition is a bit insensitive, but I suppose it’s fair.

Boogiepop analyzes the King of Distortion

I do like the idea that the King of Distortion seems too minor to be a true danger to the world. I was thinking myself that he doesn’t seem to be as malicious as other antagonists in this series. I’m hoping the real enemy isn’t too crazy, though, since it seems at this point like that enemy would have to come out of nowhere.

Kazuko wonders about the legitimacy of split personalities

So, I understand what Kazuko is saying here about the controversy surrounding dissociative identity disorder, but it feels a bit harsh. I can buy into the idea that we don’t know enough about what goes on in the brains of these kinds of patients to make a reasonable judgment. In some sense, you could call it a form of self-deception, but saying it like this is a bit brusque, even for me.

Kentarou questions the world around him

Kentarou’s experience seems pretty interesting so far, since he seemed to be the most reasonable victim so far. However, it might just be the case that he’s fooling himself into believing he knows more about the situation than he does.

Also, I was wondering if the dead Hina might have been Shirou’s lost girlfriend, but I totally forgot that we’ve met Shirou already. He’s Naoko’s boyfriend from the first arc. Yeesh, that arc was so long ago.

Kei figures the King of Distortion out

The idea that the King of Distortion is a manifestation of a person’s split personality is quite interesting. I like how it’s presented, as it’s based off the previous discussion about how these personalities appear to help deal with a past trauma. It explains why the King of Distortion appears as a subject of regret in the person’s past. I still think the gold thing is strange, but I think this reveal is thought out well.

Boogiepop faces off against Zooragi

Well, this is a bit of a genre shift. This series has the most random action scenes.

Grimms Notes The Animation Episode 10: Yet another Jeanne

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The main characters join a war

For the most part, this series still feels like it’s meandering around, and I’m not sure I like where it’s going with its moral dilemma. This episode seems like it’s supposed to be a turning point for Ex, but I’m not entirely sure I get what the takeaway is. It also seems like the series is building towards an ending where Curly changes her mind about stopping the Storytellers despite having a legitimate position.

Ex comments on Jeanne's appearance

While I get that Jeanne d’Arc has to be in every mobile game, I think that’s kind of pushing it when it comes to fairy tales. Her story is grounded in some historical truth, isn’t it?

Tao refuses to help with the war

I think one thing that this episode does very well is show how drastically different Tao’s opinion is from Ex’s opinion. Tao may represent the views of the rest of the group, but he largely sees their role as a non-invasive peace-keeping force. This is largely opposed by Ex, who stubbornly wishes to help others. In some sense, I might actually agree with both of them.

Curly asks Ex what he values most

I also quite liked Curly’s line of questioning. While it’s kind of a harsh way to put it, I have to admit that she has a point when she asks Ex whether he values saving Jeanne’s life over saving her fate. In the end, I guess you could say that Ex chooses a third option, but I think it’s nice to make him think on it.

The Chaos Teller threatens Jeanne

I’m a bit disappointed with the Chaos Teller in this episode. I know that the party needs a well-defined boss character to fight, but this guy just seems so random. It’s later revealed that he’s some representation of the hatred of the English people, which makes it harder to take him seriously. He seems like a throwaway.

Curly heals Ex

This scene is kind of nagging at me. It might be keeping in line with Curly’s support for free will, but I wonder if her helping Ex here is supposed to suggest that she’ll come to agree with him later. In my mind, Ex hasn’t done anything to deserve that yet.

Curly wonders about the fate Ex chooses

I’m curious about this scene, though. Earlier in the episode, Curly mentions that she can see the flow of fate in every Story Zone. That makes me wonder if she can also see some version of fate when it comes to the people with empty Books of Fate. In that sense, this scene could be suggesting that she can tell where Ex’s actions will lead him. Perhaps that’s reading too much into it.

Dororo Episode 11: Family reunion

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Dororo brags to Tahoumaru

This story is progressing along much faster than I expected. I can’t believe we’re already in Daigo’s territory. I was under the impression that we had a whole other season with this series, and this seems like a climactic battle. I’m actually quite excited to see where it goes, though. Overall, I enjoyed seeing what this episode did to introduce larger background points without drawing too much attention to them as well.

Comparing Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru is pointless

I’m hoping there’s some hidden meaning in this statement. In many ways, you could argue that Hyakkimaru is equally an heir to the land. If Tahoumaru somehow falls from grace after finding out his father’s secret, he could very well become a vagabond in the same sense as Hyakkimaru is now. That would be cool.

The old man notices that Hyakkimaru has killed humans

The old man pops up so sporadically, but he contributed a surprising amount despite his brief appearances. He explains that Daigo originally sealed defeated demons in the shrine of this land, which suggests that he committed an act of betrayal by making a deal with those same demons. He also makes this comment about how Hyakkimaru has killed humans since their last encounter, which seems like a heavy statement.

Daigo learns about Hyakkimaru

I suppose there are only so many people he could be, but I liked that Daigo and his wife both immediately understood who Hyakkimaru was. They didn’t even have to say anything in this scene. Their reactions spoke volumes.

Tahoumaru overhears his parents

Well, I suppose Tahoumaru knows the truth now. I wonder what he’ll do with that information. I honestly still want him to be an ally of sorts, but it’s not looking great for him.

Hyakkimaru faces the Banmon monster

Given all of the other things happening in this episode, this Banmon monster seemed like a bit of a side note to meet the monster quota for this series.

Hyakkimaru meets Daigo

This is hype.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episodes 14-15: Distorting the facts

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Waiting in line

It’s weird returning to these characters after so long in the story. We haven’t really seen them since before the Imaginator arc, after all. It took me a while to realize that Keiji was a character we’d seen already, since he only appeared in the first episode. That being said, this arc seems promising so far. The King of Distortion seems like a reasonable antagonist, even if his name is bit worrying.

Kentarou meets his friend

It’s rough trying to follow along with these two episodes, given how many characters it jumps between. Kei’s the only familiar face who seems to be taking a major role in this story, so I suppose it’s just a new set of characters to remember.

Kyouichirou's last work

As I recall, Kyouichirou was the synthetic human that Kuroda was investigating way back at the start of the previous arc. Does that mean that the two arcs are related? I’d be curious to see.

Keiji wonders where Touka is

Keiji just has no luck getting a date with Touka, does he? Curse this episode for making me think he was going to be a major character this time. Well, there’s still a chance.

The King of Distortion's plan is to turn everything into gold

It might be too early to judge, but I’m having trouble understanding what the King of Distortion when they say they’ll turn everything into gold. I suppose it wouldn’t make sense to take it literally, right? The King of Distortion later says that they’ll turn people pain into gold, but that still doesn’t make any sense. It just seems like flowery language for now.

Kyouichirou has some plans

Are we supposed to suspect that Kyouichirou is ultimately behind the King of Distortion? Even if he’s a synthetic human, it feels a bit too easy. But I suppose it’s better than accepting that the King of Distortion came out of nowhere.

Also, I didn’t catch the woman’s name in this memory, but I assume she was the woman from the beginning of episode 14. That would make Makoto the kid who ran off to the bathroom.

The King of Distortion taunts people

I have to give the King of Distortion credit. Even if their name is ridiculous to type out, they do a decent job of living up to it. It feels like both of these episodes are a good demonstration of their ability to take a person’s regrets and distort them.

Sakiko has trouble facing her regrets

I’m not sure what to make of these memory sequences yet. I guess they work as character development, but they’re effectively acting as character introductions. These seem like the kinds of scenes you’d see after you knew a character better, so it’s hard to take them seriously. That being said, I think it might make sense if these characters are meant to represent different reactions to the temptations from the King of Distortion. Sakiko might just be the one who fully buys into the “turning into gold” thing.

Kentarou confronts the King of Distortion

I think Kentarou’s actually a fairly interesting main character for this arc. He seems reasonably competent, even if he was only using someone else’s tool to hack companies. I like the way he’s able to break himself out of the delusion using a healthy dose of skepticism.

Kentarou wonders who the King of Distortion is

I think I’d be annoyed if it turned out that Kentarou was still in a dream here. I get that the King of Distortion sets up the question of where the true nightmare is, but it seems like such a cheap reveal.

Egao no Daika Episode 11: Hard choices

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Wishing for a funeral for their allies

It’s weird seeing both perspectives in the same episode, but I suppose we’re almost at the end. It’s about time Stella and Yuuki met, so I’m definitely curious to see how it turns out. This episode does have me a bit worried about how the ending will go, since Yuuki has to convince Stella to help her in the final episode of the series. I’m curious how that will be split with the actual kill switch that Yuuki is trying to press. I’m mostly curious about the aftermath, so I guess I’m hoping for a bit of an epilogue as well.

Huey goes on a rampage

I do like the contrast between Huey and Stella, even if Huey comes off more as a jerk. He’s effectively there to tell Stella that words aren’t enough, as he uses his actions to reveal his true intentions. It’s easy for Stella to say that she won’t allow anyone else to die, but it only matters if she can actually do what’s needed.

Yuuki warns the Empire about her new weapon

I also liked seeing this broadcast from the Grandiga side. At this point, we still don’t fully know how much Harold’s death has affected Yuuki’s behavior, but we as the audience have a strong sense of what type of person she is. However, we see this scene from the perspective of Grandiga, who are less capable assessing whether her warning is in line with her character.

Yuuki hatches her true plan

As a result, Yuuki’s true plan isn’t as much of a surprise. That being said, I do appreciate that she’s willing to deceive the other officers in order to make her plan work. She’s really come a long way.

Yuuki plans to stop all chrars

Given the developments in the previous couple of episodes, I’m not too surprised that this is how the series will end. Honestly, I think this trope of hitting the hard reset button is a bit overplayed in media, so I’m curious to see how the series will implement the idea. So far, it seems a bit outlandish, but I guess I’ll wait and see since I liked the terraforming nanomachines concept. Maybe there’s a good reason why the Verde Kingdom thought they could reasonably eliminate all chrars.

Layla talks about her motivations

I guess this is just a random title reference. I sincerely don’t wish for Layla to die in the final episode, since I think we’ve had enough major character deaths for now. But she’s seriously asking for it…

Lily spots Yuuki

You could have at least tinted your windows…come on.

Yakusoku no Neverland Episode 10: The clock runs out

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Norman relays everything to his friends

While this episode certainly seemed sad, I really enjoyed watching the build up to its finale. I’m looking forward to seeing how this development pays off in the next episode. This episode also did a good job of calling Isabella into question as an antagonist. I’m incredibly curious about her true intentions now.

Norman thanks his friends one last time

The beginning of the episode certainly played up Norman’s departure well. I was fairly convinced that the kids would find another way to weasel out of it, but it actually happened. I think it works well as a wake-up call for them. It’s probably especially the case for Emma, who had the most idealistic view of their escape.

Norman leaves it up to Phil

Curse you, Phil. I’m on to you! But on Norman’s departure itself, I think we can all agree that it’s unlikely that he’s actually dead. His “death” happens off-screen, and he has the strangest scene outside of the gate. Even Sister Krone was attacked right outside of the gate, so it’s definitely odd that he’s taken to a different room. Now it’s just a question of what his role will be in the future.

Norman shocks Isabella

I’m definitely curious about why this question shocked Isabella so much. It seems to suggest that Norman has seen through her in some way, which is making me start to rethink her role as the villain. I wonder if there’s a grain of truth in her words, meaning that she’s hiding some true affection.

Isabella offers Emma the chance to be a mother

I’m not surprised that Isabella offers Emma the chance to become a Mother as well, but I did find this line curious. From a logistics perspective, it makes total sense that the “demons” would use the Mother candidates to give birth to new children. They have to fill the plants somehow, right? But that line also strongly suggests that one of the main characters is actually Isabella’s child, despite being a very minor piece of dialogue.

Ray asks if Emma truly gave up

As I said before, I’m looking forward to seeing how this pans out. Honestly, I was willing to buy into the idea that Emma would be distraught after losing Norman, so I was incredibly happy to see that she hadn’t given up. The face she makes in the end is enough to rival Isabella herself. I can’t wait to find out what she was plotting the whole time.

Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho Review: The grand adventure

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Exploring Antarctica

Quite possibly my favorite series that aired in 2018, Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho is a tale of adventure to one of the most desolate places on Earth. I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason I stalled this review is that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to write a good one.

Mari realizes that she hasn't done anything in her high school years

The story follows Mari Tamaki, a girl with dreams of seeing the world who realizes that she’s spent the majority of her high school life without any progress on those aspiration. However, she’s given her chance when she meets Shirase Kobuchizawa, a girl determined to visit Antarctica.

Shirase is driven by the disappearance of her mother, who was lost on her own expedition to Antarctica. Desperate to understand her mother’s passion, Shirase is willing to go to any length to go to Antarctica herself. Inspired by her, Mari decides to help her and join her on her trip.

Mari has trouble with her own plans

To be fair, this series was bound to appeal to me, as my family is one that travels fairly often. As a result, I’m the type of person who enjoys going out to see the world. That being said, I did find myself identifying heavily with Mari, the character with the most fear when it comes to travelling.

And that’s because I’ve found that I can be similarly hesitant to travel on my own. Despite having been to plenty of places in the past, I can understand her ability to talk herself out of her plans when the slightest thing goes wrong. I am pretty indecisive, after all.

Shirase invites Mari on her trip

As you may expect, Antarctica isn’t exactly the safest place in the world, so Shirase and Mari face a heavy amount of opposition for their proposed trip. The series itself is largely a story of overcoming that adversity in order to reach their dream. The two are eventually joined by two other girls, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them working together, especially since they all come from very different worlds.

Mari wins a million yen

From a technical standpoint, I appreciated how much effort went into visuals in this series. From the vast landscapes in various locations to just general scene layout, it was enough that even I could notice. The screenshot above is one of my favorite moments. It shows Mari after having just picked up a million yen standing in front of an advertisement for winning a million yen. It’s a great visual joke.

While the major plot points in this series tend to have a harsh reality to them, the series is pretty lighthearted overall. I also really liked the emotional aspect of the ending, but I won’t go too much into that. If you’re not into cute girls doing cute things, I can understand, but I think this series has enough going for it to warrant a shot nonetheless.

Overall Score: 9/10

Winter 2019 Grab Bag Week 10: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai

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Kyrie gets left behind

Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai Episode 9

This week’s episode really made me feel like I had missed an episode or wasn’t paying enough attention in a previous episode. I think the larger political conflict centering around Julia and Isao works for the most part, but this whole thing with the Yufang and holes was a bit jarring. I’ll be curious to see which one ultimately takes focus in the end, but I find myself mostly confused for now.

Emma chats with an old friend

From a casual perspective, this episode was entertaining to watch. We get to see parts of the girls’ lives outside of Kotobuki, which I think adds to their characters. It would have been nice to get some more context, but I’d say it works for now.

Emma discusses her parents

I guess this could be seen as an explanation for Emma’s distaste for sky pirates. I can see her projecting her parents’ gullibility on to people who swindle others for a living. If so, that’s an insanely roundabout way to introduce her, though. Everyone else got their own episode and everything.

Julia tries to fight for the pilots

It’s hard to take this subplot seriously, since we only get hints of the details. I get that Isao seems to be increasing restrictions on pilots, and Julia works against that, I suppose. It’s just a bit difficult to see the big picture. From this week’s episode, we seem to be getting a sense that Isao is not to be trusted, despite his cheery demeanor. However, I don’t think he’s done enough to convince me that he’s a good villain.

Kyrie finds a hole

So…did I miss something about the Yufang? I was expecting some kind of secret society, but this episode made it sound like it’s an entirely different world. Did the Yufang people use the holes to invade the world and leave it in its current state? I’d love to get a better sense of the world the series is trying to build.

Madame warns the crew

Given how grim Madame seems throughout the episode, I was honestly expecting some kind of dramatic moment where Reona ends up quitting the squad. She seems to be making a hard case that the girls will need to decide how to proceed as the Kotobuki squad given the upcoming regulation changes.

Grimms Notes The Animation Episode 9: Choice and sacrifice

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Reina attempts to tune the broken world

Well, I like that this episode did more to call the heroes’ actions into question. I’m still not sure I see how it affects the general message of the show, but it’s progress nonetheless. The episode also does a weird thing where it shows its hand at the beginning of the episode before going back to tell the full story. Honestly, I don’t think it adds much to the episode, so I question that move. It’s been an incredibly slow burn, but I want to hold out on the hope that this series manages to make its concept work soon.

Aladdin guides the heroes

The addition of Aladdin to this series is really making me wonder if this series truly is a discount Kingdom Hearts.

Aladdin sacrifices himself to save Reina

Aladdin’s death was a bit of a surprise, but I do like how it framed the goal of the main characters. While his death is tragic, he’s able to break away from his predetermined fate and die on his own terms. “Restoring” the world means undoing that choice and forcing him back into his story. It’s a bit weird that the series finally calls this out now when it’s been a recurring theme in every Story Zone, but it’s nice to see the question out there.

Loki taunts Reina

Even with his clearly villainous appearance, it’s hard to argue with Loki here. While it’s true that we don’t know what a “collapsed Story Zone” entails, I can’t exactly disagree with the idea that Reina’s tuning is forcing everyone back into their roles. It all depends on what Loki and Curly mean when they say they want to “write their own stories”. Do they want to destroy every story written by a Storyteller and make their own versions? Or are they truly giving freedom to the people living in existing stories?

The gang provokes the genie

As a small note, I think the plan that the main characters come up with in the fight against the genie was pretty good. Usually, it’s just a series of attacks without a clear direction.

Reina chooses to maintain Aladdin's choice

I do like the fact that Reina chooses to respect Aladdin’s choice, but I’d like to see how this affects her actions when a character’s choice conflicts with the tuning itself. For this scenario, you can still argue that she’s just doing her job as the tuner.