Summer 2017 in Review

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Let’s wrap up the summer season. Overall, I felt like this season had a lot of good shows, so I ended up taking on a lot. I’ve added some quick comments, but let me know if you have preferences for which shows should get future reviews. Also, I’m thinking about adding more categories…hopefully that goes somewhere.

What I Liked

  • Owarimonogatari 2nd – This show kinda slipped under the radar because it was released as three episodes. But it really felt like a satisfying conclusion for the Monogatari series and I enjoyed watching it.
  • Made in Abyss – This show did a great job of showing its world on top of the descriptions given by narration or characters. The background for each location was impressive and really made me feel like I was experiencing the world. Also, it had a surprisingly dark tone while trying to convey a pretty standard adventure story otherwise.
  • Princess Principal – This show was interesting in how it introduced its characters and story through a fragmented and non-linear timeline. It also looked and sounded really cool overall.
  • Tsurezure Children – Funny mini-romance stories. This one isn’t really fair because I knew I’d enjoy it going in, but it didn’t disappoint.
  • Isekai Shokudou – As I said in my review, this series was a joy to watch every week. It combines an interesting fantasy world with the kind of food show I tend to enjoy.
  • Re:Creators (Part 2) – Solid ending and climactic fight for this one, even if a lot of time was spent setting it up.
  • Boku no Hero Academia S2 (Part 2) – I don’t have anything to add to what I said in the first half. Still entertaining.

Middle Area

  • Kakegurui – Fun to watch. This show was definitely entertaining and stood out, but I wasn’t too impressed with some of the games or the ending.
  • Sakurada Reset (Part 2) – Second half of this show felt much more interesting than the first half, as it was bringing together many of the pieces set up in the first half. All in all, this show had a very satisfying ending that make the rest of the show seem like it actually had a purpose.
  • Knight’s & Magic – I’m a sucker for giant robots and cool fights, which is why I enjoyed watching this show. I’ll freely admit that the rest of it is pretty sketchy, though.
  • Gamers – Lots of funny gamer references in this show. The misunderstandings could be hit or miss, but they were certainly impressive.
  • Nana Maru San Batsu – This show’s jokes ended up being pretty stale, but I enjoyed watching the quiz bowl aspect of it, especially when they showed the thought process used to figure out an answer.
  • Shoukoku no Altair – Surprisingly interesting for a show revolving around diplomacy in a war situation.
  • Fate/Apocrypha – Interesting new setting for a Fate series, but the fights feel lacking.
  • Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni – Revived human in a new world with the power of a god builds a harem.
  • Sakura Quest – More of the same.
  • Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e – I already wrote a review for this one, so I won’t repeat myself too much. The show just didn’t feel as smart as it was trying to be.

Meh

  • Centaur no Nayami – This show felt like it was trying really hard to sell me some kind of message while remaining as lighthearted as possible. In the end, it just felt like a less entertaining fluff show.
  • New Game+ – More drama than the first season, but it was mostly just there. Also, the name is definitely “New Game+” and no one can convince me otherwise.
  • Koi to Uso – This show actually started to seem like it was going somewhere in the end, but it was pretty much cut short.
  • Aho Girl – I’m biased against characters like Yoshiko, so I was always going to be annoyed by this show. To its credit, there were some good moments, but I just couldn’t stand Yoshiko.
  • Keppeki Danshi Aoyama-kun – Eh…I just didn’t find this funny.
  • Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou – Didn’t seem like anything special. This show just felt boring to watch most of the time, like I’d seen it done better in a different show.
  • Vatican Kiseki Chousakan – I had a bad initial impression for this series because I felt like the first mystery dragged on way too long. The recurring villain in the show also felt like he was thrown in for fun.
  • Hajimete no Gal – Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention while reading the manga, but I don’t remember it being so perverted.
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Blogging Principles: Picking and Choosing Blog Post Formats

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I’m going to start this post off with a disclaimer. My goal with this post is not to give some special insight into how you should write posts. I don’t have that kind of expertise. I’m just putting my thoughts on blog post formats out there. I hope it’s helpful, but I’m also interested in how others approach this concept (to see what I could learn from it).

The Summary Post

When I was starting out, my style of posting was pretty simple. My entire post was devoted to talking about what actually happened in the episode. If I was feeling adventurous, I’d add the odd comment or quip. It’s a pretty easy way to start out if you don’t know what to write.

I think this style of post gets its fair share of criticism. Admittedly, it’s probably well-deserved. I’m very aware that it’s a pretty low amount of effort. I certainly made things worse by posting all of my summaries as large blocks of text. But even though I’d never go back to writing posts like these, I would argue that they still have their place.

I’ve always found that I tend to read Wikipedia summaries very often when I watch Western shows. Why only when I watch Western shows? It’s just because anime episode summaries tend to be less available. I do this because I want to see how someone else interpreted the episode I just watched. Which parts did they think were important? Was there an obvious big picture piece that I missed? I’d say summary posts serve a similar role.

The “Analysis” Post

This style is probably my least favorite of the post formats that I’ve used, even if it’s the one I used for the longest time. It was kind of a natural progression from my previous style. At a certain point, I decided that the reader probably doesn’t need to be told what happened in the episode. I personally tend to avoid reading blog posts until after I’ve seen an episode, so it seemed like a reasonable conclusion. So, I just cut the summary from my post.

I think this change had the immediate upside of forcing me to think more about what I’d watched, rather than blindly repeating the content of the episode. It was a very slow process, but I believe that I came out of it with a better understanding of where my interests lie. I can better speak to what I actually like in a show.

The reason I hated this format was that I didn’t really like what it became. As I wrote more posts, I started giving myself easy milestones to complete the post. For example, there was a long stretch of time during which I would declare a post to be finished if I managed to go over 150 or 200 words. The posts started to feel more formulaic and probably ended up being too concise to really say much.

The Reaction Post

For many of you, this style of posting may be the most familiar one. Admittedly, it’s probably my favorite. After watching a particularly rough first episode, I realized that I had way more things to say than I normally would. More importantly, I realized that these comments were largely in reaction to very specific scenes. Rather than describing the scene, I thought it might be easier just to post a picture of the scene and make the comment directly below it. As such, my posts became a series of images followed by reactions to said images.

The reason I liked this post format was because I felt like it played to my strengths. I feel much more comfortable reacting to specific points than putting together some kind of analysis. The images in these posts acts as a reference point for a particular point in the series, allowing me to talk about it specifically.

Moving Forward

If I had to sum everything up in an overarching lesson, it would be that I aim to experiment and try new methods. Recently, I’ve attempted to trim my posts down to avoid an excessive wall of images. I noticed that I had a tendency to “fill space” in my reaction posts with one-liners in some series while others would have full paragraphs for a single image. I’m now trying to force myself to come up with a decent paragraph for every series (at the very least). One day, I may move away from only using screenshots in my posts.

So, I’ll end on this: why do you prefer the style you use today for your blog posts? Is there a reason for your preference? The answer to that second question doesn’t have to be “yes”. It’s just something I like to ponder myself.

Anime Review: Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e

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When I first talked about this series in this season, I described it as “trying too hard”, and I stand by that description. Every aspect of the series screams that it thinks it’s a smart show, but I find none of the “intellectual” aspects of the show to be interesting. One of the arcs even felt like it was trying to do too much at one time, attempting to introduce a character to the main cast while resolving a dispute between the classes.

Also, the series seemed to revolve around the point system that they introduce at the start of the show. However, that point system kinda disappeared after that first arc. Is this really a show about class systems in the real world? It certainly tried to take a lot of quotes from creators of economic/social systems.

My opinion of this series is pretty clouded by the way that the season ended. I’m no stranger to inconclusive light novel adaptation endings, but the explanations in this series felt particularly lacking. I’d argue that we still know very little about the main character. I know he’s trying not to stand out, but he might be succeeding too well.

Normally, I would like the character that observes in the background without making too much of a fuss, but this main character feels like he’s pushing it too much with his superhuman abilities. Even if he is the result of some kind of experiment (boy, it would be nice to know more than that), it becomes too easy to see him as the guy who can just do anything to resolve the conflict in the show.

Other than the main character, I’d say most of the characters aren’t too memorable, with the exception of the main three heroines. The rest of the classmates didn’t get too much focus to really stand out.

Maybe I missed the grander point of the show. At the very least, I found it watchable, but it’s nothing special at the end of the day.

Overall Score: 6/10

Anime Review: Demi-chan wa Kataritai

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This series is set in a world where a small percentage of humanity are born as “demi-humans” and live peacefully with humanity. The main character (if you can call him that), Tetsuo Takahashi, is a biology teacher who is interested in studying these demi-humans and finds that there are three students and a fellow teacher in the school that happen to be demi-humans, a vampire, a dullahan, a snow woman, and a succubus. The show mainly follows his interactions with these demi-humans and tries to understand their unique situations (that’s all your getting in terms of story).

Overall, I thought this show was interesting because of how it tried to examine the mythologies behind demi-humans. Everything generally seemed grounded despite the supernatural nature of the discussion. It also focused a lot on each character’s individual struggles dealing with their unique, demi-human-related traits. In that regard, I’ve seen the show described as a message about people with disabilities and I think that’s a pretty good way to put it. But I guess more importantly, there’s a message about looking at things from the perspective of someone else and thinking about why they act the way they do (this is where I think Hikari in particular excels as a character).

I read the manga version of this series before it aired as an anime. Normally, this wouldn’t make much of a difference, but this series really impressed me with how much the anime added on to the presentation in the manga. I really liked a lot of the comedic effects it used with scene transitions as they made the scenes a lot funnier than they appeared in the manga. And music-wise, the series was pretty solid. There were a few particularly memorable songs in the soundtrack and I thought the ending song was pretty good. Using crayons in the animation to match to the piano notes being played was also a nice touch.

Overall Score: 8/10

Anime Review: 3-gatsu no Lion

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I want to try to be better about reviewing the series I don’t cover in a season (since I watch so many), and this series happens to be the first one to finish that I haven’t really written about previously. Glad there’s a second season announced for this series. I’m definitely looking forward to it!

The story follows Rei Kiriyama, a shogi player who qualified as a professional in middle school, which is a rare accomplishment that earns him the attention of the shogi world. Unable to deal with the pressure, Rei isolates himself from the people around him, leaving his foster family to live on his own supported by his shogi career. The story pretty much starts with a lot of introduction for Rei and some of the major characters, such that the shogi aspect of the show is sometimes not even in an episode.

But it does eventually reach a point where Rei’s interactions with the professional shogi scene are brought into focus. And I’m not sure how many share this opinion, but I personally think the shogi parts of the show are the best parts. Even though the series doesn’t have the same tone, it brings me back to when I was watching Hikaru no Go. I also didn’t personally find the technical aspect of the shogi conversations to be overbearing.

The characters in this show are probably my favorite part. I found Rei to be very relatable, and I sympathized specifically with his inability to define his own passions in life. I know at around that age, I was having similar troubles figuring out what I really wanted to do and feeling the pressures of other people pushing me in certain directions that I didn’t necessarily know if I liked. And I would hazard a guess that most people have felt a similar feeling of being lost in the world, unsure of where to head. But aside from Rei, I thought pretty much every character was memorable. They each have their own motivations, strengths, and weaknesses, and I never got the sense that any particular character was useless. I think the only exception for me was the cats…really couldn’t stand those two.

Music is always a big selling point for me and this series really delivers on it. The first pair of themes are both done by Bump of Chicken, a band I’ve really liked since playing Tales of the Abyss. I’m less of a fan of the second opening song, but I really like the second ending song as well. But even if you ignore the themes, the soundtrack for this series is also incredible. It’s hard to describes, but the songs gave me a sense of longing as I listen that really fit the show.

Overall Score: 9/10

Anime Review: Brave 10

Brave 10

So, another show from the Sengoku era. Unlike Sengoku Basara, this show has Yukimura depicted as a lord, rather than a simple soldier. The story follows Saizo Kirigakure, an assassin who is recruited by Yukimura, who is attempting to gather ten warriors to fight for him. Unfortunately, most of the story ends up just being about finding the ten people. It’s not really until like episode 9 or 10 that you find out exactly why Yukimura is doing it. When stuff actually starts happening, it happens pretty quick. It’s really the kind of plot you’d expect from a show like this. Still, there’s a lot of good action and fighting in these episodes. Maybe it’s a curse of shorter shows like this that pacing is such an issue. The ending is also too abrupt…no real warning. They also kill the main antagonist in a pretty cheap way…especially when he was beating all over Saizou in every other episode.

Story: Score 66/100

The characters were decent, I guess. Each of the 10 heroes embodies a different element, which becomes pretty obvious in their personality. Character development is only really seen in Saizou, and maybe Isanami. The other characters remain fairly static, and you only get background from a couple of them. I don’t even know if that wind person was a guy or not…so confusing. As for Saizou, his character development is pretty straightforward…nothing surprising. He starts off as the cocky and standoffish guy who slowly softens as the show goes on. Isanami isn’t that much better. She’s introduced as a fairly carefree and cheerful girl that houses some deep dark secret that she eventually is forced to accept with Saizou’s help. Also…she’s pretty annoying >.> Date Masamune makes some appearances in the show, but he really isn’t a central antagonist like you would expect for a show with Sanada Yukimura.

Characters: Score 65/100

Animation in this show good. I didn’t really notice anything weird, and the fights looked okay. Pretty much what you’d expect from a battle anime…decent fights and random names for attacks. Characters designs seemed okay to me…I guess my reaction to it was “indifferent.” Music seemed pretty suited for the era and for the fighting. It worked for the show. The opening theme is a bit strange…I’m okay with listening to it, but it just seems off for some reason. The ending theme was pretty good, though…I liked it. Yeah, the voices sound distorted, but it just sounded cool to me.

Animation: Score 80/100

Music: Score 83/100

In the end, this is a show I’d show only to people who really liked mainstream or something. Although, that may be a bit much…not even sure if Bleach fans would like this show excessively (I have a test subject, though…I’ll let you know of the results). I also have a friend who says he really likes Sengoku era shows, so I guess this might be for him too. I’d say that you could watch this show if you’re just looking for some battles without having to think too much. Otherwise, there are probably plenty of other Sengoku shows that you could check out.

Final Score: 72/100

Anime Review: Inu x Boku SS

Inu x Boku SS

This is one of those shows that I wasn’t initially planning on watching because the SS made me think it was some sort of second season or something. I’m really glad I watched it, though, because I enjoyed it a lot. It tells the story of Ayakashi Kan, a mansion with a very special kind of tenant, each assigned their own Secret Service agent as a bodyguard. One such tenant is Ririchiyo Shirakiin, a girl who has a problem of insulting people due to her inexperience with other people. Ririchiyo is against the idea of having an SS agent, but she meets Soushi Miketsukami, who insists on protecting her and serving her, claiming that she once saved him.

The show really continues on being a simple slice of life as Ririchiyo meets new people in Ayakashi Kan and becomes more comfortable with other people, but there is also a romance building in the background. Having read the manga, I realize that there were a bunch of episodes with extra stuff thrown in, but I really like how they eventually end the show. Also, the random antics in the other episodes are incredibly entertaining. I probably laughed every episode. I was worried that they weren’t really using the demon thing very much, but it ended up working out nicely.

Story: Score 90/100

The characters in this show were all pretty good. First off, we have Ririchiyo Shirakiin, characterized as tsunshun rather than tsundere because she gets depressed instead of becoming more nice. Her character development ends up being pretty nice, and she makes things entertaining by trying to be so serious and cool around everyone. Soushi Miketsukami is a bit of a strange character. At times, his overzealous devotion to Ririchiyo can be a bit excessive, but he ends up having a really interesting character background. Adding to that, we have Ririchiyo’s classmates Banri Watanuki and Karuta Roromiya. Banri’s mostly there for the comedy, a self-proclaimed delinquent constantly trying to proof his strength. Karuta, I’d say, is there for the fans…she’s just so cute. She acts like an airhead, but ends up being pretty perceptive at times.

Then, we have Nobara Yukinokouji, the perverted woman that adds the comedy, Renshou Sorinozuka, who adds in a bit of nonchalance, and Zange Natsume, who’s just a little bit nuts. Finally, we have Kagerou Shoukiin, the charismatic masked man who is probably the most entertaining of them all. The show focuses mostly on Ririchiyo, so you don’t really see much development from the other characters…still, I don’t think I had a problem with any of them. I liked all of the characters, although maybe the side characters a tad bit more than the main characters.

Characters: Score 92/100

The animation in this show was pretty good. They switch between the more typical anime depictions of the characters and the more gag-style depictions very nice for comedic effect. There are even a couple of action scenes that looked pretty nice. The music in this show was was pretty impressive. The background music seemed to work out okay, and I have no real complaints. But the real story was in the themes. The opening theme, which looking a bit strange, sounded amazing. Also, each character gets their own ending theme, so the ending changes nearly every episode, and they were all good songs. Some of them, like Karuta’s, were particularly great. I can’t wait for the character albums to come out.

Animation: Score 90/100

Music: Score 93/100

In the end, I really enjoyed watching this show. I’m pretty sure it was because the show was good and not because it came out on the same day as Guilty Crown and I was already in a bad mood when I watched it, but I can never be sure. I probably wouldn’t mind recommending this show to most of my friends…it was a good laugh with every episode. The manga is still going on, so I’d love to see a second season…but we’ll just have to see. There doesn’t seem to be any indications yet.

Final Score: 91/100

Anime Review: Another

Another

This is a show that I’ve enjoyed following as it aired. Basically, Sakakibara Kouichi transfers into a class that seems strange for some reason. There’s a story in this class about a class years ago where a student named Misaki died. However, the class chose to pretend that Misaki was still alive, even up to graduation. Kouichi meets a girl named Misaki Mei, and starts to take an interest in her. The story follows him as he tries to solve the mystery behind his classmates and their strange behavior. When he finds out, he is thrust into a race to solve everything to prevent the deaths of his classmates.

This show presents itself as a horror series, and it certainly tries to uphold that with the death and ridiculous amounts of blood. However, I saw this show more to be a mystery, giving out hints and clues for the viewers to solve it with the characters. I had a ton of fun coming up with theories every single week. Still, there are cliffhangers galore, which can be a bit frustrating when following an airing show, but definitely effective in keeping interest. Also, I have to give props to the show in the end. While it’s true that they get a little excessive with the killing to the point of being a bit comic, I have to say that their decision to use mob psychology was very well done and incredibly interesting to watch. Also, the ending that they use is very appropriate. I thought it was well done.

Story: Score 92/100

The characters in this show tend to be fairly bland. Kouichi isn’t that stellar of a protagonist, but he gets things moving. Mei was a pretty cool character, mysterious and quiet. Akazawa Izumi, the tsundere, was a nice character too, but doesn’t really make all too many appearances early on. Teshigawara Naoya takes the role of comedic support (which is awkward in a horror story, but it wasn’t that bad). Mochizuka Yuuya, the frail art kid, finishes up the really major characters. There are plenty of supporting characters in the class, but most of them are really just there to die. Sometimes, they made it pretty obvious who was going to be killed when they throw in random background characters in an important scene.

Characters: Score 86/100

The animation in this show didn’t really stand out to me in any way, but it wasn’t exactly bad. Everything had an eerie look to it, but the random scenes of dolls may have been a bit much. The music was a bit disappointing for me. The main theme is super mysterious and sets a great mood for a horror story. However, they try to alter that main theme to sound lighter in the more cheerful scenes, and it doesn’t really work out that well. It just seemed very out of place to me. The opening theme wasn’t too impressive…sounded like a normal song from ALI PROJECT if you like their music. The ending theme was a lighter song…a bit better, but still not that impressive.

Animation: 85/100

Music: 80/100

If you think you can handle the blood and gore, I thought this was a very nice mystery-esque show to keep you guessing. It’s easy to get spoiled, though, so be careful (I learned that the hard way). I could have spent hours talking about my theories for the show…there were tiny clues everywhere. Eventually, it came down to process of elimination with so few characters remaining. Not the strongest show in the world, but I found it pretty entertaining. I don’t usually watch horror shows, but I didn’t mind this one so much…maybe because I classify it as mystery and the deaths didn’t really bother me. Man am I glad the cliffhangers are over…they were bad for my heart.

Final Score: 85/100

Marth’s Unofficial Guide to Writing Anime Reviews

I’ve been writing a lot of reviews lately, so I came up with this idea. There’s no correct way to write a review, so this isn’t really a guide. It’s more of an attempt by me to walk through the process I use to write each of my reviews. Naturally, this process has changed a lot since I started, but these days, I have a sort of rhythm to them so that they don’t seem like a hassle. For my examples, I’ll be using Code Geass to make things easy. Usually, I take a few days (probably around half a week to a week) to write a review and this is important. When I finish a show, I’m super excited and ready to talk about it. It’s important that this doesn’t blind side me, so I give it a few days to die down.

Step 1: The first thing I always do is research. Look at other blogs or look on sites like MyAnimeList or AnimeDB. Find out what everyone else is saying about this show. This step has two aims. The first is to come up with ideas or to remember things that I have missed. Make sure I have all of the data. The second is more psychological. I find that my views coincide with others or something to give myself the confidence to put forth my opinion. Of course, I’d never copy another person’s review…this is purely inspirational.

Step 2: The next part is simple. Write everything down. I don’t like to just start typing up a review cold turkey. Instead, I create a note list where I put down all of the points I want to make sure I cover. This keeps me organized and helps with not forgetting something I want to say. This step usually spans a few days. I’ll keep the note list active and write down a point the second it comes to me. It doesn’t matter how it’s organized. Just write every thought down so you don’t forget. I’ll probably come up with more stuff while I’m writing, but I have to make sure I don’t miss certain things.

Step 3: Now that I have some content, the next step is to create a template. By this, I mean making a post on my blog (a draft) with just the skeleton of the review. This step is usually done in bulk for multiple shows. When I’m trying to write a lot of reviews, I don’t want to get bogged down with the mundane parts like making the post, selecting categories, adding tags, and formatting. I want all of this done so that I can just focus on the show itself. So when I have free time, I create a bunch of posts to save myself some time in case I have to review in a pinch or if I’m on a roll reviewing a lot of shows.

Also in this step, if I have notes already or when I start taking notes, I try to organize them into the appropriate parts of the post. Look at the example to see what I mean by that. Plot points going into the story part, stuff about specific characters only go into the character part, stuff about animation and music go into the animation/music part, and anything that doesn’t really fit anywhere else goes into the last part.

Step 4: This is the simplest part. Write the review. I sit down, think about each section and just write. In the story part, I start off by thinking about how I’d tell someone who had never seen the show what it was about. So I try to say it in a way to get them interested in the show without giving anything away. Then, I try to talk about pacing and the ending because those are pretty important to me. Then, just comment on what I liked and what I didn’t like. In the characters portion, I try to name as many characters as I can without having too long of a list of names. Then, I come up with some sort descriptions for the more prominent characters. I try to point out favorites and talk about character developments.

Animation gets a bit tough for me. I can’t really see the flubs in animation that others seem to catch. I do what I can, though, commenting on battles and trying to say if there was anything specific I found that wasn’t up to snuff. Music is where I can go nuts, though. I love to talk about music, so I try to mention how well the music melded with the show. I also talk about the openings and endings, pointing out any particularly good ones. After I’m done writing, I add some screenshots…if I already have some from following the show, then great! But if not, I have to load up some episodes and find some good scenes.

Step 5: This is the last part. When I finish writing, I don’t immediately publish or forget about it. I give the review a “pending” status and give myself at least a day to think it over. Then, I come back and read the entire review again to see what I think of it. I try to catch any mistakes or just points I missed. Also, I proofread and look for spelling/grammar errors. When that’s done, I send the review off and get ready for the next one.

 

I really hope this post has been helpful or entertaining (I don’t care which one it was!). If nothing else, I sure hope you enjoyed this tiny insight to the inner workings of this blog and my own mind!