Anime Review: “Aiura”

Ayuko-aiura-34209007-400-225When the new season of anime is full of high action shounen tropes, it’s nice sometimes to calm down with a cute, short anime. This is exactly where Aiura comes in. Each episode is only a max of four minutes, including opening and ending themes. Normally, I tend to avoid these “micro-anime” like the plague as I don’t feel they have enough time for plot development, but it was a nice repose from some of the crazy anime available today.

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Focusing on three high school girls, this charming little anime introduces Ayuko Ueharaa new high school student. Just finishing up middle school last year, she is accepted into a high school where she knows no one. She meets the two friends, the energetic Kanaka Amaya and the unmotivated and laid back Saki Iwasawa. At first, Ayuko is shy and confused at Kanaka’s energy, but the trio quickly become close and the series follows the three girls in their first year of school together.

shorts_spring2013_06_2Each episode focuses on a few short events including introducing the homeroom teacher, who is ironically a lot like Saki. The class representative takes attendance, and the girls chat. In one episode, the girls have to study for finals, and the go over to Kanaka’s house. Instead of hanging out in her room, they meet in Kanaka’s brother’s room. When he arrives home, he complains, but allows the girls to stay, as Kanaka’s room is a disaster zone.

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Despite how short it is, this is an adorable series for anyone that needs a slight break.The characters are fun and though there is not really a plot, it’s still worth a watch. You could probably finish all twelve episodes in less than an hour. The style of animation is a bit child-like, but this only adds to the charm.

Final Words

At first, I didn’t expect much when I turned this series on. But, that really wasn’t the point to this anime. I looked up the manga, and it turns out this short format was perfect for the original format. It’s a simple four panel manga that is meant to do exactly what I’d enjoyed the anime for: a simple, cute, and refreshing break. If you have a bit of time to kill, I definitely recommend it.

I would give this anime…9/10 (rating scale)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Azumanga Daioh!, Lucky Star, Cromartie High School

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Visual Novel Review: “Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony”

4“It isn’t danganronpa without Monokuma!” While this phrase rings true now, if you haven’t played the game yet, you’d be surprised at just how hauntingly true it is after you’ve played it. The mascot has become the infamous symbol of this popular franchise known for it’s shocking twists and turns. The third killing game of the franchise does not disappoint, either.

The game starts off as most others in the series as students wake up in a classroom, confused and not knowing what’s going on. They all make their way to the gymnasium and find there are others like them, each with an Ultimate Talent. Pretty close to the other games so far, right? But this time, there’s new characters known as Monokubs piloting gigantic robots called Exisals. Monokuma, of course, steps in before the irresponsible Monokubs decide to kill everyone. The famous announcement follows, letting the students know they must kill each other to escape.

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The main character this time is Kaede Akamatsu, at least for a while. Her talent is the Ultimate Pianist, and it shows when she references classical works throughout chapter one. However, the first twist is just around the corner, when perspective is forced onto the Ultimate Detective, and Kaede’s friend, Shuichi Saihara.

The trials feature a few brand new minigames and revamp of old minigames. Hangman’s Gambit has become a bit trickier, where you’re unable to see the letters without the special spotlight on them. Logic Dive has become Psyche Taxi, where you drive a car and crash (yes, crash) into people that represent the answers. Panic Talk Action has become Argument Armament, where you still keep a beat, but its laid out more like a boss battle with a geared-out version of the person you’re facing.

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony_20170912195355New minigames are plentiful, and make class trials a bit more interesting. You can now optionally lie during Non-stop Debate, and in some places you have to lie to continue the trial. When the trial comes to a standstill, Monokuma activates Scrum Debate, where the class is split in two, and you have to counter the other side’s argument effectively to win. Mind Mine, similar to Hangman’s Gambit, clears a picture clue by removing same-colored blocks until the answer is revealed. Finally, a nice addition to Non-stop Debate is Mass Panic Debate, where three people talk at once and you must pick out the correct phrase to counter or consent.

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As for the characters, I didn’t feel as connected to them as I did in the other games. Those that were similar (Gonta Gokuhara vs. Sakura Oogami) didn’t connect to me very well. I was suprised, however, to find that I actually liked the antagonistic character, Kokichi Oma, more than the heroic characters. But, instead of having a few favorites, like I did in Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, I really only liked two characters a lot.

Final Words

I was very unsure about this game until the very end. I won’t spoil it for you in this review, but I make no promises in later articles. I plainly didn’t feel I connected to characters as well. However, this could have been the original intention, as it relates to the ending a lot. Overall, I don’t think it was my favorite of the three killing games, but it definitely is a strong entry, and a very popular one.

I would give this visual novel…8.75/10 (rating scale)

If you like this visual novel, you might also like: Persona 4, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Anime Review: “Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma”

2The idea of “super schools” has been around for a quite a few years. Schools like these often specialize on one thing and all its variations. Take Naruto for example – kids go to a special school to become ninjas. Food Wars! is no different in this idea, featuring a super elite school, called Totsuki Tea Ceremony and Cooking Academy for high schoolers that want to become the best of the best at cooking.

Many animes these days tend to make their official titles both English and Japanese, and often they mean the same thing. Take Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit – the word Moribito means “guardian,” basically making it redundant. However, Food Wars! title is a little different, even if its similar.

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shokugeki is a term that combines the Japanese words shoku, meaning “meal”, and geki, which refers to a type of spear also referred to as a ji. It’s also the name of cooking competitions students can participate in at the academy. Shokugeki’s can be used to settle a bet, an argument, or in a few cases, save a student from expulsion. So, the best localized version of the Japanese title might be something closer to “Soma’s Food Battles” or “Iron Chef Soma.” But, I think Food Wars! works well since it’s simpler and more eye catching.

The plot itself in the first two seasons basically shows off all of what Totsuki offers. The first few episodes establish that Soma Yukihira is confident in his cooking skills, and rightfully so. He’d grown up working in his father’s diner, competing with the older man, Joichiro Saiba. His transfer exam is judged by the “God Tounge,” Erina Nakiri, who finds him classless, but changes her mind after tasting his food. However, she denies him, and is suprised to see him at the opening ceremony anyway, thanks to her uncle Senzaemon Nakiri, where Soma makes a statement that angers almost every student.

4Despite his new enemies, Soma makes new friends with those in the Polar Star Dormitory, his new home for the next three years. He attends classes and helps the nervous and unsure Megumi Tadokoro, also a member of his dorm, and helps her grow in confidence. They attend the Totsuki summer camp together, which is known for being extra tough, and both make it through.

However, year two has other plans for Polar Star and Soma. A new headmaster, who also happens to be the exiled Azami Nakiri, and Erina’s abusive father, shows up and starts paying off the Elite Ten to change the school to his will. But, after all they’ve been through, the motley crew of Polar Star won’t let things go his way. Soma challenges Azami’s right hand man to a shokugeki and wins despite the paid off judges. There’s still hope for the school yet, even now, and Soma and Megumi won’t let Azami get his way.

Final Words

I feel like the first two seasons was just showing off the idea of this “amazing new idea” that is the cooking academy. Also, food apparently makes people’s clothes fly off. Apparently, this is a popular part of the show, as I saw a lot of people upset when there happened to be less in the third season. This is probably due to the fact that the third season actually seems to have formulations of a plot, which the first two seasons seemed to lack. I feel the third season actually kind of saved the anime in a way, but not quite enough.

I would give this anime…6.75/10 (rating scale)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Girls und Panzer, Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)

Visual Novel Review: “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attourney”

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Do you have dreams of becoming a famous defense attorney? Have you ever wanted to be in a courtroom and shout at people? Does the sound of a gavel make you happy? Do you like pointing at people and finding contradictions? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should talk to Phoenix Wright. I heard he’s hiring.

This game is actually very broken up. Each chapter is a brand new case that make almost no references to previous cases. In the Nintendo DS version of this game, however, a bonus case has been added for fans of the Game Boy Advance version to have some extra content.

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The first chapter is a sort of introduction to the idea of the game, running through the procedures of the courtroom including cross-examinations and using collected evidence to find contradictions. This is probably the shortest of all cases in the game, as there is no investigation time, however, jumping right into the events is a good way to start. In this case we find out that Phoenix’s boss and mentor, Mia Fey, is murdered as well, and her sister Maya comes in to assist him instead.

1As the cases continue, Phoenix learns to investigate to find clues to the truth. Each case becomes a little more complex, and even reveals a bit about Phoenix’s past and why he became a defense attorney. This game also introduces Miles Edgeworth, a much-loved prosecutor who’s past is a little different than his former classmate Phoenix seems to know. The final bonus case even reveals corruption in the police department extending all the way to the prosecutor’s office, which poor Edgeworth feels he must atone for.

The characters are amusing, with some hilarious moments as well as serious ones. One case has Phoenix defending a large man that looks like Hugh Jackman and cries a lot. However, since the cases are so separated, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for character development. There is a bit between the final original case and the new bonus case, plus this bonus case runs a bit more smoothly than the previous ones. The original disappointment looks to be changing, thanks to the bonus case.

Final Words

Being the first game is a long series, what this game lacks originally, it makes up for in the bonus case. Though I’d grown to really like Maya as Phoenix’s sidekick, Ema Skye is a bit smarter and more useful than her. As a first game, it’s a solid start, and I hope the next ones will improve on the changes from the bonus case.

I would give this visual novel…7.5/10 (rating scale)

If you like this visual novel, you might also like: Danganronpa 2, “999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors”

 

Anime Review: “Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School”

drda231The Danganronpa franchise never fails to surprise. Every anime, game, manga, and light novel attached to it are just so addicting that you have to keep going until you reach the end. The second anime is just the same and actually include two different stories with alternating episodes: one story that follows the second game (Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair) and one that precedes it.

While you don’t have to have played the previous games (including Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls) to understand what’s happening, it helps a lot to have done so. There are a lot of references to all three, and a new watcher may be a bit confused. This anime concludes a lot of things, including what happened to the students in Goodbye Despair, and also follows up on Monaca’s and Komaru’s stories from Ultra Despair Girls.

 

The first episode starts the “Hope Arc,” which shows what happens both during and after the events of Goodbye Despair. Makoto Naegi is arrested for protecting the Remnants of Despair, but before any punishment can be administered, a familiar figure appears on the room’s monitor. Makoto knows him right away as Monokuma, the antagonist of his Killing School Life (the events of the first game and anime). He knows what’s coming next, and a new game has begun within the Future Foundation’s headquarters.

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As the episodes continue, the leader of the future foundation Kyosuke Munakata accuses Makoto of endangering their cause. He even suggests that Makoto kill himself right now to end this new “game.” But even as Makoto tries to explain himself, he’s punched by Munakata’s best friend and right hand man Juzo Sakakura. This actually causes another element in this new killing game – Forbidden Actions – to activate on one member, killing them for “witnessing violence between participants.”

Aware of all the new rules, Makoto and his classmates – Aoi AsahinaKyoko Kirigiri – run for cover within the offices. They are joined by a few allies, fortunatly, that include 77th class member Ryoto Mitarai, and Future Foundation board member Great Gozu. Kyosuke, fueled by the first death of his love Chisa Yukizome, seeks Makoto now, blinded by his hatred of despair he believes Makoto is protecting.

drda42The second episode starts the “Despair Arc,” which shows the events leading up to Goodbye Despair and how the 77th class became Remnants of Despair. It also shows key elements that Junko Enoshima used to actually cause the lengthy-named The Biggest, Most Awful, Most Tragic Event in Human History.

The last episode ties the two arcs together, revealing the “cured” 77th class helping the Future Foundation escape the new killing game. It also reveals that the mastermind behind that game was not Monaca Towa, as was hinted at early on. But it was actually Chisa. In the Despair Arc, she had been brainwashed by Junko and actually leads the class into the despair. In the Future Arc, she seems to have died first, but it’s hinted that it may have been faked somehow.

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The Future Arc also covers a bit of afterstory with Komaru and Touko, as they investigate Monaca’s activities. The city is still full of Monokuma-bots, and the other Warriors of Hope have separated from her. I’m pleased to see they all survived, and Jotaro had decided to discard his mask. Not a lot of details are shown about after Ultra Despair Girls, and even Monaca’s conclusion was a bit lackluster. It seems she had killed a member of the Future Foundation and created a robot to impersonate her. But she ends up being trapped by the brainwashing video that Ryoto creates later.

I also don’t really like how they just threw all of the 77th class in at the end as if none of them had died. There was no definate answer following Goodbye Despair whether those that died in the Neo World Program had actually died in real life. There was hints that they had just been put in a coma, but more than once, Monokuma confirmed that dying in the virtual world also meant dying in real life. Also, it seemed that Nagito Komaeda had no signs of his mental illness he displayed from even before his encounter with the Program. It was as if the Program had “cured” his dementia, which kind of erases a major element of his character.

Final Words:

While there are flaws in the plotline, it’s an excellent conclusion to the story of the 77th class and the Future Foundation. It ties up a lot of lose ends and answers questions I had been curious about. Though, it’s meant more for those that follow the series, those that are new can still enjoy it.

I would give this anime…8.5/10 (rating scale)

If you like this anime, you might also like: Assassination Classroom, Blue Exorcist, Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

4After the success of their initial two games, Spike Chunsoft released another game that was a little different than their first two, but equally important to the Danganronpa lore. This game, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, is centered around Makoto Naegi‘s sister, Komaru Naegi, instead of the first game’s protagonist.

The gameplay is vastly different as well, being more action-based than visual novel style like the first two. Instead of walking around an environment and talking to NPCs, the player must guide Komaru and her companion through dangerous Monokuma-infested environments, shooting them with a special hacking gun. Who is Komaru’s companion? None other than Touko Fukawa, the notorious bookworm-slash-serial killer from the first game!

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Now, if you’re a fan of the series, you’re probably scratching your head right about now, asking yourself how in the world can such a neurotic and slightly crazy character actually help our heroine. Well, I’m pleased to say that both of the girls do a whole lot of growing in this game. This is part of the reason it’s so enjoyable.

The story starts out with Byakuya Togami, now a member of the Future Foundation, coming to find Komaru a prisoner in an apartment building. As it turns out, the people used in the first motive scenario in Trigger Happy Havoc were all kept in this city where the apartment building is located. After two years of captivity, she’s released, but by a dangerous Monokuma robot. She encounters Byakuya, who gives her the special hacking gun and tells her to run.

1Confused and afraid, Komaru rushes across the street to a restaurant, only to be chased in by additional Monokuma bots. The patrons are slaughtered, and a broadcast comes on TV. There are five strange children advertising their victory and saying all adults will be eradicated. She soon finds herself abducted by the very same children, who actually release her as part of their “demon-hunting” game. Komaru soon meets up with the strange Touko and the two team up to stop the five children. The best part is actually learning not only more about Komaru and Touko, but also about these five children.

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Even Nagito Komaeda has a hand in this story. This time, he’s simply called “Servant,” as he’d been captured by the Warriors of Hope early on. He acts as a sort of guide at one point, making sure Komaru doesn’t leave before she’s completed her mission. While the two have no idea who he is (this takes place before the events of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair), they thank him for his help, in a way.

It’s also important to note that this game is sort of an introduction to the concept of AI for this world. While Nekomaru Nidai was a cyborg, it’s difficult to say whether he was a true AI. In Another Episode, two AI characters are introduced: Shirokuma and Kurokuma. Their names indicating their alignment (Shiro being “white” and Kuro being “black”) play an important role, as Shirokuma helps the girls through the game. Kurokuma acts as an adviser to the Warriors of Hope, thinking of ways to improve their “game.” This is later continued with an AI character-student in the newest game.

When the game starts out, Touko becomes easily annoyed with Komaru, who seems to always be making excuses about how she “can’t do anything” because she’s “just a normal girl.” Touko, while being an Ultimate, still has constant doubts about her own abilities and also deals with her other personality (which was changed from “Genocider Shou” to “Genocide Jack” for localization purposes). She pushes Komaru to be better and take control of the situation.

Despite being kicked out of the safe haven, the two know they have to save everyone. This forces both of them to grow as people, which is a major draw to this story. Komaru becomes fierce and determined, deciding to stand up for what’s right. She even decides to sacrifice her freedom to make sure the Future Foundation can do their work. Even Touko, the squirrely and fearful woman she is, does the same. She finally has a friend who she can trust, and she refuses to lose that, no matter what.

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Even better is the truth behind the mysterious Warriors of Hope. Each child has faced abuse in some form in the past, and they have valid reasons to hate adults. At first, I was angry about their behavior. But after learning their reasons, I couldn’t not love them. They all deserved better than what life handed them. I plan to go into further detail on them in a future article.

The character development of this game is superb – even better than the other two games. It really shows how even a “normal person” can make a difference in the world, and that your past trauma doesn’t have to define you. I highly reccomend it for anyone, especially those fans of the franchise. Also, once you’ve played this game, be sure to catch the follow-up anime called Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School.

Danganronpa’s Junko Enoshima is one of the most terrifying villains.

1Every villain has their own motivations and reasons for why they became a villain. Cruella DeVille sought diverse and exotic furs, Darth Vader wanted to save someone he cared about and make the universe safer, and Nurser Ratched simply seeks to control people. But it’s hard to really pin down why someone like Junko Enoshima is a villain. This is also what makes her such a mesmerizing character.

What makes her a villain, though, is almost as confusing as her rapidly switching personalities. She thrives on despair: forcing people to kill others, suffering setbacks in her own plans, or even brainwashing people. It actually causes her joy to suffer pain and see others suffer as well. She claims that even being born was a despair, saying “No, I’ve felt despair as long as I can remember, like I never should have been born at all. When I was born, I cried tears of total despair.”

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If she were anyone else, one might claim she suffers depression, but it’s actually the opposite. She seems to gain energy from this despair, and even after her death, those that followed her still continued her work to bring the despair she always loved. These brainwashed Remnants of Despair, who actually consisted of the cast of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, worked to cause despair to themselves and the world.

Even in her death, she celebrates, saying “This once-in-a-lifetime experience… It is my first and last colossal despair, here at the moment of death! To have the chance to taste of the highest grade despair–the utter failure of my dreams!” She actually gives herself all of the punishments she’d already administered to the other students that had been proven guilty.

3It could also be argued that it’s not the pursuit of despair that motivates her, but actual boredom. Junko is extremely intelligent; both her and her twin sister, Makuro Ikusaba, are. This also comes with a downside – Junko becomes bored very easily. For this reason, she is shown changing personalities even within the same conversation or sentence. She claims that she gets bored with one personality and changes it as quickly as a sentence can be said.

She also reveals just before her death that she “was so hopelessly desperate! [she] was bored of the world the moment [she] was born!” However, seeking to cure this boredom by means of causing despair throws this motivation into question, as she very much seems to be excited by causing it.

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It is because of all of these things that she is so unpredictable, and one of the most terrifying villains of all time. Whether her true motivation is causing despair or just pure boredom, there’s no way to know what she’ll actually do next. Even when her plans we set back, she felt joyful because she felt her own despair. She’s incredibly well-written to this end, and it’s easy to see why, despite her horrible actions, that she has so many fans.

What do you think? Is Junko motivated by despair or boredom? Is there anyone that’s more terrifying?
Let me know in the comments below!

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